Friday, November 02, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST November 2, 2007

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The New York Times

Prostates and Prejudices

November 2, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

"My chance of surviving prostate cancer - and thank God I was cured of it -in the United States? Eighty-two percent," says Rudy Giuliani in a new radioad attacking Democratic plans for universal health care. "My chances ofsurviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent, under socializedmedicine."

It would be a stunning comparison if it were true. But it isn't. And therebyhangs a tale - one of scare tactics, of the character of a man who would bepresident and, I'm sorry to say, about what's wrong with political newscoverage.

Let's start with the facts: Mr. Giuliani's claim is wrong on multiplelevels - bogus numbers wrapped in an invalid comparison embedded in a smear.

Mr. Giuliani got his numbers from a recent article in City Journal, apublication of the conservative Manhattan Institute. The author gave nosource for his numbers on five-year survival rates - the probability thatsomeone diagnosed with prostate cancer would still be alive five years afterthe diagnosis. And they're just wrong.

You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That stilllooks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to bemainly a statistical illusion. The details are technical, but the bottomline is that a man's chance of dying from prostate cancer is about the samein Britain as it is in America.

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The New York Times

Rules Lower Prison Terms in Sentences for Crack

November 2, 2007

Crack cocaine offenders will receive shorter prison sentences under morelenient federal sentencing guidelines that went into effect yesterday.

The United States Sentencing Commission, a government panel that recommendsappropriate federal prison terms, estimated that the new guidelines wouldreduce the federal prison population by 3,800 in 15 years.

The new guidelines will reduce the average sentence for crack cocainepossession to 8 years 10 months from 10 years 1 month. At a sentencingcommission hearing in Washington on Nov. 13, members will consider whetherto apply the guidelines retroactively to an estimated 19,500 crack cocaineoffenders who were sentenced under the earlier, stricter guidelines.

The changes to the original 1987 guidelines could also add impetus to threebills in the Senate, one sponsored by a Democrat and two by Republicans,that would reduce or eliminate mandatory minimums for simple drugpossession.

Department of Justice officials said yesterday that applying the newguidelines retroactively would erode federal drug enforcement efforts andundermine Congress's role in creating sentencing policy.

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The New York Times

Expecting Presidential Veto, Senate Passes Child Health Measure

November 2, 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 - Talks seeking a bipartisan compromise on healthinsurance for low-income children were cut short on Thursday, and the Senatethen swiftly passed a bill to provide coverage for 10 million youngsters,fully expecting President Bush to veto it.

The 64-to-30 vote, coming one week after the House approved the same bill,moves the legislation to Mr. Bush's desk. The bill differs slightly from onevetoed on Oct. 3, but it faces the same fate.

On Thursday, Senate Republican leaders objected to Democratic requests toallow more time for the bipartisan negotiations seeking a compromise. Thepurpose of the talks was to win over enough House Republicans to overridethe veto promised by the president.

In an interview, Representative Judy Biggert, Republican of Illinois, said,"The talks were making really good progress." But, she said, "everythingchanged" after the top two Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell of Kentuckyand Trent Lott of Mississippi, "objected to postponing a Senate vote" on thebill.

Seventeen Republican senators voted for the bill, but Mr. McConnell and Mr.Lott oted against it. Mr. Lott said the bill did not focus enough on "poorkids."

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The New York Times

Industries Paid for Top Regulators' Travel
Two Heads of Product Safety Agency Accepted Trips From Manufacturer Groups

By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 2, 2007; A01

The chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and her predecessor havetaken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children'sfurniture industries and others they regulate, according to internal recordsobtained by The Washington Post. Some of the trips were sponsored bylobbying groups and lawyers representing the makers of products linked toconsumer hazards.

The records document nearly 30 trips since 2002 by the agency's actingchairman, Nancy Nord, and the previous chairman, Hal Stratton, that werepaid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufacturers ofproducts ranging from space heaters to disinfectants. The airfares, hotelsand meals totaled nearly $60,000, and the destinations included China,Spain, San Francisco, New Orleans and a golf resort on Hilton Head Island,S.C.

Notable among the trips -- commonly described by officials as "gifttravel" -- was an 11-day visit to China and Hong Kong in 2004 by Stratton,then chairman. The $11,000 trip was paid for by the American FireworksStandards Laboratory, an industry group based in an office suite in Bethesdawhose only laboratories are in Asia.

The CPSC says that at the time, the group had no pending regulatoryrequests. But since then the fireworks group has urged the commission toadopt its safety standards, an idea that is still pending, according to anorganization newsletter.

Consumer groups and lawmakers intensified their criticism of the CPSC thissummer after several highly publicized recalls of Chinese-made toys thatcontained hazardous levels of lead. Critics have long charged that theagency has become too close to regulated industries, opting for "voluntary"standards and repeatedly choosing not to take legal action againstbusinesses that refuse to recall dangerous products.

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The New York Times

Issue of Illegal Immigration Is Quandary for Democrats
Many Voters Want a Tougher Stance Than Candidates Offer

By Perry Bacon Jr. and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 2, 2007; A04

Until Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidates had largelyignored the subject of illegal immigration. The topic, Democraticstrategists concluded, was fraught with too much potential for alienatinggeneral election voters.

But after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) struggled to answer aquestion during Tuesday's debate about whether she supports a proposal togive driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, the topic burst into theforefront of the primary campaign and exposed a quandary for Democraticcandidates, who broadly embrace immigrant-friendly policies.

While voters are in line with Democratic positions on issues such as Iraqand health care, immigration remains a thornier subject. Polls suggest thatmost Americans want to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country andcreate ways for them to obtain citizenship, but party strategists say thevoters who care most about this issue are those angry about illegalimmigration and want to hear a tougher message.

"The reality is that this is an issue where people support what Democratshave to say on a policy level, but Democrats do not reflect the emotionaltone and intensity of the electorate," said Mark Mellman, a Democraticstrategist.

Immigration, chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn said, is emerging as "a newwedge issue" for Republicans, who will attempt to use it to paint Democratsas weak on border security.

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The Washington Post

Mr. Mukasey and Torture
The Senate should confirm the former and ban the latter.

Friday, November 2, 2007; A20

IT IS EXTRAORDINARY that a man who rightly would have been confirmed withoverwhelming support had he been President Bush's first nominee for attorneygeneral may now be denied that post in the waning months of theadministration. Just as extraordinary is Mr. Bush's campaign to salvage thenomination of Michael B. Mukasey. Yesterday, in a rare Oval Office meetingwith reporters and later in a speech before the Heritage Foundation, Mr.Bush bemoaned the imperiled state of Mr. Mukasey's nomination without oneiota of self-awareness that the nomination is in trouble because of thepresident's own warped policies on torture.

Mr. Mukasey is being judged not on his merits but as a proxy for Mr. Bush.Yet critics of the nomination, while understandably disturbed by Mr.Mukasey's unwillingness to label waterboarding illegal, may be workingagainst the last, best hope to see the rule of law reemerge in thisadministration.

Mr. Mukasey's 172 pages of written responses to senators' questions leave nodoubt that he is a staunchly conservative lawyer. He believes the SecondAmendment bestows an individual right to bear arms. He recoils at the ideaof appointing a special prosecutor when, in his words, the "members of theDepartment have the integrity and ability to discharge whateverresponsibilities they may have." He embraces an expansive vision ofpresidential power that allows the president to ignore an "unconstitutionallaw" if it infringes on the powers of the executive.

This last view, when put into action by unqualified sycophants such asformer attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, leads to extreme and dangerouspower grabs, not to mention grotesque distortions of the law that producesuch results as the notorious 2002 "torture memo."

But there are key differences between Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Mukasey. Mr.Gonzales, whose confirmation we opposed, had a hand in crafting the policythat encouraged Mr. Bush to ignore U.S. law and treaty obligations ontorture prohibitions. Mr. Mukasey did not. Mr. Gonzales endorsed thego-it-alone approach that cut Congress out of a significant role inwarrantless surveillance and the creation of military tribunals. Whilejealously guarding the president's prerogatives, Mr. Mukasey seems tounderstand that the president's power is strengthened -- not diminished --when he acts in concert with Congress, and he has vowed to advocate such anapproach. Mr. Gonzales lacked the moral compass to challenge Mr. Bush andsome of his stronger-willed advisers. Mr. Mukasey has demonstrated theethical fortitude required of an independent attorney general.

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The Miami Herald

The noose -- a symbol of hatred -- reappears

Posted on Fri, Nov. 02, 2007

The man rushed over after church services one Sunday a few weeks ago to tellPastor Carl Brooks about the noose dangling from a pole on a quiet streetjust outside Punta Gorda.

Needing to see it for himself, Brooks drove by. The noose hung in the yardbeneath a Confederate flag, made pastel by the sun, and Brooks sat in hiscar recalling a lifetime of hurt. He remembered the 20-gauge shotgun pressedto the back of his head for using a whites-only toilet; the KKK flagburnings on both shoulders of a highway in North Carolina; all the slurs andtaunts.

The noose, an enduring symbol of hate born more than a century ago in theDeep South, has made an ugly return, with authorities pointing to a raciallyhued controversy in Jena, La., as the origin of this new wave.

''Just a reminder that racism is alive and doing well,'' Brooks, a formerMarine, says resignedly. ``There's no mistaking what a noose means.''

Civil rights leaders in Miami-Dade County called for an investigationThursday of a noose found last month at a county facility.

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The Miami Herald

Poll: Most OK birth control for schools

Posted on Thu, Nov. 01, 2007

People decisively favor letting their public schools provide birth controlto students, but they also voice misgivings that divide them alonggenerational, income and racial lines, a poll showed.

Sixty-seven percent support giving contraceptives to students, according toan Associated Press-Ipsos poll. About as many - 62 percent - said theybelieve providing birth control reduces the number of teenage pregnancies.

"Kids are kids," said Danielle Kessenger, 39, a mother of three youngchildren from Jacksonville, Fla., who supports providing contraceptives tothose who request them. "I was a teenager once and parents don't knoweverything, though we think we do."

Yet most who support schools distributing contraceptives prefer that they goto children whose parents have consented. People are also closely dividedover whether sex education and birth control are more effective thanstressing morality and abstinence, and whether giving contraceptives toteenagers encourages them to have sexual intercourse.

"It's not the school's place to be parents," said Robert Shaw, 53, atelecommunications company manager from Duncanville, Texas. "For a school toprovide birth control, it's almost like the school saying, 'You should goout and have sex.'"

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Los Angeles Times,1,507206.story?coll=la-headlines-technology&track=crosspromo

U.S. looks to move from Internet slow lane

From the Associated Press
November 1, 2007

NEW YORK - The United States is starting to look like a slowpoke on theInternet. Examples abound of countries that have faster and cheaperbroadband connections, and more of their population connected to them.

What's less clear is how badly the country that gave birth to the Internetis doing, and whether the government needs to step in and do something aboutit. The Bush administration has tried to foster broadband adoption with ahands-off approach. If that's seen as a failure by the next administration,the policy may change.

In a move to get a clearer picture of where the U.S. stands, the HouseEnergy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that woulddevelop an annual inventory of existing broadband services -- including thetypes, advertised speeds and actual number of subscribers -- available tohouseholds and businesses across the nation.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), is intended toprovide policymakers with improved data so they can better use grants andsubsidies to target areas lacking high-speed Internet access. Markey saidpromoting broadband would help spur job growth and access to healthcare andeducation as well as promote innovation, among other benefits.

The inventory wouldn't cover other countries, but a cursory look showed theU.S. lagging behind at least some of them. In South Korea, for instance, theaverage apartment can get an Internet connection that's 15 times faster thana typical U.S. connection. In Paris, a "triple play" of TV, phone andbroadband service costs less than half the U.S. price.

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Houston Chronicle

Karen Hughes leaving government post - again

Associated Press
Oct. 31, 2007, 7:21PM

WASHINGTON - Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroadand was one of President Bush's last remaining advisers from the closecircle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year, shetold The Associated Press.

Hughes said she plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and returnto Texas, although improving the world's view of the United States is a"long-term challenge" that will outlast her.

"This will take a number of years," Hughes said in an interview to announceher departure. She was informing her staff of her decision this morning andSecretary of State Condoleezza Rice was announcing it.

Bush had picked Hughes two years ago to retool the way the United Statessells its policies, ideals and views overseas. A former television reporterand media adviser, Hughes' focus has been to change the way the UnitedStates engages and responds to criticism or misinformation in the Muslimworld.

"Negative events never help," Hughes said when asked how events like lastmonth's shooting of Iraqi civilians by private U.S. security guards in Iraqaffects the way the world sees the United States.

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