Thursday, November 08, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST November 8, 2007

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In a Surprise, Pat Robertson Backs Giuliani

November 8, 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - They could compete for strangest bedfellows of 2008.

Rudolph W. Giuliani is a supporter of gay and abortion rights who isbuilding his Republican primary campaign around his response to theterrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Pat Robertson, the Christian conservative broadcaster, once saidpermissiveness toward homosexuality and abortion led to God's "lifting hisprotection" to allow those attacks.

But there they were Wednesday morning, Mr. Robertson endorsing Mr. Giuliani,the former mayor of New York City, as "an acceptable" Republican "who canwin the general election."

It was the latest manifestation of the deep divide in the Christianconservative movement over how to balance politics and principle in thecoming era after President Bush, who once so deftly brought it all together.

Many former Christian conservative allies dismissed the endorsement as aninexplicable stunt. They noted that Mr. Robertson, 77, had lost much of hisinfluence since the heady days of his second-place finish in the Iowacaucuses 20 years ago when he ran for the Republican presidentialnomination.

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Oxford Union urged to drop Nick Griffin and David Irving

Free speech does not require the promotion of hate-mongers

Oxford - England, UK - 8 November 2007

Despite being deluged with protests, the Oxford Union has reiteratedits decision to go ahead with a free speech debate headlined by NickGriffin, leader of the far right British National Party, and Holocaustrevisionist historian, David Irving, on 26 November.

Peter Tatchell, the Green Party candidate for Oxford East, has writtento the Oxford Union President, Luke Tryl, urging him to withdraw theinvitation to Nick Griffin and David Irving.

Here is the text of Mr Tatchell's letter to the President of the Oxford Union:

Dear Luke Tryl,

I am surprised and saddened that the Oxford Union has reiterated itsmisguided decision to go ahead with a free speech debate featuringNick Griffin, leader of the neo-fascist British National Party, andHolocaust-denying historian, David Irving.

Nick Griffin is the head of a far right party that has a history ofpromoting racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and prejudice againstMuslims. He has a conviction for inciting racial hatred. (1)

David Irving was branded by a British judge in 2006 as 'a racist, ananti-Semite and an active Holocaust denier.' (2)

Support for free speech does not oblige the Oxford Union or any otherinstitution to reward these men with a prestigious public platform,which will give them an air of respectability and allow them toespouse their intolerant views.

Not offering them a platform at the Oxford Union is not aninfringement of their right to free speech. Lots of people never getinvited to speak in your debating chamber. They are not beingcensored.

Nick Griffin and David Irving still have the freedom to espouse theirviews at any public meeting they wish to organise, or in any leafletthey wish to print.

I do not agree that any institution is required, in the name of freespeech, to proactively promote the purveyors of prejudice. Notoffering hate-mongers a platform is not the same as banning them.

The invitations to Griffin and Irving should be withdrawn andalternative non-bigoted speakers invited to discuss what, if any,limitations should be placed on freedom of expression.

Free speech is an important human rights issue that should not becheapened by the sensationalism of parading of pair of right-wingextremists in the chamber of the Oxford Union.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell
Human rights campaigner
Green Party candidate for Oxford East


Pat Loves Rudy

Op-Ed Columnist
November 8, 2007

Back in mid-2001, when Mayor Rudy Giuliani was busy committing adultery,lurching into his divorce and third marriage and rooming with a gay couplehe promised to marry as soon as the law allowed, who among us would haveimagined that one day he would be endorsed for president by Pat Robertson?

Truly, Sept. 11 changed everything.

Actually, Robertson, the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, hashad peculiar positions on the terror attack. He once said it was nowherenear as big a deal as the problem of judicial activism, and on anotheroccasion he explained that the destruction of the World Trade Center was God's punishment for abortion and "rampant secularism" on television. It's hard tounderstand what drew the two men together. Rudy has hedged his positions onquite a few issues lately - but he has yet to suggest that New York had itcoming.

It's been quite a busy time for Giuliani, who recently tried to establishhimself as the toughest dude on the anti-terror block by making fun oftorture victims, drawing the wrath of John (Actually Tortured) McCain. Letit be known that nothing, including the extensive evidence that prisonersbeing tortured confess to things that aren't true, is going to stop aPresident Giuliani from wringing every last drop of inaccurate informationout of the evildoers.

"They talk about sleep deprivation. I mean on that theory, I'm gettingtortured running for president of the United States. That's plain silly," hesaid at a town hall meeting in Iowa. You would really think after all thetrouble Mitt Romney got for equating life in the Mitt Mobile with service inIraq, people would be a little careful about comparing the perils of thecampaign trail with military service. It also gave McCain the opportunity toremind the nation that Rudy got a deferral from serving in Vietnam byconvincing his boss, a federal judge, to pull strings and have him declaredan "essential" civilian employee for his critical work as a law clerk.

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AIDS Vaccine Doesn't Guard Against Virus

Filed at 12:26 a.m. ET
November 8, 2007

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- New data on an experimental AIDS vaccine that failedto work shows volunteers who got the shots were far more likely to getinfected with the virus through sex or other risky behavior than those whogot dummy shots.

The new details, released Wednesday by drugmaker Merck & Co., don't answerthe crucial question of whether failure of the vaccine also spells doom formany similar AIDS vaccines now in testing.

And researchers weren't sure why more of the vaccinated volunteers wound upgetting HIV than those who got dummy shots.

''One of the possibilities is that the increase in the number of infectionswas related to the vaccine,'' meaning it could have made people moresusceptible to HIV infection, said Dr. Keith Gottesdiener, vice president ofclinical research at Merck Research Laboratories. He couldn't say how likelythat was but said other factors, even coincidence, could be the explanation.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., announced on Sept. 21 that it wasstopping the study because the vaccine didn't work. It was a stunningsetback in the push to develop an AIDS vaccine.

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House Approves Broad Protections for Gay Workers

November 8, 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - The House on Wednesday approved a bill granting broadprotections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbiansand bisexuals, a measure that supporters praised as the most important civilrights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 butthat opponents said would result in unnecessary lawsuits.

The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, is the latest version oflegislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974. Representatives EdwardI. Koch and Bella Abzug of New York then sought to protect gay men andlesbians with a measure they introduced on the fifth anniversary of theStonewall Rebellion, the brawl between gay men and police officers at a barin Greenwich Village that is widely viewed as the start of the American gayrights movement.

"On this proud day of the 110th Congress, we will chart a new direction forcivil rights," said Representative Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat and agay rights advocate, in a speech before the vote. "On this proud day, theCongress will act to ensure that all Americans are granted equal rights inthe work place."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and a longtime supporterof gay rights legislation, said he would move swiftly to introduce a similarmeasure in the Senate. Some Senate Republicans said that, if wordedcarefully, it would have a good chance of passing, perhaps early next year.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has said that she would be thelead co-sponsor of the Senate bill. Ms. Collins, in a statement, said thatthe House vote "provides important momentum" and that "there is growingsupport in the Senate for strengthening federal laws to protect Americanworkers from discrimination based on sexual orientation."

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Reuters Politics Summary

Thursday, November 8, 2007; 5:58 AM

Lawmakers vote to protect gay, lesbian workers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic-led House of Representatives onWednesday defied a White House veto threat and voted to protect millions ofAmericans by outlawing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation."This is truly a historic day," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a CaliforniaDemocrat, told her colleagues. "Discrimination has no place in America."

Clinton, Giuliani in dead heat in 2008 race: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton still holds a 20-pointlead over her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination but she andRepublican front-runner Rudy Giuliani are in a dead heat, according to anNBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday. Among Democrats,Clinton leads with 47 percent, followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at 25percent and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 11 percent, NBCreported.

Clinton candidacy sparks women's interest: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most American women remain uncommitted on a choice of apresidential candidate, but nearly one in four say they are more interestedin the 2008 race than usual because a woman is running, a poll said onWednesday. One in four was more likely to vote because Sen. Hillary Clintonis in the contest, said the survey of more than 1,000 women for LifetimeNetwork, a cable network with programming aimed at women.

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A Major Abortion Blunder

By Robert D. Novak
Thursday, November 8, 2007; A27

Fred Thompson was well into a prolonged dialogue about abortion on NBC's"Meet the Press" on Sunday when he said something that stunned socialconservatives: "I do not think it is a wise thing to criminalize young girlsand perhaps their parents as aiders and abettors." He then went further:"You can't have a [federal] law" that "would take young, young girls . . .and say, basically, we're going to put them in jail."

Those comments sent e-mails flying across the country, reflectingastonishment and rage from pro-life Republicans who had turned to Thompsonas their best presidential bet for 2008. No serious antiabortion legislationever has included criminal penalties against women who have abortions, muchless their parents. Jailing women is a spurious issue raised by abortionrights activists. Interviewer Tim Russert did not bring it up in hisquestioning. What Thompson said could be expected from NARAL Pro-ChoiceAmerica.

Thompson's comments revealed an astounding lack of sensitivity aboutabortion. He surely anticipated that Russert would cite his record favoringstates' rights on abortion. Whether the candidate just blurted out hisstatement or had planned it, it suggested a failure to realize how much hischances for the Republican nomination depend on social conservatives.

Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee, was working as a television actoron March 11 when on "Fox News Sunday" he hinted at a run for president. Istarted to take him seriously a month later when a religious conservativeactivist (we'll call her Miss Jones; she works for a nonpartisanorganization) surprised me by saying that she favored Thompson to fill avoid among the announced hopefuls. She told me that no first-tiercandidate -- not Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney or John McCain-- fit her modeland that the overt social conservatives in the race -- Mike Huckabee and SamBrownback -- could not win the nomination.

In April, I encountered broad support for Thompson among socialconservatives, who were impressed by his 100 percent pro-life voting recordin the Senate and found fault only with his support for the McCain-Feingoldcampaign finance bill. As of Sunday, Thompson was still leading in polls ofconservatives by Human Events and American Values.

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For Candidates, Web Is Power And Poison
Clinton, in Particular, Draws Equal Parts Cash and Vitriol

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 8, 2007; A01

Candidates use the Internet to generate buzz, draw grass-roots support andraise record amounts of money. But in the intense, round-the-clock world ofonline presidential campaigning, the good comes with the bad.

"The pool of negativity is much bigger, and it spreads virally," said MindyFinn, chief online strategist for former Massachusetts governor MittRomney's Republican presidential campaign. "The Web can be hateful."

Just ask Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Sites such as and, funded by conservativeswho have followed her political career since the 1990s, are easilysearchable on Google. Unflattering online videos, including the "mash-up"page that portrayed the Democratic front-runner as an Orwellian Big Brother,are heavily viewed on YouTube. And Facebook, the online sociopolitical hubof the moment, is the unofficial capital of anti-Clinton country: One group,Stop Hillary Clinton, has more than half a million members, compared withthe nearly 51,000 who have signed up as supporters on her Facebook profile.It's the largest group on Facebook against a candidate.

In many ways, the Web is more effective than television advertising anddirect mail, the traditional methods campaigns and independent groups haveused to try to define their opponents, political analysts say. It's cheaper,and it spreads information more quickly. But so far, anyway, its potentialfor affecting a presidential campaign is relatively untested.

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House Passes Ban on Job Bias Against Gays

Thursday, November 8, 2007; A07

The House yesterday approved the first federal ban on job discriminationagainst gay men, lesbians and bisexuals.

Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act came despite protests fromsome gay rights supporters that the bill does not protect transgenderworkers. That term covers transsexuals, cross-dressers and others whoseoutward appearance does not match their sex at birth.

The measure would make it illegal for employers to make decisions abouthiring, firing, promoting or paying an employee based on sexual orientation.It would exempt churches and the military.

After the 235 to 1 84 vote, supporters are expecting a tough fight in thenarrowly divided Senate, where Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) plans tointroduce a similar version.

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Field divides Christian conservatives

The Associated Press
November 8, 2007


The splintering of prominent Christian conservatives over the Republicanpresidential contenders reflects a schism - among the dogma of God, guns andgays and the desire to beat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Months of disagreement in this important Republican voting bloc culminatedthis week in a flurry of endorsements:

Televangelist Pat Robertson is backing Rudy Giuliani. Conservative Sen. SamBrownback of Kansas is supporting fellow Sen. John McCain of Arizona. MoralMajority co-founder Paul Weyrich is going for Mitt Romney.

All the candidates are flawed in the eyes of the Christian right, which iswhy some evangelical leaders are holding out and might favor a third-partycandidate.

"You've got a wide-open primary, and you have various people who areideologically acceptable - not perfect, but ideologically acceptable,"Brownback said.

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House approves work protections for gays, lesbians

The Associated Press
November 8, 2007


The House on Wednesday approved the first federal ban on job discriminationagainst gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act came despite protests fromsome gay rights supporters that the bill does not protect transgenderworkers. That term covers transsexuals, cross-dressers and others whoseoutward appearance does not match their gender at birth.

The measure would make it illegal for employers to make decisions abouthiring, firing, promoting or paying an employee based on sexual orientation.It would exempt churches and the military.

After the 235-184 vote, supporters are expecting a tough fight in thenarrowly divided Senate, where Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy plansto introduce a similar version.

A veto from President Bush is expected if the proposal does pass the Senate.The White House has cited constitutional concerns and said the proposalcould trample religious rights.

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Giuliani expects strong conservative support in S. Florida

By Anthony Man
November 8, 2007

A senior strategist for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giulianisaid Wednesday his candidate would score strong support from religious andsocial conservative voters in South Florida.

Finishing a two-day series of meetings in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dadecounties on Wednesday, Giuliani's national political director said voterscan expect endorsements from South Florida values and evangelical leaders.

Not wanting to dilute the news about televangelist Pat Robertson'sendorsement of Giuliani earlier in the day, Mark Campbell wouldn't say whowould provide that backing or when.

"We are being received very, very warmly," Campbell said. "We're makinggreat headway with voters across the spectrum."

So-called faith and values voters are a key bloc in the Jan. 29 Republicanprimary.

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Inside Higher Education

Mixed Picture on International Enrollment

Total international student enrollment at U.S. graduate schools jumped 7percent from 2006 to 2007 after increasing just 1 percent the year before -the biggest gain in total enrollments since 2002. But the rate of growth forfirst-time enrollments, a key indicator of future trends, slowed to a thirdof the previous year's level, according to survey results released Tuesdayby the Council of Graduate Schools.

First-time enrollment for international graduate students increased by 4percent from 2006-7, compared to a 12 percent rise the year before.Meanwhile, despite the significant rise in total international enrollments -partly a function of last year's large increase in first-time enrollments -nearly half of the graduate schools that responded to the survey in 2004 and2007 have fewer international students now than in 2003 (on average, thedifference is 7 percent).

"The rebound in total international enrollment is continuing for the secondstraight year. And that's good news," said Debra W. Stewart, president ofthe Council of Graduate Schools. "But the rate of growth for first-timeenrollment slowed significantly and that's a serious issue that we need tobe paying attention to."

While some universities may again be at or nearing capacity, "In absoluteterms, in absolute numbers, we're still below where we were in the yearsbefore the 9-11 impacts," Stewart said.



The New York Times

Alternative Tax Showdown

November 8, 2007

The House and Senate are poised to vote on a vitally important tax bill thatposes a test for each chamber of Congress. In the House, the vote on ashort-term fix for the alternative minimum tax will test whether Democraticrepresentatives have the courage of their convictions. In the Senate, thevote will test whether Democratic senators have any convictions at all, orjust a belief in keeping the world safe for campaign contributors.

Under current tax law, 23 million taxpayers will owe the alternative tax for2007, up from 4 million last year. The tax was originally intended to applyto multimillionaires. But most of this year's alternative taxpayers makebetween $100,000 and $500,000 and about a third make less than $100,000.They all have good cause to feel rooked and to expect help from Congress.

The challenge is the "pay-as-you-go" budget rule adopted when Democrats tookcontrol of Congress this year. New tax relief must be paid for, either byraising taxes elsewhere or by cutting government benefits like Medicare orSocial Security that cover everyone who is eligible. The one-year cost ofshielding millions of Americans from a tax they should not have to pay is$51 billion.

The House tax committee met the challenge, drafting a bill that provides theneeded tax relief and plugs the resulting budget gap, mainly by raisingtaxes on private equity partners and hedge fund managers. The bill is goodpolicy. The tax relief assuages justifiably aggrieved taxpayers. Taxincreases on private equity firms and hedge funds rectify outdated rulesthat have allowed the very wealthiest to enjoy tax rates lower than thosepaid by middle-income Americans and, in some cases, to defer taxesindefinitely.

But key Democratic senators, among them New York's Charles Schumer, who isthe main fund-raiser for Senate Democrats, are balking. They know they mustprovide alternative tax relief, but they don't want to tax private equityand hedge funds to pay for it. Their defense of the industries' morallyindefensible tax breaks is tawdry. As The Washington Post reportedyesterday, in the first nine months of 2007, as pressure built to dismantlethe tax breaks, investment firms and hedge funds contributed $11.8 millionto candidates, party committees and leadership political action committees.That's more than was given in 2005 and 2006 combined. More than two-thirdsof that money went to Democrats.

The Senate's equivocating has rubbed off somewhat on the House. The bill isstill expected to pass the House, as early as tomorrow, but some membershave wondered aloud why they should support a tough measure if the Senate isdetermined to kill it.

The answer is that it is the right thing to do. The House bill holds true tothe pay-as-you-go rule when doing so matters most, that is, when large sumsand difficult trade-offs are at stake. It undoes a tax injustice. And maybe,just maybe, the money men in the Senate can be swayed by example.


The New York Times

Gathering Storm

November 8, 2007

What does it say when a leader tells his people he must suspend their civilrights in order to combat extremism, then locks up judges, lawyers and humanrights activists - society's most moderate forces - while Osama bin Ladenand the Taliban run free? And what are those oppressed people supposed toconclude when the reaction of the world and even some of their own leadersis grudging?

That's been the twisted reality unfolding in Pakistan as its militarydictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, propels his nation toward greaterinstability. Fortunately, there were signs yesterday of forces mobilizingagainst the general and his decree of martial law.

Pakistani lawyers, who fueled serious political opposition to GeneralMusharraf when he first suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice IftikharMuhammad Chaudhry last March, have courageously taken the lead in protestssince the imposition of martial law on Saturday. An incongruous sight intheir business suits during street fights with police, they have spokeneloquently of how the general's suspension of the Constitution and abolitionof the court grievously undermines the modern, reform-minded countryPakistan was meant to become.

But Pakistan's major political parties initially held back from openlychallenging the general's decree. Chief among them was the popular PakistanPeople's Party led by Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister who may havebeen more interested in preserving a planned power-sharing arrangement withMr. Musharraf, her political rival. On Wednesday, Ms. Bhutto finally stoodup and said her party would conduct a demonstration tomorrow and a protestmarch next week.

Peaceful public demonstrations are a legitimate form of expression, and wehope masses of Pakistanis join in. But they raise the possibility of morearrests and a more dangerous confrontation. If the mere threat of protestsis not enough to persuade General Musharraf to back down, Ms. Bhutto willneed to turn out the kind of crowds that would prove that the general haslost the support of most Pakistanis. There is the danger that his troopswill use force against protesters, but the world must urge all sides loudlyto avoid violence.

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The New York Times

Big Tobacco Defeats Sick Kids

November 8, 2007

One of the biggest disappointments in Tuesday's election was the defeat ofan Oregon ballot initiative that would have raised the state's cigarette taxby 85 cents a pack to help pay for health care for uninsured children.

The outcome is a testament, more than anything else, to the shamelessness ofthe nation's big tobacco companies. They spent an obscene amount of money ondeceptive television ads designed to protect their profits, even at theexpense of poor children. The results should not be allowed to diminishnational concern about insuring those youngsters.

Tobacco firms led by Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds poured $12 million intodefeating the initiative - about $3.33 for every Oregon resident, or $24 avote. That's about a dollar more per capita than the $60 million tobaccocompanies invested to defeat a similar California measure last year,according to The Associated Press. The health and civic groups fighting forhealth care for children were able to spend only a quarter of that.

The purveyors of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes did not win by disputing theurgent health care needs the initiative was meant to address, or thebenefits higher cigarette taxes would bring by deterring smoking. Theysought to hide behind a benign-sounding front group called OregoniansAgainst the Blank Check and proceeded to barrage voters with unscrupulous TVads and mailings. Among other things, they stoked doubts that the fundsraised would actually be used for children's health care, and theymanufactured an overblown controversy over amending Oregon's Constitution.

The referendum said a lot about the power of money in any election, and notmuch about what the public thinks about the issue if given accurate andbalanced information. The vote should neither deter Congressional Democratsfrom continuing to confront President Bush on expanding children's healthcare under the S-chip program nor discourage other states from trying to domore to take care of the health of their children.


The New York Times

Congress Warms to France's New President

November 8, 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - The United States Congress welcomed Nicolas Sarkozy,the French president, with loud cheers and standing ovations on Wednesday, asign that France had been forgiven for opposing the American-led war inIraq.

In a speech to a joint meeting of Congress - a rare honor for a head ofstate - Mr. Sarkozy seemed to strike all the right notes. He spoke of hislove of the American dream and cultural icons of the 20th century, fromElvis Presley to Ernest Hemingway. He expressed admiration for Americanvalues and for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He thanked the UnitedStates for saving France in two world wars, rebuilding Europe with theMarshall Plan and fighting Communism during the cold war.

When he called France "the friend of the United States of America," thehall, packed with lawmakers, many of whom held France in disdain only a fewyears ago, burst into applause. When he said that a nuclear-armed Iran was"unacceptable," they stood and applauded.

President Bush also showered his French counterpart with praise at a jointnews conference following a tour and lunch at Mount Vernon, the Virginiahome of George Washington.

"It's safe to say that you've impressed a lot of people here on yourjourney," Mr. Bush said, calling Mr. Sarkozy "the kind of fellow I like todeal with."

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The Washington Post

How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guards
Witnesses Call Shooting From Justice Ministry Unprovoked, But State Dept.Cleared Its Security Team After a Brief Probe

By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 8, 2007; A01

BAGHDAD -- Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the privatesecurity company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry.The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-fundedIraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open trafficcircle. Another guard rushed to his colleague's side and was fatally shot inthe neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the samebalcony.

Eight people who responded to the shootings -- including media network andJustice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander -- and five networkofficials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on theJustice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi policereport described the shootings as "an act of terrorism" and said Blackwater"caused the incident." The media network concluded that the guards werekilled "without any provocation."

The U.S. government reached a different conclusion. Based on informationfrom the Blackwater guards, who said they were fired upon, the StateDepartment determined that the security team's actions "fell within approvedrules governing the use of force," according to an official from thedepartment's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Neither U.S. Embassy officialsnor Blackwater representatives interviewed witnesses or returned to thenetwork, less than a quarter-mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, to investigate.

The incident shows how American officials responsible for overseeing thesecurity company conducted only a cursory investigation when Blackwaterguards opened fire. The shooting occurred more than seven months before theSept. 16 incident in which Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians at anotherBaghdad traffic circle.

The Feb. 7 shootings convulsed the Iraqi Media Network, one of the prominentsymbols of the new Iraq, in anger and recrimination.

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The Washington Post

If This Peace Process Fails

By Jackson Diehl
Thursday, November 8, 2007; A27

JERUSALEM -- In a bold speech broadcast on national television Sunday night,Prime Minister Ehud Olmert explicitly overturned the judgments that haveguided Israeli governments for the past seven years. Israel, he said, doeshave a worthy negotiating partner in the Palestinian Authority. It cannotafford to postpone negotiations or drag its feet in endless talks. "Realaccomplishments" are possible before President Bush leaves office. "We willnot avoid fulfilling our own obligations" -- such as dismantling West Banksettlements -- "to the letter," Olmert said, " . . . no matter how difficultit is."

For the next several days, Israel's talk radio and op-ed pages converged ona single subject -- but it was not Olmert's groundbreaking speech. Instead,the buzz was all about something that took place at a soccer game in Haifawhile Olmert was speaking. Before the game began, an announcer asked for amoment of silence in honor of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who ledIsrael toward peace in the early 1990s before being assassinated on Nov. 4,1995. Hundreds in the crowd, most of them supporters of the visitingJerusalem team, responded with boos; some began lustily singing songs inhonor of Yigal Amir, the man who murdered him.

The message drawn from this episode by Israeli security officials, as wellas pundits, was grim: The return Olmert signaled to an aggressive pursuit ofa final peace with Palestinians also will mean the comeback of the ugly andpotentially violent resistance from Israel's far right. The soccer gamewasn't the only sign. Posters showing Israeli President Shimon Peres,another peace advocate, wearing an Arab headdress have appeared on wallsaround Jerusalem this week, an explicit echo of the propaganda that precededthe attack on Rabin 12 years ago.

In his speech to the Saban Forum, an annual conference sponsored by theBrookings Institution, Olmert directly took on the mantle of Rabin, who, hesaid, "was willing to take chances, to expose himself to criticism, to facethe accusatory voices both domestic and international. He did everything inorder to realize the opportunity." Said Olmert: "This is a legacy accordingto which I intend to lead the state of Israel over the coming months."

The problem will be the other legacies from the peace processes of the past.That's not only potential Jewish violence. There is also the probableterrorism of Palestinian rejectionists, above all a Hamas movement that hasbeen excluded from the upcoming U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference andbottled up in the Gaza Strip. There is the inability of PalestinianPresident Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank authority to control its ownmilitia-gangs, and political rivalries in Israel that may prevent Olmertfrom taking quick steps on settlements. Then there is the incurableproclivity of both Israelis and Palestinians to burden negotiations withmaximalist demands and negotiating tricks intended to elide what both sidesknow to be the available settlement terms.

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The Washington Post

For a Neighbor, a Worrisome Drama in Pakistan

By David S. Broder
Thursday, November 8, 2007; A27

NEW DELHI -- To gauge the impact here of the turmoil next door in Pakistan,Americans would have to imagine their own reaction to a military coup or theimposition of martial law in Canada.

The reaction here when Pakistan's strongman, President Pervez Musharraf,declared a national emergency, cracked down on the political opposition,arrested members of the Supreme Court and suspended the constitution was oneof shock.

The border was immediately closed, and military forces were placed on alert.India and Pakistan have fought repeated wars over the years, and suspicionsof trouble are always close to the surface.

Beyond that, India, which prides itself on having protected its democracythrough several internal crises in its six decades of independence,understandably gets nervous when its closest neighbor loses ground -- eventemporarily -- in its struggle for freedom.

During a visit to New Delhi that happened to coincide with the crisis, Ifound that Indians were both puzzled and dismayed that the U.S. governmentseemed so ambivalent about Musharraf's actions. The Indian press reported,along with U.S. journals, that the Bush administration had sent urgentmessages to Musharraf counseling him against the crackdown.

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The Washington Post

No Pay, No Patch
The alternative minimum tax offers a chance for the fiscally responsible tostand up and be counted.

Thursday, November 8, 2007; A26

NEARLY EVERYONE wants to "patch" the alternative minimum tax. Not everyonewants to pay to do so. That is the challenge facing lawmakers as they raceto install yet another temporary fix on the tattered federal tax system intime for the Internal Revenue Service to produce forms reflecting thechange. How this job is accomplished will show whether congressionalDemocrats are willing to live up to the pay-as-you-go obligations theyimposed on themselves when they retook control of Congress -- and whetherRepublicans can regain any credible claim to being committed to fiscaldiscipline.

The alternative minimum tax was created in 1969 to dun a tiny number of thesuper-rich who managed to avoid paying any income taxes. Because the taxisn't indexed for inflation and because the 2001 tax cut lowered regular taxrates, the AMT, without adjustments, will affect millions of taxpayers whoeveryone agrees were never its intended targets. But exempting thosemillions will cost a lot in forgone revenue, money that the Bushadministration has built into its budget numbers. Because fixing the problemis expensive and complicated, lawmakers have chosen for years to slap aBand-Aid onto it -- and bill the cost to future generations. This year'smodel totals $50 billion, $76 billion when the cost of extending expiringtax provisions and other changes is included.

To its credit, the House Ways and Means Committee has produced an AMT patchwhose costs are offset by other changes, including eliminating thecarried-interest deduction that allows private equity and hedge fundmanagers to pay taxes at far lower rates than other wage-earners. This isfar from a perfect solution: It would take 10 years of revenue to pay forthe one-year patch.

It's preferable, though, to the approach of congressional Republicans andthe Bush administration, which is to not offset the tax cut with new taxesor spending cuts. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) wasillustrative of the irresponsibility. "Tax relief pays for itself bycreating more American jobs for more taxpayers to strengthen our economy,"he said in a statement. Perhaps Mr. Boehner believes that the Tax Fairy willsimply leave $50 billion under the IRS's pillow; there is no economic basisfor his statement that "tax relief pays for itself." Moreover, if Mr.Boehner doesn't like the way Democrats propose to finance the patch, whatwould he cut instead?

Republicans may not be the only obstacle to responsibility. Senate Democratssay they want to comply with the pay-go requirement, and there were hopefulsigns last week from Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "I'm not infavor of waiving pay-go rules," he said. "I think we cannot waver on that."But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has been lessdefinitive, saying only that he'd like to comply with pay-go to the extentpossible; he has also not been eager to close the carried-interest loophole.Once the pay-go rule is ignored, though, lawmakers won't be able todiscipline themselves in the future. This is a key test for the party thatwants to wear the mantle of fiscal responsibility.

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The Washington Post

Musharraf Sets Date for Elections

By Griff Witte and Howard Schneider
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 8, 2007; 7:42 AM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 8 -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf hasdecided that parliamentary elections will be held by February 15 andreiterated plans to step down as head of the Army, partial concessions tothe pressure building on him from Washington and inside Pakistan since hedeclared a state of emergency over the weekend.

Elections were due in January, but when emergency rule was imposedgovernment officials raised the possibility of postponing them by as much asa year. The Bush administration has publicly called for the vote to moveahead and the popular former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is threateningmass street demonstrations starting Friday.

Deputy information minister Tariq Azim Khan said Musharraf has decided theelections will be held before February 15th. But he added there is no setschedule for lifting the emergency rules imposed over the weekend whenMusharraf suspended many civil rights and sacked Supreme Court justices whorefused to agree to a new, provisional constitution.

Khan noted that Pakistan has held elections before during periods ofemergency rule and that "this could happen again." He confirmed Musharraf'splan to step down from his job leading the army before he takes the oath fora new term as president, but noted the president cannot take a new oathuntil the Supreme Court rules he is eligible. The recent purge of justicesincluded several members reviewing challenges to Musharraf's reappointmentas president while he remained in his military post.

Musharraf's current term as president expires Nov. 15.

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The Washington Post

Cheney's Impeachment Literally Fell 'Off the Table'

By Paul Kane And Mary Ann Akers
Thursday, November 8, 2007; A25

Maybe now we know what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) meant when shesaid impeachment was "off the table."

Lawmakers' voting cards on the issue were literally just that -- off thetable -- during Tuesday's brouhaha when Republicans briefly hijacked controlof the chamber with a procedural maneuver and thrust the Democratsperilously close to debating a resolution on impeaching Vice PresidentCheney.

Offered by long-shot presidential candidate Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich(D-Ohio), the unusual resolution would have resulted in the shortestimpeachment debate ever -- one hour -- followed by a final vote onimpeaching the unpopular vice president. Knowing how little Democraticleaders wanted to handle Kucinich's hot potato, Republicans began switchingtheir votes late in the process, hoping to shame Pelosi and Co. into adebate that the GOP believed would expose the radical left in the chamber.

Republicans began siding with Kucinich against the tabling of hisresolution, resulting in scores of GOP members lining up to switch theirvotes. With the House's electronic voting system shut down as the tallyneared its final minutes, the only way for Republican lawmakers to changetheir position was to use old-fashioned voting cards, which, of course,slowed the proceedings further.

And then something happened purely by accident during the nearly two-hourdisruption that helped gum up the works even more: A stack of red votingcards fell between a crack in two adjoining desks on the dais. (Red cardssignify a switch to a "nay" vote; the green ones mean "yea.") Clerks usedrulers, pencils and anything else they could find to fish the cards out sothe vote could be concluded.

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One-fourth of America's homeless are vets, study finds

The Associated Press
November 8, 2007


Lonnie Bowen Jr. was once a social worker, but for 17 years the Vietnam warveteran has slept on the streets off and on as he's battled substance abuseand mental health problems.

"It's been a hard struggle," said Bowen, 62, as he rolled a cigaretteoutside a homeless processing center in downtown Philadelphia, where heplanned to seek help for his drug and alcohol problem, as he has before.

Every night, hundreds of thousands of veterans like Bowen are without ahome.

Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, thoughthey are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to areport to be released today by the Alliance to End Homelessness, a publiceducation nonprofit group.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderlyveterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling intoshelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help finding ajob.

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Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Paul's fundraising turns heads

Created 11/06/2007 - 9:29pm

Ron Paul's head-snapping fundraising puts a new face on a campaign that themedia, politicians and much of the public had relegated to the sidelines.

The Texas congressman is now the presidential candidate tugging at theestablishment's coat.

Funneled through the Internet, Paul's one-day loot totaled $4.3 million fromabout 37,000 donors, considered the largest sum ever collected online in asingle day by a GOP candidate.

Paul is indeed an online force who attracts support from people who do notfit easily into the standard Democratic and Republican politicalpigeonholes. His fame, as much as it is, stems from the political shorthandthat has defined his candidacy: The only Republican opposed to the war inIraq.

But Paul leans libertarian in his ideology and cites the Constitution as hisguide. He opposes law enforcement or anti-terrorism measures that hebelieves encroach on civil liberties. His views on small government extendto weakening if not eliminating the Education Department. He favors limitingimmigration and strengthening border security.

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Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

A woman at the Pentagon

guest commentary
By Pat Schroeder
Article Launched: 11/07/2007 01:00:00 AM MST

George W. Bush proudly campaigned in 2000 to relieve an overstretchedmilitary whose budgets had been cut during the 1990s. In his words, help wason the way.

Who knew his "help" was to stretch the military even further and spend moremoney for wars of the past while we flounder in the wars of the present?

Now, with Iraq in shambles and the military at a breaking point - despiterecord defense budgets - one would think that the tables had turned on theold assumption that spending more money on defense buys us more security.

Last month, the Senate passed a defense appropriations bill of almost $500billion. And that amount doesn't even include the money spent on Iraq andAfghanistan, which cost around $12 billion a month.

Back in 1995, the first year of the Newt Gingrich Congress, a debate ensuedon the floor of the House over a proposed defense budget of $267 billion. Igave a press conference in front of the Capitol, sharing the dais with agiant cow representing the "Sacred Cow" of defense spending. The point wassimple: When it comes to cutting government waste, the Pentagon wasconsidered sacred, off the chopping block.

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Miami Herald

Venezuela's slide toward dictatorship

Posted on Thu, Nov. 08, 2007

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's proposed constitutional changes go farbeyond ''reforms.'' The 69 amendments blessed by the Chávez-controlledlegislature last week would eliminate the vestiges of democracy yetremaining in the government. Mr. Chávez could run for reelectionindefinitely and concentrate virtually all state power in his hands.Democratically elected in 1998, he could rule as a dictator for decades.

Coup d'état predicted

Even one-time loyalists are condemning this unfettered power grab. FormerDefense Minister Raúl Isaías Baduel, was a key player in returning Mr.Chávez to power in 2002 after a brief coup. Yet on Monday Mr. Baduelpredicted that ''a coup d'état would be consummated, violating theconstitutional text in a shameless way'' if voters were to approve thechanges on Dec. 2, the date set for a referendum.

We hope the vocal and growing opposition persuades Mr. Chávez to stop hisauthoritarian march. In the best case, Venezuelans would resoundingly rejectthe constitutional changes at the polls.

Yet the prospects seem slim for either possibility. Mr. Chávez alreadytightly grips electoral and judicial systems and mass media. He appearsdetermined to wield absolute power.

The critics have good reason to protest. Among other measures, the proposedconstitution would:

. Define the military as ''anti-imperialist'' and ''Bolivarian.'' In effect,this turns the armed forces into partisan bodies committed to defending anideology. No longer would they be professional guardians of the rule of law.

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2007 election results summary

Kentucky and Mississippi elected governors Tuesday.

Legislatures were up in Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia, numerouscities elected mayors and dozens of states voted on referendums andconstitutional amendments.

This page has tallies and summaries of some of the more interesting andimportant races.

Click on a state name to jump to its results: Arizona, California,Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan,Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, NorthCarolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas,Utah, Virginia, Washington



Tucson (100%)

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Palm Beach Post

House overrides Bush on resources

Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau
Wednesday, November 07, 2007

WASHINGTON - For the first time in George W. Bush's presidency, the U.S.House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override his veto.

The 361-54 vote on a massive $23 billion water resources bill sets up thelikelihood that the Senate will follow suit today, handing Bush the firstrebuff of the five vetoes he has issued since he became president in 2001.All the votes against the override came from Republicans.

Florida funding at stake

Some of the major Everglades-related and local projects in the waterresources bill:

$1.4 billion for restoration of the Indian River Lagoon.

$375 million for restoration of Picayune Strand in Collier County.

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Boston Globe

Mukasey nomination appears headed for Senate OK
In close tally, panel advances AG pick

By David Stout, New York Times News Service
November 7, 2007

WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the nomination ofMichael B. Mukasey to be attorney general yesterday, virtually ensuring hisconfirmation by the full Senate.

The vote was 11 to 8, with two Democrats, Senators Charles E. Schumer of NewYork and Dianne Feinstein of California, joining all nine Republicans on thepanel in backing the nominee. Eight Democrats voted against Mukasey.

The close tally in Mukasey's favor had been expected, given publicstatements by committee members leading up to yesterday's vote.

Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, had been the one Democrat not toannounce his decision before yesterday, and he voted "no."

Kohl said he was troubled by the nominee's statements on the interrogationtechnique known as waterboarding, or simulated drowning. "As Judge Mukasey'sanswers mirror the president's on this issue, and defy common sense, we areforced to question his independence as well," Kohl said. "The attorneygeneral's loyalties must be to the Constitution, to the American people, andto the law. Too much doubt on this point is disqualifying."

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Boston Globe

Republican Mitt Romney lays out plans for adoption reform

By Seanna Adcox, Associated Press Writer
November 6, 2007

GREENVILLE, S.C. --Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney saidTuesday he favors requiring that all family planning clinics provideinformation on adoption.

Speaking outside a Christian adoption agency in Greenville, Romney also saidhe wants to make the adoption tax credit permanent. He noted that the taxcredit was doubled at President Bush's urging several years ago and theadditional benefit will expire if Congress doesn't act.

And, the former Massachusetts governor said he wants to broaden the abilityof states to use federal funds to encourage the adoption of foster children.By allowing the federal money be spent only on foster care, the governmentmay "create a reverse incentive" for states not to actively promote theadoption of children in its care, he said.

Romney said he wanted to tour the Greenville agency, which handles more than50 adoptions annually, because November is national adoption month. Hethanked two dozen parents and employees, many carrying adopted children, whogathered around him.

"Lives have been touched," he said. "These people are doing God's work,there's no question in my mind."

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Feds accused of disinterest in hate crimes

By Marisol Bello, USA TODAY

The Justice Department is prosecuting the fewest hate crimes in 10 years ascivil rights activists cite noose hangings and other racial incidents toquestion the government's commitment to such cases.

Some Washington lawmakers and activists are demanding that the JusticeDepartment focus more attention on hate crimes in light of recent cases suchas the kidnapping, torture and beating of a black woman in West Virginia bysix white people and the violence that followed the hanging of nooses in aschoolyard tree in Jena, La.

Despite high-profile cases, the decline mirrors an overall decrease in hatecrime reports, says department spokesman Erik Ablin. At the same time, thedepartment is prosecuting more civil rights cases.

Hate crimes are crimes motivated by prejudice based on race, religion orethnicity.

They are one of three main categories of federal civil rights violations.The others are abuse by police and human trafficking.

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