Danegerous Liaision

I’ve had close calls working in the Middle East (rocket attacks, roadside bombs, food poisoning), but nothing beyond the usual occupational hazards of an American journalist—until Sunday, when I was mistaken for a Dane.   I HAD RECENTLY RETURNED TO BEIRUT from an assignment in northern Iraq and was thinking of spending the morning in my pajamas, when my friend Katherine, a reporter for a U.S. newspaper, calls. There’s an angry demonstration forming a few blocks from your apartment, she says. They’re heading for the Danish Embassy to protest the cartoon defamation of the Prophet.

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Welcome to Hillaryland

LAST SUMMER, AS other potential 2008 presidential candidates were making their first sojourns to Iowa, Hillary Clinton did something a little different. She brought Iowa to Washington. In June, the senator, who is up for reelection this year but who has yet to draw a Republican challenger worth fretting about, entertained several key caucus-state activists and donors at her five-bedroom brick home on Embassy Row. Known to Hillary aides simply as Whitehaven, the 4,700-square-foot mansion is the site of the senator’s regular Washington fund-raisers and strategy sessions.

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Camp Fire

ON JANUARY 29, the Sunday Times reported that British investigators had learned few details about the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks in London that left 56 people, including four suicide bombers, dead. Although the identities of the perpetrators were quickly uncovered last summer, a government document dated October 2005 and leaked to the newspaper last month said that MI5, Great Britain’s domestic intelligence service, knew virtually nothing about “how, when and with whom the attack planning originated....

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NOAA'S Flood

On November 29, top officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes the National Weather Service, held a press conference in Washington, D.C., to sum up this year’s disastrous hurricane season. The first question from a reporter was one the press had been asking since Hurricane Katrina reached land three months before: “I was wondering if one of you can talk about what extent, if any, global warming may have played in the storms this year?” NOAA’s chief hurricane forecast scientist, Gerry Bell, stepped forward to answer.

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Standard and Poor

One of the most familiar rituals in George W. Bush’s Washington is the fantasizing that accompanies the president’s annual budget. The ritual goes something like this: Bush announces plans to cut a variety of domestic spending programs. Conservatives cheer the spirit of the cuts—even as they worry that they could be tough to implement or that they aren’t ambitious enough. Then, during the budget process, most of these cuts are restored—except those that affect the poor. And those cuts are too small to have any practical effect on the deficit.

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Religious Experience

The riots currently engulfing the Islamic world, prompted by a Danish newspaper’s decision to caricature the Prophet Mohammed, require two responses. The first is easy: horror. In the physical assault on Denmark’s embassies and citizens, and in the diplomatic assault on Denmark’s government—all because a free government won’t muzzle a free press—multiculturalism has become totalitarianism. Religious sensitivity, say the zealots marching from Beirut to Jakarta, matters more than liberty. Indeed, it matters more than life itself.

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Correspondence

SUPREME RETORT I THINK THERE IS SERIOUS CONFUSION as to what the theory of the "unitary executive" entails ("Against Alito," January 30). Justice Antonin Scalia's famous dissent in Morrison v. Olson is an example of one interpretation of the theory, which holds that executive power lies with the president, and that no "person whose actions are not fully with the supervision and control" of the president can seize it. The issue in Morrison was the law that provided for the appointment of an independent counsel.

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Empty Promise

The public editor's office of The New York Times has been busy this year. Byron Calame, the second journalist after Daniel Okrent to fill the post, has so far been called to editorialize on two particularly controversial Times pieces: James Risen and Eric Lichtblau's report on NSA wiretapping and Kurt Eichenwald's article on a teenager involved in child pornography on the Web. (Both first appeared in December 2005.) Late last month, Calame interrogated the managing editor in charge of the "space budget"--that is, divvying up column inches.

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Loan Shark

When scandal-plagued Tom DeLay finally gave up his quest to regain the leadership of congressional Republicans, the preternaturally tan Ohio Republican John Boehner sat down and drafted a 37-page political manifesto to win the votes of his colleagues. Boehner, himself long known as a friend to K Street, issued a tempered critique of the Republicans’ sale of indulgences to lobbyists like Jack Abramoff.

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Notebook

BEYOND RED AND BLUE  It’s no revelation that the liberal blogosphere features extreme partisanship and reflexive loathing of political adversaries. But the Jack Abramoff scandal seems to have driven some online activists over a cliff in their never-ending witch-hunt for secret villains. The latest target is John McCain.  This week, the Arizona Republican lashed out at Democratic Senator Barack Obama. Obama had told McCain that he would join a bipartisan group working to come up with a lobbying reform plan, then decided instead to back a proposal crafted by Senate Democratic leaders.

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