Sunday, February 04, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST February 04, 2007

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The New York Times

February 4, 2007

A Billion-Dollar Election Warning

Once upon a time, Washington managed to fully confront a corruption scandaland invent a government solution that actually worked for 30 years. Thescandal was Watergate. The solution was the innovative option of providingpublic financing to presidential campaigns as a means of curbing theinfluence of big money donors like those who ran amok in President RichardNixon's 1972 re-election.

Since then, candidates opted for the subsidies - and the spending limitsthat come with them - in every general election. And most did in the primaryelections, too. But not next time. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and JohnMcCain have already signaled their intentions to make a shameful andlucrative retreat to private fund-raising. The Clinton camp is creating anew honored donor category for those who bag at least a million dollarseach, with strategists mirthfully debating whether to dub these fat-catgroomers "Pathfinders" or "Hillraisers." We suggest Recidivists.

Whoever the two nominees are, they will very likely ring up the first $1billion presidential cycle between them. All of this is because pastCongresses failed to update the public financing option to keep pace withthe costs of running a modern campaign.


The New York Times

February 4, 2007
News Analysis
Iranian Boast Is Put to Test


After decades of largely clandestine efforts, Iran is expected to declare incoming days that it has made a huge leap toward industrial-scale productionof enriched uranium - a defiant act that the country's leaders will heraldas a major technical stride and its neighbors will denounce as a loomingthreat. But for now, many nuclear experts say, the frenetic activity at thedesert enrichment plant in Natanz may be mostly about political showmanship.

The many setbacks and outright failures of Tehran's experimental programsuggest that its bluster may outstrip its technical expertise. And theproblems help explain American intelligence estimates that Iran is at leastfour years away from producing a nuclear weapon.

After weeks of limited access inside Iran, inspectors from the InternationalAtomic Energy Agency have reported that Tehran has succeeded inmanufacturing parts for about 3,000 centrifuges, the devices that can spinuranium into reactor fuel - or bomb fuel. In recent days, the Iranians havebegun installing the machines and supporting gear in a cavernous plant atNatanz, which would be a potential target if the United States or one of itsallies decided that diplomacy would never keep Iran from getting the bomb.


The Washington Post

Vice President's Shadow Hangs Over Trial
Testimony Points Out Cheney's Role in Trying to Dampen Joseph Wilson'sCriticism

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 4, 2007; A05

Vice President Cheney's press officer, Cathie Martin, approached his chiefof staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on Air Force Two on July 12, 2003, toask how she should respond to journalists' questions about Joseph C. WilsonIV. Libby looked over one of the reporters' questions and told Martin:"Well, let me go talk to the boss and I'll be back."

On Libby's return, Martin testified in federal court last week, he brought acard with detailed replies dictated by Cheney, including a highly partisan,incomplete summary of Wilson's investigation into Iraq's suspected weaponsof mass destruction program.

Libby subsequently called a reporter, read him the statement, and said --according to the reporter -- he had "heard" that Wilson's investigation wasinstigated by his wife, an employee at the CIA, later identified as ValeriePlame. The reporter, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, was one of five peoplewith whom Libby discussed Plame's CIA status during those critical weeksthat summer.

After seven days of such courtroom testimony, the unanswered questionhanging over Libby's trial is, did the vice president's former chief ofstaff decide to leak that disparaging information on his own?


Can Giuliani Save GOP From Itself
by The Associated Press

Posted: February 4, 2007 - 12:01 am ET

(Columbia, South Carolina) He keeps an itinerary that has all the makings ofa full-fledged presidential candidate: South Carolina this weekend, NewHampshire the one before.

Which is what Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, says he'sleaning toward becoming.

"There's a real good chance," Giuliani told The Associated Press onSaturday, after a 30-minute speech and question-and-answer session withparty leaders in South Carolina. In a year, they will put on thefirst-in-the-South GOP presidential primary.

On Giuliani's first visit to New Hampshire last weekend since setting up thecommittee, he told reporters he'd received a tremendous amount of enthusiasmand support from people.


The New York Times

February 4, 2007

Washington Memo

With Rumsfeld Gone, Critics of War Look to Rice

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 - For six years, first as national security adviser andthen as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice worked under the cover of avery effective shield: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was theadministration's lightning rod for criticism over its handling of Iraq.

But in recent weeks, with Mr. Rumsfeld gone, Ms. Rice has faced increased,and somewhat unfamiliar, criticism. At a Senate hearing on Jan. 11, sheconfronted a wall of opposition from Republicans as well as Democrats.

During hearings this week on Iraq, several of her predecessors were pointedin their disapproval of her job performance.

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III took issue with Ms. Rice'srefusal to engage Syria diplomatically. Back in his day, he told the SenateForeign Relations Committee, "We practiced diplomacy full time, and it paidoff."


The Washington Post

Health Coverage's Momentum

By David S. Broder
Sunday, February 4, 2007; B07

Piece by piece, the stage is being set for the long-overdue effort torebuild America's creaky health-care system into one that can meet the needsof the 21st century. It probably won't happen until 2009, but the outlinesof the big change are starting to become clear.

As is always the case, the driving force is coming from the people. More andmore families are experiencing the terror of living without healthinsurance -- about 47 million uninsured at last count. And additionalmillions are facing rising premiums and co-payments that strain familybudgets.

As the costs rise, more and more employers are bailing out of providinghealth coverage, and the pressure for help from government is rising. WithCongress wary of systemic reform after the collapse of the Clintons'initiative in 1994, states are being forced to improvise their ownsolutions.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Feb. 04, 2007

Make academic integrity part of recruiting process



Somehow, our culture has developed an obsession with the collegechoices made by a handful of students. Those students are not National MeritScholars. They are blue-chip high-school athletes, and the frenzysurrounding the process of recruiting them is reaching a fever pitch thisweek.

On Feb. 8, newspapers across the country will devote pages and photosto football players in elaborate ''Signing Day'' ceremonies, which mark thefirst day players can sign agreements to attend a specific college andreceive an athletic scholarship. projects that it will have 75million page views on Signing Day alone, more than three times the dailyaverage of, the most popular online news website. At least oneuniversity has gotten in on the act by establishing its own pay-per-viewInternet show, ``Signing Day Live.''


The Washington Post

What to Ask Before the Next War
Don't Let the People Who Brought Us Iraq Define the Questions

By Paul R. Pillar
Sunday, February 4, 2007; B07

Imagine that the famously flawed intelligence judgments about Iraq'sprograms to develop unconventional weapons had been correct. What differencewould that have made to the American effort in Iraq?

The Bush administration would have had fewer rhetorical difficulties indefending its decision to go to war, even though any discoveries of weaponsprograms would have confirmed nothing about the use to which Saddam Husseinmight someday have put such weapons or whether Iraq would eventually haveacquired nuclear weapons.

But the war itself would be the same agonizing ordeal. An insurgency drivenby motives having nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction and littleto do with Hussein would still be going on.


The Washington Post

How Not to Pick a School

By Brigid Schulte
Sunday, February 4, 2007; B01

We are a white, middle-class family. Our children attend our neighborhoodpublic school, Mount Vernon Community School, two blocks from our house inAlexandria. The student body is 55 percent Hispanic, 22 percent black and 19percent white. More than 60 percent of the children are poor enough toqualify for free or reduced-price lunch. More than 40 percent speak alanguage other than English at home. And the test scores, while passable,aren't among the school district's best.

It's a school with the kind of statistics that can so unnerve some white,middle-class parents that they move to mostly white areas -- or spend tensof thousands of dollars on private schools.

Last week, I held the PTA open house for parents of prospective students. Iposted the announcement on our neighborhood e-mail group list. I receivedsome enthusiastic responses from people who know parents with childrenalready at the school.


The Washington Post

Democrats Split on How to End the War
Those Who Aren't In Congress Press Clinton and Obama

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 4, 2007; A04

The war in Iraq is shaping the opening stages of the contest for the 2008Democratic presidential nomination, just as it did in the 2004 campaign.

After 10 candidates' speeches over two days at the winter meeting of theDemocratic National Committee in Washington, the war proved again to be thecentral point of differentiation among the party's presidential contenders.

What emerged was a division over how to stop the war, one likely tointensify as Congress debates measures ranging from a nonbinding resolutioncondemning President Bush's proposal to send more troops to Iraq to morecontroversial legislation that would restrict or cut off funds for themilitary mission.

Four years ago, former Vermont governor Howard Dean tapped into the growingopposition to the war among party activists and turned a long-shot candidacyinto a force to be reckoned with until his campaign imploded in Iowa.



The coming showdown on trade
By Robert Kuttner | February 3, 2007

GET READY FOR a revolution in trade politics. This week, President Bushreiterated his call for authority to make more trade deals, which expiresJune 30. He went on the road for a photo-op at a Caterpillar Tractor plant,arguing that trade deals promote exports. But in the new Congress, extensionof current "fast track" negotiating authority is a dead letter.

The entering class of Democrats are nearly all fair-traders, demanding muchmore balanced rules for the trading system. Thirty-nine of the 42 freshma nDemocrats in the House recently sent a letter to the Democratic leadershipwarning their leaders off the Bush trade agenda.

In the Senate, five of the six Democrats who picked up Republican-heldSenate seats have joined a new populist caucus, insisting on fairer traderules. Tuesday and Wednesday, business oriented Democrats invited threeClinton veterans, Gene Sperling, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers, to HouseWays and Means Committee hearings to defend the old trade agenda, which hasproduced chronic trade deficits and hollowed out American industry.

These worthies called for a "new consensus" -- more deals to easeoff-shoring production, sweetened by a little more public money to helpworkers displaced by trade. Most Democrats weren't buying it.


The New York Times

Posted on Sun, Feb. 04, 2007

Indonesia floods leave 200,000 homeless

Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia - At least 20 people have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by floods in Indonesia's capital, an official said Sunday, as rivers overflowing from four days of rain inundated the city.

The government dispatched medical teams on rubber rafts into the worst-hit districts amid fears that disease may spread among residents living in squalid conditions with limited access to clean drinking water.

The death toll from flooding in the capital Jakarta had reached 20 as of Sunday afternoon, said Edi Darma at the Jakarta's Flooding Crisis Center.

Some in the city of 12 million people were holding out on the second floors of their homes, refusing to be relocated by soldiers in rubber dinghies, officials said.

"We fear that diarrhea and dysentery may break out, as well as illnesses spread by rats," Dr. Rustam Pakaya, from the health ministry's crisis center. "People must be careful not to drink dirty water."

Waters reaching 13 feet high in places have inundated more than 20,000 homes, school and hospitals in poor and wealthy districts alike, forcing authorities to cut off electricity and water supplies and paralyzing transport networks.


The New York Times

February 4, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Why Dick Cheney Cracked Up

IN the days since Dick Cheney lost it on CNN, our nation's armchair shrinkshave had a blast. The vice president who boasted of "enormous successes" inIraq and barked "hogwash" at the congenitally mild Wolf Blitzer has beenroundly judged delusional, pathologically dishonest or just plain nuts. Butwhat else is new? We identified those diagnoses long ago. The moreintriguing question is what ignited this particularly violent publicflare-up.

The answer can be found in the timing of the CNN interview, which wasconducted the day after the start of the perjury trial of Mr. Cheney'sformer top aide, Scooter Libby. The vice president's on-camera crackupreflected his understandable fear that a White House cover-up was crumbling.He knew that sworn testimony in a Washington courtroom would reveal stillmore sordid details about how the administration lied to take the countryinto war in Iraq. He knew that those revelations could cripple the WhiteHouse's current campaign to escalate that war and foment apocalypticscenarios about Iran. Scariest of all, he knew that he might yet have totestify under oath himself.


Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn
Tri-County -,0,2695314.story?coll=la-home-headlines

U.S. can't prove Iran link to Iraq strife
Despite pledges to show evidence, officials have repeatedly put offpresenting their case.

By Maura Reynolds
Times Staff Writer

February 3, 2007

WASHINGTON — Bush administration officials acknowledged Friday that they hadyet to compile evidence strong enough to back up publicly their claims thatIran is fomenting violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Administration officials have long complained that Iran was supplying ShiiteMuslim militants with lethal explosives and other materiel used to kill U.S.military personnel. But despite several pledges to make the evidence public,the administration has twice postponed the release — most recently, abriefing by military officials scheduled for last Tuesday in Baghdad.

"The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and wesent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts," national securityadvisor Stephen J. Hadley said Friday.

The acknowledgment comes amid shifting administration messages on Iran.After several weeks of saber rattling that included a stiff warning byPresident Bush and the dispatch of two aircraft carrier strike groups to thePersian Gulf, near Iran, the administration has insisted in recent days thatit does not want to escalate tensions or to invade Iran.


New from DIRELAND, January 3


"Dozens of thousands" of copies of an expensive, lavishly-illustrated bookattacking Darwinism and written from an Islamic Creationist point of viewhave been sent from Germany and Turkey to nearly all of France's educationalinstitutions, Le Figaro reports today, creating grave concern on the part ofeducation authorities. As we have seen in the U.S., the concommitants ofCreationism include misogyny and homophobia. Moreover, translation anddistribution of the book in Urdu, Indonesian, Kazakh, Azeri, Malay,Malayalam, Russian, Polish and other languages is under way. Who is payingfor this Islamic Creationist propaganda blitz? To find out more, includingthe low-down on this new book's author, click on:

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