Tuesday, February 27, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST February 27, 2007

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The New York Times


February 27, 2007
Cheney Unhurt After Bombing in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 27 — A suicide bomber blew himself up this morningoutside the main gate of the United States military base at Bagram whileVice President Dick Cheney was inside the base. Mr. Cheney was not hurt inthe attack.

The explosion killed and wounded a number of American and alliedsoldiers,Afghan and Pakistani truck drivers and laborers waiting for accessat the gate. There were conflicting reports of the number of casualties anddeaths.

The incident took place at the outermost security gate of the sprawlingbase, far from where Mr. Cheney was staying at the time.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing and said Mr. Cheney wasthe target of the attack, news agencies reported. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, whoclaimed to be a Taliban spokesman, told the Associated Press: “We knew thatDick Cheney would be staying inside the base.” He said the bombing wascarried out by Mullah Abdul Rahim.

A few hours after the attack, Mr. Cheney traveled to Kabul to meet withPresident Hamid Karzai, and later left Afghanistan to fly to Oman.


The New York Times


February 27, 2007
Romney Tries to Overcome Inconsistencies
Filed at 10:06 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Mitt Romney titled his book on how he savedthe scandal-ridden 2002 Olympics ''Turnaround.'' Now, as he runs forpresident, he's trying to fight the perception that he's committed a few toomany turnarounds.

The former Massachusetts governor's equivocations on major issues -- andoutright position changes on others -- threaten to derail his nascent 2008campaign.

As previous White House hopefuls have learned, once a candidate is perceivedto have a pattern of inconsistency, labels like flip-flopper and waffler areextremely difficult to shake.

''The problem for Romney is there are so many of these things that go backnot so long ago that it becomes a question mark to conservative voters inIowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,'' said Greg Mueller, a GOPstrategist. On the other hand, he said: ''They really don't know him yet,which gives him a huge opportunity.''

Keenly aware of the dangers, Romney is working to convince skepticalRepublicans that he's sincere in his current stances on issues such asabortion and gay marriage that the party's right wing holds dear -- andquickly define himself before top rivals John McCain and Rudy Giuliani do itfor him.


The Washington Post


Race, Gender Less Relevant in '08
Candidate's Being Over Age 72 or a Smoker Are Bigger Detriments Than Genderor Race to Voters

By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 27, 2007; 6:04 AM

Campaign 2008 has raised the question of whether voters will hesitate toback a major female or black presidential contender, but at this early stagevoters seem to weigh other criteria more heavily in determining whichcandidate they might favor, according to a new Washington Post-ABC Newspoll.

According to voters, a candidate's being over age 72, a Mormon, twicedivorced or a smoker all are bigger drags on support than is gender or race.In this poll, nearly six in 10 Americans said they would be less likely tovote for an older candidate, three in 10 less likely to vote for a Mormon, aquarter less likely to support a candidate with two divorces and 21 percentless likely to back someone who smokes cigarettes. And for each of these,those turned off by the attribute greatly outnumbered those who said theywould be more likely to support such a candidate. For example, while 58percent said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate older than72, a scant three percent said they would be more likely to prefer such acandidate.


The Washington Post


An Assault On Corporate Speech
By George F. Will
Tuesday, February 27, 2007; Page A15

Good for Adrienne Eaton of Rutgers University's Labor Studies & EmploymentRelations Department. Her forthright description of a central issue in thedebate about the Employee Free Choice Act, which she supports, clarifies whythat legislation is symptomatic of a disagreeable tendency in today'spolitics.

Labor unions hope this exquisitely mistitled act, which the House ofRepresentatives probably will pass this week, will compensate for theirdwindling persuasiveness as they try to persuade workers to join.


The Washington Post


Romney Family Tree Has Polygamy Branch

The Associated Press
Saturday, February 24, 2007; 9:25 PM

SALT LAKE CITY -- While Mitt Romney condemns polygamy and its prior practiceby his Mormon church, the Republican presidential candidate'sgreat-grandfather had five wives and at least one of his great-greatgrandfathers had 12.

Polygamy was not just a historical footnote, but a prominent element in thefamily tree of the former Massachusetts governor now seeking to become thefirst Mormon president.


The Sun-Sentinel


Debate over use of 'n-word' a generational clash in black community
By Gregory Lewis
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 27, 2007

There was a time when black Americans couldn't stand the word.

Its hateful origins, power to instill fear, its use as a precursor toviolence and stinging accompaniment to discrimination were too much to bear.

That's why Beatrice McCoy never called anyone "nigger." It's also why thesenior citizen is unable to understand how anyone else could. "My parentsdidn't allow it," said McCoy, a longtime West Palm Beach black civicactivist. "So I never said it. It was a fighting word when I was growingup."

The New York City Council is scheduled to discuss a proposal today for amoratorium on the use of the n-word -- a symbolic ban -- and vote on itWednesday. In the last few months, local governments across the country haveconsidered similar proposals, and some have passed them.

A check of newspaper reports suggests no local governments in Florida haverecently considered similar bans, although the Lake County School Boardbanned the term in 2002.


The Sun-Sentinel


New stamps would lock in postage rate … 'forever'
By Diane C. Lade
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 27, 2007

The U.S. Postal Service wants to raise the price of mailing a letter for asecond time in a little more than a year, by 2 cents for first-classpostage. But consumers may get a chance to lock in a first-class postagerate -- forever.

The independent Postal Regulatory Commission on Monday recommended creatinga new "forever" stamp, good into infinity at the issuing price, no matterhow much rates go up.

The new stamps, which have been tried successfully in other countries suchas France and Great Britain, would do away with scrambling for 1- and 2-centstamps every time first-class prices rise.

"We think it's something our customers will enjoy. If you put the stamp inyour drawer and forget about it, all you have to do when you find it is putit on the letter and it's good," said Dave Partenheimer, spokesman for theUSPS in Washington, D.C.

The new stamps' shelf life would also make good sense for the post office,said commission spokesman Stephen L. Sharfman.


The Sun-Sentinel


U.S. troop surge unwise
By Alberto Carosa and Lois Lindstrom

February 27, 2007

Four years ago, Hans Blix, the then-chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq,told the Spanish daily El Pais "the war was a very high price to pay interms of lives and the destruction of a country when the threat of weaponsproliferation could have been contained by U.N. inspectors."

Today, Blix's views ring truer than ever. The former Swedish diplomat saidrecently that President Bush's troop surge request would not bring peace. Infact, the opposite may be true. Blix stressed that while working throughexisting international treaties has some weaknesses, a policy based onunilateralism and military actions has failed and has been costly in termsof lives and resources.

Do you believe Bush's troop surge request in Iraq would end the war morequickly? And, is the troop surge necessary to win the peace?

No. After Saddam's tyrannical rule and the long Sunni domination of Iraq, anew social contract will need to be worked out between major groups;religious, ethnic and clans. This is a gruelling process in which each groupwill try to mobilize all the strength it can. So long as there is a hugeU.S. presence in the country and its politics, these groups will not feelthat they themselves are fully responsible for the fate of the country. Itherefore think that the U.S. should make clear that there will be a phasedwithdrawal of all U.S. troops and that there will be no bases left. No Iraqigovernment that agreed to continued American bases would be seen by theIraqi people as genuinely independent.

But isn't it true that no WMDs were found in Iraq?


The Miami Herald


Sharpton's focus of visit shifts to his genealogy

The Rev. Al Sharpton was in Miami to talk about black-on-black violence. Buteveryone wanted to talk about the stunning report on his genealogy.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, in South Florida to speak about an escalation inblack-on-black murders, instead found himself the topic of conversationMonday.

The reason: a report in The New York Daily News revealing that one ofSharpton's ancestors was a slave owned by relatives of the late StromThurmond, a South Carolina senator and, for much of his life, a symbol ofsegregation.

''I always knew my ancestors were slaves,'' Sharpton told The Miami Heraldon Monday, ``But this is crazy. After all, I've spent my life fightingagainst the things Thurmond represented.''

Genealogical detectives from Ancestry.com, citing an 1861 indenturedocument, revealed that Coleman Sharpton, Sharpton's great-grandfather and aslave in 1835 Edgefield County, S.C., was owned by Julia Thurmond, whosegrandfather was Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather.


Sharpton was in town to speak with community leaders about a recent spate ofslayings, and to discuss starting a chapter of the National Action Network,his activist organization. But the buzz on the radio show was about hisancestry and the link to Thurmond.


The Miami Herald


Posted on Mon, Feb. 26, 2007
Governors team to reduce gas emissions

Fed up with federal inaction and convinced of the dangers from globalwarming, five governors from Western states agreed Monday to work togetherto reduce greenhouse gases.

Their promise to target global warming was the latest of a rush of new ideasshared this week as states push ahead on climate change and clean oralternative energy.

"Thankfully the country has reached a tipping point on this issue. I wish wehad done it 20 years ago," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republicanwho last week signed into law a requirement that utilities generate aquarter of their power from renewable sources such as wind, water and thesun by 2025. "Governors, members of Congress and others are now scramblingto be bold."

The twin challenges of global warming and energy were some of the dominantpoints of discussion over four days at the annual winter meeting of theNational Governors Association.

Others discussed legislation to encourage "clean-coal" technology; theeconomic growth that would come from industries in windmills, solar panelsand the like; and tax incentives to spur more renewable energy.


The Washington Post


Governors Face Realties of Globalization

The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 27, 2007; 3:31 AM

WASHINGTON -- Governors are facing up to some harsh realities: Their states'school children aren't ready for the 21st century, their workers aren'ttrained for the new jobs created every day, and their businesses aren'tcompeting as strongly as they must to keep ahead.

The only way to thrive amid globalization is to change, and states are pastdue for a sweeping transformation of education, worker training and economicdevelopment, governors agreed Monday after days of discussions at the annualwinter meeting of the National Governors Association.

"The plain fact of the matter is the world has changed," said Arizona Gov.Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who sought to convince her fellow state leadersthat globalization is their problem. "We must have a sense of urgency asgovernors. ... What we're doing now does not suffice."

Meetings over four days hammered her point home. School teachers, businessleaders, scientists, pollsters all delivered the same message _ overhaulschool curriculums, retrain workers and revamp economic development so thatbusinesses build upon each other, rather than pit one state against another.

They heard from Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway; Robert Rubin, theformer Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration; PresidentBush's top trade negotiator, Susan Schwab, and many more.


The Chron.com


Feb. 26, 2007, 8:37PM
Light bulb moment
Texas could be the first state in country to phase out incandescent bulbs.

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Anyone who ever strolled down Home Depot's lighting aisle probably felt anuncomfortable truth: incandescent bulbs produce a lot of heat.

Only recently, though, has it become widely known how much — and at whatcost to air quality and fuel savings. The figures are stunning. Anincandescent bulb typically burns five times the energy of a compactfluorescent bulb. Both create the same lumens, or flow of light.

Worldwide, the greenhouse gases spewed by power plants to light incandescentbulbs equal 70 percent of the emissions from passenger vehicles.

Unlike internal combustion cars, incandescent bulbs — and the waste andpoisonous air that using them creates — are simple to leave behind. Theanswer is right there in the lighting aisle: compact fluorescent bulbs. Lastweek, the conservative government of Australia poised to be the world'sfirst to act on this potentially Earth-changing technology. The governmentannounced a plan to phase out incandescent bulbs by 2009. Cuba and Venezuelaare launching similar programs.

Texas could be the next large government to mandate this change. Thislegislative session is the perfect time to do so. Two lawmakers, oneconservative and one liberal, already have developed energy-conservationbills. All they need to do is amend them.


USA Today


Some call for sequel, but Gore stays coy
Updated 2/27/2007 11:02 AM ET
By Martin Kasindorf, USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — Al Gore has had a heartwarming February: a big night at theAcademy Awards, a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and former president JimmyCarter's endorsement for the 2008 presidential campaign.

Even so, these dream assets for a politician and the added pressure they'rebringing to enter the race are unlikely to sway Gore to jump in, Democratswho know the former vice president said Monday.

Gore, 58, played with the idea Sunday night, when An Inconvenient Truth, thedocumentary on climate change that he stars in, won Oscars for bestdocumentary feature and best original song. In pre-planned clowning, Gorehad begun to announce a political "intention" when the band cut him off.

Two members of Norway's Parliament nominated Gore for the Nobel Peace PrizeFeb. 1 for bringing attention to global warming. Carter told ABC News' ThisWeek Sunday that "if Al should decide to run — which I'm afraid he won't — Iwould support Al Gore."

Backstage and at post-Oscar parties, the 2000 Democratic presidentialnominee repeated his longtime assertion that he is not "planning" to runagain. Political players read Gore's statement as falling short of anironclad pledge to stay out. "He's obviously left a little crack in thewindow or the door," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and Gore's2000 campaign press secretary.




Document shows Romney's strategies
Plan addresses faith, rivals, shift on issues
By Scott Helman, Globe Staff | February 27, 2007

Here are some views of Mitt Romney causing concern inside his campaign: Hishair looks too perfect, he's not a tough war time leader, and he has earneda reputation as "Slick Dancing Mitt" or "Flip-Flop Mitt."

Romney and his advisers have identified those perceptions as threats to hisbid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, according to anexhaustive internal campaign document obtained by the Globe.

The 77-slide PowerPoint presentation offers a revealing look at Romney'spursuit of the White House, outlining a plan for branding himself, framinghis competitors, and allaying voter concerns about his record, his Mormonfaith, and his shifts on key issues like abortion.

Dated Dec. 11, the blueprint is wide-ranging and analyzes in detail thestrengths and weaknesses of Romney and his two main Republican rivals,Senator John McCain of Arizona and Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of NewYork. The plan, which top Romney strategist Alex Castellanos helped todraft, charts a course for Romney to emerge as the nominee, but acknowledgesthat the "electorate is not where it needs to be for us to succeed."

It is unclear how the campaign is using the document. However, itsexpansiveness, level of detail and the involvement of Castellanos suggestthat it is a significant strategic blueprint. On the campaign trail, Romneyis sounding some of the themes outlined in it.


The Los Angeles Times


Texas talks tough on illegal immigrants
Lawmakers push some of the harshest immigration-related measures in theUnited States.

By Miguel Bustillo
Times Staff Writer

February 27, 2007

AUSTIN, TEXAS — The Lone Star State has long welcomed Latino immigrants, nomatter how they got across the state's 1,200-mile border with Mexico.

Back when California voted to cut public services to illegal immigrants,then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush was preaching that immigrants were equalplayers in the state's economy.

But the atmosphere has changed markedly in Texas, home to about 10% of thenation's illegal immigrants.

Now, a growing chorus of Republicans and some Democrats is pushing some ofthe harshest immigration-related measures in the United States — laws thatwould not only deny public services to illegal immigrants but strip theirAmerican-born children of benefits as well.

The proposal to deny services to American citizens, which is thought to bethe first in the country, is part of a push to challenge the citizenshipgiven automatically to children born in this country to illegal immigrants.




Bush launches fundraising campaign
By Ben Feller, Associated Press Writer | February 26, 2007

WASHINGTON --Returning to campaign mode, President Bush on Monday began hisfundraising drive to help Republicans regain the power they lost less thanfour months ago.

"My political agenda is this: more Republican governors, take back controlof the House and the Senate and make sure we keep the White House in 2008,"Bush told cheering donors at a private reception for the RepublicanGovernors Association.

The annual event raised a record $10.4 million for GOP gubernatorialcandidates.

Bush said Republicans belong to "the party of ideas" and predicted voterswould come back if they see results. "That's how we got the majority, andthat's what it's going to take to get the majority back -- standing onprinciple," Bush said.

Voters last November put Democrats in control of the House and Senate,weakening Bush's ability to push through legislation. The 2006 election alsosaw Republican governors lose the majority of governorships they had heldsince 1994.


USA Today


McCain firm on Iraq war despite cost to candidacy
Updated 2/27/2007 8:01 AM ET
By Susan Page, USA TODAY

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Sugar 'n' Spice Drive-in is so jammed withsupporters and prospective supporters that Arizona Sen. John McCain climbsonto a chair next to the soda fountain to be heard.

"Obviously, I have to talk to you about the war in Iraq," he says somberlyas the crowd quiets. "All of us — all of us — are frustrated. All of us areangry because of the mishandling of the war. All of us are saddened by theloss of our most precious asset, and that's American blood."

Even so, the costs of retreat would be higher, fueling chaos in Iraq anddrawing terrorists to U.S. shores, he says. "I want us to have patience. Iwant us to succeed."

There's no doubt about that. At stake in Iraq is not only President Bush'slegacy but also the 70-year-old McCain's last hope for the White House. In acrowded field of candidates, he is the only full-throated defender of theincrease in U.S. troop levels and the war itself.

In a turn that's nearly Shakespearean, McCain — Bush's chief rival for theRepublican nomination in 2000 and a critic since then on everything from taxcuts to torture — finds his fate inextricably tied to the fortunes of hisonetime adversary and the increasingly unpopular war he is prosecuting.


The New York Times


February 27, 2007
Iraqis Reach an Accord on Oil Revenues

BAGHDAD, Feb. 26 — The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law on Mondaythat would set guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenues andforeign investment in the immense oil industry. The endorsement reflected amajor agreement among the country’s ethnic and sectarian political blocs onone of Iraq’s most divisive issues.

The draft law approved by the cabinet allows the central government todistribute oil revenues to the provinces or regions based on population,which could lessen the economic concerns of the rebellious Sunni Arabs, whofear being cut out of Iraq’s vast potential oil wealth by the dominantShiites and Kurds. Most of Iraq’s crude oil reserves lie in the Shiite southand Kurdish north.

The law also grants regional oil companies or governments the power to signcontracts with foreign companies for exploration and development of fields,opening the door for investment by foreign companies in a country whose oilreserves rank among the world’s three largest.

Iraqi officials say dozens of major foreign companies, including ones basedin the United States, Russia and China, have expressed strong interest indeveloping fields or have done some work with the Iraqi industry. Thenational oil law would allow regions to enter into production-sharingagreements with foreign companies, which some Iraqis say could lead toforeigners reaping too much of the country’s oil wealth.


The New York Times


February 27, 2007
Child Health Care Splits White House and States

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — Governors clashed with the White House on Monday overthe future of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, an issue thatsome members of both parties said was as important as money for the Iraqwar.

In the session at the White House, when President Bush reported on progressof the war, governors pressed him to provide more money so they couldguarantee health insurance for children. In response, administrationofficials said states should make better use of the money they already had.

Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, a Republican, said afterward, “Health care forchildren ought to be a priority, irrespective of anyone’s views on the war.”

Georgia will exhaust its allotment of federal money for the Children’sHealth Insurance Program within three months, Mr. Perdue said. Thirteenother states expect to run out by September, according to data released hereat the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Governors said the Clinton and Bush administrations had encouraged them toexpand children’s coverage and had granted waivers allowing them to coverparents and even some childless adults.


The New York Times


February 26, 2007
Court Backs $3 Billion California Stem Cell Plan
Filed at 10:29 p.m. ET

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California appeals court on Monday upheld thelegality of a voter-approved program to sell $3 billion in bonds to supportstem cell research.

California voters backed a statewide initiative in 2004 to form theCalifornia Institute for Regenerative Medicine and authorize it to sell debtto fund stem cell medical research.

State Controller John Chiang said in a statement he was ''encouraged that weare one step closer in ending litigation that has tied up the funding forCalifornia's historic investment in stem cell research.''

Opponents of abortion and fiscal conservatives had challenged the measure'slegality, but a state appellate court backed a lower court ruling that saidthe institute was a legitimate state agency that can issue debt.

The U.S. debate over stem cells pits groups that morally oppose usingfertilized human eggs for study against those who hope stem cells can unlockcures to diseases.


The New York Times


February 27, 2007
Court Declares Bosnia Killings Were Genocide

THE HAGUE, Feb. 26 — The International Court of Justice on Monday for thefirst time called the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 anact of genocide, but determined that Serbia itself was not guilty of theenormous crime.

Nonetheless, it faulted Serbia, saying it “could and should” have preventedthe genocide and, in its aftermath, should have punished the Bosnian Serbswho systematically killed close to 8,000 men and boys in July 1995.

The ruling resulted from a civil lawsuit Bosnia had brought against Serbia,the first in which one country sued another for genocide.

The 15 international judges who held nine weeks of hearings and deliberatedfor nearly 10 months relied in part on evidence presented in criminal casesheard by the United Nations Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which hasfound two Bosnian Serb officers guilty of genocide for theSrebrenica massacre.

In the end, the lawsuit resolved Monday may have been the most complex casehandled in the 60-year history of the World Court, which the United Nationsset up to resolve legal disputes between states.


The New York Times


February 27, 2007
Canada’s Move to Restore Rights

The United States was not the only country to respond to the horror of theSept. 11 terrorist attacks with policies that went much too far incurtailing basic rights and civil liberties in the name of public safety.Now we see that a nation can regain its senses after calm reflection andbegin to rein back such excesses, but that heartening news comes from Canadaand not the United States.

Canada’s Supreme Court has struck down a law that the government used todetain foreign-born terrorism suspects indefinitely — employing secretevidence and not filing charges — while orders to deport them were reviewed.The law was actually passed in 1978, but was primarily employed to detainand deport foreign spies. After the 2001 attacks, the Canadian governmentbegan using it aggressively to hold terrorism suspects, claiming that it wasan important tool for keeping Canada safe.

That is just the sort of argument the Bush administration used to ram theexcesses of the Patriot Act and the 2006 Military Commissions Act throughCongress, and offered as an excuse for other abusive policies, likePresident Bush’s illegal wiretapping of international calls and e-mail.

The Canadian justices rejected their government’s specious national securityclaim with a forceful 9-to-0 ruling that upheld every person’s right to fairtreatment. “The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applieshere is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods oftime, it must accord them a fair judicial process,” Chief Justice BeverleyMcLachlin wrote.


The New York Times


February 27, 2007
A Bad Report Card

The news from American high schools is not good. The most recent testresults from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly knownas the national report card, finds that American 12th graders are actuallyperforming worse in reading than 12th graders did in 1992, when a comparableexam was given. In addition, 12th-grade performance in reading has beendistressingly flat since 2002, even though the states were supposed to beimproving the quality of teaching to comply with the No Child Left Behindeducation act.

The new scores, based on tests given in 2005, show that only about 35percent of 12th graders are proficient in reading. Simply put, this meansthat a majority of the country’s 12th graders have trouble understandingwhat they read fully enough to make inferences, draw conclusions and seeconnections between what they read and their own experiences. The mathscores were even worse, with only 23 percent of 12th graders performing ator above the proficient level.

Marginal literacy and minimal math skills might have been adequate for theindustrial age. But these scores mean that many of today’s high schoolseniors will be locked out of the information economy, where a collegedegree is the basic price of admission and the ability to read, write andreason is essential for success.

Congress, which is preparing to reauthorize both the No Child Left BehindAct and the Higher Education Act, needs to take a hard look at these scoresand move forcefully to demand far-reaching structural changes.


The New York Times


February 27, 2007
Justices Decline Case on 200-Year Sentence for Man Who Possessed ChildPornography

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — An Arizona man who received a 200-year prison sentencefor possessing 20 pornographic images of children failed Monday to persuadethe Supreme Court to consider whether the sentence was unconstitutionallyexcessive.

Arizona law imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for “sexualexploitation of a minor,” and it requires that sentences for multipleconvictions be served consecutively.

The sentence that the man, Morton R. Berger, received was consequentlylonger than the sentence any other state would have imposed for a similaroffense, a justice of the Arizona Supreme Court wrote in an opinion lastyear dissenting from that court’s decision upholding the 200-year sentence.

A majority of the Arizona Supreme Court declined to examine the aggregatesentence as a whole, instead focusing on the sentence of 10 years forpossessing a single pornographic image, which it found was not excessive ordisproportionate. It was this aspect of the analysis that Mr. Berger, a57-year-old former high school teacher, challenged in his appeal to theUnited States Supreme Court.

“If this court reviews Berger’s entire punishment instead of examining thesentence for a single count,” the brief said, “it would find Berger’spunishment cruel, unusual and unconstitutional.”


The Washington Post


Al Sharpton's Stunning Reminder

By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, February 27, 2007; A15

If you think about it, there should be nothing particularly surprising aboutthe discovery that one of Strom Thurmond's relatives once owned the Rev. AlSharpton's great-grandfather. That's how slavery worked -- human beingsowning other human beings, buying them and selling them, often passing themdown to the next generation like sentient family heirlooms. Haven't wealready hashed and rehashed that whole sad story?Actually, no.

What makes the story that broke over the weekend so compelling is that weknow the charismatic activist Sharpton and we knew the onetimesegregationist Thurmond. The ancestors of such public figures can't bedismissed as mere historical abstractions. They were real, flesh-and-bloodmen and women who played their roles, voluntarily or not, in the horrificinstitution that so indelibly stained this nation.

Because we know so little about slavery at the individual level, we reallydon't know slavery at all.

"I almost fell off the chair," Sharpton told me by phone yesterday,describing the moment when a team of expert genealogists, working with theNew York Daily News for a Black History Month project, met him at the studiowhere he does his radio talk show and told him of his link with Thurmond.


The Washington Post


The Gall To Speak Her Mind

By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, February 27, 2007; A15

Clearly, there is something about Ayaan Hirsi Ali that annoys, rankles,irritates. I am speaking as one who does not know Hirsi Ali -- the outspokenDutch-Somali critic of Islam -- but as one who, while living in Europe,cannot seem to avoid meeting her detractors. Most recently I met a Dutchdiplomat who positively glowered when her name was mentioned. As a member ofthe Dutch parliament, Hirsi Ali had, he complained, switched parties, talkedout of turn and refused to toe whatever was the proper political line. Aboveall, it irritated him that she did not share his Dutch faith in political

For those who haven't encountered her name yet, suffice it to say that HirsiAli is a European of African descent with an almost American rags-to-richeslife story. As a young woman, she escaped from her Somali family while enroute to an arranged marriage in Canada, made her way to Holland, learnedDutch, attended college and eventually won a seat in the Dutch parliament.Along the way, she also made an intellectual journey -- beautifullydescribed in her new book,"Infidel"-- from tribal Somalia, through fundamentalism, and into Westernliberalism. After Sept. 11, 2001, horrified by some of the things Osama binLaden was saying, she reached for the Koran to confirm a hunch: "I hated todo it," she wrote, "because I knew that I would find bin Laden's quotationsin there."

Partly as a result she lost her faith, concluding that the Koran spreads aculture that is "brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh inwar," and that should not be tolerated by European liberals. The conclusionled her into a series of controversies -- and to the murder of a Dutchfilmmaker with whom she had co-produced a film about the mistreatment ofMuslim women. The murderer was the son of Moroccan immigrants, born inHolland; he pinned a letter threatening Hirsi Ali onto his victim's chest.Ultimately, she left Holland for Washington, where she remains, ensconced atthe American Enterprise Institute.

Yet even from that distance she continues to provoke Europeans, sometimeswithout saying anything at all. After a somewhat patronizing review of herfirst book -- in which British writer Timothy Garton Ash called her a"brave, outspoken, slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist" -- theFrench philosopher Pascal Bruckner came galloping to the defense of HirsiAli and the Enlightenment. Garton Ash counterattacked, and others joinedwhat turned quickly into a wide-ranging debate (read the whole thing athttp://www.signandsight.com) about reason, faith, multiculturalism and theintegration of millions of Muslim immigrants into European culture.




Editor's Inbox
U.S. Agrees to Meeting with Iran and Syria

The Bush administration has agreed to sit around a negotiating table withofficial representatives of Iran and Syria next month -- as part of aplanned regional conference in Baghdad to discuss ways to stabilize Iraq.

In joining the Baghdad conference, the administration is tiptoeing into whathas become one of the most contentious issues in the roiling Iraq debate.Critics for months have been urging the administration to end its diplomaticisolation of Iran and Syria and begin a constructive dialogue with themabout how to stabilize Iraq. Even former secretary of State Henry Kissinger,who has generally supported administration policy on Iraq, argued in anop-ed piece last weekend that it’s time to end the diplomatic quarantine andconvene an international conference on Iraq.

The Iraqi government is expected to announce the regional conference asearly as Tuesday. The government will invite representatives of the fivepermanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, France, Russia,China and the United States -- in addition to all of its Mideast neighbors.

Though it will bring together American, Syrian and Iranian representatives,the Baghdad meeting doesn’t signal a direct U.S. diplomatic engagement withIran and Syria. A senior State Department official said Monday night that itwasn’t likely there would be separate bilateral meetings with Iran or Syria.Rather, the planned Baghdad meeting is an extension of the administration’scurrent policy of using the Iraqi government as the channel for discussionswith Iran and Syria about Iraqi security.

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