Monday, December 10, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 10, 2007

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Interviews: Looking Back on the Bonfire of the 1980s

December 10, 2007

Tom Wolfe's novel "The Bonfire of the Vanities," published 20 years ago, wasa satire set in a city that seemed to be on a downward spiral: racial powerstruggles, an overwhelmed and unfair criminal justice system, greed,self-interest and a widening gap between rich and poor. In the era ofMichael R. Milken, Tawana Brawley, the Howard Beach riots and Ed Koch, thebook provoked excitement and anger.

Mr. Wolfe's story about the misadventures of the Wall Street bond traderSherman McCoy is populated by parody versions of real-life New Yorkers. Overthe past month, The New York Times asked some of them, along with theauthor, to reminisce about the book and the era to which it belonged.

Edward W. Hayes, defense lawyer

Mr. Hayes played Virgil to Tom Wolfe's Dante, as Mr. Wolfe has put it,showing him around the Bronx court system. He was the model for TommyKillian, the streetwise lawyer who takes over Sherman McCoy's defense. Mr.Hayes said "Bonfire" simultaneously skewered a racially discriminatoryjustice system and stated what he considered to be uncomfortable truths:

The politics were spot on. ... It highlighted two things. One is thatminorities were the people who were committing all the crimes. And second,that they get treated like dogs and that if you were a legitimate guy in apoor neighborhood you had no shot at all. ...

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Editorial: Caving In on Hate Crimes

December 10, 2007

Congressional leaders, who have disappointed frequently this year, have doneit again. This time, the House leadership has failed to find a way to get abipartisan law against hate crimes passed and signed into law. Racial,religious, sexual and other minorities have waited long enough. HouseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi has to do more than just express her support for thebill; she must find a way to make it the law.

The Matthew Shepard Act would expand the definition of hate crimes and makeimportant improvements in the federal response. To categories alreadycovered by federal law, which include race and religion, it would add crimescommitted because of the victim's sexual orientation, gender identity,gender or disability. It would also broaden the federal government'sauthority to investigate these hateful acts.

The bill has been a top priority of civil rights groups since Mr. Shepard,who was gay, was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998. It also hasstrong support from law enforcement, including the National Sheriffs'Association and the National District Attorneys Association. The Housepassed it 237-180, with significant Republican support, and the Senatepassed a similar bill by voice vote, after a 60-39 cloture vote.

President Bush has suggested he would veto the bill. It's an unfortunatethreat, but one he is certainly capable of carrying out. House and Senateleaders planned to get around that threat by attaching it to a Department ofDefense Authorization bill, which Mr. Bush would have had trouble vetoing.But House leaders decided last week that since some liberals did not want tovote for the defense bill and some conservatives did not want to vote forthe hate crimes bill, they could not piece together a majority to get itthrough.

Ms. Pelosi says she is still committed to getting the Matthew Shepard Actpassed, perhaps early next year. That's nice, but it is time for her toexplain how she intends to do it - and then to make it happen.


On West Village Streets, Tears for a Gay Activist

December 10, 2007

Friends and colleagues of Bob Kohler, a veteran gay rights activist who diedat 81 on Wednesday, took to the streets of the West Village last evening,celebrating the life of the man they called a hero, a griot and a legend ofthe gay community.

With candles and signs held high, and with pill bottles and ceramic potsfilled with some of Mr. Kohler's cremated remains, dozens of his friends andadmirers marched through the streets, chanting to the beat of a drummer,stories of Mr. Kohler's courage in more than six decades of activismspilling from their lips.

Some cried as they stepped down West 13th Street, Seventh Avenue andChristopher Street to Sheridan Square, ending up at the Hudson River piers,a refuge for many gay youths in the area.

"Till the very end he struggled for us, all of us," said Jennifer Flynn, 36,a friend and member of a group of mostly lesbian activists who helped tocare for Mr. Kohler as he battled cancer in his final days. "He could havelived a comfortable life somewhere. He could have ignored everyone."

Mr. Kohler was on the front lines of the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, thebrawl between gay men and police officers at a bar in the Village that iswidely viewed as the start of the American gay rights movement.

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Social Security Disability Cases Last Longer as Backlog Rises

December 10, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. - Steadily lengthening delays in the resolution of SocialSecurity disability claims have left hundreds of thousands of people in akind of purgatory, now waiting as long as three years for a decision.

Two-thirds of those who appeal an initial rejection eventually win theircases.

But in the meantime, more and more people have lost their homes, declaredbankruptcy or even died while awaiting an appeals hearing, say lawyersrepresenting claimants and officials of the Social Security Administration,which administers disability benefits for those judged unable to work or whoface terminal illness.

The agency's new plan to hire at least 150 new appeals judges to whittledown the backlog, which has soared to 755,000 from 311,000 in 2000, willrequire $100 million more than the president requested this year and stillmore in the future. The plan has been delayed by the standoff betweenCongress and the White House over domestic appropriations.

There are 1,025 judges currently at work, and the wait for an appealshearing averages more than 500 days, compared with 258 in 2000. Without newhirings, federal officials predict even longer waits and more of thepersonal tragedies that can result from years of painful uncertainty.

Progress against the backlog, if it happens, cannot undo the three yearsthat Belinda Virgil of Fayetteville, N.C., has worried about her futuresince her initial application was turned down.

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Candidate Watch
Most Revealing Fibs: Mitt Romney

Posted on December 10, 2007 at 6:00 AM ET

All political candidates make mistakes, but some mistakes are more revealingthan others. A candidate's fibs and exaggerations, and his or herwillingness to correct them, tell us something about that person's characterand approach to campaigning. To coincide with "The Front Runners" series inthe newspaper this week, The Fact Checker is taking a look at the "mostrevealing fibs" of each of the candidates.

"Obviously, my position did change with regards to life. But on otherissues, my positions have been very consistent with my principles and myviews."
--Mitt Romney, CBS "Face the nation," September 21, 2007.

Of all the candidates, both Republican and Democratic, the formerMassachusetts governor is most vulnerable to the charge of being a"flip-flopper." He has attempted to immunize himself from this accusation bymaking a virtue out of necessity, and acknowledging his most blatant U-turn,on protecting the right to abortions. But an examination of his record showsthat his positions have changed on a wide variety of other issues, fromimmigration to gay rights to gun control.

A few examples:

In a 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Republicans, who advocate gay rights,Romney said he was in favor of "gays and lesbians being able to serve openlyand honestly" in the military. He now says it would be a mistake tointerfere with the "don't ask, don't tell policy."

While campaigning for the governorship of Massachusetts in 2002, he said hewould not "chip away" at the state's tough gun laws. He signed up for"lifelong membership" of the National Rifle Association in 2006, whilecontemplating a run for the Republican nomination.

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Proposal to Let Noncitizens Join Md. Police Under Review

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 10, 2007; B01

It never made sense to Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger:Immigrants who have green cards can join the U.S. military and fightAmerica's wars but, like other noncitizens, are ineligible to work as policeofficers in Maryland and most other states.

Since 2004, Manger has championed the concept of lifting the citizenshiprequirement under certain circumstances. At his urging, the Maryland PoliceTraining Commission, which oversees training and hiring standards for lawenforcement agencies across the state, began studying the issue this year. Avote could come next month.

"They can fight in Iraq, and yet they're not able to serve as policeofficers in the communities they were risking their lives for," Manger said.

The subject is fraught with political risk, particularly for electedofficials, because illegal immigration has become a more divisive issue inrecent years. Also, those opposed to employing noncitizens as policeofficers point to the difficulty of conducting thorough background checks onnoncitizens, and some say they fear that the move could even allowterrorists to infiltrate police departments.

Larry Harmel, executive director of the Maryland Chiefs of PoliceAssociation, said the proposal raises the concern about screening. "One ofthe things I question is how thorough a background check you can do forsomeone from another country," he said.

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A Mission Accepted

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 10, 2007; A08

They had spent the past month scared and sequestered as France revoltedaround them, so the Mormon missionaries could hardly wait to get outsideParis and onto open country roads. The mission president and his wifereadied their roomiest car, a Citroen DS. For this road trip in June 1968,they asked Mitt Romney to be their driver.

Romney, a 21-year-old from Michigan, had moved to Paris only a few daysearlier to become the mission president's assistant. He had previously beenstationed in Bordeaux, where riots and strikes had created mass chaos. Formost of May, Romney had been unable to fill his car with gas or to callhome. A mail stoppage had prevented him from receiving his monthly $100stipend for living expenses. It felt, a fellow missionary said, "like theentire world was coming unglued."

Even before the riots, Romney had often felt stymied in France, where monthsof professing his Mormon beliefs had yielded frustratingly few tangibleresults. An ocean away, his father, George, had run a failed presidentialcampaign in his absence, and Romney could keep up only by reading 10-day-oldnews clippings. "There's no question, I would have loved being there andseeing the people of the country the way he did," Romney said years later."But I was doing something that I wanted to do, that I had committed to do."

By mid-June, France had stabilized enough for Romney to chauffeur his boss,H. Duane Anderson, and Anderson's wife, Leola, to the southern border tohandle a dispute between two elderly church members. Anderson was dressed ina dark business suit, and Leola wore high-heeled shoes, a white dress and aglimmering necklace with pearl-like beads. Though it was a work trip, themissionaries embarked with a levity more fitting for a leisurely escape.

The mind-set that now shapes Romney's candidacy for the Republicanpresidential nomination first crystallized after that fateful drive to theSouth of France: One does not merely strive for leadership; he is called toit through prayer and circumstance.

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Anything Goes

By Dana Milbank
Monday, December 10, 2007; A10

Before Mitt Romney arrived to give a stump speech in Des Moines on Friday,his aides covered the windows with blue curtains. When that failed to blockenough sunlight, they taped campaign signs to the windowpanes.

It was a sensible precaution: Much of what Romney says can't stand up to thelight of day.

At Friday's event, the candidate tried to argue that the major speech thathe had delivered Thursday about his Mormon faith had absolutely nothing todo with politics.

"That's not what the speech was about," the former governor of Massachusettssaid, indignantly.

"What was it about, sir?" a questioner asked. "The speech was about faith inAmerica," Romney asserted, "not about politics."

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What Romney Got Wrong

Monday, December 10, 2007; A10

"Obviously, my position did change with regards to life. But on otherissues, my positions have been very consistent with my principles and myviews."

-- Mitt Romney, CBS's "Face the Nation," Sept. 21

Romney has attempted to immunize himself from the charge of being a"flip-flopper" by acknowledging his most blatant U-turn, on protecting theright to abortions. But his record shows that his positions have changed ona variety of issues, including immigration, gay rights and gun control. Afew examples: In a 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Republicans, who advocategay rights, Romney said he was "looking forward" to the time when gays couldserve openly in the military. He now says it would be a mistake to interferewith the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. While campaigning for governor in2002, he said he would not "chip away" at Massachusetts's tough gun laws. Hesigned up for "lifelong membership" to the National Rifle Association in2006 while contemplating a run for the Republican nomination. In 2005, heappeared to favor immigration reform, along the lines proposed by Sen. JohnMcCain. He now denounces it as an "amnesty plan."

-- Michael Dobbs


Huckabee's moved into first, but will he last?

Posted on Mon, Dec. 10, 2007

DES MOINES, Iowa - Entering a packed auditorium, Mike Huckabee was barelyvisible inside the white-hot huddle of news cameras, boom mikes and poppingstrobes.

A month before Iowa's first-in-the-nation Jan. 3 presidential caucuses, the
former Arkansas governor was even drawing European reporters sniffing forthe next Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

"It's probably a little distracting for you," he told a crowd of 400insurance workers. "But it is kind of nice."

A few months ago, Huckabee was a campaign afterthought, a friendly guy withthe funny-sounding name. Today he's the upstart who could transform formerMassachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney into another Phil Gramm or Steve Forbes -ghosts of caucuses past who found that big money can't necessarily win overIowa.

A new McClatchy-MSNBC poll that found him passing Romney in Iowa and SouthCarolina suggests that Republicans nationwide just might go for the guy withthe church-solid conservative bona fides over more liberal candidates suchas former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or the former Massachusettsgovernor - and Mormon - Mitt Romney.

Democrats, meantime, have begun to eye him anxiously as a formidable generalelection foe who could argue compassionate conservatism with conviction.

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The New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: Henry Paulson's Priorities

December 10, 2007

By Bush administration standards, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, isa good guy. He isn't conspicuously incompetent; and he isn't trying tomislead us into war, justify torture or protect corrupt contractors.

But Mr. Paulson's actions reflect the priorities of the administration heserves. And that, ultimately, is what's wrong with the mortgage relief planhe unveiled last week.

The plan is, as a Times editorial put it yesterday, "too little, too lateand too voluntary." But from the administration's point of view thesefailings aren't bugs, they're features.

In fact, there's a growing consensus among financial observers that thePaulson plan isn't mainly intended to achieve real results. The point is,instead, to create the appearance of action, thereby undercutting politicalsupport for actual attempts to help families in trouble.

In particular, the Paulson plan is probably an attempt to take the wind outof Barney Frank's sails. Mr. Frank, the Democratic chairman of the HouseFinancial Services Committee, has sponsored legislation that would givejudges in bankruptcy cases the ability to rewrite mortgage loan terms. But"Bankers Hope Bush Subprime Plan Will Scuttle House Bill," as a headline inCongressDaily put it.

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The New York Times

Afghan Forces Take Taliban Town

December 10, 2007
Filed at 7:14 a.m. ET

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan and international forces have retaken asouthern town held by Taliban militants since February, the Defense Ministrysaid Monday. A Taliban spokesman said the militants fled to avoid civilianand Taliban casualties.

Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Afghan, British and U.S.forces had ''completely captured'' Musa Qala, a town in the opium poppygrowing belt of northern Helmand province. He said fighting was continuingaround the town.

Afghan and international troops have stepped up operations around Musa Qalasince early November, and fighting in the area has intensified in the lastseveral days as forces advanced on the town.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said militant fighters left MusaQala as a strategic decision to avoid Taliban and civilian casualties.

''Because of the massive bombings this morning, the Taliban didn't want tocause more casualties, so this afternoon all the Taliban left Musa Qala,''Ahmadi told The Associated Press by satellite phone.

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The New York Times

Ex-President Stands Trial in Edgy Peru

December 10, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 9 - The Supreme Court in Peru will start its trialof former President Alberto K. Fujimori on Monday, making him the country'sfirst former head of state to be tried on human rights violations, includingmurder and kidnapping.

Preparations for the trial have already stirred considerable unease asPeruvians grapple with revelations of the counterinsurgency methods used byMr. Fujimori's government during his 10-year presidency, from 1990 to 2000,to combat two rebel groups, Shining Path and the Túpac Amaru RevolutionaryMovement.

"I want him to be judged severely because he ordered to kill," said RaidaCondor, 65, who lost her son Armando in a massacre of nine students and aprofessor from La Cantuta University in 1992. "For 15 years, I have searchedfor justice and to know why my son died the way he died."

The 10 victims were abducted in July 1992; their incinerated bodies werefound a year later on a hillside outside Lima, Peru's capital. Mr. Fujimori,69, faces charges related to those killings and another massacre, of 15people, including an 8-year-old boy, at a barbecue in the Barrios Altos areaof Lima in November 1991.

The former president faces 30 years in prison if he is convicted.

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The New York Times

Western States Agree to Water-Sharing Pact

December 10, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9 - Facing the worst drought in a century and the prospectthat climate change could yield long-term changes on the Colorado River, thelifeline for several Western states, federal officials have reached a newpact with the states on how to allocate water if the river runs short.

State and federal officials praised the agreement as a landmark akin to theColorado River Compact of 1922, which first outlined how much water theseven states served by the river - California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado,Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming - would receive annually.

The new accord, outlined by federal officials in a telephone news conferenceFriday, spells out how three downriver states - California, Arizona andNevada - will share the impact of water shortages. It puts in place newmeasures to encourage conservation and manage the two primary reservoirs,Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which have gone from nearly full to just abouthalf-empty since 1999.

The accord is expected to forestall litigation that was likely to havearisen as fast-growing states jockey for the best way to keep the waterflowing to their residents and businesses in increasingly dry times. Itwould be in effect through 2026 and could be revised during that time.

Some environmental groups said the pact did not go far enough to encourageconservation and discourage growth. But federal officials said they took thebest of several proposals by the states, environmental organizations andothers and emphasized the importance of all seven states agreeing with theresult.

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The New York Times

U.S. 'Not Ready' to Commit at Bali

December 9, 2007
Filed at 10:25 p.m. ET

BALI, Indonesia (AP) -- The world's top two polluters, the U.S. and China,say they are not ready to commit to mandatory caps on greenhouse gases.

But that's not a worry to the organizers of this month's U.N. climateconference, who say they only want to jump-start the world's talks toward anew climate accord.

''This meeting is not about delivering a fully negotiated climate changedeal, but it is to set the wheels in motion,'' the U.N. climate chief, Yvode Boer, said Sunday.

Presidents, prime ministers and environmental ministers prepared to joindiscussions on how to head off the impacts of rising temperatures, fromrising oceans to deadly droughts and diseases.

''Reaching a conclusion even in two years is going to be very ambitious, letalone trying to achieve that kind of result in two weeks,'' de Boer said.

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The New York Times

As Orthodox Population Grows, So Do Tensions

December 10, 2007

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - A fault line runs through Dr. Martin Luther King Drive inLakewood, dividing the black families that have lived here for years, manyin run-down apartment complexes at one end of the street, from their newneighbors, the Orthodox Jewish families who mostly occupy a row of two-storyhouses on the other side.

The black families are slowly leaving this street, and the Orthodox Jewishfamilies are moving in. Their lives barely intersect, though it is barelyhalf a mile from one end of the drive to the other.

Motti Schwartz, a 26-year-old student at a large yeshiva here, rents anapartment on King Drive.

"You come into a neighborhood that's not really yours," he said. "I thinkthere's probably a lot of animosity."

Ronald Daye, who is black, lived in one of the apartment complexes butrecently moved to another town. "There's jealousy because they sticktogether," he said, referring to the Orthodox Jews. "We all want our ownschools. This town has too many people, and there will be problems."

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The New York Times

Revisiting Violent Past on Eve of New Jersey Death Penalty Vote

December 10, 2007

TRENTON, Dec. 7 - So remorseless was Ambrose A. Harris for raping andshooting a young Pennsylvania woman in the back of the head that hemockingly dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief as the victim's father sobbedon the witness stand.

In 1996, a Superior Court jury sentenced Mr. Harris to die for that crime,but not before he could kill again. As he awaited the outcome of an appeal,he flattened another death row inmate's skull by climbing on top of a stooland jumping down on the man's head over and over until he was sure the jobwas finished.

For many, there is little question that Mr. Harris, 55, represents the worstthat human nature is capable of - an impenitent killer who seemed to revelin the pain he inflicted.

Yet like so many violent criminals, Mr. Harris is the product of a turbulentupbringing. According to court testimony, his mother, recalling once to asocial worker how she never wanted children, said that the doctor whodelivered Ambrose had to throw water in her face to force her to push duringlabor.

When Mr. Harris was a boy of 12 growing up in Trenton, he was committed to astate mental hospital for more than a year. Doctors noted then that he was"violent and homicidal," with an I.Q. of only 78.

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The Washington Post

Paulson Behind the Curve

By Sebastian Mallaby
Monday, December 10, 2007; A19

Hank Paulson ranks among the Bush administration's many disappointments.When he left the top job at Goldman Sachs to take the helm at Treasury,Washington was abuzz: This man was a problem-solver; this man had clout; thepresident had practically begged him to accept the job, and Mr. Fix-Ithadn't acquiesced just to warm a seat around the Cabinet table. ButWashington can be a frustrating place. After 18 months, Paulson has made noserious impact on the issues that he cares about: entitlements, tax reform,China, trade, the environment.

Now Paulson's predicament is reversing itself. Having been prevented fromacting on his chosen issues by Washington's constraints, Paulson is beingforced by Washington to act on something he might rather leave alone -- themess in the financial and real estate markets. He is being pressed intoaction partly because the mortgage meltdown threatens a recession and partlybecause the pain will be especially acute in election battleground statessuch as Florida and Ohio. At the end of his spell in government, Paulson'slegacy will be determined by a question that he never sought to pose: Whenfate handed him an issue on which he was required to lead, did he leadconstructively?

So far Paulson has lurched forward like a boy with his back to a firehydrant. Until the summer, he favored letting the market sort itself out:People who couldn't afford their mortgages should "become renters," as heput it last week. Then the Treasury proposed helping a subset of thesewould-be renters by expanding the role of the Federal HousingAdministration, which insures mortgages for poor families; so far, 35,000homes have been refinanced under this initiative. Then, last week, Paulsonbrokered a deal with private mortgage lenders to help keep people in theirhomes. Today a Paulson-backed effort to restructure dud investments that areweighing down the banks is supposed to move into action.

It's not that Paulson's initial wariness of government solutions was whollymisguided. The political pressure to act reflects concern for homeowners.But as the blogger Tyler Cowen has written, there are better ways to targetassistance to the deserving poor than by rescuing subprime borrowers. Giventhat they hold some responsibility for borrowing too much, subprimeborrowers are not society's most unambiguously deserving group. And many ofthem are not poor, either.

Equally, the pressure to act comes partly from concern that the subprimemess is scaring investors away from whole classes of debt, with indirecteffects on the economy. But if investor confidence is the problem,government meddling can backfire. The leading Democratic presidentialcandidates have proposed, variously, a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures,a freeze in loan rates and other measures to help homeowners at the expenseof investors. This is hardly the best way to rebuild market confidence.

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The Washington Post

Subsidies' Harvest Of Misery

By Jimmy Carter
Monday, December 10, 2007; A19

Congress can still act decisively this year to right a wrong that is hurtingboth small American farmers and the poorest people on the planet. Along-overdue debate is taking place on reform of the 1933 farm bill, passedduring the Great Depression to alleviate the suffering of America's familyfarmers. I was a farm boy then, and the primary cash crops on my father'sfarm were peanuts and cotton. My first paying job was working for the U.S.Department of Agriculture, measuring farmers' fields to ensure that theylimited their acreage and total production in order to qualify for thelife-sustaining farm subsidy prices.

Tragically, in its current form this legislation does not fulfill itsoriginal purposes but instead encourages excess production while channelingenormous government payments to the biggest producers. This product ofpowerful lobbyists now punishes small-scale farmers in the United States andis devastating to families in many of the world's least affluent countries.

It is embarrassing to note that, from 1995 to 2005, the richest 10 percentof cotton growers received more than 80 percent of total subsidies. Thewealthiest 1 percent of American cotton farmers continues to receive over 25percent of payouts for cotton, while more than half of America's cottonfarmers receive no subsidies at all. American farmers are not dependent onthe global market because they are guaranteed a minimum selling price by thefederal government. American producers of cotton received more than $18billion in subsidies between 1999 and 2005, while market value of the cottonwas $23 billion. That's a subsidy of 86 percent!

The Carter Center works primarily among the world's poorest people,including those in West Africa whose scant livelihood depends on cottonproduction. For instance, in 2002 Burkina Faso received 57 percent of itstotal export revenue from cotton, while Benin depended on cotton exports formore than 75 percent of its national export revenue. Overproduction in theUnited States leads to the dumping of U.S. cotton on global markets, whichdrives prices down. In recent years, cotton exported from the United Stateshas been sold 61 percent below its cost of production.

Fragile African economies that depend on agricultural exports, especiallycotton, are sometimes devastated by these practices. A 2002 report by OxfamInternational estimates that in 2001 sub-Saharan Africa lost $302 million asa direct result of U.S. cotton subsidies, with two-thirds of the losssustained in eight countries -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon, IvoryCoast, Central African Republic, Chad and Togo. Compared with Americanhumanitarian assistance, the subsidies to U.S. cotton farmers amount to morehan the U.S. Agency for International Development's total annual budget forall of sub-Saharan Africa.

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The Washington Post

'A Defining Issue'
The presidential candidates fall into two distinct groups on the question oftorture.

Monday, December 10, 2007; A18

FOR MOST of this year there has been a stark divide in the presidentialcampaign on the subject of torture. The candidates have repeatedly beenasked whether they would subject suspected terrorists to waterboarding, anancient torture technique that was prosecuted as a crime by the UnitedStates for more than 100 years before the Bush administration adopted it foruse on captured al-Qaeda leaders. The Democratic candidates have ruled itout, while most of the Republicans have either hinted that they would allowit or refused to respond. The noble exception has been Sen. John McCain(R-Ariz.), the only candidate ever to experience torture, who has spokenrepeatedly and with great eloquence about the harm it causes to Americaninterests.

Now a second Republican candidate has broken with the Bush administration'sshameful record. After meeting in Iowa last week with a group of formersenior military officers who oppose torture, Mike Huckabee told reportersthat waterboarding is torture and that "torture should not be the policy ofthe United States of America." Although interrogations of enemy detaineesshould be "thorough," Mr. Huckabee said, "when we go to the point ofviolating our own moral code, then instead of advancing our country, itssafety and our security, we in fact jeopardize it."

It's a measure of how far President Bush has departed from fundamentalAmerican values that Mr. Huckabee's statement would be at all remarkable.Yet it immediately placed him at odds with Rudolph W. Giuliani and MittRomney, both of whom have said they oppose torture while refusing tocondemn, in practice, common methods of illegal abuse. Mr. Giuliani has beenpositively enthusiastic in his endorsement of "intensive questioning" andsleep deprivation -- which was the torture most commonly employed in Sovietgulags. Last May he said would tell interrogators to use "every method theycan think of," including waterboarding, if he believed a prisoner had vitalinformation.

At least Mr. Giuliani has the courage of his convictions. Asked aboutwaterboarding at the last Republican debate, Mr. Romney ducked and dodged,saying that "as a presidential candidate, I don't think it's wise for us todescribe specifically which measures we would and would not use." That drewan immediate response from Mr. McCain, who said he was "astonished" that"anyone could believe that's not torture."

"My friends, this is what America is all about," Mr. McCain said. "This is adefining issue and clearly, we should be able, if we want to be commander inchief of the U.S. armed forces, to take a definite and positive position on,and that is, we will never allow torture to take place in the United Statesof America."

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The Washington Post

Rights That Travel: FISA Should Protect U.S. Citizens Overseas

By Ron Wyden
Monday, December 10, 2007; A19

For nearly 30 years, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978(FISA) has represented the ultimate balance between our needs to fightterrorism ferociously and to protect the constitutional rights of Americans.It is an important balance and one that should not be eliminated simplybecause an American leaves U.S. soil. Shouldn't it mean something to be anAmerican, even outside the United States?

Under current law, before conducting surveillance on an American citizenwithin the United States, the government must establish probable causebefore a criminal court for law enforcement cases, or before the ForeignIntelligence Surveillance Court for intelligence cases. This means that theU.S. government needs a court-approved warrant to deliberately tap the phoneconversations of an American living in Medford, Ore., or in Arlington. Thisprotection, however, is not extended to Americans outside the country. Ifthe U.S. government wants to deliberately tap the phone conversations ofthose same Americans on business in India or serving their country in Iraq,the attorney general can personally approve the surveillance by making hisown, unilateral determination of probable cause.

During the Senate intelligence committee's consideration of legislation thatwould revise FISA, I offered an amendment that would require the governmentto secure a warrant from the FISA court before targeting an Americanoverseas. This amendment, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Russ Feingold(D-Wis.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), was approved by the committee on abipartisan vote. Since then it has been upheld by the Senate JudiciaryCommittee, and I look forward to its consideration by the full Senate thisweek.

The White House was quick to call my amendment a "step backwards,"apparently because it creates a warrant protection that was not included inthe original FISA law. While it is no surprise that the currentadministration would object to any check on executive power, if the attorneygeneral is already doing the job of establishing probable cause to targetAmericans abroad, getting a warrant would create no real additional burden.To the best of my knowledge, not even the Bush administration has arguedthat getting a warrant in such cases would have a negative impact onnational security.

During the initial consideration of the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceAct in 1978, many members of Congress argued for the inclusion ofprotections for Americans overseas. Every committee that debated the billnoted the significance of this issue, but lawmakers concluded that it wasbest addressed by separate legislation. For example, the Senate intelligencecommittee's 1978 report on FISA stated that "further legislation may benecessary to protect the rights of Americans abroad from improper electronicsurveillance by their Government." Thirty years later, it is time to takeaction.

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The Washington Post

More Farm Follies: Congress studiously ignores the staggering waste inagricultural subsidies.

Monday, December 10, 2007; A18

AFTER MUCH arcane political wrangling and procedural disputation, the Senatebegan debating a new five-year farm bill on Friday. Much of the price tag,projected at $288 billion, is accounted for by food stamps and othernutrition programs, but tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to farmersare included, too. Notwithstanding the fact that crop prices are surging andfarmers are doing well, supporters of the bill, both in the Senate and theHouse, are hoping to enact this gigantic Christmas present with as littlefuss as possible.

Before voting, members of the Senate might want to take another look at therecently concluded series "Harvesting Cash," which has appeared in The Postover the past two years. This painstaking journalism by Dan Morgan, GilbertM. Gaul and Sarah Cohen identified $15 billion in government waste that hadescaped the notice of executive branch investigators, the GovernmentAccountability Office and congressional committees.

The last installment, published last Wednesday, showed how an irrational"rural development program" showered hundreds of millions of dollars in loanguarantees on government-selected businesses in small-town America, withlittle to show for it in terms of good jobs created. The program evensubsidized a 10-screen movie theater to compete with a locally owned cinemathat was already doing fine with unsubsidized financing.

Under the pending farm bill, the U.S. sugar industry would get a 10-year, $1billion program to prop up sugar prices by requiring the AgricultureDepartment to buy up excess production and resell it to ethanol producers ata deep discount. The idea is to protect American growers from Mexicancompetition after the North American Free Trade Agreement is fully phasedin. The effect is to raise prices for every food that contains sugar. Thisillogical and wasteful plan passed the House thanks in part to $1.5 millionin widely distributed campaign contributions from nine sugar farm orrefinery groups, according to a Nov. 3 story in The Post by Mr. Morgan.

As Mr. Morgan showed in a Sept. 28 article, a "direct payment" program forcorn continues to shovel millions of dollars to farmers even as they reapthe benefits of high crop and land prices -- which are in turn made possibleby a separate federal program to subsidize corn-based ethanol. Mr. Morganmet an Iowa corn farmer who is wealthy enough to have pledged a $1.75million donation to his alma mater, but, together with his two brothers,still receives $45,000 a year from Washington.

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The Washington Post

After Guantanamo, 'Reintegration' for Saudis

By Josh White and Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 10, 2007; A01

For five years, Jumah al-Dossari sat in a tiny cell at the U.S. prison atGuantanamo Bay, Cuba, watched day and night by military captors whoconsidered him one of the most dangerous terrorist suspects on the planet.

In July, he was suddenly released to his native Saudi Arabia, which held avery different view. Dossari was immediately reunited with his family andtreated like a VIP. He was given a monthly stipend and a job, housed andfed, even promised help in finding a wife. Today, he is a free man living onthe Persian Gulf coast.

The treatment is part of a Saudi "reintegration program" designed to helpDossari, 34, and other former Guantanamo prisoners adjust to modern societyand learn the meanings of Islam. About 40 of the more than 100 Guantanamodetainees from Saudi Arabia who have been transferred to Riyadh since lastyear have been released after participating in the program, and the rest arescheduled to be let go in coming months.

The Defense Department considered more than 90 percent of the transferreddetainees to be terrorist threats to the United States and its allies, butsent them home as part of an agreement that Saudi Arabia would mitigate thethreat, according to Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

"Our goal is to transfer out as many individuals from Guantanamo Bay as wecan," said Sandra L. Hodgkinson, deputy assistant secretary of defense fordetainee affairs. "The Saudis have developed a reconciliation program toaddress the needs of their population, and we strongly appreciate themfinding a way to mitigate the threats that these people pose. We believethis is a very, very good program."

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The Washington Post

'Our Moment Is Now,' Obama Declares
Oprah Winfrey Helps Candidate Pull a Huge Crowd in S.C.

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 10, 2007; A06

COLUMBIA, S.C., Dec. 9 -- An overwhelmingly African American audience tookcenter stage in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination hereSunday, as Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), joined by television talk-show hostOprah Winfrey, appealed to black voters to set aside their doubts and seizethe opportunity to send him to the White House in 2008.

"South Carolina, our moment is now," Obama said to an audience estimated byorganizers as made up of 29,000 people at the University of South Carolina'sfootball stadium. "Don't let them tell you we've got to wait. Our moment isnow."

"Dr. King dreamed the dream," Winfrey said, referring to the Rev. MartinLuther King Jr. "But we don't have to just dream the dream anymore. We getto vote that dream into reality."

Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) are in a fierce competition forthe Democratic votes of both African Americans and women in South Carolina,whose Jan. 26 primary is the fourth contest on the nomination calendar nextyear. The state was given a prominent, early date by the Democratic NationalCommittee because of its sizable black population.

Winfrey's appearance here underscored how vital the support of both groupsis to Obama's hopes of winning the Democratic nomination, as well as theconcern within his campaign that, in contrast to states such as Iowa and NewHampshire, the senator from Illinois is not nearly as well known here andneeds to improve his standing, particularly among black women.

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The Washington Post

In Norway for Nobel Ceremony, Gore Extols 'People Power'

By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 10, 2007; A12

OSLO, Dec. 9 -- Former vice president Al Gore, in Norway to receive theNobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, said Sunday he wasencouraged by "the rising of the world's first people power movement on aglobal basis" to tackle climate change.

Citing efforts by U.S. cities and businesses, as well as grass-roots effortsaround the world, Gore said that although "this has not yet resulted inchanges at the White House," he was optimistic that "as the truth of thisclimate crisis begins to be more widely known, people are going to demandthat political leaders take action."

Gore shared this year's Peace Prize with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is to receive it Monday. Theprize money of 10 million Swedish kronor is worth in excess of $1.5 million,far more than in previous years because of the declining value of thedollar.

Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, said in aninterview that the news media were showing more interest in the Nobelceremony this year because concern about the environment has "exploded as apolitical and moral issue all over the world."

"While the U.S. may be lagging behind, particularly at the national level,"in recognizing and acting on climate change, Lundestad said, he predictedthat "we will see changes in America, too."

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The Washington Post

Biden Wants Special Counsel in Tape Case

The Associated Press
Monday, December 10, 2007; 12:55 AM

WASHINGTON -- A Senate Democratic leader said Sunday the attorney generalshould appoint a special counsel to investigate the CIA's destruction ofvideotaped interrogations of two suspected terrorists.

Sen. Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate and chairman of theSenate Foreign Relations Committee, cited Michael Mukasey's refusal duringconfirmation hearings in October to describe waterboarding as torture.

Mukasey's Justice Department and the CIA's internal watchdog announcedSaturday they would conduct a joint inquiry into the matter. That reviewwill determine whether a full investigation is warranted. "He's the same guywho couldn't decide whether or not waterboarding was torture and he's goingto be doing this investigation," said Biden, who noted that he voted againstmaking Mukasey the country's top law enforcer.

"I just think it's clearer and crisper and everyone will know what the truthis ... if he appoints a special counsel, steps back from it," said Biden,D-Del.

That view was not shared fellow Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of WestVirginia, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said Congresscan get to the bottom of the matter. "I don't think there's a need for aspecial counsel, and I don't think there's a need for a special commission,"he said. "It is the job of the intelligence committees to do that."

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The Washington Post

Sharif's Party to Participate in Pakistan Vote
Former Prime Minister Decides Against Boycott After Bhutto Wouldn't Join Him

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 10, 2007; A16

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 9 -- The party of former Pakistani prime ministerNawaz Sharif said Sunday night that it would participate in parliamentaryelections next month. The move means neither major opposition party willboycott, even though both say they believe the polls will be rigged.

Sharif's choice to allow his party's candidates to run came after he triedunsuccessfully to persuade another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, tojoin him in a boycott.

Sharif had argued that contesting the elections would only add credibilityto a process that he has said is fundamentally illegitimate. Bhuttocountered that a boycott would leave the field wide open for parties loyalto President Pervez Musharraf to sweep the vote.

In the end, Bhutto's argument prevailed. But the opposition remains badlydivided in its strategy for challenging Musharraf.

Bhutto and Sharif had announced last week that they would not make anydecision on whether to boycott until they had presented Musharraf with a"charter of demands" laying out criteria for changes in the electionprocess. Despite marathon negotiations, Bhutto and Sharif failed to reach anagreement on what the demands should be.

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Miami Herald

A softer tone in bilingual debate

Posted on Mon, Dec. 10, 2007

Facing a Spanish-speaking national audience for the first time, theRepublican presidential candidates soft-pedaled their hard-line stances onimmigration and sidestepped questions about the estimated 12 millionundocumented workers already living in the United States.Candidates made the appeal that stopping illegal immigration would preservelegal immigration, and that it would be unfair to allow undocumented workersto cut in front of people who have been following the law.

Mike Huckabee, the one-time underdog rising in the polls, even struck asympathetic note.

''When people come to this country, they shouldn't fear,'' the formergovernor of Arkansas said. ``They shouldn't live in hiding. They ought tohave their heads up.''

Huckabee didn't mention his plan released two days ago, which calls fordeporting undocumented immigrants who don't return to their home country,fining employers who hire them, and building a fence along the Mexicanborder by 2010.

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Miami Herald

Now in the lead, Huckabee is target

Posted on Mon, Dec. 10, 2007

Entering a packed auditorium, Mike Huckabee was barely visible inside thewhite-hot huddle of news cameras, boom mikes and popping strobes.

A month before Iowa's first-in-the-nation Jan. 3 presidential caucuses, theformer Arkansas governor was even drawing European reporters sniffing forthe next Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

''It's probably a little distracting for you,'' he told a crowd of 400insurance workers. ``But it is kind of nice.''

A few months ago, Huckabee was a campaign afterthought, a friendly guy withthe funny-sounding name. Today, he's the upstart who could transform MittRomney into another Phil Gramm or Steve Forbes -- ghosts of caucuses pastwho found that big money can't necessarily win over Iowa.

A new McClatchy-MSNBC poll that found Huckabee passing Romney in Iowa andSouth Carolina suggests that Republicans nationwide just might go for theguy with the church-solid conservative bona fides over more liberalcandidates such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Romney, the formerMassachusetts governor and Mormon.

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Ottawa Citizen [Canada]

Making the ayatollahs laugh

David Warren
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, December 08, 2007

I am no wiser Saturday than I was Wednesday about the motives behind theBush administration's publication and embrace of what could soon prove oneof the stupidest intelligence assessments in history. This is the NationalIntelligence Estimate on Iran, which even Mohamed ElBaradei, the UnitedNations' nuclear watch-puppy, has dismissed as naive. By declaring withincomprehensible certainty, about a country whose inner workings are amystery, that Iran gave up its plan to build nuclear weapons in 2003, thereport has released all the pressure on Iran -- not only from America, butfrom the rest of the civilized world.

While not known for their sense of humour, the ayatollahs must surely belaughing at this one. They have 3,000 gas centrifuges operating openly intheir plant at Natanz, creating enriched uranium that is entirely redundantfor civilian uses -- since the Russians are contracted to supply all theenriched uranium for nuclear energy generation. The ayatollahs are buildinga heavy water reactor at Arak, to produce plutonium not even needed in thepower plants. Et cetera.

They say they are pursuing nuclear energy. This can only be done at ruinouscapital cost for a country whose economy is raised above Third World levelsonly by oil. For, excepting crude oil production, that Iranian economy hasactually moved backwards since the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

But even supposing charitably that the mad mullahs had a plausible schemefor industrial expansion up their capacious sleeves, why nuclear energy?When the country has all this crude at hand, sans the considerable cost ofshipping it abroad to be refined, then shipping it back to fuel importedcars? Why not invest in building the oil infrastructure? Why, instead, optfor a power source technologically above the country's reach, the componentsfor which must be almost entirely imported?



From Congressman John Conyers

Setting the Record Straight on FISA

In recent weeks, there has been lot of conflicting information floatingaround about efforts by House Democrats to protect the country by adoptingrules for intelligence gathering that are both flexible and constitutional.This week, President Bush suggested that my legislative alternative to thissummer's hastily-enacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)reform, the "Protect America Act," would take away important tools from ourintelligence community. He characterized as "obstruction" the skepticismthat many of us have about granting amnesty to telecommunications carrierswho may have cooperated in warrantless surveillance. I was disappointedthat the President did not propose any concrete steps to improve ourcapabilities or protect our freedoms -- he just repeated his demand forimmunity.

This comes close on the heels of a recent controversy concerning the HouseDemocrats' FISA legislation stemming from Joe Klein's column in TimeMagazine on November 21st, in which his Republican sources seem to have spuna tale that led Mr. Klein to characterize our efforts as "more than stupid."

I believe that it is time for a comprehensive and detailed response to thePresident's accusations of obstruction, the misinformation in the TimeMagazine column, and the debate over warrantless surveillance. Below isthat response. Please let me know what you think, and feel free to passalong to your friends and colleagues.

Joe Klein's recent column deriding the House-passed FISA legislation, alongwith his subsequent stumbling efforts to clarify its intent, and TimeMagazine's failure to publish the protests my Democratic colleagues and Ihad regarding its many inaccuracies are only the most recent manifestationof disinformation put forth concerning the Bush Administration's warrantlesssurveillance program and legislative efforts to modify the law. As the leadauthor, along with Silvestre Reyes, of the RESTORE Act, allow me to set therecord straight once and for all.

First, contrary to GOP and media spin, the RESTORE Act does not grant"terrorists the same rights as Americans." Section 105A of the RESTORE Actexplicitly provides that foreign-to-foreign communications are totallyexempt from FISA - clearly, this exception for foreigners such as members ofAl Qaeda does not apply to Americans. In cases involving foreign agentswhere communications with Americans could be picked up, Section 105B of thelegislation provides for liberalized "basket warrant" procedures by whichentire terrorist organizations can be surveilled without the need to obtainindividual warrants from the FISA court. Again, this new authority is aimedat foreign terrorists, not Americans.



A Message from Roger B.A. Klorese
President, Online Policy Group
Founder, QueerNet Project

Another year has nearly passed, and once again, we seize thisopportunity to look back at what we've accomplished this year, and wherewe've fallen short... and to ask you and your friends and organizationsto help us continue providing services. for another year, and to improvethem.

Online Policy Group and its hosting services, including the QueerNetProject, are supported entirely by donations. As Internet users havebecome accustomed to commercial messages and content restrictions, it'sbecome more difficult for us to fund our activities entirely bydonation. We sought the assistance of foundations this year, but wereunable to find public donations that were willing to fund infrastructurethat supports multiple communities and projects -- they are looking tofund direct delivery organizations and projects, in morenarrowly-defined areas.

And so, this year, for the first time since we started non-profitdonation-supported services in the mid-1990s, we have raisedsignificantly less money than we've spent, and have had to keep theorganization supplying services using significant donations from the OPGboard itself, over and above our usual contributions. And this isdespite the fact that we have cut our operating costs back fromapproximately $40k to under $12k a year, while keeping hosting servicesin operation.

Further, we have not replaced our servers in longer than their typicalservice lifecycle, and we've suffered outages as a direct result.Typical production servers are kept in use for three years; our newersystem is approaching the five-year mark, and the older one isapproaching eight years. Hardware and software errors resulting fromthis extended upgrade cycle are responsible for the vast majority ofdowntime suffered this year. Server replacement would cost us anadditional $5k or so; we could then rehabilitate the existing systems atminimal cost, which would also provide us with standby capacity toreduce downtime even further.

If we can raise $15k to $18k, here's what we can do in 2008:
- Pay our monthly service bills
- Upgrade our servers and provide standby capability
- Update the OPG website and restore online support request capability
- Upgrade our list/community services with newer, easier-to-use software

And if we cannot, here's what we can do in 2008:
- At some point, turn the lights out.

If you're interested in our continuing to provide email, list andwebsite hosting services to yourself, your community, and othercommunities in need of access -- or, as we say, One Internet with EqualAccess for All -- here's how you can help: with a donation by check,money order, credit card (or other payment via PayPal), vested stock, orusable equipment.

For details about stock and equipment donation, see

To donate by check or money order, please make your item payable to
Online Policy Group and mail it to:

Online Policy Group
5212 19th Ave NE
Seattle WA 98105

(Some checks received this year have gone unprocessed and returned, dueto lack of accounting support. It is now possible for us to handledeposits properly. But if it is at all possible, please make donationsia PayPal, as documented below -- this requires significantly lessprocessing for us, and ultimately, costs us less for typical donations,even once the service fee is withheld.)

You can make a one-time payment via PayPal to
But if you can afford to, our operation works best when we can determinean ongoing stream of income -- so we wecome your signing up at for a monthly contribution.

Online Policy Group is a registered non-profit organization undersection 501(c)(3) of the US tax code, and as a result, contributions aretax-deductible to the full extent allowed by the IRS. (And if youremployer offers donation matching, or your organization raises funds fornon-profits, please consider supplementing your donation with thesesources.)

None of our staff is paid (with the exception of some accountingassistance), so nearly every dollar you give goes to keeping us up andproviding services. Please help keep us on the air -- and turning upthe volume -- for another year.

Thank you.
Roger B.A. Klorese
President, Online Policy Group
Founder, QueerNet Project


A note from Ray and Michael:

Please consider a donation to Online Policy Group [above]. Michael and I, as well as Kenneth Sherrill and Victoria Lavin [Daily Queer News] and many others provide our services free in order to motivate and educate our GLBT ommunity. QueerNet allows Ray's List to be distributed without the hassles from AOL and Yahoo that almost forced us to quit several years ago. Ray's List does not need financial support. But, the Online Policy Group does.

Thank you for doing your part!!!


Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn

Toronto Sun

Final disgrace for Bush & Co.
New intelligence report a devastating, humiliating blow to U.S. presidentand his neocons


"Merry Christmas, Mr. President," hissed the men in cloaks as they plunged adagger into George Bush's back.

America's spooks finally had their revenge. After being forced by the WhiteHouse in 2002-03 to concoct a farrago of lies about Iraq, and then take theblame for the ensuing fiasco there, the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies struckback this week.

U.S. intelligence chief Mike McConnell made public a bombshell NationalIntelligence Estimate (NIE) report that concluded "with high confidence"Tehran had halted its rudimentary nuclear weapons program in 2003.

If restarted, Iran is unlikely to produce any weapons before 2015.

The new NIE is a devastating, humiliating blow to Bush, Dick Cheney and theneocons who have been fulminating for war against Iran. Only two months ago,Bush warned Americans that Iran's secret nuclear program threatened toignite World War III.

A 2005 NIE report that billed Iran as a major nuclear threat was based onfabricated evidence supplied to the CIA, just like the bogus Niger uraniumstory used to justify war against Iraq. Who, one wonders, is behind thisdisinformation?

Bush was given the new NIE on Iran last August. But for the past fourmonths, Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice have been beating the war drumsover Iran when their own massed intelligence agencies have been telling themthere was no danger from that country. The White House hid its ownintelligence community's findings from the public until the spooksthreatened to leak the report.


Ironically, Iran's leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was telling the truth allalong when he said Iran was not working on nuclear arms, while Bush &Company were lying through their teeth, just as they have over Iraq andAfghanistan.

This column has been reporting for two years the growing opposition at theCIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department to Bush/Cheney's plans to launcha war against Iran. I repeatedly heard the term "fifth column" used todescribe the fanatical neocon ideologues pressing America into a secondMideast war.



Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn

Bush destroyed American power



Iran completely stops selling oil in U.S. dollars

Special Report: Iran Nuclear Crisis
Sunday, December 09, 2007 7:46 AM

TEHRAN, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Iran, the world's fourth largest oilexporter, has completely stopped selling its oil in U.S. dollars, the ISNAnews agency reported on Saturday.

"In line with the policy of selling crude oil in non-dollar currencies,currently selling our country's oil in U.S. dollars has been completelystopped," Iran's Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari was quoted as saying.

"The dollar is an unreliable currency in regards to its devaluation andthe loss oil exporters have endured from this trend," he added.

"This is why Iran proposed to OPEC members that a currency (for sellingoil) would be determined that would be reliable and would not cause any lossto exporter countries," Nozari said. He was referring to the November summitof the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Saudi Arabiain which Iran proposed that it is necessary to replace the U.S. dollar withother major hard currencies in oil trading.

Over the past months, Iran has massively reduced its dependence on theU.S. dollar in a bid to counter the United States' pressures on itsfinancial system over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.


Miami Herald

Immigration issue will test GOP hopefuls

Posted on Sun, Dec. 09, 2007

Immigration has roiled the Republican presidential campaign for months, butwhen the candidates wrangle Sunday for the first time in front of aSpanish-speaking national audience, the debate will truly hit home.The candidates have repeatedly condemned the granting of legal status toundocumented workers as ''amnesty'' -- but they have never done it smack inthe face of millions of Hispanic viewers and a live Miami-area crowd.

They have rooted repeatedly for a fence along the Mexican border to keep''illegals'' out -- but have never gone head-on with reproachful televisionnewscasters who have staked out public positions on the issue.

The prime-time debate broadcast by Univisíon from the University of Miamiwill make history and test the candidates' mettle at the same time.

Sound like a pushover and alienate conservative voters who tend to dominatepresidential primaries. Come across as hard-line and offend thefastest-growing part of the electorate.


Houston Chronicle

Gifted children 'left behind' under U.S. education law?
Some experts say students not hurt but aren't helped by model, either

Washington Post
Dec. 8, 2007, 9:49PM

WASHINGTON - Some scholars are joining parent advocates in questioningwhether the No Child Left Behind law, with its goal of universal academicproficiency, has had the unintended consequence of diverting resources andattention from the gifted.

Proponents of gifted education have forever complained of institutionalneglect. Public schools, they say, pitch lessons to the middle group ofstudents at the expense of those working beyond their assigned grade.

Now, under the federal mandate, schools are trained on a narrower group:
students on the "bubble" between success and failure on statewide tests.

Teachers struggling to meet the law's annual proficiency goals have littleincentive, critics say, to teach students who will meet those goals howeverthey are taught.

"Because it's all about bringing people up to that minimum level ofperformance, we've ignored those high-ability learners," said Nancy Green,executive director of the D.C.-based National Association for GiftedChildren. "We don't even have a test that measures their abilities."

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Chicago Tribune,0,2697728.story

Is America a nation of hope or one of fear? The voter decides

By Michael Tackett
Tribune Washington bureau chief
December 9, 2007

In many ways, this presidential election can be reduced to two words: hopeand fear.

Fear is a hard ride. It feeds on war, despair, hard times and politicalcombat. Hope floats on the gauzy sense of the possible and a better daytomorrow.

Everybody says they prefer hope. But they often vote fear.

The Republicans, for the most part, are banking on fear. It is the subtextof the entire campaign of Rudy Giuliani (R-9/11). His bargain with voters iseasy: He will keep you safe. From terrorists, from criminals, from illegalimmigrants. Don't talk methods, talk results.

Mitt Romney likes fear too, only with a smile. Remember, he said that notonly would he not close Guantanamo Bay's prison camp, he would expand it.Sen. John McCain is less harsh on immigrants than the rest of the GOP fieldbut continues to push on an otherwise unpopular war on the fear thatterrorists will take over the world if U.S. troops pull out of Iraq.

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Chicago Tribune,1,6414878.story

Romney a hard sell for evangelicals

By Dahleen Glanton and Margaret Ramirez
Tribune staff reporters
December 9, 2007

Roxanne Helmey does not mind spending time with Mormons. She welcomes anopportunity to talk to them about her Christian faith and on occasion, sheprays for them. But one thing she will not do, she said, is vote for aMormon as president of the United States.

"I feel like they're lost," said Helmey, 37, an insurance agent from Guyton,a small town about 30 miles northwest of Savannah. "I love them, but myheart breaks for them."

For Helmey and many other evangelical Christians, particularly in the BibleBelt South, religion and politics go hand in hand. So no matter whatRepublican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to say about keyconservative issues such as abortion, immigration and same-sex marriage, hisMormon faith stands in the way of getting their vote.

"For me, his faith matters. A lot of Christians believe Mormons are a cult,"said Mario Bertoluzzi, a 39-year-old elementary school teacher from Savannahand a member of an evangelical church. "Romney puts a clean face on it, butit has a dubious beginning and a history of bigamy. Lots of Christians havequestions about that."

Mormonism, founded in 1830, is still considered a new religion andconsequently suffers from prejudice and misperception, according to scholarsand church leaders.

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Houston Chronicle

Energy policy

Dec. 8, 2007, 4:54PM

The bill passed by the House misses many chances to increase efficiency andexpand U.S. energy supply.

The energy bill passed by the U.S. House last week is more a politicalstatement than a blueprint for U.S. energy policy. Titled the EnergyIndependence and Security Act, it misses many chances to attain those goals.

The bill's best feature is the requirement that automakers have a fleetaverage of 35 miles per gallon. The measure's proponents say the highermileage standard would save the United States 1.1 million barrels of oil perday - about half of what the country imports from the Persian Gulf. Withpopulations and demand for energy growing, more efficient cars and SUVs areessential.

The bill's reliance on the use of ethanol to cut crude imports is suspect,however. Most ethanol here is made from corn. The present mandate forgasoline blenders to use ethanol has driven up food prices, but the nationhasn't enjoyed a significant net gain in energy. The bill aims to force thedevelopment of efficient cellulosic ethanol, but the technology might beslow in coming. If House Democrats wanted to increase use of efficientlymade ethanol, they would eliminate the tariff on imported ethanol made fromsugar cane.

A requirement that utilities produce 15 percent of their electricity fromrenewable sources is arbitrary and does not suit every locality, but itwould prompt market solutions. Texas, one of the leading producers of windpower, has a 5 percent renewable requirement, and the state's economy andconsumers have benefited.

President Bush has voiced objection to the bill's new taxes applied to theoil industry, and he has good reason. Does it make sense to raise the taxburden on the companies that produce and distribute the energy the nation'sprosperity rests on? The oil industry should be taxed as near as possible inthe same manner as other corporations.

more . . . . .


Detroit News

Clinton campaign wounds itself

Eugene Robinson
Sunday, December 9, 2007

One assumes that Hillary Clinton and her inner circle are rethinking theirnew strategy of singling out Barack Obama and attacking him on issues ofexperience, ambition and character. Of course, the first thing a rookiereporter learns is that one should never assume anything; if people werepredictable, there would be no news. So maybe the self-inflictedbloodletting will continue.

Clinton was doing fine in the role of presumptive nominee -- serene of mind,generous of spirit, miles above the fray. Her authoritative voice andpresidential bearing telegraphed that Obama, John Edwards and the rest ofthe Democratic contenders were all, essentially, just members of hersupporting cast. It was only natural that they would attack her, since shewas so far ahead in the polls. To respond in kind would have been beneathher.

But when those polls began to tighten -- as was practically inevitable,given how big Clinton's lead has been -- the Clinton campaign made twodecisions that I'm still trying to figure out. Both seem risky, if not rash,and so far neither is really working.

The first was to elevate Obama, and none of the others, to the role ofco-star. Granted, this reflects the reality of the contest -- Obama is theone who's gaining on Clinton. The daily Rasmussen Reports tracking poll saidThursday that Clinton is supported by 33 percent of Democrats nationwide andObama by 26 percent. For most of the campaign, Clinton has enjoyeddouble-digit leads.

But she's still ahead by seven points, which would generally be considered acomfortable lead -- less comfortable when it's shrinking than when it'sgrowing, to be sure, but still a big hill for Obama to climb. And in Iowa,the state that goes first, Edwards could still win or finish second in whatremains a fluid three-way contest.

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: Obama's American Idea

December 10, 2007

I asked Senator Barack Obama if he's tough enough for a dangerous world.Sometimes the Democratic candidate treads so carefully, and looks sovulnerable to a gust of wind, that the question of whether his legal mindcan get lethal arises.

"Yes, I'm tough enough," he responded during a half-hour conversation. "WhatI've always found is people who talk about how tough they are aren't thetough ones. I'm less interested in beating my chest and rattling my saberand more in making decisions that build a safer and more secure world."

Obama, speaking less than a month before the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3,continued: "We can and should lead the world, but we have to apply wisdomand judgment. Part of our capacity to lead is linked to our capacity to showrestraint."

That was striking: an enduring belief in U.S. leadership coupled with acommitment to, as he also put it, acting "with a sense of humility."Skepticism about the American idea and American global stewardship has grownfast during the Bush years.

There are many reasons: the failures in Iraq; the abyss between U.S.principle and practice (Abu Ghraib); the rise of other nations (China);startling displays of American incoherence (Iran); economic vulnerability(the dollar as declining store of value); and general resentments stirred byany near hegemonic power.

more . . . . .


Inside Higher Education

Academic Freedom and Evolution

Opponents of evolution have of late been trying to frame their arguments asbeing about academic freedom and free expression. As a result, theanti-evolution Discovery Institute is ecstatic over the recent discovery ofe-mail messages among professors at Iowa State University criticizing theviews of a pro-intelligent design professor whose tenure bid was denied."Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez and Academic Persecution" is the title of theinstitute's Web page about the case. (Iowa State says that the professor'sviews on evolution were not a decisive factor in his dismissal.)

The Christian Law Association, meanwhile, frames a lawsuit against the WoodsHole Oceanographic Institution by a fired postdoc who does not believe inevolution or want to do work related to evolution as a matter of his beingpunished for his beliefs.

But the groups arguing for freedom of expression of evolution deniers havenot been heard agitating for the rights of Richard Colling. He's a professorat Olivet Nazarene University, in Illinois, who has been barred fromteaching general biology or having his book taught at the university that ishis alma mater and the place where he has taught for 27 years. A biologistwho is very much a person of faith, these punishments followed anger by somereligious supporters of the college over the publication of his book inwhich he argues that it is possible to believe in God and still acceptevolution.

"I thought I was doing the church a service," Colling said in an interview.He believes that religious colleges that frame science and faith asincompatible will lose some of their best minds, and that his work has beendevoted to helping faithful students maintain their religious devotion whilelearning science as science should be taught.

"You can't check your intellect at the door of the church," he said. Collinghas tenure and he hasn't been fired or had his pay cut - which universityofficials have told the American Association of University Professors meansthat Olivet Nazarene can't be accused of violating his academic freedom.



Inside Higher Education

Fallout from Fresno State's Multi-Million Dollar Case(s)

Just five months ago, a $5.85 million verdict in favor of Linda L. Vivas,the former California State University at Fresno women's volleyball coach,set a record for Title IX verdicts. On Thursday, a second Fresno jury blewthat mark away, ordering the university to pay $19.1 million to StacyJohnson-Klein in a case that involved alleged sex discrimination andretaliation for the former women's basketball coach's advocacy for femaleathletes. In between the two verdicts, Fresno State settled a similar casewith its former associate athletics director, Diane Milutinovich, for $3.5million.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country in 2007, appeals courts reinstated twohigh-profile sexual harassment lawsuits filed under Title IX - the landmark1972 federal law barring gender discrimination in institutions receivingfederal funds - against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill andthe University of Colorado at Boulder, respectively. (Both cases had majordevelopments last week. The decade-old suit against UNC women's soccer coachAnson Dorrance got an April trial date, as Sports Illustrated reported onTuesday. And, on Wednesday, Colorado settled the suit filed by two formerstudents who claimed the university had failed to do enough to prevent analleged rape by football players and recruits for $2.85 million.)

Other claims challenging alleged retaliation against coaches who stood upfor the law's principles - their right to sue under Title IX for retaliationsettled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 - are percolating at Feather RiverCommunity College in California and Florida Gulf Coast University, said ErinBuzuvis, an assistant professor at Western New England College School ofLaw. On top of that, the decision by the University of Hawaii at Manoa women's cross-country and track coach to file a lawsuit this fall alleging genderinequities in athletics - while she's still employed there - could only bepossible in a climate in which coaches and others are legally protected fromretaliation, Buzuvis said.



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