Sunday, September 02, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST September 2, 2007

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Michael Mayo: Democrats are dumb; perpetual presidential race dumber
Michael Mayo
News Columnist
September 2, 2007

Nobody ever accused Howard "Scream" Dean of having a level head, but thechairman of the Democratic National Committee outdid himself last week.

As punishment for the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature moving thestate's presidential primary up to Jan. 29, Dean and other party bigwigswant to effectively disenfranchise all Florida Democratic primary voters.

The Democrats have threatened to strip Florida of all convention delegatesif the state violates party rules by holding its primary before Feb. 5. Andall the leading candidates, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and BarackObama, have announced their fidelity to their party's wishes, saying theywill boycott all early primaries, including Florida's.

Let me repeat. The Democratic Party, the same party so adamant in 2000 abouthow every Floridians' vote is precious and how every vote should count, isnow pushing to have no Florida Democrat's vote count come January.Brilliant.

"Please, let's retire the circular firing squad," Dan Gelber, the FloridaHouse Democratic leader, wrote in a letter to Dean on Thursday. "Let's tryto avoid creating another 'Oops, I did it again' moment."


Rise In Government Secrecy
by The Associated Press
Posted: September 2, 2007 - 7:00 am ET

(Washington) Government secrecy by almost any measure is expanding andlittle is being done to stop it, according to a coalition of 67organizations favoring greater openness.

From classified information to the president's use of the state secretsprivilege, the lack of disclosure should be a growing concern to the publicand the Congress, said Patrice McDermott, director of,which compiled a report using mostly the government's own figures.

"While some of the increased secrecy is attributable to a reaction to 9/11and to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is also a significantexpansion of the power of the executive at the expense of the public, thecourts, and Congress," McDermott said Friday. "The executive branch seems tobelieve that something is kept under wraps solely on its say-so, whether itis legitimately so or not."

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the administration's goal is toeffectively protect classified materials and to enforce laws and regulationsrelated to the handling of sensitive information.

From 2003-2005, the FBI made 143,074 requests for telephone companies,Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and others to turn overdata, the coalition noted. The requests came in the form of nationalsecurity letters, which are administrative subpoenas that do not require ajudge's approval. In 2000, the FBI issued an estimated 8,500 such requests.


The New York Times

September 2, 2007
Idaho Republicans Focus on Replacing Fallen Senator

BOISE, Idaho, Sept. 1 - Before Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho signaled thathe would resign today over allegations that he solicited sex in an airportbathroom, a fellow Republican from the same remote ranchlands where Mr.Craig was born explained what the state and the senator faced if Mr. Craigresisted calls from national party leaders for him to step down.

"It's just going to get worse for a long time," said Lawerence E. Denney,the speaker of the Idaho State House of Representatives and a resident ofMidvale, the closest real town on the map to the land Mr. Craig'sgrandfather first homesteaded in 1899.

By late Friday, at the end of a stunning week in which he fell from seniorsenator to party outcast, Mr. Craig concluded that his political future wasover, even as Mr. Denney and many other prominent state Republicans saidthey were in disbelief at the turn of events. They expressed sympathy andgratitude for a powerful senator who had supported their campaigns andbrought millions of dollars in federal money to Idaho.

"We're all human," Mr. Denney said.

Yet for all the upheaval, the prospect of political change also broughtfocus to state Republicans.


The New York Times

September 2, 2007
Rising Pressure From G.O.P. Led Senator to Quit

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 - Within hours of the disclosure of Senator Larry E.Craig's arrest and conviction after an undercover sex sting, RepublicanSenate leaders concluded that the exploding political scandal needed a fastresolution, one that necessitated the Idaho Republican's prompt resignation.

Although Mr. Craig had pleaded guilty only to disorderly conduct in anairport restroom, this was one controversy too far for his colleagues. Forone, it involved allegations of homosexuality and put Mr. Craig's party inan awkward position, given the rhetoric that Republican strategists oftenemploy on an issue that agitates their party's base voters.

With the corruption issue having weighed down some of their Congressionalcandidates in the disastrous 2006 elections, Senate Republicans saw Mr.Craig as inviting even heavier damage, especially on the heels of messyethics cases involving two other Republican senators, David Vitter ofLouisiana, who was the client of a dubious escort service, and Ted Stevensof Alaska, who faces a widening inquiry into whether he traded officialfavors.

So Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Wednesday sent a blunt message, athreat meant to have the effect achieved on Saturday afternoon, when Mr.Craig announced his resignation.

Mr. McConnell enlisted the junior Idaho senator, Michael D. Crapo, a fellow Republican who was close to Mr. Craig, to warn him that he would faceexcruciating public hearings into his conduct, similar to the threat raisedby Democrats against former Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon, who was accusedof sexual harassment.


The New York Times

September 2, 2007
Modern Singapore's Creator Is Alert to Perils

SINGAPORE, Sept. 1 - Lee Kuan Yew, who turned a malarial island into amodern financial center with a first-world skyline, is peering ahead againinto this city-state's future, this time with an idea to seal it off withdikes against the rising tides of global warming.

"Let's start thinking about it now," he said during an interview in lateAugust, in what could be the motto for a lifetime of nation building. Eversince Singapore's difficult birth in 1965, when it was expelled fromMalaysia, he said, the country has struggled to stay alive in a sea ofeconomic and political forces beyond its control.

"If the water goes up by three, four, five meters, what will happen to us?"he said, laughing. "Half of Singapore will disappear."

For all his success, Mr. Lee, 83, remains on the alert for perils that mayexist only on the distant horizon: the rising role of China in the region asthe United States looks the other way, the buffeting of the world economy,even climate change.

A British-educated lawyer who led Singapore for 31 years, Mr. Lee is one ofAsia's remarkable personalities, a world figure whose guest book is filledwith the names of international political and financial leaders.


The New York Times

September 2, 2007
Help for the $82,000 Family

One of the more perplexing issues that Congress will face when it pondersthe future of the State Children's Health Insurance Program this month isjust how much income families can earn and still have their childreneligible for coverage. Critics of government insurance programs areapoplectic that anyone would even consider covering families with incomes upto four times the poverty level, or $82,600 for a family of four, as NewYork is proposing to do. They are not much happier with New Jersey'sprogram, which already insures children in families with incomes up to 350percent of the poverty level, more than $72,000 for a family of four.

So what is the appropriate eligibility level for this highly successfulfederal-state program, which has played a major role in reducing the numberof uninsured children in this country over the past decade?

The program, known as S-chip, was first aimed at families with incomes toohigh to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to readily afford privatehealth insurance. States are allowed to enroll children whose family incomeis up to 200 percent of the poverty level ($41,300 for a family of four),but the law gives them great flexibility in defining what counts as income.New Jersey effectively raised its threshold to 350 percent by disregardingall income between 200 percent and 350 percent of the poverty level. NewYork wants to reach 400 percent the same way.

The Bush administration, ideologically opposed to expanding governmentinsurance programs, is pushing back. It changed the rules last month to makeit virtually impossible to enroll children above 250 percent of the povertylevel, roughly $51,000 for a family of four. That seems too stringent. Acompelling case can be made for raising the limit to at least 300 percent,and there are plausible reasons in some states for going higher.


The New York Times

September 2, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
The Kurdish Secret
Erbil, Iraq

Iraq today is a land of contrasts - mostly black and blacker. Travelingaround the central Baghdad area the past few days, I saw little that reallygave me hope that the different Iraqi sects can forge a social contract tolive together. The only sliver of optimism I find here is in the one regionwhere Iraqis don't live together: Kurdistan.

Imagine for a moment if one outcome of the U.S. invasion of Iraq had beenthe creation of an American University of Iraq. Imagine if we had triggereda flood of new investment into Iraq that had gone into new hotels, a big ewconvention center, office buildings, Internet cafes, two new internationalairports and Iraqi malls. Imagine if we had paved the way for an explosionof newspapers, even a local Human Rights Watch chapter, and new schools.Imagine if we had created an island of decency in Iraq, with public parks,where women could walk unveiled and not a single American soldier was everkilled - where Americans in fact were popular - and where Islam waspracticed in its most tolerant and open manner. Imagine ...

Well, stop imagining. It's all happening in Kurdistan, the northern Iraqiregion, home to four million Kurds. I saw all of the above in Kurdistan'stwo biggest towns, Erbil and Sulaimaniya. The Bush team just never toldanybody.

No, Kurdistan is not a democracy. It has real Parliamentary elections, butthe region's executive branch is still more "Sopranos" than "West Wing,"more Singapore than Switzerland - dominated by two rival clans, theTalibanis and the Barzanis. It has a vibrant free press, as long as you don'tinsult the leadership, and way too much crony-corruption. But it isdemocratizing, radually nurturing the civil society and middle class neededfor a real democracy.


The Washington Post

7 Questions as the Race for the White House Accelerates
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 2, 2007; A02

Is the Clinton campaign a true juggernaut -- or is that just what she wantseveryone to believe?

Not a juggernaut, but it is the best campaign on the block right now. That'sa view widely shared among Democratic strategists and emphatically assertedby some veteran Republicans sizing up the race.

"Hillary is for real, and will be difficult for any of her Democraticopponents to derail," wrote Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster who jointlyconducts the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. "She simply doesn't make mistakesand is running a pretty disciplined campaign."

Whit Ayres, another GOP pollster, put it this way in an interview: "BarackObama has run a good campaign given his level of experience, and he isobviously a very bright man. But he is no match for Hillary Clinton and herteam. They are too experienced, too professional and too tough for acandidate who has never run a serious campaign for any office before."

But no one is ready to call the Democratic race for Clinton at this point.The reasons, as outlined by both her supporters and detractors, arenumerous. First, nobody wraps up a nomination by Labor Day. Ask Howard Deanabout that.



The Washington Post

Briton Blames Rumsfeld for Situation in Iraq
By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, September 2, 2007; A17

LONDON, Sept. 1 -- The general who headed the British army during the 2003Iraq invasion said that former U.S. defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld'shandling of postwar Iraq was "intellectually bankrupt" and pointed toRumsfeld as "one of those most responsible for the current situation inIraq."

Mike Jackson, the British former chief of general staff who retired lastyear, strongly criticized Rumsfeld and the U.S. postwar effort in Iraq inhis new book, "Soldier." The Daily Telegraph is to begin serializing thebook Monday, after publishing some excerpts and an interview Saturday.

Jackson's stinging comments come at a time of growing tension between theBritish and U.S. military efforts in Iraq. Britain has been Washington'sclosest ally since the war began in 2003, but the military relationship hasfrayed, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown is under growing pressure to speedthe reduction of British troops in Iraq.

Jackson criticized President Bush for putting the Pentagon in charge of thepostwar administration of Iraq rather than the State Department.


The Washington Post

South Koreans Held by Taliban Arrive in Seoul, Offer Apologies
Church Group Seen by Many at Home as Having Been Reckless
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, September 2, 2007; Page A17

SEOUL, Sept. 2 -- Looking wan and exhausted, and apologizing for the troublethey had caused their nation, South Korean missionaries held hostage for sixweeks in Afghanistan arrived home early Sunday.

The 19 young Christians released last week by Taliban captors returned to acountry thankful for their safe return but angered by what has been widelyportrayed as the recklessness of the missionaries and the church that sentthem into a war zone.


The Washington Post

Bet on America
Forget the Doom and Gloom. In 50 Years, We'll Still Be No. 1.
By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, September 2, 2007; B01

America, the shining city on a hill, swollen over centuries into a reluctantempire, faces a long march into the twilight of its greatness. Our duty nowis to supervise our relative decline. Other superpowers shall rise to matchus: China, surely, and newly consolidated Europe, and maybe Russia or Japan.From ancient Rome through the Ming Dynasty, from the days of the SpanishArmada to the British Empire, the implacable rule of history is that no onestays on top forever.

We had our day. It's over. Nice while it lasted.

This, at least, is the latest word on the street (well, maybe if youeavesdropped on a couple of nerds outside one of those think tanks onMassachusetts Avenue).

Declinism crosses partisan lines. You can find it in fat books, densejournal articles and angry hip-hop songs. Hollywood takes it as a given.We're past our prime, suffering from incompetent leaders, an overextendedmilitary and an incurious, flabby citizenry.

All this strikes me as the cue to place a bet on America. Don't despair:double down.

Here's what I'd tell my children if they were to ponder whether this countrywill remain the most powerful on the planet: Think like a bookie. Whenthings look most dire is when you get the best odds. Watch that Vegas line.Right now, the smart move is to take the United States and the points.


The Washington Post

GOP Faces Growing Peril In 2008 Races
Senate Prospects Dimming
By Jonathan Weisman and Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer and Staff Writer
Sunday, September 2, 2007; Page A03

A Senate electoral playing field that was already wide open for 2008 hasbecome considerably more perilous for Republicans with the retirement ofSen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and the resignation of scandal-scarred Sen.Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho).

Republicans need a net gain of just one seat to take back control of theSenate, but they have 22 seats to defend, and campaign cash is conspicuouslylacking. Warner's retirement raised to two the number of open Republicanseats, and both of them -- in Virginia and Colorado -- are prime targets forDemocrats.


The Washington Post

In Northern France, Warming Presses Fall Grape Harvest Into Summertime
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, September 2, 2007; Page A01

ROUFFACH, France -- On a cobweb-encrusted rafter above his giant steel grapepressers, Ren? Mur? is charting one of the world's most tangible barometersof global warming.

The evidence, scrawled in black ink, is the first day of the annual grapeharvest for the past three decades. In 1978, it was Oct. 16. In 1998, thedate was Sept. 14. This year, harvesting started Aug. 24 -- the earliestever recorded, not only in Mur?'s vineyards, but also in the entire Alsacewine district of northeastern France.


The Washington Post

Iran: Uranium Centrifuge Goal Reached
The Associated Press
Sunday, September 2, 2007; 8:57 AM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran has reached its long-sought goal of running 3,000centrifuges to enrich uranium for its nuclear program, Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Sunday in a report on state media.

The U.N. Security Council had threatened a third round of sanctions againstthe country if it did not freeze the uranium enrichment program _ which Iranmaintains is for peaceful energy purposes, but the U.S. says is to hide aweapons program.

"The West thought the Iranian nation would give in after just a resolution,but now we have taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched morethan 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week," thestate television Web site quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Still, Ahmadinejad's comments seemed at odds with independent assements ofthe status of his country's enrichment program.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Sep. 02, 2007
63 arrested in Copenhagen clashes

A protest by hundreds of youth activists turned violent early Sunday, withprotesters setting fire to street barricades and cars and smashing shopwindows, police said. Officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd.Authorities said 63 people were arrested as riot police clashed withrock-throwing youth in the Noerrebro district of Copenhagen.

The unrest started after a demonstration late Saturday commemorating theYouth House, a makeshift cultural center for the city's anarchists anddisaffected youth that was demolished in March.

"It's six months since we cleared the house there, and they want to showthey've not forgotten," police spokesman Mads Firlings said. "Almostimmediately they started building barricades and throwing rocks through thewindows of shops and banks."

He said police used tear gas to disperse the crowds who set fires tobarricades and cars, including a police vehicle that had been abandoned byofficers fleeing the angry mob.


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