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MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2004

In their words . . .

"This isn't your usual one-time fix." — Spokane Mayor Jim West, talking about the city's new "Price of Government" approach to budgeting.

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SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2004

Communion not a political sword

At a national conference last week, American Catholic bishops wrestled with the issue of denying Communion to politicians who support the right to an abortion. They ultimately decided to leave that decision to each bishop. The issue has caught fire because a few bishops have publicly stated that they would deny Communion to presidential candidate John Kerry, who is a Catholic. A Colorado bishop even stated that parishioners who vote for such candidates should not receive Communion.

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Helmets for kids should be the law

Alex Goehring-Kane could be the poster girl for a push to force Spokane youngsters who skate, bike and scoot to wear safety helmets. Minutes after arguing with her stepmother about wearing a helmet to Loon Lake's library last August, she was hit on her bike by a car going 40 mph. Unfortunately, she'd won the argument. She wasn't wearing a helmet. Spokesman-Review staff writer Amy Cannata explained what happened to Alex: "She smashed into the windshield, flew over the top of the car and landed on her head on the pavement."

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Kurds fear another American betrayal

ERBIL, Iraq – Here in Iraqi Kurdistan, where 14,000-foot peaks line the horizon and the people consider the United States their closest ally, Kurds are predicting darkly that America may betray them – again. Ethnic Kurds – who are Sunni Muslim but not Arab and who make up a fifth of Iraq's population – sent pesh merga guerrillas to fight alongside U.S. troops against Saddam Hussein. Today, fewer than 200 U.S. troops are based in Kurdistan, where the streets are safe and terrorist bombs are few.

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Pledge detour sparks new debate

I confess that I was a teensy bit relieved when the Supreme Court found a way to avoid ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance. Having pledged before and after the God clause was added, I didn't think those two words were any big deal. But I did suspect they were unconstitutional. So I figured that the court dodged a bullet in the culture wars. But now I'm afraid they only provided arms for the custody wars.

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SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 2004

Spokane River issues call for collaboration

By now, everyone in the greater Spokane area knows that something is wrong with the Spokane River—that it's somehow polluted or sick, that conflict exists around the causes and cures. In truth, there are multiple reasons for the river's illnesses and multiple possible fixes.

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Budget needs citizens' input

Spokane city government is romancing a new budget approach, but whether it blossoms into a long and loving relationship or wilts after a brief flirtation will depend on the level of commitment by two important groups: citizens and city officials. The fresh approach, called Price of Government, makes intuitive good sense. It starts with the idea that taxpayers are willing to pay so much for local government and they want certain things in return. Citizens' expectations are defined as broad outcomes — safety, health, ease of transportation — and the city then comes up with ways to achieve them and to measure its progress.

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Larry Bird doesn't deserve grief

I find myself in the unpleasant position of defending Larry Bird. Guy shreds my heart in the '84 Finals, his evil Boston Celtics defeating my valiant Los Angeles Lakers, and now, just 20 years later, here I stand between him and the torches and pitchforks of the mob. Still, Larry Legend is getting a bum rap and I can't stand by and watch that, even if he is a former Celtic.

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Torture evidence: No one's pushing

To understand the magnitude of what may have gone on in America's secret prisons, you don't need special security clearance or inside information. Anyone who wants to connect the dots can do it. To see what I mean, review the content of a few items now easily found on the Internet. Item 1: The "torture memo." Written in August 2002 by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, at the request of the CIA and then the White House, this memo argues that it "may be justified" to torture al-Qaeda suspects. The memo, posted last weekend on the Washington Post's Web site, also speculates that international law, which categorically prohibits torture, "may be unconstitutional."

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FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2004

Why not enforce crosswalks law?

The law is pretty clear about pedestrians in crosswalks. Unless there's a signal flashing "wait" at them, they have the right-of-way over motorists. If you're driving down the street and a pedestrian is trying to cross at an unsignaled intersection, you're supposed to stop and let the person do so.

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Is commander in chief above the law?

What a revelation to learn that the Justice Department lawyer who wrote the infamous memo in effect defending torture is now a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge. It tells you all you need to know about the sort of conservative to whom George W. Bush is turning in his attempt to pack the federal courts. Conservatives once were identified with protecting the rights of the individual against the unbridled power of government, but this is not your grandfather's conservatism. The current brand running things in D.C. holds that the commander in chief is above all law and that the ends always justify the means. This has paved the way for the increasingly well-documented and systematic use of torture in an ad hoc gulag archipelago for those detained anywhere in the world under the overly broad rubric of the "war on terror."

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Proof behind Iraq, al Qaeda link

As newspaper headlines are sure to scream in page one, above-the-fold stories, the 9-11 commission found "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein played a role in the terrorist attacks. But what you won't hear is that Saddam's possible role in 9-11 had little to do with the case for war in Iraq. Quite simply, war was waged in Iraq to prevent another 9-11. Apparently, this is too much nuance for most of the media to handle.

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Public workshop on university plan

Community planners have lofty hopes for the development of a university district in the area of the Gonzaga University and Riverpoint campuses along the Spokane River east of Division. But the details of what that district will look like and how it will be a part of community life are yet to be worked out. Citizens have an opportunity this weekend to help complete in the picture.

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Please remove 7 from the gutter

Question: I'm as progressive as I can be as a 50-something Spokalooite. But c'mon . . . "sniffing barstools" as a topic in the Friday entertainment section? I don't care if 7 is a feeble attempt to get younger people to read the daily newspaper; you folks have taken one deep step into the gutter. Please don't tell me that, "If I'm offended, I don't have to read it." I want to know what I can do in Spokane on the weekend, so I'm going to open this section. Then, it was in the headline on the first inside page, so I was offended even before I got to read the citizens' comments. The name of the article sums it up for The Spokesman-Review: "Bad choices." — Al Gilson, Spokane

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Correction

The Boeing aircraft being considered for lease and sale to the Air Force as a new generation of refueling tanker is the 767. An editorial on Wednesday referred to the wrong model.

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