Thursday, December 27, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 27, 2007

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New York Times

Bhutto Killed in Suicide Attack at Rally

December 27, 2007
Filed at 8:36 a.m. ET

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto wasassassinated Thursday in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20others at a campaign rally, a party aide and a military official said.

''At 6:16 p.m. she expired,'' said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto'sparty who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was taken after theattack.

A senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because hewas not authorized to comment, confirmed that Bhutto had died.

Her supporters at the hospital began chanting ''Dog, Musharraf, dog,''referring to Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf. Some of them smashed theglass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit, others burst intotears.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information.AP's earlier story is below.

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From: National Black Justice Coalition

Happy Kwanzaa From NBJC!! Dec. 26-Jan. 1

Kwanzaa Facts

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan- African holiday whichcelebrates family, community and culture. Kwanzaa was created tointroduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culturewhich contribute to building and reinforcing family, communityand culture among African American people as well as Africansthroughout the world African community.

Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 thru January 1, itsorigins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa fromwhich it takes its name.

Day 1: Umoja (Unity)

To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community,nation and race.

NBJC Unity At Work

NBJC strives to maintain the unity of the Black LGBT andSame-Gender-Lovingcommunity as it continues to evolve in itsown self-identity through thereconciliation of race, sexuality,spirituality, nationality, and family.In2007 NBJC convened a Forum on Hate Crimes with several othercommunityorganizations.NBJC also joined the Hip Hop Movement by speaking at a HipHopCucus Rally against community violence. See video commentary byNBJCspeaker, Donna Payne here!!:Finally NBJC conducted a series of Town Hallmeetings in Florida and Nashville and also hosted an HIV Testing andAwareness Dayin Charlotte.


New York Times

Editorial: State Without Pity

December 27, 2007

It is a shameful distinction, but Texas is the undisputed capital of capitalpunishment. At a time when the rest of the country is having serious doubtsabout the death penalty, more than 60 percent of all American executionsthis year took place in Texas. That gaping disparity provides furtherevidence that Texas's governor, Legislature, courts and voters shouldreassess their addiction to executions.

As Adam Liptak reported in The Times on Wednesday, in the last three years,Texas's share of the nation's executions has gone from 32 percent to 62percent. This year, Texas executed 26 people. No other state executed morethan three.

It is not that Texas sentences people to death at a much higher rate thanother states. Rather, Texas has proved to be much more willing than othersto carry out the sentences it has imposed.

The participants in Texas's death penalty process, including the governorand the pardon board, are more enthusiastic about moving things along thanthey are in many states. Texas's system also contains some special features,like the power of district attorneys to set execution dates. Prosecutors arelikely to be more eager than judges to see an execution carried out.

While Texas has been forging ahead with capital punishment, many otherstates have been moving away from it. New Jersey abolished the death penaltythis month, and other states have been considering doing the same thing.Illinois made headlines a few years ago when its governor, troubled aboutthe number of innocent people who had been sent to death row, put in place amoratorium on executions.

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New York Times

Fuel for Bushehr

December 27, 2007

President Bush is not eager to pick another fight with the Russians. So hedid the diplomatic thing last week and said that it is good that Russiafinally delivered fuel for Iran's Russian-built nuclear power reactor atBushehr. Don't believe it.

While the risk that Tehran might divert the low-enriched uranium for weaponsuse is relatively small, the political significance of the shipment is not.It is the latest reminder that the Bush administration's Iran policy is notworking and that Washington and the other major powers are going to have tobe a lot more creative and a lot more tough-minded if there is any hope ofrestraining Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Moscow - which would like to sell more nuclear reactors to Iran - clearlydecided that all the restraints are off now that the United Statesintelligence community has reported that Tehran halted its secret nuclearweapons program in 2003. This week, Tehran announced that Russia would alsosell it a powerful new air defense system.

There are several problems with Moscow's new anything goes attitude: Iranhid its nuclear efforts for years, still isn't cooperating withinternational inspectors and is defying a Security Council order to haltmaking its own fuel - the hardest part of building a weapon.

By delivering nuclear fuel to Bushehr, Russia has squandered importantleverage and sent a loud and clear message to Tehran that it can continue todefy the Security Council and continue with its nuclear program. The UnitedStates and its allies now need to redouble their efforts to persuade Russiato withhold remaining fuel shipments as part of a new package of intensifiedpressures.

Russia isn't the only country interested in pursuing more - not less - tradewith Iran. And we fear it isn't the only one that will see the newintelligence estimate as a green light to give in to that temptation.

The Bush administration should remind everyone who will listen about thedangers posed by an Iran that even knows how to build a nuclear weapon. Butit will have a lot more credibility if it backs that up with a serious offerof comprehensive talks and real rewards if Iran is willing to give up itsfuel program and cooperate with international inspectors. That may notchange Iran's behavior. It may be the only way to stop the rest of the worldfrom following Russia's path to Tehran's door.


New York Times

Editorial: Protection for Endangered Whistle-Blowers

December 27, 2007

Congress is finally ready to stand up to the Bush administration and forthose courageous federal workers who dare to reveal waste and abuse ingovernment. The Senate has passed strong reforms to the 1989 whistle-blowerprotection law, counteracting the gag orders, retaliatory investigations andother harassments that have become shamefully standard practice during thelast seven years.

The reforms would provide stronger outside review protection forwhistle-blowers and would make it more difficult for their securityclearances to be revoked, a common shunning device. Workers would also befreer to share classified information with Congress - when necessary toreveal the details of abuse and fraud - and would have a strengthened courtreview process for appealing disputed cases.

More than 400 workers a year make firsthand allegations of on-the-job wasteand fraud, risking their careers in the process. In response, too manyadministration political appointees have flouted the law, demoting anddemeaning workers who speak up, even subverting the inspector general systemin the process.

The House has passed an even stronger version, and negotiators will beginmeeting soon after Congress returns. The White House, predictably, isthreatening a veto. Both chambers of Congress have registered a veto-proofcommitment, and the next priority should be to steer the strongest possiblefinal measure into law.

In particular, conferees must include House provisions extendingwhistle-blower protection to workers at the F.B.I. and national intelligenceagencies. White House complaints that homeland defense would be threatenedare, in fact, contradicted by the history of 9/11 and the F.B.I. field agentwhose preattack warnings to superiors went unheeded. Also vital is the House's guarantee of protection of airport baggage screeners, extending the right toreveal misconduct and antiterrorism gaffes without fearing for their jobs.The House would extend this protection to private government contractors, aswell - a rich area of abuse laid bare in the management of the Iraq war.Clearly, these times demand the strongest possible whistle-blower law.


New York Times

On Our Own Ignorance (and That of Many Others)

By Tobin Harshaw
December 26, 2007, 1:06 pm

Tags: George Bush, Hillary Clinton, polls

In case all the conflicting Iowa poll results aren't meaningless enough foryou, here's Gallup's latest survey: "For the sixth year in a row, PresidentGeorge W. Bush is the most admired man and Sen. Hillary Clinton the mostadmired woman in Gallup's annual survey. But neither winner had a verydecisive win this year, with former President Bill Clinton nearly tying Bushand Hillary Clinton barely topping talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. This is theseventh time Bush has been most admired man and the 12th time Clinton hasbeen most admired woman."

"You really do have to sit down and ask yourself just how many alternativeuniverses we are all inhabiting," adds Rom Coleman at Likelihood of Success:

There is no way on earth that I - who admire George W. Bush quite a bit,despite my considerable disappointment in him from time to time - would everimagine that he was the most admired man in America. I could not fathom thatthe constant barrage of snark, contempt and calumny directed at this mancould not work its way so thoroughly through the populace, even in flyovercountry, that this could be the result of such a poll.

So yes, it is an irresistible story to comment on, because it is impossibleto understate how out of touch the elites that dominate nearly every segmentof American life are to what the vast majority of Americans really think andfeel. And I mean that in a good way.

O.K., speaking on behalf of th elites, the Opinionator will choose to takeit in a good way.


New York Times

Fastest-Growing States Show Slower Expansion

December 27, 2007

The bursting housing bubble squelched expansion in some of the nation'sfastest-growing states in the year that ended July 1, according to ananalysis of census figures released Wednesday.

Nevada regained the title of fastest growing, from Arizona, but both statesexpanded more slowly than they did the year before. Nevada's annual growth,like Florida's, was its lowest since the decade began.

Wyoming bumped Florida from the list of the top 10 fastest-growing states.Only 35,000 Americans moved to Florida from elsewhere in the United States,compared with nearly five times as many the year before.

Michigan and Rhode Island registered their second consecutive annual lossesin population. But Louisiana - which declined by more than 250,000 in theyear that ended July 1, 2006, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -recorded a gain of nearly 50,000 in the latest year.

The statewide population shifts hint at further realignment in Congressionaldistricts after the 2010 census.

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Washington Post

Wisdom From The Founding Rationalists
What Jefferson and Adams Might Tell Mitt Romney

By David Ignatius
Thursday, December 27, 2007; A17

A bracing text for this Christmas week is the famous correspondence betweenJohn Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Their letters are a reminder that theFounders were men of the Enlightenment -- supreme rationalists who wouldhave found the religiosity of much of our modern political life quiteabhorrent.

It's not that these men didn't have religious beliefs: They were, to theirdeaths, passionate seekers of truth, metaphysical as well as physical. It'sthat their beliefs didn't fit into pious cubbyholes. Indeed, the deistJefferson took a pair of scissors to the New Testament to create his"Jefferson Bible," or, formally, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,"which cut out the parts he regarded as supernatural or misinterpreted by theGospel writers.

It's useful to examine the musings of these American rationalists in thispolitical season when religion has been a prominent topic. Politicians andcommentators have suggested that for the Founders, the very idea of freedomwas God-given -- or, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, that humanbeings are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Yetthis famous passage begins with a distillation of the Enlightenment'scelebration of human reason: "We hold these truths to be self-evident."

My Christmastime reading of the Adams-Jefferson letters was prompted by thisyear's most interesting political speech but one I also found troubling --Mitt Romney's Dec. 6 speech on "Faith in America." It was a fine evocationof our twin heritage of religion and religious freedom, until he got to thisritual denunciation of the bogeymen known as secularists. "They seek toremove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen asmerely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they areintent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion ofsecularism."

Anyone who reads Adams and Jefferson -- or for that matter, BenjaminFranklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton or other voices of the AmericanEnlightenment -- can make their own judgment about what the Founders wouldsay about Romney's broadside against secularism. My guess is that theirresponse would be something like: "That is bunkum, sir."

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Washington Post

Small-Scale Businesses Forestall a Green India
Many Can't Afford Or Grasp Need for Energy Efficiency

By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 27, 2007; A01

FARIDABAD, India -- Ashok Gupta's modest plastic-packaging factory is theoldest in town, and its age shows. The root of all his problems iselectricity.

Gupta is stuck with a 32-year-old machine that consumes huge amounts ofpower, while the new machines available in the nearby market produce twiceas much plastic packaging and use 25 percent less electricity. But hisbusiness is too small for him to be able to afford the $18,000energy-efficient model. Gupta's problems are compounded by frequent cuts inthe electrical supply here in the power-starved northern Indian state ofHaryana.

The machine at Ashoka Plastics Industries "needs to be heated for 1 1/2hours before it can work," said Gupta, 53, whose factory does about $12,000worth of business a year. "We face power cuts every other hour, cooling downthe machine, and it has to heat all over again. This uses a lot ofelectricity."

Analysts say cash-strapped small industrial operations such as Gupta's poseone of the biggest challenges to achieving energy efficiency and curbingcarbon emissions in this country.

With one of the world's fastest-growing economies, India is expected in thecoming years to produce ever more of the greenhouse gases that contribute toglobal warming. But many business owners in small industries either fail tounderstand the relevance of climate change or are unable to afford thechanges necessary to become more energy-efficient. According to a World Bankstudy, India's 4.5 million small and medium enterprises, with their obsoletetechnology, produce 70 percent of India's industrial pollution.

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Washington Post

2nd Aspirant To Russia's Presidency Quits Race

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 27, 2007; A12

MOSCOW, Dec. 26 -- For the second time this month, a leading Russianopposition figure has withdrawn from March's presidential electioncomplaining of a political landscape that has made open competitionimpossible.

"It's clear that the presidential election, like the parliamentaryelections, will be a farce, since candidates do not have equal opportunitiesto campaign," Boris Nemtsov, a deputy prime minister in the 1990s and aleader of the Union of Right Forces party, said in a statement Wednesday."Goebbels-like propaganda, force and bureaucratic pressures are being usedagainst the opposition."

Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler's propaganda chief.

Nemtsov's withdrawal follows the decision of Garry Kasparov, the chessgrandmaster and critic of President Vladimir Putin, not to seek registrationas a candidate. Kasparov said the authorities had blocked his attempts tohold a nominating convention this month.

Neither Kasparov nor Nemtsov presented any real threat to the Kremlin'sanointed candidate, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, accordingto opinion polls. Medvedev is backed by Putin and the pro-Kremlin UnitedRussia party, and he enters the race as the overwhelming favorite.

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