Monday, December 31, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 31, 2007

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Inside Higher Education

A Moderate MLA

The Modern Language Association frequently helps out its critics withprovocative session titles and left-leaning political stands offered by itsmembers. At this year's annual meeting, in Chicago, some MLA members haveworried that the association was poised to take stances that would have sentDavid Horowitz's fund raising through the roof with resolutions thatappeared to be anti-Israel and pro-Ward Churchill.

But in moves that infuriated the MLA's Radical Caucus, the association'sDelegate Assembly refused to pass those resolutions and instead adopted muchnarrower measures. The association acknowledged tensions over the MiddleEast on campus, but in a resolution that did not single out pro-Israelgroups for criticism. And the association criticized the University ofColorado for the way it started its investigation of Ward Churchill, buttook no stand on whether the outcome (his firing) was appropriate.

The votes by the MLA's largest governing council came in an at-times-surrealfive-hour meeting. Cary Nelson, author of Manifesto of a Tenured Radical,was in the position of being the leading moderate, offering alternativelanguage to defeat Radical Caucus proposals. Critics of Israel repeatedlytalked about "facts on the ground" to refer to the treatment of Israel'scritics on campuses today, and it was unclear whether the term was beingused ironically in light of the phrase's use to describe Israel's settlementpolicy on the West Bank and a recent book at the center of a Barnard Collegetenure controversy.

While material distributed by those seeking to condemn Churchill's firingportrayed him favorably, and as a victim of the right wing, some of thosewho criticized the pro-Churchill effort at the meeting are long-time expertsin Native American studies and decidedly not conservative. Many attendeeswere confused by the parliamentary procedure, and at least one proposedamendment that appeared to have significant backing (in theory) fell apartwhen questions were raised about its syntax.

After one vote that his side lost, Grover Furr, a Radical Caucus leader whoteaches at New Jersey's Montclair State University, called the meeting "aperversion of parliamentary procedures."
The Middle East and Academic Freedom

Furr was the author of the original resolution on the campus climate forcritics of Israel. The resolution as he wrote it said that some whocriticize Zionism and Israel have been "denied tenure, disinvited to speak... [or] fraudulently called 'anti-Semitic.'" The resolution called this a"serious danger to academic study and discussion in the USA today" and thenresolved that "the MLA defend the academic freedom and the freedom of speechof faculty and invited speakers to criticize Zionism and Israel." Theresolution made no mention of the right of others on campus to embraceZionism or Israel or to hold middle-of-the-road views or any views otherthan being critical of Israel and Zionism.



Inside Higher Education

The Attack on Student Voting Rights
The 2008 elections have created some bizarre situations, particularly inIowa, home of the first votes during the caucuses on January 3. After yearsof struggles to get more college students to vote and engage in politics, itis strange (and disappointing) to watch Democratic candidates suddenlydeclaring that students shouldn't vote.

The debate over student voting was sparked when Barack Obama's campaign gaveout 50,000 fliers on college campuses declaring, "If you are not from Iowa,you can come back for the Iowa caucus and caucus in your collegeneighborhood." Since Obama has the strongest support of any candidate amongcollege students, and many out-of-state students in Iowa come from his homestate of Illinois, this was no surprise. But the reaction may have startledObama, who worked in the field of voting rights as a lawyer and a lawprofessor at the University of Chicago.

Hillary Clinton proclaimed, "This is a process for Iowans. This needs to beall about Iowa, and people who live here, people who pay taxes here."Apparently that doesn't include the out-of-state students who pay highertuition in Iowa, not to mention the various taxes on their books, supplies,and pizza, and the income taxes on their salaries.

A Clinton spokeswoman went even further, "We are not systematically tryingto manipulate the Iowa caucuses with out-of-state people. We don't haveliterature recruiting out-of-state college students."

It wasn't only the Clinton campaign that complained. Chris Dodd's Iowadirector, Julie Andreeff Jensen, said in a statement: "I was deeplydisappointed to read today about the Obama campaign's attempt to recruitthousands of out-of-state residents to come to Iowa for the caucuses....That may be the way politics is played in Chicago, but not in Iowa." EvenDodd's wife claimed about voters, "They really resent it when candidates tryto sign up people who are not really from Iowa."




Kenya: Police Claim Shoot to Kill Orders

Associated Press Writer
6:55 AM EST, December 31, 2007


Police battled thousands of opposition supporters who charge President MwaiKibaki stole his way to re-election, and several officers said Monday theyhad orders to shoot to kill to quell the violence.

The officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals,said the order had divided the police force, saying many officers sympathizewith the protesters. Three officers told The Associated Press independentlythat they had been ordered to shoot to kill, although a government spokesmandenied such an order was given.

Meanwhile, Raila Odinga, the firebrand opposition candidate who led earlyresults and public opinion polls, postponed a planned rally Monday inNairobi, but called on 1 million people to gather Thursday.

"We are calling for mass action. We will inform police of the march, and wewill march wearing black bands," he said.

The death toll was rising Monday from three days of rioting in Nairobi'sslums -- home to tens of thousands of opposition supporters -- and elsewherein the country, including the coastal city of Mombasa, a tourism hotspot.

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Miami Herald

In Texas, they're quick with the needle

Posted on Mon, Dec. 31, 2007

The state of Texas apparently didn't get the same message that the rest ofthe country got. Most states put executions on hold temporarily after theU.S. Supreme Court agreed in September to hear a case challenging lethalinjections. Not Texas. On the day that the Supreme Court made itsannouncement, a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge ordered the courtclerk's office to close promptly at 5 p.m., denying a Death Row inmate alast-minute appeal to the High Court. The inmate was executed hours later.Not a good example

This rush to the death chamber helps to explain why 60 percent of all U.S.executions this year were in Texas. It's an example no state shouldemulate -- and, in fact, most states are doing the opposite. A recent reportby the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty,found that while Texas led the nation in executions this year with 26,executions in the United States were at a 13-year low.

The decline is attributed to a de facto moratorium by states that havedecided to wait for the Supreme Court's decision in the appeal of twoKentucky Death Row inmates. The men say that lethal injections violate theConstitution's Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusualpunishment. The court will hear arguments on Monday.

Of the 42 executions in the United States last year, almost all of them --90 percent -- were in the South, with Texas claiming the lion's share, thereport said.

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Miami Herald

Palm Beach: Family vs. police over droopy pants

Posted on Mon, Dec. 31, 2007

Six members of a family were arrested at The Mall at Wellington Green in anincident that began last week benignly enough over a pair of droopy jeansbut ended like a chaotic scene out of the Cops television show.

An estimated 20 deputies, two canine units and a police helicopter swarmedthe area surrounding the mall's food court, shutting down roads, all toarrest a 52-year-old man, his 50-year-old wife and four other relatives,ages 16 to 20, Thursday evening.

''It's a family affair. They get to spend the holiday in jail together,''Palm Beach County sheriff's Lt. Jay Hart said.

For the Leger family, a Haitian family which has lived in Wellington since1992, though, this is no laughing matter. They say sheriff's deputiesoverreacted with not just their numbers but also with sheer force.

Their arrests, along with the physical and verbal abuse family members saythey endured, were punishment for both questioning the arrest of one oftheir sons and for leveling racism charges on the deputies, they contend.

That isn't so, deputies say. The family attempted to stop deputies fromarresting a relative, which led to the situation spiraling out of control.


The fracas began around 7 p.m. Thursday when deputies arrested Frantz Leger,the Legers' 20-year-old son. He had returned to the mall where he was bannedfor violating its ''Rules of Common Courtesy'' in or around August. TheFlorida State University sophomore business major was verboten for wearinghis pants too low.

''I know I'm not a criminal just because my pants are too low below yourexpectations,'' Frantz Leger said from his Wiltshire Village home Saturday.

His return to the mall was a violation of that trespass warning, deputieslater charged.

''The mall doesn't put up with that tomfoolery bullcrap,'' Hart said. ``Hispants were down below his butt. No one goes to the mall and wants to see thecrack of someone's butt.''



New York Times

Editorial: Looking at America

December 31, 2007

There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country.Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men insome of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the tortureof prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroyingvideotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see thefounding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men andtheir bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.

It was not the first time in recent years we've felt this horror, thissorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behaviorhas become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened bythe single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. Butthere is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked - howthey forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives andAmerican ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or theircountry when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America's position ofmoral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions andtreaties, sullied America's global image, and trampled on the constitutionalpillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying andchallenging times. These policies have fed the world's anger and alienationand have not made any of us safer.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexuallyhumiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few havebeen punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We haveseen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. Wehave seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powerson his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy onAmericans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messageswithout a warrant.

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New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: The Great Divide

December 31, 2007

Yesterday The Times published a highly informative chart laying out thepositions of the presidential candidates on major issues. It was, I'd argue,a useful reality check for those who believe that the next president cansomehow usher in a new era of bipartisan cooperation.

For what the chart made clear was the extent to which Democrats andRepublicans live in separate moral and intellectual universes.

On one side, the Democrats are all promising to get out of Iraq and offeringstrongly progressive policies on taxes, health care and the environment.That's understandable: the public hates the war, and public opinion seems tobe running in a progressive direction.

What seems harder to understand is what's happening on the other side - thedegree to which almost all the Republicans have chosen to align themselvesclosely with the unpopular policies of an unpopular president. And I'm notjust talking about their continuing enthusiasm for the Iraq war. The G.O.P.candidates are equally supportive of Bush economic policies.

Why would politicians support Bushonomics? After all, the public is veryunhappy with the state of the economy, for good reason. The "Bush boom,"such as it was, bypassed most Americans - median family income, adjusted forinflation, has stagnated in the Bush years, and so have the real earnings ofthe typical worker. Meanwhile, insecurity has increased, with a decliningfraction of Americans receiving health insurance from their employers.

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New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: On America's Watch

December 31, 2007

In recent years, Pakistan has been the home of banks that wired money forthe 9/11 plot, been the chief source of illicit nuclear proliferation,offered a tribal-area haven for planners of worldwide terrorism, abetted thereconstitution of the Taliban and educated many a suicide bomber in Islamicreligious schools.

At the same time, President Pervez Musharraf, in power since a 1999 coup,has received about $10 billion in U.S. aid, much of it to reinforce thePakistani military in fighting Al Qaeda, the Taliban and global jihadism inSouth Waziristan and other tribal areas.

If a U.S. policy was ever broken, this is it.

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the Western-educated former primeminister who returned from exile on Oct. 18 under a flawed U.S.-mediatedplan to shift Pakistan from direct to indirect military rule with a civilianveneer, has given the coup de grâce to this botched American attempt tomanage a nuclear-armed Islamic state.

It's not clear who killed Bhutto, although hers was a chronicle of a deathforetold. Musharraf's government, whose credibility is shot, says thatBaitullah Mehsud, a militant with links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, wasbehind it. That would exonerate the military, whose opposition to thedemocratic movement Bhutto personified goes back to its execution of herfather; the intelligence services that long nurtured Taliban zealots asagents of influence in Afghanistan; and Musharraf himself, who knew Bhutto'svulnerability.

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New York Times

Tribal Rivalry Boils Over After Kenyan Election

December 31, 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya - It took all of about 15 minutes on Sunday, after Kenya'spresident was declared the winner of a deeply controversial election, forthe country to explode.

Thousands of young men burst out of Kibera, a shantytown of one millionpeople, waving sticks, smashing shacks, burning tires and hurling stones.Soldiers poured into the streets to fight them. In several cities acrossKenya, witnesses said, gangs went house to house, dragging out people ofcertain tribes and clubbing them to death.

"It's war," said Hudson Chate, a mechanic here. "Tribal war."

The dubious conclusion of the most fiercely fought election in Kenya'shistory has pitched the country toward chaos. The opposition rejected theresults and vowed to inaugurate its leader, Raila Odinga, as "the people'spresident," which the government warned would be tantamount to a coup. Asthe riots spread, the government took the first steps toward martial law onSunday night and banned all live media broadcasts.

Western observers said Kenya's election commission ignored undeniableevidence of vote rigging to keep the government in power. Now, one of themost developed, stable nations in Africa, which has a powerhouse economy anda billion-dollar-a-year tourism industry, has plunged into intenseuncertainty, losing its sheen as an exemplary democracy and quicklydescending into tribal bloodletting.

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New York Times

Mexico City Journal: In Prison, Toddlers Serve Time With Mom

December 31, 2007

MEXICO CITY - Beyond the high concrete walls and menacing guard towers ofthe Santa Martha Acatitla prison, past the barbed wire, past the iron gates,past the armed guards in black commando garb, sits a nursery school withbrightly painted walls, piles of toys and a jungle gym.

Fifty-three children under the age of 6 live inside the prison with theirmothers, who are serving sentences for crimes from drug dealing tokidnapping to homicide. Mothers dressed in prison blue, many with tattoos,carry babies on their hips around the exercise yard. Others lead toddlersand kindergartners by the hand, play with them in the dust or bounce them ontheir knees on prison benches.

Karina Rendón, a 23-year-old serving time for drug dealing, said her2-year-old daughter thought of the 144-square-foot cell she shared with twoother mothers and their children as home. "She doesn't know it is a prison,"she said, smiling sadly. "She thinks it's her house."

While a prison may seem an unhealthy place for a child, in the early 1990sthe Mexico City government decided it was better for children born in prisonto stay with their mothers until they were 6 rather than to be turned overto relatives or foster parents. The children are allowed to leave onweekends and holidays to visit relatives.

A debate continues among Mexican academics over whether spending one's earlyyears in a jail causes mental problems later in life, but for the moment thelaw says babies must stay with their mothers. So the prison has a schoolwith three teachers.

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Washington Post

Bhutto's Son Chosen As Eventual Party Chief: 19-Year-Old's Father ToPreside in Interim

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 31, 2007; A01

KARACHI, Pakistan, Dec. 30 -- Pakistan's largest and most storied politicalparty chose Sunday to continue its dynastic traditions, anointing the19-year-old son of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to be herultimate successor but picking her husband to lead for now.

The selections mean that the Pakistan People's Party, which casts itself asthe voice of democracy in Pakistan, will stay in family hands for a thirdgeneration.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who had largely been shielded from the spotlight byhis mother and has not lived in Pakistan since he was a young boy, will leadthe party when he finishes his studies at Oxford University.

Speaking briefly but forcefully at a news conference in the Bhutto family'sancestral home, he said he would strive to honor his mother's legacy. "Theparty's long and historic struggle will continue with renewed vigor," hesaid. "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."

Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, whose reputation has long been taintedby corruption charges, will run the party for at least the next severalyears. He said Sunday that the succession strategy reflected the wishes ofhis wife, who died in a gun-and-bomb attack at a rally Thursday afternoon.

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Washington Post

Make-or-Break Time in Iraq?
What the U.S. Decides About Post-Surge Troop Levels Could Prove Decisive

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, December 31, 2007; A15

For five years Washington-based officials and pundits have repeatedly madethe mistake of predicting that the next six or 12 months in Iraq would bedecisive. Under the hardheaded leadership of Gen. David H. Petraeus andAmbassador Ryan C. Crocker such talk has been banned: "Nobody says anythingabout turning a corner, seeing lights at the end of tunnels, any of thosephrases," Petraeus recently declared.

Yet, for once, saying that the next six to 12 months will win or lose thewar just might be right.

That's not because Iraqis have suddenly developed the capacity to meet theunrealistic timelines drawn up in Washington ever since 2003 -- when thePentagon planned to reduce U.S. troops to a skeleton force of 30,000 withinsix months of the capture of Baghdad. On the contrary, Petraeus and Crockerhave spent the past year attempting to drive home the point that the U.S.goal of a stable, democratizing Iraq, if it can be achieved at all, willrequire an American commitment well beyond any of the timetables discussedin Washington -- despite the remarkable success of this year's militarysurge.

So the next six to 12 months are not crucial because of what will happen inIraq -- where, at best, violence will continue to decline incrementally,while Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds make painful and partial progress towardpolitical settlements. The test will come in the United States -- wherefirst the Pentagon and the White House, and then the country, will decidewhether to invest enough resources in Iraq to keep the hope of eventualsuccess alive.

The number of American soldiers in Iraq started coming down last month. ByJuly it will have dropped from the peak of 180,000 it reached briefly inNovember to 130,000, or 15 brigades, the force level before the surge. ThePentagon has until March to judge how Iraqis react to the initialwithdrawals -- whether violence in volatile places such as Anbar provinceremains low or escalates again as U.S. troops depart. Then another decisionwill be made, on whether to reduce the force by five more brigades, to atotal of about 100,000 troops, by the end of 2008.

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Washington Post

What Bhutto Was Worried About

By Robert D. Novak
Monday, December 31, 2007; A15

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto followed two months of urgent pleas tothe State Department by her representatives for better protection. The U.S.reaction was that she was worried over nothing, expressing assurance thatPakistani President Pervez Musharraf would not let anything happen to her.

That attitude led a Bhutto agent to inform a high-ranking State Departmentofficial that her camp no longer viewed the backstage U.S. effort to brokera power-sharing agreement between Musharraf and the former prime minister asa good-faith effort toward democracy. It was, according to the writtencomplaint, an attempt to preserve the politically endangered Musharraf asGeorge W. Bush's man in Islamabad.

President Bush confirmed that judgment with his statement Thursday, withinhours of learning that Bhutto was dead, when he urged that the electionsscheduled for Jan. 8 be held in furtherance of Pakistani "democracy." Thatmay be Musharraf's position, but it definitely is not the position of hiscritics. They believed the election would be a sham with Bhutto dead andwith Saudi-backed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif boycotting theballoting, though Sharif's party reversed course yesterday.

The Bush administration decided months ago to broker a power-sharingarrangement, with the deeply unpopular Musharraf retiring from the army butremaining as president and the popular Bhutto taking a third try as primeminister (after twice being ousted by the military). That decision was basedon Pakistan's strategic importance as a sanctuary for al-Qaeda and Talibanfighters. Bush was in a quandary. Bhutto was much tougher than Musharraf onIslamist extremists, but Bush had invested heavily in the general.

When I last saw Bhutto, over coffee in August at Manhattan's Pierre Hotel,she was deeply concerned about U.S. ambivalence but asked me not to writeabout it. She had not heard from Musharraf for three weeks after theirsecret July meeting in Abu Dhabi. She feared the Pakistani militarystrongman was not being prodded from Washington.

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Washington Post

The Fastest Gavel in the Senate

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 31, 2007; A13

Vacationing in Rhode Island with his family over the weekend, Sen. Jack Reed(D-R.I.) cut short his holiday break and raced back to Washington today tobe part of a Democratic line of defense against the White House.

All told, Reed's work today will likely last no more than 25 seconds. It'sthe latest effort made by a Senate Democrat in the party's months-longbattle against President Bush's ability to make interim appointments whilethe Senate is on recess.

From the lowest-ranking freshmen to long-serving lions of the chamber,Democrats have queued up this holiday season to take turns overseeing proforma sessions for the Senate. The Senate is considered to be in a pro formasession if a member officially gavels it open and then gavels it closed.

As long as these sessions are held at least every fourth day, the Senate isnot considered in recess, and, therefore, Bush cannot make interimappointments to high-level posts that would otherwise require Senateconfirmation.

Such interim appointments last only for the remainder of that particularCongress. But with just 12 months remaining in Bush's presidency, a recessappointment would last almost to the end of his term. So, when the Senatefinished its legislative session on Dec. 19, for the second time in a monthSenate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called for pro forma sessions.

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Washington Post

Voter ID Law Heads to Supreme Court

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 30, 2007; 12:15 PM

WASHINGTON -- The dispute over Indiana's voter identification law that isheaded to the Supreme Court next week is as much a partisan political dramaas a legal tussle.

The mainly Republican backers of the law, including the Bush administration,say state-produced photo identification is a prudent measure to cut down onvote fraud _ even though Indiana has never had a prosecution of the kind offraud the law is supposed to prevent.

The opponents, mainly Democrats, view voter ID a modern-day poll tax thatdisproportionately affect poor, minority and elderly voters _ who tend toback Democrats. Yet, a federal judge found that opponents of the law wereunable to produce evidence of a single Indiana resident who had been barredfrom voting because of the law.

The Supreme Court, which famously split 5-4 in the case that sealed the 2000presidential election for George Bush, will take up the Indiana law onJanuary 9, just as the 2008 presidential primaries are getting under way.

A decision should come by late June, in time to be felt in the Novemberelections in Indiana and in Georgia, the other state with a strict photo IDrequirement, as well as in a handful of other states.

The justices will be asked to decide whether the law is an impermissibleattempt to discourage certain voters or a reasonable precaution amongseveral efforts aimed at cutting down on illegal voting.

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