Saturday, June 18, 2005


AP: Westly takes on Arnold - June 18

California State Controller Steve Westly, below left, formally launches his campaign for governor by way of a conference call to 150 house parties from a home in Arcadia, Calif., Saturday.
His wife, Anita Yu, is at left. Westly is the second Democratic candidate hoping to unseat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, vowing to win the Democratic Party's nomination on the strength of his ideas rather than being the 'anti-Arnold.' He followsstate Treasurer Phil Angelides, who declared his candidacy in March. (APPhoto/Reed Saxon)


AAS: Strayhorn announces for governor - June 18


CaroleComptroller vows to topple 'do nothin' drugstore cowboy'

Carole Keeton Strayhorn, right, withstood mid-day heat today to declare her candidacy for governor, promising a white-hot campaign against Gov. Rick Perry leading to the March 7 Republican primary.

With the north entrance of the Capitol as a backdrop, Strayhorn spoke from a platform placed on Congress Avenue, saying: "Now is the time to replace this do nothin' drugstore cowboy with one tough grandma.

"Rick Perry has promised any challenger in his own words, and I quote, 'A bloody brutal campaign.' If that is the campaign he promises to wage, bring it on."

The second-term state comptroller, joined by her husband, Eddie, and family members, confirmed expectations with her declaration in front of some 500 cheering supporters. It came 18 hours after U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison released a statement revealing her intentions to seek re-election to the Senate rather than attempt a run for governor.

Strayhorn, 65, used her early political career in Austin -- she was mayor and school board president -- to climb to statewide office. Her political career has dipped and turned since she left the Texas Democratic Party to become a Republican in time to lose a U.S. House bid to Rep. J.J. "Jake" Pickle of Austin in 1986. The crowd observed a moment of silence as Pickle's death earlier today was announced.

Strayhorn subsequently lost to Barry Williamson, then of Dallas, in the 1992 GOP primary for the Texas Railroad Commission.

But the one-time schoolteacher whose father, Page Keeton, was the celebrated dean of the University of Texas School of Law, bounced back.

Full American Statesman story. D.H.: Strayhorn's son, Scott McClellan, is President Bush's press secretary.


AP: Alberto for Justice?

Alberto Gonzales, US attorney general, has been mentioned as a possible U.S. Supreme Court nominee should there be a vacancy.

(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File)


AP: Holloway suspects' jail extended - June 18

In this photo provided by Beth Twitty, Natalee Holloway, below left, stands with her senior prom date Henry Ennis at her home in Mountain Brook, Alabama, on prom night, Friday, May 13, 2005.

Holloway disappeared while on a high school graduation trip to Aruba on May 30. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Beth Twitty, HO)

In a related story by PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press Writer posted 10 minutes ago, from ORANJESTAD, Aruba - A judge on Saturday ordered the teenage son of a prominent justice official and two of his friends to stay in jail for at least another week while investigators search for clues in the disappearance of a young Alabama woman. Full AP story.


AP: Crash survivors

MBNA Corp. Senior Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer Lance Weaver is seen, below right.

Crash survivor
He recounts his escape from a company helicopter that plunged him and other executives into the East River in New York City, Friday during a press conference, Saturday at MBNA offices in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/William Bretzger)


AP: Wolfowitz-cut subsidies

In this photograph released by the World Bank yesterday, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, below left, examines Mangos for sale by a street merchant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Wolfowitz said Friday that greater international assistance, fewer agricultural subsidies and better governance are the keys to raising the standard of living on the world's poorest continent. (AP Photo/World Bank, Kevin Kellems)


ARN-Ivins: PBS liberal on tsunami causes

By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN - I was watching the PBS science program ''Nova'' the other night and spotted the liberal bias right away. I knew it would be there because Ken Tomlinson, the Bush-appointed chairman of the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), says the network is riddled with leftist leanings. Sure enough, in a program on tsunamis and what causes them, the show blamed it on shifting tectonic plates in the earth's surface. Then the graphic shows these two tectonic plates grinding against each other - suddenly, the one on the left sort of falls down, and the big, aggressive plate on the right jumps on top of it, causing a killer tsunami. See? Wouldn't have happened on Fox.
Full Ivins piece "PBS in danger of being politicized," in the Abilene Reporter News of June 18.


AP: Dean in Texas - June 18

HOUSTON - Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, below right, is taking his party's fundraising efforts to President Bush's backyard -- Texas. Dean is scheduled to appear at events in Houston, Austin and Corpus Christi this weekend, taking his message to a Republican stronghold that had been written off by Democrats until Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ethics problems began.


"Unlike previous years, we're actually going to be spending money in Texas this year," Dean said. "We're in a 50-state battle, not an 18-state battle." Source: AP story.


AP: Insurgents killed

AP - 49 minutes ago, Saturday
KARABILAH, Iraq - A U.S. soldier, below left, stands guard on the street in front of burning debris left after a suicide car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq Saturday, June 18, 2005. The suicide car bomber slammed into an Iraqi army convoy, killing two soldiers and wounding six near a hazardous highway that leads from downtown Baghdad to the airport.
IraqU.S. Marines and Iraqi forces battled insurgents on two fronts Saturday in a restive western province, killing about 50 militants in a dusty frontier town in the military's latest campaign to stop foreign fighters infiltrating from neighboring Syria.  AP Photo/Hadi Mizban.


Reuters: Bush courts seniors

President George W. Bush, below right, shakes hands with seniors after speaking about Medicare at the Maple Grove Community Center in Minnesota Friday.
Bush courts seniors
With his campaign to overhaul Social Security losing steam, President Bush said yesterday he was launching a new one: to get wary seniors to sign up for a new Medicare prescription drug program.  Source: Larry Downing/Reuters.


AP: Romney postures on gays

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, below left, speaking at fundraiser for the Republican Party of Orange County in Irvine, Calif., yesterday.
Romney, who opposed gay marriage when Massachusetts became the only state to legalize them last year, has hardened his position by joining a new citizen-led effort to ban them. A hard line on gay marriage and civil unions is crucial if Romney decides to seek the Republican presidential nomination, according to University of Virginia political science professor Larry J. Sabato.  Source: AP Photo/Chris Carlson.


AFP: Condi presses Gaza withdrawal - June 18

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, below right, arrives in Tel Aviv.

Rice kicked off her first comprehensive Middle East tour Saturday, bearing stern messages to Israel and the Palestinians to work together on the upcoming withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Source: AFP/US Embassy/Matty Stern.

Friday, June 17, 2005


AP: Wolfowitz protested - June 17

A group of demonstrators protest the visit to South Africa of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz's in downtown Johannesburg Friday June 17, 2005.  Wolfowitz is on his first visit to the African continent, his first since taking over the bank, ahead of a G8 summit next month.
Wolfowitz protestors
He will meet President Thabo Mbeki Saturday while in the country. (AP Photo)


Danforth: Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

Published: June 17, 2005, NY Times Op-Ed piece
By JOHN C. DANFORTH, Episcopal minister and former Republican U.N. Ambassador & Senator from Missouri

It would be an oversimplification to say that America's culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers. People of faith are not of one mind, whether on specific issues like stem cell research and government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, or the more general issue of how religion relates to politics. In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.

Rest of this NY Times op-ed article.  This entire piece is well worth reading, especially this incisive paragraph:

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.


Reuters: Hillary & Frist offer Health Act

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), below right, gestures during a news conference with Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington June 16, 2005.
Hillary & Frist
The pair introduced the 'Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005' at the event, aimed at improving healthcare through information technology.  REUTERS/Shaun Heasley.


AP: Clinton on Letterman

Former President Bill Clinton talks to host David Letterman on CBS's 'The Late Show with David Letterman,' below left, last night in New York.
President Clinton's best-selling memoir, My Life, was recently released in paperback.  Source: AP Photo/Jeffrey R. Staab, CBS.


AFP: Dems not connecting

Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, below right.
Democratic party leaders have scored important points in their battle against the Republican White House, but they are not getting a convincing message across to American voters, experts said.  Source: AFP/Getty Images/File/Alex Wong.


Slate-Papers: A Doleful Poll-full - June 17

By David Sarno
Posted Friday, at 2:43 AM PT

The New York Times leads with its poll result: America is increasingly unhappy with President Bush and Congress. Bush's approval rating sank to 42 percent, tying his second lowest NYT/CBS score since his inauguration (the lowest was 41). Meanwhile, Congress garnered a mere 33 percent--its worst showing since 1997--with only 19 percent of folks believing that Congress has the same priorities for the country as they do. The Washington Post leads with an FDA advisory panel's endorsement of BiDil, a heart drug that appears to work best on black patients, and might now be the first medication marketed to a specific racial group. The Los Angeles Times fronts BiDil but leads with the re-emergence of anti-war sentiment in Washington, where a bipartisan group of legislators presented a resolution that would impel Bush to produce an exit strategy by the end of 2005 and begin withdrawing troops by October 2006. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with the bleak prospects for Bush's Social Security agenda. Neither of the two main Republican proposals includes the private accounts Bush wanted, nor would they fix the solvency problem. USA Today leads with the growing number of homeowners who are selling their property in an attempt to cash out before the real estate bubble bursts. (The Post fronts a related piece on the social tensions between owners and renters.)

Bush's Social Security plan didn't fare well in the NYT/CBS poll, either. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they were "uneasy" about his "ability to make the right decisions about Social Security"; 45 percent said the more they heard about the Bush plan, the less they liked it; and 64 percent said they didn't think Bush would be able to change the system anyway. Regarding Iraq, 51 percent said that America should have stayed out altogether. That number was 28 percent in December, 2003--nine months after the invasion.

The LAT's Iraq lead is a strange mosaic. It begins by extensively quoting a Pentagon official, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, about his desire to shore up support for the war: "It is concerning that our public isn't as supportive as perhaps they once were," he said. "We'd like, I believe, to try to reverse those figures and start the trend back the other direction." In six subsequent paragraphs, Conway compares Iraq to Vietnam and the Iraqi insurgents to the Vietcong: "[The VC] realized what I think our contemporary enemy realizes -- that American public opinion is the center of gravity." The article then shifts its focus to the re-energized anti-war movement. More than 30 members of Congress attended a meeting on the "Downing Street Memo" led by Rep. John Conyers and attended by John C. Bonifaz, founder of the anti-Bush AfterDowningStreet.org. After the meeting, some attendees went across the street to protest alongside those calling for Bush's impeachment.

The LAT fronts the California earthquakes. Yesterday's 4.9 in San Bernardino was the third shaker to hit the state in four days. Last Sunday, a size 5.2 hit the Palm Springs area, then on Tuesday a 7.2 struck off the northern coast, triggering tsunami warnings from Alaska to San Diego (only about ten 7.0-level quakes hit the world each year). The proximity of the quakes in both time and place has jangled some nerves, reviving the specter of The Big One--the monster San Andreas quake that scientists worry could cause catastrophic damage to Southern California. For now, however, no need to panic. "There's a small chance that this was a foreshock," said one seismologist from CalTech, "But it's probably not."

Sunni and Shiite leaders have come to an agreement on Sunni participation in the constitution-drafting process, a NYT front reports. Although the deal is not final since the names of the participants have yet to be decided, both sides appear to be satisfied. The agreement will create a 71-member committee, with 15 seats reserved for Sunnis. The deal, initially rejected by Sunni negotiators, was sweetened when the Shiite members agreed the constitution would be approved by consensus rather than majority vote—essentially boosting the power of the Sunni appointees.

The Post fronts a disconcerting scoop on how Bush administration officials successfully watered down the language in the G8's forthcoming global-warming policy. Here's one change: (Original version) "[There is] increasingly compelling evidence of climate change, including rising ocean and atmospheric temperatures, retreating ice sheets and glaciers, rising sea levels, and changes to ecosystems." (U.S.-edited version): "Climate change is a serious long term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the globe."

Foetry Friday: In its Column One, the LAT chronicles the bookish vigilantism of Alan Cordle, the 36-year-old Portland librarian who's become infamous in the poetry world for his crusades against contests. Cordle started a Web site more than a year ago in an effort to expose these contests, of which there are more than 100 each year--many with costly entry fees--as fraudulent and unfair. Operating anonymously, he claimed that judges have a tendency to pick entrants with whom they have had some personal interaction, be it professional, friendly, or romantic. Many poets were angry about what they perceived to be Cordle's vindictive and defamatory attacks on their institution. Others were glad for the attention.

David Sarno is a writer in Iowa City. Source: Slate Magazine-Today's Papers.


AP: Bush answers demanded

AP - Fri Jun 17, 3:34 AM ET

ConyersWASHINGTON - Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was helped by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, to hand-deliver petitions to the White House, outside the Northwest Appointment gate of the White House, Thursday, June 16, 2005, in Washington. 

The petitions are signed by 105 members of Congress and more than 540,000 Americans demanding that President Bush provide a detailed response to the evidence in the 'Downing Street Memo'.  The so-called 'Downing Street memo' says the Bush administration believed that war was inevitable and was determined to use intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the ouster of Saddam.  Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

Amid new questions about President Bush's drive to topple Saddam Hussein, several House Democrats urged lawmakers on Thursday to conduct an official inquiry to determine whether the president intentionally misled Congress.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Slate-Papers: Patriot Pains - June 16

By Eric Umansky
Posted Thursday, at 12:41 AM PT

The Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox and Washington Post lead with the House, in a surprise diss of the president, voting to tighten the FBI's ability to peek into library or bookstore records during terrorism investigations. Thirty-eight Republicans joined with Democrats in the tightening of the Patriot Act. President Bush has said before that he would veto such a change. The Justice Dept. recently released records showing they have never actually used the provision to peek at library records. The New York Times leads with word that some career Justice Department lawyers involved in the tobacco trial objected to the decision by top DOJ officials to seriously scale back the penalties demanded from cigarette companies. USA Today leads with and others front the autopsy report on Terri Schiavo confirming that the damage to her brain was indeed "irrecoverable"; her brain had shriveled to about half its normal size. The Los Angeles Times leads with five big unions, representing about 40 percent of the AFL-CIO's membership, announcing the creation of their own federation. They promised to also stick with the AFL-CIO--at least for a couple months. The dissident unions charge that the AFL-CIO is hide-bound and recruiting-impaired.

The NYT bases its lead on a memo from two DOJ lawyers urging their political appointee boss not to slash the penalties sought from cigarette companies: "We do not want politics to be perceived as the underlying motivation, and that is certainly a risk if we make adjustments in our remedies presentation that are not based on evidence." But as the Times mentions 15 paragraphs down, at least one other DOJ lawyer involved supported the lower penalties. Time magazine also talked to one "career Justice Department prosecutor involved in the case" who said the perception of an administration dive is "exactly wrong." And on Monday, the WSJ talked to some legal analysts who said also the feds made a reasonable move.

To continue reading, click here.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com.


AFP: AG-Gitmo to close someday

The United States is constantly reviewing whether the Guantanamo Bay detention center is the best way to deal with terror suspects and will close it one day, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, below left, said yesterday.
AGSource: AFP/File/Paul Richards.


Reuters: Bushes' picnic

President George W. Bush, below right, bids goodnight to those attending the Congressional Picnic held on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC June 15, 2005.
With Bush is first lady Laura Bush (2nd R). Source:  REUTERS/Chris Kleponis.


Bloomberg: Autopsy-Schiavo was hopeless


June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Terri Schiavo's brain was severely atrophied and no amount of therapy would have helped the damage suffered by the 41-year-old woman who became the focus of a national debate as her parents and husband fought over keeping her alive, an autopsy found.

Schiavo in 2001Her brain weighed 615 grams, about half the size of a normal brain when she died on March 31, Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin said Wednesday during a press conference in Largo, Florida. She was completely blind, he said. Schiavo had been in what doctors said was a persistent vegetative state since a cardiac arrest in 1990.

Full Bloomberg story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Reuters: pressure for Bolton - June 15

Senate Republicans hoping to turn up pressure on Democrats said today they would try again this week or next to vote to break the deadlock over John Bolton's bid to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Bolton, right, President Bush's embattled nominee, appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in this file photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.


AP: Arnold protestors

A woman seated among graduates' friends and family members shows her disapproval of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during his remarks yesterday at commencement ceremonies at Santa Monica College, in Santa Monica, Calif.

Source: AP Photo/Reed Saxon.


MMfA: Downing memos questions

The Downing Street Memo raises important questions that are most decidedly not "old news" and need to be asked of good friend Tony Blair and George Bush, below right. Among these questions reporters might consider asking are the following:
  1. The Downing Street Memo relates discussions about Iraq B&Bbetween Richard Dearlove, chief of British intelligence agency MI6, and Bush administration officials. Presumably, the head of British intelligence would have met with senior administration officials. With whom did Dearlove meet? Who told him that military action was inevitable? Were these officials also making public statements indicating that the administration had not decided whether to invade?

  2. Exactly what did American officials tell Dearlove that led him to conclude that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy?

  3. The memo states that in early 2002 the administration had begun "spikes of activity" -- i.e., increased bombings of Iraq -- to pressure Saddam Hussein. Documents recently released in Britain showed that the Royal Air Force dramatically increased bombings of Iraq during 2002, presumably in concert with the United States. Was the intent to goad Saddam into a military response that could be used as a pretext for invading Iraq?

  4. The memo states, "No decisions had been taken, but [the British Defense Secretary] thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections." The Bush administration began to make the case for war in September 2002 because, according to White House chief of staff Andrew Card, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Were the November 2002 elections part of the calculation on the timing of the invasion?

  5. According to the memo, "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." How does the administration square this with its multiple, unequivocal statements on Saddam's supposedly terrifying arsenal of weapons?

  6. During their recent joint press conference, both Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair denied that the decision to go to war had been made by the summer of 2002. Yet no one has disputed the memo's authenticity. So were U.S. officials lying to Dearlove, telling him that war was a foregone conclusion when it wasn't? Was Dearlove lying to Blair about what he was told? Both possibilities seem absurd, yet someone somewhere was not telling the truth: either Dearlove, the American officials with whom he met, or Bush and Blair. Which is it?


AFP: Rumsfeld-Gitmo needed

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, below left, on Tuesday insisted that the Guantanamo detention camp remains an essential part of the US 'war on terror' -- despite international controversy over the treatment of detainees.


Source: AFP/BELGA/File. Wed Jun 15, 2:27 AM ET.


Slate-Papers: Iraq kidnappings - June 15

By Eric Umansky
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2005, at 12:32 AM PT

The Washington Post leads with word that Kurdish militia in the tinderbox city of Kirkuk have "abducted" hundreds of local Arabs and Turkmen and shipped them off -- without charges or judicial process -- to Kurdish-run prisons. The men -- apparently a mix of suspected insurgents and (increasingly) civilians -- were occasionally snatched on joint U.S.-Kurdish patrols and secretly jailed "sometimes with the knowledge of U.S. forces." The New York Times leads with a suicide bombing outside a Kirkuk bank that killed 23 and wounded about 80. Most of the casualties were retirees waiting for their pension checks. USA Today also leads with violence in Iraq but focuses on a perceived trend: Many commanders and other observers think there are a growing number of foreign jihadists, particularly Saudis. They point to the huge number of suicide bombings, an average of 30 per week. That compares to one a week in January 2004.

The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (at least online) with the Senate Appropriations Committee taking money from airport-screening and first-responder kitties and plowing it into border control. The committee allocated $2.33 billion for passenger screening, $335 million below the White House's request. Funding for first responders was pegged at $3.49 billion, about $492 million below current levels. The Los Angeles Times leads with Democratic legislators in Sacramento crying uncle on Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposed penny-pinching budget; no extra money will be included for schools.

The Post says the Kurdish kidnappings were detailed in what was supposed to be a hush-hush State Department memo, which decried the "concerted and widespread initiative" by Kurdish forces "to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner." The memo, which as usual the Post keeps from readers, goes on to say, "Turkmen in Kirkuk tell us they perceive a U.S. tolerance for the practice while Arabs in Kirkuk believe Coalition Forces are directly responsible."

Read far enough down the Post's kidnapping piece, and the suggestions of U.S. complicity begin to look murky:

The U.S. military acknowledged picking up detainees in joint raids with the Kurdish-led police and handing them over. But military officials said the secret transfers were ordered by individual Iraqi police commanders. ... Last month, U.S. officers took a list of missing Arabs and Turkmens to the Kurdish parties and asked for their release.

Still, the Post says hundreds of the men are still MIA. And the U.S. continues to work with the unit responsible. "That's basically the unit we can trust the most," said one commander.

In other Iraq developments, five policemen were killed northeast of Baghdad. And three GIs were killed, one in Baghdad and two in the Anbar province. The Post adds that a total of 24 bodies were discovered at two sites in the province. Some had been beheaded.

The LAT fronts even more pre-war British memos. There are no shockers, but that doesn't mean the docs aren't fun to read. "The U.S. has lost confidence in containment," writes one adviser in March 2002. "Some in government want Saddam removed. The success of [the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan], distrust of U.N. sanctions and inspection regimes, and unfinished business from 1991 are all factors." Two weeks later, another aide wrote, "It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam." The LAT crows it has the "full text of the six new documents" -- and then doesn't post them.

The paper all notice that bank J.P. Morgan Chase has agreed to pay $2.2 billion to Enron investors who allege the bank aided and abetted their fleecing. The move comes days after Citibank agreed to a $2 billion settlement.

Everybody mentions that an independent panel investigating the U.N. oil-for-food scandal will now take another look at Secretary General Kofi Annan after an e-mail showed up -- in yesterday's NYT -- suggesting that Annan knew more than he has said about a U.N. contract awarded to a company Annan's son worked for.

The NYT and WSJ mention that the Bush administration official who tinkered with a global warming report -- and resigned quietly last Friday night -- has been hired by ExxonMobil, which has distinguished itself with its hardline opposition to global warming initiatives.

A front-page Post piece notices that the President Bush has been hanging at the White House with some dissidents, including one from Russia. The WP notes that so far dissents "from allies such as Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have not won Oval Office invitations." An Uzbek opposition leader is scheduled to be in D.C. in a few weeks; he hasn't heard back yet on his request for QT.

The WSJ notices that for all the administration's talk about how John Bolton, the currently blocked nominee for U.N. ambassador, is needed to reform the institution, neither the White House nor Bolton has offered many details. "The U.S. is essentially playing possum on the entire reform question," said one prof. It's a good piece -- except:

"The U.S. agenda on reform is not to constrain the U.N. or put it in a box because of its problems," said a senior State Department official. "Our purpose is to revitalize the U.N. so it can better carry out the missions outlined in its charter."

Such a bold statement. No wonder the official was granted anonymity.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com.

Source: Slate-Today's Papers column.


Spier: ARN fair & balanced

In response to the recent letter [to the Abilene Reporter News editor] by Jimmie Pickens criticizing the editorial policy of the paper and Ms. [Terri] Burke [editor] in particular I offer the following:

Dr. SpierA review of the many letters published by our local newspaper over the past few years reveals that the opinions published run the gamut from the very conservative to the most progressive and with no particular bias by the paper. The fact that Mr. Pickens' letters as well as those of the more ''progressive'' members of our community appear with the same frequency supports this assertion. Additionally, syndicated columnists of all persuasions appear in the paper at about the same ratio. Thus we are able to read both ''liberal'' and ''conservative'' opinions daily. In contrast to Fox ''news,'' the Reporter-News bends over backwards to be both fair and balanced. The paper is exemplary in that it publishes international, national, and local news and taken as a source, is an invaluable resource to the citizens of the Big Country.

Roger D. Spier, M.D. [president of Taylor County Democratic Club]


Wolf: No name-calling

Jimmy Pickens letter of June 3 is a typical Richard Nixon trick. If you don't have reasonable responses, condemn the writer with name calling and inappropriate statements. There seems to be a parallel here with Burke and Ellsworth and Bernstein and Woodward.

Mr. Pickens writes venomous attacks every 30 days at everyone with whom he disagrees. The methods of Nixon's poison still carry over today. Nixon was pardoned from prosecution by his hand-picked Vice-President. Then President Reagan appointed Caspar Weinberger, a confidant of Nixon's, to his cabinet. After he lied to congress about ''The Iran Contra Affair'' he avoided prosecution when George Bush Sr. pardoned him. Republican Party has many parallels to the Nixon era.

Mr. Pickens does not seem to recognize that no one has testified under oath that Dan Rather's letter was false. In fact a lady that worked in office where the records were kept states that the facts in the letter are true. Which means Mr. Bush did not fulfill his National Guard commitment.

Please remember Bush was an admitted boozer until after he was 40 years old. Mr. Pickens please notice that I refrained from calling you names. It is your stated political beliefs that I feel duty bound to question. I have never met Burke or Ellsworth. I know it is their right to have their own opinion without name calling. Any thought that this letter was prompted by them is false.

John Wolf (retired Democrat precinct chair)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


AP: Protestors against Arnold

Demonstrators representing nurses, firefighters, teachers and state employees march outside the Capitol to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's call for a special election, Monday, June 13, 2005, in Sacramento, Calif.
protestorsSchwarzenegger named November 8 for a special election for several ballot initiatives that deal with issues ranging from teacher tenure to the redrawing of legislative boundary lines. Source: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli.


KR: Officers admit no Iraq military solution

-----by Tom Lasseter

Military Action Won't End Insurgency, Growing Number of US Officers Believe

BAGHDAD - The recognition that a military solution is not in the offing has led U.S. and Iraqi officials to signal they are willing to negotiate with insurgent groups, or their intermediaries.

"It has evolved in the course of normal business," said a senior U.S. diplomatic official in Baghdad, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of U.S. policy to defer to the Iraqi government on Iraqi political matters. "We have now encountered people who at least claim to have some form of a relationship with the insurgency."

The message is markedly different from previous statements by U.S. officials who spoke of quashing the insurgency by rounding up or killing "dead enders" loyal to former dictator Saddam Hussein. As recently as two weeks ago, in a Memorial Day interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," Vice President Dick Cheney said he believed the insurgency was in its "last throes."

But the violence has continued unabated, even though 44 of the 55 Iraqis portrayed in the military's famous "deck of cards" have been killed or captured, including Saddam.

Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

"We can't kill them all," Wellman said. "When I kill one I create three."

Full Knight-Ridder story.


Saddam: Change of venue!

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein should be tried in another country, preferably Sweden, rather than Iraq, one of his defense lawyers said on June 12, 2005.
Saddam"We invite the Iraqi government and the prosecutors to hold this trial, if there is to be a trial, not in Iraq where it's not safe to hold the trial, but to hold it either in the Hague or in Sweden or in Austria or even in Switzerland," British-based lawyer Giovanni di Stefano said.
In this file photo Saddam Hussein is led in shackles during the day of his Iraqi special tribunal hearing. Source: Pool/Reuters.


AFP: NATO probe of Uzbek massacre blocked

An Uzbek woman looks at bread at the outdoor market in the eastern city of Andijan.
Uzbek marketRussia and the United States blocked NATO last week from calling for an international probe into last month's clashes in Uzbekistan, in which hundreds of people were believed killed, The Washington Post said.
Source: AFP/File/Maxim Marmur.


Slate: today's papers - June 14

By Eric Umansky - A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers
Posted Tuesday, at 12:17 AM PT

USA Today leads with the jury clearing Michael Jackson of all charges. Everybody else has near banners on Michael but looks elsewhere for its lead. The Washington Post leads with and NYT off-leads the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling overturning a 20-year-old murder conviction of a Texas death-row inmate. The court ruled that the prosecutors had crossed-off potential jurors on the basis of race, a no-no. The Wall Street Journal's business box and New York Times lead with head of Morgan Stanley, who's faced serious internal attacks, announcing that he's going to resign ASAP. Philip Purcell probably won't be shuffling off to the unemployment office. According to the Journal, his goodbye package will be worth at least $62 million. The Los Angeles Times leads with California Gov. Schwarzenegger setting a special election for the fall to vote on a series his of government overhaul propositions. Among the proposals: creating new spending caps, handing redistricting powers over to a panel of judges, and lengthening the time it takes teachers to earn "tenure."

The Jacko jury deliberated for about 30 hours total. But they were given 98-pages of instructions and it took them just two votes to reach a consensus. Basically, they didn't trust the accuser and particularly his mother. "I don't want to give the impression that this was a slam-dunk deal," said juror during post-game interviews. "We challenged the issues and we came to the decision that pointed to reasonable doubt." Slate's Emily Bazelon explains how the prosecution's case fell apart.

Prosecutors in the now-overturned Texas death-penalty case had tossed out ten of the 11 blacks eligible to sit on the jury. A federal appeals court had essentially OK'd the prosecutors' moves. "It is a sign of how far the lower federal courts have drifted to the right that the Supreme Court had to correct this racially discriminatory prosecution," sighs the NYT's editorial page. As the WSJ emphasizes, the Supremes also ruled 8-1 yesterday in another case that California makes it too hard for defendants to allege racial bias in jury selections.

With two Jackson stories and accompanying photo taking up a wide swath of Page One, the Post simply teases a whopper: The Pentagon—together with Russia—successfully blocked a NATO call for independent probe of last month's massacre in Uzbekistan. Defense officials argued that the U.S. base there is really really handy. Since tensions have risen, Uzbekistan's leader has restricted access to it. In contrast to the Pentagon, the State Department has repeatedly and publicly called for an independent investigation.  Yesterday's LAT pondered the U.S.'s "freedom deficit" in Uzbekistan.

As the Journal says up high, four GIs were wounded by a suspected suicide car bomber in Afghanistan. Three other bombs were reportedly found on a road near Kandahar.

About a dozen Iraqis were killed in four suicide car bombings and other attacks. As Knight Ridder notes, a bomb outside the offices of one moderate Sunni group hit about 10 minutes after the U.S.'s acting ambassador left.  Meanwhile, the impasse continued over Sunni demands for (over-)representation on the constitution-writing committee.

It's been a near-consensus among libs and cons that madrasas teach extremism and build future jihadists. It also seems to be wrong. Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey explain in a NYT op-ed:

We examined the educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of the most significant recent terrorist attacks against Westerners. We found that a majority of them are college-educated. Of the 75, only nine had attended madrassas, and all of those played a role in one attack - the Bali bombing. Even in this instance, however, five college-educated "masterminds"—including two university lecturers—helped to shape the Bali plot.

Like the view that poverty drives terrorism—a notion that countless studies have debunked—the idea that madrassas are incubating the next generation of terrorists offers the soothing illusion that desperate, ignorant automatons are attacking us rather than college graduates, as is often the case. While madrassas are an important issue in education and development in the Muslim world, they are not and should not be considered a threat to the United States.

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com .

Source:  Slate Magazine - Today's Papers column.

Monday, June 13, 2005


Cheney: Gitmo not closing

The sun sets at Camp X-Ray at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

GitmoThe US government has no plans to close its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview airing Monday, as controversy about the 'war on terror' detention camp flared anew over the latest revelation of detainee treatment. Source: AFP/US Navy-HO/File/Shane T. McCoy.


AP: for Supreme Court?

GOP Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, right, and John Cornyn of Texas are seen in these file photos.

Cornyn-KylWhile admittedly long shots, Cornyn and Kyl are being talked up by some conservatives as possible nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court if there is a vacancy in the summer of 2005.

Cornyn is a former Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general. Kyl is a stalwart pro-business conservative and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both men have been at the forefront in fighting Democratic filibusters against Bush's federal appeals court nominees. Source: AP Photos/ Files.


Slate-Papers: Iraq's Training Daze - June 13

By Eric Umansky
Posted Monday, at 12:56 AM PT

The NYT goes above-the-fold with the latest state-of-the-Iraqi-forces: "AS IRAQI ARMY TRAINS, WORD IN THE FIELD IS IT MAY TAKE YEARS." The story itself actually paints slightly more of a mixed bag—"moral at the [main training] camp seems high." Still, emphasis on slightly. An American lieutenant described the unit the Times followed as "pre-MOC," that is not even minimal operational capable. One thing lacking in the Times' coverage—especially compared the Post's recent take—the Iraqi soldiers' perspective. 

The Los Angeles Times leads with military officials concluding that insurance companies—including scandaled giant AIG—have been essentially price-gouging the government on workers' comp insurance for contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. USA Today leads with a poll showing support for the war in Iraq continuing to dip. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the U.S. should withdraw some or all troops; that's 10 points higher than in February. USAT gets brownie points for acknowledging, by name, the existence of similar polls (which, happily for USAT, jibe with this one). The New York Times' nation edition leads with a sneak peek at a congressionally-mandated bipartisan panel's report concluding that the U.N. has all sorts of issues—bad management, stinky morale, etc—but is also making an effort to right itself. The Washington Post doesn't really have a proper lead. The closest thing is a feature across the top looking at the administration use of immigration violations to aggressively go after anybody it thinks might be at all connected to jihadi groups.

"For too many of the member states, the United Nations is seen as a job placement bureau," concludes the previewed bipartisan report. The NYT says the report actually has a much softer tone than much of the congressional criticism the U.N. has faced. Meanwhile, the Times sheds some light on how it ended up with its "scoop": The panel itself "made a copy of its 174-page report available to The New York Times on Sunday. The report is scheduled to be made public in Washington on Wednesday." In other words, the Times has a copy, but won't give one to you.

The Wall Street Journal goes high with the latest from Iraq, where the military announced four Marines were killed. And as the LAT emphasizes, 26 bodies were found east of Baghdad. "All were blindfolded and their hands were tied behind their backs and shot from behind," said one Iraqi official. A Sunni organization claimed the men were Sunni.   

The LAT and NYT front seven bombs in Iran that killed about 10 people and wounded about 80. Four of the bombs hit the capital of Iran's only Arab-dominated province, near the Iraqi border. The others hit in the center of Teheran. The Iranian government blamed Iraqi Baathists. The LAT, which has the most detailed coverage, gives a sense of long rising Arab resentment in the outer providence that was hit.  The paper also notes that journalists at the scene of one bombing were "held for about one hour before being released."

Elsewhere in Teheran, hundreds of women protested against sexual discrimination in what the NYT calls the "first public display of dissent by women since the 1979 revolution."

A piece inside the Journal suggests that for all the kvetching about the Justice Department's backdown last week on the amount of dough it's demanding from tobacco companies in the big civil suit, the move might not have been so bad: It "could bring the sides a step closer to settlement, or at least give the government's case a better chance to survive an appeal."

USAT pulls few punches in its cover story on greenhouse gases:  "THE DEBATE'S OVER: GLOBE IS WARMING." Actually, there is one punch pulled. The subhead reads, "Politicians, Corporations and Religious Groups Differ Mainly on How to Fix the Problem." But aren't some politicians, including, say, one who lives in the White House, still unbelievers?

The LAT's Page One notices that a lobbying firm that employs a top congressional Democrat's brother helped insert $20 million worth of contracts in the recent $417 billion Pentagon bill. The Democrat, Rep. John Murtha, is a top dog on the appropriations committee and thus had power to play with the bill. But everybody—the clients, the lobbyists, and the politician—deny that the brother was at all involved. Nor does the Times have evidence otherwise. Which make this runner-up for the worst headline of the day: "LOBBYIST'S BROTHER GUIDED HOUSE BILL."

That brings us to Number One. A day after the Post broke word of another pre-war British memo, the NYT hops on board. Presumably not content to simply repeat the WP's angle—"MEMO: U.S. LACKED FULL POSTWAR IRAQ PLAN"— the Times gets creative: "PREWAR BRITISH MEMO SAYS WAR DECISION WASN'T MADE." That headline hangs on a single clause of a single sentence in the 2,300-word memo:

Although no political decisions have been taken, US military planners have drafted options for the US Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq.

As it happens, the memo was first obtained by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times (U.K.). Its headline: "MINISTERS WERE TOLD OF NEED FOR GULF WAR 'EXCUSE'."

Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at todayspapers@slate.com .

Source: Slate-Today's Papers.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


CNN: Missing teen high achiever, but naive

Natalee Holloway, below left, the Alabama 18-year-old missing in Aruba since May 30, was known as a top student and tireless worker at Mountain Brook High School, where she graduated last month before leaving for Aruba with 124 other seniors. Her aunt, Marcia Twitty, said seven adults went along as chaperones.

HollowayHolloway was in the National Honor Society, studied Spanish and was a member of American Field Service, which works with foreign exchange students. Her participation may have been a reflection of her travels, which Mrs. Twitty said included trips to Europe, Canada and some cruises.

She was a member of the student government and sweated through long hours of practice as a member of the school dance team. But Holloway wasn't just about glitz: she also joined Natural Helpers, a peer support group, and other volunteer organizations.

For all her activities and achievements, relatives described Holloway as having an almost childlike side, too.  "Natalee's naive. She hasn't dated a lot. She doesn't party a lot," said uncle Paul Reynolds. Holloway attends church regularly and wouldn't ever run away, he said.

Full CNN story.


AP: Brits doubted US postwar Iraq plan

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush, below right, said publicly prior to the invasion in March 2003 that they viewed military action in Iraq as a last resort.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A staff paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair eight months before the invasion of Iraq concluded that U.S. military officials were not planning adequately for a postwar occupation, The Washington Post reported.

"A postwar occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise," authorities of the briefing memo wrote, according to the Post. "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."

Full CNN-AP story.  D.H.: The Post article goes on to say it got copies of the memos from Michael Smith of the London Times, the author of the following two stories on these memos that have just today become public.


LT: UK Iraq war "excuse" - June 12

By Michael Smith, London Times

TONY BLAIR CABINET MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein (shown below left in a file photo) at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

SaddamThe briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair's inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

Full London Times story.


LT: New UK memos surface - June 12

Today we publish further revelations in the news section in the form of a July 2002 Cabinet Office briefing paper.

It makes clear that both Blair and Bush have a lot to apologise for: "When the prime minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April [2002] he said that the UK would support military action to bring about [Iraqi] regime change," it states, adding that "regime change per se is illegal". Bush & Blair are shown, below right, in a file photo June 7, 2005.Bush & Blair

As a prime minister had agreed to do something that was illegal under British interpretation of international law, it was "necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support regime change", the briefing paper says.

Full London Times story.


ST: Prof talks nukes - June 12


UW professor holds North Korea talks

A University of Washington professor has done what U.S. political leaders have failed to do for more than a year: hold talks in North Korea aimed at averting a nuclear crisis.

While official negotiations have been stalled since last June, veteran East Asia professor Donald Hellmann visited North Korea for three days last week to conduct what he called the first international academic conference ever held there.

Hellmann said he was moved to help organize the conference out of frustration over the stalemate between the United States and North Korea over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Thursday through yesterday, he and more than 20 scholars from the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea met in a North Korean mountain resort not far from the South Korean border. In a compound surrounded by armed North Korean soldiers, they discussed the North Korean nuclear stance and what it would take to make future talks successful.

Full Seattle Times article.


AP: Dean in Iowa

Dean in Iowa-----
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean talks with former Iowa Secretary of State Elaine Baxter prior to giving the keynote address at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner, Saturday, June 11, 2005, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Gov. Tom Vilsack also spoke at this banquet.
Source: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall.
D.H.: For someone the media say is embarrassing the Democratic Party, Dean certainly is making the rounds.
DNC leaders back Dean, don't want 'wimp'
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent - Sat Jun 11, 2:56 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic National Committee leaders embraced feisty party boss Howard Dean on Saturday and urged him to keep fighting despite a flap over his blunt comments on Republicans.

After a meeting of the DNC's 40-member executive committee at a downtown hotel, members said Dean was doing exactly what they elected him to do -- build the party in all states and aggressively challenge Republicans.

"I hope Governor Dean will remember that he didn't get elected to be a wimp," said DNC member Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a South Carolina state representative. "We have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up for Democrats."

Dean took fire from Republicans and some Democrats earlier this week for a series of recent comments, including calling Republicans "pretty much a white, Christian party" and saying they "never made an honest living in their lives."

Some Democrats in Washington, including party congressional leaders and several potential 2008 White House candidates, distanced themselves from Dean's comments and called them mistakes.

But in a series of interviews DNC members backed the former Vermont governor, known for his fiery rhetoric during his failed 2004 White House run, and said they knew what they were getting when they elected him in February as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"Howard Dean is going to be much more aggressive, much more outspoken and much more of a risk-taker outside the Beltway than any chairman has been. We knew that," said Alvaro Cifuentes, chairman of the DNC Hispanic caucus.

"We have to get our politics out of Washington. We cannot continue to be held captive by party leaders who I respect but who have to play their own local politics," Cifuentes said, calling congressional Democrats "timid" and the flap over his comments "mostly a Beltway play."

Rest of this AP Story, in which DNC members throughout the country said they got exactly what they wanted in Dean.


Slate-Papers: Only 3.5% Al Qaeda - June 12

D.H.: This column likes catchy titles, and today's (Two Out of Three Ain't Bad) apparently relates to a horse winning two out of three of the "triple crown."  But my own headline, "Only 3.5% Al Qaeda," relates to the first paragraph below -- in which only 3.5% of the Administration's terrorism charges lead to convictions of any ties to Al Qaeda.  This paragraph was originally buried below the fold, halfway down, but to me, it was the most significant paragraph in the whole story today.
Posted Sunday, at 3:04 AM PT
Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
By Lea Rappaport Geller
The WP off-leads with a report that according to its own investigation, although the Bush administration claims that federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects and half as many convictions, only 39 people have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes. The WP analyzed the Justice Department's list of terrorism prosecutions and concluded that most people on the list had been convicted of minor crimes which had nothing to do with terrorism—making false statements and violating immigration law. According to the WP, among the 361 people charged as a result of terrorism probes in the three years after the 9/11 attacks, there was no found connection to terrorism or terrorist groups for 180 of them, and of the 39 convicted of terrorism-related crimes, only 14 had clear links to al Qaeda. The chief of the Justice counterterrorism unit explained that prosecutors often use lesser charges when they are not confident they can prove larger crimes and that many defendants who were prosecuted for minor crimes provided valuable, nonpublic information. Watch this space as President Bush pushes for renewal of the Patriot Act.

The Washington Post leads, the Los Angeles Times off-leads, and the NYT surprisingly goes inside with news that the finance ministers of the Group of 8 industrialized nations formally agreed to cancel at least $40 billion of debt owed to international agencies by the world's poorest, mostly African nations. The New York Times leads with news that the FBI has relented and will allow national intelligence director John Negroponte to pick the bureau's third-ranking official—an associate director for intelligence.

In total, international lenders are owed roughly $55.6 billion. Under the G-8 agreement, poor nations' debt to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund would be wiped out and wealthier nations would replenish the reserves of the organizations. The United States has agreed to pay up to $1.75 billion in compensation to international lenders over the next 10 years. Fourteen countries in Africa (the full list) and four in Latin America are eligible for immediate debt forgiveness and an additional 20 countries could qualify over the next two years. The WP explains that previous plans offered only partial relief and were criticized for forcing some countries to spend more on debt service than on health and education. Still, the agreement does not cover all poor debtor nations, and required serious compromise as London and Washington were split over how to handle the debts owed to the NGOs. Gordon Brown, the Brit behind the debt relief effort, said the total size of the debt relief package could eventually reach $55 billion. The deal is a big win for Britain, which assumes the G-8 presidency next month.

Technically, Mr. Negroponte will be choosing the associate director along with FBI director Robert Mueller, but apparently it's a huge deal that someone from outside of the agency will have any say in hiring. The FBI is bowing to pressure from the White House, Congress, and more specifically from the Silberman-Robb commission which set forth a laundry list of criticism of and recommendations for the bureau's intelligence gathering. As envisioned by the commission, the new director would supervise efforts to create a domestic security agency within the bureau—one of the bureau's most controversial tasks. Many critics think that in light of the 9/11 intelligence blunders, the bureau should no longer have authority over domestic intelligence. There's no word yet on who will fill the post or whether or not the candidate will be hired from inside the FBI.

The NYT fronts a story about the impact of longer life expectancy rates on social security. Americans who turn 65 this year can expect to live, on average, until they are 83—that's four and a half years longer than the typical 65-year-old could expect in 1940. By 2040, an average 65-year-old will live to 85. The problem, however, is not just the Americans are living longer; they're also retiring earlier. Although some suggest the only way to offset the trend is to raise the retirement age, that solution couldn't be any less popular, and while policy hacks engaged in the debate may plan on working well into their eighties, one pollster remarked that "out in the country, most people don't look forward to working forever." Another pollster agreed: "Forty might be the new 30, but they don't necessarily believe that 70 is the new 65."

The NYT also fronts a report that the U.S. is seeking international support to persuade the newly elected Iraqi government to be more inclusive of "minorities" (read: Sunnis). With the new government significantly less susceptible to U.S. pressure than its predecessor, the Iraqi Governing Council, the U.S. had to go to Europe, the U.N. and the Arab world for support. Although it's unclear how successful the international offensive will be, one thing's certain—the U.S. could not push for more Sunni involvement alone. One "Western diplomat" explained that unlike the IGC: "This is not an American puppet government anymore. It's standing up to the United States because it feels it has been elected and has legitimacy."

From Iraq: At least 34 Iraqis and two American marines were killed in violence on Friday night and Saturday, and a series of Marine warplane and helicopter air strikes in the western desert killed about 40 insurgents. A former member of the Wolf Brigade, an elite Iraqi commando unit, entered the brigade headquarters in eastern Baghdad and detonated explosives strapped to his body, killing three soldiers and one other person. Elsewhere in Iraq, gunmen south of Baghdad surrounded a minibus carrying construction workers and shot 11 of them to death.

The LAT fronts another story from Iraq, this one about the booming wedding business since the ousting of Saddam Hussein. Although the number of weddings dropped in the first few months of the U.S. invasion, they've doubled since then. Wedding fever seems to have gripped even those who aren't getting married: One of the most popular shows on Iraqi TV is a reality program that follows couples as they plan their weddings. Those interviewed were split on whether the surge in nuptials was a result of better job prospects or increased desperation.

Everyone fronts news that Afleet Alex won the Belmont Stakes, thereby staking claim to two thirds of the Triple Crown; the three-year-old colt won the Preakness Stakes but lost the Kentucky Derby. Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown.

What's good for the goose: As evidence that men don't have a monopoly on the midlife crisis, according to a story in the NYT Sunday Styles section, women are having their own crises and buying their own corresponding sports cars. In fact, more women of a certain age are chucking their stodgy family-mobiles and opting for racy, sexy cars which scream midlife. One woman seemed to be ahead of the game. At only 41, she traded in her sedan and got a tattoo at the base of the neck. The tattoo? A "Z" to match the Nissan 350Z in which she's now cruising around.

Lea Rappaport Geller is a writer in Los Angeles.


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