Thursday, November 15, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST November 15, 2007

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50 Days Out: GOP Race Continues to Confound

Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 11/15/2007

Fifty days before the Iowa caucuses, the Republican presidential raceremains remarkably wide open, with none of the candidates able to break fromthe pack.

In contrast to George W. Bush's relentless march to his party's nominationin 2000, Republican candidates and campaign operatives express amazement atthe volatility of the GOP field and say the contest is more wide open thanat any time in memory. While there is no shortage of prominent names in therace, none has been able to unify the core of party regulars.

"We've never seen it where the party has been so strong in terms of numbersand potential but deflated in terms of vision and leadership," said JohnMcLaughlin, who is handling polling for former Sen. Fred Thompson's (Tenn.)presidential campaign.

McLaughlin's words were echoed in a number of conversations with topadvisers to the leading GOP presidential candidates and discussions withoperatives who are currently unaffiliated with a campaign. While it's clearthat the two co-frontrunners in the race are former New York City Mayor RudyGiuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, at least five men have aviable path to the nomination: Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, former ArkansasGov. Mike Huckabee and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

That fluidity stems from a number of factors, but two stand out -- majorflaws in the political makeup of the frontrunners and the fact that each ofthe early states has a different cast of frontrunners.

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American Family Association

AFA ActionAlert - Please forward this email to your Friends and Family!

Hotels replace Gideon Bibles with "sex kits"

Now is the time to let the motel chains know that you want them to keep theGideon Bibles

The latest fad with some hotels is to replace their Bibles with "intimancykits." For instance, at New York City's trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests canenjoy a gourmet mini-bar, an iPod, a flat-screen TV and even the company ofa complimentary pet goldfish. But no Bible.

Parent company Accor Hotels decided to replace the Gideon Bibles with"intimacy kits." For Accor, providing travelers with sexual paraphernalia ismore important than the Bible. Accor Hotels owns several chains including:Motel 6, Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, Ibis, All Seasons,Etap, Formule 1. While these chains are mostly located in Europe, Accor isexpanding to many U.S. markets.

Since 2001, the number of luxury hotels with Bibles in the rooms has droppedby 18 percent. The same companies that own these luxury hotels also own someof the typical hotels and motels you and I might use. For example, AccorHotels owns Motel 6. Without action now, it is simply a matter of timebefore other chains remove the Bibles.


The New York Times

Scientists Use Monkey Clones to Extract Stem Cells

November 15, 2007

Researchers in Oregon are reporting that they used cloning to produce monkeyembryos and then extracted stem cells from the embryos.

Not only is this the first time such cells have been produced in any animalother than a mouse, but the method, the researchers say, should also work inhumans. In 2004, South Korean researchers reported making stem cells fromcloned human embryos, but the claim turned out fraudulent.

"We hope the technology will be useful for other labs that are working onhuman eggs and human cells," the lead researcher of the group, ShoukhratMitalipov at Oregon Health and Science University in Beaverton, said in atelephone interview. "I am quite sure it will work in humans."

The monkey stem cells were genetically identical to an adult monkey, Semos,whose cells were cloned. They are a sort of universal cell that can, intheory, develop into any tissue or organ.

Medical researchers and patient advocacy groups have long hoped to use humanembryonic stem cells to study diseases and supply replacement cells to treatthem. So far, though, stem cell research has not yielded cures, and manyobstacles lie ahead.

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The New York Times

African Crucible: Cast as Witches, Then Cast Out

November 15, 2007

UIGE, Angola - Domingos Pedro was only 12 years old when his father died.The passing was sudden; the cause was a mystery to doctors. But not toDomingos's relatives.

They gathered that afternoon in Domingos's mud-clay house, he said, seizedhim and bound his legs with rope. They tossed the rope over the house'srafters and hoisted him up until he was suspended headfirst over the harddirt floor. Then they told him they would cut the rope if he did not confessto murdering his father.

"They were yelling, 'Witch! Witch!'" Domingos recalled, tears rolling downhis face. "There were so many people all shouting at me at the same time."

Terrified, Domingos told them what they wanted to hear, but his relativeswere not appeased. Ferraz Bulio, the neighborhood's traditional leader, saidseven or eight captors were dragging Domingos down a dirt path to the river,apparently to drown him, when he intervened.

"They were slapping him and punching him," he said. "This is the way peoplereact toward someone accused of witchcraft. There are lots of such cases."

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The New York Times

Britain May Allow Extradition of Cleric

November 15, 2007
Filed at 6:52 a.m. ET

LONDON (AP) -- Radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri can be extradited to theUnited States to face trial on charges of supporting terrorism, a Britishcourt ruled Thursday.

Al-Masri has been charged with trying to establish a terrorist training campin Oregon, conspiring to take hostages in Yemen and facilitating terroristtraining in Afghanistan.

He is already serving a seven-year sentence in Britain for fomenting racialhatred and urging his followers to kill non-Muslims.

Senior District Judge Timothy Workman, presiding at City of WestminsterMagistrates Court, said the case would now be referred to Home SecretaryJacqui Smith for a final decision.

Al-Masri, who lost both arms below the elbows and an eye fighting the ovietoccupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was arrested on a U.S. xtraditionwarrant in May 2004, but the process was put on hold while he stood trial inBritain and then appealed his convictions.

In January, the House of Lords denied al-Masri permission to make furtherappeals, clearing the way for extradition proceedings.


The New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist
What Happens in Vegas ...

November 15, 2007

I'm sure you are excited about the big presidential candidate debatetonight. Nothing in the previous 25 dramatic clashes of the political titansthis season can come close to it. Although we did like that moment whenDennis Kucinich revealed that he had spied a U.F.O. at Shirley MacLaine'shouse.

This time, it's the Democrats - and Hillary Against the World! Everybody istalking about how, as Bill Clinton himself said last week: "Those boys havebeen getting tough on her lately." Two thoughts on that matter.

1) Who do you expect them to pile on? Mike Gravel?

2) We have never had anything approaching a female presidential front-runnerbefore. For much of our history, women were prohibited from even speaking inpublic. The first woman to run for president in this country, VictoriaWoodhull, almost got castrated for her uppityness. The first woman to runfor a major political party presidential nomination, Senator Margaret ChaseSmith of Maine, was reduced to handing out her muffin recipe in NewHampshire.

All of which is to say that Clinton doesn't deserve any special sympathy asthe political alpha dogs come after her, but give us a minute to adjusthere, will you?

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The New York Times

100-to-1 Rule

November 15, 2007

Congress did a serious injustice when it imposed much tougher penalties ondefendants convicted of selling the crack form of cocaine - the kind mostoften used in impoverished, minority communities - than on those caughtselling the powdered form of the drug that is popular with more upscaleusers.

In what's known as the 100-to-1 rule, federal law mandates a 10-yearsentence for anyone caught with 50 grams of crack, about the weight of acandy bar. To get a comparable sentence, a dealer selling powdered cocainewould have to be caught with 5,000 grams, enough to fill a briefcase.

The federal crack statute was passed during the height of the so-calledcrack epidemic of the 1980s, when it was widely, but mistakenly, believedthat the crack form of the drug was more dangerous than the chemicallyidentical powdered form. Congress compounded the inequity by making crackcocaine the only drug that carries a mandatory minimum sentence forpossession, even for first-time offenders. Laws that were supposed to focusfederal efforts on locking up drug kingpins have swamped federal courts withsmall-time cases, many involving couriers and street-corner sellers.

The United States Sentencing Commission, the bipartisan body that setsguidelines for federal prison sentences, urged Congress to eliminate thesentencing disparity more than a decade ago. The commission recentlyestablished new guidelines that would provide more lenient sentencing forcrack offenses.

Only Congress can fix this problem, and fortunately lawmakers on both sidesof the aisle are finally recognizing that the crack laws are both grosslyunfair and counterproductive. Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, issponsoring a comprehensive bill that would wipe out the 100-to-1 disparity,do away with the mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenders andopen up new treatment programs. It would restore fairness to the sentencingprocess. It would also take the federal focus off small-time users and placeit on the drug kingpins, which is where it belongs.


The New York Times

Challenges Awaiting, Mukasey Takes Ceremonial Oath

November 15, 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 - In taking a ceremonial oath of office as the 81stattorney general of the United States, Michael B. Mukasey made no referenceat all Wednesday to the trouble he faces in assuming control of the JusticeDepartment for the last 14 months of the Bush administration.

He instead praised his new colleagues for the "great work that each of you,and all of you, were doing before I showed up here."

President Bush, in his own remarks at the ceremony, also said nothing aboutturmoil at the department, instead saluting Mr. Mukasey as an "outstandinglawyer and a fine leader" and saying he followed "in the footsteps of a fineman and a fine American, Al Gonzales."

But while Mr. Mukasey may not say so publicly, he has privately told hissupporters on Capitol Hill and elsewhere that he is fully aware thedepartment lost much of its credibility, both in legal circles and with thepublic, during Mr. Gonzales's tenure.

Mr. Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, is almost certain to beasked to make critical decisions soon on some of the most important legalissues facing the administration, including the harsh interrogation methodsused on some terrorist prisoners. It was Mr. Mukasey's unwillingness toanswer some questions about those techniques that nearly derailed hisnomination.

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The Washington Post

Bomb Parts Clear Air Security in Tests
GAO Report Puts TSA on the Defensive

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007; A01

Undercover investigators carried all the bomb components needed to cause"severe damage" to airliners and passengers through U.S. airport screeningcheckpoints several times this year, despite security measures adopted inAugust 2006 to stop such explosive devices, according to a new governmentreport.

Agents were able to smuggle aboard a detonator, liquid explosives and liquidincendiary components costing less than $150, even though screening officersin most cases appeared to follow proper procedures and use appropriatescreening technology, according to an unclassified version of a report bythe Government Accountability Office, Congress's audit arm.

The report concludes that the Transportation Security Administration needsto adopt even more stringent security measures, despite "a significantchallenge in balancing security concerns with efficient passenger movement."

The report provoked sharp criticism of the TSA from members of Congress justdays before the start of an expected record Thanksgiving holiday travelweek. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which requestedthe investigation, plans a hearing on the subject this morning.

"These findings are mind-boggling," said the committee chairman, Henry A.Waxman (D-Calif.). "In spite of billions of dollars and the six years TSAhas had to deploy new technology and procedures, our airlines remainvulnerable. This is unacceptable. The American public deserves better."

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The Washington Post

Clinton's Rivals Adopt More Partisan Approach

By Alec MacGillis and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 15, 2007; A06

Sen. Barack Obama began his campaign with calls for a less divisive kind ofpolitics, but now he sounds a more partisan tone. John Edwards, afterbuilding a campaign in part around ending poverty, has begun to lacerateSen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the perpetuator of a corrupt status quo inWashington.

As Clinton (N.Y.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidentialnomination, seeks to solidify her position atop the race, her main rivalsare reshaping the arguments for their candidacies and sparking a broaderdebate about the future of their party.

The shift has been most noticeable for Obama. While still talking about theneed for bipartisan consensus, he is putting himself forward as a forcefulstandard-bearer for Democrats and is suggesting that Clinton is toodefensive at a time when the party's prospects are on the rise.

"I'm so sick and tired of the Democratic Party being scared with what theRepublicans are going to do. And so we end up trying to act and couch whatwe say to make sure that we're seen as tough, not vulnerable to all theSwift-boating," Obama (Ill.) told voters last week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Headded: "I'm not afraid of these folks."

Edwards, meanwhile, is going further than before in casting his candidacy inopposition to a Washington he says Clinton personifies. On a recent swingthrough Iowa, the former senator from North Carolina did not mention theword "poverty" in several speeches, but he listed the industries from whichClinton had taken more money than any other candidate in either party.

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The Washington Post

The Icebergs Ahead For the Democrats

By David S. Broder
Thursday, November 15, 2007; A25

As the Democratic presidential race finally gets down to brass tacks, twoissues are becoming paramount. But only one of them is clearly on the table.

That is the issue of illegal immigration. A very smart Democrat, a veteranof the Clinton administration, told me that he expects it to be a key partof any Republican campaign and that he is worried about his party's abilityto respond.

I think he has good reason to worry. The failure of the Democratic Congress,like its Republican predecessor, to enact comprehensive immigration reform,including improved border security, has left individual states and localcommunities to struggle with the problem. Some are showing a high degree oftolerance and flexibility. Others are being more punitive. But all of themare running into controversy.

I noticed a new Siena College Research Institute poll of registered votersin New York. It found heavy opposition to Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposal topermit undocumented aliens to obtain driver's licenses; nearly two-thirdsopposed the latest version.

Moreover, the issue is part of a weakening of support for Spitzer, who nowhas an almost 2-to-1 negative job rating and, for the first time, anunfavorable image overall. Asked if they are inclined to support him forreelection in 2010, only 25 percent said yes, while 49 percent said theywould prefer an anonymous "someone else." It was just last year that Spitzerwas elected in a landslide. Spitzer announced yesterday that he wasabandoning the driver's license idea.

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The Washington Post

Front-Runners Who Can Still Be Tackled

By George F. Will
Thursday, November 15, 2007; A25

Americans say they are weary of political polarization and pugnacity. If so,the current situation in presidential politics is unstable: The leadingDemocratic and Republican candidates, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, arethe most polarizing and pugnacious candidates, respectively. Hence BarackObama and Mitt Romney might be stronger than national polls suggest.

James Carville, political consultant and aphorist, says: Nothing validates acandidate to voters as much as other voters. If Romney wins Iowa and NewHampshire -- no Republican has ever won both -- and then Michigan, where hisfather was governor, he will reach South Carolina very validated indeed.

Giuliani has a double-digit lead in Florida, but if he wins the nominationafter starting the delegate selection events 0-4, he will do something notdone since prehistoric times. In 1952, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson wasnominated by bosses, an extinct species, who would not countenance thecandidacy of Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver. The New York Times of May 11,1952, proclaimed: "Kefauver Wins Votes But Not Party Leaders."

Kefauver had won every primary except Florida's, where he narrowly lost notto Stevenson but to Georgia Sen. Richard Russell.

Giuliani's strategy might be shrewd. Before Florida votes on Jan. 29, only154 delegates will have been chosen. Florida, where Giuliani leads by 17points, will allocate 57. Seven days later, 20 states vote, includingCalifornia (173 delegates), where Giuliani has another double-digit lead.Romney's campaign serenely notes that in 2004, when John Kerry won Iowa andNew Hampshire, he shot from about 9 percent to 52 percent among Democrats.That is validation.

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The Washington Post

Simpson Ordered to Stand Trial In Nevada
Required Evidence Is Met, Judge Rules

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007; A12

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 14 -- O.J. Simpson must be tried for kidnapping and armedrobbery for his role in a Sept. 13 confrontation in a Las Vegas hotel room,a Nevada judge ruled on Wednesday, binding over the former NFL star oncharges that could send him to prison for life a dozen years after escapingconviction in a celebrated murder case.

Judge Joe M. Bonaventure said prosecutors had presented far more than the"scintilla of evidence" required to put the case against Simpson and twoco-defendants before a jury.

"The defenses raised cannot be considered by this court," Bonaventure said."The state has met the burden as to the kidnapping charges. Similarly as tothe robbery charges."

Simpson was ordered to appear at an arraignment on 12 charges on Nov. 28,along with Charles Ehrlich and Clarence Stewart, two of the five men hebrought into Room 1203 of the Palace Station Hotel and Casino to recoverfootballs, photographs and other memorabilia that Simpson said had beenstolen from him.

"This is something that was totally expected by us," Simpson attorney YaleGalanter said after the hearing, noting the very low standard required at apreliminary hearing. "If there were a jury seated now, my client would be onhis way home."

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To Form a More Perfect Union: Marriage Equality News

Information, news, and discussion about the legal recognition of same-sexcouples and their families, including marriages, domestic partnerships,civil unions, adoptions, foster children and similar issues.

Go to the website, above, for the following articles:

Toledo City Council has approved an ordinance making Toledo the first largecity in Ohio to offer gay and other unmarried couples the opportunity toregister their relationship with city hall.Under the ordinance approved lateTuesday, couples who cannot or don't want to marry can register their"domestic partnership" with the clerk of city council.The purpose of theregistry is to create a centralized process that employers can use to verifyrelationships when they offer benefits that typically are offered forspouses and dependents.

A long-running legal dispute about the constitutionality of same-sexmarriages in California came a step closer today to an expected finalresolution by the state Supreme Court sometime next year. Today was thedeadline for filing the final round of written briefs with the high court inSan Francisco. Court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said that step now clears theway for the next stage of the case, a hearing on oral arguments by lawyersfor groups supporting and opposing same-sex marriage. The court has not yetscheduled the hearing, but Holton said it is expected to take place "withina few months." After the hearing, the panel's seven members will have threemonths to issue a written decision.

This August marked the fifth anniversary of The New York Times opening itsweddings and celebrations pages to gay and lesbian couples. When the Gay &Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) first approached the Times inJuly 2002, only 27 states had a newspaper with an inclusive announcementpolicy. Following on its success in changing the policy at the Times, GLAADlaunched its Announcing Equality campaign to convince other papers to followsuit and to encourage gay and lesbian couples to announce their equality bysubmitting their wedding announcements. Today, every state in the union andWashington, D.C., has at least one paper with an inclusive policy for theirweddings and celebrations pages -- for a combined national circulation ofover 37 million in nearly 900 outlets, reaching almost 75 percent of totalnewspaper readers.


Detroit News

Decision 2008
Dems await vote ruling: Party members to cast ballot if Jan. 15 primary is

Gordon Trowbridge and Charlie Cain / The Detroit News
Thursday, November 15, 2007

Michigan Democrats said Wednesday they will participate in the state's Jan.15 presidential primary -- if the election is ever held.

State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer made the commitment in a letterto Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. But he attached conditions: Brewersaid Democrats would vote on Jan. 15 if a court ruling that deemed theprimary law unconstitutional is overturned, and he wrote that the commitmentdoes not waive the party's "state and federal constitutional rights" -- aphrase that could be read as an out-clause.

"It sounds as though there's an additional line to try to preserve somerights beyond the deadline. And who knows exactly what that means," said W.Alan Wilk, a partner at Lansing's Dykema law firm who specializes inelection law.

Some state Democrats have suggested they should opt out of the primary andhold party caucuses, perhaps on whatever date New Hampshire sets for itsprimary. Brewer and national Democratic Chairman Howard Dean have said theyare discussing a settlement that could avoid penalties for Michigan's earlycontest.

The filing came as the state Court of Appeals ruled it would hear argumentstoday in the lawsuit that has threatened to upend the primary, Michigan'sattempt to gain clout in the 2008 presidential race.

Wednesday's letter was delivered on the last day the parties were allowedunder the state's new primary law to opt out of the Jan. 15 contest. Thoughthey weren't required to formally signal their plans to participate, Landhad asked the parties to file letters of intent to pass along to the courtsas they hear arguments in the legal dispute. Republicans filed a similarletter Tuesday.

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Los Angeles Times,1,1071959.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

Evangelical flocks on their own at the polls

Conservative Christian leaders are increasingly reluctant to get political,leaving a key Republican voting bloc divided. The trend may help Giulianibut hurt the GOP in the long term.

By Stephanie Simon and Mark Z. Barabak
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
November 15, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. - A fundamental shift is transforming the religiousright, long a force in presidential politics, as aging evangelical leaderssplit on the 2008 race and a new generation of pastors turns away frompolitics altogether.

The result, in the short term, could be a boost for the centrist candidacyof former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, whose messy personal lifeand support for gay rights and legal abortion have not produced the unifiedopposition from Christian conservatives that many anticipated.

Over the longer term, the distancing of religious leaders from politicscould prove even more consequential, denying the GOP one of the essentialbuilding blocks it has used to capture the White House in five of the lastseven presidential races.

The shift is evident in this Rocky Mountain community at the heart of theevangelical movement.

"As far as me standing in the pulpit holding a voter guide, that's not goingto happen," said the Rev. Brady Boyd, 40, who leads a congregation of 10,000at New Life Church. He will use his position to teach the Bible tobelievers. "I won't use it to influence their vote," he said.

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