Saturday, March 17, 2007


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Halliburton's move creates hullabaloo

Oil giant's move is bad for politics, good for business

08:09 AM CDT on Friday, March 16, 2007
The Associated Press, The New York Times and the Washington Post contributedto this report.

WASHINGTON - Ever since Erle Halliburton established the New Method Oil WellCementing Co. in Oklahoma in 1919, his name has been associated withAmerican corporate know-how in the oilfield services business.

But over the weekend, the company now known as Halliburton announced thatits chief executive, Dave Lesar, would move to a new corporate headquartersin Dubai to focus on business in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.

The announcement sparked outrage from the company's critics, who suggestedit was possibly part of an effort to dodge U.S. taxes and investigations.

Industry experts, however, say the move makes sense.

"There's not much oil in Texas anymore," said Dalton Garis, an Americanenergy economist at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi. "Halliburton is inthe oil and gas industry, and guess what? Sixty percent of the world's oiland gas is right here. If they didn't move now, they'd have to do it later."


The LA Times,1,2528678,print.story?coll=la-news-a_section

Why Democrats are raising a stink
Congressional investigations into the firing of U.S. attorneys are aboutchecks and balances, not politics, says Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

By Dianne Feinstein
DIANNE FEINSTEIN is California's senior U.S. senator.

March 17, 2007

A FIRESTORM has been ignited over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, withnew revelations about the Bush administration's abuses exposed on a dailybasis. We now know that this isn't about some partisan "conspiracy theory"concocted by administration critics, as a Times editorial claimed on Jan.26.

The record shows that this was a premeditated plan to remove U.S. attorneysand replace them indefinitely with others - who might not be qualified - Without Senate confirmation. The means to accomplish this was a provisionslipped into the 2006 reauthorization of the Patriot Act with no notice. Theend result is a clear abuse of power that reaches into the highest officesof the Department of Justice and the White House, touching Atty. Gen.Alberto R. Gonzales, former White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers andpresidential advisor Karl Rove.

The way to curb this abuse is to return to our nation's basic principle thatchecks and balances on power are necessary and desirable.

That's why I have proposed legislation to restore the process that was inplace before 2006, which would require Senate approval of every This legislation would allow the attorney general to appoint aninterim U.S. attorney for 120 days when vacancies occur. If, after thattime, the president has not sent a nominee to the Senate and had thatnominee confirmed, the authority to appoint an interim U.S. attorney wouldfall to a local district court. This was the process put in place under theReagan administration.

This legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last monthwith bipartisan support and will be debated in the Senate next week. Timeseditorials have called this legislation "misguided," but had it been inplace, it would have prevented the abuses.


The LA Times,1,2558621,print.story?coll=la-news-a_section

McCain loses some of his rebel edge
Because he's aligned himself more closely with Bush, past primary supportersmay defect.

By Janet Hook and Michael Finnegan
Times Staff Writers

March 17, 2007

WASHINGTON - Derek Patterson is just the kind of voter that made John McCaina star on the national political scene.

Patterson, a teacher in Lancaster, N.H., was one of the thousands ofindependents who were attracted to the Arizona senator's maverickpresidential campaign in 2000, propelling his upset victory over George W.Bush in the state's primary, first up in the election season.

But as McCain returns to New Hampshire today on his second quest for thepresidency, Patterson worries that many erstwhile supporters will desert theRepublican lawmaker because he has spent much of the last seven yearscourting the Bush establishment and the party's conservative base.

"He was the anti-Bush," Patterson said. "It soured a lot of people when hebecame like Bush-light."

That is in part why McCain, once widely seen as the front-runner for theGOP's 2008 presidential nod, has failed to live up to that presumption.Instead, recent nationwide polls have shown him trailing former New YorkMayor Rudolph W. Giuliani by as much as 20 percentage points amongRepublican voters.


The LA Times,1,69448,print.story

Thompson would be candidate from conservative central casting

Activists court the actor and GOP ex-senator for a White House bid. Theyconsider other hopefuls too moderate on key social issues.
By Peter Wallsten and Janet Hook
Times Staff Writers
March 17, 2007

WASHINGTON - Conservatives often ridicule Democrats for espousing the"culture of Hollywood." But in the latest sign of Republican discontent withthe field of 2008 presidential hopefuls - and in a familiar plot twist - some of those same activists are eyeing an actor as the party's potentialsavior.

Fred Thompson, the former GOP senator from Tennessee who once played a WhiteHouse chief of staff on the big screen and who appears now as a politicallysavvy prosecutor on TV's "Law & Order," is positioning himself to answer thecall and, perhaps, follow the script that saw Ronald Reagan jump fromHollywood to the White House.

Thompson is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill in a few weeks, a trip designedto dovetail with efforts by three well-connected Tennessee friends to lineup support for drafting him into a GOP campaign that so far has left manycore Republican leaders discouraged.

One of those friends, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has calledfor a Thompson candidacy in postings on his political action committee'sblog. Meanwhile, Howard Baker, another former Senate majority leader whoalso served as a White House chief of staff under President Reagan, and Rep.Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) have been recruiting congressional endorsements.

Thompson "is in the process of getting his personal affairs in order so thishas a chance of happening," said Wamp, who spoke at length this week withThompson.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Meditate on this: We're tempted to think we know more than we do
Friday, March 16, 2007


"Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant of religion,"Stephen Prothero writes in his new book, "Religious Literacy."

- Test your knowledge of religion

Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, notesthat about 85 percent of Americans say they are Christian, and aboutone-third claim to be biblical literalists. Yet, in survey after survey,many people can't name the four Gospels, or don't know who delivered theSermon on the Mount. He quotes an evangelical Christian who calls the Bible"The Greatest Story Never Read."

So Prothero wrote "Religious Literacy" (Harper, $24.95), which came outTuesday. It's partly a history of religious instruction in the United Statesand partly an argument toward teaching religion in the Bible in publicschools as a standard academic course. At the end, he includes a Dictionaryof Religious Literacy (with a nod to E.D. Hirsch's "Dictionary of CulturalLiteracy" -- about 150 key names and concepts from major world religions,from Abraham to Zionism, that he believes everyone ought to know).

He spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by phone from BostonUniversity.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Internal Affairs

Aborted DOJ Probe Probably Would Have Targeted Gonzales
By Murray Waas, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush lastyear on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding theadministration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzaleslearned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation,according to government records and interviews.

Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the securityclearances necessary for their work.

It is unclear whether the president knew at the time of his decision thatthe Justice inquiry -- to be conducted by the department's internal ethicswatchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility -- would almostcertainly examine the conduct of his attorney general.

Sources familiar with the halted inquiry said that if the probe had beenallowed to continue, it would have examined Gonzales's role in authorizingthe eavesdropping program while he was White House counsel, as well as hissubsequent oversight of the program as attorney general.

Both the White House and Gonzales declined comment on two issues -- whetherGonzales informed Bush that his own conduct was about to be scrutinized, andwhether he urged the president to close down the investigation, which hadbeen requested by Democratic members of Congress.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

State supreme court: Boy's bullying was stalking
By ANNA JO BRATTON / The Associated Press
Friday, Mar 16, 2007 - 11:26:01 am CDT

When a 16-year-old Omaha boy threw food at a classmate and called her a "fatpenguin" and other names in front of other students for months, it wasn'tjust schoolyard bullying, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The boy, identified as Jeffrey K., yelled at the fellow Omaha Westside HighSchool student close to 200 times in a two-month period in fall 2004. Heonce shoved a chair directly into her path, causing her to stumble, calledher a "whore" and threw food at her, yelling "eat some more, fat ass,"according to court documents.

The "ongoing verbal and physical attacks" amounted to stalking, a criminalmisdemeanor, Judge Lindsey Miller-Lerman wrote in the court opinion.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals ruled earlier that the boy's conduct wascarried out for his "own juvenile amusement" and did not demonstratestalking.

But the high court agreed with an original decision of the juvenile court ofDouglas County, saying that "the cumulative effect of Jeffrey's words andactions, and the extensive, ongoing, and escalating nature of his conduct... clearly show that Jeffrey intended to intimidate the victim in thiscase."


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Posted on Thu, Mar. 15, 2007


Why not Hagel or Thompson, GOP needs something new

By E.J. Dionne Jr

WHY NOT Chuck Hagel? For that matter, why not Fred Thompson? ForRepublicans, 2008 promises to be a disconcerting if exciting year becausefor the first time since the 1964 Goldwater insurgency, the party isstruggling over its philosophical direction.

The old conservatism is in crisis, Bush Republicanism (of the son's varietybut not the father's) is a tainted brand, and no candidate has emerged asthe Next New Thing that the party wants or needs.

That's why Hagel, the Nebraska senator and Iraq war critic, suggested Mondaythat he might seek the presidency.

It's why Thompson, the actor and former senator from Tennessee, said on FoxNews the day before that he was "giving some thought" to joining the race.And who knows whether Newt Gingrich will get in?

Hagel was onto something when he spoke of the country "experiencing apolitical reorientation, a redefining and moving toward a new politicalcenter of gravity" and of our current problems "overtaking the ideologicaldebates of the last three decades." And he hinted that he might seek theWhite House as an independent. "This movement is bigger than both parties,"he said, tantalizingly.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Collapse of Arctic sea ice 'has reached tipping-point'
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 16 March 2007

A catastrophic collapse of the Arctic sea ice could lead to radical climatechanges in the northern hemisphere according to scientists who warn that therapid melting is at a "tipping point" beyond which it may not recover.

The scientists attribute the loss of some 38,000 square miles of sea ice -
in area the size of Alaska - to rising levels of carbon dioxide in theatmosphere as well as to natural variability in Arctic ice.

Ever since satellite measurements of the Arctic sea ice began in 1979, thesurface area covered by summer sea ice has retreated from the long-termaverage. This has increased the rate of coastal erosion from Alaska toSiberia and caused problems for polar bears, which rely on sea ice forhunting seals.

However, in recent years the rate of melting has accelerated and the sea iceis showing signs of not recovering even during the cold, dark months of theArctic winter. This has led to even less sea ice at the start of the summermelting season.

Mark Serreze, a senior glaciologist at the University of Colorado atBoulder, said the world was heading towards a situation where the Arcticwill soon be almost totally ice-free during summer, which could have adramatic impact on weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.


Forwarded from Kenneth Sherrill - Ken's List

Addition or Subtraction?: Ann Coulter and the Conservative Crossroads

By Michael Medved
Wednesday 03.07.07

In the run-up to the fateful election of 2008, conservatives face aclear-cut choice: we can rebuild our movement as a broad-ranging, mainstreamcoalition and restore our governing majority, or else settle for asemi-permanent role as angry, doom-speaking complainers on the fringes ofAmerican politics and culture.

We can either invite doubters and moderates to join with us in new effortsto affirm American values, or we can push them away because they fail tomeasure up to our own standards of indignation and ideological purity.

In short, we must choose between addition and subtraction: either buildingour cause by adding to our numbers or destroying it by discouraging all butthe fiercest ideologues.

No political party or faction has ever thrived based on purges and insultsand internal warfare, but too many activists on the right seem determined toreduce the conservative cause to self-righteous irrelevance.

The most recent outrage involving Ann Coulter provides a revealing exampleof the self-destructive tendencies of some dedicated partisans on the right.


Forwarded from Kenneth Sherrill - Ken's List

Feds Seek To Gag D.C. Madam
Prosecutors fear leak of sensitive client, escort information


Federal prosecutors want to gag an indicted former Washington, D.C. madamwho has recently threatened to go public with details about her formercustomers. In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court, investigatorsare seeking a protective order covering discovery material to be provided toDeborah Palfrey and her lawyers.

Palfrey, 50, was indicted last week on racketeering and money launderingcharges stemming from her operation of thePamela Martin & Associates escortservice, which closed last summer after 13 years in business.

In their motion, a copy of which you'll find below, governmentlawyers claim that some discovery documents contain "personal information"about Palfrey's former johns and prostitutes that is "sensitive." Theprosecution filing does not detail the nature of this confidentialinformation, though the identity of Palfrey's D.C. customers would surely becloaked if the protective order was signed by Judge Gladys Kessler.

According to the prosecution motion, while Palfrey and her lawyers would beable to use the discovery material to help prepare a defense, they would notbe allowed to disclose the documents to anyone else (nor use the materialfor any other purposes). Palfrey, whose assets were frozen late last year,has recently floated the idea of selling her escort business's phonerecords.


Forwarded from Kenneth Sherrill - Ken's List

Proposal blocks funding for HPV vaccine

By Gregory Lopes, THE WASHINGTON TIMES, March 16, 2007

A Georgia member of Congress yesterday introduced legislation to prohibitfederal money from being used by states to make vaccines against the humanpapillomavirus (HPV) mandatory for school-age children.

"Mandating the HPV vaccination is both unprecedented and unacceptable,"said Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Republican, who is an obstetrician andgynecologist. "Whether or not girls get vaccinated against HPV is a decisionfor parents and physicians, not state governments."

Because HPV is unlike communicable diseases such as measles and mumps,which children are routinely vaccinated against, Mr. Gingrey said HPVvaccines should be taken voluntarily. He is chairman of the RepublicanHealthcare Public Affairs Team and chairman of the Healthcare Reformsubcommittee of the Republican Policy Committee.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer.Data on the time HPV takes to develop into cervical cancer is scant, butsome physicians estimate it can take 15 years.


The New York Times

March 17, 2007
'Purely Political Motives' in Outing, Ex-Agent Says

WASHINGTON, March 16 - Valerie Wilson finally spoke Friday, after almostfour years at the silent center of a political scandal that touchedWashington's most rarefied circles of government and news media.

Now was her time to testify about the White House leaks that set the wholestory in motion, the newspaper column that revealed her as an undercoverC.I.A. agent, the marathon criminal investigation and the trial thatconvicted the vice president's former chief of staff.

"My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by seniorgovernment officials in both the White House and the State Department," Ms.Wilson testified before the House Committee on Oversight and GovernmentReform in a hearing room packed with reporters, photographers andspectators.

She spoke at first in a quiet but insistent voice that was nearly inaudibleover the crackle of three dozen camera shutters. Fumbling with the base ofher microphone, Ms. Wilson looked at once nervous and bored waiting out thephotographers. As she talked more, her voice seemed to gain force, volumeand velocity - a confident bearing to match her appearance.

She said the security breach might have endangered agency officials but also"jeopardized and even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents, who inturn risk their own lives and those of their families to provide the UnitedStates with needed intelligence. Lives are literally at stake."


The New York Times

March 16, 2007
'Bong' Case Tests Students' Free Speech
Filed at 10:36 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The message connected drug use and religion in anonsensical phrase that was designed to provoke, and it got Joseph Frederickin a heap of trouble.

After he unfurled his 14-foot ''Bong Hits 4 Jesus'' banner on a Juneau,Alaska, street one winter morning in 2002, Frederick got a 10-day schoolsuspension. Five years later, he has a date Monday at the Supreme Court inwhat is shaping up as an important test of constitutional rights.

Students don't leave their right to free speech at the school door, the highcourt said in a Vietnam-era case over an anti-war protest by high schoolstudents.

But neither can students be disruptive or lewd or interfere with a school'sbasic educational mission, the court also has said.

How to strike that balance is the question, particularly since the Columbinemassacre and the Sept. 11 attacks have made teachers and administratorsquicker to tamp down on unruly or unusual behavior.


The Washington Post

Giuliani Works to Catch Up in Michigan

The Associated Press
Friday, March 16, 2007; 9:42 PM

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. -- Rudy Giuliani, leading in national polls buttrailing his opponents' organizations in Michigan, spent Friday picking upendorsements and some criticism in Macomb County north of Detroit.

James Tignanelli, president of the 14,000-member Police Officers Associationof Michigan, announced he was giving the prominent group's backing to theformer New York mayor because of the leadership he showed after the attacksof Sept. 11, 2001.

"It seemed only hours after the planes had hit, Americans found a leader.... Rudy Giuliani had arrived at the scene," Tignanelli said during a newsconference with Giuliani and other police officers. "We need someone whowill finish the job, not turn and run."

Giuliani said winning the police officers' endorsement was an important stepin a swing state that could affect his chances in the GOP primaries and thegeneral election.

"Having the support of an organization that represents more than 14,000police officers in Michigan means more to me than just a politicalendorsement," he said. "They are my heroes."


The Washington Post

Analysis: Clinton Talks About Dark Times

The Associated Press
Friday, March 16, 2007; 4:41 PM

NEW YORK -- The vast right-wing conspiracy. Evil and bad men. Sticking withpeople who stick with you.

As she campaigns, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton is conjuring the painfulmemories of her husband's presidency: his affair with White House internMonica Lewinsky, independent counsel Ken Starr's politically charged pursuitand finally, in 1998, the Republican-controlled Congress' impeachment ofBill Clinton.

Humiliated and enraged, Hillary Clinton stuck with her husband throughoutthe ordeal _ her most famous "stand by your man" moment.

Now making her own White House bid, the New York senator speaks in generallyglowing terms about Bill Clinton's presidency. From the economic prosperityof the 1990s to his fondness for Dunkin' Donuts, she has eagerly embracedher husband's legacy.

At the same time, she's ventured into the darker shadows of the ClintonWhite House years, a move that allows her to define it on her own terms fora new generation of voters.


The New York Times

March 17, 2007
Investigation Thrusts Former Counsel Back Into the World of Politics

WASHINGTON, March 16 - By all accounts, Harriet E. Miers was delighted to beback in Dallas. It was Valentine's Day. She had been unemployed for littlemore than two weeks, and when she met a friend, Jerry K. Clements, for lunchat an elegant Uptown neighborhood restaurant, Ms. Miers looked happier andmore rested, Ms. Clements said, than she had in years.

Having been forced out of her job as White House legal counsel and havinghad her competence questioned, Ms. Miers deflected all talk of work. Insteadshe spent the meal asking about old friends, speaking of her desire to bewith family again and longing for a return to a regular supply of authenticTex-Mex food.

"She was very upbeat, very positive," said Ms. Clements, a managing partnerat Locke Liddell & Sapp, the Dallas law firm where Ms. Miers once worked."But she made it clear that this was just a girls chitchat kind of lunch,that she needed time to rest and just decompress."

The respite from Washington was short-lived. The disclosure this week ofe-mail messages sent in 2005 and 2006 between Ms. Miers and a top aide inthe Justice Department regarding the dismissal of seven federal prosecutorslast December placed her at the center of the investigation into the WhiteHouse's role in the removals.

As former colleagues and fellow Bush loyalists point fingers of blame in herdirection, Ms. Miers faces a forced return to the bruising political circlesthat, in her last years in the administration, excoriated her for everythingfrom her intellect to her eye shadow.


The New York Times

March 17, 2007
The Critical Years

For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills

When a student at Seth Low Intermediate School loudly pronounced CorinneKaufman a "fat lady" during a fire drill one recent day, Mrs. Kaufman, a45-year-old math teacher, calmly turned around.

"Voluptuous," she retorted, then proceeded to define the unfamiliar term,cutting off the laughter and offering a memorable vocabulary lesson in theprocess.

Such are the survival skills Mrs. Kaufman has acquired over 17 years at SethLow, a large middle school in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn: How to snuff outbrewing fistfights before the first punch is thrown, how to coax adolescentscrippled by low self-esteem into raising their hands, how to turn everycurveball, even the biting insult, into a teachable moment.

But not all middle school teachers can do it.

Faced with increasingly well-documented slumps in learning at a criticalage, educators in New York and across the nation are struggling to rethinkmiddle school, particularly in cities, where the challenges of adolescentvolatility, spiking violence and lagging academic performance are moreacute.


The New York Times

March 17, 2007

Taming Fossil Fuels

Each day seems to bring news of another prominent convert to the cause ofrequiring mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.Each day also seems to bring news of technological advances that would makeit possible to achieve those reductions without serious economic damage. Putall these glad tidings together, and Congress has all the reasons it needsto move quickly to regulate global warming emissions here at home, thussetting an example for the world.

Last week the chief executives of America's largest automobile companies -
eneral Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota North America - pledged to supportmandatory caps on carbon emissions, as long as the caps covered all sectorsof the economy. They delivered their promise to a House committee run byJohn Dingell - the crusty Michigan Democrat who is another convert to thecause and has taken to describing the global warming threat with phraseslike "Hannibal is at the gates."

Meanwhile, dozens of major institutional investors organized by Ceres, acoalition of investors and environmentalists, will gather in Washington onMonday to offer support for mandatory controls. The group will includeCalpers, the huge California state pension fund with a history of makingenvironmentally friendly investments, and Merrill Lynch, whose credentialsare less impressive.

The news on the technology side is also good - particularly several recentannouncements about coal. The first came from TXU, a huge Texas utilitywhere the bidders have agreed to drop plans to build 11 old-fashionedcoal-burning power plants. TXU has now announced that it will build twoexperimental plants intended to capture carbon dioxide before it escapesinto the atmosphere. American Electric Power, another large utility, hasalso announced that it will build a coal-fired plant based on slightlydifferent technology but with the same intended result: capturing carbon.

The importance of these projects cannot be overstated. As a report releasedWednesday by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyobserved, coal produces more than 30 percent of America's carbon dioxideemissions. It is also a huge problem in China, where the equivalent of onelarge coal-fired power plant is being built each week, using antiquatedmethods. Unless coal can be tamed, the game is essentially lost.


The New York Times

March 17, 2007
More Rights in Egypt, Not Fewer

Last month, a 22-year-old Egyptian blogger was sentenced to four years inprison for what he had posted online; he'd been charged with criticizingPresident Hosni Mubarak and insulting Islam. This week, the police violentlybroke up a peaceful protest against pending constitutional amendments anddetained a number of people. None of these things bode well for human rightsor democracy in Egypt.

President Mubarak says the amendments - soon to be voted on by Parliament -
re meant to create a more open, balanced government. They are almost sureto do the opposite. One change would put elections under the control of asupposedly independent commission, but democracy advocates suspect it wouldbe a puppet of the government.

Under pressure from Washington, Mr. Mubarak allowed limited competition inthe 2005 parliamentary elections - and some independent oversight. Criticsfear that the new commission would roll back those gains, clearing the wayfor Mr. Mubarak's son to take power. Equally worrisome is an amendment thatwould weaken privacy rights and standards for arrest and detention.

This week, the courts rejected an appeal by the blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil.The Bush administration has rightly condemned his conviction as a "setbackfor human rights." Washington should also express concern over the rights ofpeaceful protesters. Before the amendments come to a vote, President Bushneeds to tell Mr. Mubarak privately that this is not the path to long-termstability. Washington and the European Union should also speak out publiclyagainst the most dangerous pieces of legislation.

If the amendments pass, the next step will be a referendum. Washingtonshould help independent groups organize in the event of such a vote.Dissenting voices are essential if there is to be any hope of free debateand democracy in Egypt.


The Washington Post

North Korea's Cruelty
By Kay Seok
Saturday, March 17, 2007; A19

SEOUL -- North Korea is again dominating headlines by signing a deal toclose its main nuclear reactor and allow international inspectors to returnin exchange for energy and economic assistance. As North Korea watcherscautiously welcome this possible step toward a nuclear-free KoreanPeninsula, a deeply disturbing development has garnered almost no attention:Pyongyang's hardening policy toward North Korean border-crossers.

In an ominous reversal, North Korea has apparently scrapped its 2000 decreethat it would be lenient toward citizens who "illegally" crossed theborder -- in effect, almost everyone leaving the country -- to China to findfood or earn money to feed their families. According to recentborder-crossers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Pyongyang has implementedharsher punishments for those repatriated.

The North Koreans interviewed recounted the chilling language officials useto describe the policies the North reinstated perhaps as long ago as late2004: Those crossing the border without state permission "won't beforgiven," no matter why they went to China or what they did there,including first-time "offenders."

The hardening policy shows how Pyongyang is violating the obligations itundertook when it signed major human rights conventions in the 1990s.

North Korea is denying its citizens their fundamental rights by preventingthem from freely leaving the country; arresting those who make such anattempt; and arbitrarily detaining, mistreating, torturing and sometimeseven executing border-crossers who are repatriated. China, too, regularlyflouts its obligations under the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention by labelingall North Koreans "illegal economic migrants" and sending them back.


The Washington Post

The Politics of Distraction

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, March 16, 2007; 2:50 PM

As far as the White House public-relations machine is concerned, here is allyou need to know about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year: TheJustice Department made some mistakes in how it communicated that thoseprosecutors were let go for appropriate reasons. And, oh yes, there is noevidence that White House political guru Karl Rove ever advocated the firingof all 93 U.S. attorneys previously appointed by President Bush.

But from the very beginning of this scandal, the central question has beenand remains: Was there a plot hatched in the White House to purgeprosecutors who were seen as demonstrating insufficient partisanship intheir criminal investigations?

Everything else is deception or distraction.

The latest development in the case is an e-mail chain showing that Rove andAlberto Gonzales (then White House counsel, soon to become attorney general)were both mulling the idea of replacing U.S. attorneys as early as the firstmonth of Bush's second term.

According to the e-mails, Rove stopped by the White House counsel's officein early January 2005 to find out whether it was Gonzales's plan to keep orreplace all or some of the U.S. attorneys that Bush had appointed in hisfirst term.


The Washington Post

Link to Special Report by Robert Cohen

4-part series
Rough Justice - The Case Against Alberto Gonzales

If the first three parts of this series have made a reasonable if notairtight case for the resignation or firing of Alberto Gonzales as attorneygeneral, and with his legal and political failings becoming clearer by theday, it seems only fitting that this final part make the case for aparticular successor.


The Washington Post

Accounts of Prosecutors' Dismissals Keep Shifting

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 17, 2007; A01

More than two weeks after a New Mexico U.S. attorney alleged he was firedfor not prosecuting Democrats, the White House and the Justice Departmentare still struggling to explain the roles of President Bush, AttorneyGeneral Alberto R. Gonzales and other key officials in the dismissals ofeight federal prosecutors last year.

Yesterday, the White House retreated from its four-day-old claim that formercounsel Harriet E. Miers started the process two years ago by proposing thefiring of all 93 U.S. attorneys.

"It has been described as her idea . . . but I don't want to vouch fororigination," press secretary Tony Snow said. "At this juncture, people havehazy memories."

In addition, D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned as Gonzales's chief of staffMonday, disputed the reasons given for his departure in a statement issuedthrough his attorney last night.

"The fact that the White House and Justice Department had been discussingthe subject for several years was well-known to a number of other seniorofficials at the department, including others who were involved in preparingthe department's testimony to Congress," according to the statement bySampson's lawyer, Bradford A. Berenson.


The Washington Post

Plame Says Administration 'Recklessly' Revealed Her
Hill Testimony Breaks Ex-CIA Agent's Silence on Leak

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 17, 2007; A01

Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer at the heart of a four-year politicalfuror over the Bush administration's leak of her identity, lashed out at theWhite House yesterday, testifying in Congress that the president's aidesdestroyed a career she loved and slipped her name to reporters for "purelypolitical motives."

Plame, breaking her public silence about the case, contended that her nameand job "were carelessly and recklessly abused" by the government. Althoughshe and her colleagues knew that "we might be exposed and threatened byforeign enemies," she aid, "it was a terrible irony that administrationofficials were the ones who estroyed my cover."

Plame calmly but firmly knocked down longstanding claims by administrationallies that the disclosure was not criminal because she had not worked in acovert capacity.

"I am here to say I was a covert officer of the Central IntelligenceAgency," Plame told House members, a horde of journalists and a few antiwaractivists. Her work, she said, "was not common knowledge on the Georgetowncocktail circuit."

Plame also provided the most detailed account to date of her role in adecision by the agency to dispatch her husband, former U.S. ambassadorJoseph C. Wilson IV, to Niger five years ago to assess reports that Iraq hadsought to buy nuclear material from the African nation.


The Washington Post

Zimbabwean Defiant After Police Beating
Mugabe Foe Sees Resistance Growing

By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 17, 2007; A01

HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 16 -- Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirairelaxed in the lush garden of his home Friday, a 5-month-old grandson on hisknee. But for the five blue stitches on Tsvangirai's head or the bandagecovering his broken left hand, there were few clues that he had spent thethree previous days in intensive care, or the two before that in prisoncells, bloodied and dazed by vicious beatings from police.

In his first hours home, with international outrage still high over Sunday'spolice crackdown on an opposition rally, Tsvangirai declared himselfundaunted.

Despite the arrests and police assaults on nearly 50 top oppositionactivists, he said, the movement had been strengthened by an experience thathas left many wounds but also a new determination to confront PresidentRobert Mugabe's nearly 27-year-old government.

"This incident has just heightened the stakes," said Tsvangirai, 55, aformer mineworker and union organizer. "This has created even more impetusand more determination on the part of Zimbabweans."

Political tension has risen sharply in recent months as years of economictroubles have turned increasingly acute, with inflation so high -- theofficial annual rate is 1,730 percent -- that Zimbabweans say they rush tothe store whenever they get cash before prices rise yet again. Fees forschooling, transportation and health care have moved beyond the means ofmany. The few luxuries of Zimbabwean life, such as milk for tea, have beenlargely abandoned.


The Washington Post

A More Islamic Islam

By Geneive Abdo
Saturday, March 17, 2007; A19

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A small group of self-proclaimed secular Muslimsfrom North America and elsewhere gathered in St. Petersburg recently forwhat they billed as a new global movement to correct the assumed wrongs ofIslam and call for an Islamic Reformation.

Across the state in Fort Lauderdale, Muslim leaders from the Council onAmerican-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Washington-based advocacy group whosemembers the "secular" Muslims claim are radicals, denounced any notion of aReformation as another attempt by the West to impose its history andphilosophy on the Islamic world.

The self-proclaimed secularists represent only a small minority of Muslims.The views among religious Muslims from CAIR more closely reflect the viewsof the majority, not only in the United States but worldwide. Yet Westernmedia, governments and neoconservative pundits pay more attention to thesecular minority.

The St. Petersburg convention is but one example: It was carried live onGlenn Beck's conservative CNN show. Some of the organizers and speakers atthe convention are well known thanks to the media spotlight: Irshad Manji,author of "The Trouble With Islam," and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutchparliamentarian and author of "Infidel," were but a few there claiming tohave suffered personally at the hands of "radical" Islam. One participant,Wafa Sultan, declared on Glenn Beck's show that she doesn't "see anydifference between radical Islam and regular Islam."

The secular Muslim agenda is promoted because these ideas reflect a Western
vision for the future of Islam. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, everyone from
high-ranking officials in the Bush administration to the author Salman
Rushdie has prescribed a preferred remedy for Islam: Reform the faith so it
is imbued with Western values -- the privatization of religion, the
flourishing of Western-style democracy -- and rulers who are secular, not
religious, Muslims. The problem with this prescription is that it is
divorced from reality. It is built upon the principle that if Muslims are
fed a steady diet of Western influence, they, too, will embrace modernity,
secularism and everything else the West has to offer.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,5097379,print.story

Justices to hear case on free speech rights

`Bong Hits 4 Jesus' banner start of 5-year legal journey

By Mark Sherman
The Associated Press
March 17, 2007

WASHINGTON - The message connected drug use and religion in a nonsensicalphrase that was designed to provoke, and it got Joseph Frederick in a heapof trouble.

After he unfurled his 14-foot "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner on a Juneau,Alaska, street one winter morning in 2002, Frederick got a 10-day schoolsuspension. Five years later, he has a date Monday at the Supreme Court inwhat is shaping up as an important test of constitutional rights.

Students don't leave their right to free speech at the school door, the highcourt said in a Vietnam-era case over an anti-war protest by high schoolstudents.

But neither can students be disruptive or lewd or interfere with a school'sbasic educational mission, the court also has said.

How to strike that balance is the question, particularly since the Columbinemassacre and the Sept. 11 attacks have made teachers and administratorsquicker to tamp down on unruly or unusual behavior.


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