At harvest time in the highland village of Paucho, the first crop of potatoes are baked in a hole in the ground covered with hot rocks, in a ceremony called Watia – a homage to Pacha Mama, or Mother Earth.
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Peruvians are very proud of their potatoes

For thousands of years, the potato has been the staple diet of the people of the Andes.

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It was first cultivated on the

Altiplano of modern-day Peru and Bolivia, and Peru still has some 2,800 varieties of potato, more than any other country.

Like many people, I took the humble spud for granted, but after the launch of the UN Year of the Potato in Ayacucho in the Peruvian Andes, I am repentant at my lack of reverence for the third biggest food staple in the world.

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Boost consumption

I have never seen a vegetable invoke such high passions and poetry.

It was the theme for a seamless succession of carnival floats, colourful costumes, and traditional dance and music. All this was punctuated by cries of “la papa es Peruana” – “the potato is Peruvian”, just in case anyone forgot.

Despite this, consumption of the potato in Peru has dropped to half that of many European countries, with many Peruvians turning to rice or bread.

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Many potato-producing communities are very poor

But internationally high food prices, especially wheat – 80% of which is imported in Peru – are causing hardship for the country’s poor, who make up almost half the population.

Peru’s agriculture minister, Ismael Benavides, says the native potato is the answer.

The government is trying to boost its consumption by encouraging more people to eat bread baked with potato flour, starting with schoolchildren and prisoners.

“When I went to the UN in October to launch the International Year of the Potato somebody from an Eastern European country, Ukraine I think, said to me ‘I didn’t realise that potatoes came from Peru’. That showed me that we had to claim our place,” Mr Benavides said at the festival.

“The potato is very important in the diet worldwide and in this age of rising commodity prices… a number of countries, such as China and India, are looking to double or triple their production.”

Marketing tactics

Can Peru benefit from this projected surge in consumption?

“The paradox that we find today is that it is precisely those communities which have developed and given the world the potato are some of the poorest communities in the Andean chain,” says Pamela Anderson, director of the International Potato Centre, based in Lima.

“So part of what we do at the International Potato Centre is to take the native potato and really begin seriously and systematically marketing it, so that these small, poor farmers can use the native potato as a pathway out of poverty.”

The International Potato Centre is working with the government to drive the internal consumption of native potatoes, which come in a rich variety of colours, shapes and flavours.

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The idea is not only to help poor rural communities, but also the 70% of Peru’s population that lives in urban centres.

“The price of bread has gone up and I just don’t have the money to buy it as I used to,” says Hermelinda Azurin, who supports her two daughters working as a maid in Lima.

“A kilo of potato bread is 3.4 soles ($1.16) whereas normal bread has gone up to 5.40 soles ($1.84) in my neighbourhood. A kilo of potatoes is just 70 centimos ($0.23). Nowadays we eat potatoes every day in my family.”

The Peruvian government is also looking at exporting native potatoes. They are exotic-looking, organic and have vitamins and amino acids that regular white potatoes do not have.

“We feel the quality of this product should have a market abroad, especially as we are opening markets with the US, Canada and we hope soon with the European Union,” says Mr Benavides.

“These would fall under what is called fair trade, so we feel there’s great opportunities for these potatoes, native in particular.”

‘Infinite variety’

But it is precisely those new markets and free trade deals which many Peruvian farmers believe will mean they will have to compete unfairly with agricultural imports.

Mario Tapia, an agronomist who specialises in Andean crops, says a lack of investment in infrastructure is one part of the problem.

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Colourful potatoes are seen as a gastronomic treat abroad

“The potato yields are not so high because there is not high investment in the production, so to compete with farmers who have subsidies in their own countries will not be fair for those farmers in the highlands,” he says.

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With or without an export market, the government plans to boost the internal potato market and give technical assistance to the 1.8m potato growers in Peru.

In the gastronomic world, the native potato has enthusiastic advocates.

Peruvian restaurateur Isabel Alvarez says its “infinite variety of colours, textures, shapes and flavours” has prompted positive reactions in Europe.

“The potato is a world in itself, and it is a gastronomic world which we’ve only begun to explore,” she says.

With gastronomic plaudits and its spiritual place in Andean culture assured, the question remains: can Peru’s gift to the world now be used to help those who gave it to us in the first place?

* By Dan Collyns (BBC News, Ayacucho, Peru)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A California arbitrator ordered Health Net Inc to pay $9.4 million in damages and expenses for what he described as “reprehensible” conduct in canceling the policy of a cancer patient after she fell ill, according to documents made public on Friday.

The award to Patsy Bates, 51, included $8 million in punitive damages and raised concerns about the company’s practice of retroactively canceling policies of individuals who make large claims and paying bonuses to underwriters for meeting cancellation targets.

Health Net said in a statement that, while it does not agree with some of arbitration judge Sam Cianchetti’s conclusions, it will immediately adopt a review process for all policy cancellations.

The multimillion-dollar punitive damages award, the first in a so-called recision case, is sure to send a message to other large health insurers who face lawsuits over the practice, said Bates attorney William Shernoff.

“Let’s see if these other big health carriers will change their practices, then we will have done something,” Shernoff told Reuters. “Until this punitive damages award came down, nobody was doing anything.”

Shernoff has three proposed class actions over retroactive cancellations pending in California courts against Health Net, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as well as a case involving a newborn boy whose Health Net coverage was canceled after he was born blind and with cerebral palsy.

The Bates case brought to light a bonus system in which Health Net set annual policy cancellation targets that it described in terms of numbers of canceled policies and millions of dollars in savings in medical expenses.

CHEMOTHERAPY CANCELED

Bates had health insurance with another company for several years before a Health Net broker solicited and enrolled her in an individual insurance policy in August of 2003.

Bates was diagnosed with breast cancer a month later, and began chemotherapy treatments but had just three of eight planned treatments when Health Net pulled the plug, contending she had lied about her weight and a heart problem on her application.

“Can you imagine having Stage 3 cancer and you think you have insurance and you are supposed to have eight sessions of chemo and you have three and they are stopped?” she told Reuters. “If you haven’t had to go through trauma that you may live and you may not, you may not understand.”

A cancer advocate enrolled Bates in a state-funded program to finish her chemotherapy treatments. Her cancer went into remission but she still has no health insurance and was left with about $130,000 in unpaid medical bills.

In an opinion issued on Thursday, the arbitrator found that Bates’ application had been improperly filled out by the Health Net broker, and inadequately reviewed by its underwriters.

“It is difficult to imagine a policy more reprehensible than tying bonuses to encourage the recision of health insurance that helps keep the public alive and well,” arbitrator Cianchetti wrote in his opinion.

In awarding the $8 million in punitive damages, Cianchetti observed “it is hard to imagine a situation more trying than the one Bates has had to endure.”

He also warned that Health Net ignored its own guidelines as well as “obvious errors,” including at least one error “amounting to criminal conduct.”

In response, Health Net said it would rescind no policies going forward without a binding external, third-party review process.

The company said it planned to clarify its application and underwriting processes to insure it received all necessary information before issuing policies.

Health Net also pledged to do a “comprehensive review” of its processes, including broker training and education.

“We take this very seriously and are committed to resolving these issues,” the company said in a statement.

* By Gina Keating (Feb 22, 2008/ Editing by Gary Hill)

George Clooney wasn’t supposed to say yes. A reporter interviews a movie star at a restaurant or a hotel lobby or an office, with his publicist lurking in the corner, ready to cut off any vaguely interesting questions. But to come over to my house for dinner? That’s a trap no sucker has ever shoved a famous foot into.

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Partly because there are so many unknowns—you’re stuck alone chatting up the family while the reporter cooks, you accidentally let slip a cruel joke about a wedding photo, you somehow use the bathroom wrong—and partly because who the hell wants to spend Saturday night stuck at some dork’s house eating undercooked lamb? Would Gwyneth Paltrow come over? Johnny Depp? But George Clooney said yes, of course, why not, sounds fun.

Clooney was the only star who could have said yes, because no other star wears his celebrity so easily. Nominated for another Oscar for Michael Clayton, Clooney has managed to become this era’s leading man without ever conveying the sense that he takes the role seriously. “He’s a throwback to what movie stars used to be,” says Grant Heslov, who has been friends with Clooney since they met in an acting class in 1983 and is now his partner at their new film and TV production company, Smoke House. “You see him and you think, Wouldn’t that be a great life? He seems like a man’s man. He seems like you could meet him at a bar and have a chat with him and it would be easy. And all of that is true.” Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, says no one works an Oscars event or the red carpet like him. “Clooney is a kind of exception to the rule of celebrity aloofness. Gregory Peck was that way. Totally open. Unabashed. You’ve got to be not afraid,” he says. No other stars are as unfreaked out by their own celebrity, since, like most politicians, they want it either too much or too little. And it’s that ability to be constantly not afraid that makes women love him. “As they say in England, he is up for it,” says Michael Clayton co-star Tilda Swinton. “That means up for pretty much any fun you can think of. He has a way of daring you—which, for those of us who cannot resist a bit of a laugh, can be irresistible.”

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Still, this was going to be uncomfortable, this reversal of the natural guest-host order. Three years ago, Clooney invited me to his huge Los Angeles house to interview him, and he was exactly the host you’d expect: relaxed, honest, easy. Four years ago, when I left a message with his publicist to set up a time to talk to him, he simply called my voice mail and left his home number. In the summer, at his six-house compound in Lake Como, Italy, he throws nightly Algonquin-style dinners featuring such guests as Al Gore, Walter Cronkite and Quincy Jones. “He’s an excellent host,” says Tony Gilroy, director of Michael Clayton. “He’s really smart about figuring out what people need and want. Are they hot? Happy? Cold? Thirsty? He has that ability to bend himself to the space he’s in and instantly adjust to the group he’s with.” So I wondered, Can George Clooney possibly be a guest? Or is that just against the natural order of things? And what would I even cook? All his assistant would say was, “He’ll eat whatever is cooking.”

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It’s 6:45 on Saturday night when the doorbell rings, a little late. Clooney hit traffic, his assistant called to say, on his way back from visiting his girlfriend in Las Vegas. He’s wearing faded jeans, black laced boots and a zip-up sweater, and he looks less like a movie star than a normal, un-Botoxed 46-year-old unmarried guy coming over for dinner, but he also looks like he’s excited to be here because wherever he is, George Clooney’s also there. He hasn’t brought any wine, and I worry that this guesting thing is just not going to work out. I offer him a glass of red, and he suggests that we sit on the couch, and soon we’re talking about real estate, and it’s fine, and next thing I know, he’s getting a tour of the house. A tour of the house? The man owns a mansion in L.A. and a 15-bedroom villa in Italy! Why don’t I just show the Oscar-winning actor the tape of me in my high school production of Bye Bye Birdie? But he’s nailing this guest role: “I love old houses like this.” “You kept the original stuff.” “It’s nice to have a guest room.” “I love the arches on the shower.” I’m convinced that this is just a normal Clooney Saturday, that he spends his nights Charles Kuralting around L.A., knocking on doors, eating whatever’s cooking and chatting about politics. Within 15 minutes he made me feel comfortable in my own house. Which isn’t so easy when a giant celebrity is over for dinner.

It’s becoming clear to me already that somehow this guy, even in my house, really is a movie star. Maybe the only one we have now. There are plenty of huge box-office draws (Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Johnny Depp) and even more famous celebrities (Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Lindsay Lohan), but no one besides Clooney is so gracefully both. After an actor achieves media saturation, there’s actually an inverse relation between fame and box-office receipts: people aren’t going to pay for what they can get for free. “There are so many media outlets and this enormous suck on information about you, it’s hard to maintain any kind of aura of specialness and mystery about the work itself, which is trying to be other people,” says director Tony Gilroy. “It was a lot easier to be Bill Holden than it is to be George Clooney.” Or as Clooney says, “Clark Gable wouldn’t have been Clark Gable if there was Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight.”

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His strategy for being a movie star is pretty simple, if counterintuitive: he makes fun of himself. It’s the by-product of every successful person’s strategy, which is to figure out what the other person is thinking. “Before they could kill me on Batman & Robin, I said, ‘It’s a bad film, and I’m the worst thing in it.’ You try to defend an indefensible position, you’ll look like a schmuck. The guys I dig don’t do that. Look at Winston Churchill. He said, ‘These are our shortcomings. Now let’s get past it,'” Clooney says. He thinks that’s all Cruise needs to do. “I talked to him the other day, and he’s a good egg. There’s nothing self-serving about what he’s saying. He has to turn it into a way to make fun of himself.”

Clooney also preempts situations that might earn him ridicule later. So he has either turned down every gift bag he’s been offered or has put them up on eBay for charity. “I’ve been smart about that. Rich famous people getting free s___ looks bad. You look greedy. And I don’t need a cell phone with sparkles on it,” he says. He sends handwritten apology letters to the directors whose scenes he ripped off in the movies he directed—Mike Nichols, Sidney Lumet, Sydney Pollack. He drives an electric car and a Lexus hybrid but won’t be a spokesman for the environment because he flies a private jet. He feels passionately about Barack Obama but refuses his pleas to campaign for him—other than an introduction in late February in Cincinnati, Ohio—because he doesn’t want it to backfire into a Hollywood-vs.-the-heartland attack. And he downplays and occasionally jokes about his problems, which include a bad back and some short-term memory loss he sustained when working on Syriana, quiet. “I know what pisses people off about fame,” Clooney says. “It’s when famous people whine about it.”

It may look as if he is an effortless movie star, but he has actually given the job a lot of thought. He’s not manipulative, but he is calculating, following the rules he learned from his family. When his aunt Rosemary Clooney went from being on the cover of this magazine to seeing her fame burst because musical tastes changed, she battled depression and took pills for much of her life. He knows random luck will eventually take fame away, just as random luck made him a star. If NBC had put ER on Fridays instead of Thursdays, I might have had Jonathan Silverman over for dinner. And while Clooney didn’t get famous until his 30s, when ER hit, he had kind of always been famous because of his dad, a popular news anchor in Cincinnati. “From the moment I was born, I was watched by other people. I was taught to use the right fork. I was groomed for that in a weird way,” Clooney says. “You give enough. You play completely. You don’t say, I don’t talk about my personal life. People say they won’t talk about their personal life. And then they do. And even when the tabloids say really crappy things and it pisses you off and you know it’s not true, you have to at least publicly have a sense of humor about it.”

He’s just as calculating about his career choices. “He was offered a stupendous amount of money to continue to do Roseanne,” the sitcom he was on for 11 episodes, says his dad Nick Clooney. “I was thinking he could build a little nest egg and maybe acting would pay off after all. He said, ‘No, I’ll be in a cul-de-sac. I’ll be that guy, and that’s all I’ll be.'” He pitched sitcom pilots and dramas and eventually won an Oscar nomination for co-writing the original screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck. He makes sure to not get stuck in one character or type of film. He has a Joel and Ethan Coen movie coming out in which he plays an idiot (as he did in their O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and he’s working on a movie about the founder of est and a comedy about the 1979 Tehran hostages who escaped. The next movie he directs and co-stars in is Leatherheads, a screwball comedy about pro football in the 1920s that comes out April 4. “After Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck I was offered the Richard Clarke book and every issues movie,” Clooney says. “I didn’t want to be the issues guy because if the issues change, you’re done. The Facts of Life is a good example. If you’re a young heartthrob—which I never caught on as—those fans not only abandon you, but they’re embarrassed to have liked you. It’s the same thing with issues movies. I want to just be a director.”

He is good at slipping into many different worlds, even the one in my kitchen, where he is pouring in the egg mixture while I add the hot spaghetti for the carbonara. He reaches over and stirs the bacon, grabs a string bean from the pot and eats it. He is mad guesting, Olympic-level guesting. He’s been over for two hours, and it occurs to me that the smooth bastard must have turned off his cell phone before he got here. When I leave the table to check on the lamb, he puts extra bacon on my pasta. He’s doing impressions—Pat O’Brien confusedly reporting outside Clooney’s Como villa, expecting Pitt and Jolie’s wedding (Clooney had bought $1,500 worth of flowers and 15 tabletops as a prank on gossip reporters); James Carville denigrating John Kerry’s campaigning skills; Daniel Day-Lewis doing John Huston in There Will Be Blood.

We’re deep into a second bottle of Barolo when Clooney cuts into his rack of lamb, and, oh, there would be blood. This is why a star wouldn’t take this invite, wouldn’t be here, staring at a red-raw-inedible piece of meat. He says it’s fine. I grab it, put it in the oven but forget to turn on the heat, so when I take it back out, it’s just as raw. Fine again, he says. I put it back one more time. He takes more pasta and salad. Rattled, I drop the salt. “Throw it over your left shoulder,” he says. “That’s just bad mojo. You know it, and I know it.” He may not believe in religion, but luck, Clooney has learned from his family, cannot be messed with.

One person Clooney will mess with—the thing he keeps coming back to the more we drink—is what a massive loser Bill O’Reilly is. It’s an irrational feud because every time O’Reilly gets to be as important as Clooney, O’Reilly comes out way ahead. But Clooney can’t help himself. He keeps talking about O’Reilly, and the little traps he’s set for him and how thrilled he is when he falls into them. It’s as if Clooney loves O’Reilly because he gives him permission to be an irrational 8-year-old. Maybe that’s why anyone loves O’Reilly. But he is also the anti-Clooney, donning a public persona, one that’s humorless and incapable of self-effacement. It’s as if someone created for Clooney his own Elmer Fudd.

One of the things O’Reilly has taken issue with is Clooney’s involvement in the crisis in Darfur, saying it’s reverse racism from someone who didn’t care about the Arabs being killed by Saddam Hussein. Clooney got interested in Darfur in 2005 after the campaign for Oscar votes for Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck made him feel dirty. “You’re campaigning for yourself. To compete for art,” he says. His dad was also dejected and angry after losing an election for Congress, and Clooney had been reading about the lack of attention being given to Darfur, so the two went on a trip to Africa to shoot footage. Clooney wasn’t able to get into Darfur until late January, when the U.N. said it would give him an official title. “I have a U.N. passport. It says ‘Messenger of Peace’ on it. It’s very cool,” he says.

The Darfur organization he helped found, Not on Our Watch, has given away more than $9 million. But now, just three weeks back from having a 14-year-old border guard shove a machine gun at his chest, after recovering from malaria, after helicoptering out of N’Djamena, Chad, in a sandstorm three days before the rebels sacked it, he wonders if his critics are right, if this scheme to use celebrity to bring attention to the world’s plights isn’t, if not vanity, at least striving after wind. “I’ve been very depressed since I got back. I’m terrified that it isn’t in any way helping. That bringing attention can cause more damage. You dig a well or build a health-care facility and they’re a target for somebody,” he says. “A lot more people know about Darfur, but absolutely nothing is different. Absolutely nothing.”

He feels his advocacy is not even accomplishing as much as his family did during the embarrassing Christmas day trips his dad would arrange every year, when they would show up with gifts for a family who wrote to his dad’s TV station, asking for help. Now he wonders if it is better to give money and get out of the way, as he does when he gets off Highway 101 at Laurel Canyon Blvd., where there’s always a person begging for money. “You think, This is a $20 light. So you hope to catch the light. And then you feel guilty for hoping to catch the light,” he says. “People say, They’ll buy booze. Fair enough. They need it.” Clooney, having helped knock off two bottles of red and two bottles of dessert wine—all after drinking heavily in Vegas the night before—is not one to deny someone else alcohol.

It’s past midnight; we’re both pretty buzzed. He’s telling me how he wakes up every morning at 5:30 to the hoots of a giant owl and how he climbs into his hot tub so he can hoot back, mesmerized by nature, like Tony Soprano and his ducks, when this alarm starts shrieking. Clooney, not a man of inaction, especially in a moment of crisis like this, stands on my dining-room table, unscrews a panel in the ceiling and, finding nothing, makes me go outside and carry a huge ladder with him up two flights to my garage upstairs—where he climbs into an area I’ve never dared go, crawling along the beams with a screwdriver between his teeth. Finding nothing, he climbs down, knocks the dirt off his jeans, blows the dust out of his nose, rinses his hands and returns to the table. The shriek starts again, and Clooney thinks for a few seconds, ducks down and yanks the carbon monoxide detector out of the outlet. “Either it needs a battery,” he says, “or we have six seconds to live.”

At 1:30 he gets up to leave. He tells me that the next time I have interviewees over for dinner, I should trick them by passing his house off as mine, maybe with some hired servants, smoking a pipe, pretending journalism is something I do as a lark, separate from my silver-mining interests.

As he leaves, I feel as if I failed. In seven hours, I wasn’t able to find a part of Clooney different from the one everyone already knows. As he retreats in his movie-star car to his movie-star lair with his giant-owl sidekick, I feel pretty sure he never separates the public from the private. It explains, at least, why he sucked as Batman.

Then two nights later I get a chance to run the experiment again. My wife and I figure we’ll check out the sushi place Clooney said he’s been going to for 15 years. When we walk in, there’s only one occupied table, and of course it’s Clooney, his girlfriend, his assistant and a friend he met the first day he moved to Los Angeles. He’s unprepared for me, out in the open, vulnerable. But he yanks over a table, puts it next to his, tells us what to order, hands us food from his plate, shows us photos of him and the other guy at the table with Keith Richards, reads the cheesy lines he’s just been faxed for his Oscar presenting, fights for the check and generally hosts the crap out of us. Clooney is a movie star not because he’s overwhelmingly electric or handsome or fascinating. After two very fun nights, I can tell you that he really isn’t any of those things. George Clooney is a movie star because he’s happiest when he controls how everyone around him feels. Because that’s what movies do.

* By Joel Stein (TIME) With reporting by Amy Lennard Goehner

At a Veterans Day naturalization ceremony at Camp Anaconda, north of Baghdad, the Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, led 178 troops in the oath of allegiance. Each new American received a certificate, a flag and the hearty praise of Brig. Gen. Gregory Couch, who hailed them as “these wonderful warriors.”About 40,000 non-citizens are serving in the United States military, continuing a tradition of immigrant soldiering that dates to the dawn of the republic. About 4,000 troops since 2004 have earned citizenship while stationed abroad.

Presumably all of them were legal residents, since the military does not knowingly accept the undocumented. But some who entered the country illegally do manage to enlist — including soldiers like Lance Cpl. Jose Antonio Gutierrez, a Marine who was one of the first killed in the early hours of the Iraq war in March 2003. He was from Guatemala, and won his American citizenship posthumously.

There is an irony to the Pentagon’s policies toward the undocumented. The military’s ranks and morale have been ruinously sapped by the misadventure in Iraq. To keep the recruiting pipeline filled, it has repeatedly lowered its standards on things like candidates’ aptitude, education and health, and granted “moral waivers” to tens of thousands of recruits with criminal records.

But while the military has been taking a gamble, a la “The Dirty Dozen,” on the potential for ex-convicts — including some violent felons — to redeem themselves, a pool of highly motivated and well-qualified candidates lies out of reach: men and women like Corporal Gutierrez.

The Pentagon has been more progressive about immigration than the rest of the federal government. Many military leaders supported a bill to give a select group of young immigrants — high school graduates who were brought here illegally by their parents, grew up here, had exemplary records and were eager to serve — the chance to enlist and become legalized after two years in uniform.

That was the Dream Act, but it died because Congress, under ferocious pressure from the hard-line right, refused to grant “amnesty” in any form to the blameless children of “illegal aliens.”

The message was clear — Uncle Sam may want you, and you may want Uncle Sam, but you cannot serve. If you are undocumented there is no redemption for you — not even in Iraq.

That’s pretty hard core. It’s a good example of how self-defeating the restrictions orthodoxy can be. But that’s where the national debate is stuck.

  • I think that it is the height of racism, ignorance and hypocrisy for this government to simultaneously round up immigrants of any status at the same time that it forces them into harm’s way. Those who VOLUNTARILY give their lives, or risk their lives, for a country that they are told doesn’t want them, deserve our utmost respect and yes, even amnesty. Putting your neck on the line for the United States should earn you your citizenship and everything else that this nation has to offer.
    While I believe that the innocent children of illegal immigrants deserve a break and all of the benefits of citizenship, I think that it should go double for those who enter the military and volunteer for a doomed operation that even current enlistees are abandoning in droves. I just read a separate article about how desertion rates are at an all-time high, and as the deaths in Iraq continue with no end to this illegal war in sight, how can we NOT afford to honor immigrants who are willing to fight for this country? — Posted by Hillary
  • Let’s get past the immigrant paranoia and recognize the potential this sort of system could have. The army desperately needs front-line bodies in Iraq and their crumbling recruitment standards are proof. Immigrants need a way to prove themselves worthy of citizenship that makes sense and is actually attainable to the masses. Allowing immigrants, especially illegal ones, the opportunity to earn citizenship through fighting for this country seems like the best idea to deal with the immigration “issue” that I’ve heard. Our country gains a larger and more motivated military, and immigrants gain a straightforward yet not-in-the-least-bit easy path to citizenship. And perhaps best of all, for those consumed by the immigration witchhunt, aliens who are living in the country undocumented will volunteer themselves to BECOME documented in order to serve. It’s so painfully obvious I can’t believe we haven’t been doing this since 9/12
    — Posted by Mike Jewell

  • Humans Are People Too
    by Christopher Jon Batis
    To label, designate, view, consider, describe or otherwise regard any human being as illegal or alien is fundamentally, inherently, patently, basically, and vehemently offensive, disgusting, evil, abhorrent, humiliating, inhumane, oppressive, derisive, and completely, universally devoid of any possible recognition of the divine, corrupting of the spirit, and absent of any decency or morality, and defamatory of creation.

    Do we really consider ourselves so distinct from one another to the manner in which we breathe, bleed, feel and occupy space on this planet and our place in the universe?

    Is it so difficult to recognize in each other the divinity from which we all emanate?; that we are all drops from the same ocean?; that we are all running out of the precious time we all have on this plane of existence and chose to waste it in the futility of micro-detailing our differences, focusing on the banality of our external traits, concentrating on the irrelevance of our geographical origins when most of us love our children, long for purpose, and, at one point or another, will exhale one last time?

    National sovereignty is important, but must we approach the issues of immigration with such personal anger and hatred toward one another? Can we not approach the issues of our nation with the dignity this country should be recognized for?

    Surely, as Americans, as leaders of freedom, we can approach the issues that affect us with personal integrity, intelligent discourse, and respectful regard for all lives, foreign or domestic, with the same respect we demand for ourselves?

    The jury is out. May the verdict be fitting of the fair, the just, and the pursuers of happiness

    — Posted by Christopher Jon Batis

  • We need to do some serious thinking and discussing about “illegal” immigrants. We also need hard data.
    We need reliable information on:1. Total number of illegal immigrants.
    2. How many are working?
    3. What kinds of work they do.
    4. How much they are being paid.
    5. Amount of taxes they pay, classified by Social Security, Medicare, Federal income tax, state and local income tax.

    I suspect that “illegal” immigrants fill very important needs in our economy at a very low cost. In other words, they are extremely valuable to the rest of us.

    If that is true, we should stop saying nasty things about them and accept them as valuable members of our society and legalize them. What’s the problem with that?

    — Posted by Realist

  • I am a freshman at Hunter College and is writing a paper: “Viva La American Dream.” Please excuse my naiveness due to my youth, but whatever happened to human decency that America is so well known by? It seems to me that anyone, illegal or not, should be able to dream the American dream, especially those who are willing to die for that dream.
    I had my own dream the other night and dreamed that we lived in a different world; one with an Orwellian reality and that we (Americans)were all excluded from the American dream. With globalization now confronting us, I imagine a world without borders and that some world leader have excluded us from cross over the global borders to seek a better life. I woke up in a sweat and hurriedly, to the computer to write the NY Times. — Posted by lucia bruni
  • So the NY Times thinks it’s terrible that the “hard-line” right refuses to offer amnesty to “blameless children of illegal aliens?”
    I note how the Times conveniently neglected to mention some of the logic of those who might oppose the “Dream Act.” For one, wouldn’t it be more than awkward to have a young person fighting for us while our laws demand that the illegal parents and extended family be kicked out of the country? I think we all know the public demonstrations and hoopla that would surround any effort to export any illegal family member of such service people. So realistically, in a country like ours, we must face the fact that this would be an “all or none” deal. We either accept the illegal soldier into our armed forces and allow his parents and extended family to stay or we kick all of them out.

    If the NY Times is prepared to advocate that it would allow illegal alien soldiers into our military while simultaneously kicking the soldiers’ extended family out of the country, then I’d love to read about it. But I think most readers know that the NY Times would never advocate such a position.

    I’m afraid that this issue is simply more nuanced than the NY Times would like us to believe.

    — Posted by Bill Carson

  • I doubt this post will ever make it past the censors, (they never do when the topic is illegal immigration) but I have to say I’m surprised by the tone of my fellow Americans.
    Tell me, my fellow citizen…why should I have to obey the laws that foreign aliens don’t? If I steal someone’s identity and use it to perpetuate fraud, should it be condoned and I be allowed to keep my ill-gotten goods? There are some very nice condo’s sitting empty in an adjacent building, much nicer than the ratty old studio I currently rent. If I were to break into one and squat there, should I be allowed to remain for as long as I like? These questions may sound illogical, but they exactly mirror what has been posted here. An American citizen convicted of any of the crimes illegals commit as a matter of course would be, at the least, sent to jail. Jail for a citizen, fortune for the illegal. How is that fair?You people just don’t get it. You may believe that you are championing the underdog, the helpless, the downtrodden but what you are actually doing is advocating AGAINST “equal under the law”, one of the basic tenets of democracy. If you are so contemptuous of that democratic process, of the rule of law, of our sovereignty…just be honest and say so. If you don’t believe that America has a right to decide who can come here and who we don’t want…say so. Don’t be a coward. Stand up and declare that there’s nothing wrong with criminality and that the law is only for those stupid enough to obey it. If we follow the path of the open-borders, pro-illegal crowd we’ll end up with either Anarchy or a World Government. After all, without borders there are no separate countries. Don’t be afraid to say that you WANT to see a World Government. Just be honest and quit trying to couch it as anything BUT a willingness to see the United States as a subject state.

    No amnesty. Build the fence. Enforce the law.

    — Posted by Mara

  • I was a commanding officer and in my unit I had men from various countries. No one asked them if they wanted to die, just give us your best effort. It is a shame that our President doesn’t step in and let illegal immigrants serve, then give them citizenship. I believe we all are brothers and sisters, not spurious beings. I haven’t seen any immigrants provoke a crime, just the opposite. They take jobs that have not been outsourced and add to our society. When will the American people stop listening to the right wing and consider what they are preaching? Remember when we lived in a free society? Have you ever read the writings on the Statue of Liberty. I have!
    — Posted by J. Harry Sutherland  

  • In all foreign wars, and even in the civil war, the rich in America have used substitutes to do the real fighting. Making the immigrants – legal or illegal – fight is nothing new under the sun. If you don’t like this, then stop this imperial hubris. — Posted by Julia
  • I suppose the commonly-used phrase “they do jobs that ordinary Americans don’t want to do” includes being willing to fight and even die for our country. As a veteran, I am ashamed that we have so many who are willing to go to war, but so few who are willing to do the fighting. Of course, an illegal occupation of Iraq is not exactly a traditional “war” is it?
    — Posted by Don Skillin
  • I agree with the first post by Hillary. The undocumented should be allowed to serve and their families should be allowed to stay here. This whole “illegal immigrant” war is a way of distracting Americans from the real problems created and nurtured by the ruling oligarchy. And a way for Lou Dobbs to increase his ratings and sell more cars. And yes, do remember the words on the Statue of Liberty. My ancestors were illegal immigrants in the 1620s when they came over here and killed the people who were living here. The undocumented work, pay taxes, and also DRIVE here (and so should prove they know how to drive and have insurance — we think if we don’t allow them to have driver’s licenses they will decide to go home?). Biometrics would be helpful in preventing document forgeries..the technology exists and we should use it. We need to rethink this issue and not be duped into thinking that our problems are due to the undocumented. The problem is with our devious, greedy rulers and not with undocumented people joining our armed forces.
    — Posted by Bev

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The world’s scientists have done their job. Now it’s time for world leaders, starting with President Bush, to do theirs. That is the urgent message at the core of the latest — and the most powerful — report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 2,500 scientists who collectively constitute the world’s most authoritative voice on global warming.

Released in Spain over the weekend, the report leaves no doubt that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (and, to a lesser extent, deforestation) have been responsible for the steady rise in atmospheric temperatures.

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If these emissions are not brought under control, the report predicts, the consequences could be disastrous: further melting at the poles, sea levels rising high enough to submerge island nations, the elimination of one-quarter or more of the world’s species, widespread famine in places like Africa, more violent hurricanes.

And it warns that time is running out. To avoid the worst of these disasters, it says, the world must stabilize emissions of greenhouse gases by 2015, begin to reduce them shortly thereafter and largely free itself of carbon-emitting technologies by midcentury.

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As Rajendra Pachauri, a scientist and economist who leads the I.P.C.C., noted: “ What we do in the next two or three years will define our future.”

Deep in all this gloom is a considerable ray of hope: significant progress toward stabilizing and reducing emissions can be achieved using known technologies.

This a hugely important message for policy makers and for those who say there’s no point in spending money on the problem because the game is already lost. The world does not have to rely on pie-in-the-sky technologies, the report insists. What it really needs is a policy structure to encourage major investments in cleaner technologies that are already at hand or within reach.

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The report’s urgent warnings and its message of hope could not be more timely. Nations will gather in Bali next month to begin framing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012. Under normal circumstances, Bali would be the beginning of a long, contentious process; Kyoto, negotiated in 1997, did not take effect for seven years. What the I.P.C.C. is saying is that the world cannot afford to wait for another grand agreement, and certainly not for another seven years. It needs action now.

Every member of Congress should read this report. The Senate has begun hearings on legislation that would put a mandatory cap on carbon emissions. The bill is not perfect and, to some critics, not strong enough. But it is a worthy start and would move the United States toward the cleaner fuels and carbon-free technologies essential to the task of changing the way the world produces and uses energy.

Mr. Bush should also read it and order extra copies for members of his staff. After years of denial, the president now concedes that a problem exists. But he still insists on voluntary remedies and still worries about the costs to the American economy of anything more ambitious. If there is one message Mr. Bush and other world leaders must take away from the scientists, it is that the price of more delay will be far greater.

Published by Google: November 20, 2007

oct0801.JPGMany women struggle with the impact of aging and pregnancy on their bodies. But the marketing of the “mommy makeover” seeks to pathologize the postpartum body, characterizing pregnancy and childbirth as maladies with disfiguring after.

Last year, doctors nationwide performed more than 325,000 “mommy makeover procedures” on women ages 20 to 39, up 11 percent from 2005, the group.

Dr. Stoker (plastic surgeon) said that he performs combination surgeries on mothers at least once a week, at a cost of $10,000 to $30,000

But other surgeons worry that packaging multiple procedures under a cutesy nickname could induce women to have additional operations, potentially increasing their risk of everything from infections to death.

In other words, a woman seeking a tummy tuck, although not particularly concerned about the appearance of her breasts, may be influenced to have breast surgery just because it is part of “the package”

Some women go back to a pretty flat stomach and some don’t, some go back to their pre-baby weight and some don’t… the question is, does that need to be treated with a surgical makeover?

· Summarized of Natasha singer’s Report from New York Times, Oct. 4, 2007

Combining western scientific knowledge with eastern spiritual wisdom, Deepak Chopra has developed his own unique form of complementary, mind-body medicine.

Chopra said:
“I grew up with the myths, the stories, and the history of Siddhartha the prince, who then became Gautama the monk, who then became Buddha the enlightened being. My father passed away six years ago, and then shortly after that, my mother did, too.

I was immersing the ashes of my father in the ganges up in the north of India, which is very rich in Buddhist lore. I thought, well, I’m the next in line for the experience of death.

In the time Siddhartha lived, India was a place where everyday reality was en meshed in mythology, and it is so even today. People very easily move back and forth, both in their imagination and their behavior, between reality and the world of mythical beings.

The meaning “ENLIGHTENED ONE” is that your real self is not a person, that there is no such thing as a separate self, that a person doesn’t really exist. What we call a person is a transient behavior of the total universe, and when you get to the consciousness that is behind all the intelligent activity of the whole universe. So enlightened here means transcendence to that level of existence where the personal self becomes the universal self.

I don’t consider myself Buddhist because I don’t think Buddha himself believed in ideology or dogma.

Buddha says when you look deep enough into your enemy; you will see that he is yourself. But what Jesus calls sin; Buddha calls ignorance, lack of awareness.

The God question is also very different. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the universe, whereas in the Buddhist tradition, God, or the intelligence that is at the source of creation, is not some outside intelligence but is inherent in the consciousness that conceives, governs, and becomes the universe.

I think spirituality is a domain of awareness where we all experience our universality and where we experience universal truth. It has very little to do with religious dogma, ideology, or even self-righteous morality.

* Summarized and adapted of Time, June 2007

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