Tuesday, January 08, 2008


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Inside Higher Education


What They Saw in Arkansas

Jan. 8

On Mike Huckabee's campaign Web site, there's nary a mention of his plansfor higher education should he be elected president of the United States.The former governor of Arkansas has weathered some debate skirmishes overhis support for keeping the children of illegal immigrants eligible forin-state tuition and merit scholarships as long as they graduated from highschool there. Beyond that dispute - and his raised hand when a moderatorasked which Republican candidates didn't believe in evolution - scrutiny ofHuckabee's education record has remained mainly on his K-12 initiatives.

When former colleagues and education officials in Arkansas talk aboutHuckabee, though, they remember a governor who cared deeply about highereducation and who pushed for more research and better facilities, supportedjob training initiatives and emphasized the necessity of high-techinvestment for sustained economic growth.

Huckabee's accomplishments during two and a half terms leading a state withan overwhelmingly Democratic legislature have often placed him at odds withhis Republican opponents in the presidential debates, especially when he hasbeen forced to defend increases in spending that sometimes benefitedArkansas' public colleges and universities. Not all of his plans weresuccessful, however, and he didn't always initiate the higher educationreforms that were. Even when he disagreed with the Arkansas GeneralAssembly, he tended to support increasing public funds for highereducation - although it's not clear whether that was out of pragmaticnecessity or genuine conviction.

Now the former governor, fresh from a win in Iowa's Republican causes lastweek, is pursuing his primary campaign with the help of intense support fromvoters increasingly drawn to his unifying, casual style, an economicpopulism and religion-infused socially conservative views - despiteentrenched opposition within the party establishment. His rise, somepolitical analysts have observed, mirrors in more ways than one thetrajectory of another "education governor" from Hope, Ark., who wascatapaulted to the presidency: Bill Clinton.

One thing officials who worked with Huckabee agree on is his passion foreducation. In 2005, the University of Arkansas awarded the governor anhonorary doctorate of laws, citing his dedication to education policy. Amagna cum laude graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, in Arkadelphia -completing his degree in two and a half years - and later studying (but notearning a degree) at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in FortWorth, Tex., Huckabee went on as governor to chair the Education Commissionof the States from 2004 to 2006, working with officials from across thecountry to study trends and recommend policy.

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Inside Higher Education


Grant for Islamic Studies Put on Indefinite Hold

Jan. 8

In deciding to indefinitely delay accepting or declining a think tank'soffer to fund an endowed chair in Islamic studies, Temple Universityofficials determined that no decision would be made pending the completionof post-September 11 federal investigations of the Virginia-basedInternational Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) - a private, nonprofitinstitution "concerned with general issues of Islamic thought and education." The institute was the subject of a 2002 search warrant inconnection to a federal investigation of the financing of groups accused ofterrorist activities.

The university's inaction, however - which eventually led to the institutewithdrawing its $1.5 million offer in December with plans to resumenegotiations with other institutions - has spurred concerns about thechilling of intellectual inquiry in Islamic studies by mobilized interests.

"There were allegations from outside groups that we shouldn't be taking themoney from this organization," the religious studies department chair,Rebecca T. Alpert, told the Philadelphia Inquirer for an article on thesubject. A second professor of religious studies quoted in the article,Leonard Swidler, described pressure on Temple's president from "veryun-American ... Islamophobic persons on the board of trustees." (Alpert andSwidler could not be reached for comment.)

"You have to work hard to convince the university we're bad guys, butsomebody did it," Nancy Luque, a lawyer who represents the institute, saidin an interview with Inside Higher Ed. She added that the institute was notaware of the reasons for the delay in the university's decision-makingprocess until an Inquirer reporter contacted her after the institute decidedto withdraw its offer. "Time was passing. We had other opportunities andfinally we decided that we should just stop waiting and go elsewhere," Luquesaid, adding that the institute had been talking with several colleges inVirginia and one in Michigan.

"The next thing I know, I get this reporter calling me, telling me all ofthis is happening behind the scenes," she said.

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Forwarded from Susan Frishkorn


France best, U.S. worst in preventable death ranking

By Will DunhamTue Jan 8, 12:21 AM ET

France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in newrankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19leading industrialized nations, researchers said on Tuesday.

If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top threecountries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States peryear, according to researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs.

Researchers Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene andTropical Medicine tracked deaths that they deemed could have been preventedby access to timely and effective health care, and ranked nations on howthey did.

They called such deaths an important way to gauge the performance of acountry's health care system.

Nolte said the large number of Americans who lack any type of healthinsurance -- about 47 million people in a country of about 300 million,according to U.S. government estimates -- probably was a key factor in thepoor showing of the United States compared to other industrialized nationsin the study.

"I wouldn't say it (the last-place ranking) is a condemnation, because Ithink health care in the U.S. is pretty good if you have access. But if youdon't, I think that's the main problem, isn't it?" Nolte said in a telephoneinterview.

In establishing their rankings, the researchers considered deaths before age75 from numerous causes, including heart disease, stroke, certain cancers,diabetes, certain bacterial infections and complications of common surgicalprocedures.

Such deaths accounted for 23 percent of overall deaths in men and 32 percentof deaths in women, the researchers said.



New York Times


Two Hopefuls Share Little but Youth Appeal

January 8, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H. - It has the feel and look of a transformative moment, thistidal wave of young voters buoying the disparate campaigns of SenatorsBarack Obama and John McCain.

The shouts and wild applause, and willingness to knock on doors and work ontelephone banks late in the evening transformed the Iowa caucuses.

Even those working for politicians unlikely to draw power from this surgesay the youth vote could do the same on Tuesday in New Hampshire. AtDartmouth, which is back in session, professors predicted a 60 percentturnout on the campus in Hanover, a percentage that would far exceedprevious primaries.

In Iowa, young voters came out in strength, as did their elders. Fifty-sevenpercent of voters ages 17 to 24 said Mr. Obama was their first choice,compared with 14 percent for John Edwards and 10 percent for Senator HillaryRodham Clinton.

Far fewer young people voted in the Republican caucuses, and former Gov.Mike Huckabee of Arkansas scored highest, drawing well with evangelicalyouth.

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New York Times


On Eve of Primary, Clinton Campaign Shows Stress

January 8, 2008

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Key campaign officials may be replaced. She may startcalling herself the underdog. Donors would receive pleas that it isdo-or-die time. And her political strategy could begin mirroring that ofRudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican rival, by focusing on populous states likeCalifornia and New York whose primaries are Feb. 5.

Everything is on the table inside Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaignif she loses the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, her advisers say -including her style of campaigning, which shifted dramatically on Mondaywhen Mrs. Clinton bared her thoughts about the race's impact on herpersonally, and her eyes welled with tears.

"I couldn't do it if I just didn't passionately believe it was the rightthing to do," she said here in reply to a question from an undecided voter,a woman roughly Mrs. Clinton's age.

Her eyes visibly wet, in perhaps the most public display of emotion of heryear-old campaign, Mrs. Clinton added: "I have so many opportunities fromthis country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards. This is verypersonal for me - it's not just political, it's not just public."

Mrs. Clinton did not cry, but her quavering voice and the flash of feelingunderscored the pressure, fatigue, anger and disappointment that, adviserssay, Mrs. Clinton has experienced since her loss on Thursday in the Iowacaucuses and that she continues to shoulder at this most critical moment.

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New York Times


Edwards Starts Primary Day Feeling Good

By Michael Falcone
January 8, 2008, 9:33 am

MANCHESTER, N.H. - John Edwards's "Main Street Express" bus pulled up to apolling place downtown just after 8 a.m. on voting day here and the senatoremerged grinning and chipper with his wife, Elizabeth, at his side.

"I feel good," he said, later adding, "as good as you can be after workingnonstop."

In place to greet Mr. Edwards, who just completed a marathon 36-hourcampaign blitz across the state, were several dozen of his supportersholding up signs and chanting, "John Edwards in '08" (to which a handful ofHillary Rodham Clinton's backers mixed in the crowd replied, "too late!").

Though the latest polls have Mr. Edwards in third place in New Hampshire,behind Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Edwards wasshowing some last minute confidence.

"Independent voters in New Hampshire are looking for someone like me," he

Diane Swasey, 74, sidled up to Mr. Edwards and offered some encouragement."You're going to do it," she told him.

Mrs. Swasey, who has been volunteering on political campaigns in NewHampshire for 34 years, said she was especially attracted to Mr. Edwards'scandidacy because of his positions on the environment.

"I think the Democrats are going to take over the White House this year,"she said. "I just hope it's John."


New York Times


Sarkozy Suggests Wedding Is Near

January 9, 2008

PARIS - It's all but official: President Nicolas Sarkozy of France willmarry the Italian singer Carla Bruni after a whirlwind romance that has seenthe couple courting publicly against a series of backdrops that has includedDisneyland Paris and Middle Eastern ruins.

At a news conference in Paris on Tuesday, Mr. Sarkozy spent 45 minutesoutlining his long-term vision for France. But it was the very short-termthat journalists were interested in after the Sunday newspaper Journal duDimanche, or JDD, had announced that the 52-year-old president - who onlydivorced three months ago - could wed the glamorous 40-year-old former modelas soon as Feb. 9.

"You've understood," a beaming Mr. Sarkozy told a packed auditorium, withoutdivulging a date. "It's serious. But the JDD will not fix the date. There isa strong chance that you will learn about it when it has already happened."

Their love story has intrigued a nation accustomed to heads of state thatkeep their private lives, well, private.

Magazines have carried glossy spreads about the couple's excursions to Luxorin Egypt and Petra in Jordan. For weeks, images of the president in bluejeans and a smiling Ms. Bruni in large black sunglasses have adorned covers.Some commentators observed the striking resemblance between Ms. Bruni, thedaughter of an Italian tire magnate, and Mr. Sarkozy's ex-wife, Cecilia.

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New York Times


Op-Ed Columnist: Striding Past the Cynics

Derry, N.H.
January 8, 2008

Some of the people who showed up early to stand in the long line outside thefield house of the Pinkerton Academy would end up waiting more than threehours to see the candidate. Barack Obama was running late, held back by hugeand enthusiastic crowds at earlier events. Even people who were not planningto vote for him wanted to see him.

When he finally arrived and took the stage, Mr. Obama told the audience, toboisterous cheers: "There's something going on out there. Something'sstirring in the wind."

The past week has been a bad one for cynics. For all the criticism of thepresidential election process - that it lasts too long, that the Iowacaucuses and New Hampshire primary have too much influence, that the newsmedia's coverage is too much about the horse race, and so on - for all that,the early stages of this presidential race have been both compelling andheartening.

Voters are excited about this election. They have trudged through snow andfrigid air in enormous numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire to see and hear andquestion the candidates. And most of the candidates are working incrediblyhard, fighting their way through exhaustion to attend the next rally or townhall meeting or community breakfast or debate.

What is being fashioned in this process is nothing less than the face ofearly 21st century America.

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New York Times


Editorial: Progress on Guns

January 8, 2008

It took too many years and too many deaths to persuade Congress to act, butPresident Bush is expected to sign into law today a measure that will makeit harder for people with a history of dangerous mental illness to purchasefirearms. That is good news, but there is more work to be done.

The new law - the product of a rare partnership between gun controladvocates and the National Rifle Association - addresses a glaring problem.Millions of criminal and mental health records are missing from the NationalInstant Criminal Background Check System used to screen gun purchasers andblock sales to people who are disqualified by law from buying guns. The billprovides new financial incentives for states and localities to improve theirspotty record-keeping and to share all pertinent information with thefederal data system.

This important step forward owes much to the efforts of two New YorkDemocrats: Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Carolyn McCarthy. Theyfirst tried to pass the measure in 2002, after a gunman, whose mentalhistory should have blocked his purchase of a .22-caliber semiautomaticrifle, walked into a Long Island church and gunned down a priest and aparishioner.

That tragic crime was not enough to prod Congress to act, but last year'smassacre at Virginia Tech was. The fact that the Virginia Tech shooter wasallowed to buy semiautomatic pistols and high-capacity ammunition magazines,even though a court had found him to be dangerously mentally ill, sparkedpublic outrage. It also put pressure on the N.R.A. to work with gun controlproponents on legislation to plug the big gap in the background check systemthat helped pave the way for the deadly attack.

Having taken this much-needed step, the gun lobby should now join with guncontrol advocates to close another dangerous loophole: the one that permitsnonlicensed dealers to sell firearms at gun shows without conducting anybackground check whatsoever. There is no principled reason gun show salesshould be exempt, and the loophole poses a serious threat to public safety.

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New York Times


Editorial: A Good Example for Fighting Tobacco

January 8, 2008

The vast majority of all smokers had their first cigarette before the age of18. That's why the key to reducing overall tobacco use is to prevent it inthe young. The task is daunting. Almost a quarter of high school studentsnationwide currently smoke. There's ample reason for hope when one looks atNew York City. Smoking among public high school students there dropped from17.6 percent in 2001 to 8.5 percent in 2007 - a rate that is far below thenational average.

Experts attribute the reduction to a comprehensive approach that includedraising the combined state-city cigarette tax to $3 a pack - one of thehighest in the nation - restricting public smoking, backing an aggressiveanti-tobacco media campaign, cracking down on vendors who sell to minors andpaying for smoking prevention and cessation programs. The results werestunning: just 20,000 public high school students out of the city'squarter-million smoked last year.

Connecticut, which has one of the nation's best records in curbing adultsmoking, is lagging far behind when it comes to youngsters. Officials saythey are proud that the percentage of Connecticut's 176,000 public highschool students who smoke dropped by a third between 2000 and 2005, from25.6 percent to 17 percent. The state restricts public smoking and levies acigarette tax of $2 per pack. A more vigorous campaign could surely havedone more to reduce students' smoking.

Connecticut has for years been content with a scatter-shot approach,spreading dollars for prevention and treatment among several statedepartments with little coordination or leadership. It spends little ornothing on a publicity campaign to discourage smoking. An advocacy grouprecently ranked Connecticut last among the states in using money from a 1998ettlement with tobacco companies to fund tobacco prevention programs.

Unfortunately, Connecticut's approach is common among the states, which toooften use the settlement money for purposes other than smoking prevention.Connecticut will receive $140 million this year as part of its annual shareof that settlement, yet it plans to devote a mere $3 million to fighttobacco use. New York City has shown that a strong anti-smoking campaign canchange habits and save lives on a broad scale. Connecticut, and all states,should follow the city's example.


New York Times


Justices Chilly to Bid to Alter Death Penalty

January 8, 2008

WASHINGTON - With conservative justices questioning their motives andliberal justices questioning their evidence, opponents of the Americanmanner of capital punishment made little headway Monday in their effort topersuade the Supreme Court that the Constitution requires states to changethe way they carry out executions by lethal injection.

Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the lawyer for two inmates on Kentucky's death rowwho are facing execution by the commonly used three-chemical protocol,conceded that theoretically his clients would have no case if the firstdrug, a barbiturate used for anesthesia, could be guaranteed to workperfectly by inducing deep unconsciousness.

But as a practical matter, Mr. Verrilli went on to say, systemic flaws inKentucky's procedures mean that there can be no such guarantee, and thestate's refusal to take reasonable steps to avoid the foreseeable risk of"torturous, excruciating pain" makes its use of the three-drug procedureunconstitutional.

It was here that Mr. Verrilli met resistance from both sides of the court,and the closely watched case appeared to founder in this gap between theoryand practice.

Of the 36 states with the death penalty, all but Nebraska, which still usesonly the electric chair, specify the same three-drug sequence for lethalinjections. The second drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyzes the muscles withsuffocating effect. The third, potassium chloride, stops the heart andbrings about death, but not before causing searing pain if the anesthesiadoes not work as intended. The paralyzing effect of the second drug givesthe inmate a peaceful appearance and, even if he is in great pain because ofinadequacy of the anesthesia, renders him unable to communicate that fact.

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New York Times


Obama's Surge Deflates Forum and Talk of a Bloomberg Run

January 8, 2008

NORMAN, Okla. - He arrived here for what seemed like it could be a bigmoment. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, eyeing a third-party presidential bid,joined Republican and Democratic elders at a forum to denounce the extremepartisanship of Washington and plot how to influence the campaign.

But even as the mayor gathered on Monday with the seasoned Washington handson the campus of the University of Oklahoma, the surging presidentialcampaign of Senator Barack Obama seemed to steal energy from the event andset off worry elsewhere among Mr. Bloomberg's supporters.

Mr. Obama has stressed that he wants to move beyond gridlocked politics andusher in an era of national unity. A key organizer of the effort to draftMr. Bloomberg for a presidential run acknowledged in an interview on Mondaythat that Mr. Obama's rise could be problematic.

"Obama is trying to reach out to independent voters, and that clearly wouldbe the constituency that Mike Bloomberg would go after," said Andrew MacRae,who heads the Washington chapter of Draft Mike Bloomberg for President 2008."An Obama victory does not make it impossible, but it certainly makes itmore difficult."

The event was organized by former Senator Sam Nunn, Democrat of Georgia,with former Senator David L. Boren, Democrat of Oklahoma. In the daysleading up the event here, just outside Oklahoma City, Mr. Boren suggestedthat he would encourage Mr. Bloomberg to run if the major party nomineesfailed to heed the call for bipartisanship.

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New York Times


Clinton Goes Face to Face With the Public as Obama Plays Not to Lose

January 8, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has become the open andaccessible candidate - sharing beers with reporters, taking endlessquestions from voters at campaign events and showing rare glimpses ofemotion.

Senator Barack Obama, meantime, has been cautious, guarded and strenuouslyon message - Clinton-like, in other words, at least Clinton-like until a fewweeks ago.

As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has turned upsidedown, at least at its top rungs, so have Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama'sapproaches of exposing themselves to public view and questioning.

In Mrs. Clinton's case, a pivot point came the Friday before Christmas, whenMr. Obama was coming on strong and her likability was being questioned. Shedid something rare for her - she sat down at a hotel bar in Manchester withabout 20 reporters.

Because of the ground rules, her comments could not be reported. But she wasfunny, candid and apparently comfortable, and the mere fact that theconversation occurred was a prelude: She has become more accessible andpersonable as she has become less of a sure bet.

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New York Times


In Greenland, Ice and Instability

January 8, 2008

The ancient frozen dome cloaking Greenland is so vast that pilots havecrashed into what they thought was a cloud bank spanning the horizon. Flyingover it, you can scarcely imagine that this ice could erode fast enough todangerously raise sea levels any time soon.

Along the flanks in spring and summer, however, the picture is verydifferent. For a lengthening string of warm years, a lacework of blue lakesand rivulets of meltwater have been spreading ever higher on the ice cap.The melting surface darkens, absorbing up to four times as much energy fromthe sun as unmelted snow, which reflects sunlight. Natural drainpipes calledmoulins carry water from the surface into the depths, in some placesreaching bedrock. The process slightly, but measurably, lubricates andaccelerates the grinding passage of ice toward the sea.

Most important, many glaciologists say, is the breakup of huge semisubmergedclots of ice where some large Greenland glaciers, particularly along thewest coast, squeeze through fjords as they meet the warming ocean. As thesepassages have cleared, this has sharply accelerated the flow of many ofthese creeping, corrugated, frozen rivers.

All of these changes have many glaciologists "a little nervous these days -shell-shocked," said Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snowand Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., and a veteran of both Greenland andAntarctic studies.

Some fear that the rise in seas in a warming world could be much greaterthan the upper estimate of about two feet in this century made by theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year. (Seas rose less than afoot in the 20th century.) The panel's assessment did not include factorsknown to contribute to ice flows but not understood well enough to estimatewith confidence. All the panel could say was, "Larger values cannot beexcluded."

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New York Times


Second Opinion: For Cancer Patients, Empathy Goes a Long Way

January 8, 2008

Four years ago, my sister found out she had two types of cancer at the sametime. It was like being hit by lightning - twice.

She needed chemotherapy and radiation, a huge operation, more chemotherapyand then a smaller operation. All in all, the treatment took about a year.Thin to begin with, she lost 30 pounds. The chemo caused cracks in herfingers, dry eyes, anemia and mouth sores so painful they kept her awake atnight. A lot of her hair fell out. The radiation burned her skin. Bony,red-eyed, weak and frightfully pale, she tied scarves on her head, plasteredher fingers with Band-Aids and somehow toughed it out.

She saw two doctors quite often. The radiation oncologist would sling herarm around my sister's frail shoulders and walk her down the corridor as ifthey were old friends. The medical oncologist kept a close watch on the sideeffects, suggested remedies, reminded my sister she had good odds of beatingthe cancer and reassured her that the hair would grow back. (It did.)

People in my family aren't huggy-kissy types, but my sister greatlyappreciated the warmth and concern of those two women. She trusted themcompletely, and their advice. Now healthy, she says their compassion playeda big part in helping her get through a difficult and frightening time.

Research supports the idea that a few kind words from an oncologist - whatused to be called bedside manner - can go a long way toward helping peoplewith cancer understand their treatment, stick with it, cope better and maybeeven fare better medically.

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Washington Post


Why I Still Back Hillary Clinton

By Robert Farmer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; A19

Early last year John Kerry called me to say he was not going to run forpresident in 2008. I had served as his national treasurer in 2004 and wasamong those who felt he should consider running again. He would have made agreat president. But it is almost impossible to overcome $450 million innegative advertising.

After we hung up, I needed to make a tough decision. I have served as thenational treasurer of four Democratic presidential campaigns. I have seenour presidential politics up close for many years, and I understand wellwhat is at stake.

The Democratic field this year has been rich, and I believe any of theDemocratic candidates would be a superior president to the one we have now.For part of this campaign I supported Sen. Barack Obama. But I have come torealize that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate.

I did not reach this conclusion easily, although I have a long history withthe Clintons. I served as national treasurer of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaignand subsequently served in his administration. The Clintons have been guestsin my home, and I have been their guest at the White House. Hillary Clintonis an extraordinary woman and a great intellect. When I was going throughpersonal difficulties, she could not have been more supportive orcompassionate.

But as I weighed which candidate to support, I tried to think broadly. Pollsof the Iowa caucusgoers in 2004 had reported that the single most importantfactor in their decision was electability.

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Washington Post


A Candidacy's Prose and Cons

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; A19

CONCORD, N.H. -- Hillary Clinton may have unintentionally written theobituary for the Iowa and New Hampshire phase of her presidential campaign,and perhaps her candidacy, when she told voters on Sunday: "You campaign inpoetry, but you govern in prose."

Clinton has not heeded her own lesson. She is campaigning in prose and hasleft the poetry to Barack Obama. She has answers to hard policy questions,but he has the one answer that voters are hungering for: He offers himselfas the vehicle for creating a new political movement that will break thecountry out of a sour, reactionary political era.

The most telling laugh line in Obama's stump speech is his description ofthe dreadful charge his opponents make against him. "Obama's talking abouthope again," the candidate says, mimicking his foes. Then his tenor drops toa low, conspiratorial pitch: "He's a hope monger." His audiences roar.

There is a certain melancholy in watching Clinton do battle. Obviously awarethat the bottom is falling out from under her, she choked up Monday duringher last day of campaigning here. By way of proving her tenacity and thedepth of her policy knowledge, she has subjected herself to unremittingrounds of questions from voters about every issue from health care to globalwarming.

Clinton knows her stuff and would pass the most rigorous test availableunder any "No Policy Left Behind" program for politicians. If we chose apresident by examination rather than election, she would win. In Hampton onSunday night, Maggie Wood Hassan, a prominent state senator, said ofClinton's savvy on health care: "There isn't a single piece of the puzzleshe hasn't figured out." True, but voters right now are not thinking aboutintricate puzzles.

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Washington Post


The Color Of an Advantage

By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; A19

WARSAW -- "Will Americans vote for a black man for president?"

If I had a 10-euro bill for every time some incredulous foreigner asked methat question in the past week, I'd be a very rich person, particularlygiven the current exchange rate.

I never had a proper answer prepared -- I don't have a crystal ball, afterall, and the polls change every day. But it hardly mattered, since anymildly positive reply wasn't believed. Surely, I told one Britishacquaintance, the Iowa caucus vote is evidence that at least some Americanswill vote for a black man for president. He disagreed, citing theatypicality of Iowa. After all, "there are plenty of states where you hardlysee any black faces at all." Alas, he seemed to have forgotten -- or perhapsnever knew -- that Iowa is one of them.

One can laugh off these British prejudices, of course -- but they got mewondering how many of them we Americans share. All of us have grownaccustomed to the idea that darker skin is a crippling liability in anational election. But right now, at this admittedly odd historical moment,isn't it actually an enormous advantage?

To see what I mean, back up and focus (again) on who is in the White House,how he got there and who wants to replace him. In case you'd forgotten thatGeorge W. Bush is the scion of an American political dynasty, or thatHillary Clinton is married to a former U.S. president, let me remind you.And let me remind you also that at many points in the past, these sorts ofconnections would have been advantages.

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Washington Post


Mr. Romney vs. Mr. Romney
On immigration, the candidate is tying himself into knots while proposing noreal solutions.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008; A18

MITT ROMNEY, struggling to revive his floundering candidacy and to stiff-arma surging Sen. John McCain in New Hampshire's Republican presidentialprimary, has pushed his plan for dealing with illegal immigration to centerstage. Unfortunately, it is no plan at all. That has become clear in recentdays, and particularly at the GOP candidates' debate Saturday, when Mr.Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, contradicted himself repeatedly,as well as his own TV advertisements, while stumbling in rhetoricalfigure-eights around the immigration debate.

Mounting his attack on Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney has blanketed New Hampshiretelevision stations with ads deriding as "amnesty" the senator's plan toprovide an eventual pathway to legalization for America's 12 millionundocumented immigrants -- the same plan he once called "reasonable." But inthe debate Saturday, Mr. Romney twice said the McCain plan is not"technically" amnesty because it would sock undocumented immigrants with a$5,000 penalty if they wanted to remain in the country. He also denied thathis own ads describe McCain's program as an "amnesty," which in fact theydo. He then managed to double back on himself by asserting that "mostpeople" would consider the McCain plan an amnesty.

In fact, Mr. Romney's approach is name-calling masquerading as policydebate. For as he made clear, he has not formulated a coherent approach todealing with a central fact of the immigration problem: the 12 millionundocumented foreigners already here. Challenging Mr. McCain on the 12million, he asked: "Are they sent home? Are they sent home?" But minuteslater, when Mr. Romney was asked by Charlie Gibson of ABC News whether itwould really be practical to sweep up 12 million people and send them home,he answered with another couplet, this one more honest: "The answer is no.The answer is no."

Almost a quarter of the verbiage in the Republican debate Saturday wasdevoted to illegal immigration, which is saying something. But for the mostpart, Mr. Romney and his rivals are really saying something about only halfthe problem -- the prospective part. They tend to agree on tightening theborder and cracking down on employers. But they skirt dealing with the 12million, and with the economy's future demand for several hundred thousandmore low-skilled workers annually, while suggesting that those already herecan be hounded, harassed and wished away.

The facts are these: Twelve million illegal immigrants will not disappear,no matter what measures are taken at the border; 40 percent of them enteredthe country legally and overstayed their visas. Five percent of the Americanworkforce is now undocumented. In certain sectors of the economy --services, construction and especially agriculture -- they represent an evenhigher proportion of workers. Many of them are experienced and longtimeemployees; many pay taxes; some are in managerial positions; some havechildren who were born here and so are citizens. Screaming the word"amnesty" will not change any of that.


Washington Post


Decision Time in Burma

By R. Nicholas Burns
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; A19

Three months have passed since the world called on Burma's dictators, Gens.Than Shwe and Maung Aye, to end their brutal crackdown on tens of thousandsof peaceful monks and other demonstrators and begin a genuine dialogue withBurma's democratic and ethnic minority leaders -- with the goal of atransition to democracy. The time has come for them to act.

With the strong backing of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. special adviserIbrahim Gambari has made two trips to Burma since the crackdown to try tofacilitate a dialogue. Through him, democratic leader and Nobel Peacelaureate Aung San Suu Kyi has reaffirmed her willingness to participate in a"meaningful and time-bound" dialogue to be joined by representatives of thecountry's ethnic minority groups.

This is a rare opportunity to help put Burma on the path to democraticcivilian rule and to greater stability and prosperity. But while the regimeinitially made a few unremarkable gestures, such as appointing an officialto interact with Aung San Suu Kyi and allowing her to meet once with a fewdemocratic colleagues, it has since halted even this hint of progress and,in fact, has moved backward.

It has continued to arrest activists and harass Buddhist monks, recentlyclosing a monastery that served as an AIDS hospice. Aung San Suu Kyi remainsunder house arrest, and the junta has refused her request to have twocolleagues serve as liaisons to the government. On Dec. 3, senior regimeofficials delivered their harshest comments yet, rejecting any role for theopposition in drafting the constitution, blaming Aung San Suu Kyi for thelack of progress on a dialogue and describing the September demonstrationsit suppressed as "trivial."

The United States does not regard such violence and the beating, detentionand reported torture of peaceful protesters, including monks, as trivial. Asfirst lady Laura Bush has said, "it seems the generals are indifferent tothe Burmese people's suffering, but the rest of the world is not."

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Washington Post


While Candidates Decry Lobbying, Ex-Lawmakers Embrace It

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; A17

Both winners of the Iowa caucuses sneer at lobbyists whenever they get thechance.

Democrat Barack Obama says he will severely restrict any former lobbyists inhis White House, and Republican Mike Huckabee rejects an attack on histax-cut proposal merely on the grounds that the criticism was devised bylobbyists.

But Washington is not cowed. On the contrary, lawmakers have been jumping toK Street at a dizzying pace, sometimes even before their terms are up.

The reason: No matter who wins in November, and regardless of the victor'sview of "special interests," demand for lobbyists will be huge. Changealways increases legislative activity and, therefore, lobbying activity, andgovernment officials do not want to miss the gravy train.

Last week, former senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) made it official that he isgoing into the lobbying business with former senator John Breaux (D-La.).Not only is Lott the first senator to resign his seat to become a lobbyist,he is also making the transition a family affair. Lott and Breaux will bejoined by their two sons in the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group.

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Washington Post


Writers' Strike Forces the Golden Globe Awards to Roll Up This Year's RedCarpet

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; C07

At the end of a day in which the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBCscrambled to find a way to salvage the broadcast of the annual Golden GlobeAwards, the HFPA issued a statement saying the trophy show had been canceledand winners would be announced Sunday night in a one-hour news conference tobe covered live by NBC.

The network will lose out on a lot of ads it had sold for the three-hourtrophy show telecast. On the other hand, it no longer owes the HFPA the $5million or so fee for broadcast rights.

"We are all very disappointed that our traditional awards ceremony will nottake place this year and that millions of viewers worldwide will be deprivedof seeing many of their favorite stars celebrating 2007's outstandingachievements in motion pictures and television," HFPA President Jorge Camarasaid in the statement.

"We take some comfort, however, in knowing that this year's Golden GlobeAward recipients will be announced on the date originally scheduled."

NBC had been working on a plan to turn the Globes broadcast from the orgy ofexcess brought to you by Dick Clark Productions into a "news conference" --covered exclusively by NBC News -- in which actors and directors pick uptheir trophies.

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Washington Post


Medicare Helps Push Drug Spending Up
With New Benefit, Prescription Purchases Increased in 2006, Study Shows

By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 8, 2008; A03

Spending on prescription drugs rose briskly in 2006 as the Medicare drugbenefit kicked in and the government's share of expenditures for medicinessurged, according to a federal study to be released today. Overall,health-care spending in the United States continued its climb, rising 6.7percent in 2006 to reach $2.1 trillion, or $7,026 per person. The 6.5percent increase in 2005 was the smallest jump since 1999.

Health-care spending accounted for 16 percent of the gross domestic productin 2006.

Prescription drug purchases in the United States rose to $216.7 billion, up8.5 percent from 2005, federal economists from the Centers for Medicare andMedicaid Services calculated in an annual report published in the journalHealth Affairs.

Of that, more than a third, or 34 percent, was paid for by public-sectorsources including Medicare and Medicaid, the Departments of Defense andVeterans Affairs, and state and local hospital subsidies, the report found.In 2005, the year before the Medicare drug benefit took effect, thegovernment accounted for 24 percent of drug purchases.

The primary driver of the higher drug spending was increased consumption,not price increases, the economists said. The $41 billion spent onMedicare's drug benefit, known as Part D, helped boost overall Medicarespending to $401.3 billion in 2006, up from $338 billion the year before.

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Miami Herald


Dangerous time for Middle East visit

Posted on Tue, Jan. 08, 2008

Last Thursday, Israeli and Palestinian forces engaged in some of theheaviest fighting in the region in months, with militants in Gaza firing arocket made in Iran into an Israeli coastal city. Israel said it was thefirst time that type of rocket had been used and called it an escalation interrorism. On Sunday, Iranian boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navyships in the Strait of Hormuz, threatening to explode the vessels, U.S.officials said. Welcome to the Middle East, President Bush.

First Bush visit

The president arrives in the region on Wednesday to begin an extended tripthat includes his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Itis not clear what he hopes to accomplish, but as the above sequence ofevents shows, there is little reason to be hopeful about improving thechances for peace. Outsiders in the Middle East haven't had much success aspeacemakers except when the belligerent parties are ready for it, and thepresent moment seems particularly unfavorable.

Mr. Bush will be greeted as a friend in Israel, but his influence in theregion is waning. It is late in his tenure to spark new movement in theIsraeli/Palestinian process. Mr. Bush is not a popular figure in the Arabworld, which complicates peacemaking efforts. He brought the partiestogether at the summit in Annapolis in November, but there has been littlefollow-through.

The blame for ongoing violence, however, falls on the militants themselvesand those who thrive in an atmosphere of chaos. The Hamas terrorists in Gazahave used their electoral victory of January 2006 to intensify the fightagainst Israel. They have tested Israel's patience to the maximum and doneeverything in their power to deepen divisions and hatreds, even amongPalestinian factions.

Most dangerous, however, is the pernicious role of Iran, which is using itsproxies, money and weapons to stir up trouble throughout the region. Thegrowing influence of Iran, indeed, presents Mr. Bush with his bestopportunity to make a positive impact. In the past, Arab governments havebeen unwilling to pressure movements like Hamas and Hezbollah to reduceviolence against Israel and moderate governments like the one in Lebanon.Now that these parties have become pawns of Shiite Iran, the danger to SunniArab governments and countries friendly with the United States is clear.



Boston Globe


NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: Backers say Obama can regain world's respect for US

By Peter S. Canellos, Globe Columnist | January 8, 2008

CONCORD, N.H. - Ever since 2004, when Democrats barely mentioned America'sdeclining popularity in the world, the conventional wisdom in Washington hasbeen that US voters don't really care what people in other countries thinkof them. It may have been sound politics in a country that remained in apost-9/11 defensive crouch, but much has changed over the last four years.Now, restoring America's esteem in the world is a prime motivation of voterssupporting Barack Obama for president.

To most appearances, the Iraq war has faded as a political issue, with allthe major presidential candidates in each party agreeing on a strategy -withdrawal for the Democrats, maintaining the gains of the troop "surge" forthe Republicans.

But even as candidates discuss healthcare and energy independence and globalwarming, the war looms behind every position. It is the money that would payfor healthcare, the reason to reduce dependence on foreign oil, and thegreatest illustration of the Bush administration's unilateral approach toforeign policy that some blame for US inaction on global warming.

And ending those unilateral policies is the most visible reason that votersare flocking to Obama's promise of a new era in politics: Democrats arehungering for Obama as an international symbol of change.

"The day I'm inaugurated, America will look at itself differently, and theworld will look at America differently," Obama has said.

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Detroit News


Laura Berman: Commentary
Choices not easy for Mich. voters in Dem primary

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Next Tuesday, Michigan voters can help decide the Republican Party's nomineefor president. But Democrats who haven't signed a Hillary Clinton loyaltyoath face a small, but baffling, array of decisions to make.

Non-procrastinating absentee voters are stinging from insults -- write-invotes that won't be counted and the withdrawal of candidates since, from JoeBiden to Christopher Dodd.

The Democratic primary ballot doesn't include the names of Barack Obama orJohn Edwards. Besides Hillary Clinton, the only candidates still in the racehere are Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Oh -- and the much-touted finaloption, Uncommitted.

Michigan Democrats are, momentarily, the persona non grata of the Americanelectorate: Instead of being wooed and seduced like Iowans or New Hampshirefolk, they're being studiously ignored. For now at least, half the state ofMichigan is in political quarantine, the virtual equivalent of Do Not Call.

For Hillary Clinton supporters, like Bea Sacks of Huntington Woods, theelection's a no-brainer. "If they like Hillary, as I do, it's fine. But alot of people are very upset," says Sacks, a longtime Democratic organizer.

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Houston Chronicle


CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK: Clinton brushes off sexist taunts

Jan. 8, 2008, 1:38AM

SALEM, N.H. - Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign stop was interrupted Mondaywhen two men stood in the crowd and began screaming, "Iron my shirt!" duringone of her final appearances before the New Hampshire primary.

Clinton laughed at the seemingly sexist protest that suggested a woman'splace is doing the laundry and not running the country.

"Ah, the remnants of sexism - alive and well," Clinton said to applause in aschool auditorium.

The two men were removed from the hall by police.

Clinton later joked about the incident as she invited questions. "If there'sanyone left in the auditorium who wants to learn how to iron a shirt, I'lltalk about that," she said with a smile.


USA Today


Obama successful, so far, in transcending racial divide

By DeWayne Wickham

From the moment it became clear that Barack Obama had come out on top lastweek in Iowa's Democratic caucuses, pundits droned on non-stop about theimpact the Illinois senator's historic victory might have on today'spresidential primary in New Hampshire.

That's understandable. Political pundits seldom peer beyond the horizon ofthe next election event.

But while a victory today might give us a strong indication of what's tocome in Obama's quest to become the Democratic Party's standard-bearer, itcould tell us much more about where our nation is headed in the years tocome.

Forty years ago, in the throes of another presidential election campaign, acommission created to investigate the causes of the rash of racialdisturbances that racked this nation in the 1960s issued a chilling warning.We were becoming "two societies, one black, one white - separate andunequal," the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders said.

And in far too many ways, this nation slipped into that abyss. Over the pastfour decades, race increasingly became the fault line that determined wherepeople chose to live, which schools they'd send their children to, whatlevel of unemployment they'd likely face and their odds of ending up in oneof this nation's prisons and jails.

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