Thursday, December 13, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 13, 2007

**IF YOU CAN'T ACCESS THE FULL ARTICLE, CONTACT US AT rays.list@comcast.net and we'll be happy to send the full article.

=

Miami Herald

http://www.miamiherald.com/campaign08/story/342721.html

Candidates toughen talk on Cuba in S. Fla.

BY BETH REINHARD
Posted on Thu, Dec. 13, 2007

Democrat Barack Obama supported the ''normalization of relations with Cuba''when he was a U.S. Senate candidate in 2003, taking a more liberal positionthan he has espoused as a presidential candidate.

His stance was brought to light this week when the Chicago Sun-Timespublished his responses to a questionnaire from a left-leaning voting rightsgroup in Illinois. And it comes as supporters of rival Hillary Clintoncontend that the Illinois senator's record would make him an easy mark forRepublican attacks in a general election campaign.

In 2003, Obama wrote: ``I believe that normalization of relations with Cubawould help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting thestage for a more democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves thescene.''

That position contrasts with the stiffer stance Obama took in a column aboutCuba in The Miami Herald in August, followed three days later by a speech inMiami. He called for allowing Cuban-Americans to freely visit and send moneyto relatives on the island, but said the embargo should remain until thereare signs of democratic reform.

''As we reach out in some ways now, it makes strategic sense to hold on toimportant inducements we can use in dealing with a post-Fidel government,for it is an unfortunate fact that his departure by no means guarantees thearrival of freedom on the island,'' he wrote in August.

more . . . . .



=

Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-na-immig12dec12,1,5790449.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

GOP rivals veer right on immigration
Top hopefuls don't want to be seen as coddling illegals. Huckabee, Giuliani,Romney all toughen their stances.

By Peter Wallsten and Seema Mehta
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
December 12, 2007

WASHINGTON - More than any other question, Republican presidentialcandidates are asking voters to consider a single issue in the weeks beforeprimary voting begins: Who detests illegal immigration the most?

Rudolph W. Giuliani, who as mayor of New York supported policies thatbenefited illegal immigrants, now says he would have happily swept out all400,000 in his city if only the federal government had cooperated.

Mitt Romney mailed a new flier to South Carolina voters Tuesday rippingthree of his rivals as coddlers of illegal immigrants. And Mike Huckabee,fresh from introducing a newly toughened immigration plan last week, Tuesdayaccepted the endorsement of a co-founder of the Minuteman Project, thecivilian border enforcement movement.

"Americans are very frustrated that they feel like their government has justignored a problem, let it get worse, spiraled out of control and, by golly,they expect us to fix it," Huckabee said during a stop in Council Bluffs,Iowa, where he was joined by Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist.

Long a point of tension in the Republican race, illegal immigration hassurpassed even national security and the economy as the GOP candidatessearch for advantage in neck-and-neck contests in early-voting states.

more . . . . .



=

The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/opinion/13thu1.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin

Editorial: The Tax Debate That Isn't

December 13, 2007

If there's one issue on which Republican presidential hopefuls should feelvulnerable, it's taxes. The Bush tax cuts, more than any other policy, arecrippling the government financially.

From 2002 to 2011, forgone revenue from the cuts will account for 37 percentof the federal budget's descent into the red, according to the CongressionalBudget Office. War and defense spending come next, producing 30 percent ofthe deterioration, followed by domestic spending at 11 percent.

With revenue falling short year after year, federal borrowing from thepublic has mushroomed since 2001, by 53 percent, to $5.1 trillion, comparedwith a 2 percent increase during the Clinton years. American taxpayers mustrepay the borrowed money with interest, which means fewer federal dollars tospend on everything else for decades to come, including health care,infrastructure repair, emergency response, chemical plant security andalternative energy.

And yet, each of the Republican primary candidates act as though PresidentBush's record on taxes has been a smashing success and prominently andproudly tout their tax policies - which boil down to a call for ever lowertaxes, primarily through extending all of those same Bush tax cuts beyondtheir scheduled expiration at the end of 2010.

For Democratic candidates, in contrast, taxation is the issue that dare notspeak its name. With the exception of John Edwards, none of the Democraticcandidates list "taxes" under "issues" on their official Web sites. HillaryClinton buries various tax proposals in a category labeled "Strengtheningthe Middle Class," while most of Barack Obama's tax ideas are under"Fighting Poverty." Even the also-running candidates subsume tax issuesunder broad, bland headings.

more . . . . .



=

The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/opinion/13collins.html?ref=opinion

Op-Ed Columnist: The Man From Target

By GAIL COLLINS
December 13, 2007

Huckabee! Huckabee! The man of the hour! What is it that voters love so muchabout this guy? Is it a hitherto inchoate yearning for a president who knowsless about international affairs than they do? Hope that a man who can lose100 pounds could also get rid of the federal deficit?

Mike is soaring ahead in the early polls, in a surge to the front of thepack that suggests Republicans cannot come to grips with the idea that theyare supposed to nominate either Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani for president.There has to be a way out! What about Huckabee? He has a good heart! True,his brain doesn't seem to have a single thought about foreign policy or knowmuch about domestic policy, for that matter. But one well-functioning bodypart is better than nothing.

Yesterday, the Republican candidates for president had their last debate of2007, and let me say, there's nothing that gets you in the holiday spiritlike Rudy Giuliani pointing out that Islamic fanatics want us dead. Whilethis was supposed to be Romney's big chance to regain momentum in Iowa, itwound up being a pretty dull affair. Mitt did not even get a chance to askHuckabee why, in a new Times Magazine interview, he coyly dropped thequestion of whether Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers.

(Coming next: Mike innocently asks whether it's true that New York mayorsworship false idols.)

In a great bit of luck for the Huckabee team, the event included Alan Keyes,a candidate so wacky he's generally excluded even from thenone-too-selective list of Republican debaters. It was the perfect way tocombat the impression that Huckabee's religious beliefs, which seem to ruleout evolution, are extreme. Next to Keyes, he looks like a logicalpositivist.

more . . . . .



=

The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/opinion/13cohen.html?ref=opinion

Op-Ed Columnist: Secular Europe's Merits

By ROGER COHEN
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland
December 13, 2007

The cathedral here, on which work began in the 12th century, was once thelargest in Scotland, until a mob of reformers bent on eradicating lavishmanifestations of "Popery" ransacked the place in 1559, leaving gulls toswoop through the surviving facade.

Europe's cathedrals are indeed "so inspired, so grand, so empty," as MittRomney, a Mormon, put it last week in charting his vision of a faith-basedpresidency. Some do not survive at all. The Continent has paid a heavy pricein blood for religious fervor and decided some time ago, as a French kingput it, that "Paris is well worth a Mass."

Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, was dismissive of Europeansocieties "too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel inprayer." He thereby pointed to what has become the principal transatlanticcultural divide.

Europeans still take the Enlightenment seriously enough not to put it insidequote marks. They have long found an inspiring reflection of it in the first16 words of the American Bill of Rights of 1791: "Congress shall make no lawrespecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercisethereof."

Thomas Jefferson saw those words as "building a wall of separation betweenchurch and state." So, much later, did John F. Kennedy, who in a speechpredating Romney's by 47 years, declared: "I believe in an America where theseparation of church and state is absolute."

more . . . . .



=

The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/opinion/13thu2.html?ref=opinion

Editorial: A Shameful Presidential Threat

December 13, 2007

The Senate should ignore an incredibly mischievous last-minute veto threatfrom the White House and vote resoundingly in favor of an energy bill thatcould come before it as early as today. The bill represents a historicopportunity to ease America's dependence on foreign oil and to take steps inthe battle against global warming, and its passage would send a message tothe worlds' negotiators in Bali that Washington is at last getting seriousabout climate change.

The centerpiece of the bill is the first meaningful increase in fuelefficiency standards in three decades - from today's fleetwide average of 25miles per gallon to 35 m.p.g. by 2020. To win necessary Republican votes,the Senate leadership agreed to drop one valuable provision contained in ameasure passed earlier by the House: a requirement that all utilitiesprovide 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Even so, the bill, as it now stands, contains not only the new fuelstandards, which is a huge step forward, but also generous incentives forenergy efficiency, for cleaner alternative fuels and for the newtechnologies that will be required to reduce the country's output ofgreenhouse gases. By almost any measure, it is the most important energybill that Congress has entertained in many years.

It is thus astonishing that President Bush would even think of vetoing it,especially since he called for much the same improvements in automobilemileage as those contained in the bill. In a statement Tuesday, however, theWhite House demanded that the bill be amended to make the industry-friendlyTransportation Department solely responsible for regulating fuel economy aswell as carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

This would directly reverse the Supreme Court's historic decision in Aprildeclaring that greenhouses gases are air pollutants under the meaning of theClean Air Act and giving the Environmental Protection Agency the power toregulate them. It would also have the effect of stripping California andother states of the power to impose their own automobile emissionsstandards.

more . . . . .



=

The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/us/politics/13repubs.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1197554622-9Hj5Gzscv0M4XlTowuw/Zw

Final Debate Before Iowa Caucuses Shows Uncertainty at Top of RepublicanField

By MICHAEL COOPER and MICHAEL LUO
December 13, 2007

The last Republican presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses, a sleepyaffair, was nearly over on Wednesday when one of the less-known candidates,Representative Tom Tancredo, decided to mount an attack on one of theleading candidates.

"I have to say it, because you're leading the pack now, and congratulationsto you, Governor," Mr. Tancredo began.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, who has devoted the mostresources to winning Iowa, straightened at his lectern. "No, no, no,pointing right over there," Mr. Tancredo said, gesturing toward MikeHuckabee, the former Arkansas governor, who has come from behind to showgreat strength in recent Iowa polls.

The moment highlighted the uncertainty at the top of the Republican field,with two former governors, Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Romney, battling for primacyin Iowa.

Mr. Tancredo questioned the sincerity of Mr. Huckabee's recent shift towarda hard-line stance on illegal immigration. But the rigid format of thedebate, which was sponsored by The Des Moines Register, did not permit aresponse from Mr. Huckabee, just as it had offered little opportunity forthe candidates to engage one another.

more . . . . .



=

The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/12/AR2007121202331.html

Misreading the Iran Report
Why Spying and Policymaking Don't Mix

By Henry Kissinger
Wednesday, December 12, 2007; 8:17 PM

The extraordinary spectacle of the president's national security adviserobliged to defend the president's Iran policy against a NationalIntelligence Estimate (NIE) raises two core issues: How are we now to judgethe nuclear threat posed by Iran? How are we to judge the intelligencecommunity's relationship with the White House and the rest of thegovernment?

The "Key Judgments" released by the intelligence community last week beginwith a dramatic assertion: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003,Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." This sentence was widelyinterpreted as a challenge to the Bush administration policy of mobilizinginternational pressure against alleged Iranian nuclear programs. It was, infact, qualified by a footnote whose complex phraseology obfuscated that thesuspension really applied to only one aspect of the Iranian nuclear weaponsprogram (and not even the most significant one): the construction ofwarheads. That qualification was not restated in the rest of the document,which continued to refer to the "halt of the weapons program" repeatedly andwithout qualification.

The reality is that the concern about Iranian nuclear weapons has had threecomponents: the production of fissile material, the development of missilesand the building of warheads. Heretofore, production of fissile material hasbeen treated as by far the greatest danger, and the pace of Iranianproduction of fissile material has accelerated since 2006. So has thedevelopment of missiles of increasing range. What appears to have beensuspended is the engineering aimed at the production of warheads.

The NIE holds that Iran may be able to produce enough highly enricheduranium for a nuclear weapon by the end of 2009 and, with increasingconfidence, more warheads by the period 2010 to 2015. That is virtually thesame timeline as was suggested in the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate.The new estimate does not assess how long it would take to build a warhead,though it treats the availability of fissile material as the principallimiting factor. If there is a significant gap between these two processes,it would be important to be told what it is. Nor are we told how close todeveloping a warhead Tehran was when it suspended its program or howconfident the intelligence community is in its ability to learn when work onwarheads has resumed. On the latter point, the new estimate expresses only"moderate" confidence that the suspension has not been lifted already.

It is therefore doubtful that the evidence supports the dramatic language ofthe summary and, even less so, the broad conclusions drawn in much of thepublic commentary. For the past three years, the international debate hasconcentrated on the Iranian effort to enrich uranium by centrifuges, some 3,000 of which are now in operation. The administration has asserted thatthis represents a decisive step toward Iranian acquisition of nuclearweapons and has urged a policy of maximum pressure. Every permanent memberof the U.N. Security Council has supported the request that Iran suspend itsuranium enrichment program; the various countries differ on the urgency withwhich their recommendations should be pressed and in their willingness toimpose penalties.

more . . . . .



=

The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/12/AR2007121202272.html

The Immigration Swamp
As the presidential campaign intensifies, so does the nativist ferocity.

Thursday, December 13, 2007; A34

THE IDEA that 12 million illegal residents of the United States can beinduced to quit the country en masse within four months is absurd on itsface -- a non-starter in logistical, humanitarian, political, diplomatic,commercial and economic terms that would leave an indelible stain on thiscountry for years. Yet that is the wrathful centerpiece of Mike Huckabee's"Secure America Plan," which the Republican presidential candidate issuedthe other day in the course of his party's escalating enthusiasm fornastier-than-thou prescriptions to deal with illegal immigrants.

Never mind that Mr. Huckabee, when he was governor of Arkansas, actuallypursued a pragmatic policy in regard to illegal aliens, urging thatexemplary youngsters be eligible for scholarships to public universitieseven if they were undocumented because, as he put it, "we are a bettercountry than to punish children for what their parents did." Having latelysurged enough in the polls to sniff the sweet smell of success, he is notabout to let experience, common sense or simple decency get in the way ofshort-term electoral advantage.

Mr. Huckabee was promptly rewarded for his reversal with an endorsement fromJim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, a group of xenophobes whospend their time videotaping and harassing day laborers wherever they findthem. The candidate, apparently once fazed by the Minuteman group'svigilantism, said he had undergone a conversion and cravenly apologized forhis past skepticism; Mr. Gilchrist, for his part, said of the Huckabeeimmigration program: "It was a plan I myself could have written."

It's a fair guess that this cruel campaign of immigrant-bashing willeventually turn toxic for the Republican Party itself, whose own strategists(Karl Rove, among others) have long grasped the growing electoral clout ofHispanics. Those Hispanic voters, native-born or not, are anxious and angryabout the intensifying nativist zeal in political rhetoric, which many arerightly blaming on the Republicans. In a new survey by the Pew HispanicCenter, half of all Hispanics in America reported that the debate onimmigration has had a specific negative impact on their lives; 41 percentsaid that they or someone close to them had suffered discrimination in thepast five years -- up from 31 percent in 2002.

more . . . . .



=

The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/12/AR2007121202290.html

Courage vs. Carnage
What Congress can do to keep the worst weapons out of the wrong hands

Thursday, December 13, 2007; A34

TWELVE PEOPLE are killed and more than a dozen are injured in a week's timein three mass shootings -- at a shopping mall and a church, and on a schoolbus. Almost as horrifying as these heartland shootings is the muted reactionto the tragedies, an almost blas¿ acceptance that such things happen and anassumption that nothing can be done. But something could be done. Weakenedgun laws have allowed the wrong people to get the wrong kind of guns.

The AK-47 assault rifle that an Omaha teenager pilfered from his stepfatherwas among the guns outlawed under the ban on assault weapons that Congressand President Bush unwisely allowed to lapse. Why that kind of gun should beso easily available to someone as troubled as that 19-year-old isunfathomable. Eight people shopping or working at a mall died as a result.Days later, another troubled youth, this time in Colorado Springs, armedhimself with an assault rifle, two handguns and as many as 1,000 rounds ofammunition and killed four people. Police have not disclosed how he obtainedthe guns, but why should anyone have assault weapons or gun magazines withso much killing power? Little is known about the most recent shooting in LasVegas, except that children and teens were targeted.

One would have hoped that public officials would have taken some kind ofresponsible action after the massacre at Virginia Tech. Instead, it seemsthat the horror over the killings of 32 students and faculty members hasnumbed people to killings that occur on a lesser scale. How else to explainthe ho-hum media treatment of the recent shootings? Or that even the mostreasonable of gun laws -- to strengthen the database of those ineligible tobuy guns -- remains bottled up in the Senate? The measure passed the Houseand even has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, but Sen. TomCoburn (R-Okla.) has placed a hold on it, and so it remains stymied. It'stime to recover a sense of outrage and for Congress to work up the courageto enact laws that truly could save lives.



=

The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/13/AR2007121300558.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Russia, Iran Reach Nuclear Plant Deal

By JIM HEINTZ
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 13, 2007; 6:19 AM

MOSCOW -- Russia and Iran reached an agreement Thursday on a schedule forfinishing construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant, which plays a centralrole in the international tensions over Iran's nuclear program, Russian newsagencies reported.

The reports cited the head of plant contractor Atomstroiexport, SergeiShmatko, as saying details of the timetable would be released later thismonth.

The United States and other critics have long protested construction of the$1 billion plant, saying it would give Iran cover for developing a nuclearweapons program.

Construction at the plant has been sporadically delayed amid disputesbetween Iran and Russia over payment, fuel delivery and other issues. ButRussia has remained opposed to a U.S.-led push for international sanctionsagainst Iran for allegedly seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

"The difficulties with the Iranian contracts have been settled," Shmatko wasquoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. He did not give details of thecompletion plans, but said that fuel would be delivered to Iran about half ayear before it is needed to operate the plant, according to Interfax.

more . . . . .


=


[Send your comments about articles to Rays.List@Comcast.net]
#####

1 comment:

Alex said...

And what do you think of Obadiah Shoher's arguments against the peace process ( samsonblinded.org/blog/we-need-a-respite-from-peace.htm )?