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TO THE POINT

With friends like this

Diplomacy was never his strong suit, but President Bush has finally realized it's a job somebody's got to do. Tucked into his 2009 budget is funding to hire nearly 1,100 diplomats. They should help replenish the depleted ranks of the State Department overseas. Mr. Bush's decision likely had more to do with friendship than fortifying the U.S. diplomatic mission - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made several calls on a White House budget appeals committee to plead for expanding the diplomatic corps. Considering America's tarnished image in some areas of the world, the new hires will have their work cut out for them.

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Talk isn't cheap

State and local efforts to receive money in lieu of taxes from private developers building on federal military bases got a thumb's up from Maryland's top lawyer last week. Though Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's opinion does little to advance the issue, it found nothing to bar the payments. Any contributions have to be negotiated, so state and local officials need to sharpen their talking points.

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The issue involves decisions by Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade commanders to use private developers to build office complexes on the bases to handle the work and employees migrating here because of the base realignment and closure decisions. Military land is exempt from property taxes, but state and local officials have been pushing for payments to help lessen the impact on public services and roads.

Maryland, which is investing state dollars to upgrade roads and transit to accommodate the influx of BRAC workers, stands to benefit from the moves. But it shouldn't lose either.

Free to be

The Turkish government's move to allow college students to wear Islamic head scarves on campus has led thousands to protest in support of a strictly secular society. Their protests won't ensure their freedoms, but allowing religious women the right to pursue theirs could. Lifting the ban would likely allow more religious Muslim women to pursue their education in a secular institution. And knowledge can be transformative. An expression of religious tolerance, however small, is a hallmark of democracy.



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