Thursday, August 16, 2007


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The New York Times

August 16, 2007
Amateur Hour on Iran

The dangers posed by Iran are serious, and America needs to respond withserious policies, not more theatrics. Labeling Iran's Revolutionary GuardCorps as a foreign terrorist organization - as the State Department nowproposes - is another distraction when what the Bush administration needs tobe doing is opening comprehensive negotiations with Tehran, backed byincreasing international economic pressure.

Those negotiations need to deal with all real and alleged facets of Iran'smany dangerous behaviors: its nuclear ambitions; its sectarian meddling inIraq; its providing of missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the charges itis arming the Taliban and others in Afghanistan. And any talks must takeinto account Iran's concerns about its own security - with a clear offerthat it can come in from the diplomatic and economic cold if it improves itsbehavior.

Designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist group wouldtrigger automatic American economic penalties against the guard leaders andcompanies dealing with them. But Iran does little direct business with theUnited States, so those penalties would cause minimal pain. That suggeststhat the State Department's real audience isn't Tehran, butconflict-obsessed administration hawks, who are lobbying for militarystrikes, and conflict-averse European allies, who have resisted morefar-reaching multilateral economic sanctions.


The New York Times

August 16, 2007
The Less-Than-Generous State

You would think that we were living in the lap of the Nanny State. One ofthe most puzzling facts of the political debate is how much tractionRepublicans still get from their calls to cut taxes and public spending, andhow timorous Democrats are in arguing against them.

The United States has long had one of the most meager tax takes in theindustrial world. America's social spending - on programs ranging fromMedicare and Social Security to food stamps - is almost the stingiest mongindustrial nations. Among the 30 industrialized countries grouped in theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only four - Turkey,Mexico, South Korea and Ireland - spend less on social programs as a shareof their economy.

Long a moral outrage, this tightfisted approach to public needs is becomingan economic handicap. Shortchanging public health impairs America'scompetitiveness. If the United States is to reap the rewards ofglobalization, the government must provide a much more robust safety net -to ensure public support for an open economy and protect vulnerable workers.


The New York Times

August 16, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
The Big Melt

If we learned that Al Qaeda was secretly developing a new terroristtechnique that could disrupt water supplies around the globe, force tens ofmillions from their homes and potentially endanger our entire planet, wewould be aroused into a frenzy and deploy every possible asset to neutralizethe threat.

Yet that is precisely the threat that we're creating ourselves, with ourgreenhouse gases. While there is still much uncertainty about the severityof the consequences, a series of new studies indicate that we're cooking ourfavorite planet more quickly than experts had expected.

The newly published studies haven't received much attention, because they'renot in English but in Scientese and hence drier than the Sahara Desert. Butthey suggest that ice is melting and our seas are rising more quickly thanmost experts had anticipated.

The latest source of alarm is the news, as reported by my Times colleagueAndrew Revkin, that sea ice in the northern polar region just set a newlow - and it still has another month of melting ahead of it. At this rate,the "permanent" north polar ice cap may disappear entirely in our lifetimes.


The New York Times

August 16, 2007

U.S. Defends Surveillance to 3 Skeptical Judges

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 15 - Three federal appeals court judges hearingchallenges to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs appearedskeptical of and sometimes hostile to the Bush administration's centralargument Wednesday: that national security concerns require that thelawsuits be dismissed.

"Is it the government's position that when our country is engaged in a warthat the power of the executive when it comes to wiretapping is unchecked?"Judge Harry Pregerson asked a government lawyer. His tone was one ofincredulity and frustration.

Gregory G. Garre, a deputy solicitor general representing theadministration, replied that the courts had a role, though a limited one, inassessing the government's assertion of the so-called state secretsprivilege, which can require the dismissal of suits that could endangernational security. Judges, he said, must give executive branchdeterminations "utmost deference."


The Washington Post

Last Guys Standing
By John Podesta
Thursday, August 16, 2007; Page A15

With Karl Rove's departure from the White House, the conventional wisdomsays that it's all but over domestically and that the most the Bushadministration can do now is manage the fallout from its failed Iraqadventure. It's as if the few remaining fans of the Bush administration areheaded to the exits after the seventh-inning stretch.

As Bill Clinton's last White House chief of staff, I know reality can be fardifferent. To be sure, we suffered through our share of "it's all over"stories, and we even found ways to laugh them off. Those of us who worked atthe White House in the last years of the Clinton presidency knew somethingthe media never seemed to get -- the American people elected Bill Clinton todo a job for them, and we were determined to help him do it.

That job was made easier by a president whose agenda was robust before,during and after the loss of Democratic control of Congress, the strugglewith Ken Starr and the impeachment saga. Initiatives kept coming from thepresident himself, from the White House policy offices and from a Cabinetthat was blessed with some of the longest-serving, most effective members inU.S. history.


Education Week

Published Online: August 14, 2007
Published in Print: August 15, 2007
Legislators Oppose National Standards
By Michele McNeil

The National Conference of State Legislatures has taken a hard line againstany form of national academic standards, declaring last week that anynational attempt to unite school curricula across states would beunacceptable until perceived flaws in the federal No Child Left Behind Actare fixed.

The strongly worded new policy against national standards-even voluntaryones-prompted virtually no debate and was approved on a voice vote duringthe Denver-based group's business meeting at its annual conference here,which drew nearly 9,000 attendees from Aug. 5-9. NCSL policies such as thenew one on national standards set the Washington lobbying agenda of thelegislative group.

See Also
Read the main story, "Fiscal Forecast for States Begins to Darken."The policy reads, in part: "We need rigorous state standards that areanchored in real world demands. . This can be most readily accomplishedthrough individual state refinement of standards . not through federalaction-which flies in the face not only of the role of states since theinception of our system of providing education, but the historical role ofstates and local school districts in funding education with diminishedfederal support."


Inside Higher Education

Supporting Saudi Students

With the recent influx of Saudi Arabian students sponsored by theirgovernment, many American campuses have scrambled to become more attractiveto this growing cohort. Very suddenly, says Susan Sutton, associate dean forthe Office of International Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue UniversityIndianapolis, "There became a visible Middle Eastern presence when we hadn'thad such a presence in awhile."

Two years since the Saudi government scholarship program started andthousands of Saudi students at U.S. campuses later, the interest in bettersupporting the Saudi Arabian student population - and averting any backlashto their presence in large numbers in unexpected places like Missoula,Montana - remains high. "In addition to reaching out to them in a proactivesense, one could easily state that we've reached out to the campus as awhole practically," says Brian Lofink, the liaison for internationalprograms at the University of Montana. "It's a two-way street."

Educational Efforts

Not surprisingly, many if not most of the efforts to better serve Saudistudents focus on education of all sorts. At Montana, internationaleducation staff members reached out to residence life and custodial servicespersonnel to alert them to Muslim pre-prayer washing rituals - with the goalbeing that neither the janitor nor the freshman from Florida would then beshocked to walk into a dormitory bathroom and see a student washing his feetin a sink.

Colorado State University, which has about 150 Saudi students now, trainedmore than 700 faculty and staff on Middle Eastern culture, educationalsystems, and cross-cultural communication, and also sponsored a Middle EastTraining Workshop series with a U.S. State Department grant, says MarkHallett, director of international student and scholar services.


Forwarded from HRC

In Mississippi a few years ago, the courts took away a woman's 8-year-oldchild.

Why? In part because the child's mother was a lesbian.

Two of the judges in the majority went so far as to write and sign anadditional opinion, unnecessary to the case's outcome, which stated that themother must accept the fact that losing her biological child was a possibleconsequence of her sexual "choice."

One of those two judges was Leslie Southwick. And today, Southwick isdangerously close to being appointed to the Federal bench by President Bush.

Only the Senate stands in the way of his confirmation - will you take actionwith me?

Make sure your Senators return from their August break with a full inboxsaying NO on Southwick's nomination!


Dick Cheney on War with Iraq in 1992

This weekend, we came across a pretty remarkable snippet of video online.You've really got to see it to believe it.

Just click here to check it out:

And if you're as amazed, saddened, and angered as we are-pass it on to afriend, neighbor, or co-worker and help make sure people all over thecountry see it.

Thanks for all you do.

-Nita, Laura, Eli, Justin and the Political Action Team Wednesday, August 15th, 2007


August 16, 2007

Former House speaker Hastert stepping down after this term

Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who served as speaker of the House longerthan any other Republican in history-and was in charge during the House pagescandal last fall involving former Rep. Mark Foley-intends to retire nextyear at the end of his term, party officials said Tuesday.

A formal announcement was planned for Friday.

Hastert's planned retirement is likely to set off a lively scramble betweenthe two political parties for a House seat that he has held easily sincefirst elected in 1986.

Hastert's decision has been expected since the GOP lost control of the Houselast November, costing him his powerful post. He had been speaker, next inthe line of presidential succession behind the vice president, for eightyears.

The officials who discussed his plans did so on condition of anonymitybecause there had been no public announcement.


Obama Gets Boost From Billionaire Buffett
by The Associated Press
Posted: August 16, 2007 - 9:00 am ET

(Omaha, Nebraska) Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says it can get alittle lonely being a Democrat in Nebraska.

The last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election was LyndonJohnson, in 1964.

But Buffett had plenty of company Wednesday night at a fundraiser forDemocratic presidential candidate Barack Obama - and local organizers sayObama made a valuable investment.

"I think his stock in Nebraska goes up from here," said Omaha businessmanHarley Schrager, who co-hosted the event with Buffet and others.

The total raised wasn't immediately available, but the minimum price to getin was $500 a person, and organizers estimated the crowd at about 200. About40 of those people attended an earlier reception, and each donated at least$2,300.

Obama said two Nebraskans - U.S. Sen


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