Friday, January 05, 2007


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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Iran police move into fashion business

By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Women in high-heeled shoes and plenty of make-up strut down the catwalk amidclouds of artificial smoke.

It is the first time live models have been allowed to appear in a fashionshow in post-revolutionary Iran.

"Arab styles" failed to impress some in the fashion show audienceThe only unusual aspect is they're draped from head to toe in the allenveloping chador that hides everything except the face.

It's part of a new drive to give women more attractive choices of Islamicdress that allow them to express their individuality, while remaining withinthe letter of the law.

Not everyone in the all female audience was happy.


The Washington Post

The Hanging: Beyond Travesty

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, January 5, 2007; A17

Of the 6 billion people on this Earth, not one killed more people thanSaddam Hussein. And not just killed but tortured and mutilated -- doing sooften with his own hands and for pleasure. It is quite a distinction to bethe preeminent monster on the planet. If the death penalty was everdeserved, no one was more richly deserving than Saddam Hussein.

For the Iraqi government to have botched both his trial and execution,therefore, and turned monster into victim, is not just a tragedy but acrime -- against the new Iraq that Americans are dying for and againstjustice itself.

In late 2005, I wrote about the incompetence of the Hussein trial and how itwas an opportunity missed. Instead of exposing, elucidating and irrefutablymaking the case for the crimes of the accused -- as was done at Nurembergand the Eichmann trial -- the Iraqi government lost control andinadvertently turned it into a stage for Hussein. The trial managed torepair the image of the man the world had last seen as a bedraggled nobodypulled cowering from a filthy hole. Now coiffed and cleaned, he acted theimperious president of Iraq, drowning out the testimony of his victims incoverage seen around the world.


Tfhe Washington Post

Good Times or Good Governance

By David Ignatius
Friday, January 5, 2007; A17

Now that the Democrats have taken control of Congress, President Bush hasdecided it's time for fiscal discipline and a balanced budget. That'sshameless, even by local standards. Who does Bush think was in power whenthe big deficits of the past six years were created?

A good way for the Democrats to start the new congressional season is toexamine just how it happened that the federal government moved from budgetsurplus to deficit during the Bush presidency. If Democrats can be clearabout what went wrong, then maybe (maybe) they can begin to fix it.

An honest budget discussion should start with an admission that theprojected surpluses of the post-Clinton years were largely illusory -- inthe sense that they were predicated on overly upbeat assumptions about theeconomy. That's not to diminish the importance of what Clinton and theDemocrats did during the 1990s to impose some fiscal discipline. But it wasunrealistic to assume that the boom years would continue indefinitely,piling up ever-greater budget surpluses.


The Washington Post

Forgive the Cynicism, But This Is Change?

By Greg Craig
Friday, January 5, 2007; A17

Forgive the cynicism, Mr. President, but if you were serious aboutcooperating and consulting with the new Congress, you wouldn't be paradingyour bipartisan bona fides through the op-ed pages of the Wall StreetJournal. You wouldn't be holding news conferences in the Rose Garden tellingthe world how ready, willing and able you are -- we know you are noteager -- to work with the Democratic Congress. You would instead be meetingprivately with Democratic leaders, identifying specific areas where progresscan be made and joining with them to come up with a legislative agenda thatis truly bipartisan.

To many of us, your post-November conversion to bipartisanship appears to benothing but spin -- at least so far. You misunderestimate our capacity toremember the way you treated the Democrats when your party ran Congress. Wewill not soon forget your "my way or the highway" approach. You will forgiveus if we pay more attention to what you do than to what you say.


The Washington Post

Bush Warned About Mail-Opening Authority
Recent 'Signing Statement' Seen as Stretching Law

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 5, 2007; A03

President Bush signed a little-noticed statement last month asserting theauthority to open U.S. mail without judicial warrants in emergencies orforeign intelligence cases, prompting warnings yesterday from Democrats andprivacy advocates that the administration is attempting to circumvent legalrestrictions on its powers.

A "signing statement" attached to a postal reform bill on Dec. 20 says theBush administration "shall construe" a section of that law to allow theopening of sealed mail to protect life, guard against hazardous materials orconduct "physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreignintelligence collection."


The Washington Post

After the 100 Hours, a War Awaits

By Eugene Robinson
Friday, January 5, 2007; A17

An unusual number of the people wandering through the tunnels thatcrisscross Capitol Hill on Wednesday had no earthly idea where they weregoing. "I think the Rayburn building is this way," one young woman announcedto a colleague, as the two of them -- newly minted congressional staffmembers, I guessed -- strode away down a long corridor. I knew I'd run intothem again, and soon, since actually they were just leaving the Rayburnbuilding.

Wednesday was the last day of the "Where am I?" phase of the transition fromRepublican to Democratic rule on the Hill. Yesterday, with the swearing-inof new members of Congress, began the "Here we are, and now what?" phase,which means things are about to get interesting.

Much history already has been made, starting with the election of NancyPelosi as the first female speaker of the House. Rep. Jim Clyburn of SouthCarolina, an African American, will serve as majority whip. The first Muslimcongressman, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, took his ceremonial oath ofoffice with his hand on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. PowerfulHouse committees such as Ways and Means, Judiciary, and Intelligence will beled by minorities.


The New York Times

January 3, 2007
The Critical Years
Trying to Find Solutions in Chaotic Middle Schools

Sit in with a seventh-grade science class at Seth Low, a cavernous Brooklynmiddle school, as paper balls fly and pens are flicked from desk to desk.

A girl is caught with a note and quickly tears it up, blushing, as herclassmates chant, "Read it!" The teacher, Laura Lowrie, tries to demonstratesimple machines by pulling from a box a hammer, a pencil sharpener and then,to her instant remorse, a nutcracker - the sight of which sends a cluster ofboys into a fit of giggles and anatomical jokes.

"It's the roughest, toughest, hardest thing to teach," Ms. Lowrie said ofmiddle school. "I'll go home and feel disappointed with what's going on andI'll try a different tactic the next day." As for the nutcracker, shesighed, "I should have used a stapler."

Driven by newly documented slumps in learning, by crime rates and by highdropout rates in high school, educators across New York and the nation arestruggling to rethink middle school and how best to teach adolescents at atransitional juncture of self-discovery and hormonal change.


The New York Times

In Oprah's South African School, Girls Will Get a Beautiful Education

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 5, 2007; C01

Talk show mogul Oprah Winfrey opened her girls' school in South Africa onTuesday and details about the lavishness of the 28-building campus havepoured in from various media reports.

The $40 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is spread over 52acres outside Johannesburg. In addition to computer-filled classrooms andresidence halls, there are indoor and outdoor theaters, original works ofart, a yoga studio and a . . . beauty salon. The goal of the school is notto train the 152 seventh- and eighth-grade students as yoga masters orcosmetologists, but rather as future leaders of their country.

For Winfrey, making sure that the girls look pretty -- or more accurately,feel pretty -- is an important part of that mission.

It's easy to dismiss the inclusion of a beauty salon in a girls' school inSouth Africa as little more than a wasteful perk in a country with adysfunctional education system. In interviews, Winfrey has been askedrepeatedly: Why so much? Wouldn't it be better to build 10 modest schoolsrather than a single luxurious one? In an interview in Newsweek magazine,Winfrey said, "These girls deserve to be surrounded by beauty, and beautydoes inspire. . . . I wanted this to be a place of honor for them."


The New York Times

January 5, 2007
Tax Cuts and the Minimum Wage

As the minimum wage moves to the top of the new Congress's agenda, somepoliticians - mainly President Bush and Senate Republicans - seem incapableof viewing the issue as anything other than a pretext for more tax cuts.This time the lucky recipients would be small-business owners, who thepoliticians contend will be unduly harmed by having to pay higher wages. Somuch for ringing in the new.

It has been more than nine years since the government last increased thefederal minimum wage, currently $5.15 an hour. During that period inflationhas severely eroded the wage's value. Arguing that it is only fair to cuttaxes on business owners when the minimum wage goes up is akin to arguingthat taxes should have been raised as the wage fell because of inflation.Instead, as the minimum wage has eroded over the past decade, taxes havebeen cut sharply.


The New York Times

January 5, 2007
Gadflies Get Respect, and Not Just at Home Depot

For decades, activist shareholders were an entertaining, but largelyignored, Wall Street sideshow. Disgruntled investors would attend annualmeetings to harangue executives, criticize strategies - and protest thattheir complaints were being ignored. One agitator appeared in face paint anda red nose after executives called him a clown.

Today, however, it seems that activists have captured the center ring andare directing the main event.

On Wednesday, shareholder advocates could claim one of their biggest prizesyet when Home Depot announced the resignation of its chairman and chiefexecutive, Robert L. Nardelli, long a target of shareholder ire for hislarge compensation and the company's flagging stock price.

The main investor who pressed for the overthrow at Home Depot might at firstglance seem an unlikely rebel: Ralph V. Whitworth, a lawyer educated atGeorgetown and a former campaign worker for President Ronald Reagan who inDecember announced he had bought about $1 billion of the retailer's stock,or a 1.2 percent stake, through his fund, Relational Investors.

But the rapid success of Mr. Whitworth's campaign against the management andstrategy of Home Depot demonstrates how thoroughly activists have moved intoWall Street's inner sanctum. Mr. Whitworth has said he still intended tonominate himself and at least one other candidate to Home Depot's board atits shareholder meeting in the spring.


The New York Times

January 5, 2007

Rethinking the Death Penalty

New Jersey could take the lead among states in abolishing the death penaltyif it follows the recommendation that a legislative commission made thisweek. It is the right thing to do, and not just because capital punishmentis barbaric and a poor deterrent. It has become increasingly clear as theuse of DNA evidence has grown that there is simply too great a risk ofmaking an irreversible mistake.

While we would have used stronger language, we applaud the 13-member panelfor having the courage to recommend that New Jersey become the first stateto abolish the death penalty since states began reinstating it 35 years ago.The commission included two prosecutors, a police chief, members of theclergy and a man whose daughter was murdered in 2000. Only one member, aformer state senator who wrote the death penalty law, dissented.


Seattle Times

Ellen Goodman / Syndicated columnist
Speaker of the household

BOSTON - And so Nancy Pelosi ascends to the speakership with a series of"firsts" raining down on her like confetti. She's the first woman, the firstItalian American, the first Californian, probably the first chocoholic totake her place two heartbeats away from the Oval Office.

But maybe there's another moniker worth adding to her résumé as head of theunruly House-hold of Representatives. She's the only speaker whose firstcareer was as a stay-at-home mom.

There's nothing new about politics itself as a second career. Former SenateMajority Leader Bill Frist was a doctor before he ran for the Senate. FormerHouse Speaker Dennis Hastert was a teacher and coach. And who can forgetRonald Reagan's first career before he ran for political office at age 55?


The New York Times

January 5, 2007
News Analysis

New Majority's Choice: Should G.O.P. Policies Be Reversed?


WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 - Democrats realized their political and legislativedream Thursday. Now they must face reality.

As they take control of the House and Senate, members of the new majoritymust reconcile diverse ideological factions within their ranks and make afundamental choice. They can spend their energy trying to reverse what theysee as the flaws of the Bush administration and a dozen years in whichconservative philosophy dominated Congress. Or they can accept the rightwardtilt of that period and grudgingly concede that big tax cuts, deregulation,restrictions on abortion and other Republican-inspired changes are now apermanent part of the legislative framework.

The competing drives were on display amid the constitutional hoopla Thursdayand the emotion surrounding Representative Nancy Pelosi's election asspeaker, a position filled until now by the likes of Sam Rayburn, JosephCannon and Nicholas Longworth - men whose names adorn nearby House officebuildings. "We have broken the marble ceiling," Mrs. Pelosi said after shewas handed the gavel.


LA Times,0,6790753,print.column?coll=la-opinion-rightrail


Weaning the military from the GOP
A less partisan military is good for democracy and allows a more frankdebate on national security.
Rosa Brooks

January 5, 2007

BURIED IN THE NEWS last week was one of the most potentially significantstories of recent years. The Military Times released its annual poll ofactive-duty service members, and the results showed something virtuallyunprecedented: a one-year decline of 10 percentage points in the number ofmilitary personnel identifying themselves as Republicans. In the 2004 poll,the percentage of military respondents who characterized themselves asRepublicans stood at 60%. By the end of 2005, that had dropped to 56%. Andby the end of 2006, the percentage of military Republicans plummeted to 46%.

The drop in Republican Party identification among active-duty personnel is asharp reversal of a 30-year trend toward the "Republicanization" of the U.S.military, and it could mark a sea change in the nature of the military - andthe nature of public debates about national security issues.


The New York Times

January 5, 2007
Mr. Negroponte's Newest Job

The No. 2 job in the State Department is technically a step down from JohnNegroponte's present post of director of national intelligence. But thereported return to the foreign policy fold of this former ambassador toBaghdad, and, before that, to the United Nations, has a certain logic to it.

The diplomacy-challenged Bush administration could surely use the help. Wehope that Mr. Negroponte can provide Secretary of State Condoleezza Ricewith the intellectual and bureaucratic reinforcement she so desperatelyneeds to help guide the administration to a wiser course on Iraq.

Mr. Negroponte certainly has experience. In a 40-plus-year career -including an early stint as a political officer in Vietnam - he has alsoserved as ambassador to Honduras (during Ronald Reagan's contra war), Mexicoand the Philippines. He is known as a canny, and sometimes ruthless,bureaucratic player. What he doesn't have, unfortunately, is much of areputation for challenging the unwise policy presumptions of his bosses.


The Washington Post

Bush Claims Right to Open Mail

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, January 4, 2007; 12:38 PM

The New York Daily News today reports on a signing statement President Bushquietly issued two weeks ago, in which he asserts his right to open mailwithout a warrant.

Signing statements have historically been used by presidents mostly toexplain how they intend to enforce the laws passed by Congress; Bush hasused them to quietly assert his right to ignore those laws.

James Gordon Meek writes about the latest: "President Bush has quietlyclaimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge'swarrant, the New York Daily News has learned.

"The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reformbill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a 'signing statement' thatdeclared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

"That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he hadjust signed, say experts who have reviewed it. . . .


The New York Times

January 4, 2007
Democrats Take the Gavels in Congress

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 - Jubilant Democrats took the gavels in the Senate andHouse today for the first time in 12 years, pledging a new era in Congressand a new effort at bipartisan progress.

"I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship," saidRepresentative Nancy Pelosi of California after her election as the firstwoman in the nation's history to be Speaker of the House.

Ms. Pelosi, whose party has 233 of the 435 seats in the new House, said shelooked forward to working with Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, thenew Republican minority leader, who said the gavel was "on loan from theAmerican people," and that Republicans and Democrats could "disagree withoutbeing disagreeable to each other."

Ms. Pelosi invoked the memory of President Gerald R. Ford, who in his daysas Republican House leader was one of the best-liked members in eitherparty. "Let us honor his memory," she said.


The Advocate

January 05, 2007
John McCain a target for all sides

Everyone, it seems, is taking jabs at John McCain these days, from aRepublican rival for the presidential nomination challenging his stand onsame-sex marriage to several potential Democratic candidates questioning hisposition on the Iraq war. "When you're the perceived front-runner, yourhead's above the political trench, and everyone takes shots at you," saidChris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and presidential campaign veteran.

McCain, considered by many to be the Republican to beat, has largelyremained silent about the criticism, which is somewhat uncharacteristic forthe outspoken Arizona senator. His presidential exploratory committee onWednesday declined to comment on the spate of reproaches over his stands onsame-sex marriage and the Iraq war.

"He doesn't have to respond yet," said Rich Galen, a Republican consultant."If I were advising McCain, I'd say wait until somebody makes a dent."


The Sun-Sentinel,0,6447101.story

Nancy Pelosi Basks in Historic Day

Associated Press Writer

January 4, 2007, 9:43 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- Surrounded by kids as well as cheering lawmakers, Nancy Pelosimarveled aloud at her long journey "from the kitchen to the Congress."

Six times a grandmother, now second in line to the presidency, Pelosi saidher ascension to become the first female House speaker in history was theculmination of 200 years of struggle for women as well as a personalvictory.

"We have made history, now let us make progress for the American people,"she said.

It was her coming-out to the nation, and Pelosi, 66, sought to introduceherself not only as the San Francisco liberal decried by Republicans, but asNancy D'Alesandro Pelosi, Italian-American Catholic, mother of five andnative of gritty Baltimore, where her father was mayor.

She arrived on the House floor Thursday with all six grandchildren in tow,including baby Paul Michael Vos, born to her daughter Alexandra in November.

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