Wednesday, December 12, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 12, 2007

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Huckabee's 1992 Words Get New Attention

December 12, 2007
Filed at 1:19 a.m. ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- The U.S. shouldn't try to kill Saddam Hussein inIraq, Mike Huckabee declared when he first ran for office. No women incombat anywhere. No gays in the military. No contributions in politics tocandidates more than a year before an election.

His statements are among 229 answers Huckabee offered as a 36-year-oldTexarkana pastor during his first run for political office in 1992. In thatunsuccessful race against Sen. Dale Bumpers, Huckabee offered himself as asocial conservative and listed ''moral decay'' as one of the top problemsfacing the country.

Now that he's a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination,he's being asked anew about some of the views and comments he expressed inthe survey by The Associated Press. Over the weekend, he said he wouldn'tretract answers in which he advocated isolating AIDS patients from thegeneral public, opposed increased funding for finding a cure and saidhomosexuality could pose a public health risk -- though he said today hemight phrase his answers ''a little differently.''

Some of the words in his answers to the questionnaire are indeed strong.

Asked about gays in the military, for example, he didn't just reject theidea but added: ''I believe to try to legitimize that which is inherentlyillegitimate would be a disgraceful act of government. I feel homosexualityis an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can posea dangerous public health risk.''

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The Huckabee Factor

December 12, 2007
Cover Story

This article will appear in the upcoming issue of the Sunday Magazine.

Mike Huckabee walked into the lobby of the Des Moines Marriott at 5:30 a.m.on Dec. 3, deposited an armful of dirty laundry at the desk and checked tomake sure he was being credited with Marriott Rewards points toward his nextstay. Then, accompanied by his wife, Janet, his daughter, Sarah, and hispress secretary, Alice Stewart - who doubles as his Boston Marathontrainer - he walked into the dark, freezing morning, climbed into a waitingS.U.V. and headed for Central College in Pella, Iowa.

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, was in a buoyant mood on three hoursof sleep. The night before, his commercial flight suffered a long Chicagoholdover on the way from Boston, but he had reason to hope that his days atthe mercy of the airlines might be numbered. A Des Moines Register opinionpoll had just shown Huckabee passing Mitt Romney to take the lead in therun-up to the Jan. 3 caucus. His picture, he already knew, was on the frontpage of that morning's USA Today. Now he was headed to Central College, toappear, surrounded by enthusiastic students, on ''The Early Show'' on CBS .This kind of momentum, he hoped, would finally produce enough cash to allowhim to charter his own plane.

The governor was especially happy that morning about an impendingendorsement he expected (and received the following day) from Tim LaHaye,the author of the apocalyptic ''Left Behind'' series of novels. ''LeftBehind'' is wildly popular among evangelicals, who have bought more than 65million copies, making LaHaye a very rich man and one of the few writers whois also a major philanthropist. Recently he donated a hockey rink to JerryFalwell's Liberty University, although some members of the faculty therederide ''Left Behind'' as science fiction. Huckabee, an ordained SouthernBaptist minister, has no such reservations. He considers the ''Left Behind''books, in which the world comes to a violent end as Jesus triumphs overSatan, a ''compelling story written for nontheologians.''

Huckabee's affability and populist economic and social views have sometimesbeen misinterpreted as a moderate brand of evangelical Christianity. Infact, as he wrote in his book ''Character Makes a Difference,'' he considersliberalism to be a cancer on Christianity. Huckabee is an admirer of thelate Jerry Falwell (whose son, Jerry Jr., recently endorsed his candidacy)and subscribes wholeheartedly to the principles of the Moral Majority. Healso affirms the Baptist Faith and Message statement: ''The Holy Bible . . .has truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, allScripture is totally true and trustworthy.''

On the road to Pella, Huckabee talked about the enthusiasm he now encounterseverywhere he goes. For example, he said, his driver in California not onlydeclined payment but also wrote the governor a $50 personal check right onthe spot. It was, I thought, a dangerous anecdote to tell within earshot ofa professional driver traveling along an icy highway at high speed, butHuckabee was feeling invulnerable, and the driver, I later realized, wasalready on the governor's team. Huckabee normally starts his mornings byrunning 6 to 10 miles and reading a chapter from the Book of Proverbs. Todayhe was too pressed to do either, but he planned to catch up later. Anyway,he knew much of the day's assignment, Chapter 3, by heart. ''Trust in theLord,'' he quoted, ''and lean not upon thine own understanding.'' Not a badmotto for a campaign that is still too broke to do any independent polling.

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Secret Santa Exposed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007; C02

Now's the time to squelch the idea of having a Secret Santa exchange in youroffice.

Miss Manners understands that the workplace adoption of this custom is meantto warm office relationships with an infusion of holiday cheer. That doesnot prevent it from being a perfectly dreadful idea.

She has ample testimony from her Gentle Readers about what a disaster it sooften is. Apparently, the warmth arising after such exchanges is produced byhuman seething. On office time.

This is an activity that promises to bring out the worst in everyone.

Well, nearly everyone. There is always the well-meaning person who isdetermined to make everybody happy, and runs around the office blithelyleaving cookies for dieters and diabetics, Christmas ornaments fornon-Christians and turkeys for vegetarians. It is apt to be the same personwho has organized the Secret Santa exchange, in addition to cajolingeveryone to donate money to buy a handsome present for the boss.

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Schools Lag Amid Gains On D.C. HIV Report Card

By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; B01

Delays in approving comprehensive HIV-AIDS education in District publicschools are putting students at risk and impeding the city's promisingefforts to combat the epidemic, according to a report to be released today.

"In the midst of this crisis, students should be getting information inschool that will help prevent infection for the rest of their lives," saysthe assessment by the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, anindependent advocacy group. Despite repeated school board resolutions forimmediate action, "fewer and fewer" youths have received instruction on thevirus in recent years.

Education leaders and the Fenty administration should ensure strongstandards and curricula are in place before classes start next fall, theorganization urges. "The District's young people are entitled to nothingless," it says.

The schools' lack of progress is a glaring negative on the city's reportcard, the third Appleseed has issued since March 2006. The system's latestgrade reflects the problems: a D.

In contrast, the scores of other city programs and officials are improving.For the first time, two of the dozen areas judged got an A; six othersreceived their best score ever.

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Trading places: Thompson, McCain reallocate resources

Wire reports
December 12, 2007

Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., is abandoning New Hampshire'sfirst-in-the-nation presidential primary to focus his efforts on the Iowaprecinct caucuses as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cuts back in Iowa to focuson New Hampshire.

The development reflects efforts by second-tier presidential candidates tofocus their shrinking financial and staff resources on states that hold thebest promise of igniting their flagging campaigns.

Thompson spokeswoman Karen Hanretty told the Union Leader in Manchester,N.H., that her candidate would not be returning to New Hampshire to campaignbefore Iowa conducts its first-in-the-nation voting on Jan 3. New Hampshirehosts the nation's first presidential primary five days later on Jan. 8.

"Iowa is first in the nation, so we'll spend our time in Iowa and then bespending our time in the states that come after it," Hanretty said.

McCain signaled in an interview on Fox News on Sunday that he was cuttingback efforts in Iowa, where he's running fifth, to focus greater resourceson New Hampshire, where he is running second to Romney.

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Freddie, Fannie CEOs warn of tough 2008

The Associated Press
December 12, 2007


The chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Tuesday warned theirailing mortgage finance companies will suffer further in 2008 because of aweakening housing market and rising home-loan defaults.

Freddie's CEO, Richard Syron, said the government-sponsored company couldlose an additional $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion over the next few years fromsoured home loans.

"I honestly think it's going to get tougher before it gets better," Syronsaid in a discussion with financial analysts in New York. His company hasalready logged about $4.5 billion in projected losses during the first ninemonths of this year.

Freddie's shares fell $3.73, or 10.6 percent, to finish at $31.31 in tradingTuesday.

Fannie CEO Daniel Mudd, also meeting with analysts at the conference,forecast "a very tough 2008" and continued weakness in home prices through2009. Mudd called the wave of defaults and foreclosures this year the worstmortgage crisis "in recent memory."

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Inside Higher Education

Competition for Top Grad Students

Dec. 12

It isn't just undergraduates who are seeing Harvard University's largessthis week. On Tuesday, university officials were briefing faculty members onplans to up stipends for graduate students in the humanities and socialsciences, which have fallen slightly behind those of some of the university's competitors. In addition, the university said that it would double - fromtwo to four - the number of summers for which these graduate students willreceive research support.

In a memo to faculty members, Theda Skocpol, dean of Harvard's GraduateSchool of Arts and Sciences, said it was "worrisome" that Harvard had fallenbehind others in key ways and was determined to stay competitive on stipendsand summer support. While detailed stipend figures were not released, themove is expected to push stipends in the humanities and social science Ph.D.programs from a bit under $20,000 a year to a bit over that. And the summersupport - again an area where Harvard has fallen behind some peers - isviewed as important both competitively and for helping graduate studentsfinish their Ph.D.'s in a reasonable time frame.

"We know that Ph.D. students do best, and make steady progress towardcompleting their dissertations, when they can make optimal use of summertime along the way. So this additional summers of support, especially, isvery good news for all," Skocpol said in her memo.

In addition, she said Harvard would embark on a plan to expand the size ofPh.D. classes in some science fields.

Harvard's move follows those of other institutions - generally top privatesuniversities - in improving stipends. The University of Chicago in Februaryraised stipends in the humanities and social sciences to $19,000.Previously, they had been $4,000 to $18,000. Chicago also pledged to providetwo summers of research support.

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Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn

Iraq Rejects Permanent US Bases: Adviser

by Peter Graff
Published on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 by Reuters

BAGHDAD - Iraq will never allow the United States to have permanent militarybases on its soil, the government's national security adviser said.

"We need the United States in our war against terrorism, we need them toguard our border sometimes, we need them for economic support and we needthem for diplomatic and political support," Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said.

"But I say one thing, permanent forces or bases in Iraq for any foreignforces is a red line that cannot be accepted by any nationalist Iraqi," hetold Dubai-based al Arabiya television in an interview broadcast late onMonday.

His comments were the clearest sign yet that Iraq's leaders are lookingahead to the days when they have full responsibility for its defense.

The United States has around 160,000 troops in Iraq, officially under aUnited Nations mandate enacted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq formally asked the United Nations on Monday to renew that mandate for ayear until the end of 2008. It made clear it would not extend the mandatebeyond next year and the mandate could be revoked sooner at Iraq's request.

President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki signed adeclaration of principles last month agreeing to friendly long-term ties.Arrangements for U.S. troops to stay beyond next year will be negotiated inearly 2008.



The New York Times

Retroactively, Panel Reduces Drug Sentences

December 12, 2007

WASHINGTON - The agency that sets guidelines for federal prison sentencesvoted unanimously on Tuesday to lighten punishments retroactively for somecrimes related to crack cocaine, a decision that could eventually affectabout 19,500 inmates and mean freedom for some within months.

The 7-to-0 vote by the United States Sentencing Commission was intended tohelp narrow the stark disparity that has existed for two decades betweensentences for crack cocaine and those linked to the powder form of the drug,a disparity written into law two decades ago when it was widely assumed thatcrack was more dangerous than the powdered drug.

Since then, experts have concluded that there are more similarities thandifferences, and many people involved in sentencing have lamented the factthat black people are disproportionately affected by crack-relatedsentences. Statistics show that about 85 percent of the federal inmatesbehind bars for crack offenses are black.

"At its core, this question is one of fairness," said one commission member,Judge William K. Sessions III of the United States District Court inVermont. "This is an historic day. This system of justice is, and mustalways be, colorblind."

The decision - which does not affect mandatory minimum sentences imposed byCongress - will become effective on March 3, at which point many inmateswill be eligible to petition a judge to be resentenced under the newguidelines. The delay will give prison administrators and other correctionaladministrators time to prepare for a surge of applications.

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The New York Times

Editorial: Justice in Sentencing

December 12, 2007

With a pair of 7-2 rulings this week, the Supreme Court struck a blow forbasic fairness and judicial independence. The court restored a vital measureof discretion to federal trial judges to impose sentences based on theirassessment of a particular crime and defendant rather than being forced toadhere to overarching guidelines.

Beyond that, one of the rulings highlighted the longstanding injustice offederal guidelines and statutes imposing much longer sentences for offensesinvolving crack cocaine, which is most often found in impoverishedcommunities, than for offenses involving the chemically identical powderedcocaine, which is popular among more affluent users.

The rulings provide fresh impetus for Congress to rewrite the grotesquelyunfair crack cocaine laws on which the federal sentencing guidelines arepartly based. Those laws are a relic of the 1980s, when it was widely butwrongly believed that the crack form of cocaine was more dangerous than thepowder form. We are pleased that the United States Sentencing Commissionrecently called for reducing sentences for some categories of offenders andhas now called for applying the change retroactively. The real work stilllies with Congress, which needs to rewrite the law.

Building on a 2005 decision that held the sentencing guidelines to beadvisory rather than mandatory, the new rulings affirm that the guidelinesare but one factor to be considered by a trial judge in arriving at anindividual sentence, and that an appeals court must have a strong reason tooverturn that sentence.

In one of the cases, the justices supported a district judge in Virginia whogave a military veteran convicted of crack dealing a sentence of 15 years,rather than the 19-22 years that the guidelines recommended. The rulingdescribed the federal crack law as "disproportionate and unjust." Writingfor the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that it would not be anabuse of a discretion for a trial judge to conclude that the crack/powderdisparity resulted in a longer-than-necessary sentence for a particulardefendant.

In the other case, the court found that a trial judge was within his rightsto impose a light sentence on a man briefly involved in selling the drugEcstasy while in college. In reviewing sentences, wrote Justice John PaulStevens for the majority, appellate courts must apply a deferentialabuse-of-discretion standard to trial judges' decisions.

There is a danger that the new procedures outlined by the court could end upmaking federal sentences unfairly disparate across the country, underminingone of the important objectives of having sentencing guidelines in the firstplace. If that happens, Congress will have to address the problem. For themoment, the Supreme Court's latest adjustment in sentencing strikes us as apositive development, one with much potential for advancing justice.


The New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: The Dream Is Dead

December 12, 2007

The man crowned by Tommy Franks as "the dumbest [expletive] guy on theplanet" just made the dumbest [expletive] speech on the planet.

Doug Feith, the former Rummy gofer who drove the neocon plan to get us intoIraq, and then dawdled without a plan as Iraq crashed into chaos, was theheadliner at a reunion meeting of the wooly-headed hawks Monday night at theAmerican Enterprise Institute.

The room was packed as the former No. 3 at the Pentagon, previewing hisupcoming book, "War and Decision," conceded that the case could be made that"mistakes were made." His former boss, Paul Wolfowitz, and the formerPentagon adviser Richard Perle sat supportively in the front row.

But he wasn't self-flagellating. He was simply trying to put an eggheadgloss on his Humpty Dumpty mishegoss.

"At the end of the day, here we are, and as of now there's a reasonablechance that the country is going to remain united," he said. Not quite theoriginal boast of democracy cascading through the Middle East.

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The New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: Losing Weight in the Gulf

December 12, 2007
Manama, Bahrain

Growing up in Minnesota, one of my favorite things was going to the statefair each summer and watching the guy who would guess your weight within 5pounds. If you fooled him, you won a stuffed animal.

Out here on the Persian Gulf, where small countries learn quickly how tosurvive large predators, they've developed a similar skill: They cancalculate a country's power within 5 pounds, just by looking at it. If they're wrong, they end up as a stuffed animal.

Right now, the Arab Gulf states are all sizing up America, their protector,and are wondering just how much Uncle Sam weighs in the standoff with Iran -and whether it will be enough to keep Iran at bay.

I've been at a security conference in the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain,attended by defense officials and analysts from all over the world, and allthe buzz has been about the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate onIran. It has left every Arab and European expert I've spoken to baffled -not in its conclusions, but by why those conclusions were framed in a waythat is sure to reduce America's leverage to negotiate with Tehran.

The Gulf Arabs feel like they have this neighbor who has been a drug dealerfor 18 years. Recently, this neighbor has been very visibly growing poppiesfor heroin in his backyard in violation of the law. He's also been buyingbigger and better trucks to deliver drugs. You can see them parked in hisdriveway.

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The New York Times

Editorial: Politics, Putin-Style

December 12, 2007

The Soviet-style guessing game over Russia's presidential succession seemedall but decided this week when President Vladimir Putin endorsed thecandidacy of his loyal protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, and then Mr. Medvedevannounced that, once elected, he would appoint Mr. Putin to be his primeminister.

Commentators in Russia quickly declared that the Russian people cravedstability - and Mr. Putin - far more than democracy, and that this was whatthey wanted. Of course, Mr. Putin dominates Russian television, most of therest of the news media and all of the country's political system, so anyonewho doesn't bear his stamp of approval is bound to look like a riskyunknown.

The situation could have been worse. Mr. Putin is barred by the Constitutionfrom running for a third term, and there were fears that he, or his allies,might find a way to tear up the charter so that he could stay on. We arerelieved that he apparently has decided against that particularlywrongheaded move.

Mr. Putin could also have chosen someone, like himself, from the thuggishintelligence services. Instead his heir apparent, currently a deputy primeminister and chairman of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, is a former lawprofessor with a reported fondness for the West.

Mr. Medvedev is credited with doing a decent job of distributing thewindfall profits that have pumped Russia's economy in recent years. He hasalso spoken in favor of Russia's integration into the world economy andraised questions about the value of an economy dominated by state-ownedenterprises. That did not stop Gazprom, under his leadership, from using itsgas supplies to try to blackmail politically obstreperous neighbors.
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The New York Times

Editorial: Weapons of War at the Mall and Church

December 12, 2007

Barely touched on in the coverage of the two latest gun rampages is how thedisturbed shooters could so easily obtain assault rifles - weapons designedfor waging war. In separate random massacres, eight people were slain at anOmaha shopping mall last Wednesday and four were more shot dead Sunday attwo Colorado churches. The Omaha killer took his stepfather's rapid-firerifle from a closet to pick off Christmas shoppers. In Colorado, the gunman,leaving behind an Internet screed referenced to the 1999 Columbine massacre,was equipped with two assault rifles, three handguns and 1,000 rounds ofammunition.

How could this happen? That's the great American cliché attached to theseever-mounting tragedies. We all know the answer. Guns are ubiquitous in thiscountry, and the gun lobby is so powerful that this year's toll of 30,000gun deaths makes barely a political ripple.

Until recently, the nation did have a law designed to protect the publicfrom assault rifles and other high-tech infantry weapons. In 1994, enoughpoliticians felt the public's fear to respond with a 10-year ban onassault-weapons that was not perfect but dented the free-marketeering ofRambo mayhem. Most Americans rejected the gun lobby's absurd claim thatassault rifles are "sporting" weapons. But when it came up for renewal in2004, President Bush and Congress caved to the gun lobby and allowed the lawto lapse. This was despite Mr. Bush's campaign vow to renew the ban. It wasespecially frightening to see the ban expire in the very midst ofpoliticians' endless post-9/11 invoking of homeland security.

New presidential candidates are now wooing voters. Surely they can't wait toaddress the latest slayings with a detailed plan of action at the very nexttelevised debate. Surely moderators can hold off on immigration and findingout who believes more in the bible to bring up the latest rampages.

Instead of asking how could this happen, the country needs to know who isgoing to stop it.

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The New York Times

Op-Ed Contributor: South Africa Grows Up

December 12, 2007

THIS weekend, 5,000 delegates of South Africa's ruling African NationalCongress will gather in the dusty northern town of Polokwane to elect theirnext leader. They are faced with the choice of two bitter rivals who wereonce, as successors to Nelson Mandela, the closest of allies: the incumbentpresident, Thabo Mbeki, and his former deputy, Jacob Zuma.

Mr. Mbeki is constitutionally precluded from serving again when his termends in 2009, but if he were to win the party leadership, he could selecthis own successor. A victory by Mr. Zuma would be a radical changing of theguard.

At preparatory provincial nomination conferences in November, A.N.C.delegates selected Mr. Zuma by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Though there is achance that some votes will swing to Mr. Mbeki, Mr. Zuma clearly has theadvantage.

This is perplexing to many outsiders, given that Mr. Mbeki has earned aninternational reputation as a voice for progress and prosperity on theAfrican continent - a reputation that was enhanced two years ago when hefired Mr. Zuma, then implicated in a corruption scandal. Mr. Mbeki'ssupporters say Mr. Zuma has little respect for the rule of law, that he hasdodgy friends and a tendency toward demagoguery, and that he lacks thejudgment required for highest office. Under Mr. Zuma, they say, their youngdemocracy could degenerate into another neocolonial African kleptocracy.

Is there any foundation to this anxiety? Will the Polokwane conference setin motion a tragic final act to one of the world's greatest liberationnarratives? Not necessarily. Instead, the current contest is mainly anindicator that South Africa's democracy has matured and is ready formeaningful political debate.

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The New York Times

Real Action on Climate Change

By Anne-Marie Slaughter
December 7, 2007, 11:14 am

Anne-Marie Slaughter, an international lawyer and the dean of the WoodrowWilson School at Princeton University. She is the author "The Idea that isAmerica," and she is spending this academic year in Shanghai.

I caught a snippet of a speech at the United Nations Conference on ClimateChange in Bali, long enough to hear the speaker say: "We need real action."Real action. Not promises, not hopes for new technologies, not high-mindedrhetoric, but action.

When I was in Japan last month, I saw real action in action. After a day ofmeetings at the Foreign Ministry, a young diplomat escorted me to theentrance just after 5:00. We walked through a darkened hallway; I assumedthat we were in a part of the building under renovation. Not so - my guideexplained to me that all non-essential lights were turned off "to saveenergy and the environment." We came to the elevator bank, where 5-6 peoplewere waiting in front of an elevator even though the elevator next to it wasthere and empty. I gestured toward it, and my guide again explained thatafter 5:00 only one elevator ran - the others were blocked.

The next day in the train station I commented on the waste-bins with threeor four different compartments for different kinds of waste. Our Japaneseescort, Eiko-san, explained that at home Tokyo residents are required toseparate out 7 different kinds of products for recycling, and that in someother cities in Japan the categories go as high as 19. These distinctionsmake it possible to readily recycle different materials; indeed, Eiko-sanmentioned that the governor of Tokyo was doing everything possible to avoidcreating another major landfill.

Small potatoes, perhaps - certainly in the face of the enormity of climatechange. Indeed, every time we read of the massive natural forces that carbonconcentrations are unleashing - melting glaciers, warming ocean waters,hurricanes and floods - it is natural to think that only similarly massivesolutions - the invention of brand-new energy sources, the ability to blockheat from the atmosphere via enormous cloud-shields - can save us. In fact,however, as any climate scientist will tell you, it's going to take a widearray of solutions, big and small, to begin reversing the damage we havealready done, much less avoiding even greater catastrophe.

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The New York Times

Editorial: Disabled, and Waiting for Justice

December 11, 2007

We know what is behind President Bush's sudden enthusiasm for fiscaldiscipline after years of running up deficits and debt: political posturing,just in time for the 2008 election. But one should not forget the damagethat his administration has also inflicted by shortchanging importantdomestic programs in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy and his never-endingIraq war.

A case in point is the worsening bureaucratic delays at the chronicallyunderfunded Social Security Administration that have kept hundreds ofthousands of disabled Americans from timely receipt of their Social Securitydisability benefits.

As laid out by Erik Eckholm in The Times on Monday, the backlog ofapplicants who are awaiting a decision after appealing an initial rejectionhas soared to 755,000 from 311,000 in 2000. The average wait for an appealshearing now exceeds 500 days, twice as long as applicants had to wait in2000.

Typically two-thirds of those who appeal eventually win their cases. Butduring the long wait, their conditions may worsen and their lives often fallapart. More and more people have lost their homes, declared bankruptcy oreven died while awaiting an appeals hearing.

In one poignant case described by Mr. Eckholm, a North Carolina woman who istethered to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day has been waiting three years for adecision. She finally got a hearing last month and is awaiting a finalverdict, but, meanwhile, she has lost her apartment and alternates sleepingat her daughter's crowded house and a friend's place.

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The New York Times

Seeking Leaders, U.S. Companies Think Globally

December 12, 2007

The corner offices of corporate America are increasingly being filled fromevery corner of the world.

Citigroup, the world's largest bank, named Vikram S. Pandit, a native ofNagpur, India, as its chief executive on Tuesday. Mr. Pandit joins 14 otherforeign-born chiefs who are running Fortune 100 companies.

The head of the Altria Group was born in Egypt, for example. PepsiCo's isfrom India, the Liberty Mutual Group's is a native of Ireland and Alcoa'swas born in Morocco.

Their numbers have jumped from roughly a decade ago; there were nineforeign-born chief executives on Fortune's list of the 100 largest companiesin 1996. But the size of the new group does not reflect a noteworthychange - they come from more far-flung countries now than then, when theywere more likely to hail from Canada or Europe.

The shift reflects, in part, the focus that companies place on foreignmarkets for growth. For the first time, for example, the companies in theStandard & Poor's 500-stock index are expected to achieve more than halftheir sales from abroad next year, on average.

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The New York Times

Feeling Heat, Clinton Tries Iowa Up Close

December 12, 2007

DES MOINES - Ten months ago, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton went to EastHigh School here on her first trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate andlaid out a case for her candidacy to a cheering crowd in a packed gymnasium.

Mrs. Clinton returned to East High School late last week. But the crowd wasmuch smaller and more sedate. And rather than discussing her candidacy, Mrs.Clinton explained the caucus process and showed a video titled "Caucusing IsEasy."

The video was directed at voters who might be intimidated by the complicatedIowa caucus process. But the reassuring message might as well have beenintended for the candidate herself.

Though she maintains a solid lead among Democrats in most national polls,Mrs. Clinton is showing signs of vulnerability, with her margins narrowingin the early voting states and her main rival for the nomination, SenatorBarack Obama, taking her on more aggressively.

Nowhere are her problems more on display than in this state, where successlies in building a person-to-person network of supporters. And nowhere isthe Clinton campaign - which to some Iowans had appeared ignorant of thepolitical subtleties, if not arrogant about them - working more urgently torecalibrate and head off defeat as the Jan. 3 caucus approaches.

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The New York Times

Congressional Memo: Muscle Flexing in Senate: G.O.P. Defends Strategy

December 12, 2007

WASHINGTON -Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader,operates with near-robotic efficiency when it comes to negotiating budgetfigures in public, consistently refusing to answer questions that would evercommit him to a specific number at the bargaining table.

So it was more than a little telling when Mr. McConnell laid down his markin the current budget fight on Tuesday, informing the Capitol Hill presscorps that he was ready to offer Democrats a deal, $70 billion in warfinancing with no strings attached and a total budget identical to PresidentBush's proposal.

In other words, the Republicans should get virtually everything they want.And he was not kidding.

With the president warning repeatedly that he will veto any budget packagehe dislikes and the Democrats short of the 60 votes they need in the Senate,the Republican minority is in an unusually strong bargaining position - andnot just in the budget negotiations that are the top priority in Congressthese days.

Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense,blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority thatthey are increasingly able to dictate what they want, much to the dismay ofthe majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and frustrated Democratsin the House.

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The New York Times

C.I.A. Director Speaks to Senate Committee

December 12, 2007

WASHINGTON - Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central IntelligenceAgency, distanced himself on Tuesday from the decision to record andsubsequently destroy hundreds of hours of video taken during theinterrogations of senior Qaeda captives.

Speaking in public after delivering classified testimony before a Senatecommittee, General Hayden said that the decision to record theinterrogations in 2002 was made under George J. Tenet, then the director ofcentral intelligence, and that the destruction of those tapes in 2005 cameunder the watch of Porter J. Goss, who succeeded Mr. Tenet.

"There are other people at the agency who know about this far better than I," he said after he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Hehad become the agency director in May 2006, six months after intelligenceofficials have said the tapes were destroyed.

Congressional officials said Tuesday that they would probably call Mr. Gossand Mr. Tenet before the committee as part of its investigation into thematter.

In a statement to agency employees on Thursday, General Hayden indicatedthat he supported the decision to destroy the videos. He did not reiteratethat support in his public comments on Tuesday, although he did not say thedecision was wrong.

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The New York Times

Humane Society Traces Expensive Pups to Pet Mills

December 12, 2007

LOS ANGELES - A pet store in the Bel-Air neighborhood deceived customers,including Hollywood celebrities, about the origin of their puppies, many ofwhich come from unlicensed pet mills, according to a Humane Society of theUnited States investigation released Tuesday.

The investigation looked at dog breeders, pet auctions and pet stores thatform a chain of supply for the expensive dogs that can be found along thestreets of Beverly Hills, often in sweaters and rhinestone collars.

These so-called puppy mills are large-scale breeding operations that have areputation for abuse, inbreeding and filthy conditions.

"These puppy mills apply an agricultural mind-set to the breeding of dogs,"said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States."Often, they're run by farmers who raise soybeans and corn, and this becomesanother, more lucrative cash crop for them. It often becomes a dominantsource of income because no money is spent on the care of these dogs."

The tiny toy breeds that sit in wooden baby cribs at the Bel-Air store, Petsof Bel Air, sell for upward of $1,000 and are popular among the youngHollywood set.

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The Washington Post

Gentlemen First: The Vice President Gets the Vapors

By Ruth Marcus
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; A29

Dick Cheney is worried that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has shrunken the "bigsticks" of the once-tough guys who were the vice president's colleagues inCongress.

Barbara Walters wants to know whether former president Clinton will organizethe Easter egg hunt or fuss over Christmas decorations if there is a futurePresident Clinton.

Tee hee hee.

There is a common subtext here, or, rather, common subtexts. The first isthe continuing, maddening, mystifying discomfort with the notion of a womanas leader. The second involves the supposed implications -- humiliating?emasculating? -- of female leaders for the men around them.

In case you missed it, the vice president made those comments in aninterview with the Politico. "Most striking were his virtually tauntingremarks of two men he described as friends from his own days in the House:Democratic Reps. John Dingell (Mich.) and John P. Murtha (Pa.)," wrote myformer Post colleagues Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris.

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The Washington Post

Russia's New Oligarchy: For Putin and Friends, a Gusher of QuestionableDeals

By Anders Aslund
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; A29

The news that Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin's nominee to succeed him aspresident, wants Putin to become prime minister of Russia next year opensone option for Putin to retain power after his term ends. Putin has littlechoice but to stay in power as long as he can.

A year ago, a famous Russian journalist asked me: "Is it true that Putin hasa net fortune of $35 to 40 billion?" (This journalist, of course, has longbeen excluded from Kremlin-controlled media.)

This fall, the respected Polish magazine Wprost published its annualresponse to Forbes, its list of the richest people in Eastern Europe.Besides the well-known business executives, there is Gennady Timchenko, alittle-known character with a purported fortune of $20 billion. A small oiltrader who resides in Geneva, Timchenko is from St. Petersburg, where hebelongs to the same luxurious dacha collective as Putin.

I first heard of Timchenko in February 2004. Ivan Rybkin, a Russianpolitician who audaciously opposed Putin in the presidential election thatyear, claimed that Putin was "one of Russia's biggest oligarchs" and that heoperated through three middlemen, including Timchenko. Rybkin charged thatthe Putin-Timchenko group was gobbling up the embattled oil giant Yukos. Heswiftly disappeared under mysterious circumstances and, after he reemerged,was forced to suspend his campaign.

Indeed, the privately owned Yukos oil company has been devoured by thestate-dominated Rosneft, whose chairman is Igor Sechin, Putin's closestadviser and collaborator. The confiscation, which began in 2003, waspublicly justified with not-very-credible citations of tax violations.Rosneft's gain was probably about $100 billion in Yukos assets. U.S.investors in Yukos have lost at least $7 billion; some claim the figure isas much as $12 billion. In October, the House Financial Services Committee'ssubcommittee on domestic and international monetary policy held a hearing onthis, at which I testified.

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The Washington Post

Labor's Global Push

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; A29

"We haven't been reacting quickly enough," says Guy Ryder, who heads a newlymerged global union federation, the International Trade Union Conference."That's a fair criticism."

What labor hasn't reacted to quickly enough is simply, and hugely, theglobalization of the economy. Over the past three decades, virtually everymajor business has become transnational, and the world labor force hasdoubled in size, chiefly because of the entry of the Chinese and Indianworkforces. The share of the world's workers represented by unions,accordingly, has dramatically declined. So has the bargaining power ofnational unions with global employers.

Which is why a series of meetings this week at the AFL-CIO's conferencecenter in Silver Spring is, one way or another, historic. In a kind ofcounter-Davos (the annual gathering of world business elites inSwitzerland), union leaders from 64 nations gathered under the umbrella ofyet another new group, the Council of Global Unions, to begin what they hopewill be the upgrading of distinct national union movements into one,considerably more powerful, global movement. At stake, ultimately, iswhether our brave new world affords employees the right to share in globalprosperity or whether, as is already the case in the United States,globalization is a tool that businesses use to imperil workers' wages andsecurity.

Some prominent U.S. unions have already begun to go global, partly becausedoing so is the best way to protect their members' working standards andorganize new workers here at home. The United Steelworkers union is inmerger negotiations with Britain's largest union, Unite, and has formed anumber of global worker councils at some prominent multinational companies.In September, it helped to convene an international meeting of unions thatrepresent workers at Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steelmaker. Itpersuaded the company to establish global safety and health standards inconjunction with the unions and to allow workers to form a union at thecompany's Liberian mining operation. (That union has already played a keyrole in Liberia's return to democracy.) Setting global standards, saysUnited Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, is as important today as settingnational standards was in the early 20th century.

The steelworkers are just one of a number of American unions that are goingglobal, in part to grow locally. The Retail, Wholesale and Department StoreUnion recently organized 1,000 Manhattan employees of the clothing chainH&M, a Swedish conglomerate, largely because a global union group towhich the department store workers belong has negotiated organizing rightsfor the chain's employees. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU)has established a worldwide network of security-guard unions intended tospur organizing campaigns here and abroad.

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The Washington Post

A Rocky Start for Mideast Peace Talks

The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; 1:59 PM

JERUSALEM -- A Palestinian rocket barrage, an Israeli army incursion in Gazaand a fresh land dispute in Jerusalem marred the first Israeli-Palestinianpeace talks in seven years Wednesday.

Instead of building on the momentum of last month's high-profile peaceconference in the U.S., the two sides traded barbs and accusations _ andwrapped up a 90-minute session without any achievements.

An Israeli official described the atmosphere as "tense," and a Palestinianofficial reported "not an inch" of progress.

Israel had hoped to use the meeting to establish a framework for discussionsto further both sides' stated goal of signing a peace deal by the end of2008. The fact that the session instead turned into a heated airing ofmutual grievances showed just how far Israelis and Palestinians have to gobefore ending their 6-decade-old conflict.

It was the first formal negotiating session since Israeli Prime MinisterEhud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas relaunched peace talksat last month's Mideast conference in Annapolis, Md. The last round of talksbroke down in January 2001, three months after Palestinian-Israeli violenceerupted.

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The Washington Post

Fujimori Gets 6 Years For an Illegal Search While Leader of Peru

By Monte Reel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; A24

LIMA, Peru, Dec. 11 -- Former president Alberto Fujimori was sentenced tosix years in prison Tuesday for ordering an illegal search during the finaldays of his rule, as a judge ruled on the first in a series of prosecutionsthat may continue for months.

The sentence came a day after Fujimori shouted his innocence at the openingof a separate trial on charges of human rights abuses, which includeallegations that he ordered the murders of 25 people by a government deathsquad in the early 1990s. An expressionless Fujimori told the judge he wouldappeal part of Tuesday's sentence, which also included a fine of nearly$135,000.

Supreme Court Judge Pedro Guillermo Urbina ruled that Fujimori had abusedhis power in 2000 when he ordered a military aide to search the apartment ofthe wife of Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori's former security chief, who wasthen embroiled in a money-laundering scandal. Fujimori did not deny orderingthe search but had said it was part of a nationwide manhunt for Montesinos.Prosecutors argued that he ordered the search in an effort to seize evidencethat might have directly implicated him in Montesinos's crimes.

Fujimori's daughter told reporters that the sentence was unfair and part ofa systematic effort to persecute her father.

"Before, it was political persecution, and now it's judicial persecution,"said Keiko Fujimori, who serves in Peru's Congress with a group oflegislators loyal to her father.

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The Washington Post

Other Colleges Eye Harvard's Plan to Increase Affordability

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; A08

The day after Harvard University announced changes to make the school moreaffordable for middle-class and upper-middle-class families, some highereducation officials said yesterday that they would begin discussions withintheir schools about how to compete with that program.

The race to lure the best students and ease the ever-rising cost of acollege education has already sparked dramatic changes in financial aid, ofwhich Harvard's plan to reduce what families earning less than $180,000would pay is the most recent example.

Yesterday, the California Institute of Technology announced that it willwipe out loans for the neediest students, those from families earning$60,000 or less, providing grants instead. That follows a model in place atsome other elite schools.

Officials at Pomona College said that California school is about to announcea major financial aid initiative, as well, and the Yale student newspaperyesterday quoted President Richard C. Levin as saying the university willunveil major changes to its financial aid in January. A Yale spokeswomandeclined to comment on the report.

In the past several years, schools including Harvard, Princeton, theUniversity of North Carolina and the University of Virginia have rolled outgenerous financial aid plans to cover costs for low-income students.

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The Washington Post

Relying on More Than Prayer: Colorado Shooting Reveals Churches' SecurityMeasures

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; A03

COLORADO SPRINGS, Dec. 11 -- After killing two young people at a missionarytraining center in a Denver suburb on Saturday night, but before taking thelives of two more at a megachurch on the outskirts of Colorado Springs thefollowing afternoon, Matthew Murray posted a screed on an Internet forum.

The post, which began with the words, "you christians brought this onyourselves," was lifted almost verbatim from the note left behind by one ofthe killers at Columbine High School more than eight years earlier. Murray,home-schooled in a religious household, substituted "@#%$" for someobscenities but then dressed himself in black, loaded a backpack withammunition, hoisted an assault rifle and proceeded down a worn path that inrecent years of mass killings has grown dispiritingly familiar.

At least until the disillusioned young killer reached the wide, welcominghallway that leads toward the central lobby of the New Life Church.

That's where the church returned fire.

"I was right like this," Jeanne Assam said Tuesday, demonstrating a standingshooting posture in the alcove she stepped out of at 12:30 two days earlier,firing the shots that knocked Murray onto the tile floor under the signdirecting children upstairs to the Woo-Ga Room, where they go duringservices. [The wounded Murray then fatally shot himself in the head, anautopsy showed.] "I was hoping he didn't see me," Assam told a detective,reenacting a sequence of events that probably saved additional lives andcertainly opened the eyes of an American public that had no idea that somechurches are protected by congregants discreetly packing heat.

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USA Today

Can Hillary overcome the Senate jinx?
Only a unique senator has a chance of overcoming the handicap that comeswith service in the upper chamber of Congress.

By Ross K. Baker

The United States Senate has been viewed as the nursery of presidents.

Being one of only 100 provides a senator with an opportunity to gainnational recognition in a relatively short time. Moreover, the breadth oftheir responsibilities gives senators an opportunity to master both domesticand international policy. Unlike their more specialized 435 House colleagueswho struggle for visibility, or governors whose reputations rarely transcendstate boundaries, senators seem uniquely positioned to make the big leap tothe White House.

Indeed, of the 100 individuals who have sought the nominations of the twomajor parties in the past 30 years, almost half have been members of theupper chamber.

Yet, in that time, only two Senate incumbents - Bob Dole in 1996 and JohnKerry in 2004 - have managed to secure a major party nomination. Even moreremarkable is the fact that not a single sitting U.S. senator has made it tothe presidency since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

That could change in 2008 because not every U.S. senator is a former firstlady with an international reputation like Hillary Clinton. So one of themore intriguing questions that surrounds the presidential campaign iswhether her unique credentials can break the senatorial jinx.

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Miami Herald

Political pressure on scientists alleged

Posted on Tue, Dec. 11, 2007

The White House censored climate scientists and edited their testimony onglobal warming before Congress, House Democrats charged Monday following a16-month investigation into allegations of political interference with ascientific inquiry.

The Bush administration was ''particularly active in stifling discussions''of a potential link between climate change and the intensity of hurricanes,according to findings in a draft report issued Monday by Democrats on theHouse Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The report said that after Hurricane Katrina, the administration steeredjournalists toward government scientists who discounted a link betweenclimate change and increased hurricane intensity. It also accused stafferson the Senate Commerce Committee of influencing the public testimony ofacclaimed climate experts such as former National Hurricane Center directorMax Mayfield.


''The White House exerted unusual control over the public statements offederal scientists on climate change issues,'' said the report, whichacknowledges that there is no scientific consensus on whether global warmingleads to stronger hurricanes.

The report also charges the administration with a ``systematic effort tomanipulate climate change science and mislead policy makers and the publicabout the dangers of global warming.''

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