She Was a Phantom of Delight

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair;
Like twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warm, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.

William Wordsworth

Canada optimistic it will be exempted

Canada, America’s top trading partner, is cautiously optimistic it will be exempted from protectionist provisions in the economic stimulus bill moving through the senate that call on major public works projects to favor U.S. iron, steel and manufactured goods over imports, Canada’s international trade minister said Saturday.

Canada and other U.S. trading partners warn that favoring U.S. companies would breach Washington’s trade commitments and could set off a retaliatory trade war.

Canadian International Trade Minister Stockwell Day voiced strong objections when he met with interim U.S. trade representative Peter Allgeier at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this weekend.

U.S. President Barack Obama does not have a trade representative yet, but was represented by Allgeier, a Bush administration holdover who served as ambassador to the World Trade Organization. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, Obama’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, is awaiting Senate confirmation.

“Following the discussions I’ve had, and with the interventions we’ve made on a number of levels I’m cautiously optimistic that something can be worked out,” Day said in a conference call with reporters on Saturday.

Day said Allgeier was very much aware how big of a concern it is to Canada. He said the president has certain abilities to waive parts of the legislation if they go against the obligations of the North American Free Trade Agreement — which links the U.S., Canada and Mexico — and other international pacts aimed at liberalizing world trade.

“They are looking for ways to handle our concerns,” Day said. “The administration is very aware. There seems to be a desire to do something to mitigate the effects of the legislation going through, if it does go through.”

Asked about the protectionist provisions Friday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs would say only that the administration was reviewing them.

The provisions are likely to find support among Americans outraged that money from a stimulus package likely to top $800 billion could go to foreign competitors of U.S. companies.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $819 billion stimulus bill on Wednesday that included “buy American” provisions that would call on major public works projects to favor U.S. steel and iron.

Canada’s trade minister noted the Senate is considering expanding the measure to include manufactured goods, a more far-reaching provision. The proposed Senate provision states that none of the funds may be used for a project “unless all of the iron, steel and manufactured goods used in the projects are produced in the United States.”

Day said the provisions in the stimulus bill are similar to the U.S. Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930, a tariff law which he said had exacerbated the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“In a time of global downturn countries should not be lapsing backwards into protectionist activity. That only results in other countries then wanting to put up barriers and the last thing we need now is a retaliatory trade war,” Day said.

U.S. trade with Canada totaled about $560 billion in the first 11 months of last year, well ahead of trade with second-place China, which was about $379 billion in the January-November period.

Canada and the EU are waiting to see if the measure is included in the final economic-recovery package that is expected to emerge from the Senate next week. Democratic leaders have pledged to deliver it to the White House for Obama’s signature by mid-February.

Obama is scheduled to make his first foreign trip as president to Canada on Feb. 19. Day said it is a major issue for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“If it’s not resolved by the time the president arrives here, I just know how concerned our PM is on this,” Day said.

__________

Full story: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/01/31/business/NA-Canada-US-Trade.php

A bidding war and a row over ethics: how the octuplets story turned sour

It was a heart-warming tale of a young Californian mother who gave birth to eight babies. But now, as more details emerge, public reaction has turned from from joy to shock to anger.

It was a midwinter miracle; eight babies born to a single mother and every one of them delivered alive. For a nation enduring its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the tale was a welcome relief from bail-outs and bankruptcies. But this weekend, as the journalistic pack chases an altogether darker dimension to the story of Nadya Suleman, the feel-good factor has suddenly vanished.

The birth of Suleman’s eight babies – six boys and two girls – was clearly an extraordinary event. Only one previous case of eight surviving babies had ever been recorded in the US. Yet as the eccentricity of Suleman’s background and biography emerges, America is suddenly recoiling in shock. Far from being a heart-warming tale of wonder, the more that becomes known about the Suleman family, the more it seems something very disturbing has occurred. Public reaction has quickly turned from joy to shock and anger.

By last night, it was clear that Suleman is not an infertile woman who sought medical help to have children. The 33-year-old Californian already has six children. She is single and has no visible means of support for her current family, let alone the additional eight babies that now give her enough offspring to field a football team with three substitutes.

In fact, Suleman still lives with her parents. Her family has revealed that she may have serious mental-health problems and be addicted to having children. Her own mother, Angela Suleman, told one Associated Press reporter: “[She] is not evil, but she is obsessed with children. She loves children, she is very good with children, but obviously she overdid herself.”

Angela Suleman also revealed that her daughter’s obsession with children caused her considerable stress, and led her to seek help from a psychologist, who had told her to order her daughter out of the house.

“Maybe she wouldn’t have had so many kids then, but she is a grown woman,” Angela said. “I feel responsible and I didn’t want to throw her out.”

The case of the Suleman octuplets is now sending shockwaves through the medical fertility community. Few reputable doctors can understand how a healthy mother-of-six could have been allowed to have fertility treatment that resulted in octuplets without serious questions arising about the mother’s mental health, her capacity to raise such a large family or the huge medical dangers involved in giving birth to so many babies at once.

The family has now taken refuge behind the curtains of its modest three-bedroom suburban home in Whittier, a town near Los Angeles. Usually in these situations, the proud parents parade before the cameras, appear on talk shows and land lucrative sponsorship deals with baby-products firms.

But when Nadya Suleman’s father, Edward, briefly emerged, he did not appear full of the joys of enlarging his family with more grandchildren. “I wish it happens to you people, so you go through hell,” he snapped at the media throng as he unloaded bags of shopping from his car. It was later revealed that Edward was considering going back to his native Iraq – where he has worked as a contractor – in order to raise some cash for the family. As the bidding war begins for Suleman’s story, the quickest and most likely route to financial security is likely to be a publishing contract.

The money seems to be desperately needed. Details of the family’s finances suggest that the Sulemans are already struggling with the load of looking after six children and are ill-prepared for the arrival of eight more.

Court records in nearby San Bernardino show that Suleman’s mother filed for bankruptcy last year, claiming $1m in liabilities as a result of a bad housing investment. At the same time, the records hint at an unusual personal history for the family. They show that Suleman – who changed her name from Nadya Doud in 2001 – divorced her husband, Marcos Gutiérrez, a year ago. Gutiérrez, however, may not be the father of her first six children, because the divorce filing indicates no children were produced from the marriage.

In fact, birth certificates name one “David Solomon” as the father of her eldest four children. It also seems that Suleman had been living with her parents, not her husband, for the past eight years, at a variety of addresses. However, her own parents, who still live together, are also divorced, having legally separated in Las Vegas in 1999.

Suleman herself seems to have little employment history. Neighbours have reported that she worked as a psychiatric technician before she began having children. After that, she attended college, studying child development. She graduated with a bachelor of science degree and returned to do a masters. She last went to a classroom in the spring of 2008.

But even more mysterious than the family’s history are the details of how Suleman became impregnated. Officials at Kaiser Permanente, where a 46-strong medical team delivered her eight children, have said she first appeared there when she was already three months pregnant. Yet it seems that the fertility clinic that implanted Suleman with so many embryos was going against current medical practice. Leaving aside the wisdom of treating a single mother with six children, it is dangerous to implant so many embryos in a woman so young. The likelihood of all those embryos taking hold is much higher in younger mothers and so most doctors would only implant one or two embryos.

Then there is the question of why doctors allowed Suleman to keep all eight embryos once they took hold in her womb, despite the enormous risks to her: even having triplets puts a woman and her babies at huge risk of death or serious injury.

Medical experts across America have queued up to express their rage. “If this resulted from an IVF treatment, we can say that transferring eight embryos in an IVF cycle is well beyond our guidelines,” said Dale McClure, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Meanwhile, Arthur Wisot, a fertility doctor in Los Angeles, raised a further prospect. “I cannot imagine that any of the mainstream practices in the Los Angeles area were involved in this. I would guess… she either went out of the country or went to a practice that flies below the radar,” he told a TV reporter.

All the drama has left many questions still unanswered as the eight babies at the centre of the controversy recover in hospital.

They are all doing well. But if the American public was looking for hope and inspiration in the face of tough times, the Suleman octuplets will have provided little in the way of light relief.

__________

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/01/suleman-octuplets-row

Bullying at school ‘can be good for you’

bully_1250292c-1

Being a victim of schoolyard thugs can help pupils learn how to manage disputes and boost their ability to interact with others

According to official figures, almost half of children claim they are bullied at school.

One of the biggest studies of its kind by Ofsted showed 48 per cent of young people had been verbally or physically abused in the last year.

It comes despite a raft of Government initiatives designed to crack down on attacks and intimidation.

Writing on the website Spiked, Dr Guldberg said: “Teachers are increasingly lumbered with the task of looking after children’s health and wellbeing rather than being allowed to get on with the task of educating them.

“Children are encouraged to assume their relationships with other children are damaging, and tacitly encouraged to look upon their peers with trepidation and suspicion.”

She added: “If we treat children as if they cannot possibly cope with hurtful experiences, then we will likely undermine their confidence and make them less likely to cope with difficult events in the future. In effect, we will prevent them from growing up.”

The comments echo remarks made by teachers in recent years who claim the education system has been too focused on developing children’s social skills at the expense of academic learning.

But Sue Steel, national manager of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said: “Children who are being bullied often find it difficult to tell anyone. Teachers can help by maintaining an appropriate level of vigilance.”

__________

Full article and photo: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/4400779/Bullying-at-school-can-be-good-for-you.html

More on Nonprofit Newspapers

The sad irony of the predicaments facing newspapers today is that their troubles are not a function of loss of audience. In fact, the total readership of the content of the New York Times and the Washington Post has grown more than fivefold since the emergence of the World Wide Web. My statistics are not up to date, but the Washington Post and New York Times Web sites combined have in excess of twenty-five million unique monthly users. Several million of these readers live overseas. The problem is that the business model that created the newsrooms that made this journalism so popular has been shattered at the same time. New readers are, per capita, less profitable than the old ones. That is hardly a reason to allow the destruction of the journalism that attracted them to these newsrooms in the first place.

Second, the sheer scale of legacy newsrooms creates strength—an independence of mind, an imperviousness to deep pockets and political pressure. At the height of the Washington Post’s powers, I was working as an investigative reporter in London and got into a dispute over my reporting with an exiled Russian, er, businessman. The Post’s lawyers never blinked. They shelled out in the range of a million bucks of cash and insurance to defend our reporting, sent private investigators to Russia to acquire files that proved our case, and handled the matter without ever breaking a sweat. The powerful institutions, whether private or public, that journalism should report on simply dwarf those smaller entities that will emerge in the coming era of self-publishing and philanthropic journalism. We need a few big dogs with enough money to choose principle even when it does not make economic sense.

Third, and perhaps obviously, ambitious reporting is expensive. Foreign bureaus are expensive. Investigative projects can take a year or more. You have to be willing to drill dry holes. Some of this sort of reporting can be replicated on a smaller scale by groups like Voice of San Diego. The deep, sustained international reporting that crosses borders and travels to refugee camps and civil wars without an advocacy agenda; multifaceted investigative reporting disciplined by continuous contact with audiences; expert beat reporting where the writers’ instincts about what matters and how to document difficult, hidden facts has built over many years—all of this is now in jeopardy unless it is endowed.

Full article: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/01/more-on-nonprof.html

A Long-Lived Privilege?

karlrove_dl-vertical-1

Rove was instructed by then White House counsel Fred Fielding to exert executive privilege if subpoenaed.

Just four days before he left office, President Bush instructed former White House aide Karl Rove to refuse to cooperate with future congressional inquiries into alleged misconduct during his administration.

On Jan. 16, 2009, then White House Counsel Fred Fielding sent a letter (.pdf) to Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin. The message: should his client receive any future subpoenas, Rove “should not appear before Congress” or turn over any documents relating to his time in the White House. The letter told Rove that President Bush was continuing to assert executive privilege over any testimony by Rove—even after he leaves office.

A nearly identical letter (.pdf) was also sent by Fielding the day before to a lawyer for former White House counsel Harriet Miers, instructing her not to appear for a scheduled deposition with the House Judiciary Committee. That letter reasserted the White House position that Miers has “absolute immunity” from testifying before Congress about anything she did while she worked at the White House—a far-reaching claim that is being vigorously disputed by lawyers for the House of Representatives in court.

The letters set the stage for what is likely to be a highly contentious legal and political battle over an unresolved issue: whether a former president can assert “executive privilege”—and therefore prevent his aides from testifying before Congress—even after his term has expired.

“To my knowledge, these [letters] are unprecedented,” said Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor who specializes in executive-privilege issues. “I’m aware of no sitting president that has tried to give an insurance policy to a former employee in regard to post-administration testimony.” Shane likened the letter to Rove as an attempt to give his former aide a ‘get-out-of-contempt-free card’.”

The issue arose this week after House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers announced that he had subpoenaed Rove to be deposed under oath next Monday to answer questions about his alleged role in the firing of U.S. attorneys and the prosecution of the former Democratic governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman. Conyers, whose panel extensively investigated both matters last year, signaled that he has no intention of dropping them now just because Bush has left office. “After two years of stonewalling, it’s time for him [Rove] to talk,” Conyers said in a press release.

But it is unclear whether Rove—or Miers, who was found in contempt of Congress last year when she refused to honor an earlier subpoena—is close to doing so. Luskin said he did not solicit the letter from Fielding, but maintains that its contents give his client little choice in the matter.

Fielding’s letter cited the aggressive position of the Bush Justice Department on executive-privilege issues. That doctrine essentially held that White House aides not only did not have to answer specific questions before Congress about their presidential duties, they didn’t even have to show up in response to subpoenas because they had “absolute immunity.”

“We anticipate that one or more committees of the United States Congress might again seek to compel Mr. Rove’s appearance, testimony or documents on the subject of the U.S. attorneys matter,” Fielding wrote. “Please advise Mr. Rove … that the President continues to direct him not to provide information (whether in the form of testimony or documents) to the Congress in this matter …”

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Fielding declined to comment. But a former presidential aide, who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters, said that the letter to Rove was “basically the same” as the one sent to Miers (and a third letter sent to former White House chief of staff Josh Bolten). “If the president was going to assert privilege,” this source said, he had to do it before he left office on Jan. 20.

Luskin said that he forwarded a copy of Fielding’s letter, as well as the subpoena he got from Conyers, to Obama’s White House counsel, Greg Craig, and essentially asked for the new president’s position on these matters.

So far, he said, Craig hasn’t responded; Luskin also says he has asked the House Judiciary Committee to postpone its deposition of Rove until he hears back. The committee has agreed to put off the deposition—but only for a few weeks.

The issue is likely to come to a head soon. The Justice Department is due to state its position on executive privilege to the U.S. Court of Appeals in a few weeks in response to the House’s attempt to enforce its previous subpoenas for Miers and Bolten, who were subpoenaed to turn over documents relating the U.S. attorneys firings. Both refused to comply, or even show up—relying on the Bush Justice Department’s sweeping position on “absolute immunity” from testifying before Congress.

Few legal observers expect the Obama Justice Department to endorse that position, but it remains an open question how the new administration will define the scope of presidential privilege. Bush’s attempt to assert privilege even after he leaves office throws a new wrinkle into the dispute.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Luskin said to NEWSWEEK when asked whether a former president can still assert executive privilege after he leaves office. He added that Rove has no personal objection to testifying and will cooperate with an ongoing Justice Department inquiry into the U.S. attorneys firing—although Luskin says he has not yet been contacted. (Rove is an occasional contributor to Newsweek).

A White House aide said Wednesday afternoon that Craig’s office was still reviewing the issue.

 __________

Full article and photo: http://www.newsweek.com/id/182240

Judge rejects Obama bid to stall Gitmo trial

A military judge at Guantanamo on Thursday rejected a White House request to suspend a hearing for the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, creating an unexpected challenge for the Obama administration as it reviews the U.S. war-crimes trials process.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said his decision was difficult but necessary to protect “the public interest in a speedy trial.” The ruling came in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The bombing of the Navy destroyer in 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, killed 17 U.S. sailors.

It seemed to take the Pentagon completely by surprise.

“The Department of Defense is currently reviewing Judge Pohl’s ruling,” said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. “We will be in compliance with the President’s orders regarding Guantanamo.”

Obama has ordered the detention center in Cuba to be closed within a year. The administration asked last week for a 120-day suspension in proceedings against some 20 detainees as it considers whether to continue trying alleged terrorists in the military commissions, revamp them or try suspects in other courts.

On Jan. 22, Obama signed an executive order directing Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ensure that “all proceedings of such military commissions to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered … are halted.”

But Pohl wrote in his ruling that “on its face, the request to delay the arraignment is not reasonable.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, the Pentagon-appointed attorney for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, said the decision gives the Obama administration few options.

“The next step, if the government wants to halt the proceedings, is to withdraw the charges,” Reyes said. “Now it’s in the government’s hands,” he said. “I have no idea what they’re going to do.”

Pohl is the chief judge at the tribunals at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At least two other judges have already granted the continuance sought by the president, with the defense and prosecution agreeing in both cases that they should be suspended.

Pohl noted that no substantive legal issues would be litigated at al-Nashiri’s arraignment, scheduled for Feb. 9, meaning that “nothing will be mooted or necessary for relitigation” if Obama scraps the tribunals.

The war crimes court came to an abrupt halt Jan. 21 after two other military judges granted Obama’s request to suspend proceedings while he reviews former President Bush’s strategy for prosecuting terrorists. Obama’s executive order came the following day in Washington.

Those proceedings were against a Canadian accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and five men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks.

In all, war crimes charges are pending against 21 men at Guantanamo. Before Obama became president, the U.S. said it planned to try dozens of detainees in a system that was created by Bush and Congress in 2006 and has faced repeated challenges.

__________
Full article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-01-29-guantanamo-cole-bombing_N.htm