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Politicians Spanked by Virgin

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The final report's rewritten introduction seems a compromise. On the question of whether to refer to Kim Jong Il's circle as a "regime" or to use the more neutral term "government," the report uses both.

Gone is the human rights bureau language that "reports of public executions were on the rise" and other language saying things were worse in 2007 than the year before. (Kinda hard to imagine, anyway.) Even so, the report painted a picture of North Korea as a positively ghastly place, and the regime remained on the department's "worst offenders" list.

Communist China, however, was taken off that list and moved up to become one of those "authoritarian countries that are undergoing economic reform [and] have experienced rapid social change but have not undertaken democratic political reform and continue to deny their citizens basic human rights and fundamental freedoms."

This probably stunned imprisoned and harassed human rights activists and people walking anywhere near Tiananmen Square.

On a wholly unrelated matter, don't forget to sign up for your tickets to the Olympic Games, beginning Aug. 8 in Beijing. President Bush will be there.

Maybe the North Koreans could host the Winter Games?

EPA Chief Emits Dangerous Levels of CO2

Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen L. Johnson infuriated pro-enviro lawmakers once more with his decision yesterday when he tightened ozone standards to a lesser degree than his scientists advised.

But he's proved himself more than capable of deflecting apoplectic members of Congress critical of his unusual stewardship of the nation's environment. Note for example, his handling of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at a recent Senate hearing.

Feinstein, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that controls the EPA's budget, asked why Johnson had not yet complied with a Supreme Court ruling a year ago in Massachusetts v. EPA that required him to come up with ways to regulate greenhouse gases.

"I find this unbelievable on behalf of what is called an environmental protection agency," Feinstein said, "and there's a finding of the United States Supreme Court telling you to do something."

"Well, Madam Chairman," Johnson eloquently intoned, doing a spectacular imitation of Mr. Magoo wandering about in the smog, "I respectfully disagree that this is an easy decision. . . . I think Justice Scalia actually set it up as, in essence, a three-part test for me and this would be my brief summary, and that is: If the agency finds -- if I find that there's endangerment, then under the Clean Air Act I must regulate. If I find that there is not, that's test one. If I find that there is not endangerment, then I should not regulate. Or third, if there are other circumstances . . . "

Huh? At any rate, it's clear that Johnson has paid careful attention to the Supreme Court decision and is adhering to Justice Antonin Scalia's concise test.

One small problem: Scalia dissented in that ruling. But maybe Johnson reserves the right to pick and choose from either the majority or the meaningless dissent. It's not as if a greenhouse-gas-emissions case were the only thing on his plate. "But also we have a number of pending petitions before the agency," he said, "including airlines, including off-roads, including marine, including stationary sources, including NSPS, including PSD, and I can go on and on," he said, not even mentioning the NFL, the PGA, the NCAA.

We Need All the Friends We Can Get

Let's have a fine Loop Welcome for Dr. Samir Geagea, a hard-line Lebanese Christian militia leader back in the nasty old days when those militias were slaughtering one another and assassinating rival leaders. Geagea had been linked in the media to a number of civil-war-era killings, including those of a pro-Syrian prime minister and a prominent Christian politician.

After the Syrians took over, they threw Geagea in prison for life for war crimes, but he was pardoned in 2005 after 11 years in solitary. He has become a key player in the pro-Western, anti-Syrian alliance.

And now, a statesman. Geagea's in town for visits with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley before heading off to tour the country.

As they say, the enemy of my enemy gets my visa.


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