Monday, March 12, 2007


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The New York Times

March 11, 2007
Beyond Iraq, '08 Issues Starting to Form

Filed at 9:23 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Positions on the country's direction at home and abroadare starting to take shape in the blur of motion, money and ambition of the2008 presidential contest.

Candidates vying for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominationsall have records in office of some sort, so there are no blank slates. Mosthave a select few issues upon which to ground their early campaign -- ahealth care plan here, an outline on immigration, diplomacy or theenvironment there.

Many more pieces are to come for those who are in for the long haul.

Iraq is defining the campaign less than a year away from the primaries thatwill choose the presidential candidates for the November 2008 election.

The GOP front-runners support continued prosecution of the war. Democratsoppose the troop buildup, differing among themselves mainly on the speedwith which they would start a withdrawal.


The New York Times

March 12, 2007
Where Tobacco Ruled, Smoking Ban Gains Ground

ADAMS, Tenn., March 8 - A century ago, a battle called the Black Patch Warraged across Robertson County, where Rick Gregory's ancestors grew tobacco.In the vicious fight over prices, nightriders with rifles raided farms anddynamited equipment. Tobacco barns burned in the night, and salted beds layfallow.

That tobacco war ended long ago, but in recent years, the crop grown inplaces like Robertson County has fueled another battle, this time oversmoking, that has reached far beyond the rich tobacco fields along theKentucky border.

Tennessee will probably become the first major tobacco-growing state to passa comprehensive smoke-free-workplace law. Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat,proposed the ban in February. He also wants to triple taxes on cigarettesales and to use some of the money for smoking prevention.

The proposals show how far public policy toward smoking has shifted, even intobacco-friendly Robertson County, Mr. Gregory said.

Mr. Gregory, 56, worked in his family's fields as a youngster and puthimself through college on tobacco profits. Now a historian and a smokingopponent, he says the battle over tobacco is over. This year, he said, therewill be none planted in his farm's rich bottom along the banks of the RedRiver.


The New York Times

March 12, 2007
Gonzales Should Quit, Senator Says

WASHINGTON, March 11 - A leading Senate Democrat demanded on Sunday thatAttorney General Alberto R. Gonzales step down, saying he had politicizedhis office at the expense of the nation's laws.

The call by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, came as theJustice Department faced growing criticism over the ouster of eight UnitedStates attorneys and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's use of expandedsurveillance powers to improperly obtain personal records of citizens.

In an interview on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," Mr. Schumer, theSenate's third-ranking Democrat, said Mr. Gonzales had shown more interestin carrying out President Bush's agenda than in upholding the law andprotecting the rights of citizens.

The senator also said Mr. Gonzales, a former White House counsel who has runthe Justice Department since 2005, had been "even more political" than hispredecessor, John Ashcroft, who was among the most polarizing members of Mr.Bush's cabinet in the president's first term.

"Attorney General Gonzales is a nice man," Mr. Schumer said. "But he eitherdoesn't accept or doesn't understand that he is no longer just the
lawyer but has a higher obligation to the rule of law and the Constitution,even when the president should not want it to be so."

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on theJudiciary Committee, who also appeared on the program, said that whether Mr.Gonzales should resign was "a question for the president and the attorneygeneral."

"I do think there have been lots of problems," Mr. Specter continued inresponse to a question. "But before we come to conclusions, I think we needto know more facts."

Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, said Mr. Gonzales had"demonstrated decisive leadership by demanding a new level of accountabilityto address systematic problems in oversight over some of the F.B.I.'snational security tools."


The Washington Post

Who's to Blame for Russia?

By Fred Hiatt
Monday, March 12, 2007; A13

Who lost Russia? As the world's biggest country backslides ever more quicklyinto authoritarianism, the answer you hear increasingly is: the UnitedStates.

Curiously, you hear it both from Russians, who simultaneously deny thatanything bad has happened and blame America for it; and from Americans, whoassume that a few tweaks of policy could have made everything come outdifferently in Moscow.

One version blames America for backing Boris Yeltsin, who presidedimperfectly over Russian democracy in the 1990s and so, the story goes,soured Russians on the very idea of freedom. Another blames America forallowing former Soviet satellites to join NATO, hurting Russians' feelingsand promoting a nationalist backlash.

As readings of history, these theories mix elements of truth with greatdollops of illogic. It's true that Russians endured trying times aftercommunism crumbled. Prices rose, promised pensions vanished and unsavorycharacters became millionaires.

But the same was true in Estonia, Ukraine, Poland and many other countries.Democratization wasn't pretty anywhere. The question is why those countriesmanaged to weather the transition and come through, with varying degrees ofsuccess, to the other side, while Russia was left looking for scapegoats.


The Washington Post

Padding Her Civil Rights Résumé

By Robert D. Novak
Monday, March 12, 2007; A13

While Hillary Rodham Clinton came out second best to Barack Obama in theiroratorical duel at Selma, Ala., a week ago, the real problem with her speechconcerned her claimed attachment to Martin Luther King Jr. as a high schoolstudent in 1963. How, then, could she have been a "Goldwater Girl" duringthe following year's presidential election?

The incompatibility of those two facts was pointed out to me by Democraticold-timers who were shocked by Clinton's temerity in pursuing herpresidential candidacy. Barry Goldwater's opposition to the 1964 votingrights bill was not incidental to his run for the White House but anintegral element of conscious departure from Republican tradition thatcontributed to his disastrous performance.

Of course, no political candidate should have to explain inconsistenciesfrom her high school days. What Clinton said at Selma is significant becauseit betrays her campaign's panicky reaction to the unexpected rise of Obamaas a serious competitor for the Democratic nomination.

The Clinton game plan for returning to the White House reflected tacticsused in 2000 when she parachuted into New York to tie up campaign money,secure support from important Democrats and block the way for potentialopponents for the nomination. It seemed to be working on the national scene,discouraging longtime presidential aspirants. Former Virginia governor MarkWarner, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack droppedout, and Democrats who dared to run were getting swamped by the Clintontide.

Clinton's plans were transformed by the advent of Obama, an African Americanwho threatened the hard allegiance of black voters forged by Bill Clinton.The campaign has attacked Obama and his supporters, but Hillary Clinton hasalso sought to solidify her civil rights credentials.


The Washington Post

A False Choice for Pakistan

By Benazir Bhutto
Monday, March 12, 2007; A13

Last month President Bush told Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan that hemust be more aggressive in hunting down al-Qaeda and the Taliban along hiscountry's border with Afghanistan. During his recent visit to Islamabad,Vice President Cheney echoed the claim that al-Qaeda members were trainingin Pakistan's tribal areas and called on Musharraf to shut down theiroperations. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett also expressedconcern recently about suspected terrorist safe havens.

Clearly, the pressure is on. Western leaders are finally beginning torecognize that Musharraf's regime has been unsuccessful in taming theTaliban, which has regrouped in the tribal areas of Pakistan while themilitary regime has given up trying to establish order on the Afghan border.At the same time, the regime has strategically chosen to help the UnitedStates when international criticism of the terrorists' presence becomesstrident. The arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a top Taliban strategist,by Pakistani authorities late last month is a case in point. The timing,right on the heels of American and British pleas for renewed toughness, istoo convenient. Akhund was arrested solely to keep Western governments atbay.

There are other political calculations in all of this. For too long, theinternational perception has been that Musharraf's regime is the only thingstanding between the West and nuclear-armed fundamentalists.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Islamic parties have never garneredmore than 13 percent in any free parliamentary elections in Pakistan. Thenotion of Musharraf's regime as the only non-Islamist option is disingenuousand the worst type of fear-mongering.

Much has been said about Pakistan being a key Western ally in the waragainst terrorism. It is the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. aid -- the Bushadministration proposed $785 million in its latest budget. Yet terrorismaround the world has increased. Why is it that all terrorist plots -- fromthe Sept. 11 attacks, to Madrid, to London, to Mumbai -- seem to have rootsin Islamabad?


The New York Times

March 12, 2007
The Next Big Health Care Battle

At a time when the nation is pondering how to provide medical coverage tosome 47 million uninsured Americans, it is logical and right to start withthe country's nine million uninsured children. The Bush administration,unfortunately, is going in exactly the opposite direction.

In a shortsighted effort to save money and promote its free-marketphilosophy, it has proposed reducing the federal contribution to a highlysuccessful children's health insurance program operated by the states.Democratic leaders in Congress are planning to respond with bold, andnecessary, proposals to cover a large chunk of the nine million uninsuredchildren - at a cost that could reach $50 billion to $60 billion over fiveyears.

That price tag might seem staggering when health care costs are alreadyspiraling out of control, but less so when one considers that theadministration is pouring $200 billion a year into a losing war in Iraq.Just eliminating the large overpayments granted to private health plans thatparticipate in Medicare would save $65 billion over five years. According toa recent New York Times/CBS News poll a majority of Americans believe thatthe federal government should guarantee health insurance to all Americans,especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to finance it.

The issue is coming to a head because the highly successful State Children'sHealth Insurance Program, or S-Chip, is up for reauthorization. The programis a joint federal-state effort to cover children whose family income is toohigh to qualify for Medicaid - the primary federal-state program to coverthe poor - but too low to pay for private coverage.

States vary widely in how they handle S-Chip. Many programs cover childrenin families earning well above the federal poverty level, and sometimescoverage is provided for parents or other adults. Now the Bushadministration wants to focus primarily on children from families earning nomore than twice the poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four, whilereducing the federal matching rate for everyone else. (A typical familypolicy can easily cost more than $10,000 a year.) The states would have totake up the slack or watch an estimated 400,000 children - some predict manymore than that - fall off the rolls.

What Americans want and what the country needs is to protect more - notfewer - children. Congressional Democrats propose to do that using bothS-Chip and the far larger Medicaid program. Some six million of the ninemillion uninsured children are actually eligible for one program or theother but are not enrolled, because their families either do not know theyare eligible or are discouraged by a complicated bureaucratic process. Allefforts should be made to enroll them.


The New York Post

March 12, 2007
A Bill Democrats Should Like

The Bush administration's new farm bill, one of the more sensible pieces oflegislation to emerge from this administration in quite a while, faces itsfirst big Congressional test this week. The House Budget Committee will voteon a budget resolution that, while non-binding, establishes spendingpriorities and sends a powerful signal to the authorizing committees aboutwhere the House leadership thinks the money ought to go.

In the case of the farm bill, the Bush administration has already made itsown preferences crystal clear. It proposes a strict cap on payments toindividual farmers as part of a larger effort to hold down traditionalsubsidies. It seeks to help smaller and younger farmers and poor ruralcommunities.

And it includes the most generous conservation program ever offered by thisadministration: increasing spending by $7.8 billion over 10 years on landconservation and investing an additional $1 billion a year in a bold newprogram to develop renewable fuels other than corn ethanol from farm crops.

All this represents a significant break from past farm bills, which havetraditionally provided heavy subsidies for big growers of corn, wheat,soybeans, cotton and rice who are concentrated in a handful of states. Halfof all farm spending, which amounts to about $12.5 billion annually, nowflows to just 22 Congressional districts.

The problems with this system are legion. At home, it drives small farmersout of business and compromises the environment. Abroad, it penalizesthird-world farmers and jeopardizes trade talks.


The New York Times

March 12, 2007
The Perfect Lawn, Mowed and Muted

A court battle over the right to demonstrate on Central Park's Great Lawnhas underscored an astounding fact. In the heart of the nation's largest andarguably most opinionated city, there is no place to hold a large rally.Central Park has long been the site of such gatherings, but the Bloombergadministration insists that its grass is too fragile to permit them now.
an inadequate and distressing rationale, and we hope that the lawsuit willremind the city of the importance of making space for large gatherings whereNew Yorkers can exercise their right of free speech.

Public parks are especially precious in New York City, where concrete andmortar predominate. Central Park, at 843 acres of green, is often called thecity's lungs. But it is also its vocal cords. The Great Lawn, with 13 acresof open space, is the most suitable site for large rallies in Manhattan. Ithas been the site of some spectacular events, like the 1982 "No Nukes" rallyand the 1995 Mass with the pope, both of which drew more than a hundredthousand people.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to put an end to such gatherings. Since aroundthe time of the 2004 Republican convention, when the city repeatedly deniedprotesters the right to gather in Central Park, his administration seems tohave had a wild fixation on saving every blade of the Great Lawn.

There is no denying that the city's investment of $18 million, much of itfrom wealthy park neighbors along Fifth Avenue, has made for some impressiveimprovements. But the right way to protect the park is to require groupsthat want to use the Great Lawn to post bonds to pay for any damage,something the groups suing the city were willing to do.

The lawsuit also calls attention to the uneven way the city applies itsrules. It's telling that while the New York Philharmonic and its well-heeledsubscribers have had no problem securing the Great Lawn for concerts, therehasn't been a rally there in years. Classical music fans are just as capableof flattening grass as critics of the White House.

With Central Park off limits, the city has proposed that rallies of morethan 50,000 people be held on the Parade Ground in Van Cortlandt Park in theBronx or the Long Meadow at Brooklyn's Prospect Park. It's an interestingsuggestion from a mayor who wanted to build a professional football stadiumright in Manhattan because he thought the other boroughs were too remote.

The mayor's solution might make tending the grass in Central Park easier.But turning Manhattan into a rally-free zone is too high a price to pay.


The New York Times

March 12, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Slobodan Milosevic's Last Waltz

EVEN from the grave, Slobodan Milosevic roils the international system. Whenhe was alive, his violence in the Balkans required NATO to intervene twice.He swaggered on the stage of the Dayton peace negotiations. And even afterhe was bundled off to a United Nations court to stand trial on charges ofgenocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Mr. Milosevic tried toconvert his criminal defense into a political rant to be shown nightly onSerbian television. The trial meandered for four years, and both thepresiding judge and Mr. Milosevic died before a final verdict could bereturned.

Now the skeleton's waltz has turned one more time around the dance floor.This round brings us the ruling of the International Court of Justice, in acivil suit that should never have been brought if its result was to be someager.

In 1993, Bosnia sued Serbia in the International Court of Justice, sometimesknown as the World Court, for planning, abetting and committing genocide inthe Bosnian conflict. Bosnia argued that the Serbian militias' sniping andbombardment of civilian enclaves, torture and assassination of detainees,and ultimately, slaughter of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys atSrebrenica, amounted to genocide.

Last month, the court dismissed Bosnia's case on almost all counts. Thejudges sitting in Andrew Carnegie's peace palace in The Hague held that theSerbian campaign of violence and ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslimscould not constitute genocide. The only actionable instance of genocide,said the court, was the wholesale execution of prisoners at Srebrenica in1995, and even there, Serbia was not adequately implicated in the crime'scommission.

This is a remarkable result. It's true that Srebrenica woke the West fromits stupor and brought NATO military action. But the ethnic conflagrationhad already raged for three years, with countless acts of nationalistviolence aimed at expelling Muslims from the north, south and east ofBosnia. Yet the International Court of Justice shrinks from recognition,failing to explain why the deliberate slaughter of civilians in theriverside town of Brcko in 1992, or the torture and execution of Muslimcivilians in Foca, were legally different in kind from the Srebrenicamurders.


The Washington Post

Pelosi Reveals Who's Who On Global Warming Panel

Monday, March 12, 2007; A11

The best-kept secret on the Hill -- the full membership of the new committeeon global warming -- is no longer secret. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi(D-Calif.) has announced the 15 members of the committee, formally known asthe Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Pelosi's decision to create the committee initially sparked a turf war. Manysaw it as a way to diminish the influence of veteran lawmakers, such asEnergy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), who in thepast guarded the interests of the big U.S. automakers from his state byopposing higher fuel-efficiency standards.

Pelosi said that the committee would be designed to raise the visibility ofenergy and climate-change issues and that it would not have legislative jurisdiction. "Global warming and energy independence are urgent issues thathave profound implications for our nation's economic competitiveness,natural security, environmental quality and public health," Pelosi said inannouncing the panel's members Friday. They are:

Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who will chair the committee

Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Mar. 11, 2007
Losing the moral high ground in terror war

The Pentagon's latest move to close status-review hearings of ''enemycombatants'' is in keeping with its make-it-up-as-you-go approach tohandling detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Such callous maneuvers areflawed, and they have been so from the beginning.

The hearings that started Friday are supposed to determine if 14high-profile terror suspects are ''enemy combatants.'' The Pentagon saysthat secrecy is necessary to protect classified information, and so it isreversing previous policy to allow some aspects of the hearings public. Thisis a mistake. Conducting the hearings entirely in secret undermines theircredibility at a time when America's actions are viewed with suspicion anddisbelief around the world.

Only a censored transcript?

The hearings were created after the U.S. Supreme Court said that ''enemycombatants'' should have a chance to challenge their indefinite detention.When the tribunals began in 2004, the Pentagon invited reporters and braggedabout the transparency of the process.

Now that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the 9/11attacks, and other ''high-value'' captives are to face the same process, thePentagon has changed the rules to exclude the public citingnational-security.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Mar. 11, 2007
Colombia's success, Bush's support

President Bush's visit to Latin America presents a timely opportunity toconsolidate a success story in Colombia and to remind everyone that greatvictories against the toughest challenges are possible when the UnitedStates provides consistent help to a neighbor that is, above all, willing tohelp itself. But Bush also must use his trip to challenge all parties -- democratic rivals and Colombian friends -- to finish their good work bycoming together to approve the pending U.S.-Colombia trade-promotionagreement has well as to ferret out corruption and other abuses.

Bush can start by giving due credit to Democrats in Congress for supportingPlan Colombia, which was a rare joint venture between the Clintonadministration and House Republican leaders beginning in 2000. He alsoshould recognize the Colombian people for their steady support for PresidentAlvaro Uribe's bold and determined leadership and for their substantialinvestment in his ''democratic security plan,'' which is rescuing theirnation from war and recession. After all, although U.S. support is crucial,it represents only 6 percent of overall security spending that Colombia hasbrought to bear against lawless elements that threatened our commonwell-being.

A staggering amount of cocaine has been interdicted before it could reachU.S. streets and schoolyards, and the coca-production chain has beenseverely disrupted. Although the work is never ending, virtually all ofColombia's opium poppy used to produce deadly heroin has been eliminated. Asnarcoterrorist networks have been attacked by Colombian security forces,35,000 guerrillas have laid down their arms and kidnapping and murder ratesare in steep decline. Colombia's economy is rebounding, making it animportant trade partner with the United States and proving that soundpolicies, not poisonous populism, is the an-swer to the region's naggingsocial unrest.

Still, the work is not done. The Bush administration has asked Congress foranother $600 million in fiscal year 2008 to help Colombia build on a recordof accomplishment. Early indications are that Democrats in Congress lookwith favor on this proposal.


The Washington Post

U.N. Team Accuses Sudan of War Crimes

The Associated Press
Monday, March 12, 2007; 9:48 AM

GENEVA -- The Sudanese government has orchestrated war crimes and crimesagainst humanity in Darfur and resisted international attempts to intervene,according to a report Monday from a high-level U.N. human rights team thatwas itself barred from the restive region by Sudanese officials.

The team, headed by Nobel peace laureate Jody Williams, urged stronger U.N.Security Council intervention, sanctions and criminal prosecution.

Sudan's government "has manifestly failed to protect the population ofDarfur from large-scale international crimes, and has itself orchestratedand participated in these crimes," according to the report to the U.N. HumanRights Council, which had commissioned it in an emergency session inDecember.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, representing the EU at thecouncil, said the world would have to act on the report's description of"the ongoing, cruel human rights abuses"

"The international community won't remain silent," Steinmeier told TheAssociated Press.


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