Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 19, 2007

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


Reid's Chilly Relationship With Bush Enters a Deep Freeze

December 19, 2007

WASHINGTON - Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has called PresidentBush a loser and a liar and has referred to him derisively as King George.Mr. Reid has also apologized - but only, he likes to point out, for the"loser" line.

Mostly, Mr. Reid, Democrat of Nevada, calls the president "this guy," as inan interview last week, when he said, "I am mystified, dumbfounded about howdifficult it is to work with this guy."

In private conversations about Mr. Bush with friends and Senate colleagues,Mr. Reid has even used the word "hate," though he clarifies that it ispolitical not personal hatred that he feels.

Lately, as the acid relationship between the White House and Congress hasdeteriorated in battles over children's health insurance, war spending andtaxes, Mr. Reid's public comments have taken a more ominous tone.

"I fear that the Bush years will be known as a rare, even dark time," hesaid Friday on the Senate floor.


Uruguay: Gay Unions Approved

December 19, 2007

Congress legalized gay civil unions in the first nationwide law of its kindin Latin America. President Tabaré Vázquez is expected to sign it.


Fed moves to protect home buyers

By Jeannine Aversa
The Associated Press
December 19, 2007


The Federal Reserve moved Tuesday to protect home buyers from dubiouslending practices, its most sweeping response to a mortgage meltdown thathas forced record numbers of people from their homes.

The Fed has been under attack for not doing more to stem the crisis ashundreds of thousands of people lost the roof over their head. The situationraised the odds the country will fall into recession, unhinged Wall Street,racked up multibillion-dollar losses for financial companies and resulted inpolitical finger-pointing over who was to blame.

The proposed rules, endorsed by the Federal Reserve Board in a 5-0 vote,would crack down on a range of shady lending practices that has burned manyof the nation's riskiest "subprime" borrowers - those with spotty credit orlow incomes - who have been hardest hit by the housing and credit debacles.The rules also would curtail misleading ads for many types of mortgages andbolster financial disclosures to borrowers.

"Unfair and deceptive acts and practices hurt not just borrowers and theirfamilies, but entire communities, and indeed, the economy as a whole. Theyhave no place in our mortgage system," Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said. "Wewant consumers to make decisions about home mortgage options confidently,with assurance that unscrupulous home mortgage practices will not betolerated."

If ultimately adopted, the plan would apply to new loans made by thousandsof lenders of all types, including banks and brokers. It would not coverloans already made.

more . . . . .


Washington Monthly

The Schools the Taliban Won't Torch
One ingenious aid program is stabilizing the toughest parts of Afghanistan.
The U.S. is cutting its funding.

By Gregory Warner

The road from Kabul to Azra, a mountainous district in Afghanistan's centralLogar Province, is, in places, not a road at all. At some points it's arocky riverbed, at others an open desert. For one terrifying stretch, it's atwisty gorge known as the Dubandi Pass, famous for carjackings by Talibanbandits. The steep terrain and treacherous roads have always made this partof the world remote, even by Afghan standards. Tribal ties are stronger thannational loyalties, and the unguarded border with Pakistan makes the regionan easy access point for insurgents. Azra is the kind of place that bothKabul and Washington worry about most.

As violence has risen, development in this area has floundered. The UnitedStates Agency for International Development is funding a much-needed newhighway in Azra, but work crews have been repeatedly evacuated because ofinsurgent threats. This past summer, the murder of two aid workers in anearby district led Azra's only local nongovernmental organization (NGO) toshut down its office for a month.

But there is one project here that's proceeding relatively unimpeded. Onesunny morning in July, I visited a small hydropower facility underconstruction in the village of Dadi Khel. There I watched a few dozenvillagers building a small channel, slapping together stones and mortarbeside a riverbank. When the project is finished, river water will spin aturbine that will bring electricity to about 300 village families. It willbe enough power to allow those residents to turn on lights, iron clothes,and watch Bollywood soaps-a small advance in the face of their manyproblems, perhaps, but also the first development project that any villagerhere can remember. And it's remarkable that it exists at all.

This hydropower plant is possible because of something called the NationalSolidarity Program, a five-year-old development initiative funded byinternational donors but administered by the government of Afghanistan. It'sthe only development program present in some of the country's most remotevillages, and it operates on the idea that small infrastructure projectslike the turbine in Dadi Khel do more than just turn the lights on. Theyalso give Afghans, including those in regions distant from Kabul, somegrounds to feel a stake in the success of their own government-and one morereason to resist the call of the Taliban.

Military efforts continue in Afghanistan, but they alone will not bringstability to the country. What's also necessary for the success of coalitionefforts is that the Afghan people begin to feel allegiance to a state. Suchallegiance depends in part on the government being able to address some oftheir most basic concerns. As James Dobbins, director of the InternationalSecurity and Defense Policy Center at RAND Corporation, puts it, "It is thedevelopment of Afghan institutions that will offer some possibility for theinternational community to diminish its commitment."

more . . . . .



Americans more positive; Bush, Congress gain

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:07am EST

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Americans enter 2008 in a more positive mood,with slightly greater hope for the future and a more charitable view ofPresident George W. Bush and Congress, according to a Reuters/Zogby pollreleased on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, rose inDecember for the first time since the polling began in July, climbing from94.9 to 97.3.

Bush continued a slow climb back from record low approval ratings, with thenumber of Americans who give him positive marks for his performance risingfrom 28 percent last month to 31 percent.

Even the U.S. Congress, stuck for two consecutive months at a record lowapproval of 11 percent, rose slightly to a still miserable 13 percent.

But the public has plenty of worries, mostly on the economic front. The pollfound 43 percent of Americans expect a recession in the next year, up from40 percent last month, and only 21.7 percent rated the performance of U.S.economic policy as excellent or good.

more . . . . .


Washington Post

Dems Lose Defense, Foreign Policy Debate

The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 3:10 AM

WASHINGTON -- Even though public opinion is overwhelmingly on their side,Democrats are winding up the year with little accomplished on the militaryand foreign policy issues that helped propel them to power in the lastelection.

They have been unable to bring troops home from Iraq or even force PresidentBush to accept a nonbinding timetable on the war. Guantanamo Bay prisonremains open, despite a Democratic-led effort to close it. And the legalrights of military detainees are the same as the Republicans left them lastyear _ subject to potentially harsh interrogations without access to federalcourts or an automatic right to legal counsel.

Also intact is Bush's ban on aid to international family planning groupsthat offer abortions, even though Democrats say the policy has enabled thespread of HIV and cost U.S. influence abroad.

The Democrats' poor batting average in the year since retaking control ofCongress is caused primarily by their narrow majority status, which has leftthem unable to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate, let alone overridea presidential veto. On Iraq in particular, Congress this year votedrepeatedly to set a timetable for troop withdrawals. Each time, the anti-warmeasure would scrape by in the House only to sink in the Senate, where 60votes are needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Democrats caucus witha narrow 51-49 majority.

But their inability to effect change also reflects Democrats' all-or-nothingapproach. On Iraq, where public opinion was decidedly in their favor,Democrats showed little interest in compromising with Republicans. Theirunyielding stance cost them even modest gains in trying to force Bush's handto bring troops home.

more . . . . .


Washington Post

House to Vote on $70 Billion for Wars

The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 6:34 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic-controlled House is expected to give PresidentBush an end-of-session victory in his yearlong battle with anti-warlawmakers over Iraq by approving $70 billion for U.S. military operationsthere and in Afghanistan.

The vote Wednesday also would represent the final step in sealing a dealbetween Democrats and Bush over how much money to provide domestic agencieswhose budgets are set each year by Congress. The Iraq funds have beenbundled with an omnibus appropriations measure to create a massive $555billion package that Bush has signaled he will sign.

Providing the war funds was a bitter pill for most Democrats, who on Mondaysent the Senate a bill limited to $31 billion for U.S. operations inAfghanistan, which have much broader support than the unpopular mission inIraq.

That effort was doomed in the face of a Bush veto promise and a filibusterby Senate Republicans. The Senate rewrote the measure Tuesday night by abipartisan tally and dropped the combined Iraq and Afghanistan funding inthe House's lap as one of the last votes before most senators leftWashington for the year.

"Even those of us who have disagreed on this war have always agreed on onething: Troops in the field will not be left without the resources theyneed," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

more . . . . .


Los Angeles Times,1,1773255.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Economy rivals security as top concern for voters
The rise of new issues has given underdogs a boost and left frontrunnersscrambling to change their tactics.

By Peter Wallsten
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 19, 2007

WASHINGTON - As an election approaches, campaigns often brace for alast-minute event that could alter the political landscape. But the surprisethis time isn't a scandal or a calamity overseas. It's an abrupt shift inthe debate away from the battlefields of the Middle East and towardkitchen-table issues, such as the economy.

Suddenly the presidential campaign's longtime front-runners are facing newchallenges, and lower-tier candidates are climbing.

The decline of national security and the rise of economic concerns hasscrambled the race in both parties, helping underdog candidates make a casefor themselves and forcing the leaders to change their tactics.

Rudolph W. Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton have built their campaignsaround the argument that they would step into the Oval Office best-preparedto be a strong wartime commander-in-chief. They have belittled rivals andeach other as weak or naive when it comes to dealing with enemies.

Now voters in both parties are looking less for strength than for candidateswho can offer change or a more reliable adherence to each party's corevalues -- or simply for someone who feels more likable.

more . . . . .


Washington Post

Clinton, Obama deadlocked in Iowa: poll

Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 1:41 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two weeks before the Iowa contest in the presidentialelection, Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remaineddeadlocked in a new state poll, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Thirty-three percent of Iowa Democrats likely to participate in the caucusessupport Obama, 29 percent back Clinton and 20 percent support former NorthCarolina senator John Edwards, according to the Washington Post-ABC Newspoll.

A month ago, Clinton, of New York, had 30 percent support compared to 26percent for Obama, of Illinois, the Post said.

Eight Democrats and eight Republicans are vying for the right to face off inthe November 4, 2008, election to choose a successor to Republican PresidentGeorge W. Bush, who will leave office after two terms.

Iowa holds the first of the state-by-state nominating contests on January 3,when supporters of each presidential candidate gather in meetings calledcaucuses to declare their presidential preference.

more . . . . .


Houston Chronicle

A kinder, gentler Edwards in Iowa
As Obama and Clinton lob barbs, he reprises his '04 role as Mr. Positive

Dec. 18, 2007, 11:57PM

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa - Hillary who?

After weeks of aggressively criticizing rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, JohnEdwards now hardly mentions one of his chief rivals for the Democraticnomination for president.

Edwards now seems content to let Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obamatrade barbs while he sits back and reprises his role from the 2004 Iowacaucuses as Mr. Positive.

"We are down to a little more than three weeks to the caucus," Edwards toldreporters last week. "I think people want to hear what you are going to doas president. I think I have a responsibility to focus on what I want to doas president."

This is a 180-degree turn for Edwards. In recent weeks, he had emerged as aleading Democratic primary critic of Clinton. He criticized her for notrenouncing her vote for the Iraq War; for not promising to end all combatoperations in Iraq; for supporting a resolution declaring the IranianNational Guard a terrorist group; for supporting the NAFTA trade agreement;and for accepting money from Washington lobbyists and political actioncommittees.

more . . . . .


USA Today

Harsh words on immigrants could backfire on GOP

Listening to the Republican presidential candidates, you might sometimesthink that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the softening economy, agovernment in serious debt or a planet in climatological peril aresecond-tier issues.

They're talked about, but the talk is often drowned out by a clattering,non-stop debate about illegal immigration. To some degree, this isinevitable. An estimated 12 million people, about 4% of the population, arein this country illegally. In areas where the immigrant population - legaland illegal alike - has swelled, local services have been strained.Collisions of culture and language have tensions running high. Meanwhile,Washington has utterly failed to agree on a response.

Even so, there's a fine line between advocating that laws have meaning,which they must, and stoking anti-immigrant sentiments. The tone and volumeof the comments of several GOP candidates, as well as some of their specificproposals, position them on the wrong side of that line.

As they race to abandon previous positions based on compromise andpragmatism, and as they attack each other relentlessly in ads and debates,the candidates make the race for the nomination look like an unseemlycompetition for who can be meanest.

more . . . . .


USA Today

White separatist group sues town of Jena

JENA, La. (AP) - A white separatist group planning a Martin Luther King Jr.Day parade in Jena is suing the town, claiming officials are violating theConstitution by asking participants not to bring firearms, changing theparade route by one block and requiring the posting of a bond.

The Nationalist Movement filed the federal lawsuit Dec. 14 and is seeking atemporary restraining order to keep the town from interfering with theLearned, Miss.-based group's "Jena Justice Day" rally. Group officials claimthe town's rules violate their 14th Amendment rights to due process.

The planned Jan. 21 march is in response to the thousands who rallied onSept. 20 in Jena in support of six black teens who have become known as the"Jena Six," and against what they claimed was disproportionately harshtreatment of blacks by prosecutors.

The Jena High students were initially charged with attempted murder inconnection with a Dec. 4, 2006, attack on a white student. All charges werelater reduced to aggravated second-degree battery or second-degree battery.

"When a group of, say, minorities or homosexuals want to have a parade, theyaren't usually required to put up a bond or pay for police or pay forcleanup," said Barry Hackney, a spokesman for the organization.

more . . . . .


Inside Higher Education

More Spiritual, But Not in Church

Dec. 18

A national survey of entering college freshmen in 2004 found that most cameto college with a goal to grow spiritually. A follow-up survey of studentsat the end of their junior year this spring suggests that while attendanceat religious services sharply declines during college, students do in factsignificantly progress along their spiritual quests throughout their firstthree years - but often without the help of their professors, who moststudents say never encourage discussions of religious or spiritual matters.

"The real change is relative to spiritual qualities - the growth inself-understanding, caring about others, becoming more of a global citizenand accepting others of different faiths," said Helen Astin, an emeritusprofessor at the University of California at Los Angeles and co-principalinvestigator for the study. "I see it as very good news, to see that ourstudents change in this way."

Astin explained that the researchers define religion "primarily as belongingin a community of faith and following the dogma and the principles of aparticular faith," while they define spirituality more broadly "as a searchfor meaning and purpose in one's life" and the posing of existentialquestions. Overall, students show "enormous growth" on indicators ofspiritual development from freshman to junior year. College juniors, forinstance, report prioritizing life goals like "developing a meaningfulphilosophy of life" at higher rates than entering freshmen (The proportionwho describe that particular goal as either "very important" or "essential"climbed from 41.2 percent in the 2004 survey of freshmen to 55.4 percent inthe 2007 survey of juniors). Researchers find an increased "ethic of caring"among juniors, an increased sense of equanimity, and also an increased"ecumenical worldview" premised upon the acceptance of people of differentfaiths and backgrounds. Among the specific findings:

more . . . . .


Jewish Family Wakes Up To Messages Of Hate
Swastikas, 'Burn Jews' Spray-Painted On Home, Driveway, Mailbox

POSTED: 8:26 am EST December 17, 2007

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. -- One Jewish family woke up this weekend to findtheir southwest Miami-Dade County home vandalized with messages of hate.

"It gives me chills," said the victim, who asked not to be identified.

The family first noticed the messages of hate Saturday morning.

"At around 9, my dad just walked out and was in awe that someone would everdo this," said the victim.

What he saw were swastikas, the number 666 and messages of hatespray-painted on his family's driveway, mailbox, garage and walls. Among themessages were the words "burn Jews," "burn in hell" and "Adolph Hitler."

"I was almost two blocks away and I could see the red swastika from thatdistance," said neighbor Alan Harris. "I was pretty appalled. I was prettyshocked, actually."

The family has lived on the block for a decade and hasn't experienced evenan unkind word -- until now.

"The hatred that someone must have had towards us or towards Jews in itselfis just very troubling and I'm extremely traumatized," said the victim. "I(am) very religious and Jewish and I take my religion seriously."


Corzine Signs Bill Ending Executions, Then Commutes Sentences of Eight

December 18, 2007

TRENTON - Few other issues have prompted the kind of intensity andconviction that Gov. Jon S. Corzine shows when he talks about preventingeven one more execution.

On Monday, those sentiments were on full display as he signed a billrepealing New Jersey's death penalty and then commuted the death sentencesof eight death row inmates to life in prison with no chance of parole,making the state the first in a generation to abolish capital punishment.

In a contemplative and at times emotional speech, Mr. Corzine spoke ofmorality and practicality, saying that "state-endorsed killing" was amoralpublic policy. Mr. Corzine, who said he has believed for most of his adultlife that capital punishment is wrong, seemed to be making more than just aperfunctory political statement at a bill-signing ceremony.

"For me, the question is more fundamental," he said. "I believe society mustfirst determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and ifviolence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To thesequestions, I answer, 'Yes.'"

He added that he believed "from my heart and from my soul" that endingcapital punishment in New Jersey was the right decision.

more . . . . .


The Long Run: For Romney, a Course Set Long Ago

December 18, 2007

WASHINGTON - George Romney had big ideas for his youngest child.

Mitt Romney had already made millions as the founder of a giant buyout firm.But his father wanted Mitt to follow him into politics, convinced he couldunseat Senator Edward M. Kennedy in Massachusetts.

"It was Mitt's dad that kicked us over that one," Ann Romney, Mitt Romney'swife, recalled of the losing 1994 Senate race. "If people understood thatequation of George Romney and his impact on my life and on Mitt's life, theywouldn't be so curious about why Mitt is running for president. He is whyMitt is running."

George W. Romney made his fortune turning around the American MotorsCorporation before becoming governor of Michigan, then staged a bid for the1968 Republican presidential nomination, only to watch his hopes collapse onthe eve of the first votes. Now nearing that pivotal time in this year'srace, Mitt Romney said he felt as if his own campaign to become theRepublican nominee was, in a sense, an extension of his father's.

"Like a baton has passed, like a relay team where the baton passed fromgeneration to generation," Mr. Romney said in an interview. He added, "I ama shadow of the real deal."

more . . . . .


Gays Living in Shadows of New Iraq

December 18, 2007

BAGHDAD - In a city and country where outsiders are viewed with deepsuspicion and attracting attention can imperil one's life, Mohammed couldnever blend in, even if he wanted to.

Mohammed, 37, has been openly gay for much of his adult life. For him, thishas meant growing his hair long and taking estrogen. In the past, he said,that held little danger. As is true throughout the Middle East, men havealways been publicly affectionate here.

But, at least until recently, Mohammed and many of his gay friends went onestep further, slipping into lovers' houses late at night. And, until theAmerican invasion, they said, Iraqi society had quietly accepted them.

But being openly gay is not an option in the new Iraq, where the rise ofreligious extremism has left Mohammed and his gay friends feeling especiallyvilified.

In January, a United Nations report described the increased persecution,torture and extrajudicial killing of Iraqi lesbians and gay men. In 2005,Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued afatwa, or religious decree, calling for gay men and lesbians to be killed inthe "worst, most severe way."

more . . . . .


Can Bush Hatred End a Friendship?

Dear Stumped;

I am writing regarding a long-time friend. We are both progressives andshare an intense dislike for the Bush administration. We also have goodfriends in common, some of whom are more moderate or conservative than weare. Lately, however, my friend has become so rabid, he has alienated thesefriends with his personal attacks and has pretty much ended any friendshipwith these folks. That's his right, but I feel differently: I am gay, andfigure my association with these friends has changed them for the better. Imaintain I should keep and nurture these friendships and skip the politics.

My long-time friend disagrees. I'm now so sick of his behavior, I can'tstand being near him. I feel as if our friendship has become cannibalistic.What are your thoughts on this? Should I stop seeing him until Nov. 5, 2008(assuming Democrats prevail)?

-- Staggo Lee


New York Times

Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A.Tapes

December 19, 2007

WASHINGTON - At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussionswith the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether todestroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives fromAl Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligenceofficials.

The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in thediscussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was moreextensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, whoserved as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who wasthe counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff;John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at theNational Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzalesas White House counsel.

It was previously reported that some administration officials had advisedagainst destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White Houseinvolvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration andintelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone atthe White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should bedestroyed.

One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the mattersaid there had been "vigorous sentiment" among some top White Houseofficials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify whichWhite House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damagingafter revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

more . . . . .


New York Times

Editorial: A Crisis Long Foretold

December 19, 2007

A truism of crisis management is that most seemingly out-of-the-bluedisasters could have been prevented if someone had paid attention.

An article in The Times on Tuesday by Edmund L. Andrews leaves no doubt thatthe twin crises of the subprime lending mess - mass foreclosures at one endof the economic scale and a credit squeeze afflicting the financial system -are rooted in the willful failure of federal regulators to heed numerouswarnings.

The Federal Reserve is especially blameworthy. Starting as early as 2000,former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan brushed aside warnings from another Fedgovernor, Edward M. Gramlich, about subprime lenders who were luringborrowers into risky loans. Mr. Greenspan's insistence, to this day, thatthe Fed did not have the power to rein in such lending is nonsense.

In 1994, Congress passed a law requiring the Fed to regulate all mortgagelending. The language is crystal clear: the Fed "by regulation or order,shall prohibit acts or practices in connection with A) mortgage loans thatthe board finds to be unfair, deceptive, or designed to evade the provisionsof this section; and B) refinancing of mortgage loans that the board findsto be associated with abusive lending practices, or that are otherwise notin the interest of the borrower."

Yet, the Fed did nothing as junk lending proliferated - including loans thatwere unsustainable unless house prices rose in perpetuity, riddled withhidden fees and made to borrowers who could not repay. Mr. Greenspan hassaid that the law was too vague about the meaning of "unfair" and "deceptive" to warrant action.

more . . . . .


New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: What Was That All About?

Bali, Indonesia
December 19, 2007

As readers of this column know, I have a rule that there is a simple way totest whether any Arab-Israeli peace deal is real or not: If you need aMiddle East expert to explain it to you, it's not real. I now have the samerule about global climate agreements: If you need an environmental expert toexplain it to you, it's not real.

I needed 10 experts to explain to me the Bali climate agreement - and I wasthere! I'm still not quite sure what it adds up to. I'm not opposed toforging a regime with 190 countries for reducing carbon emissions, but mygut tells me that both the North and South Poles will melt before we get itto work.

There is a better way. Just make America the model of how a country can grow prosperous, secure, innovative and healthy by becoming the most clean,energy-efficient nation in the world - and let everyone follow us.

Unfortunately, the Bush team has not been able to lead on this issue - fortwo reasons. First, its credibility is shot, even though if you add up allthe clean energy, biofuel and other programs the administration hasinitiated over the past two years, plus the half-a-loaf energy billspearheaded by the Democrats that the president is scheduled to sign today,they don't add up to zero anymore.

There was a revealing encounter here Thursday between the U.S. negotiatingteam and environmentalists that was worthy of pay-per-view. The Americanteam was giving its big briefing. The room was packed with activists fromaround the world. They came loaded to carve up the Americans, who, it wasjust assumed, had to be stupid because they represented the Bushadministration.

more . . . . .


New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: Rush to Judgment

December 19, 2007

One of my male colleagues was explaining why men age better than women.

"It's evolutionary," he said. "As we wear out our wives, who are runningaround taking care of the kids, we know we're going to have to get anotheryounger wife, so we stay good-looking."

He was kidding. (I think.) We were discussing Hillary's latest hurdle: theOld Hag routine.

When men want to put down a powerful woman in a sexist way, they will sayshe's a hag or a nag or a witch or angry or hysterical.

First, the Republicans tried to paint Hillary as angry, but that didn't workbecause she has shown a steady composure and laughed a lot (even if thelaughter isn't always connected to people saying anything funny). She haskept her sense of humor - which has a tart side - mostly under wraps, so shewon't be accused of being witchy.

more . . . . .


New York Times

Editorial: Too Costly for Even the Well-to-Do

December 19, 2007

Harvard's new financial aid policy is the boldest move yet to mitigate thesoaring costs of a college education. Most previous efforts to make highereducation affordable have focused, as they should, on helping low-incomestudents. Now Harvard will also provide generous aid to students whoseannual family incomes reach as high as $180,000. It is a welcome move, butalso a disturbing admission that the priciest colleges are now beyond thereach of even many upper-middle-class families.

The cost of attending college has been rising faster than inflation andfaster than family incomes, prompting anguished outcries from consumers andcalls in Congress for colleges to rein in their costs or disgorge more oftheir endowments. Some of the most expensive schools have responded with newaid programs. Princeton, in a move emulated by others, shifted to grantsfrom loans, easing the debt burden on students, and removed home equity fromfinancial aid calculations. Harvard's new policy also includes theseprovisions.

Harvard currently provides a free undergraduate education to students fromfamilies earning up to $60,000 a year. Under its new plan, families earningbetween $120,000 and $180,000 a year would pay only 10 percent of theirincomes for tuition and fees on an education that is currently priced atmore than $45,000 a year. More than 90 percent of American families would beeligible for aid, Harvard officials estimate.

The new standards will make the cost of a Harvard education comparable tothe charges at the nation's leading public universities. The new approachshould allow more students to engage in unpaid research, unpaid summerinternships and study abroad. Students who graduate with little or no debtcould more readily pursue low-paying careers in public service.

Although Harvard is often a trendsetter, it is not clear that many otherschools can afford to follow. Its endowment of $35 billion is the largest ofany university. Most other colleges rely heavily on tuition and fees and can't readily give up that income. There are more than 60 colleges that haveendowments that exceed $1 billion that ought to move at least partially inthe same direction.

more . . . . .


New York Times

Editorial: Bad Bill Now, Bad Bill Later

While trying to do the wrong thing - shove a bad bill on electronic spyingthrough the Senate - Majority Leader Harry Reid ended up doing the country afavor. He put off the vote until January. It was the right move, butsenators who care about national security and the Constitution will have tobe careful not to be stampeded into supporting what will still be a bad billnext year.

The issue before the Senate is fairly simple. Last summer, President Bushasked Congress to close a gap in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceAct created by advancements in technology. He waited until the eve of arecess, and then, as is his habit, falsely presented it as a matter of lifeand death. Having spooked Democrats on terrorism yet again, Mr. Bush lardedthe bill with dangerous expansions of his power to spy on Americans.

That law expires in February, which means Congress has to pass newlegislation giving the intelligence agencies a little more leeway in thewireless Internet age. But once again, the White House, aided by somemisguided Democrats, is trying to give the president powers he should nothave: the ability to spy on Americans without a warrant and eviscerate theauthority of the court that oversees electronic espionage. The bad bill Mr.Reid has now delayed would also give amnesty to telecommunications companiesthat - for five years - provided Americans' private data to the governmentwithout a warrant.

The White House says it wants to protect patriotic executives. It reallywants to make sure Americans never find out how much illegal spying theirpresident ordered up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Last week, Mr. Reid started pushing a bill by the Senate IntelligenceCommittee that gave Mr. Bush all of that - with a six-year expiration dateto tie the hands of the next president. It wasn't his only choice. He couldhave supported a bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee, similar to onepassed by the House, with a two-year sunset, real judicial supervision,restraints on executive power and no amnesty. A few Democratic senators,including Pat Leahy, Russ Feingold and Christopher Dodd, opposed Mr. Reid,who tried to get around them by cutting deals with Republicans but failed.

more . . . . .


New York Times

Zuma Is Chosen to Lead A.N.C.

December 19, 2007

POLOKWANE, South Africa - The African National Congress chose the Zulupolitician Jacob G. Zuma as its new leader on Tuesday, handing South Africa'spresident, Thabo Mbeki, a resounding defeat.

After three days of furious politicking at a national conference here, theA.N.C.'s 3,900 delegates voted to oust Mr. Mbeki as leader of the party andaward the job to Mr. Zuma, whose popularity has surged despite facingcorruption and rape charges last year.

Mr. Mbeki, who led the party for 10 years and the nation for more than 8,won fewer than 4 in 10 votes.

Mr. Zuma now becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed Mr. Mbeki aspresident when Mr. Mbeki's second term ends in early 2009. But he faces atleast one daunting hurdle: a continuing corruption investigation that hasdogged him for much of this decade and seems likely to lead to another roundof criminal charges soon.

If Mr. Zuma were charged and convicted, he would be ineligible for thenational presidency under South Africa's Constitution. The mere filing ofnew charges would be likely to set off a long stretch of political turmoiluntil the case against him was resolved.

more . . . . .


New York Times

Executions in U.S. Decline to 13-Year Low, Study Finds

December 19, 2007

The number of executions in the United States has declined to a 13-year low,according to a study by a research group that has been critical of the waythe death penalty is applied.

The 42 executions recorded in 2007 are the fewest since 1994, when therewere 31, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which compiledthe report and released it Tuesday. In 1999, there were 98 executions, thehighest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The group attributes the decline to numerous factors, including publicsentiment over innocence and fairness, but most notably the decision by theSupreme Court on Sept. 25 to hear a challenge to the constitutionality oflethal injection, causing a de facto moratorium on executions.

On Dec. 17, Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey, a Democrat, signedlegislation abolishing the death penalty in the state, a development thereport said exemplified a trend of states shifting away from the deathpenalty. Legislatures in other states, including New Mexico, Montana andNebraska, came close to abolishing it this year.

Meanwhile, 40 of 50 states had no executions this year, while 86 percent ofexecutions occurred in the South, the report said. Texas had by far the mostexecutions, with 26.

more . . . . .


Washington Post

Administration Calls Report on CIA Tapes 'Troubling'

By Howard Schneider
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 10:19 AM

The Bush administration on Wednesday labeled as "pernicious and troubling" aNew York Times report that the White House was more deeply involved thanpreviously thought in discussions over whether to destroy CIA videotapesdepicting the harsh interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives.

The paper reported today that at least four White House lawyers had beeninvolved in the discussions between 2003 and 2005 -- then White Housecounsel Alberto R. Gonzales, then counsel and now chief of staff to vicepresident Dick Cheney, David S. Addington, former National Security Councilsenior lawyer John B. Bellinger III, and Harriet E. Miers, who became WhiteHouse counsel after Gonzales.

Quoting unnamed sources, the paper said there was conflicting information onwhether White House lawyers advocated destroying the tapes or not.

Miers' involvement in the discussions had been previously reported,including in the Washington Post. But the Times said that the role of thefour lawyers showed White House involvement in what to do with the CIA video"was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged."

In a statement released this morning, White House press secretary DanaPerino did not deny the lawyers had consulted over the fate of the tapes.Rather, she said, the White House had consistently refused to comment on thematter because it is under investigation. It was, therefore, wrong to saythat the administration had mislead anyone about its role.

more . . . . .


Washington Post

Religious Freedom in Military Questioned

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 18, 2007; 8:36 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. -- A foundation that has sued the military alleging widespreadviolations of religious freedom said Tuesday that it has evidence showingthat soldiers are pressured to adopt fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

The photos and videos of religious materials and activities are part of alawsuit filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Army Spc.Jeremy Hall, an atheist, against Maj. Freddy J. Welborn and DefenseSecretary Robert Gates.

The material was gathered from Fort Riley in Kansas, the Air Force Academyin Colorado Springs, Colo., and Fort Jackson, S.C.

Examples at Fort Riley, where Hall is stationed, included a display outsidehis military police battalion's office with a quote from conservative writerAnn Coulter saying, "We should invade their countries, kill their leadersand convert them to Christianity."

Another photo from Fort Riley shows the book "A Politically Incorrect Guideto Islam" for sale at the post exchange.

more . . . . .


[Send your comments about articles to]

No comments: