Sunday, December 23, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 22, 2007

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Boston Globe

Women voters could drive Democratic choice
Candidates woo female caucusgoers

By Marcella Bombardieri, Globe Staff
December 21, 2007

DES MOINES - Women are likely to make up 60 percent or more of Democraticprimary voters and caucusgoers in many states, including the crucial firststate of Iowa, according to pollsters, political analysts, and campaignorganizers.

While women have long been a majority of Democratic primary voters, strongerefforts this time by candidates to attract women who either haven't voted inprimaries or who voted Republican in the past mean that female voters areexpected to dominate the nomination process more than ever before.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in particular, are wooing first-timefemale caucusgoers in Iowa, who could determine the outcome because thecontest is so close. A new poll released yesterday by CNN showed a three-waystatistical dead heat among Clinton, Obama, and John Edwards among likelyDemocratic caucusgoers.

The latest Des Moines Register poll predicted that about 62 percent ofDemocratic caucusgoers on Jan. 3 would be women, though determining ahead oftime who will ultimately attend the caucuses is notoriously difficult. TheRegister's forecast is supported by the political action committee EMILY'sList and top strategists in several campaigns.

"I think women are going to turn out and be the engines of this election, soit could be historic," said Kate Michelman, a prominent feminist leader whois a senior adviser to Edwards.

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Houston Chronicle

What the polls are saying: From wire reports

Dec. 20, 2007, 10:54PM

Mike Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor who is campaigning for Christianconservative support, is in second place, behind former New York City MayorRudy Giuliani among likely California GOP primary voters, a new Field Pollreleased Thursday finds.

Without any formal campaign operation, the one-time Baptist minister hasseen his support quadruple, from 4 percent to 17 percent, since lateOctober.

While Giuliani's lead in national polls is disappearing, he remains thechoice of 25 percent of California GOP likely voters, unchanged since a lateOctober poll.

Support from born-again Christians has propelled Huckabee to a small leadover former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has moved up slightly to 15percent since October, and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who remains at 12percent.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, with 43 percent of likely Democratic primary voters,continues to hold a large lead in Florida. Barack Obama, with 21 percent,and John Edwards, with 19 percent, are bunched behind Clinton.

Matching his rapid rise elsewhere, Republican Mike Huckabee is in secondplace among GOP voters, with 21 percent. Rudy Giuliani leads with 28 percentof Republican voters. The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted from Dec.12-18.

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Boston Globe

Obama even with Clinton in New Hampshire: poll

December 21, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clintonand Barack Obama are locked in a dead heat among New Hampshire voters aheadof the state's primary contest next month, according to a USA Today/GallupPoll released on Friday.

Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, and Obama, an Illinoissenator, are tied at 32 percent, with former North Carolina Sen. JohnEdwards at 18 percent, according to the poll.

New Hampshire is one of the hotly contested early primaries in thestate-by-state process to pick the Democratic and Republican candidates whowill face off in the November 4, 2008 presidential election.

In the tightening Republican race there, Mitt Romney, former governor ofneighboring Massachusetts, leads Arizona Sen. John McCain 34 percent to 27percent.

Just last month most New Hampshire polls showed Clinton and Romney withdouble-digit leads, USA Today said.

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USA Today

For Democrats in Congress, a lesson in power's limits

When Democrats took control of Congress last January after more than adecade of Republican dominance, their leaders and supporters talked as ifanything was possible: They'd end the Iraq war, boost spending for neglecteddomestic programs, even roll back some of President Bush's tax cuts.

Nearly a year later, they've confronted a bitter reality. Even a presidentas weak as George W. Bush, with approval ratings in the low 30s and aseemingly endless war in Iraq, has more than enough political power tofrustrate a Congress held by the other party.

You'd think the Democrats would have remembered what happened back in 1995when a new, muscle-flexing Republican Congress, led by House Speaker NewtGingrich, tried to compel President Clinton to accept GOP priorities byforcing a government shutdown. Clinton, who at one point was reduced toinsisting he was "still relevant," used the bully pulpit and thepresidential veto to push the GOP into humiliating retreat.

As they head into 2008, Bush and the Democrats can learn from what happenedin 1996, when Clinton and the Republicans dialed back the partisanship tothe advantage of both parties and, more important, to the nation.

This year, the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate foundthemselves outmaneuvered by Bush on some of their signature issues.Democrats wanted more spending for domestic programs; Bush, a sudden convertto fiscal responsibility, threatened vetoes until Democrats caved on most oftheir demands.

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Boston Globe

Poll: GOP race up for grabs among three candidates, Clinton well ahead amongDemocrats

By The Associated Press
December 20, 2007

THE RACE: The presidential race for Republicans, Democrats nationally
Hillary Rodham Clinton, 49 percent
Barack Obama, 20 percent
John Edwards, 10 percent
Rudy Giuliani, 20 percent
Mike Huckabee, 19 percent
John McCain, 19 percent
Mitt Romney, 11 percent
Fred Thompson, 10 percent


New York Times

9/11 Panel Study Finds That C.I.A. Withheld Tapes

December 22, 2007

WASHINGTON - A review of classified documents by former members of the Sept.11 commission shows that the panel made repeated and detailed requests tothe Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 and 2004 for documents and otherinformation about the interrogation of operatives of Al Qaeda, and were toldby a top C.I.A. official that the agency had "produced or made available forreview" everything that had been requested.

The review was conducted earlier this month after the disclosure that inNovember 2005, the C.I.A. destroyed videotapes documenting theinterrogations of two Qaeda operatives.

A seven-page memorandum prepared by Philip D. Zelikow, the panel's formerexecutive director, concluded that "further investigation is needed" todetermine whether the C.I.A.'s withholding of the tapes from the commissionviolated federal law.

In interviews this week, the two chairmen of the commission, Lee H. Hamiltonand Thomas H. Kean, said their reading of the report had convinced them thatthe agency had made a conscious decision to impede the Sept. 11 commission'sinquiry.

Mr. Kean said the panel would provide the memorandum to the federalprosecutors and congressional investigators who are trying to determinewhether the destruction of the tapes or withholding them from the courts andthe commission was improper.

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New York Times

Editorial: Weakening Pakistan

December 22, 2007

Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, insists his outrageous power grabsare aimed at stabilizing and protecting his country. His authoritarianmaneuvers only weaken the country's already feeble political institutionsand fuel more political turmoil.

Turmoil is not what anyone needs in a country that is both armed withnuclear weapons and supposedly helping lead the fight against Al Qaeda. OnFriday, dozens of people were killed in a bombing, apparently aimed at oneof Mr. Musharraf's political allies.

Mr. Musharraf's decision to end six weeks of martial law was long overdue,as was his decision last month to finally quit his army post and take thepresidential oath of office as a civilian. Any hope that he was nudging thecountry toward a genuine democracy was quashed when he also moved to exempthis own most controversial actions from any court challenges. That means hishighly questionable election to a new five-year term will stand, as will hisdismissal of 13 Supreme Court judges and more than 40 High Court judges.

Mr. Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup, so his rule lacks legitimacy nomatter how he manipulates the country's legal underpinnings. But instead oftrying to strengthen Pakistan's institutions, he is continuing to underminethem for his own power and profit. Meanwhile, Pakistan's citizens leave nodoubt that they're sick of the former general. A poll this month by theWashington-based International Republican Institute (affiliated with theRepublican Party) found that 67 percent of Pakistanis want Mr. Musharraf toresign immediately.

As ever, criticism from the Bush administration has been unacceptably muted.New doubts were raised last week about Mr. Musharraf's proclaimed commitmentto the fight against terrorism - the main justification for Washington'senabling - when a Pakistani suspect accused of plotting to blow uptrans-Atlantic airplanes somehow managed to slip out of his handcuffs andescape from custody.

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New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: Nightmare Before Christmas

December 22, 2007

Christmastime is bonus time on Wall Street, and the Gucci set has beenblessed with another record harvest.

Forget the turbulence in the financial markets and the subprime debacle.Forget the dark clouds of a possible recession. Bloomberg News tells us thatthe top securities firms are handing out nearly $38 billion in seasonalbonuses, the highest total ever.

But there's a reason to temper the celebration, if only out of respect foran old friend who's not doing too well. Even as the Wall Streeters arehigh-fiving and ordering up record shipments of Champagne and caviar, theAmerican dream is on life-support.

I had a conversation the other day with Andrew Stern, president of theService Employees International Union. He mentioned a poll of workingfamilies that had shown that their belief in that mythical dream that hassustained so many generations for so long is fading faster than sunlight ona December afternoon.

The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners for the Change to Win laborfederation, found that only 16 percent of respondents believed that theirchildren's generation would be better off financially than their own. Whilesome respondents believed that the next generation would fare roughly thesame as this one, nearly 50 percent held the exceedingly gloomy view thattoday's children would be "worse off" when the time comes for them to enterthe world of work and raise their own families.

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New York Times

Editorial: Information Con Game

December 22, 2007

The very title of a now 41-year-old law - the Freedom of Information Act -sounds naïve in today's Washington, where government secrecy has become aneven higher and darker art under the Bush administration.

The open-government law, known as FOIA, should be one of the chief tools forcitizens to find out what's actually happening. For that, citizens' requestsfor information would have to be answered. Instead, FOIA requests havedisappeared into the bureaucratic maw for up to 20 years with no answer forwhy the statutory 20-day deadline has become such a Dickensian maze of delayand frustration.

Call it reform or call it revenge, but Congress has just passed a measure to
tackle glaring flaws in the FOIA process. With overwhelming bipartisan
support, the measure would:

* Prod stricter deadlines with a numerical tracking system so citizens couldfollow their requests like (lost) package deliveries.
*Establish clear penalties for foot-dragging, including repayment of attorneyfees for applicants found suffering the run-around at recalcitrant agencies.
*Create an ombudsman office at the National Archives to mediate disputes over requests, which currently are rejected outright in a full third of thecases.
*Ensure that information records held by private government contractors canno longer be kept off-limits to FOIA requests.

Contrary to initial expectations, FOIA has come to be used mainly bybusiness firms, lawyers and information services, with the news mediaaccounting for only about 6 percent of requests. This undoubtedly made foreasier passage of reforms in Congress. The Justice Department registeredsome early objections, but so far there's been no veto threat from PresidentBush. It's no final cure-all for the secrecy that infects Washington, butMr. Bush owes this measure of relief to constituents entitled to theircuriosity.


New York Times

Huckabee and the Democratic Ideal

By Chris Suellentrop
December 21, 2007, 6:44 pm

Tags: Elections 2008, mike huckabee

Where's the Democratic Mike Huckabee? "Democrats could learn a lot bystudying Huckabee," David Seaton, an American expatriate in Madrid, suggestson his personal blog. "I have no idea what is really behind Mike Huckabee'sfriendly facade, but he is making some interesting and nuanced noises for asouthern populist and I think Democrats should take note of these nuancesand make some of the same noises." Seaton continues:

What are the nuances I'm talking about? For one thing, as far as I know henever uses Reagan-type racist code terms like, "state's rights", which iscode for keeping black people from voting, or "welfare queen," which isanother, racially loaded term. In fact I believe he is on record as sayingthat the major problem of the American prison system is that it is filledwith people who are drug addicts, not criminals, and that instead of prisonthey should be in rehab. Since the majority of prisoners in American jailsare persons of color, this statement is profoundly un-racist. And if youconsider how much more caring, un-punitive and especially how much moreexpensive it would be to treat these unfortunates as sick people instead ofcriminals to be locked away, the statement is amazingly un-conservative.This is the sort of message that Democrats should be delivering.

Seaton doesn't think Huckabee merits the Democratic nomination forpresident, but he does wish one of the Democrats running for president wouldsteal some of Huckabee's rhetoric.

"If Democrats were intelligent and, after 2004, this is in doubt, they wouldstudy Huckabee with the attitude of humble self-criticism and thentriangulate him to death. I really doubt that they can and they will," hewrites. "It would be a shame if a serious populist movement took off in theUnited States and the party of F.D.R. was left out of it. But I'm afraidthat's what might happen."


New York Times

Editorial: Arrogance and Warming

December 21, 2007

The Bush administration's decision to deny California permission to regulateand reduce global warming emissions from cars and trucks is an indefensibleact of executive arrogance that can only be explained as the product ofideological blindness and as a political payoff to the automobile industry.

The decision, announced Wednesday by Stephen Johnson, the administrator ofthe Environmental Protection Agency, overrode the advice of his legal andtechnical staffs, misconstrued the law and defied both Congress and thefederal courts. It also stuck a thumb in the eyes of 17 other stategovernors who have grown impatient with the federal government's failure toregulate greenhouse gas emissions and wanted to move aggressively on theirown.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave California authority to set its own clean airstandards if it first received a federal waiver. The law also said thatother states could then adopt California's standards. In 2004, Californiaasked permission to move ahead with a law requiring automakers to reducegreenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks by 30 percent by2016. That would require improvements in fuel economy far beyond thosecalled for in the energy bill signed this week.

Over the years, California has made 50 waiver requests to regulatesmog-forming pollutants and other gases and has never been denied. This wasthe first request involving emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhousegases, which the Bush administration has steadfastly refused to regulate.

For three years, the E.P.A. also hid behind the argument that it had noauthority over carbon dioxide emissions because carbon dioxide was notspecifically identified as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The SupremeCourt demolished that argument last April. Subsequent court decisions haveupheld the states' authority to set their own standards while refuting theauto industry's assertions that meeting the California standards would betechnologically and economically impossible.

Undeterred, industry tried to insert language in the energy bill that wouldhave gutted E.P.A.'s authority to regulate carbon dioxide and, thus, itsauthority to grant California its waiver. Congress refused. The automakersalso sought relief from the White House and Vice President Cheney. Theresult of all these machinations was Mr. Johnson's decision on Wednesday andthe ludicrous reasoning that accompanied it.

One of Mr. Johnson's arguments was that a "national solution" to carbondioxide emissions was preferable to a "confusing patchwork of state rules."A national solution is precisely what the administration has refused tooffer. And the California rule - once in force there and in 17 otherstates - would in fact constitute a uniform standard covering nearly halfthe car market. That is why the automakers lobbied so fiercely against it.

It has been hard enough to trust Mr. Bush's recent assertions that he hasfinally gotten religion on climate change. It all seems like posturing now.


Washington Post

Supporting the Troops: Congress moves to reform veterans' health care.

Saturday, December 22, 2007; A16

NOTHING WILL ever be able to absolve this country for the disgraceful way ithas treated its returning war wounded. Congress, though, took a big step inmaking amends with final approval of legislation aimed at fixing andupgrading the military health-care system. Expected enactment of themeasure, along with the installation of a new secretary of veterans affairs,are important developments in righting the wrongs against America'ssoldiers.

The Wounded Warrior Act was incorporated into the 2008 National DefenseAuthorization Act approved by House and Senate conferees this month. Thepresident is to sign it into law soon. Its provisions -- improvements inhealth care and benefits and the beginning of disability reform -- are areaction to the scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A four-monthinvestigation this year by The Post revealed squalid living conditions, pooroutpatient care and a bureaucracy indifferent, even hostile, to the needs ofinjured service personnel. Perhaps even more appalling was the realizationthat the problems weren't limited to Walter Reed but extended to veteransfacilities across the country.

Among the immediate benefits, combat veterans are guaranteed mental healthevaluations within 30 days of their request; the period during whichrecently separated combat veterans may seek care from the VA has beenincreased from two years to five years; and caregivers are given an increasein family medical leave. The legislation pays particular attention to thesignature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by expanding treatmentof and research on traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stressdisorder.

Most significant, the measure sets in place an overarching policy thatrequires the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department towork together -- not at cross-purposes -- on comprehensive reforms. Most ofthe issues identified by the presidential commission headed by former Senatemajority leader Robert J. Dole and former secretary of health and humanservices Donna E. Shalala were addressed; that reflects the productivepartnership between Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the ArmedServices Committee, and Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of theVeterans' Affairs Committee. Still on the to-do list is the big issue of howto restructure the disability system. No one questions the need for fixes,but how to carry out reform is proving to be a thorny issue, one thatrequires the continued attention of Congress if it wants to support thetroops.


Washington Post

The McCain Prescription: The GOP candidate has some good ideas on healthcare, but not the whole answer.

Saturday, December 22, 2007; A16

WHEN IT comes to health care, the way policymakers define the problemdetermines the answer they produce. Democratic presidential candidates tendto focus on the uninsured, Republicans on rising costs. Both are important:The unaffordability of health insurance won't be addressed without tacklinghealth-care costs, but reducing cost growth alone won't solve the insuranceproblem. In this debate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona has introduced ahealth-care plan that is the most detailed and thoughtful of the Republicanproposals. Mr. McCain does not put enough emphasis on dealing with theuninsured, but his suggestions for constraining costs and reforming theirrational tax treatment of health insurance merit serious consideration bywhoever is elected.

The centerpiece of Mr. McCain's plan is a refundable tax credit of $2,500per individual and $5,000 per family to purchase health insurance; he wouldpay for this by eliminating the existing tax preference foremployer-sponsored health insurance, in which workers don't have to pay taxon the value of the insurance they receive. The McCain plan represents animportant improvement on a dead-on-arrival proposal from President Bushearlier this year. Getting rid of the tax preference would be a good steptoward achieving a more rational system, one that does not favor somepurchasers of health insurance over others and does not encourage spendingon gold-plated health-care plans. In addition, it is fairer to structure thebenefit as a credit, of equal value to all taxpayers, rather than as adeduction; a refundable credit would benefit even those who do not oweincome taxes.

Mr. McCain acknowledges that his proposed credit would not mean much withoutother, major changes that would make insurance more affordable. Of these,the most intriguing is his proposal to change the way government health-careprograms compensate providers. Currently, Medicare pays providers for everyprocedure, an incentive to provide unnecessary care; Mr. McCain would reward"coordinated care," reimbursing doctors and hospitals for treating overallconditions, not performing individual tests and treatments. This is apromising approach, but the results on such programs have been mixed, atbest; an assessment of Medicare pilot programs found little "convincingevidence" that they cut costs or improved care. Overall, Mr. McCain puts toomuch emphasis on the ability of consumers, once they are aware of andresponsible for health-care costs, to drive down prices. This is important,but many health-care costs involve catastrophic illnesses in which consumershave little control over costs.

Mr. McCain's plan is weakest on the underlying problem with thehealth-insurance market, in which insurers have every incentive tocherry-pick the healthiest purchasers. "We should give additional help tothose who face particularly expensive care. If it is done right and theadditional money is there, insurance companies will compete for thesepatients -- not turn them away," Mr. McCain says. He acknowledges that it is"a challenge to develop techniques that allocate the right amount to each ofthese families" but proposes only that states should be allowed to "work onwhatever method they find most promising," with federal help thrown in.

That's not enough of a guarantee that insurance will be available andaffordable. Preferable would be to prohibit insurers from cherry-picking andrequire all individuals to have insurance.


Washington Post

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics: $1 Billion Project to IncludeImages of Irises and Faces

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2007; A01

CLARKSBURG, W. Va. -- The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to buildthe world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics,a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identifyindividuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowinginto FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month,the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expandthe amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the comingyears, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely oniris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique wayspeople walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists.The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints ofemployees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers canbe notified if employees have brushes with the law.

"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III,assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information ServicesDivision, which operates the database from its headquarters in theAppalachian foothills.

The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questionsabout the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawingcriticism from those who worry that people's bodies will become de factonational identification cards. Critics say that such government initiativesshould not proceed without proof that the technology really can pick acriminal out of a crowd.

The use of biometric data is increasing throughout the government. For thepast two years, the Defense Department has been storing in a database imagesof fingerprints, irises and faces of more than 1.5 million Iraqi and Afghandetainees, Iraqi citizens and foreigners who need access to U.S. militarybases. The Pentagon also collects DNA samples from some Iraqi detainees,which are stored separately.

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Miami Herald

Blair converts to Catholicism

Posted on Sat, Dec. 22, 2007

Tony Blair, who often kept his religious views private while serving asBritain's prime minister, has converted to Catholicism , officials saidSaturday.

Blair, who had long been a member of the Church of England, converted to theCatholic faith during a Mass held on Friday night at a chapel in London, theCatholic Church said.

"It can be confirmed that Tony Blair has been received into full communionwith the Catholic church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor," the head ofthe church in England and Wales, the church said in a statement.

"I'm very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church," thestatement quoted Murphy-O'Connor as saying.

"For a long time he's been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family andin recent months he's been following a program of formation for hisreception into full communion. Our prayers are with him, his family and hiswife at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together,"Murphy-O'Connor said.

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Miami Herald

Let Congress, courts probe CIA tapes case

Posted on Fri, Dec. 21, 2007

The Bush administration has taken a heads-we-win, tails-you-lose approach tothe scandal over the destruction of CIA interrogation videos. First, theJustice Department asked a federal court to halt a pending inquiry partlybecause Congress was already looking into it. Then it turned around andurged Congress to shut down its investigation until the CIA and Justice werefinished with theirs. As convenient as this would be for an administrationthat prefers to operate in secrecy, both the courts and Congress have anobligation to conduct independent inquiries.

Pattern of secrecy

If the administration gets its way, the story of the videotapes' destructionwould remain forever a matter of mystery and conjecture. This would conformto a years-long pattern in which anything remotely related to the war onterror -- wiretapping, the treatment of detainees, the ''rendition''program -- has been stamped secret. The courts and Congress have had a hardtime trying to exercise oversight and properly addressing issues oflegality.

In the case of the CIA videotapes, there are two issues, and it's hard tosay which is worse for the administration. The first is what Was on thevideotapes: Were at least two al Qaeda operatives subjected to unlawfulinterrogation methods, i.e., torture? The second is whether the destructionitself violated the law.

Some lawmakers knew of the existence of the videotapes. All say they advisedagainst destroying the tapes. Published reports say former Attorney GeneralAlberto Gonzales and White House Counsel Harriet Miers were among thoseconsulted. It is not clear what advice they gave, but the involvement ofsuch prominent officials underscores the need for Congress to find out whoordered the destruction and why.

Judge makes right call

The judicial inquiry is equally serious. In 2005, U.S. District Judge HenryH. Kennedy issued an order requiring the administration to preserve evidencein a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Aviolation of that order could represent obstruction of justice. In view ofreports about possible Justice Department or White House involvement, JudgeKennedy has been right to insist that administration lawyers appear in courttoday to discuss whether the destruction violated his order.

On Thursday, the CIA agreed to turn over to Congress documents related tothe destruction of the tapes, reversing its earlier position under threat ofsubpoena. Now Congress must be careful to avoid the possibility that itsinvestigation will produce testimony that would complicate, if not impede,the prosecution of witnesses who testify on Capitol Hill with or withoutgrants of immunity.


Miami Herald

Surprises that 2007 brought

Posted on Sat, Dec. 22, 2007

One year ago, the experts pondered what 2007 would bring. Their visions, inmost cases, read like a catalog of dread, colored with almost apologetictinges of hope. This, many predicted, would be the year of final disaster inIraq.

After all, Americans energized by anti-war fervor had just handed control ofCongress to Democrats. Surely, a Democratic Congress would stop the doomedwar effort. Still, a new war with Iran looked about to erupt. The U.S.economy would collapse, Fidel Castro would die, and Hugo Chávez would crownhimself for life. None of that came to pass. Instead, the world broughtsurprises few of us could have predicted.

Their true significance will not become apparent until history has hadenough time to shape our future. Until then, here are some of thedevelopments that proved most surprising in potentially changing the courseof our times.

10. In Cuba, despite a debilitating illness and a seemingly irreversiblestep away from power, Castro embarrasses obituary writers around the world,looking set to outlive yet another U.S. presidency.

9. In the U.S. presidential campaign, Republican support surges for aBaptist preacher with a degree from Ouachita Baptist University. Despitewhat appeared to be fatigue with a ''faith-based'' Bush administration, manyvoters seem to like Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who doesnot believe in evolution and whose best known accomplishment is losing a lotof weight.

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Chicago Tribune,1,6732306.story

Judge Keeps White House Logs Secret

By Associated Press
5:42 PM CST, December 21, 2007


A federal judge agreed Friday to let the Bush administration keep secret thelists of visitors to the White House until an appeals court decides whetherthe documents are public records.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the White House request fivedays after ordering the Secret Service to turn over the records to a liberalwatchdog group that sought them under the Freedom of Information Act.

The logs being sought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics inWashington relate to White House visits regarding nine conservativereligious commentators, including James Dobson, Gary Bauer and the late Rev.Jerry Falwell.

Visitor records are created by the Secret Service, which is subject to theFreedom of Information Act. The Bush administration ordered the data beturned over to the White House, where it is treated as presidential recordsoutside the scope of the public records law.

Lamberth ruled logs from the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney'sresidence remain Secret Service documents and are subject to public recordsrequests.

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