Sunday, December 16, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 16, 2007

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It's the Politics, Stupid

December 16, 2007

This July, when the Democrats John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clintonall proposed closing a tax loophole that saves hedge fund managers hundredsof millions of dollars each year, it wasn't immediately clear what to makeof it. On the one hand, it was the sort of proposal you'd expect from theparty of working people. On the other, these three presidential candidateshad stayed silent on the issue for months - while raising gobs of money fromwealthy financiers. Why would they turn on them now?

Only later did we get some hint of an explanation. The New York Timesreported that Charles Schumer, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat, hadspent June assuring Wall Street donors that the loophole would remainintact. This made the pronouncements a victory for everyone involved. TheDemocratic candidates could take the high road publicly, while theircontributors could rest easy knowing those tax breaks were safe.

In "The Squandering of America," Robert Kuttner says financial elites havetoo much sway over the Democratic Party - and, as a result, over publicpolicy. Judging from the tax-loophole episode, it's hard to disagree.

Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect and a columnist for The BostonGlobe, won't wow you with the novelty of his arguments. Liberals like himspent most of the 1990s groaning about Wall Street's grip over the ClintonWhite House, and about the "neoliberal" agenda that resulted. (In his ownbook, Gene Sperling, once an economic adviser to Bill Clinton, recallsfacing off against "the Three Bobs" - one of them Kuttner - during thebruising internecine fights of that decade.) The strength of Kuttner'slatest effort is that, with seven years' distance from the Clinton era, hisarguments now look emphatically right.

Kuttner takes on four pillars of neoliberalism: the preference for balancedbudgets and modest-size government; free trade; economic austerity as acondition for development aid; and financial-market deregulation. In eachcase, the evidence suggests neoliberal policies were either irrelevant ordownright disruptive.


The Latest Reality Show: Die-Hard, Freeze-Frame Politics With a Life ofTheir Own

December 16, 2007

Of the thousands of minutes the 2008 presidential candidates have spent indebate, maybe four stand out.

Primary debates have become the raw footage of political discourse; hoursand hours of well-scripted disquisition about troop withdrawal, taxes,immigration law, trade rules, farm subsidies and gay marriage pile up on adigital cutting room floor; only a few highlights - a snappy comeback or atelling fumble - are culled and showcased on newscasts, YouTube and otherWeb sites.

There is a kind of paradox beneath it all: candidates, ever desperate toattract voter attention, feel obliged to surrender more and more time to thestraitjacket of televised debate, while technology conspires to allow votersto see as much as they want - or as little.

If this pre-election season that is almost over is to be remembered at all -in Iowa last week the debates buckled to a close like a Depression-era dancemarathon - it will stand out as the careful-what-you-wish-for contest. Ahuge field of Democratic and Republican candidates plodded through a recordnumber of televised showdowns, and voters were allowed to question thecandidates directly in two CNN/YouTube debates, some of them via homemadevideos that included puppets, musical scores and loony outfits.

But even the dedicated viewers (rarely more than two million each time) whowatched 90-minute debates unfurl in full on Fox or CNN this year are morelikely to remember the YouTube clip or NBC News montage better than theirown first impressions.

Television is the ultimate recovered-memory therapy, imposing an orderednarrative to diverse, dispersed moments. An isolated segment, shown over andover again, can distill, oversimplify and in some cases distort.

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Parenting: For Gay Teenagers, Hope in Numbers

December 16, 2007

MICHAEL MORENO, a 15-year-old 10th grader from Brewster, could not believewhat he was seeing as he walked into the big hall at the Westchester CountyCenter, and he grew quiet. There, for as far as the eye could see, werehundreds of boys and girls who belonged to gay-straight clubs at area middleschools and high schools.

"This is a great moment for him," said his stepfather, Hector Ramos. "He'salways felt so isolated."

Michael had so been looking forward to the daylong PrideWorks conferencethat he'd jumped out of bed that morning at 5:30. He was so happy andnervous, he kept forgetting basic pieces of information. "Dad, what's mycellphone number?" he asked at one point.

The boy has felt different forever, long before he had a name for it, atleast since age 5, he said. He told his mom when he was in the eighth grade,and she wasn't surprised. "She figured how I was," said Michael.

"He'd hang out with the girls, not the boys," said Anna Trejo, his mother, acourt worker.

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McCain Calls for a Stop to Push Polling

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 16, 2007; 12:48 AM

NEWBERRY, S.C. -- White House hopeful John McCain on Saturday called onRepublican rival Mike Huckabee to end push polling in New Hampshire tied tohis presidential campaign's supporters, but Huckabee denied any involvement.

McCain said he learned Saturday afternoon of calls made Friday on Huckabee'sbehalf in New Hampshire.

If an ally of his was doing that, "I would ask him to stop it immediatelyand take those things down. And I hope that Mike Huckabee will do the same,"McCain said by phone as he traveled between campaign stops in SouthCarolina.

McCain said his campaign had told him Common Sense Issues had been makingcalls on behalf of the former Arkansas governor. He described it asnonprofit "supporter of Huckabee's for soft money."

"I don't have that hard information, but that's what I've been told it is,"McCain said. It "is one of those organizations funded by Huckabee supportersand I would ask him to have them take it down just as if somebody was doingthose things on my behalf I would have them take them down."

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McCain calls for a stop to push polling

Posted on Sun, Dec. 16, 2007

White House hopeful John McCain on Saturday called on Republican rival MikeHuckabee to end push polling in New Hampshire tied to his presidentialcampaign's supporters, but Huckabee denied any involvement.

McCain said he learned Saturday afternoon of calls made Friday on Huckabee'sbehalf in New Hampshire.

If an ally of his was doing that, "I would ask him to stop it immediatelyand take those things down. And I hope that Mike Huckabee will do the same,"McCain said by phone as he traveled between campaign stops in SouthCarolina.

McCain said his campaign had told him Common Sense Issues had been makingcalls on behalf of the former Arkansas governor. He described it asnonprofit "supporter of Huckabee's for soft money."

"I don't have that hard information, but that's what I've been told it is,"McCain said. It "is one of those organizations funded by Huckabee supportersand I would ask him to have them take it down just as if somebody was doingthose things on my behalf I would have them take them down."

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Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn

Note: The people of Israel do not want war. The people of the US do not wantwar. The governments of both want a war with Iran. S

Israel: US report on Iran may spark war
By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 55 minutes ago

Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligencereport that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to aregional war that would threaten the Jewish state.

In his remarks - Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report - AviDichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence ingeneral, including information about Palestinian security forces' crackdownon militant groups. The Palestinian action is required as part of aU.S.-backed renewal of peace talks with Israel this month.

Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to buildweapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.

He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israelin 1973 by its Arab neighbors, which came to be known in Israel for the YomKippur Jewish holy day on which it began.

"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable tolead to a regional Yom Kippur where Israel will be among the countries thatare threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv,according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the Americanblueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."

Dichter didn't elaborate on the potential scenario but seemed to imply thata world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable toattack by the Islamic regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had disputed the U.S. intelligenceassessment this month, saying that Iran continues its efforts to obtaincomponents necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran still poses a majorthreat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.

Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weaponsand backed the United States in its international efforts to exert pressureon Iran to stop the program. Israel considers Iran a significant threatbecause of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program andrepeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the disappearanceof Israel.



Miami Herald

On global warming, `there is a high price to delay'

Posted on Sun, Dec. 16, 2007

The faster U.S. policy makers move to deal with global warming, the cheaperthe cost will be.

''We need a price on carbon,'' Jim Rogers of Duke Energy told a tradeconference. ``And the sooner we get a price on carbon, the better off weare, because then we can make decisions about what technology to use.''

Knowing the price of pollution allows companies to make sensible decisionsabout the future: about phasing out, say, coal plants and replacing themwith nuclear, wind or solar, whichever makes the most economic sense.

The more lead time that companies have to make changes, the easier thetransition will be. Less lead time means drastic, expensive programs to dothings like trying to capture the carbon that coal plants produce, ratherthan slowly phasing out carbon-spewing coal plants in favor of other formsof energy.

As it is, power companies are racing to get more than 100 coal plants goingbefore Congress passes climate-change legislation.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia's water crisis: How did we get here?
Cycle of plan, fail and repeat has left region high and dry

Published on: 12/16/07

No one has ever been fishing in the West Georgia Regional Reservoir thatofficials first planned in the 1980s to help quench the region's thirst.

That's because despite millions of dollars set aside by three Georgiagovernors, the state never built the reservoir. It never inundated thousandsof acres of woods and pastures along the now drought-stricken TallapoosaRiver in Haralson County, just a few miles from the Alabama line.

Nor did the state build the rest of the network of at least a dozen regionalreservoirs that were supposed to drought-proof North Georgia. Nor didofficials erect a proposed dam on the Chattahoochee River six milesdownstream of Lake Lanier to pool more drinking water for metro Atlanta. Nordid they win approval to lock in dibs for more drinking water from Lanier.

Despite ample warnings and dire predictions over the last four decades,metro Atlanta has continued to grow even as it repeatedly failed toguarantee it would have enough water to satisfy its long term needs.

Every drought - including the current one - reminds officials how risky thearea's water future is.

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Miami Herald

Democrats poised for some soul-searching

Posted on Sun, Dec. 16, 2007

Congressional Democrats will have plenty to ponder during the Christmas andNew Year's break. For instance, why did things go so badly this fall and howwell did their leaders serve them?

Partisan players will quarrel for months, but objective analysts say thedebate must start here: An embattled president made extraordinary use of hisveto power, backed by GOP lawmakers who may have put their political
fortunes at risk.

Also, a new Democratic leadership team overestimated the impact of the Iraqwar and the 2006 elections, learning too late they had no tools to forceBush and his allies to compromise on the most contested issues.

Both parties seem convinced that voters will reward them in next November'selections. They agree that Congress' gridlock and frustration probably willcontinue until then - and possibly beyond - unless the narrow party marginsin the House and Senate change appreciably.

In a string of setbacks this past week, Democratic leaders yielded to Bushand his allies on Iraq war money, tax and health policies, and spendingdecisions affecting billions of dollars throughout the government.

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Los Angeles Times,1,2805736.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Legal fight breaks out over destroyed CIA tapes

The attorney general refuses congressional demands for information and urgesa federal judge not to start his own investigation.

From the Associated Press
December 16, 2007

WASHINGTON - The controversy over destroyed CIA interrogation tapes isshaping up as a turf battle involving the courts, Congress and the WhiteHouse, with the Bush administration telling its constitutional equals tostay out of the investigation.

The Justice Department says it needs time and the freedom to investigate thedestruction of hundreds of hours of recordings of two suspected terrorists.After Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey refused congressional demands forinformation Friday, the Justice Department filed late-night court documentsurging a federal judge not to begin his own inquiry.

The administration argued it was not obligated to preserve the videotapesand told U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy that demanding informationabout them "could potentially complicate the ongoing efforts to arrive at afull factual understanding of the matter."

The documents represent the first time the government has addressed theissue in court. In the papers, Acting Assistant Atty. Gen. Jeffrey S.Bucholtz said Kennedy lacked jurisdiction, and he expressed concern that thejudge might order CIA officials to testify.

Congressional inquiries and criminal investigations frequently overlap, andit is not uncommon for the Justice Department to ask lawmakers to ease off.The request for the court to stand down is more unusual. Judges takeseriously even the suggestion that evidence was destroyed, but they also arereluctant to wade into political debates.

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Boston Globe

N.H. Catholic diocese issues voting guide

By Associated Press | December 16, 2007

MANCHESTER, N.H. - New Hampshire's Roman Catholic Diocese is asking votersto pick the presidential candidate whose leadership would cause the leastharm to life.

The diocese is distributing a six-page pamphlet to parishioners with themessage, but not endorsing any candidate or siding with a political party.The pamphlet asks parishioners to weigh church teachings when consideringcandidates' positions on such issues as abortion, embryonic research, andthe death penalty.

The diocese has spoken out against abortion and the death penalty before thestate Legislature over the years.

Bishop John McCormack said this is the first such pamphlet issued before apresidential primary.

"The church says that there are social issues in society that have moraldimensions and that Catholics should form their consciences on those socialissues and then vote for a candidate who supports those issues the best waypossible," he said.

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Houston Chronicle

CEO-like approach could cost Bush later
He's winning tactical fights by refusing to budge, but loyalties suffer

New York Times
Dec. 15, 2007, 5:15PM

WASHINGTON - With Democrats beginning to cave to the White House on energyand spending bills, and with their hopes of expanding a popular children'shealth program all but dashed, President Bush scored three politicalvictories last week on Capitol Hill.

As with earlier battles over the war in Iraq, the victories underscore thesurprising amount of clout that Bush still wields against a Democratic-runCongress.

Late in his presidency, with his poll numbers stuck at record lows, he hasbeen able to persuade Republicans to stick with him.

But winning may have come at a price.

Unlike presidents before him, Bush has not used the power of the Oval Officeto hammer out a compromise with his legislative foes. Instead, he has vetoedbills he does not like, refused to budge on spending limits and let hisunderlings do the negotiating - a strategy that has his critics, includingsome Republicans, wondering why the most powerful dealmaker in Washington isnot practicing the art of the deal.

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Chicago Tribune,0,5927392.story

Edwards cuts sharper edge in Iowa trail speeches

By Tim Jones
Tribune national correspondent
December 16, 2007


The Chevy truck song -- John Mellencamp's "Our Country" -- blared fromoverhead speakers as the once and former Democratic beacon of sunshine andhope prepared to drop some red meat on the carpeted floor of the normallyplacid Iowa City Public Library.

"The few, the powerful, the well-financed, they now control the government,"John Edwards told a tight crowd of about 350 last week. "They've taken overyour democracy. And it affects everything that happens in this country."

"Everything," he emphasized.

During an 18-minute span, the former North Carolina senator took aim andfired freely at insurance, oil and drug companies and failed chiefexecutives rewarded with golden parachutes. He described the Republicanfield as "George Bush on steroids" and said his Democratic competitors aretalkers, not fighters.

In what has often been portrayed as a two-Democrat battle -- between Sens.Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York -- the populistEdwards is making an eight-day blitz across the frozen fields of Iowa, asort of red-meat express to convince the middle class that he is the one whowill wrest the country from the clutches of "corporate power and greed."

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Boston Globe

The truth about honesty

By Joan Vennochi, Globe Columnist
December 16, 2007

MAYBE American voters are ready for the truth.

Maybe they finally understand if they don't get it from a presidentialcandidate about their personal life, they are unlikely to get it from apresident about anything.

George W. Bush, presidential candidate, refused to answer specific questionsabout his early years. "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young andirresponsible, " he famously said. Candidate Bush acknowledged being a heavydrinker in the past, but declined to answer questions about whether he everused marijuana or cocaine. "When I get asked pointed questions, I'm going toremind people that I made mistakes in the past and the question is, 'Have Ilearned from those mistakes?' " said Bush in a 1999 interview with Globereporter Michael Kranish.

Is it any coincidence that Bush's White House tenure is marked by a refusalto confront the truth, or tell it to the American people on a host ofissues, most notably the invasion of Iraq and ongoing conflict there?

Presidential candidate Bill Clinton sidestepped questions about marijuanause, with the classic retort, "I didn't inhale." Candidate Bill Clintondidn't come clean about his efforts to avoid the military draft and hedenied an extramarital affair even when confronted with explicit details. Atthe time, Hillary Clinton, his wife and a current presidential candidate,went along with her husband's dodges. Clinton's presidency was also markedby a refusal to confront the truth or tell it to the American people, mostnotably regarding his sexual escapades with White House intern MonicaLewinsky.

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Boston Globe

For Republicans: John McCain

December 16, 2007

CONVENTIONAL wisdom among political handlers used to hold that a candidateneeded to capture the political center. The last two presidential campaignsproved that wrong. The Republicans scraped out victories by pressing justenough buttons and mobilizing just enough voters. But such wins breedpolitical polarization and deprive a president of the political capitalneeded to ask Americans to sacrifice in difficult times.

The antidote to such a toxic political approach is John McCain. Theiconoclastic senator from Arizona has earned his reputation for straighttalk by actually leveling with voters, even at significant politicalexpense. The Globe endorses his bid in the New Hampshire Republican primary.

McCain is a conservative whose views differ from those of this editorialpage in a variety of ways. He opposes abortion rights. At least in thecurrent election cycle, he has shown no particular quarrel with his party'sknee-jerk view of tax cuts as the cure to the nation's economic problems.

Also unlike this page, McCain has strongly supported the current war inIraq, including the troop surge. Yet the Arizona senator has never been anuncritical booster of President Bush's policies. Early on, he accuratelypredicted that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wasn't sending enoughtroops to maintain order after Saddam Hussein fell. Today, hestraightforwardly acknowledges the fragility of the Iraqi government and thecorruption that pervades that country. He understands that US failures inIraq, along with President Bush's torpid response to Hurricane Katrina, havedamaged the nation's credibility abroad and at home.

McCain's honesty has served him well on other issues. As a longtime publicofficial from a border state, he recognizes that illegal immigration is acomplex problem - for which better border control is only part of thesolution. His thoughtful stance may be a tough sell politically at a timewhen many Republicans (and many Democrats) are anxious about the number ofpeople living and working in the United States illegally. But his opponents'get-tough poses are unlikely to close the gap between immigration law andimmigration practice; McCain's comprehensive approach is far more likely tobring the two back in line.

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Boston Globe

For Democrats: Barack Obama

December 16, 2007

THE FIRST American president of the 21st century has not appreciated theintricate realities of our age. The next president must. The most soberingchallenges that face this country - terrorism, climate change, diseasepandemics - are global. America needs a president with an intuitive sense ofthe wider world, with all its perils and opportunities. Senator Barack Obamaof Illinois has this understanding at his core. The Globe endorses hiscandidacy in New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary Jan. 8.

Many have remarked on Obama's extraordinary biography: that he is thebiracial son of a father from Kenya and a mother who had him at 18; that hewas raised in the dynamic, multi-ethnic cultures of Hawaii and Indonesia;that he went from being president of the Harvard Law Review to the grittyand often thankless work of community organizing in Chicago; that, at 46, hewould be the first post-baby-boom president.

What is more extraordinary is how Obama seals each of these experiences tohis politics. One of the lessons he took from organizing poor families inChicago, he says, was "how much people felt locked out of their government,"even at the local level. That experience anchors his commitment totransparency and accountability in Washington.

Similarly, his exposure to foreign lands as a child and his own complexracial identity have made him at ease with diversity - of point of view aswell as race or religion. "I've had to negotiate through different culturesmy whole life," he says. He speaks with clarity and directness, and he isalso a listener, a lost art in our politics.

In what looks like prescience today, Obama was against the Iraq war from thestart. But his is not the stereotypical 1960s antiwar reflex. "I don'toppose all wars," he said in the fall of 2002. "I'm opposed to rash wars."

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CBS News

Iowa Paper Endorses McCain, Clinton

Dec. 15, 2007

(AP) The Des Moines Register's editorial board is endorsing Republican Sen.John McCain and Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton ahead of the state's Jan. 3residential caucuses, contending they top the field in competence andreadiness to lead in a time of dissension at home and distrust and perilabroad.

Weighing in on a tight Democratic race, the statewide paper's board said inits endorsement Saturday night that Democratic challenger Barack Obama"inspired our imaginations. But it was Clinton who inspired our confidence."

McCain, an opponent of ethanol and crop subsidies important to Iowa, has notmounted a serious challenge in the state's close GOP contest, pinning hishopes on New Hampshire's Jan. 8 leadoff primary and elsewhere. But the boardcited his deep knowledge of national-security and foreign-policy issues, andhis honesty.

"The force of John McCain's moral authority could go a long way towardrestoring Americans' trust in government and inspiring new generations tobelieve in the goodness and greatness of America," the board wrote on thepaper's Web site.

The editorial board of The Boston Globe, closely watched in the NewHampshire campaign, came out in favor of Obama and McCain in itsendorsements Saturday.

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Chicago Tribune,1,5078851.story

Any surprises from my past?
Don't bet on it, Obama says

By John McCormick
Tribune staff reporter
December 16, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama said Saturday that he has been so heavily covered by thenews media in recent years that suggestions that there might be surprises inhis background are off-base.

"I've probably been more reported on than any political figure in thecountry over the last year," he said during a news conference. "I hardlythink that I've been underexposed during the course of this race."

The Illinois Democrat, in a campaign sprint across northern Iowa, wasresponding to recent suggestions from Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, whohas said there would be "no surprises" about her past if she were picked asthe Democratic nominee.

Obama, meanwhile, said he doubts voters will punish him for use of marijuanaand cocaine when he was in high school, an issue raised late last week by aClinton campaign official who later resigned.

"What somebody does when they were a teenager, 30 years ago, is probably notrelevant," he said. "I think people have pretty good judgment about that."

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The New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: It's Too Late for Later

December 16, 2007
Bali, Indonesia

The negotiators at the United Nations climate conference here in Bali camefrom almost 200 countries and spoke almost as many languages, but drivingthem all to find a better way to address climate change was one widelyshared, if unspoken, sentiment: that "later" is over for our generation.

"Later" was a luxury for previous generations and civilizations. It meantthat you could paint the same landscape, see the same animals, eat the samefruit, climb the same trees, fish the same rivers, enjoy the same weather orrescue the same endangered species that you did when you were a kid - butjust do it later, whenever you got around to it.

If there is one change in global consciousness that seems to have settled inover just the past couple of years, it is the notion that later is over.Later is no longer when you get to do all those same things - just on yourtime schedule. Later is now when they're gone - when you won't get to do anyof them ever again, unless there is some radical collective action tomitigate climate change, and maybe even if there is.

There are many reasons that later is over. The fact that global warming isnow having such an observable effect on pillars of our ecosystem - like thefrozen sea ice within the Arctic Circle, which a new study says coulddisappear entirely during summers by 2040 - is certainly one big factor. Butthe other is the voracious power of today's global economy, which hascreated a situation in which the world is not just getting hot, it's gettingraped.

Throughout human history there was always some new part of the ocean toplunder, some new forest to devour, some new farmlands to exploit, notedCarl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, who came to observe theBali conference. But "now that economic development has become theprerogative of every country," he said, we've run out of virgin oceans andlands "for new rising economic powers to exploit." So, too many countriesare now chasing too few fish, trees and water resources, and are eitherdevouring their own or plundering those of neighbors at alarming rates.

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The New York Times

The World: As China Goes, So Goes Global Warming

December 16, 2007

GIVEN the accelerated melting these days in Greenland, it's probably nolonger appropriate to use the adjective "glacial" to describe treatynegotiations aimed at curbing dangerous human interference with the climate.

The talks in Bali over the last two weeks were just the latest baby step intrying to make that happen. The Bali achievement? Two more years of talks.In the meantime, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main climate-heatingemission, continue the climb that began 250 years ago, as industrializationsurged on a diet of fossil fuels.

So, presuming the industrialized and industrializing nations are serious,who or what can realistically turn the carbon tide?

As always, the fingers of many experts on energy and the environment pointboth west and east - to the United States and China.

The established superpower arose riding a wave of fossil-fueled prosperity.The emerging one, sitting on a wealth of coal, sees few reasons not tofollow suit; after all, it has only just caught its wave (with India andothers in hot pursuit).

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The Washington Post

A Gates-Style Thaw

By Jim Hoagland
Sunday, December 16, 2007; B07

"We are going to do something terrible to you," one Kremlin insiderfrequently told Americans in the 1980s as the Soviet Union was crumblingbefore the unbelieving eyes of U.S. intelligence. "We are going to depriveyou of an enemy."

He turned out to be more prophetic than he realized. Today -- to myslack-jawed astonishment -- a senior U.S. official is pursuing a similarapproach toward a newly hostile Kremlin by making subtle overtures onballistic missile defense and other contentious security issues and thenwooing world opinion.

Big deal. Diplomats get paid to do that, right? But this is the astonishingpart. The official is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The same Robert Gateswho under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush helped shape hard-lineintelligence judgments -- which he later admitted were behind the curve --and cultivated an image as a leading CIA hawk in the Washington politicalaviary.

Under George W. Bush, Gates has emerged as a steady, reasoned voice onpolicy in an administration struggling to keep its head above water. He hastraveled the globe this year to argue that the United States has not becomethe evil empire and is a trustworthy, caring ally. Making an art of notbeing Donald Rumsfeld, Gates has deflected angry broadsides from VladimirPutin and others with unsuspected reserves of irony.

At home, he urges Congress to provide more resources for public diplomacyand the State Department's other traditional activities. On Washington'sEmbassy Row, he is seen as "the only one left in this administration withcredibility," as one impressed diplomat puts it. Gates has, in short,eclipsed in many ways the other PhD in Soviet and Russian studies in Bush'sCabinet, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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The Washington Post

Contrast Before the Caucuses

By David S. Broder
Sunday, December 16, 2007; B07

DES MOINES -- In the space of 24 hours, the nine lecterns occupied byRepublican presidential candidates in the auditorium of the Iowa PublicTelevision studios were replaced by six assigned to their potentialDemocratic rivals. You could hardly believe the candidates were discussingthe same country.

The Iraq war was not on the agenda for either debate, but every Democratpromised to end it and bring home most or all of the troops -- whileRepublicans looked past Iraq and focused on distant challenges from risingChinese power or Iranian nukes. Islamic terrorism was much on the minds ofthe Republicans; not one Democrat appeared to take it as an imminent threat.

At home, Democrats vied with each other in decrying the influence ofcorporations and industries -- especially oil, gas and pharmaceuticals -- onpublic policy and vowed to fight their power in the nation's capital. Theonly organization that was identified by any of the Republicans as a threatto the public welfare was the National Education Association, the largestteachers union.

The Republicans promised to keep or expand the tax cuts of the Bush years,with most of them pledging to go much further. The Democrats said those cutsshould be rolled back, at least for the wealthy, and the funds used to payfor new domestic programs. By contrast, the Republicans promised to wieldthe budget ax, cutting government payrolls and slashing domestic spending.

When it comes to education and health care, the Republican plans rely on themagic of the marketplace -- competition and consumer choice -- to improvequality and reduce costs. The Democrats would increase government leverageon drug prices and expand public education funding from pre-kindergartenthrough college. They are silent on the issue of school choice.

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The Washington Post

The Right Road to America?

By Amy Chua
Sunday, December 16, 2007; B01

If you don't speak Spanish, Miami really can feel like a foreign country. Inany restaurant, the conversation at the next table is more likely to beSpanish than English. And Miami's population is only 65 percent Hispanic. ElPaso is 76 percent Latino. Flushing, N.Y., is 60 percent immigrant, mainlyChinese.

Chinatowns and Little Italys have long been part of America's urbanlandscape, but would it be all right to have entire U.S. cities where mostpeople spoke and did business in Chinese, Spanish or even Arabic? Are toomany Third World, non-English-speaking immigrants destroying our nationalidentity?

For some Americans, even asking such questions is racist. At the other endof the spectrum, the conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly fulminatesagainst floods of immigrants who threaten to change America's "complexion"and replace what he calls the "white Christian male power structure."

But for the large majority in between, Democrats and Republicans alike,these questions are painful, with no easy answers. At some level, most of uscherish our legacy as a nation of immigrants. But are all immigrants reallyequally likely to make good Americans? Are we, as the Harvard politicalscientist Samuel Huntington warns, in danger of losing our core values anddevolving "into a loose confederation of ethnic, racial, cultural, andpolitical groups, with little or nothing in common apart from their locationin the territory of what had been the United States of America"?

My parents arrived in the United States in 1961, so poor that they couldn'tafford heat their first winter. I grew up speaking only Chinese at home (forevery English word accidentally uttered, my sister and I got one whack ofthe chopsticks). Today, my father is a professor at Berkeley, and I'm aprofessor at Yale Law School. As the daughter of immigrants, a gratefulbeneficiary of America's tolerance and opportunity, I could not be morepro-immigrant.

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The Washington Post

It's Time for Muslim Comedians to Stand Up

By Sarfraz Manzoor
Sunday, December 16, 2007; B01

Woody Allen is my God. Nothing strange about that, you might think -- exceptthat he is an Upper East Side New York Jew, and I am a British PakistaniMuslim from the working class. His characters are moneyed intellectualswhose only contact with dark-skinned people comes through the jazzsoundtrack playing in the background while they agonize over theirrelationships. I grew up with a father who worked in a car factory, and theonly white person who came near our home was the newspaper delivery boy.

And yet, when I first saw "Annie Hall" as a teenager, I knew I had found akindred spirit. It didn't matter that I had never set foot in the UnitedStates or that I missed some of the cultural references. (Who is thisMarshall McLuhan character, anyway?) I saw myself in Woody Allen. Self-doubtcloaked in self-deprecation? Check. Existential dread rubbing up againstcarnal desire? Check. He was so much like me that I almost forgot that Iwasn't, in fact, Jewish.

Woody Allen isn't the only comedian who uses humor to take the audiencewhere it might otherwise fear to tread. Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor alsoharnessed comedy's power to expose fears and challenge prejudices. Today,Chris Rock uses humor as therapy, self-expression and social commentary. Butwhile Jewish and African American comedians have learned to universalizetheir experience and laugh at themselves, we Muslims sometimes struggle justto convince the world that we have a sense of humor.

What comes to mind when you hear the word "Muslim"? It's more likely to bebeards, bombs and burqas than stand-up comedians. Muslims aren't exactlyfamous these days for lightheartedness. Sudanese Muslims weren't laughingwhen a British schoolteacher, Gillian Gibbons, recently allowed her pupilsto name a teddy bear "Muhammad." She narrowly escaped a prison sentence forthat transgression. But I think my fellow Muslims in Sudan went too far withthat one. Wouldn't it have been funny if British Muslims had demonstratedagainst her arrest with a "Spartacus"-inspired mass march to the Sudaneseembassy, each person carrying a teddy bear?

Consider some other examples of over-earnestness. In January, two Moroccanjournalists dodged five-year prison sentences after publishing a featurearticle called "Jokes: How Moroccans Laugh at Religion, Sex and Politics."According to the Moroccan government, they had insulted Islam and offendedpublic morality. And, of course, there were the global protests and killingslast year after a Danish newspaper published caricatures of the prophetMuhammad. The cartoons offended many Muslims because depicting the prophetis prohibited by our religion. The cartoons were particularly provocative,since some of them conflated Muhammad and terrorism; one even depicted theprophet with a bomb in his turban and a lit fuse. I can understand whyMuslims were offended, but I do not understand how a series of cartoons, nomatter how offensive, should lead to protests that ended up killing morethan 100. Talk about a disproportionate response. No wonder Albert Brookscould title his 2005 movie "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World."

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The Washington Post

'Best-Kept Secret' For HIV-Free Africa
Birth Control Better Than Drugs, Researchers Say

By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, December 16, 2007; A26

NDORI, Kenya -- Giving antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women has long beencelebrated as one of the few successful tactics in the war against AIDS inAfrica. A single pill for a woman in labor, followed by a sip of syrup forher newborn baby, cuts HIV transmission rates by more than half, potentiallysaving the lives of millions of children.

But despite sustained financial and political support for the effort,studies show that only about one in 10 infected African mothers has accessto the drugs.

As these programs falter across the continent, researchers increasinglyagree that far more cases of pediatric AIDS could be prevented with acheaper, easier and more effective alternative: birth control.

"It tends to be the best-kept secret in HIV prevention," said Ward Cates,head of research for Family Health International, a nongovernmentalorganization based in North Carolina that has extensive experience inAfrica.

The group has found that programs providing antiretroviral drugs to pregnantwomen prevented 101,000 cases of pediatric HIV between 1999 and 2006.

Contraception, meanwhile, averts the births of 173,000 infected babies eachyear, the group says.

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The Washington Post

Radomski Was Man in the Middle
Mets Employee Sold Steroids to Many

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2007; D01

When the New York Mets arrived in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for spring trainingin late February 1993, trying to forget their 72-90 record from the seasonbefore, they were greeted by an old friend with new muscles.

Kirk J. Radomski, who was beginning his seventh season as the Mets' homeclubhouse attendant, had spent much of the offseason in a Bronx gym, tryingto make himself into a competitive bodybuilder. Players commented on hisenhanced physique. They asked him about his workout regimen. He told them hewas using steroids.

The questions soon turned into requests for steroids. Within months,Radomski was dealing steroids and other substances to friends andacquaintances on major league rosters, helping to push baseball into itsbiggest scandal in almost 90 years. The sport's performance-enhancing drugcrisis was exposed in a report released Thursday by George J. Mitchell andhis law firm DLA Piper.

The report implicated 92 current and former players. Radomski, the reportsaid, provided steroids or other drugs to more than half of them. And one ofRadomski's customers, personal trainer Brian McNamee, allegedly gaveperformance-enhancing drugs to three other players, including legendarypitcher Roger Clemens, who has vehemently denied the allegations through hisattorney.

Even though Mitchell's report concluded that the use ofperformance-enhancing drugs poses a "serious threat to the integrity of thegame," former Baltimore Orioles infielder and designated hitter David Segui,one of the players named in the report, told Mitchell during a recentinterview that he still thought highly of Radomski. The drugs he providedwere safe, Segui said, and he never pushed substances on anybody.

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The Washington Post

Destruction of CIA Tapes Defended

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2007; A06

The Bush administration has told a federal judge that its 2005 destructionof CIA interrogation videotapes did not violate a court order because thecaptives in question were being kept in secret prisons at the time, not atthe military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In court papers, the government also urged U.S. District Judge Henry H.Kennedy Jr. not to seek further information about the tapes to avoidinterfering with the inquiries of the Justice Department and the CIA'sinspector general.

"In light of the current inquiries by the political branches into thedestruction of the tapes that occasioned petitioners' motion, it would notbe appropriate to institute a judicial inquiry," according to the filing byActing Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey S. Bucholtz and two federalprosecutors.

The motion, which was filed late Friday night, is the first courtroomstatement by the Bush administration since the CIA disclosed that videotapesof coercive interrogation techniques used on two "high-value detainees" weredestroyed in November 2005.

The filing follows the Justice Department's request that Congress delay itsinquiries into the tapes, saying the administration cannot provide witnessesor documents without jeopardizing its own investigation. Attorney GeneralMichael B. Mukasey also told lawmakers that he could not provide any detailsabout the probe or the Justice Department's role in the tapes' destruction.

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The Washington Post

Columbia Still Roiled by Iranian's Visit

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2007; A12

NEW YORK -- When the head of Columbia University suggested that free speechwas banned in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not onlydisagreed, he also invited Lee C. Bollinger to come and see for himself.

The retort won Ahmadinejad applause on the New York campus and accoladesback home. For Bollinger, the sharp remarks he made in introducingAhmadinejad were meant to kick off a lively debate. But three months later,they have kept Columbia roiling.

The remarks, faculty members said in interviews, have exacerbated an alreadytense climate that is increasingly pitting Muslim and Middle East studiesprofessors against positions held by Jewish colleagues, particularly on theissue of tenure for two Arab professors.

"There have been an accumulation of events since Bollinger arrived that havepeople riled up. I have never seen a situation quite like this one, and I'vebeen here for 32 years," said Richard Bulliet, a professor of Islamicstudies who helped negotiate Ahmadinejad's appearance at the university.

A new source of angst is Bollinger's refusal to take up Ahmadinejad'sinvitation and his ban on official visits to Iran by Columbia facultymembers.

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Miami Herald

Why I quit as chief prosecutor at Guantánamo

Posted on Sun, Dec. 16, 2007

I was the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay,Cuba, until Oct. 4, the day I concluded that full, fair and open trials werenot possible under the current system. I resigned on that day because I feltthat the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer domy job effectively or responsibly.

In my view -- and I think most lawyers would agree -- it is absolutelycritical to the legitimacy of the military commissions that they beconducted in an atmosphere of honesty and impartiality. Yet the politicalappointee known as the ''convening authority'' -- a title with nocounterpart in civilian courts -- was not living up to that obligation.

In a nutshell, the convening authority is supposed to be objective -- notpredisposed for the prosecution or defense -- and must make importantdecisions at various stages in the process. The convening authority decideswhich charges filed by the prosecution go to trial and which are dismissed,chooses who serves on the jury, decides whether to approve requests forexperts and reassesses findings of guilt and sentences, among other things.

. Earlier this year, Susan Crawford was appointed by the U.S. secretary ofdefense to replace Maj. Gen. John Altenburg as the convening authority.
Altenburg's staff had kept its distance from the prosecution to preserve itsimpartiality. But Crawford had her staff assessing evidence before thefiling of charges, directing the prosecution's pretrial preparation of cases(which began while I was on medical leave), drafting charges against peoplewho were accused and assigning prosecutors to cases, among other things.

How can you direct someone to do something -- use specific evidence to bringspecific charges against a specific person at a specific time, forinstance -- and later make an impartial assessment of whether they behavedproperly? Intermingling convening authority and prosecutor roles perpetuatesthe perception of a rigged process stacked against the accused.

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Ignoring 'No child' makes good sense

December 16, 2007

No Child Left Behind, supposedly an antidote to the "soft bigotry of lowexpectations," has instead spawned lowered standards. The law will bereauthorized because doubling down on losing bets is what Washington does.But because NCLB contains incentives for perverse behavior, reauthorizationshould include legislation empowering states to ignore it.

NCLB was passed in 2001 as an extension of the original mistake, PresidentLyndon Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which became law in1965.

NCLB was supported by Republicans reluctant to vastly expand that intrusionbut even more reluctant to oppose a new president's signature issue. Thisexpansion of Washington's role in the quintessential state and localresponsibility was problematic, for three reasons.

First, most new ideas are dubious, so federalization of policy increases theprobability of continentwide mistakes. Second, education is susceptible topedagogic fads and social engineering fantasies - schools of educationincubate them - so it is prone to producing continental regrets. Third,America always is more likely to have a few wise state governments than awise federal government.

With mandated data collections - particularly tests of "adequate yearlyprogress" in reading and math - NCLB was supposed to generate informationthat would enable schools to be held accountable for cognitive outputscommensurate with federal financial inputs.

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Arab-American disputes quotation from 'American Conversation Series'

By James Zogby
December 16, 2007

I am an Arab-American and proud of it. My family has been in the UnitedStates for over 100 years. During that time, we have served in every branchof government, and fought in every war in the service of our nation.

Like many other Arab Americans I'm proud of my heritage, and work to defendit. At the same time, I am imbued with American values, and work to projectthem.

Last month, I was honored to have been invited by our nation's archivist,Allen Weinstein, to speak as part of the National Archives' "AmericanConversation Series." My appearance was part of the Archives' Arab AmericanHeritage Month, declared in recognition of the role played by my communityin American life. In my remarks, I spoke about our immigrant history, thecontributions we have made to America, and the bridge role we play betweenAmerica and out countries of origin.

At one point during an exchange with the audience, I was asked to comment onhow Arabs and Muslims have been defamed in the media, and by some politicaland religious leaders. I replied by criticizing those who ignore suchbehavior or take it too lightly. As an example, I cited Pat Robertson, whohas often made inflammatory and bigoted remarks about Arabs and Muslims, andwho seems to delight at the prospect of a nuclear Armageddon. What troubledme, I noted, was that just a few days before my appearance at the Archives,Robertson's endorsement of a presidential candidate was given front-pagetreatment as a major political story in most U.S. newspapers.

I went on to say that if a Muslim religious leader who had made similarlyinsulting comments toward Christians or Jews were as close to the politicalleadership in his country as Robertson has been in ours, we would denouncethat individual and demand that his views be repudiated. I argued that, justas we would be correct in demanding this from a foreign leader, the samestandard should apply here at home. That is what I said.

Given this, I was troubled when I read a column in the South FloridaSun-Sentinel by a certain Mr. Abdul-Hussain, who claimed to report on myNational Archives remarks. He begins his column, quoting me as saying, "Youdo not find the equivalent of Pat Robertson on Arab channels." That, I didnot say, since I know better. Mr. Adbul-Hussain either was not there, didnot understand me, or deliberately misrepresented my comments in order touse me as a foil for his argument that "Arab Americans can't talk for theArab world."

I thank the Sun-Sentinel for giving me this opportunity to correct therecord.

Dr. James Zogby is President of the Arab American Institute



Sudanese incident shows why religion, politics don't mix

By James L. Sorenson
December 12, 2007

The episode earlier this month in which a teacher was jailed and threatenedwith a long sentence and a flogging because a stuffed bear in her room endedup being named "Muhammad" points to a serious matter, as far as ourunderstanding of what is, in truth, an enemy culture is concerned. Iremember hearing my folks discuss our lack of understanding of the variousreligio-military codes of the Japanese during WWII and what amounted totheir lack of respect for human life.

In this case, as I understand the problem, a teacher in Sudan let herstudents propose names for a stuffed bear as a sort of mascot for the class.It seems that the most popular kid in class is named Mohammad, and theyvoted. The class voted to name the bear after their classmate, rejecting themore Anglicized names suggested by the teacher.

This is sacrilege in that country, and the penalty is horrible. Imprisonmentin that nation would be bad enough, but a flogging on top of it could wellprove fatal.

What we don't understand, though, is how the actions of the kids became aproblem for the teacher. It seems that if the parents of these kids, andtheir "Sunday school" teachers, the same mullahs who sit on the court, weredoing what they need to do, then the kids would know better than to name astuffed bear after "the Prophet." On the other hand, they obviously likedthe bear and wished to honor him with the name of a beloved classmate, whowas, coincidentally named for the "beloved Prophet."

That's the problem with legalistic religions like Islam, particularly whenthey mix with politics.

Our problem is that we don't understand this and, now write this down, if weever see an increase in the United States of Islamic influence in politics,this is what we can expect. Here.

James L. Sorensen is a resident of Boca Raton.


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