Saturday, September 20, 2008

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST - September 20, 2008

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New York Times
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-Capital Feels Its Way on Huge Rescue Plan, Eyes on Nov. 4
The financial turmoil has left Washington in the midst of a convulsion that both parties are struggling to understand and keep from turning against them.

-What's the Rush?
The United States Supreme Court's scheduled date to hear Troy Davis's last-ditch appeal is Sept. 29. That's six days after the state of Georgia plans to kill him. Putting someone to death whose guilt is uncertain is always perverted, but there's an extra dose of perversion in this case. Mr. Davis's lawyers have tried desperately to have the execution postponed for those few days, but so far to no avail. Georgia is among the most cold-blooded of states when it comes to dispatching prisoners into eternity.

-China's Baby Formula Scandal
The deaths of Chinese babies killed by drinking tainted milk powder are a frightening reminder that the country still has not improved safety standards. The formula contains a dangerous chemical additive known as melamine - the same additive that sickened thousands of American dogs and cats last year. The best guess is that milk dealers eager to cut costs diluted their milk with water, then added the melamine to inflate the protein readings on a common industrial test.

-Lipstick Bungle
Support for Sarah Palin among Republicans seems just as superficial as she is. When asked why they liked her, the answers described a talk-show host, not a vice president.

-Op-Ed Contributors: Blocking the Sky to Save the Earth
TO the relief of climate scientists around the world, it appears that the polar ice cap hasn't shrunk as much this summer as it did last summer. The ice cap usually reaches its smallest extent around now, and although the total area of ice in September fluctuates from year to year, in the last two decades it has generally declined, probably because of carbon-driven global warming. Last year, the ice cap shrank at a record-breaking pace; at its minimum it was almost 39 percent smaller than the average from 1979 to 2000. This year it's down about 33 percent.

-Anarchy in the U.K.?
Winston Churchill said that stakes in the the Battle of Britain were no less than "the survival of Christian civilization" - how do you think he'd take this news from an article in The Times of London? "Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases." The article continues: "The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence. Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through county courts or the country's High Court, a part of its Supreme Court system. Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims." Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Weekly Standard's blog thinks things are a bit more complex. "In my judgment, the issue is significant-but is also rather complex, and shouldn't be oversimplified.
The proclamation that Britain has "adopted Islamic law" is plainly inaccurate. Sharia only governs where both parties agree to its implementation. It won't subsume British law unless there is a specific contract or agreement to apply sharia in civil disputes rather than British law: thus the sharia courts' classification as arbitration tribunals (a form of what is called "alternative dispute resolution").

-Meanwhile, the Other No. 2 Keeps On Punching
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been butchering Senator John McCain this week. It is not clear who has noticed.

-Zardari Says Pakistan Will Not Tolerate Incursions
Pakistan will not accept infringement in the name of a fight against militancy, President Asif Ali Zardari said.

-Mark Foley: Ex-Lawmaker Won't Face Charges in Page Case
Nearly two years after a Florida congressman abruptly resigned over sexually explicit messages he sent to a teenage House page, law enforcement authorities here have concluded there is "insufficient evidence" to charge him with breaking Florida laws. Commissioner Gerald Bailey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who was asked in September 2006 to look into the conduct of the congressman, Representative Mark Foley, Republican of West Palm Beach, said Friday that investigators were hampered by Mr. Foley's refusal and that of Congress to grant them access to Congressional computer files.

-Officials: Damage to collider forces 2 - month halt
GENEVA (AP) -- The European Organization for Nuclear Research says its new particle collider has been damaged worse than previously thought and will be out of commission for at least two months. On Thursday, the organization said the collider -- the world's largest -- malfunctioned within hours of its launch to great fanfare, but its operator didn't report the problem for a week.

-Shaky Economy Suddenly Dims Russian Prospects
MOSCOW - This week, Moscow looked every inch the glittering financial capital it aspires to be. Luxury cars were jammed up for blocks outside a lavish art opening at the Red October chocolate factory, where long-legged models congregated around works by Andy Warhol and Picasso. President Dmitri A. Medvedev, flanked by the country's commercial titans, talked of his longtime dream of building a trade and commerce hub that would challenge New York and London.

Washington Post
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-Back to Basics in Banking
Before becoming a journalist in 1990, I spent nearly a decade in commercial banking. The banking business was rather simple in those days. We took in deposits, made loans and collected repayments, hoping all the while that we would get at least two of those three things right. Still, many bankers managed to botch the last two steps.

-War Crime as Organized Crime
Among the many alleged war crimes of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader who refused to enter a plea when he appeared in court at The Hague this week, none received more attention during the Bosnian war than the targeting of civilians during the long siege of Sarajevo. In retrospect, the siege can also be viewed as an extreme case of organized crime. Karadzic acted like a predatory mafia boss, profiting from the misery of the population and collecting payoffs, in the form of skimmed humanitarian aid, in return for granting the United Nations access to the besieged city. The United Nations and major Western powers acquiesced in this extortionist scheme, largely tolerating the siege even as they condemned it.

-All About Sarah, Scene 2
During the long slog to the Democratic Party nomination, folks used to joke that if Barack Obama chose Hillary Clinton as his running mate, he'd better hire a food taster. Well, after a rally in Iowa on Thursday, it looks like it's Republican nominee John McCain who may need to watch his back.

-A Modernized Taliban Thrives in Afghanistan
Insurgency revives into confident militia, fueled by growing popular discontent with both Karzai government and U.S., NATO alliance airstrikes. [...] The new Taliban movement has created a parallel government structure that includes defense and finance councils and appoints judges and officials in some areas. It offers cash to recruits and presents letters of introduction to local leaders. It operates Web sites and a 24-hour propaganda apparatus that spins every military incident faster than Afghan and Western officials can manage.

-U.S. Unveils $500 Billion Bailout
Historic plan would let government rather than markets set terms for managing economic crisis.

-S. African Ruling Party Weighs Mbeki's Fate
JOHANNESBURG, Sept. 19 -- South Africa's ruling party began a three-day meeting Friday to discuss whether to force out President Thabo Mbeki, who has faced mounting calls to resign since a court ruling suggested he had pressured prosecutors to charge his political rival with corruption.

Wall Street Journal
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-Moscow to Boost Defense Spending
The Kremlin is set to boost its defense budget to $50 billion next year as it seeks to strengthen its foreign policy and reverse underinvestment

-Shock Forced Paulson's Hand
When Paulson and other U.S. officials surveyed the flailing financial system this week, they saw the circulatory system of the U.S. economy, credit markets, starting to fail.

Miami Herald
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-Campaigns bend truth for Jewish vote
The battle for Jewish hearts and minds in the presidential race escalated this week, as the Republican Jewish Coalition conducted what Democrats condemned as a "push poll.''

Fort Report
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-One thought pushes fence-sitters to the left: Palin
Five weeks ago, the St. Petersburg Times convened a group of Tampa Bay voters who were undecided about the presidential election. Their strong distrust of Barack Obama suggested it was a group ripe for John McCain to win over. Not anymore. The group has swung dramatically, if unenthusiastically, toward Democrat Obama. Most of them this week cited the same reason: Sarah Palin.

-Against The Grain
"Many undecideds haven't really connected their negative feelings about race to Obama yet. Their view of Obama is unformed, and their negative feelings toward African-Americans could be easily triggered when they finally tune in." [...] Most undecided voters simply haven't focused on the elections yet, something people who read columns like this find hard to believe. Those who have managed to ignore the loud and endless campaign tend to be less educated and well-off than the average voter, and more prone to negative racial feelings. If the white swing voters break in proportion to their racial attitudes, Obama could be sunk.

-Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama
Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks -- many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

-GOP moves to derail Palin probe have parallels to 2000 Florida recount fight
This time, there are no hanging chads. Yet the Republicans' drive to derail an abuse of power investigation against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential candidate, reflects the same determination and many of the same methods employed in shutting down the 2000 presidential recount in Florida.,0,6781786.story

-Grampa and Barbie on the Economy
The economy is in a meltdown, and John McCain can't figure it out. On the day the Dow tanked and Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers fell, he declared that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. Then he had to try to explain his comment away--by "fundamentals" he meant "American workers." Now he is calling for putting "an end to the abuses on Wall Street."

-Investigator: Palin probe to end before election, but without witnesses who refused to testify
Gov. Sarah Palin's chief of staff authorized ex-Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to travel to Washington, although the governor has cited that trip as a primary example of the insubordination that led to Monegan's firing. Monegan is the central figure in the investigation into whether Palin abused her power when she fired him. Monegan alleges he was fired because he refused to terminate a state trooper who was involved in a bitter divorce with the governor's sister. Palin says he was fired because of insubordination on budget issues.,0,383359.story

-'Bubble's going to burst,' health care conferees warn
Feeling the rumblings from Wall Street thousands of miles away, some participants in a national health care conference in Orlando on Thursday suggested the unthinkable: If health reform doesn't come soon, they said, the $2.3-trillion sector could collapse of its own weight. They say health-system spending is as inflated as the real-estate market of three years ago, and some say it needs regulation as much as today's banking industry.


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