Monday, December 03, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 3, 2007

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


Candid Imus returns to airwaves

9:10 AM EST, December 3, 2007

Don Imus returned to the airwaves Monday eight months after he was fired fora racially charged remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team, andintroduced a new cast that included two black comedians.

As he did several times in the days after his comments, Imus condemned hisremarks and said he had learned his lesson.

"I didn't see any point in going on some sort of 'Larry King' tour to offera bunch of lame excuses for making an essentially reprehensible remark aboutinnocent people who did not deserve to be made fun of," he said Mondayduring his debut on WABC-AM.

Again, Imus apologized to the basketball players and called the ensuingfuror a "life-changing experience."

"I will never say anything in my lifetime that will make any of these youngwomen at Rutgers regret or feel foolish that they accepted my apology andforgave me," he said.

more . . . . .


A Non-Story Remakes the Race

By Peter Beinart
Monday, December 3, 2007; A17

Last month, Katharine Q. Seelye of the New York Times live-blogged theDemocratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. As the discussion bounced fromsubject to subject, she marked the topic and the time, then gave herthoughts. At 8:34 p.m., it was driver's licenses; 8:55, Pakistan; 9:57, theSupreme Court. By night's end she had 17 entries totaling almost 1,500words. And she hadn't typed "Iraq" once.

The candidates mentioned the war, to be sure. But it never took centerstage. And with the first primaries just weeks away, that's become the norm:Iraq wasn't a major focus at last week's Republican YouTube debate either.In the biggest surprise of the campaign so far, the election that almosteveryone thought would be about Iraq is turning out not to be. And thatexplains a lot about which candidates are on the rise and which ones arestarting to fall.

The reason Iraq is fading is simple: Not as many people are dying there.Fewer deaths mean fewer front-page stories, and fewer front-page storiesmean less discussion on the cable shows, which were pretty sick of the topicalready. Turn on the television these days, and you're more likely to thinkAmerica is at war with illegal immigrants than with insurgents in the heartof the Middle East.

And that's showing up in the polls. Between June and November, according toNBC and the Wall Street Journal, the percentage of Americans citing Iraq astheir top priority fell eight points. A Post survey recently reported asix-point decline since September. When a CNN/WMUR news poll asked the samequestion of likely New Hampshire voters last month, it found that thepercentage of Republicans citing Iraq had dropped 14 points since June.Among Democrats, the drop was 16 points.

The result is that both the Democratic and Republican campaigns are lookingmore like the campaigns of the 1990s. Start with the GOP. The Republican whohas benefited most from Iraq's slide is Mike Huckabee, who this summer wasin low single digits in Iowa and is now running neck and neck with MittRomney for first place. A few months ago, commentators were saying thatconservatives no longer cared as much about abortion, gay marriage and thelike; they were more focused on the "war on terror." Rudy Giuliani has bethis whole campaign on that proposition. Romney's competence theme is anot-so-subtle critique of the way President Bush has handled the war.Huckabee, by contrast, has virtually no national security profile. In anIraq-dominated campaign, it's hard to imagine him as a serious contender.But as the war has receded, it has been supplanted by domestic issues and byquestions of personality and character. And in that '90s-like environment,Huckabee -- the truest social conservative in the race, and the guy you'dmost like to drink a root beer with -- is smiling his way into the top tier.

more . . . . .


OFF/beat's Top 10 Holiday Gift List
Turn Heads and Stomachs This Holiday Season!

He's making a list, and so am I... With the shopping season in full swing,I've compiled a preliminary list of the 10 most offbeat presents for you andyours. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, thesegifts are guaranteed to confuse, offend and/or delight members of allfaiths! Feel free to add your own or send samples The best entries will appear on OFF/beat'sUltimate Wish List, released later in the season.

10) If you've always dreamed of a breath mint that looks like a bag ofdrugs, then Hershey's has got the hook up. Available starting Friday,"Icebreaker Pacs" are small blue packets containing a white powderysubstance that melt in your mouth and leave your breath delightfully fresh.Best of all, they so closely resemble drug baggies that even seasonednarcotics officers can't tell the difference!

9) And with your kids enjoying crack-themed candy, why not give them theirvery own Barbie Crack House to play with? This one-of-a-kind piece of"unreal estate" is the former rental property of Trailer Trash Barbie andCrackhead Ken, who, according to the seller, were "exceptionally hard on theproperty due to their 'business pursuits.'"

8) For the alcoholic environmentalist on your list, why not pick up a bottleof 4 Copas, the world's "only certified organic tequila." The company says asacred appreciation of the provider Goddess Mayagüel is behind itsearth-first attitude to distilling booze. It remains unclear what effect, ifany, the lack of pesticides and preservatives will have on worms placed in 4Copas.

7) Save that sinner on your list from the unpleasantries of eternaldamnation for only $12.95 with the Reserve a Spot In Heaven "EssentialTravel Kit." It includes "everything needed to transport one individual toHeaven," such as a certificate of reservation, one first-class ticket toheaven, an Official Heaven ID Card "so you can get around without gettinghassled" and a Heaven 101 mini informational guide. Not convinced? Accordingto their site, "less than 0.000001% of our travelers have had problemsmaking it to Heaven through this unique, exclusive program." And there's a100% money back guarantee, just in case a reservation isn't honored.

6) If your kids have a habit of destroying their toys, give them one they'llbe too afraid of to mess with. The "Halloween" Michael Myers figure standssix inches tall and "comes complete with a removable snap-on bloody butchersknife." This adorable "woolly slasher" is sure to fill their little mindswith yuletide terror!

5) Know someone in a long-distance relationship? Then why not slip a G-Podin their stockings. Introduced at Tokyo's Adult Treasure Expo 2007, thisclever device consists of a vibrating phallic wand that can be plugged intoa cell phone. The wand is activated by the caller's voice and moves inresponse to his or her sound waves. It's also ideal for swingers, who canreach out and touch others on a conference call.

4) Got a friend or loved one with a heavy foot? Why not buy them theAnti-Ticket Doughnut! This handy little bribe is the perfect way of saying:"I was hoping we could settle this here." At only $9.95, it pays for itselfin less than one moving violation!

3) The holiday season is no time for atheism -- or bad breath. Well, now forjust $5.95, you can kiss both goodbye thanks to the "Believe in God" breathspray. This "miraculously peppermintly, faith-enhancing" formula canapparently turn your halitosis to Hallelujah with just one application!Whether it's a miracle of technology or of marketing may be a matter offaith, but either way it makes the perfect gift for that specialnon-believer in your life.

2) The calendar this time of year is full of parties so to keep clean andawake, make sure you stock up on Shower Shock brand caffeinated soap. Eachfour-ounce bar is infused with caffeine anhydrous, which lathers up awhopping 12 servings of coffee directly into your skin each time you shower.Just don't use it to wash your kid's mouth out with soap or you could end upwith junior Dice Clay in the manger.

1) And my favorite gift idea so far this season: the Sen. Larry Craig actionfigure. This rugged 12-inch doll comes with his classic mugshot eyewear andis dressed in a t-shirt emblazoned with his now famous declaration: "I AmNot Gay." According to, "his limbs are bendable, so you can puthim in all sorts of poses ... even the famous 'wide stance' the Senatorrefers to." And unlike any other toy I know of, Talking Larry Craig proudlyproclaims, "I never have been gay" at the touch of a button. No word on whenwe can expect the Airport Men's Room Playset.


The GOP and Freedom

Monday, December 3, 2007; A16

The Nov. 29 Metro article "Chairman Charts New Course" reported that therecently reelected chairman of the Prince William County Board ofSupervisors, Corey A. Stewart, believes that the state Republican Partyshould not focus on "faith, family and freedom."

Virginia Republicans are not guilty of excessive devotion to freedom. Onmost economic issues, they may be more pro-freedom than area Democrats, butthat does not take much.

On social issues, Virginia Republicans openly and resolutely believe ingovernment control over our lives.

Indeed, on gay issues, they seem determined to make Virginia the least freestate in the union.



Sarasota Herald Tribune

Science vs. politics
Reversal of species decisions should prompt wider investigation

Who cares about a red-legged frog?

Or a Preble's meadow jumping mouse?

Or a Hawaiian picture-wing fly?

The American people do. That's why we have the Endangered Species Act.

People want and expect the government to use scientific study to determinewhich species are endangered and to protect and preserve them as best itcan.

Yet, in at least seven decisions on endangered species and critical habitatinfluence in recent years by a top Interior Department official, science wasapparently trumped by political pressure.

more . . . . .


Boston Globe

Secrecy issues dog Giuliani, Clinton

By Liz Sidoti, Associated Press Writer
December 3, 2007

DES MOINES, Iowa --Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton have secrecyissues dogging them.

The front-runners in national polls for their parties' nominations both aregrappling with disclosure controversies as they seek to succeed PresidentBush, known as one of the most secretive chief executives in modern history.

For the Republican former New York mayor, the primary issue is GiulianiPartners, the consulting business he formed when he left City Hall. He stillworks for the firm but won't shed light on its business dealings or releasea client list. He's not required to; the company is privately held.

"It isn't mysterious at all," Giuliani insists, arguing that the media hasidentified clients.

He's also battling -- and dismissing -- suggestions that security expensesfor extramarital liaisons with current wife Judith Nathan were hidden inlittle-known city accounts. And, he is facing criticism for the handling ofhis mayoral records.

more . . . . .


Los Angeles Times,0,5997526.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials

Fact-checking Giuliani
Though he boasts about his tenure as mayor, the record shows he regularlystretches the truth.

December 3, 2007

Some illuminating news about the Republican front-runner in the race for thepresidency arrived last week in the form of an examination of Rudolph W.Giuliani's mayoral record and campaign rhetoric by one of his hometownpapers, the New York Times, and, a nonprofit truth-screenerthat watches candidates from both parties.

Giuliani likes to claim that during his years as mayor, he cut spending by7%, but it actually grew by about 3.7% a year (granted, that fact comes froma dubious source, Giuliani's memoir). He takes credit for $9 billion in taxcuts, but many of those were state taxes and one cut was enacted over hisopposition, which doesn't deter him from claiming it as his achievement. Heasserts that New York City averaged 1,800 homicides a year in the threedecades before he became mayor, but the real number is closer to 1,500.

Nor are Guiliani's whoppers confined to his glowing recollections of histime as mayor. In his discussions of healthcare reform, he denounces theBritish iteration of that system -- "socialized medicine," in Giuliani'stypically subtle formulation -- for producing a prostate cancer survivalrate of just 44%. In fact, more than 74% of British patients survive theirbouts with the disease. Giuliani's mischaracterization of the facts issevere enough that even some of his supporters have winced.

Campaigns are not known for their strict fidelity to the truth -- MittRomney, another contender for the Republican nomination, has piled up somedoozies of his own, and the Democratic field has produced its share. ButGiuliani's stretches are noteworthy for at least two reasons: His candidacyis predicated almost exclusively on his record as mayor -- the same recordhe's misrepresenting -- and he likes to set himself apart from his rivals byclaiming greater precision -- this while being imprecise. That pushesGiuliani's misstatements beyond mere inaccuracy and into the dicier realm ofhypocrisy.

Confronted with the discrepancies, Giuliani's spokeswoman retreated to thelow country of imprecision even while claiming the high ground ofexactitude. "The mayor likes detail," she told the Times. "And at the end ofthe day, he is making points that are true."

Except when they're not.


Los Angeles Times,0,4273952.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials

Obama: not a Manchurian candidate
The ugly insinuation that Obama is a stealth Muslim spotlights a newAmerican hatred.

December 3, 2007

The Great American Smear is back. In 2000, the victim was Republicanpresidential candidate Sen. John McCain, and the vector for transmission wastelephone lines and leaflets left on windshields in church parking lots.This year, the victim is Democratic presidential candidate Sen. BarackObama, and the vector is e-mail messages that appear to have originated inevangelical networks. As always, the smears play to the ugly undersideofAmerican politics: prejudice and hatred.

The 2000 rumor was that the white McCain had fathered a dark-skinned childout of wedlock. In the end, it did not matter that he and his wife hadadopted the child from Bangladesh. The then-front-runner lost the SouthCarolina Republican primary to George W. Bush, whose campaign has alwaysdenied any involvement in the "push polling" that propagated the smear. Itworked partly because the mainstream media didn't report what was happeninguntil after the election. But mainly it worked because of the persistence ofthe prejudices that prompted the South's old anti-miscegenation laws.

So it's worth considering the persistence of the Internet rumors that Obama,well known to Chicagoans as a Christian, is actually a stealth Muslim, a"Manchurian candidate" who would take the presidential oath with his hand onthe Koran.

The rumors first surfaced during Obama's run for Senate but took off in aviral e-mail campaign in 2006. One e-mail called Obama "The Enemy Within."GOP strategist Ed Rogers also pointedly mentioned Obama's middle name,Hussein. In January, the Obama campaign was forced to denounce Fox News forrepeating a false Insight magazine report that he had spent fours years inan Indonesian madrasa, an Islamic school. Though CNN sent out a reporter whofound that the school Obama had attended had nothing in common with thePakistani incubators for jihadists, and though his campaign has set therecord straight repeatedly, last week the Washington Post ran a front-pagestory about Obama's "Muslim ties."

That the rumors are false and vile is self-evident. That they persist in theface of the facts speaks to the power of the underlying calumny -- thatMuslim Americans in positions of power in the United States represent afifth column, an internal security threat of the sort believed to have beenposed by Japanese Americans during World War II.

It also speaks to the post-9/11 revival of the ancient Christian loathing ofMuslims that predated by centuries the 1529 Ottoman Siege of Vienna. Today,Muslim peoples are frequently stereotyped as mobs or hordes who areparticularly prone to violence and generally supportive of terrorism. And anugly undertone of the immigration debate has been the insinuation thatefforts to restrict illegal immigration should focus on keeping out the"bad" Muslims who have overrun Europe, not the "good" Mexicans who only wantto work here.

It's true that many American voters probably aren't ready for a Muslimpresident, as they once weren't ready to elect a Catholic to the highestoffice. But there are now believed to be more than 2 million MuslimAmericans in the United States, and one of them is a member of Congress.Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) won election without hiding his religion anddid, in fact, swear the oath of office on the Koran. This tolerance ofreligious diversity is a founding American principle, and one that we hopewill continue to distinguish the United States from theocracies such as Iranand Saudi Arabia.

Presidential candidates of both parties have a duty to denounce not only thesmear against Obama but the bigotry that underlies it.


Los Angeles Times,1,2066271.story?coll=la-politics-campaign

Heavy doubt for Edwards' big promises
In Iowa, he is asked whether it is 'credible' for him to say he'd striphealthcare from members of Congress if they don't vote for universalcoverage.

By Scott Martelle
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 3, 2007

ALGONA, IOWA - John Edwards, who has pledged that as president he wouldstrip health coverage from congressional members if they did not adoptuniversal healthcare, faced sharp voter skepticism Sunday over whether hecould achieve that and other campaign goals.

On the first day of a two-day drive around iced-over north-central Iowa,Edwards was asked by 62-year-old retired teacher John Nordman whether it was"credible" for Edwards to say that as president, he would have the power tostrip Congress of its health coverage.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, acknowledged that he could not doit unilaterally and would have to use political pressure to force Congressto act. It could be done by submitting a bill forcing members to either votefor universal healthcare or lose their own coverage -- a measure that wouldtarget Republicans because, he said, all Democrats would support it.

"I want to see a Republican senator or congressman take the position thatthey're going to defend their healthcare and vote against healthcare fortheir constituents," Edwards said. "I will make sure every voter in theirstate knows they are protecting themselves against the interests of thepeople that they represent. I'm telling you, this will work."

Edwards also often refers to the political power of insurance andpharmaceutical companies in defeating President Clinton's first-termhealthcare initiative. Edwards was challenged Sunday on whether he could cutinto that power if he became president.

more . . . . .


Boston Globe

Pressed, Romney to speak on his Mormonism
Will 'share views on religious liberty' as a Baptist rival leaps ahead inIowa

By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff
December 3, 2007

After months of debate within his campaign organization, Mitt Romney hasdecided to give a speech addressing his Mormon faith, a potentially pivotalstep that reflects the surging candidacy of Mike Huckabee, the formerBaptist preacher who has been promoting himself explicitly as a Christianleader.

Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman, said yesterday that Romney would give thespeech titled "Faith in America" on Thursday at the George Bush PresidentialLibrary and Museum in College Station, Texas.

"This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views onreligious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in theprogress of our nation, and how the governor's own faith would inform hispresidency if he were elected," Madden said in a statement. "Governor Romneyunderstands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and hepersonally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his viewswith the nation."

The biggest historical precedent for Romney's decision is the speech thatJohn F. Kennedy delivered before the Greater Houston Ministerial Associationduring the 1960 presidential campaign. Kennedy sought in the speech to allayconcerns among voters about his Catholicism.

Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American PublicLife at Boston College, said the decision by Romney is in response to gainsbeing made by Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor.

more . . . . .


Los Angeles Times,1,6303257.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Romney, Clinton shake up tactics
As they slide in polls, he plans to speak on his religion, while she drawspointed differences with rival Obama.

By Peter Nicholas and Peter Wallsten
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
December 3, 2007

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA -- - Facing fresh polls showing their leads in Iowadisappearing, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton andRepublican Mitt Romney rolled out new campaign tactics Sunday in anaggressive push to regain lost momentum.

Sen. Clinton of New York, who until recently would not even mention herrivals by name, used a news conference to question the ethics, character and"courage" of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, employing the most pointed languageshe has used in the campaign.

Romney announced that he would deliver a speech Thursday on religion, asubject that he has been reluctant to touch despite growing signs thatvoters are leery of putting a Mormon in the White House. As recently as lastweek, Romney's eldest son, Tagg, said in an interview that he was beseechinghis father to give such a speech but had yet to persuade him.

The steps reflect the rapidly shifting dynamics in Iowa, whose caucus is setfor Jan. 3. For months, both Clinton and Romney held strong leads in Iowa.But a Des Moines Register poll published Sunday showed that their advantagehad collapsed. Romney was trailing former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 24%to 29%. Clinton was in second place behind Obama, 25% to 28%.

Both Romney and Clinton would be shaken by a loss in this crucial state.Clinton has cast herself as the inevitable nominee, and a defeat here wouldshatter perceptions that she can't be stopped. Romney has spent heavily oncampaign ads in Iowa, hoping for an early victory to impress Republicanvoters in other states, where he is not so well known.

more . . . . .


USA Today

How are the main contenders handling the faith issue?
Religious politics are nearly impossible to miss in the 2008 presidentialcampaign. A look at religion and the top contenders in each party:

Hillary Clinton. She kicked off her religious campaign with a series ofspeeches after the 2004 election - yes, 2004 - in which she talked aboutGod, faith and a desire to reduce the number of abortions. Most notably,before a pro-choice audience around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Clintonspoke of abstinence, a conservative touchstone, and said, "The primaryreason that teenage girls abstain is because of their religious and moralvalues. We should embrace this." This Thursday, Clinton spoke at a summitmeeting on AIDS hosted by evangelical pastor and best-selling author RickWarren. Even so, polls show that the public is skeptical about her religiousconvictions.

Barack Obama. He is running a campaign infused with religious appeals. Itbegan in 2006 with Obama's embrace of faith in the public square in akeynote speech at Sojourners magazine's Call to Renewal conference, anaddress that syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne said "may be the mostimportant pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F.Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from theVatican." Obama has a faith steering committee in Iowa and held forumsacross the state titled, "What's faith got to do with it?" His campaignrecently completed "40 days of Faith and Family in South Carolina." AmongDemocrats, Obama is in a religious league of his own.

John Edwards. He has often invoked faith since launching his crusadeagainst poverty in 2005, and Hurricane Katrina gave him a face for thiscause. But Edwards has struggled with his religious politics. In February,he told NBC's Meet the Press that his opposition to same-sex marriage isderived from his Southern Baptist upbringing: "I grew up in the SouthernBaptist Church, I was baptized in the Southern Baptist Church, my dad was adeacon. ... It's just part of who I am." Edwards' position drew heat fromsome who questioned how it differed from past religious justifications forslavery and segregation, and he later said, "I shouldn't have said that."

Rudy Giuliani. Like 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry, Giuliani is aNortheastern, blue-state, former Catholic school boy who has faced criticismfor his pro-choice position on abortion and muddy views on same-sexrelations. Unlike Kerry, however, Giuliani has been able to go directly toChristian conservatives and make the case that, as he told the Values VotersSummit in October, "You have nothing to fear from me." This stance, plus hispost-9/11 persona and focus on Islamic terrorism, won over televangelist atRobertson, who provided in early November the biggest religious endorsementof the campaign. Nonetheless, Christian conservatives are split over thethrice-married Giuliani.

more . . . . .


USA Today

In unsettled GOP field, Huckabee finds footing

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

TILTON, N.H. - He's the anti-Rudy.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the Republican long shot who in anew Des Moines Register poll has surged to the lead for the Iowa caucuses,could hardly be more different from the candidate who has led the GOP fieldnationally all year.

IOWA POLL: Huckabee, Obama take leads
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani entered politics as a big-cityprosecutor; Huckabee as a rural preacher. Giuliani is out of synch with theGOP's social conservative core; Huckabee is its most consistent champion.Giuliani's calling card is his leadership against terrorism after the 9/11attacks; Huckabee has less experience on defense and foreign policy issuesthan any of his chief rivals.

The two candidacies offer dramatically different paths for a RepublicanParty now struggling to define and sell itself to voters. Should the GOP beled by an often-caustic, opera-loving New Yorker who vows to battle radicalIslam? Or a joke-cracking Southerner who raises income inequality as anissue and favors classic rock and contemporary Christian music on his twoiPods?

("Modern country, too," he says.)

The chasm between him and Giuliani on the issues they emphasize and theregional cultures they represent "shows that the Republican Party is abigger tent than the Democrat Party," Huckabee says. Perhaps, but it alsounderscores how unsettled the Republican contest is just a month before theIowa caucuses - and reflects how no GOP contender has satisfied a majorityof the party.

more . . . . .


The New York Times

The Climate in Bali and Washington

December 3, 2007

So far, this has been an encouraging year for people who care about globalwarming. Governors have signed regional agreements to cap greenhouse gasemissions. The federal courts are pressing Washington to take action.Venture capitalists have poured money into cleaner fuels. Polls show risingpublic concern.

What's still missing is a concrete national and international strategy for aproblem that does not respect any borders. The days ahead will tell a lotabout whether the world, and especially the United States, is prepared to domore than just talk about the problem.

Representatives from 190 countries are gathering in Bali this week to beginframing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expiresin 2012. On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committeewill try to finish and send to the Senate floor an ambitious bill aimed atcutting emissions in this country by 15 percent by 2020 and 70 percent bymid-century.

The meetings in Bali and Washington are intimately linked. Progress globallywill depend heavily on whether Washington, after years of delay and denial,is prepared to follow Europe's lead and impose mandatory controls onemissions. As the dominant producer of heat-trapping gases, the UnitedStates cannot expect other countries to make costly investments in new waysof producing and using energy unless it acts decisively at home.

The Senate bill represents such an effort. It would impose a steadilydeclining cap on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.Companies would be assigned emission allowances, which could then be tradedon the open market, with more-efficient companies selling excess allowancesto less-efficient companies that could not immediately meet their quotas.

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Innovating Our Way to Financial Crisis

Op-Ed Columnist
December 3, 2007

The financial crisis that began late last summer, then took a brief vacationin September and October, is back with a vengeance.

How bad is it? Well, I've never seen financial insiders this spooked - noteven during the Asian crisis of 1997-98, when economic dominoes seemed to befalling all around the world.

This time, market players seem truly horrified - because they've suddenlyrealized that they don't understand the complex financial system theycreated.

Before I get to that, however, let's talk about what's happening right now.

Credit - lending between market players - is to the financial markets whatmotor oil is to car engines. The ability to raise cash on short notice,which is what people mean when they talk about "liquidity," is an essentiallubricant for the markets, and for the economy as a whole.

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Opposition in Venezuela Cheers Defeat of Chávez Plan

December 4, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 3 - Boisterous Venezuelans celebrated in Caracasearly today after voters narrowly defeated a proposed overhaul to theconstitution in a contentious referendum over granting President Hugo Chávezsweeping new powers.

It was the first major electoral defeat in the nine years of his presidency.Voters rejected the 69 proposed amendments 51 to 49 percent, according tothe Election Commission.

The political opposition erupted into celebration, shooting fireworks intothe air and honking car horns, when electoral officials announced theresults at 1:20 a.m. The nation had remained on edge since polls closedSunday afternoon and the wait for results began.

The outcome is a stunning development in a country where Mr. Chávez and hissupporters control nearly all of the levers of power. Almost immediatelyafter the results were broadcast on state television, Mr. Chávez concededdefeat, describing the results as a "photo finish."

"I congratulate my adversaries for this victory," he said. "For now, wecould not do it."

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Party's Triumph Raises Question of Putin's Plans

December 4, 2007

MOSCOW, Dec. 3 - With President Vladimir V. Putin's opponents persistentlyhobbled by the Kremlin, his party swept Sunday to the kind of landslide longpredicted for the parliamentary elections. Yet the results, while a triumphfor Mr. Putin, also usher in a new era of political instability for Russia.They also attracted strong criticism today from foreign election monitorswho said the vote was neither free nor fair.

Even as Mr. Putin has been accumulating power and popularity, he has beenstirring deep uncertainty about his intentions, making it all but impossibleto answer a fundamental question about Russia's future: Come next spring,who will be in charge?

Yielding to the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, Mr. Putin hassaid he will not be a candidate for president in March. But he has declaredthat he will retain significant influence, whether as prime minister, leaderof his party, United Russia, or a vague role described here as "father ofthe nation."

To some degree, the results on Sunday reflect Russian voter satisfactionwith what Mr. Putin regards as his biggest achievement - restoring theeconomic strength and international status of a Russia laid low by thedisarray of the 1990's after the fall of Communism. But Mr. Putin's aidesacknowledge the party's showing has done nothing to clarify the leadershiptransition when Mr. Putin's term expires.

And the victory is exacting a cost to Russia's image as an emergingdemocracy. At a news conference today, a group of European observersstrongly criticized the vote.

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Sharif Barred From Pakistan Election

December 4, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 3 - The former Pakistani prime minister NawazSharif has been barred from running in parliamentary elections in Januarybecause of a prior conviction, Pakistan's election commission announcedtoday.

A spokesman for Mr. Sharif, Ahsan Iqbal, said that the barring of Mr. Sharifwas part of a plan by President Pervez Musharraf and his supporters to rigthe elections, and that Mr. Sharif's lawyers would contest the decision.

Mr. Sharif, a leading opposition figure who was overthrown in a militarycoup in 1999, was allowed to return from exile last week, and filednomination papers to represent a district of his home city of Lahore in theparliamentary elections scheduled for Jan. 8. But other candidates in thedistrict challenged his nomination on the grounds that he was convicted in2000 of hijacking a plane carrying Mr. Musharraf, who was then head of thearmy, an act that precipitated the bloodless coup.

"His nomination papers are rejected because of his convictions," said thepresiding election official in Lahore, Raja Qamaruzaman, Reuters reported.

Mr. Sharif arrived in Islamabad today to meet with another former primeminister and opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, to discuss a joint stance onthe elections.

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Sudanese President Pardons British Teacher

December 4, 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec. 3 - The British schoolteacher jailed in Sudan forallowing her 7-year-old pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad was pardonedtoday by Sudan's president. She was released to British authorities and willbe sent back to England later in the day.

The president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, made the decision after a meeting thismorning in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, with two Muslim peers fromBritain's House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain said he was "delighted and relieved"at the news and that "common sense had prevailed," according to the BBC.

The schoolteacher, Gillian Gibbons, was sentenced to 15 days in jail lastweek for insulting Islam and was to be released Dec. 10. On Friday, hundredsof angry Sudanese in Khartoum protested what they considered to be a lenientpunishment. Under Sudanese law, Ms. Gibbons could have received 40 lashesand been jailed for six months.

British officials put heavy pressure on Sudan to release Ms. Gibbons, 54,saying that she had made an innocent mistake in allowing her students togive a class teddy bear the same name as Islam's holy prophet. Muhammad alsois one of the most common names in the Muslim world.

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Official Leaves Post as Texas Prepares to Debate Science Education Standards

December 3, 2007

HOUSTON, Dec. 2 - After 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as theTexas Education Agency's director of science, Christine Castillo Comer saidshe did not think she had to remain "neutral" about teaching the theory ofevolution.

"It's not just a good idea; it's the law," said Ms. Comer, citing the state'sscience curriculum.

But now Ms. Comer, 56, of Austin, is out of a job, after forwarding ane-mail message on a talk about evolution and creationism - "a subject onwhich the agency must remain neutral," according to a dismissal letter lastmonth that accused her of various instances of "misconduct andinsubordination" and of siding against creationism and the doctrine thatlife is the product of "intelligent design."

Her departure, which has stirred dismay among science professionals since itbecame public last week, is a prelude to an expected battle early next yearover rewriting the state's science education standards, which include theteaching of evolution.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the state's education agency in Austin,said Ms. Comer "resigned. She wasn't fired."

more . . . . .


The New York Times

Standing in the Way of Stem Cell Research

By Alan I. Leshner and James A. Thomson
Monday, December 3, 2007; A17

A new way to trick skin cells into acting like embryos changes botheverything and nothing at all. Being able to reprogram skin cells intomultipurpose stem cells without harming embryos launches an exciting newline of research. It's important to remember, though, that we're at squareone, uncertain at this early stage whether souped-up skin cells hold thesame promise as their embryonic cousins do.

Far from vindicating the current U.S. policy of withholding federal fundsfrom many of those working to develop potentially lifesaving embryonic stemcells, recent papers in the journals Science and Cell described abreakthrough achieved despite political restrictions. In fact, work by boththe U.S. and Japanese teams that reprogrammed skin cells depended entirelyon previous embryonic stem cell research.

At a time when nearly 60 percent of Americans support human embryonic stemcell research, U.S. stem cell policy runs counter to both scientific andpublic opinion. President Bush's repeated veto of the Stem Cell ResearchEnhancement Act, which has twice passed the House and Senate with votes fromRepublicans and Democrats alike, further ignores the will of the Americanpeople.

Efforts to harness the versatility of embryonic stem cells, and alleviatesuffering among people with an array of debilitating disorders, began lessthan 10 years ago. Since then, scientists have continued to pursue embryonicstem cells because of their ability to transform into blood, bone, skin orany other type of cell. The eventual goal is to replace diseased ordysfunctional cells to help people with spinal cord injuries,neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and otherconditions.

Since 1998, many strategies for addressing sanctity-of-life concerns havebeen pursued. While commendable, these efforts remain preliminary, and noneso far has suggested a magic bullet. In the same way, the recent tandemadvances in the United States and by Shinya Yamanaka's team in Japan are farfrom being a Holy Grail, as Charles Krauthammer inaccurately described them.Though potential landmarks, these studies are only a first step on the longroad toward eventual therapies.

more . . . . .


The Washington Post

Rigging Pakistan's Election?

By Robert D. Novak
Monday, December 3, 2007; A17

Diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad could hardly believe whatPresident Bush said to anchor Charles Gibson on ABC's "World News" on Nov.20. He described Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, as "somebody whobelieves in democracy" and declared: "I understand how important he is infighting extremists and radicals." Was the president of the United Statesissuing Musharraf a free pass to rig next month's elections in Pakistan?

That was not Bush's intention. But his lavishing such praise on the generalwho had ruled Pakistan through military force led to assumptions that theUnited States would blink at election-rigging. Plotters in Islamabad seekingto undermine Benazir Bhutto's effort to become prime minister a third timecan claim that U.S. diplomats demanding democracy do not reflect theirpresident's true wishes.

While Bush calls Musharraf "a loyal ally in fighting terrorists," thePentagon and the CIA have not been happy with Pakistan's record againstal-Qaeda. That's why the U.S. government pressed Musharraf to permit Bhuttoto return from exile and share power as a more dependable foe of theIslamists. Musharraf's response was to impose martial law, which amounted toa second military coup to keep him in power.

Intense U.S. pressure has forced Musharraf to resign from the army to keephis presidency, and he is soon to lift martial law. Still at issue is howfree the election will be and whether Bhutto will take office with a largegoverning majority. When Musharraf still resisted Washington's demands lastweek that he end his state of emergency, I asked Bhutto how an electioncould be conducted under those conditions. Her message: "Elections undermartial law cannot be free or fair."

It remains an open question whether an election could still be rigged byMusharraf without martial law. He has appointed local electoral officialswho will take orders. Twenty million names have disappeared from thenational voters list, whose preparation was financed with U.S. aid. Whenthis was discovered, the government said that anybody on the old list wouldbe permitted to vote. But the new list is flawed, with millions of namesrepeated to permit multiple votes by individuals. All this attempts at leastto minimize Bhutto's majority and force her into taking a coalition partner.

more . . . . .


The Washington Post

Fuses in Gaza

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, December 3, 2007; A17

Watching the handshakes and arm-clutches of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas atthe Annapolis meeting last week, and listening to their sometimes soaringrhetoric about a Middle East peace, it was easy to forget that Israel is atwar with the winners of the last Palestinian general election, that rocketsfired by Palestinians are detonating in southern Israel nearly every day andthat 1.5 million people of the future Palestinian state are living underwhat amounts to an Israeli military siege. The makers of the latest MiddleEast peace process would love to forget about the Gaza Strip -- at least forthe next year, while they try to agree on settlement terms. But Gaza isunlikely to forget about them.

The Islamic Hamas movement, which won the 2006 legislative elections andtook sole control of Gaza in June, spent the week of Annapolis quietly doingwhat it has been doing every week for the past six months: smuggling tons ofexplosives, rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft missiles andKatyusha rockets through tunnels from the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. Theexplosives are used to make the crude Qassam rockets that are aimed mostlyat the southern Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon. The Katyushas, new toGaza, are being saved for the all-out war for which both Hamas and theIsraeli army are vigorously preparing.

Already, Israel is staging near-daily raids and airstrikes that have killedmore than 200 Gazans this year. The power, fuel and water supplies itcontrols are being dialed back, with the aim of creating suffering justshort of a humanitarian crisis. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has pronouncedthe same warning repeatedly in recent weeks: "Every day brings us closer toa broad operation in Gaza."

Israeli-Palestinian history tells that a single Qassam hit on an Israelischool or refinery could be enough to derail the fragile Annapolisinitiative -- as could the full-scale invasion Barak is talking about. TheIsraelis, Palestinians and Americans at Annapolis discussed that danger.What they haven't worked out is what to do about it.

The Bush administration, characteristically, favors a policy of continued"isolation" -- it would keep Gaza on ice and turn the rival West Bankadministration of Abbas into a showcase. In a few months -- maybe evenbefore a peace deal is reached -- Gaza's population could be asked in anelection to choose between continued misery and Abbas's promise ofstatehood. That might work as long as the Qassams keep missing and Hamasdoen't try something larger. And if it does? Senior administrationofficials have told Olmert that he should prepare his public to absorb someterrorism without giving up on the talks.

more . . . . .


The Washington Post

Rot in the Fields
As farmworkers become scarcer, Congress dithers.

Monday, December 3, 2007; A16

CHECK OUT the asparagus you have for dinner, the cucumber in your salad andthe pear on your plate for dessert. Chances are none would be there if notfor the undocumented farmworkers who plant and pick most of the fruit andvegetables grown in this country. Nonetheless, faced with a serious andgrowing shortage of legal agricultural labor, Congress has followed the sameplaybook it has used for the broader issue of illegal immigration: politicalcowardice and empty slogans followed by inaction.

At least half, and possibly as many as 70 percent, of the 1.6 millionfarmworkers in America are undocumented immigrants, and their employers arepainfully aware that there are not enough U.S.-born citizens and legalimmigrants to do all the labor-intensive work they require. Agribusiness,farmworkers unions and enlightened lawmakers from both parties have pleadedfor solutions, only to be foiled by congressional Republicans andswing-state Democrats who dare not support legislation that would provideundocumented farmworkers with a path to legalization -- the dread "amnesty"of 30-second attack ads.

By doing nothing to ensure a steady, reliable and sufficient labor force forfarms, it's a good bet that Congress will make things worse, and soon. Facedwith understandable public pressure to tighten border security, federalauthorities have added personnel, technology and fencing to make itincreasingly difficult for people to enter America illegally. Reports in thepast year of vegetables and fruit rotting in fields and orchards for lack ofhands to harvest them have failed to give Congress sufficient impetus toact. Look for the labor shortages, and instances of rotting produce, to growmore acute next year.

As Congress dithers, fair and balanced legislation to deal with the problemlanguishes. The so-called AgJobs bill would allow some 800,000 undocumentedworkers -- qualified farmhands who have been working here for severalseasons -- to register, pay fines and legalize their immigration status byworking in agriculture three to five more years before they could qualifyfor green cards. At the same time, it would provide a more sensible way toensure an adequate supply of farm labor by streamlining the current H-2Avisa program for agricultural guest workers, which is so cumbersome andunreliable that farmers use it for only an estimated 2 percent of allfarmworkers.

Having failed to pass comprehensive immigrations reform this year, Congresshas tried to deal with the problem piecemeal. The AgJobs piece is among themost critical. The realistic alternative to it is not arrest anddeportation, as anti-immigration activists may imagine. It is the prospectof undocumented workers leaving the farms for higher-paying, year-round jobsin the cities; of a country increasingly unable to meet its own demand forfood; and of hundreds of thousands of workers in a vital industry doingbackbreaking work without basic employment protections. That amounts to amoral blight on America and an indictment of a political system incapable offixing fundamental problems.


The Washington Post

Justice on the Mend
The new attorney general's first steps are encouraging.

Monday, December 3, 2007; A16

THERE HAVE been several hopeful developments since the arrival of AttorneyGeneral Michael B. Mukasey at the Justice Department in early November.

Within days of Mr. Mukasey's confirmation, the Justice Department's Officeof Professional Responsibility proceeded with an investigation, stifledearlier by the White House, concerning the administration's terroristsurveillance program. While the department's inspector general has alreadybeen looking into the matter, allowing the OPR investigation to go forwardsends an important symbolic message, especially in light of critics'concerns that the probe had been quashed for political reasons.

Not long after, the department announced that it was bringing back toWashington U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose of the District of Minnesota. Ms.Paulose was eyed with suspicion in part because she was appointed to theU.S. attorney's post with no managerial experience and at an extraordinarilyyoung age, 33. She was criticized fairly for heavy-handed leadership buttagged unfairly as a Bush lackey. Her intellect and talent are better suitedto her new post in the Office of Legal Policy, a more academic componentthat develops broad policy initiatives for the department.

Finally, President Bush announced the nomination of U.S. District Judge MarkR. Filip of Chicago as deputy attorney general. Although there are questionsabout whether he has the experience to manage the bureaucratic behemoth, heis respected and seen as a straight shooter.

Mr. Mukasey cannot be credited with instigating all of these developments.But he did sign off on all of them, something that Attorney General AlbertoR. Gonzales probably would not have done.

more . . . . .


The Washington Post

Iowa Poll Puts Huckabee and Obama Out Front

A poll released by the Des Moines Register confirmed the shift in thepresidential race over the last month, as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) isahead of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). And in an even moresurprising result, former Gov. Mike Huckabee has vaulted ahead of formerMassachusetts governor Mitt Romney, long the leader among the Republicans.

The leads for Obama and Huckabee remain small, particularly given the fourpercent margin of error. The poll placed Obama at 28 percent, Clinton at 25percent, and former North Carolina senator John Edwards at 23 percent,meaning that depending on how effectively they turn out voters, any of themcould win. The GOP race appears a two-man contest with Huckabee at 29percent, Romney at 24 percent and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani at13 percent.

The polls show what's happening in the campaign, as Clinton, who had longsought to rise above the fray, is attacking Obama more frequently, andRomney is slamming Huckabee for tax increases during his days as governor.

For Obama, the polls results have one potential worrisome trend. Accordingto the Register, Obama dominates among younger caucus-goers, with supportfrom 48 percent of those younger than 35, compared to 19 percent for Clintonand 17 percent for Edwards.

The under-35 bloc represents 14 percent of Democratic caucus-goers,according to the poll. Clinton is the top choice among caucus-goers 55 andolder. Older people generally show up and are considered more reliable thanyounger and first-time caucus-goers, another group that Obama leads. At thesame time, Obama also leads among those who say they will definitely attendthe caucuses.

more . . . . .


The Washington Post

Lawyer: 'Jena Six' Teen Near Plea Deal

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 2, 2007; 10:14 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a whiteclassmate led to one of the largest civil rights protests in years is closeto a deal that would allow him to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and avoid asecond trial, his attorney said Sunday.

Mychal Bell, 17, could enter the plea as early as Monday, said attorneyCarol Powell Lexing. He has been charged with aggravated second-degreebattery and conspiracy.

"We were prepared to go forward with the trial, but you have to do what'sbest for the client," Lexing said.

LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters did not return a call Sundayevening requesting comment.

Bell, who is black, is scheduled to go to trial Thursday on the felonycharges for his suspected role in an attack on Justin Barker, a whitestudent at Jena High School in central Louisiana.

more . . . . .


[Send your comments about articles to]

No comments: