Thursday, January 25, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST January 25, 2007

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Measure Would End Tax Penalties For Small Companies Offering Domestic
Partner Insurance
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: January 24, 2007 - 7:00 pm ET

(Washington) Senator Gordon H. Smith (R) has filed an amendment to FairMinimum Wage Act that would eliminate an extra tax burden on small companiesoffering domestic partner benefits to their workers.

The number of companies offering domestic partner benefits is growingrapidly but those taking advantage of it are hit with higher taxes. Underfederal tax law domestic partner benefits are considered income and subjectto taxation.

Smith's amendment would eliminate the provision in the tax code. But becausethe Minimum Wage Act only applies to small business the amendment is limitedto those companies.


Simon: No Crueler Now

by The Associated Press

(Los Angeles, California) "American Idol" judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jacksonand Paula Abdul say they're no crueler than usual this year, and that peoplewho audition should know what they're going to get.

"If you don't want to hear that, don't show up," Cowell told televisionwriters at a news conference on Saturday.

The talent show returned with a storm this past week. The episodes featuredauditions by the good, the bad and the awful from Minneapolis and Seattle.

Cowell, whose reputation for blunt, nasty put-downs was established at theseries' beginning, was in peak form, telling one contestant that his singingwas horrendous and he looked like a "bush baby." Jackson told one contestanthis audition was awful and perhaps ruined his business.

"You shouldn't be a vocal teacher," Jackson said. "I wouldn't take vocallessons from you, I wouldn't tell anybody to take vocal lessons from you."


State Of The Delusion
by Wayne Besen

With George W. Bush's popularity rating vacillating between Richard Nixonand the common cold, he limped on the television set to tell us he was doinga "heckuva job." His words falling on deaf ears and his policies turning ablind eye to reality, the only reason to watch the president's primetimeaddress was to gauge the state of his delusion.

Well, there was the historic moment when Nancy Pelosi, the first womanSpeaker of the House, took her seat in back of the president. Next to thesleepy Dick Cheney, who seemed to periodically be closing his eyes, MadamSpeaker looked quite alert and spry. Pelosi's ascension, much like the GinaDavis character in the television drama Commander and Chief, is a majorboost for Hillary Clinton. The more America gets used to seeing women inpower, the easier it will be for Clinton to make her case that America isready for a woman in the oval office.

The most amusing part of the evening was watching political rivals pretendthey liked each other and had intentions of actually working together. Bushand Pelosi looked like parents in the aftermath of a shattered marriage thatpledged to smile in divorce court for the sake of the kids.


Brownback, Romney Squabble Over Who's Furthest To The Right Of GOP
by The Associated Press

Posted: January 24, 2007 - 7:00 pm ET

(Boston, Massachusetts) Sen. Sam Brownback argues he's the true conservativein the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, while formerMassachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may have trouble explaining flip-flops in hisbackground.

"I think you have to look at where he stood on the issues and what he saidpublicly," the Kansas Republican told the Christian Broadcasting Network inan interview published Wednesday. "At times he's said different things onthese issues. I think that's all going to come out during a long campaign."

Romney, for example, ran for governor in 2002 touting his support forabortion rights; now he highlights his opposition to abortion. Socialconservatives have also expressed concern about him declaring in 1994 thathe would be a better activist for the gay agenda than his then-opponent,Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. Romney now touts his opposition to gaymarriage.


The Washington Post

Soldiers of the Cross
'Friends of God' Captures Movement's Zeal

By Tom Shales
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007; C01

"Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi," a new HBO documentaryabout America's army of impassioned evangelicals, doesn't address thequestion "Why are we in Iraq?" -- but the film's parade of believers has afervent certainty that echoes President Bush's unwavering belief in the war.

The ranks of the Bush administration include more born-again Christians"than any other administration" in American history, one of the evangelicalleaders says, and Bush is heard enthusiastically addressing an antiabortionrally via telephone hookup.

Bush has used evangelicals as a power base, and is not one to shy away froma quest. Meantime, the Christians we see in this film are unyielding in therightness of their ideas (i.e., evolution and abortion are wrong, "Jesus isthe only way" and America is a Christian nation), and if someone challengesthem, they simply say God has told them the truth.


Forwarded from Kenneth Sherrill - Ken's List

McCain and the Social Conservatives

The Oregonian
January 21, 2007


David Reinhard
The Oregonian

When successful Republican presidential candidates talk about their base,they're usually talking about the GOP's social conservatives. When ArizonaSen. John McCain talks about his base, he's referring to the mainstreammedia.

Which helps explain two things. One, why McCain was not a successfulRepublican presidential candidate eight years ago. Two, why he's taken stepsover the last few years to get right with the religious right.

Will it work? As Democrats cogitate over Barack Obama's challenge tofront-runner Hillary Clinton, will the new McCain complicate matters for theold McCain and threaten his front-runner status among Republicans?

For most successful candidates, politics is about addition, not subtraction.This presidential campaign, however, McCain is involved in something of azero sum game. Securing a traditional GOP base could come at the expense oflosing his old media base.


Kerry keeps his hat on
January 25, 2007

SPEAKING before the Senate yesterday, John Kerry outlined the Mideastpolicies he would have undertaken as president. They sounded a lot betterthan those being pursued by President Bush, who defeated him less than 27months ago. But there has been only one successful second chance for afailed US presidential nominee in the last century. Kerry was wise toannounce, at the end of his speech, that he would not try again in 2008.

Under a Kerry presidency, he noted yesterday, the United States would not beexpanding its forces in Iraq. Instead, US diplomats would be engaging thecountries of the Mideast in a campaign to reduce tensions. The United Stateswould have stopped saber-rattling in the direction of Iran and would haveinsisted the Iraqi government take more responsibility for security."Congress has to develop a responsible exit strategy," he said.

Kerry made many of the same points in the 2004 campaign but they weremuddled by twists and turns over his vote favoring war in 2002. Yesterday hesaid simply that he had erred. Renunciation of ambition has enhanced clarityof expression.


The New York Times

January 25, 2007
Closing the Revolving Door

The United States is paying a heavy price for the mandatory sentencing fadthat swept the country 30 years ago. After a tenfold increase in thenation'sprison population - and a corrections price tag that exceeds $60 billion ayear - the states have often been forced to choose between building newprisons or new schools. Worse still, the country has created a growing feloncaste, now more than 16 million strong, of felons and ex-felons, who areoften driven back to prison by policies that make it impossible for them tofind jobs, housing or education.

Congress could begin to address this problem by passing the Second ChanceAct, which would offer support services for people who are leaving prison.But it would take more than one new law to undo 30 years of damage:


Charting a future as Senator Kerry
2004 nominee rejects 2d run, seeks to end war
By Rick Klein, Globe Staff | January 25, 2007

WASHINGTON -- A tearful Senator John F. Kerry launched the next phase of hisSenate career yesterday with a vow to hasten an end to the Iraq war, as theman who spent the past four years gunning for the presidency turned hisattention to building a statesmanlike legacy in the Senate.

Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, choked back tears on the Senate floor as hebowed out of the 2008 presidential race and said he would run for a fifthSenate term next year. He said his mission would mirror the one he broughtto Congress with his famous Senate testimony in the midst of the VietnamWar: to end an unpopular war.

"I've concluded that this isn't the time for me to mount a presidentialcampaign," Kerry said. "It is the time to put my energy to work as part ofthe majority in the Senate . . . to change a policy in Iraq that threatensall that I have cared about and fought for since I came home from Vietnam."


The New York Times

January 25, 2007
At the Libby Trial, Hints of Intrigue and Betrayal

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - The assertion by lawyers for I. Lewis Libby Jr. thatWhite House aides had sacrificed him to protect Karl Rove, the seniorpolitical adviser, appears to be based primarily on Mr. Libby's own sensethat the administration had failed to defend him adequately as the C.I.A.leak case unfolded.

But there is little known evidence to buttress the suggestion by Mr. Libby'sdefense team in his obstruction and perjury trial that unnamed White Houseofficials were deliberately setting Mr. Libby up to be a scapegoat.

Mr. Libby's lawyers said in an opening statement on Tuesday that he felt soabandoned by the White House as the leak investigation intensified in thefall of 2003 that he appealed to his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr.Cheney subsequently wrote, according to the defense's opening statement:"Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy who was asked to stickhis neck in the meatgrinder because of the incompetence of others."


McCain's Mitt strategy
By Joan Vennochi, Globe Columnist | January 25, 2007

WHAT'S JOHN McCain thinking?

"He has Mitt on the mind," said a Romney campaign consultant who requestedanonymity.

"Mitt on the mind" is code for worrying that conservatives will ultimatelydesert Senator McCain for Romney in New Hampshire and across the country.

"Mitt on the mind" also explains why Rob Gray is now on board McCain'spresidential exploratory committee as New England political strategist. Grayworked on Romney's 2002 gubernatorial campaign and knows well his record ofconversion from moderate to hard-core conservative. Gray also relishespolitical hardball, although his latest effort amounted to an embarrassingwhiff.

Gray played a critical role in Kerry Healey's losing 2006 campaign to becomegovernor of Massachusetts. In that case, Gray took a moderate Republicanwith potential appeal to female and independent voters and turned her into acandidate with little appeal beyond a narrow conservative base.


The New York Times

January 25, 2007
Ford Loses Record $12.7 Billion in '06
Filed at 4:50 p.m. ET

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. lost a staggering $12.7 billion in2006, an average of $1,925 for every car and truck it sold. The company thatinvented the assembly line and whose name was a byword for the auto industrywarned it will bleed cash for two more years before it has a shot at makingmoney.

Ford's loss, reported on Thursday, was the worst in the company's 103-yearhistory and came amid slumping demand for sport utility vehicles and othergas guzzlers and huge restructuring costs tied in part to the plannedclosure of 16 plants.

Last year's loss surpassed Ford's old record of $7.39 billion set in 1992.

A fourth-quarter loss of $5.8 billion helped drive up the red ink, which forthe year amounted to $6.79 per share versus a profit of $1.44 billion, or 77cents a share, in 2005.


The New York Times

January 25, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Long on Rhetoric, Short on Sorrow

President Bush showed what he does well at the beginning of the State of theUnion ceremony when he graciously acknowledged and introduced Nancy Pelosias speaker of the House of Representatives. He seemed both generous andsincere, and it was the right touch for a genuinely historic moment.

At the end of his speech he introduced four Americans of whom the nation canbe proud, including Wesley Autrey, a New Yorker who made like a Hollywoodstunt man to save the life of a stricken passenger who had fallen onto thetracks in front of an oncoming subway train.

The rest of the evening was a study in governmental dysfunction. Theaudience kept mindlessly applauding - up and down, like marionettes - whenin fact there was nothing to applaud. The state of the union is wretched,which is why the president's approval ratings are the worst since Nixon andCarter.

If Mr. Bush is bothered by his fall from political grace, it wasn't showingon Tuesday night. He seemed as relaxed as ever, smiling, signing autographs,glad-handing.

I wanted to hear him talk about the suffering of the soldiers he has put inharm's way, and the plight of the residents of New Orleans. I wanted to hearhim express a little in the way of sorrow for the many thousands who havedied unnecessarily on his watch. I wanted to see him slip the surly bonds ofnarcissism and at least acknowledge the human wreckage that is the sum andsubstance of his sustained folly.

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