Monday, January 07, 2008


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New York Times

As Primary Day Looms, Republican Rivals Go After One Another

January 7, 2008

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - After being pounded by his rivals at the Republicandebate on Saturday, Mitt Romney struck back with a vengeance on Sunday byaggressively going after his main rivals, Senator John McCain of Arizona andMike Huckabee, accusing them of breaking with Republican orthodoxy on taxes.

The exchanges were some of the most heated and angry of the Republicancampaign.

Challenged by the Fox News commentator Chris Wallace about raising feeswhile governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney seized the opportunity to attackMr. McCain for voting against President Bush's tax cuts.

"Senator McCain was one of two Republicans who voted against the Bush taxcuts," said Mr. Romney, reiterating a line of attack he has used oftenagainst Mr. McCain over the last few weeks in New Hampshire, where fiscalissues are paramount.

Then he pivoted toward Mr. Huckabee, pointing out that over all he hadraised taxes by more than $500 million in his decade as governor ofArkansas.

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New York Times

Pentagon Says Ships Harassed by Iran

Filed at 10:45 a.m. ET
January 7, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In what U.S. officials called a serious provocation,Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navyships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, threatening to explode the Americanvessels.

U.S. forces were on the verge of firing on the Iranian boats in the earlySunday incident, when the boats turned and moved away, a Pentagon officialsaid. ''It is the most serious provocation of this sort that we've seenyet,'' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasnot authorized to speak on the record.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: ''We urge the Iranians to refrainfrom such provocative actions that could lead to a dangerous incident in thefuture.''

The incident occurred at about 5 a.m. local time Sunday as a U.S. Navycruiser, destroyer and frigate were on their way into the Persian Gulf andpassing through the strait -- a major oil shipping route.

Five small boats began charging the U.S. ships, dropping boxes in the waterin front of the ships and forcing the U.S. ships to take evasive maneuvers,the Pentagon official said.

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New York Times

In Musharraf's Shadow, a New Hope for Pakistan Rises

January 7, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Over the last several months, a little-known,enigmatic Pakistani general has quietly raised hopes among Americanofficials that he could emerge as a new force for stability in Pakistan,according to current and former government officials. But it remains tooearly to determine whether he can play a decisive role in the country.

In late November, the general, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, took command ofPakistan's army when the country's longtime military ruler, PervezMusharraf, resigned as army chief and became a civilian president. At thattime, General Kayani, a protégé of Mr. Musharraf's, became one of Pakistan'smost powerful officials.

The Pakistani Army has dominated the country for decades and the army chiefwields enormous influence. Over time, as General Kayani gains firmer controlof the army, he is likely to become even more powerful than Mr. Musharrafhimself.

"Gradually, General Kayani will be the boss," said Talat Masood, a Pakistanipolitical analyst and retired general. "The real control of the army will bewith Kayani."

But within weeks, General Kayani's loyalties - and skills - are likely tocome under intense strain. The two civilian political parties that opposeMr. Musharraf are vowing to conduct nationwide street protests if Mr.Musharraf's party wins delayed parliamentary elections now scheduled forFeb. 18.

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New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: From Hype to Fear

By Paul Krugman
January 7, 2008

The unemployment report on Friday was brutally bad. Unemployment rose inDecember, while job creation was minimal - and it's highly likely, fortechnical reasons, that the job number will be revised down, showing anactual decline in employment.

It's the latest piece of bad news about an economy in which the employmentsituation has actually been deteriorating for the past year. It's no longerpossible to hope that the effects of the housing slump will remain"contained," as one of 2007's buzzwords had it. The levees have beenbreached, and the repercussions of the housing crisis are spreading acrossthe economy as a whole.

It's not certain, even now, that we'll have a formal recession, althoughgiven the news on Friday you have to say that the odds are that we will. Butwhat is clear is that 2008 will be a troubled year for the U.S. economy -and that as a result, the overall economic record of the Bush years willhave been dreary at best: two and a half years of slumping employment, threeand a half years of good but not great growth, and two more years of renewedeconomic distress.

The November election will take place against that background of economicdistress, which ought to be good news for candidates running on a platformof change.

But the opponents of change, those who want to keep the Bush legacy intact,are not without resources. In fact, they've already made their standardpivot when things turn bad - the pivot from hype to fear. And in case youhaven't noticed, they're very, very good at the fear thing.

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New York Times

Editorial: Cruel and Far Too Usual Punishment

January 7, 2008

The Supreme Court hears arguments on Monday in a case about whether Kentucky's use of a "cocktail" of injected poisons to carry out the death penalty isunconstitutional. We believe that the death penalty, no matter how it isadministered, is unconstitutional and wrong. If a state does execute anyone,it must do so in a way that is humane and does not impose needlesssuffering. Kentucky's method does not meet that standard.

Popular support for capital punishment is, thankfully, declining in thiscountry. The growing number of exonerations of innocent people on death rowhas shown that the system cannot be trusted to make such an irrevocabledecision. There is considerable evidence of racial discrimination in theapplication of the death penalty. After years of botched electrocutions andother horrors, it is clear that the methods of taking life are barbaric.

In Kentucky, and nearly all of the states that have capital punishment,executions are carried out by injection of a three-drug "cocktail." This issupposedly more humane than the electric chair. The more one learns aboutlethal injection, the less humane it appears.

There is considerable evidence that inmates do not go peacefully or easily.Instead they are reported to feel suffocation, paralysis and excruciatingpain. This is particularly true when poorly trained, unskilled workers areadministering the drugs, which is all too often the case.

The Supreme Court could decide to focus on the narrow question about whatlegal standard to apply in lethal injection cases. The two sides disagree onjust how substantial a risk there must be of the inmate's feeling severepain for the procedure to be unconstitutional. It is, of course, importantto get the standard right. But the court needs to look beyond that and rulethat Kentucky's method of lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendmentprohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

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New York Times

Op-Ed Contributor: A Paper Trail for Voting Machines

By William Poundstone
Los Angeles
January 7, 2008

PARANOIA over electronic voting is the new American consensus. The Democratswho will vote in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday aren't worried thatHillary Clinton will steal the election from Barack Obama or John Edwards,but a good chunk of them would probably confess to dark fears about aRepublican plot in November, even if Karl Rove won't be involved.

Last month, Colorado's secretary of state, Mike Coffman, a Republican,decertified the state's electronic voting machines, after the alarmingfinding that one model could be disabled with a magnet and others werescandalously inaccurate. He left voters to draw their own conclusions aboutwhat this meant for the state's most recent elections. The Californiasecretary of state, Debra Bowen, a Democrat, took office last year afterrunning on a don't-trust-electronic-voting platform, and in August shepulled the plug on the state's voting machines.

But what other options are there? Paper ballots aren't perfect. Ballot boxescan be stuffed or lost. Indeed, because of Florida's paper-ballot mess in2000, electronic voting is probably here to stay.

Fortunately, there is an elegant solution that lets us use modern technologywhile assuaging the growing fears about voter fraud. Ronald L. Rivest, aMassachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist, and Warren D.Smith, a mathematician and voting reform advocate, have proposed aningenious method that would combine paper ballots and a Web site to achievegreater ballot security than is possible with paper or software alone.

Their basic idea is to allow each voter to take home a photocopy of arandomly selected ballot cast by someone else.

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New York Times

Not So Fast, Clinton Says About Obama Momentum

January 7, 2008

DERRY, N.H. - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday sought to slow themomentum of Senator Barack Obama heading into the New Hampshire primary onTuesday by pointedly challenging his voting record and the assertion that heis the only candidate who would bring about change.

"You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose," Mrs. Clinton said, urgingvoters to take a second look at the race. "We need a president who knows howto govern, who will bring us together as a country to find common ground,but who also knows how to stand our ground."

The fresh criticism, an abrupt change for the Clinton campaign, came aspolls here suggested Mr. Obama had received a significant boost from hisvictory in the Iowa caucuses last week and now enjoyed a comfortable leadhere. Advisers to Mrs. Clinton were privately looking ahead to the nextDemocratic contest with delegates at stake, the Nevada caucuses on Jan. 19,in hopes of revitalizing her candidacy.

As Mr. Obama drew standing ovations in crowded gymnasiums and theatersacross southern New Hampshire, he barely acknowledged the criticism. Yet hederided Mrs. Clinton for suggesting during a televised debate on Saturdayevening that his candidacy was rooted in a false hope.

"What kind of agenda is that? False hope?" Mr. Obama said. He declared:"There's something going on out there. Something's stirring in the wind."

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Washington Post

How To Fix 'No Child'

By Edward M. Kennedy
Monday, January 7, 2008; A17

With renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act high on the agenda for the newsession of Congress, it's no surprise that the 2002 law -- the Bushadministration's signature domestic initiative -- has become a politicalfootball in this intense campaign season. The administration continues tospeak glowingly of the law while Democratic candidates blast it. Butsimplistic campaign rhetoric hardly reflects what's actually happening onschool reform.

Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the law's enactment. It's a good timeto take realistic stock of things. Obviously, the results are mixed. Manyelements of the reforms have produced encouraging progress for youngchildren in public schools across the nation, and they deserve to besupported. Other aspects of the law have not been satisfactory, and somehave been failures. These must be changed.

The stakes are high. At issue is a goal that Democrats have long embraced asa fundamental principle of our party -- opportunity for all Americans.Strengthening the nation's schools is essential for preparing our citizensto compete and win in the global economy. We in Congress have an obligationto parents, to teachers and, most of all, to schoolchildren across Americato draw the right lessons from these past six years with the No Child LeftBehind Act and put school reform on a stronger path for the future.

On the plus side, the law demands that all children must benefit -- black orwhite, immigrant or native-born, rich or poor, disabled or not. Before itsenactment, only a handful of states monitored the achievement of every groupof students in their schools. Today, all 50 states must do that. Across thecountry, schools are poring over student data to identify weaknesses ininstruction and to improve teaching and learning. All schools now measureperformance based not on the achievement of their average and above-averagestudents but on their progress in helping below-average students reach highstandards as well.

The positive changes are evident in the National Assessment of EducationalProgress, better known as "The Nation's Report Card." The improvements arestill modest, but they're noticeable, particularly among students whoformerly were low achievers. We're beginning to see a narrowing of theachievement gap between white students and other students.

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Washington Post

Running Into a Head Wind

By Robert D. Novak
Monday, January 7, 2008; A17

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Mitt Romney and Sen. Hillary Clinton wanted to useSaturday night's televised presidential debates to further their respectivegoals: keep Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama from winning Tuesday'sNew Hampshire primary. Neither accomplished that mission, but the failure ismuch more damaging for Romney than for Clinton.

Romney looks like a clear loser of the state's Republican primary to McCain,which his once-promising campaign can hardly afford on top of his decisiveloss in Iowa's caucuses last week. While Clinton cannot come close tomatching the fervor of Obama's supporters, polls still show a close race onthe Democratic side. Despite her embarrassing third-place finish in Iowa,Clinton can withstand another defeat without dooming her once-certainprocession to the nomination.

The Romney and Clinton strategies were clear. Romney, who arrived here fromIowa early Friday morning, challenged McCain's Republican credentials ontaxation and immigration. By opposing George W. Bush's tax cuts andsupporting the president's immigration reform proposal, McCain had taken twopositions unpopular with New Hampshire Republicans. Clinton confronted thefervor for Obama by contending the 46-year-old Illinois senator lacksexperience and by attacking his failure to propose mandatory universalhealth care -- tactics that proved to be of no avail in Iowa.

But it is difficult for a candidate to shape the agenda of multi-candidatedebates, and Romney failed Saturday night. The moderator, ABC's CharlesGibson, did not raise the tax issue, and Romney never managed to bring it upon his own. Immigration persisted as a debate topic, with Romney accusingMcCain of advocating amnesty for illegal aliens. That represented a dividedopinion in the Romney camp, with internal dissenters arguing that taking ahard line on immigration had not worked in Iowa.

Romney opened fire upon arriving here by declaring that McCain could hardlymeet the national demand for "change" in Washington because he actually isWashington. McCain's reputation as an insurgent, Romney told me Saturday,was won by "sticking it to his own party."

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Washington Post

Confidence in America: The Best Change the Next President Can Make

By Madeleine K. Albright
Monday, January 7, 2008; A17

I believe the most precious gift the next president could bestow uponAmerica is an end to the politics of fear.

Fear, of course, has its place. Seven decades ago, the world did not fearHitler enough. Today, Iraq remains a powder keg, Afghanistan a struggle,Iran a potential danger and North Korea a puzzle not yet solved. Pakistancombines all the elements that give us an international migraine. Al-Qaedaand its offshoots deserve our most urgent attention, because when people saythey want to kill us, we would be fools not to take them at their word.

Still, we have had an overdose of fear in recent times.

We have been told to be afraid so that we might be less protective of ourConstitution, less mindful of international law, less respectful towardallies, less discerning in our search for truth and less rigorous inquestioning what our leaders tell us. We have been exhorted by the WhiteHouse to embrace a culture of fear that has driven and narrowed our foreignpolicy while poisoning our ability to communicate effectively with others.

One manifestation of fear is an unwillingness to think seriously aboutalternative perspectives. America's standing in the world has been in freefall these past few years because our country is perceived as trying toimpose its own reality -- to fashion a world that is safe and comfortablefor us with little regard for the views of anyone else.

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Miami Herald

Years after 9/11, nation remains scared

Posted on Sun, Jan. 06, 2008

The authorities would just come into your home, grab your mother, yourbrother, your dad and take them away. No warning, no warrant, no appeal.

Thirty thousand people were disappeared that way, she told me. This was inan interview three years ago, and Ruth Cox was describing her childhood inArgentina under military dictatorship. Cox, a teacher in Charleston, S.C.,said families never learned what happened to their loved ones. Or why.People were taken and that was it. The government was not accountable.

My first response was a vague pride that those kinds of things can't happenhere.

My second response was to realize that my first response was naive. Theselast years have provided a jolting education in the sorts of things thatcan, indeed, happen here. Mass surveillance, detention without access tocourts, no right to confront, or even know, the evidence against you,torture. And a government that is not accountable.

So last week's news that the Justice Department has launched a criminalinvestigation into the CIA's destruction of videotapes said to depict theharsh interrogation of terrorism suspects is welcome, but also belated, thevery embodiment of the old saw about locking the garage after the car's beenstolen. Though we have lost a lot more than a car.

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Palm Beach Post

Criticism of No Child Left Behind unites presidential hopefuls

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 06, 2008

Depending on which presidential candidate you ask, No Child Left Behind is acostly and disastrous foray into federal control of schools or a lofty planthat needs fixing.

No matter who becomes the next president, expect significant changes toPresident Bush's signature education program.

It's rare that Democrats and Republicans agree on anything in a presidentialelection. But No Child Left Behind, the most sweeping and test-heavy federaleducation reform in history, may be the uniting issue of the campaignseason.

Every candidate has said the law needs some work. Some, such as Democraticlong shot Bill Richardson, want it thrown out altogether. Others, whilesaying they support the law, have promised changes in the same breath.

Republican Mitt Romney, an "ardent" supporter, vows to give more flexibilityto states posting high test scores. Mike Huckabee, winner of Iowa'sRepublican caucuses, has raised concerns about the way high-stakes testsassociated with the law are pushing out the arts.

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Heartbreak ahead for Hillary Clinton?

Obama and Edwards are making potent emotional arguments to voters. ButClinton, still stuck in a cocoon of caution, could pay in New Hampshire.

By Walter Shapiro
Jan. 07, 2008

Only a child would have the guileless innocence to ask Hillary Clinton -- acandidate who had just lost the Iowa caucuses and is imperiled in NewHampshire -- to name what she likes the best about campaigning. "I likemeeting people," the former first lady replied. "I like having a chance tolook at people's faces and think about their lives and how they live."

While there is always a risk of a fatigued reporter (namely me)over-analyzing campaign blather, Clinton's answer seemed to contain anintriguing nugget of honesty. It hinted at a novelistic approach to politicsas she tries to invent back stories to match the faces in the crowd. To mymind, Barack Obama, John Edwards and definitely Bill Clinton would look atvoters and wonder, "How can I win them over?" Hillary Clinton is admittingto a more curious and intellectualized response to people: "Who are theyreally?"

The child's question about campaigning came near the end of a marathon townmeeting here Sunday as the former first lady seemed determined to prove in asingle afternoon that she can be as accessible as New Hampshire fan favoriteJohn McCain. The implicit comparison here from nearly 90 minutes ofanswering voter questions -- and another 20 minutes devoted to a rare pressconference -- was that it is Obama who is running an imperial campaign.

Maybe it was the nothing-left-to-lose liberation that comes with dauntingpoll numbers. Two New Hampshire surveys released Sunday (CNN/WMUR and USAToday/Gallup) both showed Obama with a double-digit lead over Clinton inTuesday's primary. But Clinton seemed more relaxed and playful during thepress conference than at almost any other time in the campaign. When areporter asked obtusely whether there was any religious significance to across on her bracelet, she cracked, "Talk about the secular press." ThenChris Matthews, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball," posed a question on Iraq,which morphed into a plea for her to come on his show. Clinton's laughingresponse: "I never know what to do with men who are obsessed with me."

Asked about her "likability" during the press conference, Clinton respondedby declaring, "I am passionate about the work that I've done my entire life.I would not be running for office -- I would not be doing everything I canto make my case to become the next president -- if I was not passionatelycommitted to this country." Unlike Obama, who arouses passions, Clintontalks about her passion for the work of a president. Half the signs at theHillary rally in Nashua had a single word, "Ready."

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Boston Globe

Barack Obama jumps into the lead in New Hampshire

By Ellen Wulfhorst and Jason Szep
January 6, 2008

NASHUA, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Democrat Hillary Clinton battled to keepcrucial New Hampshire from swinging to rising rival Barack Obama on Sundaybut new polls showed him jumping into the lead.

In the hotly contested Republican race, Arizona Sen. John McCain leapedahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney even as Romney tried to raisedoubts about McCain.

Republican candidates engaged in a Fox News Channel debate on Sunday night.

Obama, an Illinois senator seeking to be the first black U.S. president,built on his victory in Iowa last week with a significant bounce in NewHampshire, which votes on Tuesday.

New Hampshire's primary is the next battleground in the state-by-stateprocess of choosing Republican and Democratic candidates for November'selection to replace President George W. Bush.

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Washington Post

Huckabee Steps Back Into the Pulpit at Evangelical Church in N.H.

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 7, 2008; A07

WINDHAM, N.H., Jan. 6 -- A pastor from Texas was scheduled to deliver thesermon Sunday at a church here called the Crossing.

But instead this small evangelical congregation heard from a differentspecial guest: Baptist minister and 2008 presidential candidate MikeHuckabee, who delivered a sermon of more than 20 minutes on how to be partof "God's Army" in the middle school cafeteria where the congregation meets.

"When we become believers, it's as if we have signed up to be part of God'sArmy, to be soldiers for Christ," Huckabee told the enthusiastic audience.

Days after winning the Iowa Republican caucus, where Christian conservativespowered him to victory, Huckabee now finds himself in a state without anextensive religious base. While more than 60 percent of GOP voters wereestimated to be evangelicals in the Iowa caucuses, they accounted for onlyabout one in five New Hampshire Republican voters in 2000, the last time thestate held a competitive GOP primary.

Huckabee's campaign did not allow cameras into the church, and the candidatedid not make an appeal for votes as part of his sermon. But a churchofficial invited members to attend an event a mile away, where Huckabee helda rally with actor Chuck Norris and where free clam chowder was served.

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