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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Dirty Campaign Tactics

The headlines say the latest schism among the top Democratic presidential candidates is over gender and race. But on the ground in the presidential season's opening states, there is a darker narrative: that Hillary Clinton will not just fight hard, but fight dirty, to win. And her tactic of choice is attempting to suppress the votes of her rival's supporters.

The latest example is from Nevada, where the Nevada State Education Association is widely seen as filing a suit on Clinton's behalf to stop Las Vegas' most powerful union, Culinary Workers Local 226, from caucusing inside downtown casinos after the union endorsed Barack Obama. The tactic foments a split along racial and class lines in arguably the strongest union city in America.

"It's horrible," said one longtime Nevada activist, who didn't want his name used. "It will cause fights and damage that will last for years."

But the Clinton campaign has made similar moves in New Hampshire and Iowa.

In the first primary state, her supporters -- backed by New Hampshire Democratic Party officials -- pressured poll workers to remove observers stationed by the Obama campaign. These volunteers had intended to track voters as part of their get-out-the-vote effort. That tactic came after the Clinton campaign sent a mailing targeting women that said Obama would not "stand up and protect" a women's right to choose because he had voted "present" -- but not yes -- on a few abortion-related bills in the Illinois legislature.

"I've kept most mailers I got from every presidential candidate this year, and that mailer was the absolute worst," wrote New Hampshire blogger Peter Glenshaw. "Never mind that Obama has a 100 percent approval rating from Planned Parenthood in Illinois. Never mind that Planned Parenthood asked him to vote 'present' on those bills."

And in Iowa, the Clinton campaign -- with the help of the state's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, which endorsed her -- was discouraging students from returning from winter break to vote, even though their right to do so was legal, said Rick Hasen, who writes a respected election law blog. "Indeed such voting could help to compensate for the otherwise anti-democratic nature of Iowa's role in the presidential election process," he said.

As the nomination process has unfolded and Clinton has encountered resistance in every state so far -- including Obama's Friday endorsement by the 60,000-member Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union -- her campaign's increasingly critical rhetoric has been accompanied by voter suppression tactics aimed at her rival's core voters.

While Clinton campaign surrogates have verbally accused Obama of many things, from "fairy tale" answers on Iraq to being a drug user while they served the country more nobly, intentionally suppressing voters -- especially under-represented, low-income minority union members -- stands out in 2008's Democratic presidential campaign.

After all, the Democratic National Committee moved Nevada's caucuses to the top of the primary lineup so minority voices could be heard -- and no organization is more aligned with those voters in Nevada than the Culinary Union, whose training materials for its members are printed in four languages. In contrast, the state teachers, whose suit seeks to stop those workers from caucusing in nine "at-large" precincts in big downtown casinos, have a statewide base because its members work throughout Nevada.

The NSEA suit claims the at-large casino caucuses are not fair to the state's other voters because they will likely be overrun with voters, thereby skewing the proportional representation of Clark County delegates to the state party convention.

Neither NSEA officials nor their Las Vegas lawyers returned calls on Monday. However their suit states that "by packing as much as 10 percent or more delegates into the county convention, the at-large precinct caucus system (created for the casinos) substantially diminishes the voting power of delegates from other county precinct caucuses."

In other words, a strong turnout from the tens of thousands of Culinary Workers Union members in Las Vegas, where 70 percent of Nevada voters live, could swing the state's early foray into presidential politics. In 2000, fewer than 1,000 people participated in Nevada's caucuses. In 2004, that number was about 9,000. This year, estimates are in the tens of thousands.

Nevada political insiders say the NSEA lawsuit is designed to suppress Obama's voters.

"That's the common narrative at this point," said Pilar Weiss, the Culinary Workers Union's political director, when asked if there was any other way to interpret the suit. "A caucus system is all proportional representation. It's not unfair in any way. They (the state Democratic Party) made an accommodation for Clark County."

Another Nevada activist who has worked for years in the state was even blunter.

"This (caucus) plan was created by some of the same people who are plaintiffs in the suit against it," he said. "It's not that they didn't like the plan when Clinton was ahead."

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Michigan voters aren't allowed to vote for Obama or Edwards

If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for a little more information about the Michigan Presidential Primary Election on January 15th, 2008. In the years that Publius has been working to help voters get non-partisan information about elections we have never encountered an election like this.

This is a stupid and confusing election.

It is a stupid election at a time when so many Michigan voters need and want to participate in determining the direction of the country. When the stakes are high for this state, the country, and the world, Michigan loses its voice. It’s not easy to be non-partisan about it.

What?! Primaries a Problem?

In 2000, the election system in this country hit a big snag in Florida. Everyone involved would have preferred a landslide victory either way. Afterwards, elections in this country came under serious scrutiny, some of which fell on the party primary process. Too few people have too much power in the process, and many suggested ways to make it fair. Thoughtful solutions like rotating primaries were ignored, but you know you have a fairness problem when playing eenie-meenie-minie-moe is an improvement.

It is absolutely true that Iowa and New Hampshire have disproportionate influence on the presidential election process in relation to their populations, which don't really represent the country in terms of race, creed or economics. Too few people have too much power over the process. We knew it was an issue. And there were solid suggestions about how to change things and make them a least a bit more fair, but change did not happen.

Then, in 2004, after suggestions for plans to change the system were ignored, Howard Dean came in 3rd in Iowa's primary. Dean yelped, and the media over-hyped that yelp showed how the flaws in the primary system could disenfranchise voters. It became clear that the first contests could provide enough ammunition for an irresponsible media and shallow audience to end a national campaign, without the nation actually voting. Later, a lot of people thought that yelping was a pretty stupid reason to bounce a candidate, but the damage was done. The flawed primary system and power of being first, amplified by the media, let a fraction of a percent of the voters in this country deprive millions of voters their chance to choose. Over a yelp.

Through an interesting twist of fate, Howard Dean, the guy who got crushed after Iowa because he yelped, ended up in charge of the Democratic Party. Of course that guy would now make sure the show wasn’t over after Iowa. Surely, he’d bring his own experience to the system? Well, not really. The National Democratic Party has boosted a couple states earlier in the cycle. But they’re pretty small states (NV, SC). The National Democratic and Republican Parties let voters down - in seven years of scrutiny there has been little improvement in the primary system - in fact, the situation is now worse.

States Take the Lead

How did it get worse? Some states got antsy moved to make a change. The intention was noble: to make sure that Michigan voters had a say. They made their case on a national lever and that didn’t work, so the Michigan legislature tried to call “shotgun!” shifting the entire primary process forward by moving Michigan’s primary up to January 15th (Florida’s is on the 29th). And that’s how our stupid primary election was born.

It didn’t have to be stupid, but the folks who wrote the law that moved up the primary put all kinds of weird provisions in it, a kind of "electoral pork", to make campaigning easier and cheaper. One provision forces people to declare a party in the primary (violating the established right to vote in Michigan without declaring party affiliation). Another provision seals up records so that no citizen can check to verify if they were added to the Democratic or Republican mailing lists.

Eight years after Florida, the Michigan legislature, passed bi-partisan legislation that seals-up election records. Super. Transparency is the only way we the people can make sure elections are actually democratic. Politicians seal election records when they want to do something shady. It may be that they only want to save some money by making it impossible for third party number crunchers to analyze voting patterns and re-sell it to back to them. However harmless the reason, it doesn’t matter. We deserve better.

What Electoral Pork?

The electoral pork resulted in a series of legal challenges and injunctions that blocked and unblocked the primary in the months before this 2008 Michigan Primary Election. As it turns out, some judges in Michigan were opposed to closed election records. Trying to get a handle on it, the media reported the news as it unfolded day-by-day and, unless you were taking detailed notes, the whole thing didn’t make much sense. The legal wrangling gave the impression that the Michigan presidential primary, may or may not happen on the 15th, and made it impossible to plan around. That made it seem like the votes of Michigan citizens really weren’t that important.

Meanwhile, The National Democratic and Republican Parties had to react to the upstart Michiganders who weren’t doing what they were told, so they issued an ultimatum. The Democrats and Republicans both decided that any state that holds a primary before it was supposed to would loose its delegates to their respective national convention (Remember: a primary really only assigns the percentage of state delegates that will officially vote for candidate X, Y, or Z at the National Convention after all the primaries are over.). If you don’t follow the rules, you get no delegates.

Many of the state party leaders pushing in both Michigan and Florida essentially said, "We're so far back in the pack we just get to sign off on who is already picked anyway." Somehow, Michigan’s Republicans managed to work with their party to figure out how to avoid the humiliation that the Democratic Party candidates visited upon Michigan voters. All Republican presidential candidates are on the January 15th ballot, and Michigan has hosted a republican debate and we’ve even seen ads on TV for some of the candidates.

Democratic Blowout

The Michigan Democratic Party’s negotiations with the National Democratic Party did not go as well. The Michigan democrats tried to keep their delegates by officially assigning them at a convention later in the year, according to the National Democratic Primary schedule, which effectively meant that the January 15th primary was just for show, a 10 million dollar opinion poll, since the end result of a primary is supposed to be assigned delegates. Then the National Democratic Party forbade any candidates to campaign in Michigan. The Democratic candidates for president agreed, perhaps scared by the strange notion that Hillary Clinton could win without campaigning, or because their campaigns were too busy with strategies for New Hampshire and Iowa to deal with Michigan’s more complicated issues.

So John Edwards (despite the fact that his campaign is managed by a stalwart Michigander, Former Congressman David Bonior) and Barak Obama pulled out, along with Bill Richardson and Joseph Biden, who called Michigan’s delegate free-democratic primary election a “beauty contest”. Dennis Kucinich tried to get off the ballot, but didn’t file the right paperwork – and he gets credit for being the only Democrat who actually did campaign in Michigan. At the last minute it was even proposed that the Michigan Legislature could fix this mess by a newer, better law forcing candidates to appear on the ballot. When they heard that, at least one of the drop-outs threatened to sue to stay off the ballot. Awesome.

There were good intentions along the way, and, as it turns out, Michigan’s Republican Primary will matter. But Democratic Party voters and democracy in general have taken a big hit. The state party spin that this “throwaway” primary is going to make a point to the National party is shameful. The decision of democratic and independent voters to sacrifice their vote to teach the national parties a lesson should have been ours.

Try selling that to Michigan’s troops in Iraq or Afghanistan – because of this silliness, they cannot vote two of the highest profile Democratic candidates, and some might not be able to vote at all because of the extra time it takes to print, send and return an absentee ballot from overseas. Imagine telling our troops – “Oh, we decided we’d sit this one out because we’ll get better seats next time.” How dare we send Michigan troops ballots without all the choices? They’ve earned them.

What Choice do I Have?

If you wanted to vote for Barak Obama or John Edwards, you can’t. There is no tricky “uncommitted” back door. If you vote “uncommitted”, a MI Democratic Party member at a statewide convention in March, may be able to leverage enough uncommitted votes to argue for delegates for Edwards or Obama. Or they may not. It has nowhere near the power of a vote cast in New Hampshire when a voter marks “Obama” on the ballot. A concerned democratic voter might have more direct influence registering for the party and attending the convention in March.

In addition, the effort to encourage voters to vote “uncommitted” cheapens this already dismal affair because the state does not track party affiliation except for the pork in this election. Processing that uncommitted vote puts your name onto the “secret” sealed lists that the state elections bureau has to collect and turn over to the parties at our expense. There’s nothing wrong with a good accurate mailing list going into a big election, and there is no doubt we need a healthy cathartic election this year, but state funds shouldn’t pay for the party’s secret projects.

That’s how it came to this: an election where attempting to balance an unfair system, National Party inaction, the best intentions of state party leaders, shady state legislative electoral pork, campaign ease, draconian ultimatums from the National Democratic Party, and undemocratic presidential candidate assumptions / anxiety / cowardice / ambivalence has resulted in disenfranchising millions of Michigan voters whose vote will count for even less than it did in the last primary. This is a stupid election considered a throwaway at this critical time in history that makes Michigan voters way, way, way less important than voters in the Democratic contests in New Hampshire or Iowa.

So that’s it the history of this stupid election. If you happen across one of the architects of this debacle, Michigan voters must all let them know that no matter how noble the intention, how important the message, no one should ever mess with our votes like this ever, ever again.

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Judge Grants Kucinich Entry to NV Debate

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada judge said Monday that Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich must be included in Tuesday's candidates' debate in Nevada.

Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson said if Kucinich is excluded, he'll issue an injunction stopping the televised debate.

The judge sided with a lawyer for the Ohio congressman, who says debate host MSNBC at first invited Kucinich to take part and then told him last week he couldn't.

A lawyer for the network said MSNBC decided to go with the top three candidates after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.

The judge called it a matter of fairness and said Nevada voters will benefit if they hear from more than just Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

The cable network and the Democratic Party are calling the 9 p.m. EST debate a chance to hear issues from Nevada's minority communities. Tim Russert and Brian Williams are moderating.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects time of debate to 9 p.m. EST)

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NBC News fights judge's order to include Kucinich in debate

NBC News said Monday it will appeal a judge's ruling rather than include Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich in a candidates' debate in Nevada.

"We disagree with the judge's decision and are filing an appeal," said a statement provided by Jeremy Gaines, a vice president for MSNBC, sponsor of Tuesday night's debate. Gaines said the parent network would seek an immediate hearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.

Hours earlier, Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson ruled that Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, must be allowed to participate. If he is excluded, Thompson said he would issue an injunction to stop the televised debate.

Kucinich's lawyer had argued that MSNBC at first invited him to participate, then last week reversed course and told him he could not.

A lawyer for the network said MSNBC decided to go with the top three candidates after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.

Thompson called it a matter of fairness and said Nevada voters will benefit by hearing from more than just top contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.

The cable network and the Democratic Party have promoted the debate as a chance for the candidates to be questioned about issues from Nevada's minority communities. Tim Russert and Brian Williams are the scheduled moderators.

Kucinich learned of the judge's decision when he was handed a note during an interview with Fox Business Network's Neil Cavuto.

"Holy smokes! I just found out. I have to get off the phone now. I have to make plans to go to Nevada," Kucinich said.

Source: AP News

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Artificial Intelligence

President George W. Bush hasn't accomplished much on his voyage to the Middle East, but he did take the time to inflict another wound on the entire U.S. intelligence community—and on the credibility of anything he might ever again say about the world.

In the latest Newsweek, Michael Hirsh reports that, during a private conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush "all but disowned" the agencies' Dec. 3 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. A "senior administration official who accompanied Bush" on the trip confided to Hirsh that Bush "told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own views."

The NIE—which was signed by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies—concluded "with high confidence" that Iran had "halted its nuclear weapons program" back in the fall of 2003. The estimate, released to the public in sanitized form, seriously undercut efforts by the Bush-Cheney White House to portray Iran's nuclear ambitions as an imminent threat—and left the world either relieved or (especially in Israel's case) alarmed that the option of a U.S. airstrike on Iran was pretty much off the table.

There were some odd and regrettable things about the NIE's phrasing and presentation (a point made by not only champions but several critics of Bush's policies, including me). However, the estimate's basic findings—its facts—are not in dispute. For the president of the United States to wave away the whole document—which, in its classified form, is more than 140 pages and has nearly 1,500 source notes, according to an enlightening story in today's Wall Street Journal—is gratuitous and self-destructive.

Then again, such behavior is of a piece with the pattern of relations between President Bush and his intelligence agencies. In September 2004, when he was asked about a pessimistic CIA report on the course of the occupation in Iraq, Bush replied that the agency was "just guessing."

This remark "was a death knell," Tim Weiner wrote in Legacy of Ashes, his award-winning history of the CIA. Weiner then quoted a line from a speech that former CIA director Richard Helms gave before the Council on Foreign Relations in 1967: "If we are not believed, we have no purpose." The CIA reprinted that speech on the occasion of Helms' death in October 2002, around the time that the agency was having a battle of credibility with the White House and the Pentagon over its doubts that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or an alliance with al-Qaida.

And therein lies the irony of the present situation. In decades past, the CIA has often lost credibility as a result of its own failures and scandals. Now President Bush is splashing doubt not just on the CIA, but on all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, simply because their judgments are out of synch with his policies.

There are two further ironies. First, this NIE is the product of reforms that President Bush himself signed into law—the creation of a director of national intelligence and various other procedural changes—designed to keep intelligence analysis free of political interference.

Second, the NIE contains plenty of passages that could legitimately justify a less-than-optimistic appraisal of Iran's intentions and capabilities. For instance, the estimate found that Iran is still enriching uranium and that it "has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decided to do so." The authors allowed that they "do not know" whether Iran might want to resume its nuclear-weapons program in the future. Finally, they concluded that Iran stopped the program "primarily in response to increasing international security and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work." Therefore, Bush could have argued, the pressure needs to be kept up—or else Iran will rev up its clandestine program once again.

Secretary of Defense (and former CIA Director) Robert Gates has taken this approach when talking about the NIE to international audiences. Gates has said Iran and the rest of the world shouldn't cherry-pick the findings—that if they buy the agency's conclusion that Iran has stopped its nuclear-weapons program, they should buy the less-rosy conclusions, too. For a while, Bush displayed the opposite tendency: He played up the NIE's more sobering conclusions while dismissing the main finding. Now, in a private conversation with Israel's prime minister, he's rejected the whole package and says its conclusions "don't reflect his own views" (wherever he gets them from).

This remark has three baleful consequences. First, it can't help but demoralize the intelligence community. NIEs are meant, ultimately, for only one reader, the president; and here's the president telling another world leader that he doesn't believe it because, well, he doesn't agree with it.

Second, it reinforces the widespread view that the president views intelligence strictly as a political tool: When it backs up his policies, it's as good as gold; when it doesn't, it's "just guessing." This result is that all intelligence is degraded and devalued, at home and abroad. Let's say that six months from now Bush publicizes an NIE concluding that Iran has resumed its nuclear-weapons program or that, say, North Korea is reprocessing more plutonium. Given that he pooh-poohed an NIE that rubbed against his own views, why should anyone take him seriously for embracing an NIE that confirms them?

Third, by telling Olmert that it's all right to ignore the NIE, Bush is in effect telling him that Israel should go ahead and behave as if its findings had never been published. Hirsh reports that, when Olmert was asked whether he felt reassured by Bush's words, he replied, "I am very happy." ABC News reported Monday that, at a closed hearing of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, Olmert testified, "All options that prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities are legitimate within the context of how to grapple with this matter."

It is increasingly unlikely, for many reasons, that the United States will bomb Iran before the year is out. But, wittingly or not, did Bush just flash a green light to Olmert?

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Foxnews, cnn, abc, msnbc, cnbc choosing the next president

Why won't the major news networks allow Edwards to compete? They constantly put out propaganda saying that this is the greatest nation in the world, we allow any citizen the right to compete. Why then, is the media refusing to allow John Edwards that right? All Americans are entitled to and need to know John's agenda, views and what he is fighting to do for us. The media obviously has no problem in their coverage of Clinton and Obama.

They appear to have left John Edwards out of the race and closed the barn doors on him. The way the media is treating John Edwards is counter productive for our democracy and all Americans. It's far from fair and balanced.

I have been emailing our major news networks and invite you all to PLEASE JOIN ME IN THIS EFFORT. I know that with all of us working together we will get the media's attention by flooding them with our emails of disdain and disgust.

Thank you so much for your help in this matter. I know John Edwards would thank you from the bottom of his heart.

(Please feel free to use this, just copy and paste.)

The lack of coverage of John Edwards is a disgrace to the American public. When I am lucky enough to catch a blurb about Edwards it's generally has been negative.

This lack of coverage also shows a lack of ability on your part to exhibit journalistic integrity.

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Bush: "I'm Sure People View Me As A War Monger"

In Riyadh today, the president danced a traditional sword dance with one of the princes of the royal family. It was a public -- and a little awkward -- display of affection, all part of Bush's first visit to Saudi Arabia aimed at repairing strained relations between the world's biggest oil producer and the world' s biggest oil consumer.

The president sat down with "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran at one of the vast royal palaces, and it became clear who holds the cards right now in the oil markets, with the price up near $100 a barrel...

..."I have talked to these leaders face to face," he said. "I have asked them point blank, 'Do you understand how difficult these issues are?' Yes. 'Are you prepared to make the painful political compromises?' They say they are."

Despite that optimism, the president also said that he does feel misunderstood in the Middle East.

"My image [is] 'Bush wants to fight Muslims.' And, yes, I'm concerned about it. Not because of me, personally. I'm concerned because I want most people to understand the great generosity and compassion of Americans," he said.

"I'm sure people view me as a war monger and I view myself as peacemaker," the president said. "They view me as so pro-Israeli I can't be open-minded about Palestinian peace, and yet I'm the only president ever to have articulated a two-state solution. And you just have to fight through stereotypes by actions."

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Huckabee: Amend Constitution to be in 'God's standards'

The United States Constitution never uses the word "God" or makes mention of any religion, drawing its sole authority from "We the People." However, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee thinks it's time to put an end to that.

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

When Willie Geist reported Huckabee's opinion on MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski was almost speechless, and even Joe Scarborough couldn't immediately find much to say beyond calling it "interesting,"

Scarborough finally suggested that while he believes "evangelicals should be able to talk politics ... some might find that statement very troubling, that we're going to change the Constitution to be in line with the Bible. And that's all I'm going to say."

Geist further noted of Huckabee that if "someone without his charm," said that, "he'd be dismissed as a crackpot, but he's Mike Huckabee and he's bascially the front-runner."

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U.S Supreme Court Refuses to Expand Experimental-Drug Access

By Greg Stohr

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal that sought to give terminally ill people greater access to experimental drugs that may save their lives.

The justices, without comment, rebuffed a patient-advocacy group that said the Food and Drug Administration is placing unconstitutional obstacles in the way of people who have exhausted their approved treatment options.

``Huge numbers of Americans die each year after being denied access to developmental drugs that might have prolonged their lives -- drugs that, in many instances, later received FDA marketing approval,'' argued the group, the Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs.

The Bush administration and the FDA urged the court not to hear the case, saying the appeal sought to ``revive a brand of judicial intervention that this court foreswore long ago.''

The case involved people who aren't included in the clinical trials conducted by pharmaceutical companies or the expanded access programs that drugmakers offer for some experimental treatments.

Under federal law, people who aren't in those groups and want access to experimental treatments must persuade the FDA that the benefits outweigh the risks, a process that requires what Abigail Alliance calls a ``mountain of regulatory paperwork.''

70 Per Year

As a practical matter, those patients also must get the support of the drug company, according to Scott Ballenger, a Washington lawyer representing the Abigail Alliance. He said that only about 70 patients a year successfully navigate the process.

The administration told the court that ``nearly all'' individual patient applications are approved.

The Abigail Alliance is named after Abigail Burroughs, who died in 2001 at age 21 after an 18-month battle with head and neck cancer. In the months before Abigail died, her family unsuccessfully sought access to Erbitux, an ImClone Systems Inc. cancer drug that was undergoing clinical testing and had been recommended by her oncologist. The FDA approved the drug in 2004.

Abigail's father, Frank Burroughs, is president of the Charlottesville, Virginia, group.

A federal appeals court in Washington ruled against the patient group in August on an 8-2 vote.

``There is no fundamental right `deeply rooted in this nation's history and tradition' of access to experimental drugs for the terminally ill,'' the majority said, quoting from a 1997 Supreme Court case concerning doctor-assisted suicide.

Phases of Testing

The appeal focused on drugs that are in the second and third phases of testing required under FDA rules. Phase 2 testing can involve several hundred patients, while Phase 3 testing often includes several thousand subjects.

The drugs are ``safe and promising enough to be tested in substantial numbers of human subjects,'' the appeal argued.

The administration argued that a so-called investigational drug ``may be wholly ineffective'' and that ``taking it may sicken the patient or even kill him.''

The government also said wider disbursement of investigational medicines might undermine clinical testing. That would especially be the case if drugmakers could sell those products at a profit -- something they currently can't do -- because companies would have less incentive to pursue regulatory approval, the U.S. said.

The case is Abigail Alliance v. Von Eschenbach, 07-144.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at .

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Kucinich Allowed In Debate!

Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Presidential Candidate and Ohio Congressman, will be allowed to participate in tomorrow's Nevada debate in the wake of a lawsuit his legal team filed in Clark County, Nev., his lawyer said today.

Kucinich filed the lawsuit in Nevada this morning alleging that his exclusion in the Jan. 15 Las Vegas Democratic Presidential debate would have caused, "irreparable harm to the public interest by robbing voters of the opportunity to hear his policy platform..."

"The proper enforcement of the Federal Communications Act," the lawsuit continues, "ensures America's voters that they will have the ability to vote for candidates with varied and new ideas and policies."

This afternoon, a Clark County District Court judge agreed.

"The judge decided to issue an order ordering NBC to allow Dennis to participate in the debate," said Don McTigue, head counsel for Kucinich. "We're very pleased."

Lawyers for Kucinich were confident the judge would side with them, given their belief in the candidate's political standing and the ground rules for the debate.

"Kucinich is a credible and serious candidate in Nevada," the lawsuit reads. "Kucinich also receives widespread national support and has been the winner in national online polls..."

While he reinforced Kucinich's viability as a candidate, McTigue also took aim at the debate structure.

"[NBC] established a criteria to invite people to participate and you don't get to change the rules," he said. "There was no clear reason for excluding him other than what seems obvious to us. Our legal position was very strong."

Originally, MSNBC called for the top four candidates to participate, but, after Gov. Bill Richardson dropped out of the race last week, MSNBC invited just the top three Democratic contenders-Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards-to debate each other.

After Richardson dropped out, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd informed Kucinich that he would be excluded from the debate because, "NBC only wanted the participation of the top 3 candidates."

That field will once again grow to four when the action to allow Kucinich to participate becomes official at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning when the order will be filed in court, McTigue said.

Photo of Kucinich by Dennis Kucinich via Flickr.

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