Wednesday, August 29, 2007


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Asia Times

Robots replace trigger fingers in Iraq
By David Isenberg

WASHINGTON - Every war is a test of many things: will, resolve, heroism andsacrifice, for example. But they are also testing grounds for materialthings, and technology in particular. From the first rocks and flints, tospears and swords, gunpowder, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons,every war has served to allow improvements to military systems and weapons.

The United States in particular has relied on its ability to leveragetechnology on the battlefield, both because of its advanced scientific andtechnology base as well as a way to compensate for having smaller forcesthan some of its past opponents, especially during the Cold War standoffwith the Soviet Union.

Iraq is no different. In fact, given the emphasis on producing ahigh-tech digital force as party of former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld's "force transformation" effort, technology has assumed a leadingrole in Iraq. Whether trying to counter improvised explosive devices (IED),proving mine-resistant vehicles, unmanned air vehicles like the Predatorthat can fire missiles and satellite-guided joint directed attack munitions,or the deployment of the Stryker, a new lightweight infantry carrier thatcan perform like a mini-tank but at higher speeds, advanced technologicalsystems have been present in Iraq from the very beginning of the invasion.


Asia Times

New president has Turkey holding its breath
By Hilmi Toros

ISTANBUL - Overriding concerns by the ever-watchful military and thesecularists, Turkey's Parliament on Tuesday elected Foreign MinisterAbdullah Gul as the first Islamic-rooted president of the 83-year-oldrepublic.

Along with him, Turkey also gets a first lady, Hayrunnisa Gul, who may wearthe Islamic headscarf as the official hostess at the Cankaya Palace. Thepresidential palace has so far banned such attire.

Gul, whose candidacy put up by his ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) in April sparked military and secularist opposition, and led to earlyparliamentary elections on July 22, received 339 votes from the 448 deputieswho voted, way above the 276 needed.

Gul won in the third round of voting, when only a simple majority of the550-member Parliament was needed. He failed to obtain the required 367votes, or two-thirds majority, in earlier rounds.

The election of Gul, a former member of banned Islamist parties who now vowsallegiance to the secular constitution, was a setback for the military andsecularists who say Gul and his AKP may still have an Islamist agenda forTurkey, which is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member and an officialcandidate for full European Union membership.


The New York Times

August 29, 2007
Political Memo
A Scandal-Scarred G.O.P. Asks, 'What Next?'

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 - Scott Reed, a Republican strategist, was at a dinnerin Philadelphia on Monday night when his cellphone and Internet pager beganbeeping like crazy. Only later did he learn why. His party was buzzing withnews of a sex scandal involving a Republican United States senator - again.

Just when Republicans thought things could not get any worse, Senator LarryE. Craig of Idaho confirmed that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanorcharges of disorderly conduct after an undercover police officer accused himof soliciting sex in June in a Minneapolis airport restroom. On Tuesday, Mr.Craig, 62, held a news conference to defend himself, calling the guilty plea"a mistake" and declaring, "I am not gay" - even as the Senate Republicanleadership asked for an Ethics Committee review.

It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusationsof sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in thepolitical equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television.

Forget Mark Foley of Florida, who quit the House last year after exchangingsexually explicit e-mail messages with under-age male pages, or JackAbramoff, the lobbyist whose dealings with the old Republican Congresslanded him in prison. They are old news, replaced by a fresh crop ofscandal-plagued Republicans, men like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana,whose phone number turned up on the list of the so-called D.C. Madam, orSenator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona, bothcaught up in F.B.I. corruption investigations.


The New York Times

August 29, 2007
Wages Rise in China as Businesses Court the Young

SHENZHEN, China, Aug. 28 - At the Dahon bicycle factory here, Zhang Jingming's fingers move quickly and methodically - grabbing bicycle seats, wrappingthem in cardboard and smoothly attaching them to frames.

Working a 45-hour week, Mr. Zhang makes the equivalent of $263 a month; asrecently as February, he was making just $197. Some of his higher pay comesfrom working more efficiently. "When I first started, I wasn't this fast,"he said.

But a good portion reflects a raise Mr. Zhang got: to 1.45 cents for eachbicycle seat from 1.32 cents. It is a small difference that signifies majorchange.

Chinese wages are on the rise. No reliable figures for average wages exist;the government's economic data are notably unreliable. But factory ownersand experts who monitor the nation's labor market say that businesses arehaving a hard time finding able-bodied workers and are having to pay theworkers they can find more money.

And higher wages in China are likely to lead to higher prices in the UnitedStates - at the mall, at the grocery, even at the gas pump.


The New York Times

August 29, 2007
Abu Ghraib Verdict Upsets Rights Groups
Filed at 8:38 a.m. ET

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) -- An Army officer's acquittal on charges of failing tocontrol soldiers who abused Abu Ghraib prisoners cuts short a trail ofaccountability that could lead much higher, human rights groups say.

A military court on Tuesday acquitted Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan of threecharges related to the mistreatment of detainees at the U.S.-run prison inIraq in the fall of 2003.

The jury found him guilty of only one charge: disobeying a general's ordernot to discuss the abuse investigation. The defense conceded that Jordane-mailed a number of soldiers about the investigation after meeting withMaj. Gen. George Fay in spring 2004.

The panel resumed deliberations Wednesday on Jordan's punishment.Prosecutors have recommended that he be reprimanded and fined one month'spay, about $7,400.

The verdict effectively ends the military's investigation of a scandal thatsurfaced with the release of pictures of U.S. soldiers grinning whiledetainees, some of them naked, were held on leashes or in painful andhumiliating positions.


The New York Times

August 29, 2007

A Sobering Census Report: Americans' Meager Income Gains
The economic party is winding down and most working Americans never even gotnear the punch bowl.

The Census Bureau reported yesterday that median household income rose 0.7percent last year - it's second annual increase in a row- to $48,201. Theshare of households living in poverty fell to 12.3 percent from 12.6 percentin 2005. This seems like welcome news, but a deeper look at the belatedimprovement in these numbers - more than five years after the end of thelast recession - underscores how the gains from economic growth have failedto benefit most of the population.

The median household income last year was still about $1,000 less than in2000, before the onset of the last recession. In 2006, 36.5 millionAmericans were living in poverty - 5 million more than six years before,when the poverty rate fell to 11.3 percent.

And what is perhaps most disturbing is that it appears this is as good as it's going to get.

Sputtering under the weight of the credit crisis and the associated drop inthe housing market, the economic expansion that started in 2001 looks likeit might enter history books with the dubious distinction of being the onlysustained expansion on record in which the incomes of typical Americanhouseholds never reached the peak of the previous cycle.


The New York Times

August 29, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Occupational Hazard
Los Angeles

IS America's presence in Iraq legal? As Republicans and Democrats debate theethical and practical considerations for and against the withdrawal of theUnited States forces, this question scarcely comes up. But within a fewmonths, it could, suddenly and with potentially decisive impact.

In May 2003, just weeks after the overthrow of Iraq's government, UnitedNations Security Council Resolution 1483 recognized "the Authority" - whichwas to say "the occupying powers under unified command" - as Iraq'seffective legal government.

In October 2003, it took a further step and mandated that the UnitedStates-led multinational force establish security and stability in Iraq.While noting that this mandate would expire within a year, the councilexpressed its "readiness to consider on that occasion any future need forthe continuation of the multinational force, taking into account the viewsof an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq."

In June 2004, Security Council Resolution 1546 stipulated that "by 30 June2004, the occupation will end and the Coalition Provisional Authority willcease to exist, and that Iraq will reassert its full sovereignty."Subsequently, as sovereign Iraq has moved by stages through elections andcomplex deliberations to the formation of its current government, the UnitedNations has renewed the mandate for the multinational force at the requestof successive Iraqi prime ministers - Ibrahim al-Jaafari in 2005 and NuriKamal al-Maliki last year.

The current mandate expires at the end of December. Will it be renewed?


The New York Times

August 29, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
A Saint's Dark Night

THE stunning revelations contained in a new book, which show that MotherTeresa doubted God's existence, will delight her detractors and confuse heradmirers. Or is it the other way around?

The private journals and letters of the woman now known as Blessed Teresa ofCalcutta will be released next month as "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,"and some excerpts have been published in Time magazine. The pious title ofthe book, however, is misleading. Most of its pages reveal not the serenemeditations of a Catholic sister confident in her belief, but the agonizedwords of a person confronting a terrifying period of darkness that lastedfor decades.

"In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss," she wrote in 1959, "ofGod not wanting me - of God not being God - of God not existing." Accordingto the book, this inner turmoil, known by only a handful of her closestcolleagues, lasted until her death in 1997.

Gleeful detractors may point to this as yet another example of the hypocrisyof organized religion. The woman widely known in her lifetime as a "livingsaint" apparently didn't even believe in God.

It was not always so. In 1946, Mother Teresa, then 36, was hard at work in agirls school in Calcutta when she fell ill. On a train ride en route to somerest in Darjeeling, she had heard what she would later call a "voice" askingher to work with the poorest of the poor, and experienced a profound senseof God's presence.


The Washington Post

Michael Vick's Self-Defeat
By Jonathan Capehart
Wednesday, August 29, 2007; A17

" I'm upset with myself, and, you know, through this situation I found Jesusand asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God."

When I heard disgraced Atlanta Falcons phenom Michael Vick utter those wordsbefore the cameras in his mea culpa moment just after pleading guilty to afederal dogfighting charge, I let out a primal scream of disbelief. FindingGod -- like going to rehab -- seems to be the refuge of choice forcelebrities on the wrong side of the law.

Sitting in a chair at Walls Barbershop a short time later, I paid closeattention to the reactions of the black men there as the Vick story blaredover the radio and that sound bite was played. A gentleman waiting for ahaircut snickered. Before leaving, I asked him why he reacted the way hehad.

"I'm skeptical," he said.

I'm thrilled not to be alone in not giving Vick a free pass.


The Washington Post

Japan's Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 29, 2007; Page A01

TOKYO -- Americans invented the Internet, but the Japanese are running awaywith it.

Broadband service here is eight to 30 times as fast as in the UnitedStates -- and considerably cheaper. Japan has the world's fastest Internetconnections, delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else, recentstudies show.

Accelerating broadband speed in this country -- as well as in South Koreaand much of Europe -- is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that arelikely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States.

The speed advantage allows the Japanese to watch broadcast-quality,full-screen television over the Internet, an experience that mocks thegrainy, wallet-size images Americans endure.


The Miami Heral

Posted on Wed, Aug. 29, 2007
Misguided loyalty and lies

You probably think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned Monday becausehe was the most controversial Justice Department chief since John Mitchellwent to prison for Watergate crimes.

You probably think the resignation had something to do with allegations ofU.S. attorneys being fired for political reasons. Or all those convenientmemory lapses when Gonzales was asked about the firings in Senate hearings.Or the simple fact that only very small children and very innocent adultsstill believe anything Gonzales says.

Bipartisan disgust

You might think any or all of that is what pressured him to quit, but you'dbe mistaken. At least according to President Bush, who put a different spinon his friend's departure in a statement Monday. ''It's sad,'' said Bush,``that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like AlbertoGonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name wasdragged through the mud for political reasons.''

As is often the case with the things our president says, there's a hole inthat big enough to drive a Humvee through. It was, after all, Sen. ArlenSpecter who said that Gonzales was not credible; Sen. John Cornyn who calledhis testimony ''deplorable''; Sen. Chuck Grassley who accused him ofchanging his story; and Sen. Norm Coleman, to name one of many, who demandedhis resignation.


The Boston Globe

47 million Americans are uninsured
11.7 % Census data fuel attacks by Democrats
By John Donnelly, Globe Staff | August 29, 2007

WASHINGTON -- A record 47 million Americans did not have health insurancelast year, while the percentage of children without insurance rose for asecond consecutive year, according to US Census Bureau data releasedyesterday, leading Democrats to charge that the Bush administration hasignored a growing, more vulnerable population.

The census data found that, compared with 2005, the number of uninsuredAmericans rose 5 percent last year to 47 million, due in large part tocutbacks in employer-sponsored health coverage. It also found that 11.7percent of US children under 18 lacked health insurance, compared with 10.9percent in 2005.

An estimated 10.3 percent of children in Massachusetts went without healthinsurance from 2004 to 2006, slightly below the national average.

Nationally, the percentage of uninsured children had fallen over a five-yearperiod beginning in 1999 because of the expansion of Medicaid and the StateChildren's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. Medicaid generally coverspeople living below the official income poverty line, set at $20,650 for afamily of four.

But in the last two years, according to analysts, those two safety netprograms could not keep up with the steady national decline of private,employer- provided healthcare plans. In 2000, nearly 66 percent of childrennationwide were covered by those programs, compared with fewer than 60percent last year, according to census figures.


Boston Globe

Kucinich is right on healthcare
By Derrick Z. Jackson | August 29, 2007

DENNIS KUCINICH rarely gets much airtime in Democratic presidential debates.That was underscored recently when ABC's George Stephanopoulos called on himin an Iowa forum to talk about God. Kucinich said, "George, I've beenstanding here for the last 45 minutes praying to God you were going to callon me."

With poll numbers at 1 or 2 percent, the Ohio congressman is the nudgekicking at the knees of the Democratic Party to offer more than incrementalchange. He deserves more attention than he gets. On healthcare, he says whatAmericans believe, even as his rivals rake in contributions from theindustry.

In a CNN poll this spring, 64 percent of respondents said the governmentshould "provide a national insurance program for all Americans, even if thiswould require higher taxes," and 73 percent approve of higher taxes toinsure children under 18. Those results track New York Times and Galluppolls last year, in which about two-thirds of respondents said it is thefederal government's responsibility to guarantee health coverage to allAmericans.

Such polls allow Kucinich to joke that, far from being in the loony left,"I'm in the center. Everyone else is to the right of me." More seriously, ina recent visit to the Globe, he accused the other Democratic candidates offaking it on healthcare reform.

"One of the greatest hoaxes of this campaign -- everyone's for universalhealthcare," Kucinich said. "It's like a mantra. But when you get into thedetails, you find out that all the other candidates are talking aboutmaintaining the existing for-profit system."


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