Just be glad you don't have to cook it. The 2007 National Thanksgiving Turkey at 21 weeks old is expected to weigh 45 pounds by the time it arrives in Washington and is presented to the president for "pardon"-a tradition that in its current form this year turns 60 years old. But in a modern American twist on tradition, this tom then will fly first-class to Disney World, where he will be the grand marshal of Disney's Thanksgiving Day Parade and later be on hand to welcome guests in the backyard of Mickey's house.
Turkish helicopters fired on villages in northern Iran Nov. 13 to dislodge Turkish Kurd guerrillas from nearby bases used to stage cross-border raids into Turkey. It was the first major Turkish action against the rebels since Turkey massed tens of thousands of soldiers along the border with Iraq and demanded U.S. and Iraqi action to crack down on guerrilla activities.
Are Iraqi Sunnis having a change of heart or massing for rebellion, as Shiites fear? More than 80 percent of Iraqis volunteering across the country as "Concerned Local Citizens" in a new joint U.S.-Iraqi program are Sunnis. Now a political and demographic minority, Sunnis and key leaders in recent months have abandoned support for al-Qaeda in Iraq and other militants in favor of cooperation with government forces. Now, out of 67,000 people across 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces, 51,000 Sunnis have been screened to work with with local military personnel. Benefits of the program outweigh its risks, according to Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno: Over a recent 15-day period, volunteers in the program provided tips leading to confiscation of 37,000 pounds of explosives and other armaments.
Preliminary findings of an FBI investigation into the Sept. 16 shooting in Iraq by private U.S. diplomatic guards from Blackwater USA concluded that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules. Prosecutors will face a challenge in seeking indictments, given questions over federal law governing private security contractors and concern that much of the evidence was cold by the time FBI agents were called in-posing one of the first legal hurdles for U.S. Attorney General Robert Mukasey, who was sworn in Nov. 14.
Bowing to direct pressure from President Bush, Pakistan's president Gen. Pervez Musharraf announced Nov. 14 he will step down as army chief by the end of November and begin a new presidential term as a civilian. The president originally planned to leave his army post by Nov. 15, when his term of office also expired. Instead he decreed emergency rule this month amid political turmoil to battle Islamic extremism. Army officers under Musharraf kept former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, once a candidate for power-sharing with the military government, under house arrest.
The much-debated Kyoto Protocol won't expire until 2012, but already the debate to replace its flawed strategy to reduce global warming is heating up. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body that recently shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore, convened in Spain last week to help nations determine post-Kyoto how to reduce pollution.
China, India, Australia, and the United States have never assented to Kyoto's caps on greenhouse-gas emissions, which can stifle economic growth and harm the poor. But that won't stop a largely green international community represented by IPCC from applying political pressure-no matter how much new science minimizes human ability to impact climate patterns.
For presidential candidates who thought just one strategy could woo the religious right, and for voters seeking a GOP candidate to embrace, a recent survey of the movement's political endorsements thus far shows just how fractured is the conservative religious vote:
Pat Robertson, televangelist: Rudy Giuliani
Paul Weyrich, Free Congress Foundation: Mitt Romney
National Right to Life Committee: Fred Thompson
Sen. Sam Brownback: John McCain
Don Wildmon, American Family Association: Mike Huckabee
Lou Sheldon, Traditional Values Coalition: Mitt Romney
Rick Scarborough, Vision America: Mike Huckabee
Janet Folger, Faith to Action: Mike Huckabee
Bob Jones III, former chancellor, Bob Jones University: Mitt Romney
Wayne Grudem, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Mitt Romney
And finally, Chuck Norris, aka Walker, Texas Ranger, writes in a campaign email Nov. 13: "Fact: Mike Huckabee is my choice for President of the United States." With the combined forces therein of the Marines, the Wild West, the martial arts, and the Dallas Cowboys, there's room left in this crowded field for underdogs to take heart.
The country is frustrated. A new Washington Post-ABC News Poll finds that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed believe the country is on the wrong track. They are deeply pessimistic about the future and dissatisfied with Washington's corrosive political environment.
The public believes most politicians are out for themselves and not the people. They also think most politicians say and do the bidding of polarizing groups and rarely say what they mean, or mean what they say.
Politicians are not the sole cause of cynicism. For too long, too many of us have asked (or allowed) government to act as a sugar daddy, dispensing ever-greater amounts of goodies, paid for with taxpayer money. When government reaches its limits-as it has now-we become angry, frustrated and, yes, cynical.
When the stock market increases by a smaller percentage than its increase last year we complain of "hard times" and worry about an approaching recession. Our grandparents never dreamed of the prosperity we enjoy today. Even the poorest among us is richer than much of the world's poor, and the poor in America at least have the opportunity to climb out of poverty.
Our problem is we have more of what we don't need and less of what we do need. More things and poor relationships translate into more for self and less for others. It would appear that self-storage facilities are one of the fastest growing businesses in America. I see them everywhere multiplying like overpriced coffee shops. Why do we need so many storage units? It's because we lack room in our larger houses for all the stuff we don't need, bought on credit with money many of us didn't have. It is because the marketers have sold us on the value of things, while culture has diminished the value of human relationships.
Change can be a good thing. A changed life is good, if the old one was bad. But in order to change the direction of our country we need leaders who will boldly take us in a better direction.
While the political GPS system is calculating the route, it would be nice for some of the presidential candidates to start talking about what kind of character we need to have when we arrive, lest we continue our present practice of filling even more storage units while our hearts and souls remain largely empty, except for the poisons known as cynicism and pessimism. -Cal Thomas
© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.