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Secretary of Education Calls Plan a Mistake

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on Wednesday criticized a congressional proposal to soften provisions of President’s Bush signature education law, saying it would severely weaken the federal effort to raise achievement among poor and minority children.

In a speech before a business group and at a news conference, Spellings said that a series of proposals in draft legislation circulated by Democrats and Republicans on the House Education Committee, taken together, would allow states to remove children from testing regimes and tutoring services, and would make it too difficult for parents to know whether students and schools are making progress.

Spellings weighed in as the House and Senate prepare to push the law to renewal this month. The House draft would preserve the goal of bringing students to proficiency by 2014 but would broaden the ways schools could demonstrate student progress.

Testing the Fit of the Mantle Reagan Wore

Fred D. Thompson had one central strategic goal as he formally began his presidential campaign on Thursday: to win over conservatives who are disheartened at their current choice of Republican candidates by positioning himself as the ideological and stylistic heir of Ronald Reagan.

Thompson is certainly conservative, and has been throughout his public life — particularly on the question of federalism, the size of government, tax cuts and his unvarnished support for President Bush’s policies in Iraq.

Conservatives have yet to coalesce around any one of the Republican candidates. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, supports gay rights and abortion rights; Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has shifted his position on abortion over the past five years; and McCain is viewed with suspicion by conservatives for, among other reasons, his advocacy of campaign finance restrictions and his stance on immigration.

The qualms about the ideological credentials of the other candidates have given Thompson an opening. Since leaving the Senate, he has continued to burnish his conservative credentials by speaking out on issues of concern to the Republican base, like immigration, taxes and terrorism, through a Web column and syndicated radio commentary.

Serbia Plans Steps to Deter Kosovo Independence

Serbia is ready to use force to prevent Western states from recognizing Kosovo as an independent state, a senior Serbian official warned Wednesday.

Dusan Prorokovic, Serbia’s state secretary for Kosovo, outlined an array of tough measures to squeeze Kosovo — including the possible deployment of Serbian forces to the province, the sealing of its borders, and a trade embargo — that he said Serbia was ready to take in the event that Kosovo’s Albanian-dominated government declared independence and was recognized by Western governments.

The potential steps are the harshest outlined so far by the government here and come as negotiations between the two sides overseen by Russia, the European Union and United States appear to be in deadlock. The United Nations has set a Dec. 10 deadline for the conclusion of the talks, after which the United States has indicated it would recognize Kosovo unilaterally.