Monday, April 21, 2008

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS April 20, 2008

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New York Times
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-Giuliani Breaks Rules By Having Communion At Papal Mass
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twice-divorced former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took Communion at a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Saturday, breaching rules that bar those who remarry outside the Church from doing so. As he left New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral with his third wife, Judith, the failed presidential candidate confirmed to Reuters that he took Communion from a priest. Asked if he was uncomfortable with having broken the Church ban on the divorced and remarried taking Communion, Giuliani said, "No."

-The Torture Sessions
Ever since Americans learned that American soldiers and intelligence agents were torturing prisoners, there has been a disturbing question: How high up did the decision go to ignore United States law, international treaties, the Geneva Conventions and basic morality? The answer, we have learned recently, is that - with President Bush's clear knowledge and support - some of the very highest officials in the land not only approved the abuse of prisoners, but participated in the detailed planning of harsh interrogations and helped to create a legal structure to shield from justice those who followed the orders. We have long known that the Justice Department tortured the law to give its Orwellian blessing to torturing people, and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a list of ways to abuse prisoners. But recent accounts by ABC News and The Associated Press said that all of the president's top national security advisers at the time participated in creating the interrogation policy: Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Rumsfeld; Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; Colin Powell, the secretary of state;
John Ashcroft, the attorney general; and George Tenet, the director of central intelligence. These officials did not have the time or the foresight to plan for the afte

-Senator McCain Digs In
John McCain needs to come up with a plan that shows how he would govern without adding to the fiscal damage of the past eight years.

-Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded "the gulag of our times" by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.
The administration's communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo. To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as "military analysts" whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world. Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

-Clintons Sort Friends: Past and Present
WASHINGTON - Nancy Larson's most difficult conversation was, by far, the one with Chelsea Clinton.
"It was just heartbreaking," said Mrs. Larson, a Democratic National Committee member from Minnesota and, more to the point, a superdelegate who had initially pledged herself to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. This was last Saturday, after the former first daughter learned that Mrs. Larson would be shifting her allegiance to Senator Barack Obama. "She is a delightful young woman who loves her mother very much," Mrs. Larson said.
"She was really pushing me. She kept asking me why I was doing this. She just kept asking, 'Why? Why?' "
It is a question many in the Clinton camp are asking these days, sometimes in conversations far less civil than that one. After nearly two decades building relationships with a generation of Democrats, Mrs. Clinton has recently suffered a steady erosion of support for her presidential campaign from the party stalwarts who once formed the basis of her perceived juggernaut of "inevitability."

-U.S. Commanders Seeking to Widen Pakistan Attacks
WASHINGTON - American commanders in Afghanistan have in recent months urged a widening of the war that could include American attacks on indigenous Pakistani militants in the tribal areas inside Pakistan, according to United States officials. The requests have been rebuffed for now, the officials said, after deliberations in Washington among senior Bush administration officials who fear that attacking Pakistani radicals may anger Pakistan's new government, which is negotiating with the militants, and destabilize an already fragile security situation. American commanders would prefer that Pakistani forces attack the militants, but Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas have slowed recently to avoid upsetting the negotiations.

Washington Post
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-An Olympic Force for Change
A rash of protests disrupted the Olympic torch relays in San Francisco, Paris and London. Hu Jia, a Chinese activist, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison this month for "inciting subversion" of Communist Party rule. The central government continues to crack down on unrest in Tibet. What was to be a triumphant medal count for China is quickly becoming a tally of its human rights abuses. It looks as if the Olympics are doing little to change China, and China is doing a lot to change the Olympics. But the Chinese government is one thing; 1.3 billion Chinese people are another. It is important not to conflate China with the Chinese government. The Olympics have stirred an enormous outpouring of nationalism within China and among Chinese abroad. We should not dismiss Chinese nationalism as part and parcel of the Communist machine. Nationalism has forged civic engagement, cutting across groups normally divided by age, class and geography. This engagement leads to greater awareness of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Far from legitimizing an authoritarian regime, the Olympics foster the kind of nationalism that will help the Chinese carve out a civil society, which may be the best antidote.

-Democrats' Damaging Brawl
As a rule, presidential elections are not won or lost by what happens in April. But last week, more and more Democratic officeholders and strategists were worrying out loud about the possibility that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are running themselves into trouble with their unending battle for the nomination. The negativity of the campaigning for Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary is spotlighting issues that can easily be exploited in the general election by Republican John McCain. And the increasingly personal tone of the Clinton-Obama exchanges is draining some of the enthusiasm from Democrats, who have believed for many months that 2008 would be their year for victory. Even so, according to this month's Post-ABC News poll, there is still no strong demand from grass-roots Democrats for the two senators to end their battle and turn to the challenge posed by McCain. By a margin of 53 percent to 41 percent, those surveyed said that it is more important that their favorite candidate win, even if the race goes into the summer, than that the race end as soon as possible.

-Thanking Our GIs
Better benefits, including a college education, would reward troops and entice recruits.
TO DATE, 56 senators and more than 200 representatives have signed on to legislation to revamp GI educational benefits. They recognize that the men and women fighting today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not getting their due. But if Congress is serious about doing right by America's veterans, it has to do more than come up with a list of names. It's time to enact a new GI bill and pay for it. Impetus for the bill comes from Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), a veteran with a family history of military service. Mr. Webb and a co-sponsor, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), also a veteran, rightly argue that post-Sept. 11 veterans are being shortchanged by a system designed for peacetime that has not kept pace with increased college costs.
Their bill, introduced in January 2007, would be true to the original GI bill enacted after World War II in providing a cost-free education to those who serve in the military.

-A Worsening Food Crisis
The U.S. and its allies need to act.
THE WORLD'S most dangerous conflicts stem from religion and ideology -- tragic proof that man does not live by bread alone. But when bread is hard to get, that, too, causes unrest. And lately, it has been very expensive indeed: The World Bank estimates that global food prices have risen 83 percent in the last three years. Hence, food riots in Haiti, Egypt and Ethiopia and the use of troops in Pakistan and Thailand to protect crops and storage centers. Many countries are banning or limiting food exports. World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick says that 33 countries are at risk of food-related upheaval. Famine may revisit North Korea, parts of Africa or, disastrously for U.S. foreign policy, Afghanistan. To many, the villain is biofuels. U.S. and European ethanol programs, intended as an antidote to climate change and an alternative to OPEC oil, stand accused of snatching food from the world's hungry. According to India's finance minister, ethanol is "a crime against humanity." And it is part of the problem. The more corn becomes ethanol, the less will be available as food for people and livestock. In the U.S. farm belt, heavy ethanol subsidies, such as a tax break of 51 cents a gallon, encourage the shift. These subsidies were already questionable, in economic terms, before the commodity crunch. That they might contribute to hardship for the world's poor is another argument for reducing them.

-Mexico's Unfinished Reform
President Calderón tackles the state oil monopoly -- and the anti-democratic forces that support it.
THOUGH YOU wouldn't know it from listening to the Democratic presidential candidates, Mexico's biggest economic problem is not the North American Free Trade Agreement but its failure to open its economy even more widely to investment and trade. The single largest obstacle to Mexican growth is the country's state oil monopoly, Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. Created in 1938, the company has become synonymous with inefficiency and corruption;
though it supplies 40 percent of Mexico's government revenue, its production has declined 10 percent in the last three years, largely because it lacks the capital or expertise to tap offshore oil reserves. Now Mexico's courageous president, Felipe Calderón, has proposed a modest reform aimed at easing this bottleneck. Legislation he introduced in the Mexican Congress would allow Pemex to contract out exploration, drilling and refining to foreign companies and to pay bonuses in lieu of ownership shares in any new fields. The reform could allow a substantial boost in Mexican production and income and could save the country from massive imports of refined products -- while still preserving state control over oil resources, a near-sacred principle in Mexican politics.

-New Genetic Tests Offer Deeper Look at Accused
Twenty years after DNA fingerprints were first admitted in criminal trials, genes are being used to "testify" in ways never before possible.

-Obama Tries to Hold Off Clinton
On a whistle-stop tour of Pa., candidate tries to regain momentum, apply pressure to opponent.

Fort Report
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-Obama experiences reverse snobbery
Why do Americans look up for people to look down on? We Americans sometimes baffle ourselves with ambivalence toward ambition and success. We applaud "merit," for example, yet we turn up our noses at "elitists." We root for the little guy, yet again and again we elect the wealthy, the powerful and the insider-connected. In fact, we seem to love elites. It's the snoots we can't stand. That's why Sen. Hillary Clinton figured she could block rival Sen. Barack Obama's momentum in their Democratic presidential nomination race by playing the "elitist" card.

-Democratic battle helps pump up base
WASHINGTON - In Indiana, which holds its Democratic primary in two weeks, more than 150,000 people have registered to vote in just the past four months, and state officials are preparing for a record turnout.
In Virginia, the state Democratic Party has raised nearly twice as much money this year as it had at this point in the last presidential election, thanks largely to Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton battling for the primary there, party officials say. And in Pennsylvania, Tuesday's key Democratic primary has helped the Democrats build a lead of 1-million registered voters over the Republicans. As Obama and Clinton claw through this unusually long and increasingly nasty primary season, the central question for many Democrats is not who will win, but whether the party will be helped or harmed by the fight.

-Obama's patriotism
BARACK OBAMA believes his patriotism can't be challenged. Maybe he should talk to Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry. "I am absolutely confident that during the general election that when I'm in a debate with John McCain, people are not going to be questioning my patriotism, they are going to be questioning how can you make people's lives a little better," declared Obama during last week's contentious debate with Hillary Clinton.
Obama wants the race for the White House to be about hope. It probably won't be. In 1988, Dukakis said the campaign was about "competence, not ideology."
His opponent, George H.W. Bush, made it all about ideology. The GOP turned Dukakis into a civil liberties-loving elitist who let convicted felons free to strike again. The attack on Dukakis also zeroed in on his veto of a bill requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Dukakis vetoed the egislation after an advisory opinion from the state supreme court called it unconstitutional. The facts didn't matter. The Massachusetts governor was pounded on the Pledge. At one point during the campaign, a Republican senator also falsely claimed that Kitty Dukakis had burned an American flag during an antiwar demonstration in the 1960s.

-To some extent, presidential race is contest of 'cool'
McCain, Clinton work hard to show they're 'with it' as younger voters are drifting to Obama

-For McCain, a 2d run, a shifting image
Senator John McCain commands one of the strongest brands in American politics: maverick Republican, reformer, willing to challenge the party hierarchy. But that image, cemented during his failed first run for the White House eight years ago, has been scuffed on his way to becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. To woo the GOP's conservative base, McCain has repositioned himself to align with the party mainstream on some key issues and downplayed others that once defined his independence.
Along the way, McCain has made clear that despite a flair for the impolitic or unpredictable, he hews more clos ely to conservative Republican orthodoxy than his rebel reputation suggests. McCain insists he has never budged from his lifelong belief in less government and less taxation. But whoever wins the Democratic nomination will surely argue that behind McCain's antipolitician label, he has always been cozy with the agents of the special interests he rails against.


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