Sunday, October 21, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST October 20, 2007

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The New York Times

Three-Card Morality Monte

October 20, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

If the Republican presidential candidates go any farther right, they'll beopening their town meetings by biting the heads off squirrels.

"Let's kill the death tax!" cries Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, lashing outat that onerous levy on multimillion-dollar estates. "Let's give the deathtax the death penalty!" one-ups Rudy Giuliani. Coming soon: Let's slice openthe death tax's stomach and burn the entrails before its eyes.

Meanwhile, there's John McCain, snarling about how that children's healthcare bill would require an unthinkable tax increase on cigarettes: "A dollara pack increase for cigarettes? So we want to take care of children's healthand we want everybody to smoke?" And then Mitt tops the entire pack byconfiding that while on the campaign trail, he spends his evenings readingthe motel Bibles.

Nevertheless, the social super-conservatives are restive. Giuliani, McCain,Fred Thompson - what are all these ladies' men doing in their primary? Andwhile Mitt Romney has changed everything but his name in order to make themhappy, a sizable chunk of the Christian right cannot seem to forgive him forbeing a Mormon. When Bob Jones University Chancellor Bob Jones III endorsedRomney, he couldn't resist insulting Mitt's faith in the process. ("As aChristian, I am completely opposed to the doctrines of Mormonism ...")

The old guard of the religious right is terrified that if Rudy Giuliani getsthe nomination people will conclude that the evangelical leaders aren't allthat powerful after all or - horror of horrors - that the evangelical rankand file are not obsessed with abortion and homosexuality to the exclusionof everything else.

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The New York Times

For 3 Candidates, a Test on Religion

October 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - Fred D. Thompson said that within his first hour ofbecoming president, he would close the door behind him in the Oval Officeand pray for wisdom.

Senator John McCain grew emotional when he talked about a North Vietnameseprison guard who loosened his bonds and, several months later in a meetingon Christmas Day, surreptitiously etched a cross on the ground in front ofhim.

Mitt Romney spoke about his wife of 38 years, 5 children and 10grandchildren, saying he had been "pro-family on every level" in hispersonal life, as well as his political life.

Several of the leading Republican presidential candidates tried to rallyChristian conservatives to support them on Friday. Addressing a gathering ofseveral thousand activists attending the Values Voter Summit here, theyarticulated similar conservative themes on issues like abortion, gay rightsand religious freedom but also sought to shed light on their inner humanity.

Highlighting the significance of the gathering in potentially reshaping theRepublican race, the one major candidate who did not speak on Friday,Rudolph W. Giuliani, made sure he was heard. In an e-mail message toreporters, his campaign went after Mr. Romney for what it called "identicalstances" Mr. Romney shared in the past with Senator Hillary Rodham Clintonof New York, including defense of abortion rights and criticism of theNational Rifle Association.

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Forwarded from Ron Mills

'Why Are Democrats Still Afraid' - Video - Keith Olbermann


AARP Grassroots

The big political debate right now in Washington, DC, is around the issue ofchildren's health insurance. The program in question, the State Children'sHealth Insurance Program (SCHIP), is designed to provide health care tochildren whose families are above the poverty line but who still cannotafford health insurance.

As debate continues, AARP stands in full support of the SCHIP program. Wefirmly believe that bringing health insurance to nearly 10 million uninsuredchildren is a worthy goal for our government and our nation.


We do not believe that the healthcare discussion is complete. There'sanother issue yet to be addressed. That issue is Medicare. Morespecifically - the issue of rising premiums and ensuring access to doctors.

No one wants to see their doctor drop out of the Medicare program. But ifCongress does not act, Medicare physicians will be forced to take a 10% cutin reimbursement which could mean that doctors will limit the number ofMedicare patients they can treat. Congress must act this year to ensurethat Medicare patients continue to have access to the doctors they know andtrust.

To fix this problem, Congress has a choice: either allow Medicare premiumsto rise to pay for a portion of the doctor fix, or cut back on the excesspayments to private insurance companies and use those dollars to help keepyour monthly premiums low.

We believe that Congress should eliminate excessive spending - not pass theburden on to Medicare patients in the form of higher premiums.


The New York Times

Plainly, a Justice Department Pick of Like Mind

October 20, 2007
News Analysis

The senators questioning Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush's nominee forattorney general, seemed so pleased at first to be receiving direct andunadorned answers that they appeared to be barely taking in what he wassaying.

But in his two days of testimony this week, it became clear that Mr. Mukaseybelieves presidential power to be robust, expansive and sometimes beyond thepower of Congress to control.

That is perfectly aligned with the Bush administration's views, and if Mr.Mukasey was initially a refreshing presence to the Senate JudiciaryCommittee, it was only because he justified in plain terms what otheradministration lawyers have said in secret memorandums often cloaked inobfuscation.

Mr. Mukasey did denounce torture in the abstract, but he would not say whatit is. He said he would work toward the goal of closing the prison atGuantánamo Bay, Cuba, but only because it has harmed the reputation of theUnited States.

He disavowed a 2002 Justice Department memorandum authorizing harshinterrogation techniques - but the department itself had disowned theopinion in 2004.

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The New York Times

With Democrats Like These ...

October 20, 2007

Every now and then, we are tempted to double-check that the Democratsactually won control of Congress last year. It was particularly hard to tellthis week. Democratic leaders were cowed, once again, by propaganda from theWhite House and failed, once again, to modernize the law on electronicspying in a way that permits robust intelligence gathering on terroristswithout undermining the Constitution.

The task before Congress was to review and improve an update to the 1978Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, that was pushedthrough the Capitol just before the summer break. That bill endorsedwarrantless wiretapping and gutted other aspects of the 1978 law.

House Democrats drafted a measure that, while imperfect, was an improvementto the one passed this summer. But before the House could vote, Republicanstied up the measure in bureaucratic knots and Democratic leaders pulled it.Senate Democrats did even worse, accepting a Potemkin compromise thatendorsed far too much of the bad summer law.

We were left wondering who is really in charge, when in a bipartisan pressrelease announcing the agreement, the ranking Republican on the SenateIntelligence Committee, Kit Bond, described the bill as "a delicatearrangement of compromises" that could not be changed in any way. Thecommittee's chairman, Jay Rockefeller, didn't object.

As the debate proceeds, Americans will be told that the delicate compromiseswere about how the government may spy on phone calls and electronic messagesin the age of instant communications. Republicans have already startedblowing hot air about any naysayers trying to stop spies from trackingterrorists.

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The Washington Post

5 Myths About Rendition (and That New Movie)

By Daniel Benjamin
Friday, October 19, 2007; 9:39 PM

With hearings in Congress, legal cases bouncing up to the Supreme Court andcomplaints from Canada and our European allies, the issue of rendition iseverywhere. There's even a new, eponymously titled movie in a theater nearyou, starring Reese Witherspoon as a bereft wife whose innocent husband getskidnapped and Meryl Streep as the frosty CIA chief who ordered the snatch.

Like most covert actions and much of the war on al-Qaeda, the practice isshrouded in mystery -- and, increasingly, the suspicion that it's synonymouswith torture and lawlessness.

In fact, the term "rendition" in the counterterrorism context means nothingmore than moving someone from one country to another, outside the formalprocess of extradition. For the CIA, rendition has become a key tool forgetting terrorists from places where they're causing trouble to places wherethey can't. The problem is where these people are taken and what happens tothem when they get there. As a former director for counterterrorism policyon the National Security Council staff, I've been involved with the issue ofrendition for nearly a decade -- and some of the myths surrounding it needto be cleared up.

1. Rendition is something the Bush administration cooked up.

Nope. George W. Bush was still struggling to coax oil out of the ground whenthe United States "rendered to justice" its first suspect from abroad. In1987, President Ronald Reagan authorized an operation that lured Lebanesehijacker Fawaz Younis to a boat off the coast of Cyprus, where FBI agentsarrested him. (Younis had participated in the 1985 hijacking of a Jordanianplane and was implicated in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which left aU.S. Navy diver dead.) President George H.W. Bush approved the kidnapping in1990 of Mexican physician Humberto Alvarez Machain, who was believed to beinvolved in the torture and killing of a Drug Enforcement Administrationofficial. Nothing says that renditions can involve only suspectedterrorists; Israel's abduction of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann inArgentina in 1960 could be called a rendition, though the term was not yetin use.

Beginning in 1995, the Clinton administration turned up the speed with afull-fledged program to use rendition to disrupt terrorist plotting abroad.According to former director of central intelligence George J. Tenet, about70 renditions were carried out before Sept. 11, 2001, most of them duringthe Clinton years.

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The Washington Post

In Jena and Beyond, Nooses Return as a Symbol of Hate

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 20, 2007; A01

When he reached his third-story workstation at a construction site nearPittsburgh two weeks ago, Errol Madyun saw the noose -- thick, neatlyknotted and strong enough to hang a man.

"It was intimidating," said Madyun, a black ironworker.

More than 400 miles south in North Carolina, Terry Grier, superintendent ofGuilford County Schools, saw the same type of noose last month atpredominantly black T.W. Andrews High near Greensboro.

"It was huge," Grier, who is white, said of a noose he discovered hangingfrom a flagpole, one of four nooses placed at the school. "I became veryangry. Part of what you think is it's a copycat of Jena."

Law enforcement authorities, including the Justice Department, areexpressing concern over a recent spate of noose sightings in the aftermathof events in Jena, the small Louisiana town that has been engulfed by racialstrife and was the scene of a recent civil rights demonstration.

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The Washington Post

Evangelicals Gather at Summit
Brownback, a Top Choice of Many, Ends White House Bid

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 20, 2007; A04

Evangelical voters gathered here yesterday to weigh their political optionseven as one of their champions, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, officiallywithdrew from the 2008 presidential contest, robbing many of their firstchoice in the Republican nominating battle.

The 2,000 activists attending the Values Voter Summit listened to thecandidates, some prayed for guidance, and many expressed deep discomfortwith the Republican Party's two front-runners: former Massachusetts governorMitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Romney presented himself as the antiabortion, pro-family, pro-religioncontender whom Christian conservatives are seeking.

"I'll oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, oppose partial-birth abortion.I'll oppose abortion in military clinics. I'll work to ban embryoniccloning," Romney promised.

Romney only briefly mentioned his Mormon faith, a source of concern amongsome Christian groups, saying, "I understand that some people think thatthey couldn't support someone of my faith," then joking that they must bethinking of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who is also aMormon.

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The Washington Post

Poland's Powerful Twins Face Key Test Sunday
Despite Long List of Foes, Leaders' Party Is Resilient Going Into EarlyElections

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, October 20, 2007; A09

WLOSZCZOWA, Poland -- For two years, Poland has been ruled by the Kaczynskibrothers, identical twins with a talent for making enemies. With one perchedin the presidential palace and the other in the prime minister's office,they have unapologetically picked fights with the European Union, Germany,Russia, gays, the media and big business.

On Sunday, their foes hope, the brothers will receive their comeuppance inparliamentary elections they were forced to call two years early after theircoalition government collapsed. Polls show their Law and Justice party introuble. "They're dangerous for democracy," said Sen. Stefan Niesiolowski, alongtime acquaintance from a rival party. "They are always bent on revenge."

But even the twins' fiercest critics aren't counting them out. Regardless ofwhat happens Sunday, Lech Kaczynski still has three years to serve aspresident. In the meantime, the opposition is so fractured that JaroslawKaczynski could remain prime minister if his party can muster as little asone-third of the vote.

Despite alienating a long list of targets, the Kaczynskis' populist messagestill plays well among many Poles, who see the brothers as straight-talkingdefenders of the little guy, particularly people who have struggled to keepup with Poland's chaotic transition from decades of communism and centuriesof domination by outside powers.

"If we talk about the average Pole, the support for the Kaczynskis seems tobe tremendous," said Zbigniew Romaszewski, a Law and Justice senator who metthe twins in the mid-1970s in the anti-communist underground. "In Poland,it's only the elites who are unhappy with them."

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The Miami Herald

Hero of the sixtysomethings

Posted on Sat, Oct. 20, 2007

Until now, I believed that the smallest unit of time was between the momentthe traffic light turned green and the car behind you honked. I was wrong.The shortest unit is actually between the moment you win the Nobel PeacePrize and someone asks if you're running for president.

This is the story of Al Gore. It's wrapped succinctly in the Time magazineheadline: Gore wins the Nobel. But will he run? The best answer came fromcongenitally sardonic congressman, Rahm Emanuel: ``Why would he run forpresident when he can be a demigod?''

Indeed, if the man who is free at last from politics has learned anything,it's that becoming a candidate means open season on his weight, his wit, hiswisdom and his son's arrest record. Besides, which would you rather do, savethe Earth or dial for dollars in Iowa?

The attention on Gore's trajectory from loser to laureate misses somethingabout this second act and second actor. As he approaches 60, Gore is stakingout something of a new path for his generation.

Consider the new sixtysomethings. On Monday, 61-year-old KathleenCasey-Kirschling, the first baby boomer and a retired teacher, signed up forearly Social Security benefits. Next Friday, Hillary Clinton turns 60, andher second act is running for president. And when the new Harvard president,Drew Faust, 60, met with her Bryn Mawr classmates last summer? Many weretalking about leaving their ''extreme jobs'' just as she was installed inhers.

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The Los Angeles Times,1,2067480.story?track=rss

Latino head of RNC resigns

Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida leaves his GOP post after frustration with theparty's immigration stance.
By Peter Wallsten
October 20, 2007

WASHINGTON - The Republican Party's highest-ranking Latino official abruptlyresigned Friday, marking the latest casualty in the GOP's bitter internalfight over immigration and dealing another setback to President Bush'syears-long effort to court Latino voters.

The announcement by Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida that he was quitting asgeneral chairman of the Republican National Committee came after he hadexpressed frustration over the tenor of the immigration debate within hisparty. Martinez will remain in his Senate post.

"Mel Martinez was a symbol of the party's outreach to Latinos, and thatseems to be disappearing," said Lionel Sosa, a longtime Republicanstrategist and advisor to GOP presidents since Ronald Reagan. "It is not agood day for Latino Republicans, that's for sure."

The White House had engineered the ascent of the Cuban-born Martinez overthe objections of many conservatives as part of an effort to repair theGOP's image among Latinos. That image suffered when Republican congressionalleaders and conservative activists stymied administration-backed measuresthat would have created a path to citizenship for millions of illegalimmigrants.

Some GOP strategists say the party's poor performance among Latino voters in2006 helped ensure Democratic victories across the country. Now, some worrythat Martinez's early exit from the RNC foreshadows more trouble in 2008.

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