Thursday, January 31, 2008

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST January 31, 2008

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Your Questions Answered About the State of the Union

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, January 30, 2008; C03

Why did Barack Obama turn his back on Hillary Clinton?

Obama's camp insisted he was just trying to avoid an awkward moment byturning as Clinton greeted Ted Kennedy before the speech. Having justsnagged Kennedy's endorsement, the Illinois senator didn't want to hover orlook like he was gloating, said strategist David Axelrod. Obama himself saidhe simply turned to answer a question by Sen. Claire McCaskill. "It was nota snub," she told our colleague Alec MacGillis. "I had a ringside seat. Itwas one of those accidents that just happen and it got caught on film."

What will be this year's viral-video moment?

At press time, a clip of the GOP side standing to cheer Bush's call for taxrelief while Dems stay seated is outpacing a reaction shot of Clintonfrowning, according to YouTube stats tracked by New Media Strategies.Remains to be seen whether either can ompete with John McCain dozing duringthe '07 SOTU (281,000 views) or Clinton aughing during the '06 speech(67,000 views).

Which Cabinet member was "designated survivor"?

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne was whisked to a secure, undisclosedlocation while the other VIPs went to the Capitol. One Cabinet member isselected to steer clear of each SOTU in case of a catastrophe; this is thefifth time in 20 years the Interior chief -- eighth in line of succession --got the nod.

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Miami Herald

Raúl Castro is Cuba's top vote-getter

Posted on Wed, Jan. 30, 2008

Cuba's interim leader, Raúl Castro, received the most votes in the Jan. 20National Assembly elections, getting one percentage point more than hisailing brother Fidel, according to official results released Wednesday.

The Castro brothers both represent the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba inthe nation's parliament. And like the other 612 assembly candidates, theyran unopposed.

The Cuban government lauds the elections as a true measure of civicactivism, because 96 percent of Cuba's 8.2 million voters went to the polls.

Cuban election results show 95 percent of the ballots were valid; 3.46percent were blank, and another 1.08 percent were nullified, the newspaperGranma reported. With 5 percent null or blank votes, the provinces ofHolguín and Pinar del Río led the nation in invalid ballots.

''If there was a layer of opposition in Cuba, shouldn't that number behigher?'' said Andy Gómez, a senior fellow at the University of Miami'sInstitute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies. ``I think people bought intowhat they have been conditioned: to follow this process in fear that someonewill check to see how they voted.''

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Miami Herald

Obama's hopes will rise or fall with Latino vote

Andres Oppenheimer
Posted on Thu, Jan. 31, 2008

Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2-1 win over Sen. Barack Obama among Hispanics inFlorida's primary is raising new questions over whether Obama will be ableto win the crucial Latino vote in next week's Super Tuesday primaries acrossthe nation.

Following the outcome of the Florida primary and a similar 2-1 Clinton winamong Latinos in the Nevada caucus, there is a widespread school of thoughtin the media and in the blogosphere that Latinos will not vote for anAfrican-American presidential candidate because Latinos are prejudicedagainst blacks.

The Clinton camp says Hillary won among Hispanics because they hold goodmemories of Bill Clinton's tenure, when the economy flourished and manyLatinos improved their living standards. Clinton also has more namerecognition than Obama, and her image of a woman who went through hell tokeep her family together during her husband's sex scandals has played wellamong family-oriented Latinos, Clinton aides say.

The Obama camp says Clinton's win in Florida is meaningless because hedidn't campaign in the state. Democratic candidates signed a pledge tobypass Florida over an election-schedule dispute.

''Until now, we have focused on the early primaries, where the Latinopopulation was relatively small,'' says Frank Sanchez, a member of Obama'sHispanic outreach team. ``The real effort to win Hispanics starts now.''

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Pew Research center

Go to the website, above, for the following articles:
Raising McCain
A look at recent Gallup and Pew surveys shows that even before hisimpressive Florida victory, Sen. John McCain might well give each of the twoDemocratic frontrunners a run for their money this November. Read more
The South Carolina Democratic Primary in Black and White
This time, the pre-election polls understated Barack Obama's support amongboth white and black voters. The results in Saturday's Democratic primary inSouth Carolina offer important evidence -- if not yet answers -- to threebig questions about his campaign. Read more
Voting 'Present' in Illinois
Obama's former colleagues in the state legislature say that attacks on his'present votes' show that either his opponents don't understand how thingswork in Springfield or they are deliberately distorting his record. Readmore
Are States Ready for Problems at the Polls?
Do the glitches reported during the Florida primary show that many statesaren't ready for election day? Two experts debate the question. Read more--
Public Priorities
GOP Cold on Global Warming
Republicans' concerns about climate change have fallen through the floor.Just 12% say that "dealing with global warming" should be a top priority forPresident Bush and Congress, making it by far their lowest-ranking issue.
Read more
Interest in Iraq War Hits New Low
The financial sector's troubles vied with the '08 campaign for news interestand coverage. Actor Heath Ledger's death drew twice as much coverage as Iraqand far greater public attention than did President Bush who announced hisstimulus plan last week. Read more
Primary Watching
Campaign Coverage: Bubba Basks in Media Attention
Although Obama's landslide win in South Carolina made him leading newsmakerof the week, he was far outdone in the race for media exposure by theClinton tag team. Read more
The Daily Number
75% - Economic Worries Rise Among Upscale Americans
Three-quarters of Americans (75%), now rate strengthening the economy as atop priority for policymakers -- up from 68% a year ago. Much of theincreased emphasis comes from upper socio-economic groups. Check back everyweekday for another number in the news. Read more


IRS Warns of New E-Mail and Telephone Scams Using the IRS Name;
Advance Payment Scams Starting,,id=178061,00.html

WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to bewareof several current e-mail and telephone scams that use the IRS name as alure. The IRS expects such scams to continue through the end of tax returnfiling season and beyond.

The IRS cautioned taxpayers to be on the lookout for scams involvingproposed advance payment checks. Although the government has not yet enactedan economic stimulus package in which the IRS would provide advancepayments, known informally as rebates to many Americans, a scam which usesthe proposed rebates as bait has already cropped up.

The goal of the scams is to trick people into revealing personal andfinancial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit cardnumbers, which the scammers can use to commit identity theft.

Typically, identity thieves use a victim's personal and financial data toempty the victim's financial accounts, run up charges on the victim'sexisting credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services orbenefits in the victim's name, file fraudulent tax returns or even commitcrimes. Most of these fraudulent activities can be committed electronicallyfrom a remote location, including overseas. Committing these activities incyberspace allows scamsters to act quickly and cover their tracks before thevictim becomes aware of the theft.

People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years - andtheir hard-earned money - cleaning up the mess thieves have made of theirreputations and credit records. In the meantime, victims may lose jobopportunities, may be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even getarrested for crimes they didn't commit.

The most recent scams brought to IRS attention are described below.



Capital Hill Blue

The Clinton cabal: The Clintons are a threat to Democrats and the country

January 30, 2008 - 7:16am

Hillary Rodham Clinton is in trouble. Her husband is out of control, Obamais gaining momentum and her once-inevitable run for the White House is stuckin a sea of political mud.

So Hillary wants to do what the Clintons have always done in times ofcrisis: Cheat.

After agreeing with the Democratic National Committee's decision to punishMichigan and Florida for moving the dates of their primaries up ahead ofSuper Tuesday, Clinton now wants the rules changed so she can claimdelegates from both states.

Why? Because she needs all the delegates she can get to try and salvage awin against the surging Barack Obama.

This is typical Clinton skulduggery. Bill Clinton built his political careeron a disregard for law, ethics and fair play so why should his politicalpartner/wife/co-conspirator be any different?

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Houston Chronicle

Florida governor could see big payoff
His endorsement of McCain was key; he may be rewarded if the senator winsthe White House

Associated Press
Jan. 30, 2008, 11:08PM

MIAMI - Gov. Charlie Crist took a gamble on John McCain that could pay offfor some time to come.

After helping McCain pull off a big victory in Florida's Republican primaryTuesday, Crist is being talked about as a potential member of a McCainadministration.

At the least, Crist raised his national profile and, should McCain prevail,he will have a close friend in the White House.

"If McCain goes on to the nomination, it will really be because of Florida,"said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political scienceprofessor. "It was a big night for McCain and maybe a bigger night forCharlie Crist."

McCain was locked in a tight race with Mitt Romney for Florida's 57delegates - the biggest prize so far on the road to the nomination. Cristendorsed the Arizona senator Saturday, and McCain won by five points in thewinner-take-all election.

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Chicago Tribune,0,5046219.story

Editorial: Imagine: McCain vs. Obama

January 31, 2008

Rudy Giuliani exits stage right. Like Macbeth, he's the victim of his owndesigns: I know -- I'll win by not campaigning ! And John Edwards exitsstage left (where else?), having entertained the audience too well: WouldAmericans ever elect a president who spent two agonizing minutes primpinghis hair -- a tragicomedy enshrined in a YouTube video set to the lilting "IFeel Pretty" -- "I feel stunning / And entrancing, / Feel like running anddancing for joy-y-y ... "?

So as Tsunami Tuesday approaches, with voters in 24 states expressingpreferences, the roster of would-be presidents thins.

The Republican nomination now is Sen. John McCain's to lose.

Sen. Hillary Clinton could win the Democratic nomination. Of course, thatwould require voters nationwide to forgive her husband, Bill, for hisrace-centric dismissal of Sen. Barack Obama's big win last week(essentially, Another black guy won South Carolina in 1984 and '88, and whatgood did it do him?).

Democrats also would have to forgive Hillary Clinton's artless effort toframe Tuesday's purposeless Florida primary -- the Democratic NationalCommittee has stripped Florida of convention delegates because the stateimproperly moved up its primary date -- as a big victory offsetting Obama's.

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Los Angeles Times,1,4281983.story?track=crosspromo

Accusations fly at Republican debate
The field narrowed, McCain and Romney trade angry charges in the last GOPface-off before Super Tuesday.

By Cathleen Decker and Seema Mehta
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
January 31, 2008

John McCain and Mitt Romney carried their bitter Florida clash intoCalifornia on Wednesday, each impugning the other's honesty in ahot-tempered debate as they sought to attract voters casting ballots in fivedays in a coast-to-coast array of primaries and caucuses.

McCain, caustic for much of the debate, castigated Romney for what he saidwas a past insinuation that America should withdraw from Iraq. McCaincontrasted that with his own early support for the "surge" of Americantroops that has reduced violence in some areas of the country.

Romney called the accusation "reprehensible" and said the Arizona senatorwas deliberately misrepresenting his comments because of a weakness for"Washington-style" negative campaigning. The arguments came in a 90-minutedebate sponsored by The Times, CNN and Politico; a Democratic debate will beheld in Los Angeles tonight.

Wednesday's gathering may have been held at the Ronald Reagan PresidentialLibrary near Simi Valley, but the former president's famous adage that theGOP's "11th Commandment" precluded damaging fellow Republicans appeared lostto history.

The testiest exchange stemmed from an ABC News interview last April in whichRomney, when asked, said that it was appropriate for President Bush andIraqi leaders to devise "timetables and milestones" to measure progress inIraq. In the closing days before Florida's Tuesday primary, McCain wieldedthe comments as evidence that Romney was ready to abandon Iraq.

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New York Times

G.O.P. Exodus in House Bodes Ill for Fall Success

January 31, 2008

WASHINGTON - A swelling exodus of senior Republican incumbents from theHouse, worsened by a persistent disadvantage in campaign money, threatens tocripple Republican efforts to topple the Democratic majority in November.

Representative Tom Davis, a moderate from Northern Virginia, on Wednesdaybecame the fifth House Republican in the last week to announce that he wouldnot seek re-election.

That puts the roster of retirees at 28, one of the highest numbers recordedfor the party in the House.

With only five Democratic seats opening so far, party strategists andindependent analysts say the disparity in open seats - typically the mostcompetitive House fights, as voters oust relatively few incumbents - makesit highly unlikely that Republicans could seize the seats necessary toregain the House. The current House has 199 Republicans and 232 Democrats,with four vacancies to be filled by special elections.

"The open-seat situation is so lopsided as to deny Republicans any chance oftaking back the House in 2008," said David Wasserman, who analyzes Houseraces for The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan publication.

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Dallas Morning News

Obama faces task of filling gaps among whites, Hispanics
Organization, black vote provide spark, but white, Hispanic support lacking

12:00 AM CST on Thursday, January 31, 2008
By GROMER JEFFERS JR. / The Dallas Morning News

ATLANTA - Barack Obama heads into Super Tuesday with an impressive win lastweek in South Carolina.

But if the Illinois senator is to score the Democratic nomination forpresident, he'll have to shore up gaps in his base while continuing to ridethe work of his unsung campaign organization.

In South Carolina, black voters were key to Mr. Obama's success - thebiggest victory for a candidate in a major primary so far. But none of the22 states voting Tuesday has as many black voters as South Carolina, so Mr.Obama must attract more white women and Hispanic voters, experts say. Sofar, those groups have heavily favored Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"The challenge for him is to improve his standing with white voters," saidMerle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "Theblack vote is too small in other states to produce a victory for him. He hasto expand his base."

Mr. Obama showed he can capture a broad swath of voters, doing well amongindependents, younger voters and upscale Democrats in South Carolina andwinning the first contest in the overwhelmingly white state of Iowa.

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CBS News

First Gentleman Bill: A Legitimate Issue

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2008
(CBS) This commentary was written by's Dick Meyer.

Any notion that William Jefferson Clinton would not be prominent andinfluential in the potential administration of Hillary Rodham Clinton diedof acute silliness in the mud pits of South Carolina last week.

The man's appetite for attention, politics, vindication and public love isboth gargantuan and insatiable. Can you say, "compulsion"?

The wonderful thing about Bill's recent antics is the comeuppance he got.His vilification was almost universal. Teddy Kennedy tried to reason withhim, and then endorsed Barack Obama. Longtime defenders of the rascal fromHope gave up in disgust.

The awful thing about Bill's recent antics is that you know somewhere inClintonia - that secret land inhabited by Bill, Hillary and their mosttrusted lieutenants - there is joy. Sure, Hillary lost South Carolina by thewidest margin of any 2008 contest so far. But they got Obama into thegutter. They got Mr. High and Mighty riled like any other politician on thestump. They got race into the arena.

Mr. Boss took a dive in South Carolina so Mrs. Boss can go the distance onSuper Tuesday.

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Washington Post

For John Edwards, A Moment of Truth

By Kevin Merida
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008; C01

Politics demands that some truths cannot be told. You cannot divulge howmuch you ache inside, how difficult defeat is to swallow until you swallowit.

A week ago John Edwards was on his campaign bus barnstorming through ruralSouth Carolina when he was asked a question that so many were ponderingabout his presidential candidacy: Are you in the Democratic race for thelong haul?

"Yes, sir," he said.

Regardless of how well you do in the South Carolina primary or on SuperTuesday? Is there any calculation that would change your mind?

Edwards shook his head, no. He would compete all the way to the DemocraticNational Convention.

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Washington Post

Romney, New Primary Date Put Utah on the Political Map
For Once There Are TV Ads, Even a Candidate's Office

By Joel Achenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008; A10

PROVO, Utah -- The BYU College Democrats assembled Monday night in DianeBailey's apartment to watch the State of the Union address. Like so manycollege kids in America, they weren't going to sit through a SOTU speechwithout turning it into a drinking game. So it was that every time thepresident said a certain word ("terror," "enemy," "evil") or mangled thelanguage ("nucular," "Zimbawe"), they bolted down a beverage. Of course, asMormons, they had to stick to soda. They ingested heroic, indeed sickening,quantities of root beer, ginger ale and 7-Up, even the rather edgy MountainDew.

They got louder as the speech grew longer.

"Terrorist!" (Gulp.) "Evil!!" (Glug.) "Nine-eleven!" (Burp.) When thepresident named America's greatest enemy, the students roared -- "Osama binLaden!" -- and, as stipulated in the rules, ran outside to roll in the snow.

Brigham Young University is run by the Mormon Church and may have the mostconservative campus in the country. Provo has been called America's mostconservative city. You'd think a Democrat around here would be about as hardto find as Sasquatch. "It's the same as being a conservative at Berkeley,"said Hyrum Salmond, a junior.

What's amazing about Utah this year is not so much the presence of outspokenDemocrats, but the fact that the state is on the national radar to beginwith. As one of the Super Tuesday states that will hold primaries Feb. 5,Utah is finally in play.

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New York Times

Editorial: A Disappointing Debut

January 31, 2008

About the best we can say about Attorney General Michael Mukasey's testimonyWednesday in the Senate is that he was no Alberto Gonzales, with thefrequent memory lapses and possibly intentional misstatements. But that is avery low bar. On torture, domestic spying and other important matters, Mr.Mukasey parroted the Bush administration's deplorable line. He wasparticularly disappointing in his see-no-evil approach to the misconduct atthe Justice Department before he arrived.

The American people deserve better from their highest law-enforcementofficial, who was making his first appearance before the Senate JudiciaryCommittee since taking office in November. To a disturbing degree, he hasadopted his predecessor's habit of saying precisely what the White Housewanted to hear.

It should not have been hard for Mr. Mukasey to admit that waterboarding -the odious practice of making prisoners believe they are about to bedrowned - is torture. He frankly conceded that if it were done to him it"would feel that way." But he weaved and dodged questions from senatorsabout whether it is torture when it is done to other people, and whether itis illegal.

Mr. Mukasey also pushed Congress to give immunity to telecommunicationscompanies for any illegal acts they committed while helping theadministration carry out its outlaw domestic spying program. Mr. Mukasey isresponsible for enforcing the law. Pushing Congress to immunize lawbreakers,especially before it learns what laws were broken, is inconsistent with thisduty.

Mr. Mukasey took office in the wake of a scandal - accusations that federalprosecutions were politicized, that nonpolitical positions were filled withpartisans and that Mr. Gonzales lied about it to Congress. These seriouscharges did not go away simply because Mr. Gonzales did. Mr. Mukasey needsto ensure that they are investigated, and to assure the public that anymisconduct in his department has been cleaned up.

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Washington Post

Is McCain a Conservative?

By Robert D. Novak
Thursday, January 31, 2008; A21

As John McCain neared his momentous primary election victory in Floridaafter a ferocious campaign questioning his conservative credentials,right-wingers buzzed over word that he had privately suggested that SupremeCourt Justice Samuel Alito was too conservative. In response, McCain said herecalled saying no such thing and added that Alito was a "magnificent"choice. In fact, multiple sources confirm that the senator made negativecomments about Alito nine months ago.

McCain, as the "straight talk" candidate, says things off the cuff that hesometimes cannot remember exactly later. Elements of the Republican Party'sright wing, uncomfortable with McCain as their prospective presidentialnominee, brought the Alito comments to the surface long after the fact fortwo contrasting reasons. One was a desperate effort to keep McCain fromwinning in Florida. The other was to get the party's potential nominee onrecord about key issues before he is nominated.

Those key issues do not include McCain's firmly held nonconservativepositions on campaign finance reform and global warming. Rather,conservatives among the second group want two assurances: first, that McCainwould veto any tax increase passed by a Democratic Congress; second, that hewould not emulate Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush in naming liberalSupreme Court justices such as John Paul Stevens and David Souter.

That was the background for conservative John Fund's Wall Street Journalonline column the day before Florida voted. Fund wrote that McCain "has toldconservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief JusticeRoberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on aSamuel Alito because 'he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.' " In aconference call with bloggers that day, McCain said, "I don't recall aconversation where I would have said that." He was "astonished" by the Alitoquote, he said, and he repeatedly says at town meetings, "We're going tohave justices like Roberts and Alito."

I found what McCain could not remember: a private, informal chat withconservative Republican lawyers shortly after he announced his candidacy inApril 2007. I talked to two lawyers who were present whom I have known foryears and who have never misled me. One is neutral in the presidential race,and the other recently endorsed Mitt Romney. Both said they were not Fund'ssource, and neither knew I was talking to the other. They gave me nearlyidentical accounts, as follows:

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Associated Press

Carter opens Baptist meeting in Ga.

1/31/2008, 2:07 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) - Former President Carter called divisions among Christians a"cancer" in the church, as he opened a meeting meant to unite moderateBaptists across racial and theological lines and show their tradition goesbeyond conservative Southern Baptist beliefs.

The assembly, "Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant," included four majorblack denominations, Baptists from throughout North America and formermembers of the Southern Baptist Convention upset by its rightward shift.Carter was a lead organizer of the event.

Thousands of participants prayed and held hands across a massive exhibithall at the first session Wednesday night. Carter, a longtime Bible teacherat his Plains, Ga., church, called the three-day gathering "the mostmomentous event in my religious life."

He repeatedly cautioned the audience not to criticize others during themeeting.

"What is the prevailing image of Christians today?" Carter said. "It's theimage of divisions among brothers and sisters of Christ as we struggle forauthority or argue about the interpretation of individual verses in the HolyScripture."

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New York Times

Pakistani Justice Breaks Silence

January 31, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the former chief justiceof Pakistan who was removed last year when President Pervez Musharrafimposed a state of emergency, has finally broken his silence.

A letter from Mr. Chaudhry to Western officials was circulated Wednesday. Itlambasted Mr. Musharraf for quashing Pakistan's independent judiciary andillegally detaining him and his family, and noted that the Supreme Court hadnot had a chance to rule on whether it was legal for Mr. Musharraf to runfor re-election in December.

It was Mr. Chaudhry's second public statement since the start of emergencyrule on Nov. 3, when he was confined to his official residence. On Nov. 6,he made a telephone address to opposition lawyers in Islamabad, urging thenation to rise up for the restoration of the Constitution. Emergency rulewas lifted Dec. 15.

The Pakistani government insists that Mr. Chaudhry is not under housearrest, although public access to his residence is prohibited and visitorsare not allowed. An aide, Athar Minullah, said the letter was smuggled outby Mr. Chaudhry's 16-year-old daughter.

The letter, prompted by Mr. Musharraf's recent visit to European capitals,was addressed to the president of the European Parliament, Secretary ofState Condoleezza Rice, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime MinisterGordon Brown of Britain and the head of the World Economic Forum. During histrip, Mr. Musharraf gave Western leaders a damning profile of Mr. Chaudhry,according to Mr. Minullah.

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New York Times

New York Leads the Field in a High School Science Competition

January 31, 2008

Stuyvesant High School led the nation's schools in finalists in the latestround of the Intel Science Talent Search, the country's most celebrated highschool science competition. The 40 finalists were announced on Wednesday bycompetition officials.

With four finalists, Stuyvesant had its best showing since 1996. The BronxHigh School of Science had one finalist, bringing the total of New York Citypublic school finalists to five and giving New York State more finaliststhan any other state. As in past years, nearly 40 percent of the finalists -15 - came from New York State.

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein was exultant at a news conference atStuyvesant that he organized with the principal, Stanley Teitel.

Mr. Klein noted that two of the city's finalists were immigrants. "Peoplecome to this city for opportunity," he said. "When you see these successes,it makes you so proud."

Long Island had nine finalists: John L. Miller-Great Neck North High Schoolin Great Neck and Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington each hadtwo.

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Washington Post

A Matchup Starts to Take Shape

By David S. Broder
Thursday, January 31, 2008; A21

Heading into Tuesday's unprecedented day of voting in two dozen states, adegree of order is finally emerging in the dramatic races for thepresidential nominations of both parties.

Public opinion and leadership support are finding their way to the samedestinations, pointing to a clear favorite and a single viable alternativein each race.

John McCain has the easiest path remaining to the Republican nomination,with Mitt Romney needing some kind of dramatic breakthrough Tuesday to keephis hopes of an upset alive.

On the Democratic side, the battle is closer, but the advantage has shiftedback to Barack Obama -- thanks to a growing but largely unremarked-upontendency among Democratic leaders to reject Hillary Clinton and her husband,the former president.

The New York senator could still emerge from the "Tsunami Tuesday" votingwith the overall lead in delegates, but she is unlikely to come close toclinching the nomination. And the longer the race goes on, the better thechances Obama will prevail as more Democratic elected officials andcandidates come to view him as the better bet to defeat McCain in November.

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Washington Post

It's the Housing Market Deflation

By William H. Gross
Thursday, January 31, 2008; A21

It seems to me that the U.S. economy requires a new orthodoxy, a redirectionfrom consumption toward the stabilization of the housing market and anemphasis on infrastructure. America's economy is faltering because of anexhaustion of free-market capitalism that has mutated in recent years tosomething resembling a pyramid scheme. Our levered, derivative-basedfinancial system, seemingly so ascendant after the dot-com madness thatpreceded it, has met its match with the subprime lending and poorlystructured, opaque mortgage-backed securities of today's marketplace.

The result has been a dangerous deflation in America's most important assetclass -- housing. Preventing home prices from declining even further is jobNo. 1 for monetary and fiscal authorities. So far, only Fed Chairman BenBernanke seems to appreciate the necessity for timely, creative solutions.The Fed has cut interest rates twice in eight days, by one-half of apercentage point yesterday and by three-quarters of a percentage point at anunscheduled meeting last week, and implemented a revised discount windowframework in the form of its newly created Term Auction Facility. This "TAF"is designed to lower risk spreads in the high-quality end of the creditmarkets, and so far it is succeeding. Yet monetary policy has its limits. Itcannot make bad assets turn good, nor can it be expected to lower mortgagerates to a level necessary to engender the buying power that would clear thetracts of unoccupied homes and place a floor under the deflating pricesfeared by American homeowners.

The adjustable-rate mortgage, so dependent on lower short-term yields, isall but dead these days, thanks to increased regulatory scrutiny and theinevitability of future lawsuits. The heavy lifting, then, must be done bythe 30-year mortgage, rates for which need to come down at least anadditional percentage point before it can stop housing's deflation. Withinflation higher than it was during the halcyon days of 2003-04, such areduction is not likely even if Bernanke were to drop the Fed's targetinterest rate to its previous floor of 1 percent.

So we do need a fiscal helping hand, and one that is timely and targeted,but current stimulus legislation appears to be aimed in the wrong direction.Granted, a measure that President Bush and House leaders agreed to and thatthe House approved this week has a provision to allow Fannie Mae and FreddieMac to back larger mortgages. But that would do little to help thoseAmericans who purchased homes over the past five years and whose monthlymortgage payments are now substantially higher, as well as those people whoare being forced out of their homes entirely. Granted, the bipartisan planwould put money into the hands of consumers, helping them pay overdue debtand regain some lost ground from bill collectors. The Senate's proposal toincrease food stamp benefits may be helpful as well.

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Washington Post

What A.Q. Khan Knows
How Pakistan's Proliferator Could Help in Pyongyang

By Selig S. Harrison
Thursday, January 31, 2008; A21

Either Kim Jong Il or Pervez Musharraf is lying about whether Pakistan's Dr.Strangelove, Abdul Qadeer Khan, gave centrifuges to North Korea for uraniumenrichment. Unless the truth can be established, the hitherto-promisingdenuclearization negotiations with Pyongyang are likely to collapse.

Khan has been shielded from foreign interrogators since his arrest threeyears ago for running a global nuclear Wal-Mart. Musharraf wrote in hismemoir, "In the Line of Fire," that the former czar of Pakistan's nuclearprogram provided "nearly two dozen" prototype centrifuges suitable foruranium enrichment experiments to North Korea -- a charge flatly denied byPyongyang.

"Why don't you invite A.Q. Khan to join the negotiations?" North Korea'sU.N. representative, Kim Myong Gil, asked with a broad smile over lunchrecently. "Where is the invoice? Give us the evidence."

Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton and other opponents of thedenuclearization agreement reached with North Korea last Feb. 13 are seekingto undermine it by reviving the CIA's 2002 assertion that Kim is operating asecret weapons-grade uranium-enrichment plant. Unless Pyongyang reveals theplant's location and dismantles it, Bolton argues, the denuclearizationaccord should be scrapped.

U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill counters that it was never clear whethersuch a plant existed. All that the United States knows, Hill said in alittle-noticed speech last February at the Brookings Institution, is thatNorth Korea imported certain equipment that could be used for uraniumenrichment, notably aluminum tubes from Russia. "It would require a lot moreequipment than we know that they have actually purchased," he said, to makethe thousands of centrifuges needed for a weapons-grade enrichment facility.

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Washington Post

U.S. Commanders in Iraq Favor Pause in Troop Cuts

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008; A01

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 -- Senior U.S. military commanders here say they want tofreeze troop reductions starting this summer for at least a month, making itmore likely that the next administration will inherit as many troops in Iraqas there were before President Bush announced a "surge" of forces a yearago.

There are about 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now, with about 5,000 leavingevery month; the proposed freeze would go into effect in July, when troopslevels reach around 130,000. Although violence is dropping in Iraq,commanders say they want to halt withdrawals to assess whether they cancontrol the situation with fewer troops.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, will probably arguefor what the military calls an operational "pause" at his next round ofcongressional testimony, expected in early April, another senior U.S.military official here said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and topmilitary officers have said they would like to see continued withdrawalsthroughout this year, but Bush has indicated he is likely to be guided byPetraeus's views.

Bush trumpeted the success of his Iraq strategy during his State of theUnion address this week. But if he agrees with Petraeus's expectedrecommendation, the administration will not be able to reduce troop levelsmuch below what they were in early 2007, when Bush began to deployadditional forces.

Officers are still debating the length of the proposed freeze, with somearguing for 90 days and others saying it could be as short as 30. Because itcan take as long as 75 days to withdraw a brigade, a freeze could result introop levels remaining steady through most of the rest of Bush's term,deferring any continued drawdown to his successor.

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Washington Post

Mukasey Hints at Wider CIA Probe

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008; A02

A special Justice Department probe into the destruction of CIA videotapescould be expanded to include whether harsh interrogation tactics depicted onthe tapes violated federal anti-torture laws, Attorney General Michael B.Mukasey testified yesterday.

His testimony indicated that the CIA tapes probe, which Mukasey launchedearlier this month, could go beyond the tape destruction itself to examinethe actions of the current and former CIA employees who carried out coerciveinterrogations.

His remarks represented a small concession to Democrats on Capitol Hill, ata generally contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. There, a streamof lawmakers assailed his refusal to say clearly whether one of the CIA'smost notorious interrogation methods -- known as waterboarding -- wasillegal at the time it was done.

At one point, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked: "Would waterboardingbe torture if it was done to you?"

"I would feel that it was," Mukasey replied.

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