Thursday, May 29, 2008

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS - Ray's List Digest - Wednesday May 28, 2008

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New York Times
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-The Senate's Chance on Warming
For seven long years, President Bush has refused to confront the challenge of climate change and provide the leadership that this country and the world needs to reduce greenhouse gases and avoid the destructive consequences of global warming. The Senate, and all three presidential candidates, have a chance to provide that leadership. Next week, the Senate is scheduled to take up a bill sponsored by John Warner, the Virginia Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, that seeks aggressively to reduce emissions from all sectors of the economy.

-Truth or Consequences By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Imagine for a minute, just a minute, that someone running for president was able to actually tell the truth, the real truth, to the American people about what would be the best - I mean really the best - energy policy for the long-term economic health and security of our country. I realize this is a fantasy, but play along with me for a minute. What would this mythical, totally imaginary, truth-telling candidate say? For starters, he or she would explain that there is no short-term fix for gasoline prices. Prices are what they are as a result of rising global oil demand from India, China and a rapidly growing Middle East on top of our own increasing consumption, a shortage of "sweet" crude that is used for the diesel fuel that Europe is highly dependent upon and our own neglect of effective energy policy for 30 years. Cynical ideas, like the McCain-Clinton summertime gas-tax holiday, would only make the problem worse, and reckless initiatives like the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep offer to subsidize gasoline for three years for people who buy its gas guzzlers are the moral equivalent of tobacco companies offering discounted cigarettes to teenagers.

-Human Rights Report Assails U.S.
PARIS - Sixty years after the United Nations adopted the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, governments in scores of countries still torture or mistreat their people, Amnesty International said Wednesday in a report that again urged the United States to close down the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
In its annual report, the London-based human rights watchdog said
"flashpoints" in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar "demand immediate action." "World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost," Irene Khan, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement accompanying the report. "As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses than can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us."
The report singled out China, the United States, and Russia and accused the European Union of complicity in the extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects. The European Union it said, must "set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries."

-In Ex-Spokesman's Book, Harsh Words for Bush
PHOENIX - President Bush "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment," and has engaged in "self-deception" to justify his political ends, Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, writes in a critical new memoir about his years in the West Wing. In addition, Mr. McClellan writes, the decision to invade Iraq was a "serious strategic blunder," and yet, in his view, it was not the biggest mistake the Bush White House made. That, he says, was "a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed." Mr. McClellan's book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," is the first negative account by a member of the tight circle of Texans around Mr. Bush. Mr. McClellan, 40, went to work for Mr. Bush when he was governor of Texas and was the White House press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006.

-Justices Say Law Bars Retaliation Over Bias Claims
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that employees are protected from retaliation when they complain about discrimination in the workplace, adopting a broad interpretation of workers' rights under two federal civilrights laws. By decisions of 7 to 2 in one case and 6 to 3 in the other, the court found that the two statutes afford protection from retaliation even though Congress did not explicitly say so. The decisions are significant both as a practical matter and as evidence of a new tone and direction from the court this year, following a term in which there were sharp divisions and an abrupt conservative turn. The new rulings were in distinct contrast to one of the signature decisions of the last term, a 5-to-4 decision that placed tight time limits on plaintiffs seeking to file pay-discrimination cases. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who wrote the majority opinion almost exactly a year ago in that case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, wrote one of the two majority opinions on Tuesday. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the other.

Washington Post
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-Iran's Failed 'Litmus Test'
Will there be consequences for Tehran's stonewalling of U.N. nuclear inspectors?
LAST AUGUST, the International Atomic Energy Agency struck a deal with Iran on a "work plan" for clearing up outstanding questions about its nuclear program within three months -- in other words, before December 2007. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, who launched the initiative as an end run around the Western campaign to stop Tehran's ongoing uranium enrichment, claimed that it would be a "litmus test." "If Iran were to prove that it was using this period for delaying tactics and it was not really acting in good faith, then obviously nobody -- nobody -- will come to its support when people call for more sanctions or for punitive measures," Mr. ElBaradei said in an interview last September with Newsweek. On Monday, some six months after the expiration of the deadline, the IAEA issued a report saying, in essence, that Iran had not acted in good faith and was engaging in delaying tactics.

-Rx for Global Poverty
What's the world's greatest moral challenge, as judged by its capacity to inflict human tragedy? It is not, I think, global warming, whose effects -- if they become as grim as predicted -- will occur over many years and provide societies time to adapt. A case can be made for preventing nuclear proliferation, which threatens untold deaths and a collapse of the world economy. But the most urgent present moral challenge, I submit, is the most obvious: global poverty. There are roughly 6 billion people on the planet; in 2004, perhaps 2.5 billion survived on $2 a day or less, says the World Bank. By 2050, the world may have 3 billion more people; many will be similarly impoverished. What's baffling and frustrating about extreme poverty is that much of the world has eliminated it. In 1800, almost everyone was desperately poor. But the developed world has essentially abolished starvation, homelessness and material deprivation. The solution to being poor is getting rich. It's economic growth. We know this. The mystery is why all societies have not adopted the obvious remedies. Just recently, the 21-member Commission on Growth and Development -- including two Nobel-prize winning economists, former prime ministers of South Korea and Peru, and a former president of Mexico -- examined the puzzle. Since 1950, the panel found, 13 economies have grown at an average annual rate of 7 percent for at least 25 years. These were: Botswana, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Oman, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. Some gains are astonishing. From 1960 to 2005, per capita income in South Korea rose from $1,100 to $13,200. Other societies started from such low levels that even rapid economic growth, combined with larger populations, left sizable poverty. In 2005, Indonesia's per capita income averaged just $900, up from $200 in 1966. Still, all these economies had advanced substantially. The panel identified five common elements of success:

-Clinton's Two-State Two-Step
On Saturday, when the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee meets to determine the fate of Florida and Michigan's delegations to this summer's convention, it will have some company. A group of Hillary Clinton supporters has announced it will demonstrate outside. That Clinton has impassioned supporters, many of whom link her candidacy to the feminist cause, hardly qualifies as news. And it's certainly true that along the campaign trail Clinton has encountered some outrageously sexist treatment, just as Barack Obama has been on the receiving end of bigoted treatment.
(Obama has even been subjected to anti-Muslim bigotry despite the fact that he's not Muslim.) But somehow, a number of Clinton supporters have come to identify the seating of Michigan and Florida not merely with Clinton's prospects but with the causes of democracy and feminism -- an equation that makes a mockery of democracy and feminism.

-US on track to break record for tornadoes
WASHINGTON -- Another week, another rumbling train of tornadoes that obliterates entire city blocks, smashing homes to their foundations and killing people even as they cower in their basements. With the year not even half done, 2008 is already the deadliest tornado year in the United States since 1998 and seems on track to break the U.S. record for the number of twisters in a year, according to the National Weather Service. Also, this year's storms seem to be unusually powerful. But like someone who has lost all his worldly possessions to a whirlwind, meteorologists cannot explain exactly why this is happening.

-Barak Calls for Olmert To Step Down
The leader of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's main coalition partner on Wednesday called on Olmert to step aside amid a burgeoning corruption probe, or face new elections. The move by Defense Minister and Labor Party chief Ehud Barak is an ominous sign for the embattled Olmert, who has rejected past calls for his resignation and is showing no signs of reacting differently this time. Without Labor's support, Olmert would not have a majority in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Citing challenges that Israel faces from Hamas and Hezbollah, Barak said Olmert cannot both run the country and fend off corruption allegations at the same time. "I do not think the prime minister can run, in parallel, the government and deal with his own personal affair," Barak told a hastily convened news conference Wednesday afternoon. "Therefore, out of a sense of what is good for the country and in accordance with the proper norms, I think the prime minister must disconnect himself from the daily running of the government."

-McCain Accepts a Hand From Bush, at Arm's Length
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When President Bush ventured here for a private fundraiser with John McCain on Tuesday night, his first real campaign appearance with the presumptive GOP nominee, the event was closed to the news media and their only joint public appearance was a photo op on the airport tarmac that lasted less than a minute. The same ground rules will cover Bush's trip to Utah on Wednesday, where he will appear with former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to woo big-money Republican donors to McCain's cause. The fleeting public appearances of an unpopular president on behalf of the potential heir to the leadership of the Republican Party underscore the delicate balance for McCain, who is trying to appeal to a restless GOP base that continues to embrace the president while reaching out to moderates and independents who want to move beyond the Bush administration. For now, the senator from Arizona remains locked in a tight race for the White House -- evidence that Americans see him as a brand apart from the GOP.

Miami Herald
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- Stop trying to weasel out of what is self-evident BY LEONARD PITTS
Sure, I'll answer your question. It rose from a recent column about the Democratic primary in West Virginia. The contest, you will recall, was a decisive victory for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama, amid reports that two in 10 voters in that overwhelmingly white state said race was a deciding factor in their decisions. I called that atavistic, to which dozens of you responded: If two in 10 whites voting for Clinton is wrong, isn't the overwhelming support of blacks for Obama equally wrong? It isn't quite the stumper some folks seem to think.
I suppose the first thing that needs saying is that I have no objection to people of any marginalized ethnicity, race, religion or gender voting in a bloc for some member of their group. That's how they become less marginalized, how they win a seat at the table. The Irish did it in New York, the Cubans did it in Miami, many women are doing it now. Thing is, that's not what happened in West Virginia. Not unless you're going to tell me with a straight face that that vote reflected marginalized whites (an oxymoron if ever there was one) seeking a seat at the table. No, all the evidence, statistical and anecdotal, tells us those folks did not vote for Clinton because she is white; they voted against Obama because he is black.
There's a difference.

-The most famous journalist in the world
The world's most famous journalist isn't Peter Arnett or Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein or Dan Rather. His name is Sami al-Hajj. Chances are you've never heard of him. That should worry you. Al-Hajj is a television cameraman from Sudan, and until this month he was a prisoner in the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. For years, al-Jazeera followed his odyssey day by day. Al-Hajj became famous to the millions across Asia and Europe who watch the Arab satellite channel's broadcasts and read its website, but he remained all but unknown in America. Most Americans never saw his photograph in mainstream American newspapers or heard about him on television. --
Seven-year nightmare -- Like other journalists, al-Hajj covered the Afghanistan war in late 2001. Armed with a television camera, he sought to re-enter Afghanistan on Dec. 15, 2001, as his film crew had done since October. A Pakistani border guard seized him and turned him over to Americans. That began a seven-year nightmare: Al-Hajj was sent to a Pakistani jail, to the American air base at Kandahar, Afghanistan, and for long years to Guantánamo, where his imprisonment included force-feeding by nasal tube after he stopped eating in protest.


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