Monday, February 23, 2009

NATIONAL & WORLD NEWS - February 23, 2009

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New York Times
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-Rift Over Stimulus Embroils G.O.P.
Republican governors split sharply during the weekend over how to respond to the economic crisis, a debate whose outcome will go a long way toward shaping how the national party redefines itself in the wake of its election defeats of recent years.

-Explaining a 'No' Vote on Stimulus in Michigan
Connie from Livonia was on the line with Representative Thaddeus McCotter during a telephone town-hall-style meeting, sounding worried as the auto industry continued to spiral down, taking Michigan's economy along for the ride.

-Rename Law? No Wisecrack Is Left Behind
Two years ago, an effort to fix No Child Left Behind, the main federal law on public schools, provoked a grueling slugfest in Congress, leading Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, to say the law had become "the most negative brand in America."

Washington Post
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-A 'Ticking Time Bomb' Goes Off
When Abdallah Al-Ajmi Returned to Kuwait After Nearly Four Years at Guantanamo, His Family Tried to Get Him to Move On. But He Didn't Want to Let Go.
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
KUWAIT CITY -- After arriving here from Guantanamo Bay in November 2005, Abdallah Saleh al-Ajmi was transported by Kuwaiti security agents to a military hospital, where he was allowed to meet with his family. He was soon moved to the city's central jail and placed in a high-security wing.

-Government Gets Chance To Prove It Can Work
Stimulus Act Will Test Civil Servants' Abilities
By Alec MacGillis
For weeks, the economic stimulus package lay in the hands of President Obama and congressional leaders. But with Obama having signed the $787 billion bill on Tuesday, its fate has been dispersed far and wide -- to places such as the state office building in Crownsville, Md., outside Annapolis, where three workers face the challenge of a career.

-Climate Fears Are Driving 'Ecomigration' Across Globe
By Shankar Vedantam
Adam Fier recently sold his home, got rid of his car and pulled his twin 6-year-old girls out of elementary school in Montgomery County. He and his wife packed the family's belongings and moved to New Zealand -- a place they had never visited or seen before, and where they have no family or professional connections. Among the top reasons: global warming.

-Clinton's Candor Abroad Draws Mixed Reviews
By Glenn Kessler
BEIJING, Feb. 22 -- Hillary Rodham Clinton's blunt and unadorned style of diplomacy has been evident throughout her first trip as secretary of state the past week in Asia. She questioned the efficacy of sanctions against the repressive junta in Burma, spoke openly about a possible succession crisis in North Korea and admitted that she expected to make little progress on human rights in China.

-Two GOP Governors and Federal Funds for Stimulus
Mark Sanford - Republican governor of South Carolina
Charlie Crist - Republican governor of Florida

-A 'Reset' That Doesn't Compute
By Jackson Diehl
MOSCOW -- Normally sour Russian officials are almost jaunty in describing their first engagements with the Obama administration. "We are excited," says one at the Foreign Ministry.

-Obama's Stunted Stimulus
By Robert J. Samuelson
Judged by his own standards, President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus program is deeply disappointing. For weeks, Obama has described the economy in grim terms. "This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill recession," he said at his Feb. 9 news conference. It's "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." Given these dire warnings, you'd expect the stimulus package to focus almost exclusively on reviving the economy. It doesn't, and for that, Obama bears much of the blame.

-Mr. LaHood's Good Idea
The transportation chief's mileage tax shouldn't be a nonstarter.
TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY Ray LaHood told a reporter Friday that he was considering a tax on vehicle miles traveled as an alternative to the gas tax. Faster than you could say "smack-down," press secretary Robert Gibbs unleashed a White House scolding. Mr. Gibbs said, "I can weigh in on it and say that it is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration."

-Legal Experts Propose Limiting Justices' Powers, Terms
By Robert Barnes
If we had it to do all over again, would we appoint Supreme Court justices for life? Allow the chief justice to keep the job forever? Let the court have the final word on which cases it hears and those it declines?

-Burma Begins Release of Thousands
Activists Say Few Are Political Prisoners
By Tim Johnston
PHUKET, Thailand, Feb. 22 -- Burma's military government has begun releasing more than 6,300 prisoners, including some members of the opposition National League for Democracy.

-Iran's First Nuclear Power Plant Set for Tests Before Launch
By Thomas Erdbrink
TEHRAN, Feb. 22 -- Iran's first nuclear power plant will undergo a critical series of tests starting Wednesday before full-scale operation begins later this year, Iranian state radio reported Sunday.

-Gruesome killing poses another test for US Muslims
-- The crime was so brutal, shocking and rife with the worst possible stereotypes about their faith that some U.S. Muslims thought the initial reports were a hoax.

-Well Before the 2012 Season, Obama Kicks the GOP a Political Football
By Chris Cillizza And Perry Bacon Jr.
One month into the Obama presidency, the race for the 2012 GOP nomination appears very much underway. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, before heading to the National Governors Association annual meeting that started over the weekend in the District, spoke Friday at a GOP gathering in South Carolina, one of the key primary states in the Republican nominating calendar.

Wall Street Journal

-Coaches, CFOs Among Big Earners at Colleges

-Governors v. Congress
The stimulus sets a long-term budget trap for the states.

-The War on Drugs Is a Failure
We should focus instead on reducing harm to users and on tackling organized crime.

Miami Herald
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-Obama fast breaks, leaves some wanting
OUR OPINION: President has moved decisively to restore civil liberties
If you want a friend in Washington, Harry Truman advised, get a dog. Right about now, President Barack Obama must be marveling at Mr. Truman's wisdom. In office just one month, the president barely managed to scrape up three votes from Republicans for his stimulus plan. Now his erstwhile friends on the left are grumbling that Mr. Obama has not done enough to change Bush-era policies on the war on terror. With friends like this . . .

-Bill would make a muddle of state law
OUR OPINION: Ill-advised proposal would give tribes unnecessary authority
When someone commits a crime or is involved in an accident in Florida, it is generally understood that the state has jurisdiction and will proceed with whatever investigation, charge, penalty or punishment is warranted. This clear delineation of authority would be jeopardized if legislation sponsored by Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, becomes law -- and the consequences would be serious and far-reaching.

-Immigrants give America winning edge
OUR OPINION: Citizenship through military service a win-win proposition The war in Iraq had been underway for years before U.S. military commanders realized that conventional combat tactics weren't working and that a counter-insurgency strategy was necessary. The tide turned in America's favor with the new strategy, now commonly associated with the Surge. The new strategy relied more on intelligence, human resources and integration with the Iraqi population than on bombs, assaults and fighting.

-Clinton smoothly fits into her new job
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has employed her own style as America's chief diplomat.
BEIJING -- She's talked about love. She's given recycling advice. She's ripped into conservatives on the Supreme Court. And she's held chatty town-hall sessions.

Fort Report
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-Crist's proposed $66.5 billion budget relies on federal stimulus
By Marc Caputo and Steve Bousquet
Promising more spending and no worker layoffs, Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday proposed a $66.5 billion budget bolstered by huge sums of federal stimulus money and rosy financial assumptions.

-With an eye on 2012 presidential race, GOP governors step into the spotlight
With an eye toward the 2012 presidential contest, leading Republicans used this weekend's meeting of the National Governors Association to lay out divergent views of President Obama's stimulus plan - and competing visions of their party's future.,0,2158375.story

-A New Mission for the NAACP
Ellis Cose
The youngest president in association history leads at a time when many question the body's very necessity. This February the NAACP marked its 100th anniversary. The venerable organization was on the front lines of some of the most important human-rights battles of the 20th century. But "venerable" is often a polite word for "passé." During the past several years, there have been times when even supporters have questioned the NAACP's role in the modern world.

-How Burris blew it
The crisis now threatening Sen. Roland Burris' political career started with revelations about his entanglements with disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But it was the way the situation was handled by Burris and his advisers - trapped between competing political and legal demands - that has made the problem much worse and has pushed him to the brink of losing his seat. In multiple interviews, several Senate aides and Burris confidants say the senator was unprepared from a public relations and political perspective to deal with the national media frenzy and ethics problems he now confronts.

-Female candidates line up for 2010
A slew of formidable female candidates, mostly Democrats, are lining up to run for the Senate in 2010, enough to raise the prospect of a surge of women into a chamber that currently has just 17 women senators.

-Afghan truisms
Today, as the Obama administration considers how to deal with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, what its priorities should be, and how it will define success and bring American troops home, Khan's parade highlights many of the problems they will have to overcome. [...] Here are eight Afghan truisms they would do well to remember:
1. All against all, but especially outsiders
The people of Afghanistan may be divided by religion, tribal loyalties and ethnic rivalries, but they have a long tradition of banding together to successfully expel invaders. It may be dysfunctional; it may be a failed state, but the chaos that frustrates Kabul's efforts to control the rest of the country also frustrates foreign forces trying to do the same.
2. The Taliban is not a foreign body
The Taliban were born of desperation, principally over the country's deteriorating security situation. They are ethnic Pashtuns who rose up from towns and villages to end a brutal civil war among rival warlords that was tearing the country apart after the retreat of Soviet forces. Many of the Taliban's leaders and foot soldiers came from extremist religious schools that taught an intolerant brand of Islam, but many others were ordinary Afghans fed up with violence, corruption and poverty. Trying to excise the Taliban from Afghanistan would repeat the folly committed in trying to purge the Ba'athists from Iraq.
3. The border with Pakistan is a political fiction
The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan exists only on maps, not on the ground. Getting rid of Al Qaeda and other terrorists taking haven along the largely inaccessible, 1,500 mile frontier-and the broad swath of tribal lands that straddle it-will need to involve cooperation amongst Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. All must agree that the area cannot be a haven for terrorist groups to plan attacks on any of the three nations. This is especially important today, when Pakistan, a nuclear-weapons state, itself is threatened by political and economic instability, Islamic extremism and growing violence, much of it fomented in the tribal areas.
4. Afghani extremism is abetted by Pakistani intelligence
Probably the single most effective step in combating Islamic extremism in Afghanistan would be purging Islamic radicals from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence bureau, the country's intelligence and spying agency. It helped create the Taliban, and it reportedly continues to support them. Purging radicals from ISI also would strengthen Pakistan's civilian democracy and dramatically improve its relations with neighboring India.
5. There is no military solution in Afghanistan
Development aid must be a vital ingredient in any successful strategy to stop the country's use as a base for terrorists and to keep it from becoming one again. Afghanistan is one of the poorest, most illiterate countries in the world. Implementing a new military strategy without significant employment, education and infrastructure programs will further drive its 33 million people into the arms of extremists.
6. Afghanistan is a narco state
The country now supplies about 93 percent of the world's opium, the key ingredient for heroin. Poppy cultivation is a main funding source for the Taliban, and it fuels endemic corruption that undermines the government and weakens its support among people across the country. Drug corruption has reached the highest reaches of the government, including, reportedly, the family of president Hamid Karzai.
7. The United States cannot do everything
Afghanistan has defeated other empires, and thinking that America will
transform it into a reliable ally while occupying it and launching military operations that kill scores of its citizens is simply wrongheaded. The United States needs to invest more in adequately training and arming the Afghan army and police to combat the country's security problems. This will be a years-long process, and current efforts need to be accelerated.
8. But few allies will help, at least yet
Most NATO countries do not have the stomach for expanding their troop strength and military operations in Afghanistan. Although some Europeans were sympathetic to U.S. calls for help in Afghanistan after 9-11, the Bush Administration's bait and switch with Iraq infuriated many Europeans and squandered good will. In fact, most European leaders recognize that they have huge shared interests with the United States in Afghanistan, but Obama will have a difficult time getting them to sell deeper involvement-and especially military involvement-there to their people.


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