Saturday, February 10, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST February 10, 2007

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The Washington Post

Al-Qaeda Suspects Color White House Debate Over Iran

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 10, 2007; A01

Last week, the CIA sent an urgent report to President Bush's NationalSecurity Council: Iranian authorities had arrested two al-Qaeda operativestraveling through Iran on their way from Pakistan to Iraq. The suspects werecaught along a well-worn, if little-noticed, route for militants determinedto fight U.S. troops on Iraqi soil, according to a senior intelligenceofficial.

The arrests were presented to Bush's senior policy advisers as evidence thatIran appears committed to stopping al-Qaeda foot traffic across its borders,the intelligence official said. That assessment comes at a time when theBush administration, in an effort to push for further U.N. sanctions on theIslamic republic, is preparing to publicly accuse Tehran of cooperating withand harboring al-Qaeda suspects.

The strategy has sparked a growing debate within the administration and theintelligence community, according to U.S. intelligence and governmentofficials. One faction is pressing for more economic embargoes against Iran,including asset freezes and travel bans for the country's top leaders.


The Washington Post

Woman Chosen to Lead Harvard
Collegial Historian to Follow Summers's Stormy Tenure

By Valerie Strauss and Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 10, 2007; A01

Harvard University is about to name its first woman president since itsfounding in 1636, tapping a Civil War historian to succeed Lawrence Summers,whose tumultuous tenure was marked by controversial remarks about women andclashes with faculty members.

Drew Gilpin Faust, 59, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studyand a leading historian on the American South, will be formally appointedpresident as early as this weekend, according to a source with knowledge ofthe decision.

With Faust's selection, half of the eight Ivy League schools will be run bywomen: Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University andBrown University.


The Washington Post

Gifted Minds We Need to Nurture

By Joann DiGennaro
Saturday, February 10, 2007; A17

At an educators' meeting in Washington last fall, conversation turned towhether the federal government should support programming for this nation'smost gifted and talented high school students. Educators overwhelmingly saidthat top students in secondary schools need no assistance, much to mydismay. Priority must be given to those not meeting the minimal standards inscience and math, they reasoned.

The ugly secret is that our most talented students are falling through thecracks. Not one program of such major governmental agencies as the NationalInstitutes of Health, the National Science Foundation or NASA specificallytargets the top 5 percent of students who have demonstrated academicexcellence and have the greatest potential for becoming our inventors,creators and groundbreaking scientists. An international assessment of mathproblem-solving skills of 15-year-olds in 2004, along with more recentstudies, found that the United States had the fewest top performers and thelargest percentage of low performers compared with other participatingcountries. By the time students reach 12th grade in math and science, theyare near the bottom or dead last compared with international competition,according to the Education Department. These are the critical years forsupporting students in science and math, for it is when they makecareer-determining decisions for college studies.

During a trip to China last fall, I visited several Key High Schools, whichare dedicated to preparing top young scholars for science and technologycareers. The Chinese government has targeted upward of $20 million tosupport advanced learning and laboratories in each of the 34 Key HighSchools.


The Washington Post

Congress Must Act On Iraq

By Tom Vilsack
Saturday, February 10, 2007; A17

Think of the last time you were in a public place with 1,000 people -- asports event, a Fourth of July parade, a concert.

Now imagine all 1,000 of those people dead.

If the number of American military deaths in Iraq in recent years is anyguide, that's how many Americans will die in that country in the next yearif Congress doesn't act immediately to take our troops out of harm's way inIraq's civil war.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Feb. 10, 2007

Judge limits sex offender restrictions

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A federal judge ruled Friday that California's ban onsex offenders living within 2,000 feet of places where children gather can'tbe applied retroactively.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said there was nothing in the so-calledJessica's Law that specified its provisions were intended to be appliedretroactively. He added that state law requires the statute apply from thedate it takes effect.

More than 70 percent of voters approved the measure, Proposition 83, on Nov.7 and it took effect the next day.

The law prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet ofa school or park, effectively banning paroled sex offenders from manyCalifornia communities. It also requires lifetime satellite tracking forsome paroled sex criminals upon their release from prison.


The New York Times

February 10, 2007
Bad Faith on Social Security

In 2005, President Bush put his political capital where his mouth was, andlost. He went all-out to convince Congress and the American people thatprivatizing Social Security would be good and necessary. It's neither - andhis plan was justifiably and soundly rejected. This year, with his politicalcapital on empty, Mr. Bush is talking about a bipartisan effort to reformSocial Security. But his actions suggest that he has no intention of makingany serious compromises.

In his new budget, Mr. Bush allocates $29.3 billion to establish privateaccounts in 2012, totaling $637 billion through 2017. That suggests thateither Mr. Bush still hasn't figured out that private accounts are apolitical nonstarter, or he's hoping to use them as a bargaining chip infuture negotiations. Either way, that attitude virtually ensures that SocialSecurity reform will stall in this Congress, just as it did when theRepublicans were in charge.

Mr. Bush is proving similarly tone-deaf when it comes to choosing membersfor the Social Security board of trustees.

The New York Times

February 10, 2007

The Build-a-War Workshop

It took far too long, but a report by the Pentagon inspector general hasfinally confirmed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's do-it-yourselfintelligence office cooked up a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda to helpjustify an unjustifiable war.

The report said the team headed by Douglas Feith, under secretary of defensefor policy, developed "alternative" assessments of intelligence on Iraq thatcontradicted the intelligence community and drew conclusions "that were notsupported by the available intelligence." Mr. Feith certainly knew theCentral Intelligence Agency would cry foul, so he hid his findings from theC.I.A. Then Vice President Dick Cheney used them as proof ofcloak-and-dagger meetings that never happened, long-term conspiraciesbetween Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden that didn't exist, and - mostunforgivable - "possible Iraqi coordination" on the 9/11 attacks, which noserious intelligence analyst believed.

The inspector general did not recommend criminal charges against Mr. Feithbecause Mr. Rumsfeld or his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, approved theirsubordinate's "inappropriate" operations. The renegade intelligence buffsaid he was relieved.


New York Times

February 10, 2007
Religion Journal

Congressman's Imam Is Taking a Lead in Interfaith Efforts

MINNEAPOLIS - On the evening after Minnesota's Democratic primary lastSeptember, Makram El-Amin picked up his ringing cellphone to hear the raspy,exhausted voice of Keith Ellison. The men had known each other for a decade,long enough for Mr. El-Amin to become the imam of a mosque in their NorthMinneapolis neighborhood and Mr. Ellison to win a seat as the area's staterepresentative.

Now Mr. Ellison had survived a bruising campaign for the Democraticnomination for Congress and was headed into a general election. It was boundto include even more scrutiny and vitriol from opponents, based on his pastin the Nation of Islam and his present as a Sunni Muslim.

So Mr. Ellison was calling, as Mr. El-Amin recounted the other day, not as apolitician but as a congregant, seeking pastoral counsel.

"Be the person you've been all along," Mr. El-Amin recalls telling Mr.Ellison in the 20-minute conversation. "Be a public servant, not an Islamicspokesman. Keep the interest of all the people in the forefront. That's whatMuhammad himself would do."


Express Gay News

Hillary Clinton for president
Electing a woman president will send a message that the U.S. has moved intothe 21st century.

By Peter Rosenstein
Friday, February 09, 2007

I WANT TO declare my choice for president now. I am an avowed Hillary RodhamClinton supporter and believe that she not only can, but will win. A votefor Clinton is a vote for real change.

A fair question is why does electing Hillary Clinton make a difference to meas a gay man? The difference will be the real change in both the tone andfocus of our government. The fact that she has not come out for gay marriagedoes bother me, but the reality is that marriage is not a federal issue andHillary will support legislation to give us all the federal benefits ofmarriage.

I have come to understand that women view the world a little differentlythan men do. Most of my friends who came out to their families came out totheir mothers, as did I. They felt that they would receive a gentler andmore accepting response. This is not to say that women can't be strong. Wejust need to look at Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir among others.


BBC News

Putin attacks 'very dangerous' US

Russian President Vladimir Putin has attacked the United States for what hesaid was its "almost uncontained" use of force around the world.America's "very dangerous" approach to global relations was fuelling anuclear arms race, he told a security summit.

Correspondents say the strident speech may signal a more assertive Russia.

Earlier German chancellor Angela Merkel told the delegates in Munich thatthe international community was determined to stop Iran getting nuclearweapons.


New York Times

February 9, 2007

Harvard Plans to Name Its First Female President

Harvard University is planning to name the first woman president in its371-year history - Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian who runs a researchinstitute at the university, according to university officials close toselection process.

Dr. Faust's ascension would come a year after Lawrence H. Summers, a formerTreasury secretary, resigned from the post amid fierce faculty discontent.The opposition erupted in part over Dr. Summers suggestion that intrinsicaptitude could help explain why fewer women than men reach the highest ranksof science and math in universities.

Harvard's 30-member Board of Overseers is to meet Sunday and is expected togive her final approval, according to the officials.Dr. Faust is currentlydean of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, by far the smallest ofHarvard's schools. Much of the research sponsored by the institute, which isnamed after Radcliffe College, once the women's college at Harvard,emphasizes the study of women, gender and society.


BBC News

Jerusalem 'tense' after clashes

A tense calm is reported in the Old City of Jerusalem after clashes betweenIsraeli police and Palestinians erupted at a contested holy site.

Dozens of people were hurt when police moved in to quell violent protestsagainst excavation work in the area.

Skirmishes in other parts of the city have also been reported.

The violence flared over the digging work, which protesters say threatensthe foundations of the al-Aqsa mosque - Islam's third holiest site.

The compound containing the mosque is also revered by Jews as the site oftheir biblical temples.


Guardian Unlimited,,2010086,00.html

Target Iran: US able to strike in the spring
Despite denials, Pentagon plans for possible attack on nuclear sites arewell advanced

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Saturday February 10, 2007

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, inspite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according toinformed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount anattack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, itwas more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American EnterpriseInstitute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too isthe vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon areopposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority ofRepublicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision. The Bushadministration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed atcontaining Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions. The aim is topersuade Tehran to curb its suspect nuclear weapons programme and abandonambitions for regional expansion.


From MoveOn.Org

Dear friend,

Thanks for asking Congress to save public radio and TV once and for all.

Please take a moment to invite your friends and colleagues to sign. You canjust forward the sample letter below.

Spreading the word is critical, but please only pass this message along tothose who know you—spam hurts our campaign.

Thanks for all you do.

–The Civic Action Team


Dear MoveOn member,


Since Thursday afternoon, over 370,017 of us have called on Congress to saveNPR and PBS once and for all. 370,000 of us in 36 hours!

So we're aiming higher. We want to get to 500,000 signers-so Congress has tolisten. But to make that happen, we'll all need to reach out to our friends,family, colleagues and neighbors. This is an issue everyone can agree on: Weneed to keep NPR and PBS strong and independent. President Bush cannot beallowed to slash strong journalism and shows like "Sesame Street."

Can you forward the message below? It just takes a minute or two-but itcould make a big difference. Thanks for an amazing start to this importantcampaign,



An Interview with Russia's Leading Gay Activist

Gay City News, 02/08/2007

Russian President Vladimir Putin last Thursday spoke in public for the firsttime ever about gays - but interpretations diverge about the meaning of whathe said.

At his annual, nationally televised winter press conference February 1,before an audience of hundreds - mostly Russian, but including foreigncorrespondents as well - Putin was asked by a correspondent from AgenceFrance Presse for his opinion about Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's condemnationof Gay Pride parades as "satanic."

"My approach towards gay parades and sexual minorities is very simple,'Putin replied, according to Reuters. "It is directly linked to myresponsibilities. One of the key problems of our country is the demographicproblem."

At that point, the Reuters report continued, "The auditorium exploded inlaughter and applause. The Kremlin leader quickly added, 'I respect thefreedom of people in all respects. What was the other question?'"


BBC News

Brain scan 'can read your mind'
Brain scans have been developed which it is claimed can predict what aperson is about to do.

German, British and Japanese scientists were able to "read minds" usingsophisticated functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) and computer programs.

Current Biology reported people were asked to think about adding orsubtracting - scientists were able to read intentions in 70% of cases.

A UK expert advised caution, but said such technologies would develop.

We shouldn't go overboard about the power of these technologies at themoment
Professor Colin Blakemore, Medical Research Council

Such techniques could be used to help people who are paralysed - there arealready some steps being taken towards helping people usingcomputer-assisted prosthetic devices linked to computers.


Study boosts number of Jews in the U.S. to high of 6.4 million

By James D. Davis
Religion Editor

February 8, 2007

America is home to almost 20 percent more Jews than previously estimated,according to a study released Wednesday by Brandeis University.

There are 6 million to 6.4 million American Jews, rather than the 5.2million counted by the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Study. Children,young adults and non-Orthodox Jews came in at higher percentages in the newstudy, done by the Massachusetts university's Steinhardt Social ResearchInstitute.

"American Judaism is expanding," Len Saxe, director of the institute, saidWednesday. "The texture may be different, but it's not a melting ice cube,as some have said. Larger numbers identify with their Judaism than had beenthought."

Still another million Americans were raised in Jewish homes, mostly whereone parent was Jewish, "and could be considered Jewish," the Brandeis studyadds.

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