Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST January 23, 2008

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Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn

Study: False statements preceded war

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer 2 minutes ago

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bushand top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements aboutthe national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestratedcampaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, ledthe nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for PublicIntegrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of thestudy Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that theworld community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment ofintelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found thatin speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administrationofficials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq hadweapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or hadlinks to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of massdestruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewisand Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staffmembers, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bushadministration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous informationthat it methodically propagated and that culminated in military actionagainst Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administrationduring the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national securityadviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary ofState Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White Housepress secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction inIraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was secondonly to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction inIraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with publicstatements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and informationfrom more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches andinterviews.

"The cumulative effect of these false statements - amplified by thousands ofnews stories and broadcasts - was massive, with the media coverage creatingan almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up towar," the study concluded.

"Some journalists - indeed, even some entire news organizations - have sinceacknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far toodeferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of thewall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation ofthe Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.


Washington Post

Autopsy Due for Heath Ledger, Dead at 28

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; 9:18 AM

NEW YORK -- Fans of Heath Ledger left flowers and candles Wednesday outsidethe apartment building where the body of the Oscar-nominated star of"Brokeback Mountain" was found with sleeping pills nearby.

Authorities said the death of the 28-year-old actor was a possible overdose,but they were awaiting results of an autopsy set for Wednesday.

Khaled Ali, 41, a stage manager for a Broadway show, dropped off a candleoutside the downtown SoHo building on his way to work. He said he and hisfellow cast members were devastated by the news of Ledger's death.

"I felt a connection with him as an actor, as a fellow in the theatercommunity," he said. "With `Brokeback Mountain' he touched me personally intelling the story of my community. It was very touching."

Ledger was known for grueling, intense roles that became his trademark afterhe got his start in teen movies like "10 Things I Hate About You."

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Palm Beach Post

Party conventions could really matter this time

Posted on Wed, Jan. 23, 2008

What happens if the primaries don't produce presidential nominees for oneparty -- or the other -- or both?

For Democrats, the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama race could continue throughthe primaries. If John Edwards stays in, he could win enough delegates toprevent either Clinton or Obama from securing enough convention delegates towin the nomination.

On the Republican side, the once implausible seems possible. Threecandidates -- Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Mitt Romney -- each have wonimportant early contests. All show strength among disparate partyconstituencies. A fourth candidate, Rudy Giuliani, hasn't seriously competedin any primaries yet. It's possible that the four could split primarywins -- and delegates -- all the way through the primary season, leavingnone with a majority of delegates.

Suddenly, those summer conventions -- ridiculed in recent years as four-dayparties with scripted outcomes -- could matter: Delegates might have to stayawake and sober long enough to choose a nominee.

''It's not so amazing,'' said R. Craig Sautter, who has written three bookson presidential nominating conventions. ``Any time you have more than twocandidates who are strong, you have the possibility of nobody going into theconvention with enough delegates.''

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Democrats may be no-shows at FAU presidential debate

By Scott Travis
January 23, 2008

The student union at Florida Atlantic University is quickly morphing into anational stage for Republican presidential candidates and the people whofollow them.

Organizers of the Republican debate gave media an early glimpse Tuesday ofwhat the area will look like during Thursday's nationally televised debate.

The 90-minute event is scheduled for 9 p.m. It will be televised on MSNBC,most PBS stations and some NBC affiliates, including WPTV-Ch. 5.

Debate organizers had held out hope that Democrats would show up for aseparate debate on Sunday. But they acknowledged Tuesday it's not likely tohappen. Barack Obama has declined, and Hillary Clinton and John Edwardshaven't responded. The Democrats signed a pledge with several early primarystates not to campaign in Florida. It's a way of penalizing the state forits decision to hold early primaries.

"We are disappointed. The Democrats are missing an incredible opportunity,but we knew from the beginning they might not attend," FAU President FrankBrogan said. "But most universities would be thrilled to put on onepresidential debate, and we are, and we're making sure it's going to be afirst-class event."

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Florida Times-Union

FreshMinistries founder on new Bush advisory panel

By Jessie-Lynne Kerr,
The Times-Union
January 23, 2008

The Rev. Robert V. Lee III, founder and chief executive officer ofFreshMinistries in Jacksonville, is one of 19 people nationwide appointed byPresident Bush on Tuesday to the new President's Advisory Council onFinancial Literacy.

By executive order, Bush created the advisory council within the TreasuryDepartment "to help keep America competitive and assist the American peoplein understanding and addressing financial matters." Its 19 members, whoserve without pay, were selected for their backgrounds in helping consumersunderstand finances.

Lee met with Bush in the Oval Office before the council was announced at anews conference in the Roosevelt Room.

A release from the White House said the council, which will dissolve in twoyears unless extended, will gather information about financial literacy andadvise the president and Treasury secretary on goals including improvingfinancial education for students and adults in the workplace. The councilalso is to establish "effective measures of national financial literacy."

Administrative support and funding is to be provided by the TreasuryDepartment.

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Miami Herald

Housing market awaits outcome of rate cut

Posted on Wed, Jan. 23, 2008

The Federal Reserve made a bold move Tuesday by announcing an emergency ratecut. But experts predict a tepid reaction in South Florida's rattled realestate market, which has already shrugged off cheap mortgages.

By cutting short-term interest rates quickly, the Fed turned around a scarymorning on Wall Street, with the Dow plunging 465 points before recoveringmost of its lost ground. Later, President Bush and leaders of Congressjoined in a rare show of cooperation in promising urgent action to pump upthe economy with upwards of $150 billion in tax cuts and governmentspending.

Over time, the Fed's interest rate cuts should lower borrowing costs forconsumers and businesses alike, sparking economic activity. The cost ofrevolving credit card debt for millions of Americans should fall.

But the rate reductions do little for what ails the U.S. economy: a housingsector in a deep funk and credit markets in turmoil because of uncertaintyover who holds how much exposure to complex financial investments.

In South Florida, even if the lower rates translate to cheaper borrowingcosts on adjustable-rate loans -- not a sure thing -- the housing marketwill remain too overpriced for most buyers, experts said.

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Miami Herald

Global warming might keep hurricanes away from U.S.

Posted on Wed, Jan. 23, 2008

Intensifying one of the hottest debates in science, a new report concludesthat global warming actually is diminishing the number of hurricanes thatstrike Florida and the rest of the United States -- and the phenomenon islikely to continue.

The study, produced by two respected South Florida researchers, found thatthe planet's oceans have been warming for more than a century. No surprisethere, but this may be:

Those warmer oceans are producing stronger crosswinds that tend to suppressthe development and growth of hurricanes, according to the scientists.

''We found a gentle decrease in the trend of U.S. landfalling hurricanes asglobal oceans warmed up,'' said Chunzai Wang, an oceanographer and climatescientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's researchfacility on Virginia Key.

Some previous studies found that global warming was increasing the numberand intensity of hurricanes, a conclusion that supported the conventionalwisdom that warmer seas automatically turbocharge hurricane development.

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Washington Post

Governors Endorse Presidential Candidates

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; 6:46 AM

-- Twenty-three of the country's governors have endorsed a presidentialcandidate at a time when their support matters most, lending their names,fundraising and organizing machinery to campaigns desperate for an edge inthe primaries.

Among Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton leads with nine endorsements,including nods from New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Gov. Ted Strickland ofOhio, the state that sealed President Bush's victory in 2004.

A governor's endorsement can be campaign gold since governors have abuilt-in bully pulpit they can use to promote a candidate and their owngrass-roots organizing and fundraising networks to share.

Come the general election, it's natural for governors to support theirparty's nominee, and voters take it for granted. That makes governors'backing particularly important now, in the primary and caucus stage of thecampaign.

"Voters in the primaries and caucuses are trying to make decisions amongcandidates that they generally prefer, so those choices tend to be harder,"said Paul Beck, an Ohio State University political scientist. "There, agovernor's endorsement can be useful."

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Los Angeles Times,1,1304168.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Clinton gets warm welcome from Latinos
The United Farm Workers union endorses her. One expert says Obama remains arelatively unknown entity.

By James Rainey
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 23, 2008

SALINAS, CALIF. - The next showdown in the Democratic presidential contestmay be in South Carolina on Saturday, but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton showedher determination to look further down the campaign calendar Tuesday with awhirlwind visit to California's Salinas Valley and to a high school inPhoenix.

With polls showing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, her chief rival, benefitingfrom the support of African American voters in South Carolina, Clinton'scoast-to-coast excursion played to a different audience with whom she hasheld the upper hand -- Latinos.

The New York senator won Saturday's Nevada caucuses, besting Obama by 2 to 1among Latinos. And a Field Poll released Tuesday showed her with an evenbigger advantage -- 59% to 19% -- among Latinos likely to vote in the Feb. 5California primary.

Clinton greeted an overflow crowd of more than 2,000 at the gymnasium ofHartnell College in this agricultural city, where she received theendorsement of the United Farm Workers of America.

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the union, told an audience that included acontingent of red-shirted farm workers from across California that the UFW'sleadership had reached a "unanimous" decision to endorse Clinton.

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Houston Chronicle

Suddenly, South Carolina looms larger for Obama

Washington Post
Jan. 22, 2008, 7:16PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina has become a must-win state for BarackObama.

Whatever the outcome of Saturday's Democratic presidential primary here, theIllinois senator has the money and the organization to compete in the nearlytwo dozen states voting on Feb. 5.

But as his first and only victory in Iowa on Jan. 3 slips further intohistory, his strategists concede that Obama badly needs to demonstrate broadenough support to slow Hillary Clinton's progress toward the nomination.

Having trailed her in popular votes in both New Hampshire and Nevada, wherehe was favored, Obama finds himself more in need of help than he perhapsexpected from the voters here.

This state offers him many advantages he will not enjoy automatically whenthe competition moves to California, New York, New Jersey and otherdelegate-rich states next month.

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Boston Globe

Annan says he will try to broker peace in Kenya

By Tom Maliti, Associated Press | January 23, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya - A solution to the dispute over the presidential electionmust be found "for the sake of Kenya and its people and for the sake ofAfrica," the former United Nations chief said yesterday.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan will try to bring President MwaiKibaki and his main challenger, Raila Odinga, together after the Dec. 27election that foreign observers say was deeply flawed.

"I am confident that, in this crucial endeavor, we can count on the will,maturity, resourcefulness, and judgment of the leaders," Annan said.

Hours earlier, the opposition accused the government of "crimes againsthumanity" and said it would file a complaint with the International CriminalCourt in The Hague.

Both sides have traded accusations of who is behind the postelectionviolence, and each side has accused the other of genocide. The death tollhas reached 685, the government said yesterday.

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How can Republicans win the presidency now?

By Steve Holland
Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:12am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A tottering U.S. economy, an unpopular Iraq war,eight years of Republican control of the White House -- it all adds up to aDemocratic lock on the presidency in November's presidential election.Right?

Well, maybe not.

Many Democrats and political experts believe the Democrats have a naturaladvantage this year, with a "throw-the-bums-out" clamor for change sweepingthe country after two terms of President George W. Bush.

The warning signs for Republicans are apparent in the turnout numbers so farfrom some of the early contests in the state-by-state battles to determinewhich Democrat and Republican will face off in the November election tosucceed Bush.

In Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Democratic turnout doubled the Republicantally, suggesting a higher level of enthusiasm on the Democratic side inwhat is the most wide-open presidential election of the past 50 years.

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Los Angeles Times,1,6156169.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Planned Parenthood kicks off lobbying effort

The group seeks to recruit 1 million people to vote for candidates whosupport its agenda -- including abortion rights and birth control.

By Stephanie Simon
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 23, 2008

The political wing of Planned Parenthood on Tuesday announced anunprecedented voter-mobilization effort targeting the young, oftenlow-income women who rely on the group's clinics for gynecological exams,birth control and abortion.

The nonprofit expects to raise at least $10 million over the next 10 monthsto recruit patients, as well as their friends and families, to lobbylegislators and vote for candidates who support Planned Parenthood's agenda.

That agenda includes support for abortion rights, but the campaign willemphasize issues such as affordable contraception, comprehensive sexeducation in public schools and increased subsidies for Planned Parenthood'sbasic healthcare services, including pap smears, breast exams and HIV tests.Some of those services have been threatened by budget cuts at the state andfederal levels.

"To do the work we need to do, we simply have to have change" in thepolitical climate, said Cecile Richards, president of Planned ParenthoodAction Fund.

The campaign, called "One Million Strong," will be the group's mostambitious and expensive effort ever, Richards said. In 2004, the PlannedParenthood Action Fund spent about $7.5 million on advocacy.

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Washington Post

Obama leads Clinton in South Carolina: poll

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; 1:11 AM

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama holds adouble-digit lead on rival Hillary Clinton three days before SouthCarolina's presidential primary, aided by a huge edge among black voters,according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Obama leads Clinton 43 percent to 25 percent in the rolling tracking poll,with John Edwards a distant third at 15 percent heading into Saturday'scontest. The poll has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

More than half of the Democratic primary voters in South Carolina areexpected to be black. Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the firstblack U.S. president, leads among African-Americans by 65 percent to 16percent.

Clinton and Edwards are virtually tied among white voters, with Clintonleading 33 percent to 32 percent, while Obama is third among whites at 18percent. Likely black voters make up slightly more than half of the pollsample.

"Obama is doing very well among African-Americans but getting a decent shareof the white vote in a three-way race," pollster John Zogby said.

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Washington Post

Whose Stimulus Makes the Grade?

By Ruth Marcus
Wednesday, January 23, 2008; A19

One of the benefits of an extended presidential campaign is that it presentsreal-world tests for candidates. Some take the form of pop quizzes assessingcontenders' instincts in a crisis. Others are more like take-home exams --the latest, and perhaps most revealing, being competing plans for aneconomic stimulus.

In practical terms, this is irrelevant: The moment for stimulus will be longpast by Inauguration Day. But as a way of judging how candidates viewgovernment's role, how they balance politics and policy, and how sound theirthinking is on economic policy, the proposals offer a revealing report card.

My grading starts with President Bush, because he sets the curve.

George W. Bush: B-minus. The president gets extra credit for signalingflexibility on his roughly $145 billion package and for not insisting onextending his tax cuts, which made no sense as stimulus and would havedoomed its chance of passing.

A tax rebate -- the White House has floated $800 per individual -- is a goodapproach. Bush loses points, however, for excluding those without income taxliability, even if they pay hefty payroll taxes. Points off, also, forfailing to extend unemployment benefits. In efficiency and fairness, bothare exactly backward. As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explained,"If you're somebody who lives paycheck to paycheck, you're more likely tospend that extra dollar."

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