Monday, October 08, 2007


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Ang Lee Says He's Shy, Socially Awkward

October 8, 2007
Filed at 11:27 a.m. ET

HONG KONG (AP) -- Ang Lee has tackled English period drama, kung fu and gaycowboy romance. Just don't expect him to make small talk at a dinner party.

The Oscar-winning director says that despite his celebrity, he's extremelyshy and struggles with social interaction.

''When I'm off the set, it's hard for me to carry a conversation. That'smore difficult for me than making a movie,'' he said Saturday on CNN's''Talk Asia.''

''Making a movie, I have plans in my head. Somehow one way or another Imanage to roll the camera and get something in the can. But off the set, atthe dining table ... it's still awkward for me,'' said Lee, a native ofTaiwan.

He feels comfortable ''momentarily'' if the conversation turns to movies,the 52-year-old filmmaker said, but ''that's kind of about it.''

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The New York Times

3 Win Nobel in Medicine for Gene Manipulation

October 8, 2007

Two Americans and a Briton were awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in medicinetoday for developing the immensely powerful "knockout" technology thatallows scientists to create animal models of human disease in mice.

The winners, who will share the $1.54 million prize, are Mario R. Capecchi,70, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City; Oliver Smithies, 82, of theUniversity of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; and Sir Martin J. Evans, 66, ofCardiff University in Wales.

Other scientists are applying their technology, which is also known as genetargeting, in a wide variety of ways, from basic research to the developmentof new therapies, according to the Nobel committee from the KarolinskaInstitute in Stockholm that selected the winners.

The technology allows scientists to establish the roles of individual genesin health and disease. Scientists have developed more than 500 differentmouse models of human ailments, including those affecting the heart andcentral nervous system, as well as diabetes, cancer and cystic fibrosis.

The technology can now be used to create genetic mutations that can beactivated at specific time points, or in specific cells or organs, bothduring development and in the adult animal, the award citation said.

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The New York Times

Same Old Party

October 8, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

There have been a number of articles recently that portray President Bush assomeone who strayed from the path of true conservatism. Republicans, thesearticles say, need to return to their roots.

Well, I don't know what true conservatism is, but while doing research formy forthcoming book I spent a lot of time studying the history of theAmerican political movement that calls itself conservatism - and Mr. Bushhasn't strayed from the path at all. On the contrary, he's the very model ofa modern movement conservative.

For example, people claim to be shocked that Mr. Bush cut taxes while wagingan expensive war. But Ronald Reagan also cut taxes while embarking on a hugemilitary buildup.

People claim to be shocked by Mr. Bush's general fiscal irresponsibility.But conservative intellectuals, by their own account, abandoned fiscalresponsibility 30 years ago. Here's how Irving Kristol, then the editor ofThe Public Interest, explained his embrace of supply-side economics in the1970s: He had a "rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit andother monetary or fiscal problems" because "the task, as I saw it, was tocreate a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority,which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority - so politicaleffectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies ofgovernment."

People claim to be shocked by the way the Bush administration outsourced keygovernment functions to private contractors yet refused to exert effectiveoversight over these contractors, a process exemplified by the failedreconstruction of Iraq and the Blackwater affair.

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The New York Times

Accountability on the Battlefield

October 8, 2007

It is clear by now that the Blackwater guards operating in Iraq have beenallowed to run amok with no concern about being held accountable under thelaw. Congress has begun the process of revoking that dangerous immunity. Itneeds to quickly pass a strong law, and then it must ensure that contractorsare held accountable for lawless actions in war zones.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill introduced by DavidPrice, Democrat of North Carolina, to rein in contractors like BlackwaterUSA. The vote was 389-30. The bill would ensure that all contractors workingfor the American government in a conflict zone are put under thejurisdiction of American criminal courts, and it would require the F.B.I. todeploy units in conflict areas to investigate contractor crimes.

Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, introduced a similar bill in theSenate. Combined with a provision in last year's defense appropriations billthat placed contractors "serving with or accompanying an armed force in thefield" under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the new bill could go along way toward imposing legal accountability on American mercenaries.

Mr. Obama's bill still must pass the Senate. It is likely to face staunchopposition from the White House, which argues that it would place undueburdens on the F.B.I. and the armed forces. Congress may also have tooverride a veto. Even if the bill becomes law, Congress would have toconduct vigilant oversight to ensure the Pentagon and the JusticeDepartment - which have been reluctant to police contractors' misdeeds inIraq - enforce it on the battlefield in Iraq.

The roughly 180,000 private contractors working for American governmentagencies in Iraq, including some 30,000 heavily armed guards, have beenpolitically expedient for the Bush administration. They plug the holes in anundermanned American force, and their deaths do not count toward thePentagon's tally of the war's dead.

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The Village Voice

Our Slave Labor in California, Iraq

posted: 8:38 AM, October 8, 2007 by Harkavy

Lettuce have your huddled masses: Work force becomes truly globalized.

Beset by an immigration war on one front and just plain war on anotherfront, government officials in the U.S. are frantically seeking moreillegals for necessary farm work here and longer stays in Baghdad forshanghaied foreigners to build the unnecessary supermax American embassy.



The Boston Globe


For 1st time, Iowa poll shows Clinton in lead

October 8, 2007

Hillary Clinton has taken the lead among Democratic presidential candidatesin an Iowa poll, showing progress toward overcoming a big hurdle in therace.

Although the New York senator is leading in national surveys, Iowa hasremained an elusive prize. She has been in a tight race with John Edwardsand Barack Obama in the state that begins the primary campaign voting inthree months.

Clinton has focused on boosting her appeal in Iowa, including two visitswith her husband, the former president, by her side over the summer. Theeffort appears to have paid off, according to the poll of likely Iowacaucus-goers that was published in yesterday's Des Moines Register.

She was supported by 29 percent of the 399 respondents to the poll conductedOct. 1-3, compared with 21 percent in May. Edwards's support fell from 29percent - good enough for first place in May - to 23 percent. That is astatistical tie with Obama's 22 percent.

"I'm doing everything I can to earn the support of Iowans," Clinton saidyesterday during a stop in New Hampton, Iowa.

A standing-room-only crowd at a community center was warmed up by listeningto the disco hit "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now."

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Waxman sinks teeth into watchdog role

By Ken Dilanian, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - Erik Prince, the former Navy commando who runs Blackwater USA,has rarely spoken publicly about his company's billion-dollar security workfor the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But last week, Prince found himself in a packed congressional hearing room,raising his right hand as shutters clicked and television cameras rolled.Hours of uncomfortable questions followed.

More than anyone else, one man made it happen: Democrat Henry Waxman of LosAngeles, a three-decade House veteran whose bald, mustachioed, bespectacledmien has become the face of oversight in Congress.

"I want you to know that Blackwater will be accountable today," Waxman saidin his opening statement.

The hearing underscored the impact of having Waxman at the helm of the HouseCommittee on Oversight and Government Reform. Democrats may have gainedcontrol of Congress in last year's elections, but their majority isn'talways enough to make a difference. In the Senate, for instance, Republicanshave enough votes to block Democratic legislation. But in the House ofRepresentatives, the Republicans can't stop Waxman, who wields his subpoenapower to investigate the Bush administration and its allies.

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Children caught in the immigration crossfire

By Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY

On the phone, Fiorella Maza comes across as a typical American teenager. HerEnglish is unaccented. Her best friend's name is Brittney. Her three mostprized possessions are her wallet, her cellphone and, of course, her iPod.

Those were the necessities Maza, 19, took when immigration agents arrived at6 a.m. on March 1 to deport her and her family.

The 2006 South Miami Senior High graduate and her parents now live in hergrandmother's house in Lima, Peru - more than 2,600 miles from the place shehad called home since she was 2. She's searching for language classes"because my Spanish is really bad," and trying to adjust to life in a landwhere, she says, "I feel like an outcast."

Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants' children could suffer the samefate, according to the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute. They are thelost generation of an underground economy: Brought here illegally byparents, they grew up in American neighborhoods, attended American schoolsand made American friends. As they approach adulthood, most find that theirillegal status is a barrier to jobs and education, and their lack ofdocumentation puts them in line for deportation.

Now, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is pushing a plan that would give them a wayto stay here and become Americans. The measure is triggering another bitterdebate over how the nation should deal with its growing shadow population.

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Los Angeles Times,1,603976.story?coll=la-news-a_section

Bush's heartless, mindless veto

Critics accuse Bush of not caring about kids, but his veto is plain badpolicy too.

October 8, 2007

Critics have called President Bush heartless for his veto last week of acompromise bill to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program.True enough, but the president didn't seem to be leading with his headeither. In purporting to defend against a government takeover of theinsurance industry, he blocked one of the best options for lifting familiesfrom wholly government-paid entitlements like Medicaid and into privateinsurance paid for in part by parents.

SCHIP isn't welfare. In California, it is Healthy Families, the highlysuccessful program that matches every state dollar with two from the federalgovernment and entices parents to obtain and contribute to health coveragefor their kids. Families that earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal (theCalifornia incarnation of Medicaid) but not enough to buy insurance on theirown use Healthy Families to get their kids off to a good start in life andcorrect any problems that, left untreated, would turn into a larger taxpayerburden down the road. Those parents also get into the habit of making healthinsurance part of their budget, which is exactly what opponents ofgovernment-provided healthcare want.

California opens Healthy Families to households that earn 2 1/2 times thefederal poverty level, which comes to $51,625 a year for a family of four.The compromise Bush vetoed would have allowed three times the poverty level,or $61,950, and would have supplied $35 billion in new money over five yearsto cover rising costs and add more kids to the program. Bush claimed thatwealthy families that can afford insurance without help would start applyingfor government assistance. He is offering less than one-seventh of whatCongress asked.

That figure doesn't cut it for California, where successful outreach haspulled thousands of new kids into the program and could target thousandsmore. At the level of funding Bush is willing to accept, those kids would beleft without insurance -- or in programs that increase the burden ontaxpayers -- nine months into next year. Every year after, coverage wouldlapse earlier and earlier. That would deepen California's healthcare crisiseven as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrats attempt to cut a deal toexpand coverage.

Congress will try to override the veto later this month. If a few moremembers get clued in to the wisdom of using government help to introducefamilies to private health insurance, they will do a world of good forthousands of children.

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Los Angeles Times,1,5805478.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&track=crosspromo

How Clinton has built her lead

Her base is voters who dominate the Democratic nominating process. But thepresidential campaign season is still young.

By Janet Hook and Mark Z. Barabak
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

October 8, 2007

WASHINGTON - Carol Levesque, a retired New Hampshire social worker, used tothink Hillary Rodham Clinton was not cut out for the White House. Levesquelooked askance at Clinton's decision to run for the U.S. Senate. She waslukewarm about how Clinton conducted herself as first lady to an unfaithfulhusband.

Now, Levesque is an avid fan. After seeing Clinton three times, she waswowed by the New York Democrat's apparent brainpower. She was, to use herword, "underwhelmed" by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) when he made apresidential campaign stop in Peterborough, N.H., recently. And as thegranddaughter of a pioneering supporter of women's suffrage, Levesque, 65,is thrilled with the prospect of electing a woman president.

Levesque's conversion offers a window into how Clinton has emerged as thefront-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination: One of the mostdemonized politicians in America has begun to win a second look fromskeptics. And among women and seniors, such as Levesque, she has built bigleads over her rivals.

That underscores one of Clinton's most important assets in the turbulent fewmonths ahead of the balloting set for early January. She has built apolitical base -- reflected in polls -- of voters who dominate theDemocratic nominating process: seniors, women and blue-collar voters.

That's a troublesome trend for Obama, who has drawn his support mainly fromthe young and the affluent. He had been considered the candidate most likelyto slow the Clinton juggernaut. But her lead in national polls has widened.Nationally, Clinton leads Obama 38% to 22%, according to the aggregation of surveys. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwardsis under 14%. The latest campaign reports showed that in the last threemonths, Clinton for the first time raised more money than Obama.

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The Palm Beach Post

Christian nation? Not now, not ever

By Tom Blackburn
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 08, 2007

Sen. John McCain spoke in religious code. Sadly for him, he didn't know thecode.

First, in an interview on Beliefnet, he tried this: "I would probably haveto say, yes, that the Constitution established the United States of Americaas a Christian nation." Self-selected spokesmen for Jews, Muslims andatheists expressed shock and dismay even as they added Sen. McCain's name tothe text of their next fund-raising letters.

He tried to chip out of the rough last week by saying that he meant to saythat this is a "Judeo-Christian nation." What he originally seemed to betrying to say is that, all things being equal, he would prefer to electChristians. Considering his family and career, he undoubtedly also wouldlike to elect Navy vets. But all things are rarely equal. Given a choicebetween Richard Nixon of the Navy and Dwight Eisenhower of the Army, theformer naval officer no doubt would go with the other branch.

Realistically and religiously, his vote will depend on which Christian andwhich "other" are running. "Christian nation" as a signal phrase is insiderjargon for people who consciously or unconsciously support a theocracy inwhich they get to be God's interpreters. A recent plague of authors writesthat the United States was founded by Christians to be a Christian nationand was one until the Supreme Court took God out of the Constitution. Theycite each other and bend, twist or ignore history as needed. The Jews,Muslims and atheists who reacted to Sen. McCain knew about that; Sen. McCainevidently didn't.

Early nonnative Americans were nominally Christian - Protestant, to beexact. That is true. That is also as far as it goes. When Catholics came indroves in the mid-19th century, they were greeted by the majority or adominant minority not as fellow Christians but as reprobate "papists."

The body of the Constitution does not have a mention of God, not even in thePreamble, where you might expect one. It refers to religion once - toprohibit any "religious test (requirement)" for public office. The Bill ofRights added a bar against Congress establishing a religion or interferingwith one. That's all the Constitution says on the subject.

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The Houston Chronicle


Sen. Craig's sordid saga

Oct. 7, 2007, 10:36PM
The Washington Post

The sordid saga of Larry Craig in the bathroom stall seems certain tocontinue, now that the Idaho Republican senator has reversed his decision toresign and said he will serve the remainder of his term. Craig's zigzagshave only added to the circus atmosphere: First he said he'd quit; then hesaid he'd remain if his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea succeeded;then - after a judge, as expected, rejected that move - he said he wasstaying put anyway. We suspect that many, if not most, of Craig'sconstituents would have preferred that he had stuck with Plan A. Certainly,his Republican Senate colleagues, who have enough trouble without having toendure bathroom jokes, are none too pleased.

All that said, this was Craig's call and he is entitled to make it. For thesame reasons that we had qualms about the basis for his prosecution, wethink demands that he leave or be ousted from the Senate are overblown andunwarranted. Craig's behavior in a Minneapolis airport restroom was almostcertainly the prelude to something criminal - not homosexual conduct but sexin a public place - but we are sympathetic to his argument that the balletof toe-tapping did not rise to the level of criminal disorderly conduct.

The Senate ethics committee will now have to deal with the case and considerwhether it warrants disciplinary action and, if so, of what magnitude. Thisis bound to be an uncomfortable process. The phone number of one of Craig'scolleagues, Louisiana Republican David Vitter, recently turned up in therecords of a woman accused of running a prostitution ring. Does the ethicscommittee really intend to scrutinize Craig's case while ignoring that ofVitter?


The New York Times

He Can Act, but Can He Debate? Untested Thompson Faces Rivals for First Time

October 8, 2007

In an unusual political season that seems to offer up a presidential debateevery week or so, the Republican debate tomorrow is expected to offersomething new: Fred D. Thompson.

Untested in debate against his opponents until now, Mr. Thompson, a lateentrant to the race, chose to skip the last contest in favor of announcinghis candidacy on "The Tonight Show" early last month - a decision for whichhe was roundly criticized.

Many have been wondering how Mr. Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee,will do. By his own admission he is "a bit rusty" when it comes to debating,and he has said he hopes he will be able to "hang in there" with the othercandidates, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the sharp-tongued former New Yorkmayor, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, who is knownfor his polished delivery.

A look at some of Mr. Thompson's debates years ago offers a mixed picture,with the candidate mostly projecting calm and confidence againstRepresentative Jim Cooper, his Democratic opponent for the Senate seat in1994.

Mr. Thompson's delivery back then was usually smooth and expressionless, nota monotone but not displaying much charisma, either. He sounded articulate,speaking in full, well-rounded sentences, but stopped short of eloquence.

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The Los Angeles Times,0,6398803.column?coll=la-util-opinion-commentary

A good citizenship quiz

The new exam will rightly emphasize ideas, not senseless regurgitation.
Gregory Rodriguez
October 8, 2007

Some immigrant rights activists are afraid that the new citizenship testunveiled by the government two weeks ago will create a new and higherbarrier for people who want to become Americans.

They're wrong. Far from being an exclusionary tool, the new test, which willbe given to legal resident aliens who apply for citizenship after Oct. 1,2008, is actually a rare mechanism for immigrant inclusion, the kind ourcountry needs more of.

It's true that, historically, whenever the government has introduced a newcitizenship exam, it has been responding to shifting national attitudestoward immigration. And the winds today for immigrants -- be they legal orillegal -- are not so friendly. What's more, this past July, the governmentraised the citizenship application fee from $400 to $675. That wasn'texactly a welcome wagon.

Despite expectations to the contrary, the U.S. Citizenship and ImmigrationServices lived up to its promise to create a new test that would promotedemocratic values and civic integration -- and wouldn't be any moredifficult than the old one. The new exam does more than simply measure one'sability to memorize facts. Instead of asking "What country did we fightduring the Revolutionary War?" for example, the new exam is more likely toask, "Why did the colonists fight the British?" It is more about conceptsthan facts, and it requires newcomers to learn about what it means to beAmerican, not simply how many stripes are on the flag or who wrote "TheStar-Spangled Banner."

A slew of man-on-the-street news stories over the last few weeks revealedthat plenty of native-born Americans (who are citizens by accident of birth)wouldn't be able to answer the new questions off the top of their head.Quick: What are two rights only for United States citizens? (Voting, runningfor office, carrying a U.S. passport, holding a federal job.) But that's ameaningless gauge of the test's difficulty because prospective citizens willbe able to study all 100 potential questions and acceptable answers beforetheir oral exam, during which they must answer six out of 10 correctly. Sofar, of the 6,000 applicants who volunteered to take the new test, 92.4%have passed -- higher than the overall 84% pass rate for the test we've beenusing since 1986.

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