Sunday, January 21, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST January 21, 2007

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Bush's fourth quarter
As the president prepares for the State of the Union, the biggest issuefacing the U.S. is his own credibility.

January 21, 2007

ON THE EVE of his seventh State of the Union address, President Bush's Texasswagger is muted. Not long ago, Bush famously called himself "the decider,"but the drubbing he took in November's elections has reduced him to being"educator in chief," as he referred to himself on "60 Minutes" a week ago.

He wasn't referring to education, of course; he's realized that he's lostthe support of most of the country (and Congress) on the war in Iraq andthat he needs to "educate" them back into the fold. The problem for theadministration, as it enters the fourth quarter, is that persuasion hasnever been its strength.

Quite the contrary - it's been anathema to its political approach. In theaftermath of the Clinton years, the Bush administration proudly stoodagainst nuance and muddled compromise. The 9/11 attacks reinforced the WhiteHouse's penchant for viewing the world in binary terms, and Bush's "with usor against us" mantra fit the moment.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007

No defense: Shortcut to death row


The jurors heard all about the convenience-store holdup, the gunshots andthe dead clerk. Their unanimous verdict came swiftly: Warren King was guiltyof a senseless murder that shocked rural Appling County, Ga.

A death sentence almost certainly would be next, unless King's lawyer couldpersuade the jury to spare his life.

But G. Terry Jackson, King's state-appointed lawyer, didn't do much.

With little money to unearth details about his client's past, Jackson didnot chronicle the mitigating circumstances that could have helped hisclient's cause. The jury learned almost nothing about the import of King'slow IQ, his childhood in a log cabin with no plumbing or electricity, thesavage beatings he took from his alcoholic parents or the succession offoster homes he shuttled through.

In desperation, Jackson turned to Jesus.


Many Businesses Fear Health Care Costs
Many businesses fear cost of state attempts to expand health care coverageto uninsured
NEW YORK, Jan. 20, 2007

(AP) Businesses are wary of a crop of new state health care proposals toreduce the number of uninsured, fearing the programs will drive up theirexpenses without solving the problem.

Dissension already has surfaced: Maine's health insurers and businesses havebalked at how the state's program to expand coverage has been funded andhave filed several lawsuits over the policy.

Smaller companies are especially worried, because they are less likely toprovide health insurance than bigger concerns, and some of the proposalscall for companies that don't provide coverage to pay into state funds. Butexperts note that if the taxes paid by small businesses aren't sufficient toprovide coverage for the uninsured, larger companies that do provideinsurance could be tapped to contribute to state funds as well.


The Washington Post

Worth Every Last Million

By Roy C. Smith
Sunday, January 21, 2007; B01

Tell me if I'm wrong: You think America's top corporate executives areobscenely overpaid. You think recently ousted Home Depot chairman RobertNardelli was just the latest in a long line of high-flying CEOs to negotiatehimself an overinflated severance package and to waft out the door thumbinghis nose at us all. You think it's about time that the Senate startedconsidering, as it did last week, closing some of the tax loopholes thathave made it possible for these corporate scalpers to get away with highwayrobbery for so long.

I say, think again.

Executive compensation today isn't the sinful overindulgence of greedyexecutives that it's made out to be. There may be some abuse among the 7,500publicly traded corporations in the country, but most of the CEOs whoreceive those huge pay packages not only earn them but also, yes, deservethem.


The New York Times

January 21, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Mr. Chips Goes to Congress

We’re in bipartisan nirvana. Bills are passing through the House 356 to 71 and through the Senate 96 to 2. Nancy Pelosi is aglow, and this week President Bush will trot out a State of the Union speech so conciliatory in tone it’ll sound like Gandhi on Quaaludes.

The question is, What is all this good cheer accomplishing? It’s time to render judgments on the substance of all this legislation coursing through the Democratic Congress:

Ethics reform: A–. This is the best thing the Democrats have done. The bans on lobbyist-financed gifts, meals and travel are unimportant. Few legislators are corrupted by a steak or even a ride in a Gulfstream.

But there are measures in the tough Senate bill that will change behavior. Legislators will have to wait two years before becoming lobbyists. Lobbyists will have to disclose donations they collect and bundle. There will be more transparency on earmarks. If this bill becomes law, the Democrats will have done something significant to clean up Washington.



Don't be too nice, Democrats
The new lawmakers in Washington could attack the GOP on several issues, butso far they've been soft on Big Pharma.
Jonathan Chait

January 21, 2007

MOST OF us have probably always suspected that when fresh-faced youngmembers of Congress get to Washington, there is a quiet, whispering voiceurging them to abandon their youthful idealism and acclimate themselves tothe ways of the capital. Now I know it's true, because one of those voicesdecided to conduct his seduction in broad daylight.

Last week, the Washington Post, the bulletin board of the politicalestablishment, published an Op-Ed article imparting advice to incomingDemocratic members of Congress. Its author was Toby Moffett, a formerDemocratic member of Congress from Connecticut.

Moffett's advice, which was written in bullet-point form, began with just aslightly unsettling undertone. He urged new members not to go home toooften, to make friends in the building and to cross the aisle. This istypical good-old-boy establishment stuff. The mask was pulled off completelyby point No. 4: "Befriend some lobbyists."

Befriend some lobbyists? Here it was, the voice of the devil, inexplicablydoing his business out in the open.


The Washington Post

Pakistan Denies It Harbors Taliban
Officials Answer New Allegations, Defend Efforts to Curb Attacks

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 21, 2007; A20

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 20 -- Faced with new charges that Pakistan isharboring Islamic insurgents, including fugitive Taliban leader MohammadOmar, Pakistani officials this weekend denied such allegations and defendedtheir efforts to curb cross-border insurgent attacks in Afghanistan assincere if not totally successful.

"We don't deny the Taliban come and go, but that is not the entire truth,"Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan's military spokesman, said in aninterview Saturday. "If 25 percent of the problem lies on our side of theborder, 75 percent of it lies on the Afghan side." Of four known top Talibancommanders, he said, three are Afghan and one is Pakistani.


The Washington Post

Carter, Clinton Seek To Bring Together Moderate Baptists
Exiles From Conservative Group Targeted

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 21, 2007; A03

Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are leading an effort toforge dozens of small and medium-size, black and white Baptist organizationsinto a robust coalition that would serve as a counterweight to theconservative Southern Baptist Convention.

The giant SBC, with more than 16 million members, has long dominated thepolitical, theological and social landscape among Baptists, often spawningresentment among smaller Baptist groups. It has also been closely alignedwith the Republican Party.

The new coalition, which is Carter's brainchild, would give moderateBaptists a stronger collective voice and could provide Democrats withgreater entree into the Baptist community. But Carter and other organizersare trying to walk a fine line, insisting that the alliance is not directlypolitical while touting its potential to recast the role of religion in thepublic square.


The New York Times

January 21, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Hang Up! Tehran Is Calling

One of the most worrying parts of President Bush's Iraq strategy doesn'thave anything to do with Iraq. It's the way he's ramping up a confrontationwith Iran.

Across a broad spectrum of policy levers, Mr. Bush is raising the pressureon Iran, increasing the risk that he will drag the U.S. into a third war inan Islamic country in six years. Instead of disengaging from war, he couldend up starting another.

We could have taken another route. In 2003, Iran sent the U.S. a detailedmessage offering to work together to capture terrorists, to stabilize Iraq,to resolve nuclear disputes, to withdraw military support for Hezbollah andHamas, and to moderate its position on Israel, in exchange for the U.S.lifting sanctions and warming up to Iran.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007

There's a new economy sheriff in the House


Barney Frank, the 14-term Massachusetts congressman who chairs the FinancialServices Committee, says it might be useful to ''make it a misdemeanor touse metaphors in the discussion of public policy,'' such as ''a rising tidelifts all boats.'' Against what he considers that too-complacent view ofeconomic growth (the metaphor was John Kennedy's), Frank says: A rising tideis wonderful ``if you have a boat.''

Frank questions whether market-driven wealth creation is producing moreinequality ''than is either socially healthy or economically necessary.'' Hefavors much more government intervention in the economy to diminishinequality. Sometimes he means equal dependence on government. For example,he wants everyone enrolled in Medicare -- with larger co-payments forhigher-income people -- in order to take healthcare ``out of the wagesystem.''


The New York Times

January 21, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Lying Like It’s 2003

THOSE who forget history may be doomed to repeat it, but who could imagine we’d already be in danger of replaying that rotten year 2003?

Scooter Libby, the mastermind behind the White House’s bogus scenarios for ginning up the war in Iraq, is back at Washington’s center stage, proudly defending the indefensible in a perjury trial. Ahmad Chalabi, the peddler of flawed prewar intelligence hyped by Mr. Libby, is back in clover in Baghdad, where he purports to lead the government’s Shiite-Baathist reconciliation efforts in between visits to his pal Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

Last but never least is Mr. Libby’s former boss and Mr. Chalabi’s former patron, Dick Cheney, who is back on Sunday-morning television floating fictions about Iraq and accusing administration critics of aiding Al Qaeda.

When the vice president went on a tear like this in 2003, hawking Iraq’s nonexistent W.M.D. and nonexistent connections to Mohamed Atta, he set the stage for a war that now kills Iraqi civilians in rising numbers (34,000-plus last year) that are heading into the genocidal realms of Saddam. Mr. Cheney’s latest sales pitch is for a new plan for “victory” promising an even bigger bloodbath.

Mr. Cheney was honest, at least, when he said that the White House’s Iraq policy would remain “full speed ahead!” no matter what happened on Nov. 7. Now it is our patriotic duty — politicians, the press and the public alike — to apply the brakes.


The Washington Post

The Cause Bush Did Justice To

By Jan Crawford Greenburg
Sunday, January 21, 2007; B01

The courtroom crackled with tension on the final day of the Supreme Court's2004-05 session. It was shaping up to be a historic day, many believed, andthe seats were packed with top government officials and people who hadcamped out overnight in the sticky heat of a Washington summer. They hadcome for one reason: to see Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist announce hisretirement after 33 years on the court.

Rehnquist was dying of thyroid cancer, and he appeared almost ghostly thatmorning as he pulled back his tall leather chair in the center of the bench.He was thin and stooped, his once-robust complexion now gray. His boomingbaritone, which had silenced many a lawyer, was weak, and he struggled evento briefly summarize the court's decision in a key religion case.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007

Ban gets the `job from hell'


Ban Ki-moon has assumed the impossible job of U.N. secretary-general with a''problem from hell'' at the top of his agenda. In office just since Jan. 1,Ban is already being tested by how to respond to the slow-motion ethniccleansing in Darfur, the three-year-old conflict that has landed squarely inhis lap.

The reputation of a secretary-general rises and falls on his response tomass atrocities. That's unfair, but it is an understandable expectation foran institution created out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Just ask KofiAnnan. His term was a 10-year effort to exorcise the ghosts of the Rwandangenocide, which unfolded while he headed the United Nation's peacekeepingoffice. As secretary-general, Annan eloquently asserted the internationalresponsibility to stop genocide, and he pushed the General Assembly toendorse a ''responsibility to protect'' that removes respect for nationalsovereignty as an excuse to look the other way when populations are beingwiped out. But Annan was unable to convert these lofty phrases into a planof action in Darfur, and the United Nations still lacks the capacity tomobilize peacekeepers when it counts.


The Washington Post

The Equality Engineer

By George F. Will
Sunday, January 21, 2007; B07

Barney Frank, the 14-term Massachusetts congressman who chairs the HouseFinancial Services Committee, says it might be useful to "make it amisdemeanor to use metaphors in the discussion of public policy," such as "arising tide lifts all boats." Against what he considers that too-complacentview of economic growth (the metaphor was John Kennedy's), Frank says: Arising tide is wonderful "if you have a boat."

Frank questions whether market-driven wealth creation is producing moreinequality "than is either socially healthy or economically necessary." Hefavors much more government intervention in the economy to diminishinequality. Sometimes he means equal dependence on government. For example,he wants everyone enrolled in Medicare -- with larger co-payments forhigher-income people -- in order to take health care "out of the wagesystem."


The New York Times

January 21, 2007
Retreat and Cheat

President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program was once deemed so vital tonational security that it could not be subjected to judicial review. Lastweek, the White House said it was doing just that.

In 2005, the White House would not even comment on news reports about theC.I.A.'s prisons because Americans' safety depended on their being keptsecret. In 2006, Mr. Bush held a photo-op to announce that he was keepingthem open.

The administration has repeatedly insisted that it was essential to theAmerican way of life for Mr. Bush to be able to imprison foreigners withouttrial or legal counsel. Now the administration claims it was trying to bringthose detainees to trial all along but was stymied by white-shoe lawyers.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007
The Oppenheimer Report


India is an aspiring superpower on the rise, rivaling China


NEW DELHI -- I came to India to see if this country of 1.1 billion peoplewill soon become the next China -- a world superpower, rivaling the UnitedStates diplomatically and clobbering Latin America in global markets.

My first impression after a few hours here: It won't.

It's hard to envision India as a superpower after landing at this capital'sIndira Gandhi International Airport. Compared to the Beijing airport -- agiant building that resembles a futuristic football stadium -- the New Delhiairport looks like a Fourth World provincial bus terminal.

The terminals look like they haven't been modernized, or painted, since thebuildings' May 1986 inauguration. There are no duty-free shops or otheramenities in sight in the international arrivals area. An airport managerrecently was hospitalized after being bitten by a stray dog at Terminal 1Ain the latest of several airport dog-biting incidents, The Times of Indiareported.


The Washington Post

What Would Jeb Do?

By S.V. Date
Sunday, January 21, 2007; B01

Tuesday would have marked his sixth State of the Union address -- and itmight have been his best yet.

The nation is in great shape, President Jeb Bush would have reported: recordtax cuts propelling the economy to greater heights; a revolutionaryschool-vouchers program for the first time granting low-income parents realeducation choices; and, five years after the capture of Osama bin Laden, thefinal 20,000 U.S. troops returning home from Iraq.

The president would break into his fluent Spanish and wave at hisMexican-born wife, Columba, gazing at him from the balcony. The cameraswould settle on their eldest, George P. Bush, 30, and commentators wouldspeculate on whether the dashing lawyer would soon run for Congress andcarry on the Bush dynasty.


The New York Times

January 21, 2007
Editorial Observer

Senate Newcomer Is Designated to Encounter President Bush Yet Again

Senator Jim Webb, a spirited Democratic freshman from Virginia, lookeduneasy as he hand wrote his very first letter of condolence to a grievingconstituent who had just lost her soldier son in the Iraq war. The senator,a lantern-jawed Marine veteran with his own son at war, brightenednoticeably as he discussed the surprising invitation from his party'sleaders to deliver the main response for the Democrats to President Bush'sState of the Union address on Tuesday.

Normally, no one pays much attention to the opposition's rebuttal to a Stateof the Union address. But the capital's mood as the war spirals downward ispalpably, if not desperately, expectant of some change, somehow. And inWashington, fresh rhetoric must be invested to feed any chance of change.


The New York Times

January 21, 2007
News Analysis

Clinton's Success in Presidential Race Is No Sure Thing

Compared with the other Democrats who plan to run for president in 2008,Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is the most battle-tested, has the biggestfund-raising network and can walk into the job with a unique set of skillsand perspectives gleaned from eight years in the White House as first lady.

Yet none of that guarantees Mrs. Clinton will steamroll her opponents, ormanage and master the issues that have long vexed her, like the war in Iraqand universal health insurance. Far from it: she has told friends that sheis more worried about winning the Democratic nomination than winning ageneral election against a Republican.

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