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Monday, December 27, 2004

BBC > Shun Iraq poll, says 'Bin Laden'

An audio tape attributed to Osama Bin Laden has called on Iraqis to boycott elections scheduled for 30 January.
The recording also backs Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the al-Qaeda network's leader in Iraq, Arabic TV station al-Jazeera reported.
Zarqawi's al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for many bombings and hostage murders in Iraq.
Earlier this month, another audio message attributed to Bin Laden called for attacks on Gulf oil supplies.




japantoday > asia Many reportedly killed, hurt in China  riot


Monday, December 27, 2004 at 07:22 JST
HONG KONG — As many as 1,000 villagers battled police in southern China in a riot that left several people dead and dozens wounded, newspapers said Sunday.
Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po and Apple Daily newspapers differed widely over the size of the mob and what led to the clash Saturday in Da Lang village in Guangdong province. Both said the riot started after security forces beat a resident to death.

Wen Wei Po said nearly 50,000 people faced off against hundreds of police officers and torched four police cars. About a dozen village security officers were hurt in the dispute that sparked the riot, the newspaper said.
The Apple Daily, meanwhile, put the crowd size at nearly 1,000. Police fired tear gas at the rioters, the newspaper said. It quoted a villager as saying that several locals were killed and 100 were injured.
Wen Wei Po said the incident began with a dispute over compensation for a traffic accident. The disagreement flared into a riot when local security forces beat to death a relative of the accident victim, the newspaper said.
Apple Daily said the security forces sparked the unrest by beating to death a 15-year-old boy for stealing a bicycle. It said police brought the riot under control in three hours and later arrested about a dozen people.
Police and government officials refused to confirm details of the incident. "The riot is over," said one government official in Dongguan, a city that includes Da Lang.
The official, who would not give his name, referred all inquiries to the Communist Party propaganda office in Dongguan, where phones rang unanswered Sunday.
Police in Da Lang and Dongguan also refused to comment. (Wire reports)




Malaysian Star > Fifty-three dead, 34 missing after tidal waves hit Malaysia

Fifty-three dead, 34 missing after tidal waves hit Malaysia

The Star Online > News > Latest
Monday, December 27, 2004

Fifty-three dead, 34 missing after tidal waves hit Malaysia

News Update by The Star Newsdesk

KUALA LUMPUR: At least 53 people were killed, scores injured and 34 reported missing in several parts of Malaysia when tidal waves of up to five metres high hit the coastal regions as a result an earthquake in Sumatra.

Officials have described it as the worst natural disaster in Malaysia’s history.

Penang was the worst hit, with 38 reported dead and 30 missing at press time.

In Kedah, 12 more were reported dead and three missing, in Perak two dead and one missing and Selangor one dead.

A Malaysian husband and wife were also reported killed while diving in the Emerald Cave off Thailand’s southern coast after a huge tsunami struck.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he felt sad about the lives that were lost in the disaster and extended his condolences to the bereaved families.

He has asked Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop to give financial help to the victims.

According to the Meteorological Services Department Seismology division, preliminary information showed the location of the earthquake's epicentre at Latitude 3.1° North and Longitude 95.5° East, some 680km from Kuala Lumpur and 590km from Penang.

The first of the tidal waves, which hit the coastal areas at different times, was reported at about noon, about three hours after the tremors were felt in Malaysia.

However, a Penang Meteorological Services spokesman said the waves could have hit Penang shores earlier, before 11am.

Waves reaching 3m was reported at Batu Maung and between 2.4m and 3m at Batu Ferringhi.

The spokesman said the waves could have gone above 4.6m, particularly at enclosed bay areas.

Unconfirmed reports from the public said the waves at Langkawi had hit as high as 8m.

The seawaters swept more than 150m inland, drowning boatmen, holidaymakers and other people in its path.

Boats were capsized or tossed up onto the roads, and houses and other property destroyed.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also the National Disaster Relief and Management committee chairman, has ordered the evacuation of residents in the coastal areas of Penang and Kedah due to concern that tidal waves might recur.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting has directed Fire and Rescue Department officers to go all out to help in the rescue work and to be ready if the waves were to hit again.

Earlier, between 9am and 9.30am, tremors lasting about one and two minutes were reported in all states except Malacca, Johor and Pahang.

The tremors sent occupants of many high-rise buildings scurrying out in fear, while in other premises the people were told to leave.

There was no report of any injury.

Earlier report

PETALING JAYA: At least 43 people were killed and more reported missing in several parts of Malaysia when tidal waves of up to six metres high hit northern Peninsular Malaysia following an earthquake in Sumatra on Sunday.

As at 9.30pm, Penang was the worst hit, with 33 reported dead and many more missing.

Nine more were reported dead in Kedah (eight in Kota Kuala Muda and one in Langkawi), one in Tanjung Piandang, Perak and one in Sabak Bernam, Selangor.

A Malaysian husband and wife were also reported killed while diving in the Emerald Cave off Thailand's southern coast when the tsunami struck.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has ordered the evacuation of residents in the coastal areas of Penang and Kedah due to concern that the tidal waves might recur.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Services Department said that high swells were expected to occur in the coastal areas of Perlis, Kedah and Penang in the next few days following the earthquake.

The New York Times > International > Europe > Pro-West Leader Appears to Win Ukraine Election

The New York Times > International > Europe > Pro-West Leader Appears to Win Ukraine Election: "The New York Times
December 27, 2004
Pro-West Leader Appears to Win Ukraine Election
By C. J. CHIVERS

KIEV, Ukraine, Monday, Dec. 27 - Viktor A. Yushchenko, the opposition leader, appeared headed for a resounding victory early Monday in a riveting presidential race marked by intrigue, charges of poisoning, fervent street demonstrations and widespread abuses of state power.

There were no independent reports of the egregious election violations that had discredited the previous round of voting. Mr. Yushchenko, addressing supporters at this headquarters, predicted an end at last to an extended and bitter election season.

'It has happened,' said Mr. Yushchenko, his face still disfigured from dioxin poisoning this fall for which he has blamed his adversaries in the government. 'Today we are turning a page of lies, censorship and violence.' Ahead, he said, lay a 'new epoch of a new great democracy.'

With 74 percent of the votes from the Sunday election counted, Mr. Yushchenko was leading Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich by 55 percent to 40 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. The early results placed him within the range predicted by surveys of voters exiting the polls, which gave the opposition a 15- to 20-point lead.

Displays of fireworks lighted up Independence Square, where tens of thousands of Mr. Yushchenko's supporters turned out once more, as they had for more than two weeks in late November and early December to protest the government fraud that discredited the last vote. The Orange Revolution, as Mr. Yushchenko's supporters have taken to calling their peaceful resistance, appeared to be nearing its end.

The election was the second head-to-head contest between Mr. Yushchenko and Mr. Yanukovich, who once had been the handpicked successor to departing President"

MSNBC > China vows to prevent Taiwan independence at any cost

China vows to prevent Taiwan independence at any cost: "Country Profile
China vows to prevent Taiwan independence at any cost
BEIJING, Dec. 26 — China's military will crush any major moves towards independence by Taiwan, a Beijing government policy paper said on Monday, prompting the self-governing island to accuse Beijing of escalating tensions.

Country Profile
The defence paper was released as senior Chinese lawmakers discussed a draft anti-secession law that analysts say may legally bind China to take military action if the island it claims as a renegade province declares statehood.
''Should the Taiwan authorities go so far as to make a reckless attempt that constitutes a major incident of 'Taiwan independence', the Chinese people and armed forces will resolutely and thoroughly crush it at any cost,'' the paper said.
Taipei called on the world community ''to stop China before it is too late.''
Taiwan split from the mainland at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, but Beijing still sees the democratic island of 23 million as a part of Chinese territory and has pledged to bring it back into the fold, by force if necessary.
Moves by President Chen Shui-bian, who took office in 2000,
to foster a separate Taiwan identity have made China's communist leaders increasingly nervous.
Taiwan's top China policymaker said the anti-secession law marked Beijing's most serious attempt to pressurise Taipei and, if approved, would define China as the sole arbitrator and lawmaker for relations across the Taiwan Strait.
''To Taiwan, this is a unilateral change of the status quo, a very serious provocation and an absolutely unnecessary escalation of tension,'' Mainland Affairs Council Joseph Wu told reporters in Taipei. ''If China decides to enact the law, it may become an explosive point in cross-Strait relations.''
He added: ''This is an urgent call to the international community to stop China before it is too late.''

NO DIRECT FLIGHTS
Wu said he saw no direct link between the release of the defence white paper and the Beijing parliament's discussion of the anti-secession law, but noted that China's military buildup in recent years has been explicit in intimidating Taiwan.
On Sunday, the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, or parliament, praised the draft anti-secession law and unanimously suggested it be submitted to a full session of parliament early next year.
''The situation in the relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits is grim,'' the Chinese defence paper said.
''The Taiwan authorities under Chen Shui-bian have recklessly challenged the status quo that both sides of the Straits belong to one and the same China, and markedly escalated the 'Taiwan independence' activities designed to split China,'' it said.
Although the paper held out the prospect of talks with Taiwan if its leaders accept the ''one China'' principle, Taiwan's Wu said Beijing was not interested in dealing with Chen's government and there was little chance of establishing direct chartered flights to help the flourishing trade across the Taiwan Strait.
''The Chinese government seems to be waiting for another 3-
years before they want to establish any kind of contact with the Taiwan government,'' Wu said. Chen's second term ends in May 2008.
''If that is the case, I'll tell you that the cross-Strait situation down the road is going to be more and more difficult.''

U.S. NOT HELPING
Both China and Taiwan pointed their fingers at the United States, saying Washington should heed their causes. Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but is bound by law to help defend Taiwan.
The United States is the island's biggest arms supplier and China said it sent the wrong signals to independence seekers.
''The U.S. action does not serve a stable situation across the Taiwan Straits,'' the defence paper said.
Taiwan, on the other hand, said Washington and the international community should help bring China to heel.
''It is quite clear that the inaction of the international community to China's aggressive behaviour against Taiwan encourages China to continue and even escalate its rhetoric and belligerent actions,'' said Wu.
''I think it's time for the international community to step up and say no to China, to stop threatening Taiwan.''
The defence policy paper, Beijing's first since 2002, recapped in detail developments in China's military modernisation over the past two years, saying China posed a threat to no one.
It noted that Japan was adjusting its security policies. Since World War Two, China has been wary of any Japanese moves to expand the role of its military, which is constitutionally forbidden from waging war and limited to defensive activities.
China's defence budget was 211.7 billion yuan ($25.58 billion) this year, the paper said. That compared with 190.79 billion yuan in 2003 and 170.78 billion yuan in 2002.
The money was spent on increasing salaries and insurance schemes, supporting structural reform, developing talent, and for a ''moderate increase in equipment expenses,'' the paper said.

At-a-glance: Countries hit

BBC NEWS | In Depth | At-a-glance: Countries hit

BBC NEWS | In Depth | At-a-glance: Countries hit

INDONESIA

The epicentre of the earthquake was off the western island of Sumatra, striking at about 0100 GMT (0800 local time) on Sunday.

Dozens of buildings were destroyed in the initial quake before a huge wall of water, up to 10m high in places, hit the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra.

Officials said Aceh was the worst hit area, which lies closest to the epicentre.

Coastal towns and villages, and the resort island of Nias, were swamped.

Return to top

SRI LANKA

A wide stretch of the eastern coastline - from Jaffna in the north to the popular tourist beaches in the south - has been devastated.

Districts of Muttur and Trincomalee were reportedly inundated by waves as high as 6m.

More than a million people have been forced from their homes, officials say.

The port in the capital, Colombo, was shut by flash floods.

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INDIA

More than 2,000km (1,243 miles) of southern coast was swamped by tidal waves, including the states of Tamil Nadu - whose capital, Madras, was particularly badly hit - Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, as well as the federally administered territory of Pondicherry.

Hundreds of fishermen are missing off India's southern coast, and there are reports of scores of bodies being washed up on beaches.

A nuclear reactor in Tamil Nadu was shut down after sea water entered an estate housing scientists.

Heavy damage is also reported in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Jetties on the island's main port have collapsed and many people have been forced out of their homes.

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THAILAND

The western coast of southern Thailand has been badly affected, including Phuket and Phi Phi islands and the mainland resorts of Krabi and Phang Nga.

Reports say divers and sunbathers were swept out to sea from beaches near Phuket.

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MALDIVES

High waves and floods inundated the islands.

Large areas of the capital, Male, have been left under water and some low lying islands abandoned.

Some of the country's 200 islands cannot be contacted.

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MALAYSIA

People are reported to have been swept away from beaches near the northern island of Penang.

The mainland states of Kedah and Perak were also affected.

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SOMALIA

The northern Somali coastline, more than 6,000 km (3,728 miles) from the epicentre, was reported affected.

There are unconfirmed reports of fatalities in Kabaal in the north-east and in Elmaan, north of the capital, Mogadishu.

Waves also struck Kenya, after hitting Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles on the way.

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BURMA

The south-eastern coast is reported to have been struck by a huge wave.

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Thailand resorts hit by floods

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Thailand resorts hit by floods: "Thailand resorts hit by floods
Thailand resorts hit by floods
At least 257 people died and 1,000 were injured after the massive sea surges caused by an earthquake smashed into Thailand's western coast.

The worst hit areas were on beaches near Phuket, with reports of divers and sunbathers being swept out to sea.

Hotels were under water after 5m-10m (16 to 33 feet) waves hit the coast and there were reports of tourist bungalows being carried away by the water.

Tourists spoke of their disbelief at the scale and speed of the disaster.

"The beach is a disaster now with all of the local restaurants and beach chairs businesses totally destroyed," one reader in Phuket told the BBC News website.

One hotel worker in Phuket said the tide of water flooded the hotel lobby and pulled furniture onto the street.

"As I was standing there, a car actually floated into the lobby and overturned because the current was so strong," Boree Carlsson told Reuters news agency.

Thai officials said the toll was expected to rise because scores of people were still missing.

There were particular fears for divers, since the tidal wave hit when hundreds of tourists and instructors were in the water for a Boxing Day dive.

Woke up to see a wall of water, trees and cars coming towards us very quickly
Chris Anderson, Phuket
Up to 80 divers were reported to be trapped in the famous Emerald Cave, which divers can only reach by swimming underwater.

On the island of Koh Phi Phi, made famous as the location for the 2000 film "The Beach", officials spoke of widespread damage and islanders and tourists being airlifted to safety.

One report from the island said 200 bungalows had been swept out the sea.

Tourism is one of Thailand's most important industries, with hundreds of thousands of Western and Asian tourists drawn to its beaches each year.

In neighbouring Malaysia, at least 20 people were reported killed after the tidal waves hit. Most of the dead were in the holiday resort of Penang.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/4125847.stm

Published: 2004/12/26 12:05:26 GMT

The Malaysian Star > From The Associated Press > Asia Quakes' Tsunamis Kill Nearly 10,000

The Associated Press: "AP Top News at 1:54 p.m. EST

Asia Quakes' Tsunamis Kill Nearly 10,000
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - The world's most powerful earthquake in 40 years struck deep under the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Sumatra on Sunday, triggering tidal waves up to 20 feet high that obliterated villages and seaside resorts in six countries across southern Asia. Nearly 10,000 people were killed in the devastation, and the death toll was expected to rise. Tourists, fishermen, homes and cars were swept away by walls of water that rolled across the Bay of Bengal, unleashed by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake. The tsunami waves barreled nearly 3,000 miles across the ocean to Africa, where at least nine people were killed in Somalia, witnesses said. "

Fifty-three dead, 34 missing after tidal waves hit Malaysia

Fifty-three dead, 34 missing after tidal waves hit Malaysia

Fifty-three dead, 34 missing after tidal waves hit Malaysia

News Update by The Star Newsdesk

KUALA LUMPUR: At least 53 people were killed, scores injured and 34 reported missing in several parts of Malaysia when tidal waves of up to five metres high hit the coastal regions as a result an earthquake in Sumatra.

Officials have described it as the worst natural disaster in Malaysia’s history.

Penang was the worst hit, with 38 reported dead and 30 missing at press time.

In Kedah, 12 more were reported dead and three missing, in Perak two dead and one missing and Selangor one dead.

A Malaysian husband and wife were also reported killed while diving in the Emerald Cave off Thailand’s southern coast after a huge tsunami struck.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he felt sad about the lives that were lost in the disaster and extended his condolences to the bereaved families.

He has asked Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop to give financial help to the victims.

According to the Meteorological Services Department Seismology division, preliminary information showed the location of the earthquake's epicentre at Latitude 3.1° North and Longitude 95.5° East, some 680km from Kuala Lumpur and 590km from Penang.

The first of the tidal waves, which hit the coastal areas at different times, was reported at about noon, about three hours after the tremors were felt in Malaysia.

However, a Penang Meteorological Services spokesman said the waves could have hit Penang shores earlier, before 11am.

Waves reaching 3m was reported at Batu Maung and between 2.4m and 3m at Batu Ferringhi.

The spokesman said the waves could have gone above 4.6m, particularly at enclosed bay areas.

Unconfirmed reports from the public said the waves at Langkawi had hit as high as 8m.

The seawaters swept more than 150m inland, drowning boatmen, holidaymakers and other people in its path.

Boats were capsized or tossed up onto the roads, and houses and other property destroyed.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also the National Disaster Relief and Management committee chairman, has ordered the evacuation of residents in the coastal areas of Penang and Kedah due to concern that tidal waves might recur.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting has directed Fire and Rescue Department officers to go all out to help in the rescue work and to be ready if the waves were to hit again.

Earlier, between 9am and 9.30am, tremors lasting about one and two minutes were reported in all states except Malacca, Johor and Pahang.

The tremors sent occupants of many high-rise buildings scurrying out in fear, while in other premises the people were told to leave.

There was no report of any injury.

Earlier report

PETALING JAYA: At least 43 people were killed and more reported missing in several parts of Malaysia when tidal waves of up to six metres high hit northern Peninsular Malaysia following an earthquake in Sumatra on Sunday.

As at 9.30pm, Penang was the worst hit, with 33 reported dead and many more missing.

Nine more were reported dead in Kedah (eight in Kota Kuala Muda and one in Langkawi), one in Tanjung Piandang, Perak and one in Sabak Bernam, Selangor.

A Malaysian husband and wife were also reported killed while diving in the Emerald Cave off Thailand's southern coast when the tsunami struck.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has ordered the evacuation of residents in the coastal areas of Penang and Kedah due to concern that the tidal waves might recur.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Services Department said that high swells were expected to occur in the coastal areas of Perlis, Kedah and Penang in the next few days following the earthquake.

MSNBC - 9,000 killed as tidal waves sweep Asia

MSNBC - 9,000 killed as tidal waves sweep Asia

9,000 killed as tidal waves sweep Asia
Magnitude 8.9 temblor triggers walls of water; villages, resorts erased
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 1:13 p.m. ET Dec. 26, 2004

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years struck deep under the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Sumatra on Sunday, triggering tidal waves up to 20 feet high that obliterated villages and seaside resorts in six countries across southern and southeast Asia. The death toll in an Asian earthquake and tsunami on Sunday jumped to nearly 9,500 according to officials and local media.

Figures tabulated by Reuters put the death toll at 9,438.

Tourists, fishermen, homes and cars were swept away by walls of water that rolled across the Bay of Bengal, unleashed by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake. The tsunami waves barreled nearly 3,000 miles across the ocean to Africa, where at least nine people were killed in Somalia.

In Sri Lanka, 1,000 miles west of the epicenter, more than 3,000 people were killed, the country’s top police official said. At least 2,200 died in Indonesia, and more than 2,300 along the southern coasts of India. At least 289 were confirmed dead in Thailand, 42 in Malaysia and 2 in Bangladesh.

But officials expected the death toll to continue to rise, with hundreds reported missing and all communications cut off to towns in the Indonesian island of Sumatra that were closest to the epicenter. Hundreds of bodies were found on various beaches along India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, and more were expected to be washed in by the sea, officials said.

‘All the planet is vibrating’
The rush of tsunami waves brought sudden disaster to people carrying out their daily activities on the ocean’s edge: Sunbathers on the beaches of the Thai resort of Phuket were washed away; a group of 32 Indians — including 15 children — were killed while taking a ritual Hindu bath to mark the full moon day; fishing boats, with their owners clinging to their sides, were picked up by the waves and tossed away.

“All the planet is vibrating” from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy’s National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth’s rotation.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at a magnitude of 8.9. Geophysicist Julie Martinez said it was the world’s fifth-largest since 1900 and the largest since a 9.2 temblor hit Prince William Sound Alaska in 1964.

The epicenter was located 155 miles south-southeast of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province on Sumatra, and six miles under the seabed of the Indian Ocean. There were at least a half-dozen powerful aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from almost 6 and 7.3.

Devastation on Sumatra
On Sumatra, the quake destroyed dozens of buildings — but as elsewhere, it was the wall of water that followed that caused the most deaths and devastation.

Tidal waves leveled towns in Aceh province on Sumatra’s northern tip. An Associated Press reporter saw bodies wedged in trees as the waters receded. More bodies littered the beaches.

Health ministry official Els Mangundap said 1,876 people had died across the region, including some 1,400 in the Aceh provincial capital, Banda Aceh. Communications to the town had been cut.

Relatives went through lines of bodies wrapped in blankets and sheets, searching for dead loved ones. Aceh province has long been the center of a violent insurgency against the government.

The worst known death toll so far was in Sri Lanka, where a million people were displaced from wrecked villages. Some 20,000 soldiers were deployed in relief and rescue and to help police maintain law and order. Police chief, Chandra Fernando said at least 3,000 people were dead in areas under government control.

An AP photographer saw two dozen bodies along a four-mile stretch of beach, some of children entangled in the wire mesh used to barricade seaside homes. Other bodies were brought up from the beach, wrapped in sarongs and laid on the road, while rows of men and women lined the roads asking if anyone had seen their relatives.

‘A huge tragedy’
“It is a huge tragedy,” said Lalith Weerathunga, secretary to the Sri Lankan prime minister. “The death toll is going up all the time.” He said the government did not know what was happening in areas of the northeast controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.

The pro-rebel Web site www.nitharsanam.com reported about 1,500 bodies were brought from various parts of Sri Lanka’s northeast to a hospital in Mullaithivu district, 170 miles northeast of the capital, Colombo.

About 170 children at an orphanage were feared dead after tidal waves pounded it in Mullaithivu, the Web site said.

No independent confirmation of the report was available, but TamilNet — another pro-rebel Web site — said some guerrilla territory was badly hit. “Many parts ... are still inaccessible and it was difficult to provide damage estimates or death tolls there,” it said.

In India, beaches were turned into virtual open-air mortuaries, with bodies of people caught in the tidal wave being washed ashore.

“I was shocked to see innumerable fishing boats flying on the shoulder of the waves, going back and forth into the sea, as if made of paper,” said P. Ramanamurthy, 40, who lives in Kakinada, a town in Andra Pradesh state.

Resorts not spared
The huge waves struck around breakfast time on the beaches of Thailand’s beach resorts — probably Asia’s most popular holiday destination at this time of year, particularly for Europeans fleeing the winter cold — wiping out bungalows, boats and cars, sweeping away sunbathers and snorkelers, witnesses said.

“Initially we just heard a bang, a really loud bang,” Gerrard Donnelly of Britain, a guest at Phuket island’s Holiday Inn, told Britain’s Sky News. “We initially thought it was a terrorist attack, then the wave came and we just kept running upstairs to get on as high ground as we could.”

“People that were snorkeling were dragged along the coral and washed up on the beach, and people that were sunbathing got washed into the sea,” said Simon Clark, 29, a photographer from London vacationing on Ngai island.

On Phuket, Somboon Wangnaitham, deputy director of the Wachira Hospital, said one of the worst hit areas was the populous Patong beach, where at least 32 people died and 500 were injured.

Another survivor on Phuket was Natalia Moyano, 22, of Sydney, Australia, who was being treated for torn ligaments.

“The water kept rising. It was very slow at first, then all of a sudden, it went right up,” Moyano said. “At first I didn’t think there was any danger, but when I realized the water kept rising so quickly, I tried to jump over a fence, but it broke.”

'Foreigners missing in the sea'
On Phi Phi island — where the Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Beach” was shot — 200 bungalows at two resorts were swept out to sea.

“I am afraid that there will be a high figure of foreigners missing in the sea, and also my staff,” said Chan Marongtaechar, owner of the PP Princess Resort and PP Charlie Beach Resort.

Some 200 seriously injured people, most of them foreigners, were evacuated by helicopter from the island after dark, said Maj. Gen. Winai Nilasri of the Border Patrol Police. He said the island, which was crammed with tourist facilities, was without electricity.

There was no tsunami threat for western North America or Hawaii, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Warning system studied
Scientists said the catastrophic death toll across the region might have been reduced if India and Sri Lanka had been part of an international warning system designed to advise coastal communities that a potentially killer wave was approaching. The system relies on a network of earthquake seismic sensors and tidal gauges attached to buoys in the oceans.

Indonesia, a country of 17,000 islands, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the margins of tectonic plates that make up the so-called Ring of Fire around the Pacific Ocean basin.

The Indonesian quake struck just three days after an 8.1 quake struck the ocean floor between Australia and Antarctica, causing buildings to shake hundreds of miles away but no serious damage or injury.

Quakes reaching a magnitude 8 are very rare. A quake registering magnitude 8 rocked Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido on Sept. 25, 2003, injuring nearly 600 people. An 8.4 magnitude tremor that stuck off the coast of Peru on June 23, 2001, killed 74.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6754820/

Saturday, December 25, 2004

New York Times > Chinese Buyer of PC Unit Is Moving to I.B.M.'s Hometown

By DAVID BARBOZA
BEIJING - Inside the shimmeringheadquarters of the Lenovo Group,China's largest computer maker,workers are carting birthday cakes overto three office cubicles.These days, every employee here getsa birthday gift, something amultinational company might beexpected to do in this age of feel-goodcorporate management.The problem is that people in China donot traditionally celebrate birthdays.But that is changing. And so is Lenovo.It is trying to become a global companywith its purchase of I.B.M's personalcomputer business for $1.75 billion,and handing out birthday cakes is justpart of the process of evolving into amultinational corporation.To further globalize the company,however, Lenovo will do somethingeven bolder: it will move itsheadquarters to Armonk, N.Y., whereI.B.M. is based, and essentially handover management of what will becomethe world's third-largest computermaker, after Dell and Hewlett-Packard,to a group of senior I.B.M. executives.American multinational companiesoutsource manufacturing to China. Whycan't a Chinese company outsourcemanagement to the United States?Executives at Lenovo - which getsabout 98 percent of its $3 billion inrevenue from China - are, in effect,acknowledging that they do not havethe necessary global experience to runthe new company."The most valuable asset we haveacquired through I.B.M.'s PC businessis its world-class management teamand their extensive internationalexperience," says Liu Chuanzhi,chairman of Lenovo and one of thecompany's founders.Indeed, few executives at Lenovo seemdisappointed by the move. In fact,many seem pleased to be buying into ablue-chip American corporation.After all, Lenovo - formerly known asLegend - may be the biggest computermaker in China, but the company is stillvirtually unknown outside of Asia.And top executives at Lenovo say theyare eager to learn how to run a globalcompany from their new colleagues atthe PC unit of I.B.M., which operates inmore than 150 countries and had $9billion in revenue in 2003.Preparations are already under way inBeijing. For the last few months, allvice presidents have been required tostudy English for at least one hour aday. The chairman says he has readbooks about Bill Gates and AndrewGrove. And the chief executive ofLenovo has agreed to give upday-to-day management of thecompany to assume the role ofchairman.His task will be to fly back and forthfrom Beijing to New York to consultwith Lenovo's newly named chiefexecutive, Stephen M. Ward Jr., thesenior vice president and generalmanager of I.B.M.'s Personal SystemsGroup.Many analysts were surprised byLenovo's decision to outsource itsmanagement to New York."I admire what Lenovo is doing," saidJoe Zhang, a UBS analyst who followsLenovo. "Many Lenovo executives havedecided to do this at the expense oftheir careers. They're putting personalego behind for the greater good of thecompany."People involved in the negotiations withI.B.M. said that Lenovo officials saw noother choice. They recognized thatLenovo could not simply take over amuch bigger I.B.M. PC unit and run itfrom Beijing.That is why a major theme of the talkswas how to keep business as usualafter the deal was completed, thosepeople say.While I.B.M. is full of M.B.A.'s, Lenovo -which is still partly government owned- has only two members of the seniormanagement team with an M.B.A. Andnone of the top executives have everworked for a multinational corporation.But analysts also say that Lenovo is nopushover. The company is consideredone of China's most successfulcorporations. For years, for example,Lenovo's brand has outsold Dell,Hewlett-Packard and I.B.M. computersin China.And even though it began as astate-owned enterprise, Lenovo hasalways been entrepreneurial, analystssay. It was one of the first companieshere to list its shares in Hong Kong. Itwas among the first to reward itsemployees with stock options, whichhave turned some of its top executivesinto millionaires.The company's identity was shaped, inpart, by its visionary chairman, Mr. Liu,who in 1984 helped found Lenovo witha group of scientists from the ChineseAcademy of Sciences.Early on, it was the hard-charging Mr.Liu who persuaded the Chinesegovernment to give the companygreater control over its hiring andsalary decisions, allowing thestate-owned company to raise capitalfrom outside investors and essentiallyoperate like a private company.Later, Mr. Liu won governmentapproval to list the company's stock inHong Kong and for Lenovo to startproducing its own computers, ratherthan simply marketing Western brands.By 1997, with its own brand of low-costChinese-character-friendly computers,Lenovo was suddenly China's biggestcomputer maker.Mr. Liu, a military academy graduatewho suffered through China's brutalCultural Revolution, said he often ranthe company with an iron fist, scoldingworkers who showed up late formeetings and pushing scientists andexecutives to deliver on their promises."All the people were scientists in thosedays," Mr. Liu recalled. "They werevery casual. They'd always be late formeetings and they'd make theirpromises. So we decided that if anyonewas late they'd stand up for oneminute."Along the way, Mr. Liu also groomed acadre of loyal and fierce executives,including Yang Yuanqing, 42, who isnow the company's chief executive, andMary Ma, 52, Lenovo's highly respectedchief financial officer.But just how the new company'smanagement will take shape in Beijingand New York is still unclear.Though he will step down after themerger, Mr. Liu, 60, will continue toserve as a member of the board.Mr. Yang, a serious-minded executivewho helped fire up the company's salesforce, will become chairman. Ms. Ma,who led the talks to acquire I.B.M.'s PCunit, is expected to remain as chieffinancial officer.Lenovo's challenge will be to meldradically different corporate cultures."Neither culture should be the de factoculture," said Martin Gilliland, ananalyst at Gartner Research. "Theyhave to start a new one. Can theydevelop a new Lenovo businessculture? That's one of the keys tosuccess."In recent years, Lenovo officials say thecompany's corporate culture hasevolved from what some companyofficials called the "semimilitary"culture that prevailed in the early days,to a more easy-going and hip high-techculture.These days, Lenovo's new corporateheadquarters in Beijing's "SiliconSuburb" is teaming with young 20- and30-somethings, casually dressed,chattering into mobile phones andlooking confident.The halls are decked with employeerecognition plaques, business schooltheorems and New Age philosophy:"Happiness," reads one workplaceposter. "Work hard and live art," readsanother.Newcomers to Lenovo are even trainedin the same kind of teamworkprograms that can be found atAmerican business schools, right downto the leaps of faith - the backwardfalling employee who is caught by ateam of supportive co-workers.And for those who need a jolt, eachmorning at 8:30 the Lenovo themesong is broadcast on loudspeakersthroughout the headquarters, urgingworkers to guide the corporate shipthrough perilous waters."Lenovo, Lenovo, Lenovo," one linegoes, "we are sailing through thewaves to lands far away. Lenovo,Lenovo, Lenovo. We are building a newsplendor."Lenovo is also seeking the best outsideadvice it can get, hiring a client rosterthat includes Goldman, Sachs;McKinsey & Company, the consultingfirm; Weil, Gotshal & Manges, the NewYork law firm; and Ogilvy, the publicrelations firm.And the new language for the companyis English, company officials say.Lenovo officials say they are studyingAmerican business history, and thechief executive lists The HarvardBusiness Review as part of his regularreading.In fact, like other computer andsoftware giants, Lenovo is even fanningits own myths. In 1984, the companywas formed in a small, concretesecurity guard's booth that became itsfirst laboratory and headquarters.The booth - part of the ChineseAcademy of Sciences - was torn downin 2001 to make way for a newbuilding. But it was soon rebuilt andnow sits like an empty artifactalongside the headquarters of Lenovo'sparent company, Legend Holdings.Critics now worry thawww.nytimes.comChinese Buyer of PC Unit Is Movingto I.B.M.'s HometownBy DAVID BARBOZABEIJING - Inside the shimmeringheadquarters of the Lenovo Group,China's largest computer maker,workers are carting birthday cakes overto three office cubicles.These days, every employee here getsa birthday gift, something amultinational company might beexpected to do in this age of feel-goodcorporate management.The problem is that people in China donot traditionally celebrate birthdays.But that is changing. And so is Lenovo.It is trying to become a global companywith its purchase of I.B.M's personalcomputer business for $1.75 billion,and handing out birthday cakes is justpart of the process of evolving into amultinational corporation.To further globalize the company,however, Lenovo will do somethingeven bolder: it will move itsheadquarters to Armonk, N.Y., whereI.B.M. is based, and essentially handover management of what will becomethe world's third-largest computermaker, after Dell and Hewlett-Packard,to a group of senior I.B.M. executives.American multinational companiesoutsource manufacturing to China. Whycan't a Chinese company outsourcemanagement to the United States?Executives at Lenovo - which getsabout 98 percent of its $3 billion inrevenue from China - are, in effect,acknowledging that they do not havethe necessary global experience to runthe new company."The most valuable asset we haveacquired through I.B.M.'s PC businessis its world-class management teamand their extensive internationalexperience," says Liu Chuanzhi,chairman of Lenovo and one of thecompany's founders.Indeed, few executives at Lenovo seemdisappointed by the move. In fact,many seem pleased to be buying into ablue-chip American corporation.After all, Lenovo - formerly known asLegend - may be the biggest computermaker in China, but the company is stillvirtually unknown outside of Asia.And top executives at Lenovo say theyare eager to learn how to run a globalcompany from their new colleagues atthe PC unit of I.B.M., which operates inmore than 150 countries and had $9billion in revenue in 2003.Preparations are already under way inBeijing. For the last few months, allvice presidents have been required tostudy English for at least one hour aday. The chairman says he has readbooks about Bill Gates and AndrewGrove. And the chief executive ofLenovo has agreed to give upday-to-day management of thecompany to assume the role ofchairman.His task will be to fly back and forthfrom Beijing to New York to consultwith Lenovo's newly named chiefexecutive, Stephen M. Ward Jr., thesenior vice president and generalmanager of I.B.M.'s Personal SystemsGroup.Many analysts were surprised byLenovo's decision to outsource itsmanagement to New York."I admire what Lenovo is doing," saidJoe Zhang, a UBS analyst who followsLenovo. "Many Lenovo executives havedecided to do this at the expense oftheir careers. They're putting personalego behind for the greater good of thecompany."People involved in the negotiations withI.B.M. said that Lenovo officials saw noother choice. They recognized thatLenovo could not simply take over amuch bigger I.B.M. PC unit and run itfrom Beijing.That is why a major theme of the talkswas how to keep business as usualafter the deal was completed, thosepeople say.While I.B.M. is full of M.B.A.'s, Lenovo -which is still partly government owned- has only two members of the seniormanagement team with an M.B.A. Andnone of the top executives have everworked for a multinational corporation.But analysts also say that Lenovo is nopushover. The company is consideredone of China's most successfulcorporations. For years, for example,Lenovo's brand has outsold Dell,Hewlett-Packard and I.B.M. computersin China.And even though it began as astate-owned enterprise, Lenovo hasalways been entrepreneurial, analystssay. It was one of the first companieshere to list its shares in Hong Kong. Itwas among the first to reward itsemployees with stock options, whichhave turned some of its top executivesinto millionaires.The company's identity was shaped, inpart, by its visionary chairman, Mr. Liu,who in 1984 helped found Lenovo witha group of scientists from the ChineseAcademy of Sciences.Early on, it was the hard-charging Mr.Liu who persuaded the Chinesegovernment to give the companygreater control over its hiring andsalary decisions, allowing thestate-owned company to raise capitalfrom outside investors and essentiallyoperate like a private company.Later, Mr. Liu won governmentapproval to list the company's stock inHong Kong and for Lenovo to startproducing its own computers, ratherthan simply marketing Western brands.By 1997, with its own brand of low-costChinese-character-friendly computers,Lenovo was suddenly China's biggestcomputer maker.Mr. Liu, a military academy graduatewho suffered through China's brutalCultural Revolution, said he often ranthe company with an iron fist, scoldingworkers who showed up late formeetings and pushing scientists andexecutives to deliver on their promises."All the people were scientists in thosedays," Mr. Liu recalled. "They werevery casual. They'd always be late formeetings and they'd make theirpromises. So we decided that if anyonewas late they'd stand up for oneminute."Along the way, Mr. Liu also groomed acadre of loyal and fierce executives,including Yang Yuanqing, 42, who isnow the company's chief executive, andMary Ma, 52, Lenovo's highly respectedchief financial officer.But just how the new company'smanagement will take shape in Beijingand New York is still unclear.Though he will step down after themerger, Mr. Liu, 60, will continue toserve as a member of the board.Mr. Yang, a serious-minded executivewho helped fire up the company's salesforce, will become chairman. Ms. Ma,who led the talks to acquire I.B.M.'s PCunit, is expected to remain as chieffinancial officer.Lenovo's challenge will be to meldradically different corporate cultures."Neither culture should be the de factoculture," said Martin Gilliland, ananalyst at Gartner Research. "Theyhave to start a new one. Can theydevelop a new Lenovo businessculture? That's one of the keys tosuccess."In recent years, Lenovo officials say thecompany's corporate culture hasevolved from what some companyofficials called the "semimilitary"culture that prevailed in the early days,to a more easy-going and hip high-techculture.These days, Lenovo's new corporateheadquarters in Beijing's "SiliconSuburb" is teaming with young 20- and30-somethings, casually dressed,chattering into mobile phones andlooking confident.The halls are decked with employeerecognition plaques, business schooltheorems and New Age philosophy:"Happiness," reads one workplaceposter. "Work hard and live art," readsanother.Newcomers to Lenovo are even trainedin the same kind of teamworkprograms that can be found atAmerican business schools, right downto the leaps of faith - the backwardfalling employee who is caught by ateam of supportive co-workers.And for those who need a jolt, eachmorning at 8:30 the Lenovo themesong is broadcast on loudspeakersthroughout the headquarters, urgingworkers to guide the corporate shipthrough perilous waters."Lenovo, Lenovo, Lenovo," one linegoes, "we are sailing through thewaves to lands far away. Lenovo,Lenovo, Lenovo. We are building a newsplendor."Lenovo is also seeking the best outsideadvice it can get, hiring a client rosterthat includes Goldman, Sachs;McKinsey & Company, the consultingfirm; Weil, Gotshal & Manges, the NewYork law firm; and Ogilvy, the publicrelations firm.And the new language for the companyis English, company officials say.Lenovo officials say they are studyingAmerican business history, and thechief executive lists The HarvardBusiness Review as part of his regularreading.In fact, like other computer andsoftware giants, Lenovo is even fanningits own myths. In 1984, the companywas formed in a small, concretesecurity guard's booth that became itsfirst laboratory and headquarters.The booth - part of the ChineseAcademy of Sciences - was torn downin 2001 to make way for a newbuilding. But it was soon rebuilt andnow sits like an empty artifactalongside the headquarters of Lenovo'sparent company, Legend Holdings.Critics now worry that Lenovo must finda way to preserve I.B.M.'s traditions ina PC industry of increasing competitionand commodity manufacturing.But Mr. Yang, Lenovo's current chiefexecutive, says not to worry."We are going to stick to the principlesof I.B.M. as a high-premium, high-valueimage, " he said. "We're not going tomake any compromises on this."t Lenovo must finda way to preserve I.B.M.'s traditions ina PC industry of increasing competitionand commodity manufacturing.But Mr. Yang, Lenovo's current chiefexecutive, says not to worry."We are going to stick to the principlesof I.B.M. as a high-premium, high-valueimage, " he said. "We're not going tomake any compromises on this."


"KOREA WORLD NETWORK" www.arirangtv.com

"KOREA WORLD NETWORK" www.arirangtv.com: "

Korean Wave in Asia

Now for another edition of our recap of the top ten news stories that made headlines in Korea this year.
This time... we'll look at the rising popularity of Korean pop culture in Asia.
Kang Minji has this report.

For much of the second half of the twentieth century... South Koreans banned Japanese cultural products after being forced to embrace Japanese culture and language during the period of colonisation.
Seoul only began to relax the ban in 19-98... but despite fears by older generations in Korea... this hasn't led to a love of all things Nippon.
Rather, it is Japan which is being swept by the so-called Korean Wave... as Korean entertainers are enjoying unprecedented popularity not only in Japan... but also in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

"Much of the current Korea boom in Japan has been fuelled by a Korean soap-opea called 'Winter Sonata'. Japanese viewers like the drama for different reasons, but I think the main reason for its big success is that it portrays human feelings that tend to be missing in recent Japanese dramas. Due to mounting requests by viewers in Japan... N-H-K has aired 'Winter Sonata' four times so far."

'Winter Sonata''s leading actor, Bae Yong-joon or Yon-sama as he is affectionately known in Japan... is so popular that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently joked... 'Yon-sama is more popular than me' .
Amid the infatuation with Korea... Japanese travel agents are offering 'Winter Sonata' trips to Korea... while many fans are taking Korean language classes.

"Experts attribute the phenomenal success and advance of Korea's mass culture in Asia to a set of unique qualities: its characteristic dynamism, cultural affinity, and niche market positioning. But what are the necessary factors for the Korean Wave to continue, rather than disappear like many fads?"

The fever sweeping Asia for Korean pop culture began in the late 19-90s... when Korean TV dramas were successfully released in China.
But the Korean wave in Chinese-speaking markets has died down a bit... due to a lack of marketing strategies and a systematic approach to the quality of pop export items.

"The recent Korean Wave in Japan so far has shown similar patterns to the one that swept through China years ago. Spurred by the Yon-sama syndrome, Japanese fans express more affection to individual stars, rather than to Korean culture. Now the foremost task for Koreans is to figure out how to go beyond Yon-sama and help the wave carry its momentum to include a bigger cultural scene."

Experts say... the Korean government needs to take up a coordinating role... to assist private entrepreneurs and individual artists attempting to capitalize on the popularity of Korean culture.
What appeals to Asian fans at the moment is Korea's pop culture products... but industry watchers agree that a 'true' Korean Wave will only be established when other aspects of Korean culture are attached to the current trend... in order to garner wider and lasting acceptance throughout Asia.
Kang Minji, Arirang TV.

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Elections: U.S. Is Suggesting Guaranteed Role for Iraq's Sunnis

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Elections: U.S. Is Suggesting Guaranteed Role for Iraq's Sunnis: "ELECTIONS
U.S. Is Suggesting Guaranteed Role for Iraq's Sunnis
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

ELECTIONS
U.S. Is Suggesting Guaranteed Role for Iraq's Sunnis
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 - The Bush administration is talking to Iraqi leaders about guaranteeing Sunni Arabs a certain number of ministries or high-level jobs in the future Iraqi government if, as is widely predicted, Sunni candidates fail to do well in Iraq's elections.

An even more radical step, one that a Western diplomat said was raised already with an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, is the possibility of adding some of the top vote-getters among the Sunni candidates to the 275-member legislature, even if they lose to non-Sunni candidates.

The diplomat said even some Shiite politicians who were followers of Ayatollah Sistani were concerned that a Pyrrhic victory by Shiites, effectively shutting Sunni Arabs out of power, could alienate Sunnis and lead to more internal strife. Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraqis and were generally denied power under Saddam Hussein.

Strife was still the word in Baghdad, where the death toll from the explosion of a tanker truck on Christmas Eve rose to nine on Saturday, with 19 wounded, the Interior Ministry said. No group has taken responsibility for the attack, which apparently did not damage any obvious insurgent targets. [Page 20.]

The idea of adding Sunnis to the legislature after the election was acknowledged by officials as likely to be difficult to carry out, but they said it might be necessary to avoid Sunni estrangement.

Sunnis Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population and formed the core of Mr. Hussein's power structure.

Much of the violent insurgency is taking place in Sunni-dominated areas in the central part of the country, and some Sunni leaders have called for a boycott of the election. This has led to fears that large numbers of Sunnis will obey the call or be afraid to vote.

"There's some flexibility in approaching this problem," said an administration official. "There's a willingness to play with the end result - not changing the numbers, but maybe guaranteeing that a certain number of seats go to Sunni areas even if their candidates did not receive a certain percentage of the vote."

The idea of altering election results is so sensitive that administration officials who spoke about it did not want their names revealed. Some experts on Iraq say such talk could undercut efforts to drum up support for voting in Sunni areas.

Guaranteeing a certain number of positions in government for certain ethnic groups is not without precedent, though. Lebanon, for example, has a power-sharing arrangement among its main sectarian groups. The Parliament in Iran has seats reserved for religious minorities.

It was not known whether Ayad Allawi, the Iraqi prime minister, had been consulted about the possibility of taking such action.

Any suggestion of delaying the elections because Sunnis are reluctant to vote has been knocked down by President Bush and other administration officials. An administration official said, for example, that when King Abdullah II of Jordan visited Mr. Bush earlier this month, the president began the meeting by telling the king to not even raise the issue of postponing the elections because it was beyond consideration. Instead, Mr. Bush has pressed King Abdullah and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries to spread the word to Sunnis in Iraq to support their candidates and to vote.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other top officials have said in the past week that they were generally pleased with indications that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis wanted to vote and that many well-known Sunni leaders were running for office, despite the calls for a boycott by other prominent Sunnis.

But there are also American-made factors hobbling full participation in the election.

Administration officials say, for example, that one reason why some Sunnis are not running is that they have refused to sign documents renouncing their former affiliation with the Baath Party of Mr. Hussein, as demanded by Iraqi authorities.

"I've talked to a number of people in the Baath Party, and they bitterly resent having to sign such a document," said a Western diplomat in Baghdad. The diplomat acknowledged that the requirement had been an obstacle to a fully inclusive range of candidates, including figures associated with Mr. Hussein who are believed by Western diplomats to be ready to take part in the political process if they do not have to renounce their past ties.

He said Shiite and Kurdish leaders in Iraq had pressed for an outlawing of the old Baath Party since the beginning of the American occupation, when L. Paul Bremer III, the former civilian commander of the occupation, ordered a ban. There is disagreement within the administration about whether this was a mistake - reflecting a difficult tradeoff by American policy makers at the beginning of the occupation. But now many officials say they have no choice but to go along with what the interim Iraqi leadership wants.

American officials say many of those leaders oppose any effort to let former Baath Party officials run without renouncing their old affiliation, contending that their stand is analogous to banning the Nazi Party in postwar German elections.

"Given the number of people running for office in Iraq, you have to be impressed with the breadth of Iraqi society represented," the Western diplomat said. "What you don't have running, however, are the old-style Sunni nationalists, the old regime elements who used to dominate the country's politics."

Not everyone sees the idea of altering the results after the election as practical or desirable.

"This idea is a nonstarter," said Feisal al-Istrabadi, Iraq's deputy permanent representative at the United Nations. "But what it tells you is that inherently people are concerned about the problems with respect to legitimacy of the elections, not because people are going to boycott, but because people are going to be afraid to vote."

Mr. Istrabadi said that unlike most Iraqi officials in Baghdad, he personally did not oppose postponing the elections, an idea advocated by some Iraqi politicians and raised by Arab leaders in the region, if a delay could help secure certain areas and persuade people to vote.

He explained that he viewed the idea of adding legislators after the election as having practical and legal difficulties, because there was no provision in the law that would permit it. However, others say that because the plan for 275 members in the future legislature was put forward by an unelected government, an elected government might be able to do what it wanted.

"You do the math," said Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a former adviser to the American occupation in Baghdad. "Iraq's population is about 60 percent Shiite, 20 percent Sunni and 20 percent Kurds. But if Sunnis don't vote, they could become only 5 percent of the electorate." Iraqis are to choose among 107 slates and 7,000 candidates.

If Sunnis are marginalized in that fashion, Mr. Diamond said, it could lead to further alienation, an increased insurgency and possibly a civil war, especially if the Kurdish and Shiite victors try to write a constitution that favors their interests over the Sunnis'.

A further fear in the administration is the possibility that continuing violence may force some Sunni candidates and parties to withdraw from the process before Jan. 30, on the ground that they have little chance of winning because voters may not turn out.

"Suppose that the violence is so bad that even if candidates are brave enough to stay in the race, but voters don't turn out, Sunni candidates in the end win very few seats," said the Western diplomat in Baghdad. "One thing you could see happen, I think, is some of these Sunni candidates withdrawing because their base isn't going to turn out."

Mr. Powell said last week that the United States did not favor talking with any leaders of the insurgency to get them to lay down their arms and take part in the election. "They're terrorists, they're murderers, and they have no interest in a free, fair election or democratic participation in such elections," he said.

He said the State Department had set up a "war room" to monitor election developments and spread the word to Iraqis that "if you are unhappy with what's going on, this is the time for you to express your view through an election."

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - English: "China should revise death penalty system: experts and officials
www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-25 23:26:52
China should revise death penalty system: experts and officials
www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-25 23:26:52

BEIJING, Dec. 25 (Xinhuanet)-- Chinese experts and officials in criminal justice said here at a human rights symposium that China should revise its approach to death penalty by rescinding the right of provincial courts t o have the final say on executions.

"When it comes to life or death, we have to be very cautious," said Wang Mingdi, vice president of the China Penology Society, adding that the move will help reduce death roll numbers and prevent miscarriages of justice.

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) said it is studying how to revoke the approval right of executions from lower courts, after top officials of the SPC repeatedly said this year that the reformshould be carried out when it is suitable.

China's current laws dictate that all death penalty ruling, given by local intermediate people's courts or above, should be submitted to the SPC for approval, but in cases involving violent crimes like murder, rape, and robbery, provincial higher courts are entitled to approve executions.

Wang said the Organic Law of the People's Court of China, a lawthat allows lower courts to have the execution approval right, waspromulgated in 1983 when intensified efforts were made to crack down on rampant crimes. "But now, the situation is very different from what it was 20 years ago," he said.

Sources close to the SPC told Xinhua that large proportions of death penalty cases are approved by provincial courts and only those very important cases are submitted to the supreme court.

"Due to varied court standards, people who commit similar crimes are put to death in some provinces but kept alive in others," said Liu Zuoxiang, law professor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

He said when the approval right is reserved to the supreme court there will be only one set of standard and people will feel safer of the death penalty system.

"Life is so precious for everyone that it can't be taken away just as provincial courts rule so," said Yang Qingxiang who was president of the Jilin Provincial Higher People's Court from 1992 to 2000.

He said if the supreme court has the last say on executions, miscarriages of justice can be largely prevented.

Lu Jianping, law professor of the People's University of China said Chinese academics have been long advising to revise execution approaches and the campaign is joined by the public in recent years when human rights concepts are starting to take roots in China.

In March, the China Youth Daily said Xiao Yang, president of the SPC, revealed that China is deliberating on whether to rescind the execution approval right from lower courts.

In October, Huang Songyou, vice president of the SPC echoed with Xiao, saying the move will better protect the human rights ofdeath roll inmates.

However, sources with the SPC said laws should be revised and submitted to the legislature for review before any possible changes are made. Enditem

Japanese diplomat: Egypt's African, Arab position should win it permanent UNSC seat

Japanese diplomat: Egypt's African, Arab position should win it permanent UNSC seat

Japanese diplomat: Egypt's African, Arab position should win it permanent UNSC seat
Egypt-Japan, Politics, 12/25/2004

Egypt's distinguished position in Africa and the Arab states should win it a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, a senior Japanese diplomat said.

The deputy Japanese ambassador to Egypt told a gathering of foreign affairs experts at the Journalists' Syndicate Wednesday evening that Egypt is entitled to get the support of African countries in its bid to obtain the permanent UNSC position.

He said that Japan wants Egypt's support for its own similar bid noting that Japan seeks this post because it wants to play a more effective and positive international role, uphold justice and equality and serve world peace.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Sudan and rebels 'to agree peace'

BBC NEWS | Africa | Sudan and rebels 'to agree peace': "BBC NEWS
BBC NEWS
Sudan and rebels 'to agree peace'
A final peace deal between the Sudanese government and southern rebels should be signed next month, officials say.

Talks between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) are set to continue into the new year to resolve outstanding differences.

But a government spokesman said a signing ceremony would be held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on 10 January.

However, others in the Kenyan town of Naivasha, where the talks are being held, said no date had yet been set.

Gutbi el-Mahdi, political adviser to President Omar al-Bashir, told the official Sudan Media Centre that the signing ceremony would be celebrated publicly both in the north and the south of Sudan.

It is hoped that an end to Africa's longest-running civil war - in which the Muslim north has been pitted against Christians and animists in the south - may also help to resolve the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region, where separate rebel groups challenge the government.

About two million people have died since the civil war began in 1983, and peace negotiations have been ongoing since 2002.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/4125137.stm

Published: 2004/12/25 13:58:22 GMT

© BBC MMIV

Friday, December 24, 2004

eTaiwanNews.com/China rebuffs Powell's call to talk with Taiwan

eTaiwanNews.com/China rebuffs Powell's call to talk with Taiwan

China rebuffs Powell's call to talk with Taiwan
2004-10-26 / Agence France-Presse /

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (L) meets Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. (REUTERs)
China yesterday rebuffed suggestions by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that it consider accepting the Taiwanese president's offer of talks to reduce cross-strait tension.

Powell admitted he had made little headway in prodding Chinese leaders in that direction and a senior State Department official said later that the secretary's delegation had gotten "an earful" of complaints in response.

"I encouraged all of my interlocutors today to keep an open mind with respect to dialogue and to take every opportunity that comes along to increase cross-strait dialogue," Powell said after meeting China's top leaders.

But he acknowledged that the leadership is "still concerned about President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) actions and they did not find his statement to be that forthcoming."

The senior official said later that the Chinese "gave us an earful on Taiwan" and recited their standard litany of protests about U.S. policy toward the island.

"They took note of (what we said) in a polite way and gave no indication that they would be responsive to that," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"They were uniformly downbeat in their assessment of President Chen Shui-bian's speech of 10/10," the official said.

Beijing has made clear it was unimpressed with a speech by Chen on October 10 in which he urged China to enter into dialogue on easing tension and reducing a military build-up between the two sides.

It called the offer "fully an attempt to cheat the Taiwan people and international public opinion."

In a meeting with Powell yesterday, President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) said "the current situation across the Taiwan Straits is still very complicated and sensitive," the Xinhua news agency reported.

"The 'Taiwan independence' forces' activities aiming at splitting the country remain the root of the cross-straits tension and the greatest threat to peace and stability in the region," said Hu.

Hu told Powell that opposition to Taiwan's independence overtures were "in the common interests of both China and the United States," Xinhua said.

During his talks with Hu, Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Powell reaffirmed the U.S. "One China" policy.

But he said the United States would continue to follow the Taiwan Relations Act which governs Washington's relations with the island and calls for the sale of arms for its defense.

Powell said that Washington does not support Taiwan's independence and its position will not change. "We do not support independence for Taiwan. That would be inconsistent with our One China policy and there's no doubt in President Chen Shui-bian's mind, or in any other Taiwanese leader's mind, that is a firm U.S. policy that is not going to change," Powell said.

PrintPreview

PrintPreview: "Japan plays down talk of renewed militarism
by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Friday 24 December 2004 10:26 AM GMT
Japan plays down talk of renewed militarism
by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Friday 24 December 2004 10:26 AM GMT

Prime Minister Koizumi's policies have irked Japanese pacifists

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura has dismissed suggestions that militarism is again on the rise in Japan.

He said this in an apparent rebuttal of claims to this effect by left-wingers at home as well as some of Japan's neighbours in East Asia who regard the presence of Self-Defence Forces in the Middle East as an indication that Japan is again flexing its military muscles.

"Some people still say it shows the rise of militarism to send troops overseas," Machimura said.

He has only been foreign minster since September but paid a swift visit to Japanese troops in the southern Iraq city of Samawah earlier this month to see for himself the situation in the region.

"The people who say that are totally wrong. Where can you see militarism in Japan? Do I look like a militarist?" Machimura said.

Imperial past

Newspapers in China and Taiwan have run articles in recent months questioning whether Tokyo's apparent desire to be more active in overseas operations and to play a larger role in the United Nations signify something far more sinister.

Japan's Self-Defence Forces are
currently deployed in Iraq
Memories in Asia go back a long way and the modern generation in all the countries that were invaded and colonised by imperial Japan in the early decades of the last century are frequently reminded, through the education system and media, the years of oppression that their forefathers endured.

Within days of his visit to the Middle East, along with Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Tsutomu Takebe, the Japanese government had decided to extend the SDF's mandate to continue its work in Iraq for another year.

Facing reality

In talks on 23 November in Egypt among the Group of Eight nations and countries from the Middle East, "We discussed the role that Japan can contribute to rebuilding Iraq and contributing to peace in the region," Machimura said.

"The people who say
that are totally wrong. Where can you see militarism in Japan? Do
I look like a militarist?

Nobutaka Machimura,
Japanese Foreign Minister
"These nations said they want Japan to play a major role there and I realised that is the reality we face today," he said.

"Since 1990, after the end of the first Gulf War, Japan has changed the activities that it takes part in overseas.

"Up until then, it was unthinkable that the SDF would be dispatched overseas because of the debate at home."

Instead, Japan provided Y1.2 trillion and a fleet of minesweepers to operate in the Gulf - although these gestures were under-appreciated, he suggested.

Rebuilding focus

Since then, however, the Japanese government has passed new legislation that allows the military to operate overseas, although its role is limited to humanitarian relief work. In the intervening decade, Japanese troops have taken part in peace-keeping operations in Cambodia, East Timor and the Golan Heights.

Machimura: Japan has to expand
the scope of its activities abroad

"Japan has to expand the scope of its international activities," Machimura said.

"Not in terms of combat, but being involved in rebuilding and repairing the areas involved. But the fact that we are engaged in these activities has led other countries to claim that Japanese militarism is being revived."

He also emphasised that Japan's intent in the Asia-Pacific region is to ensure peace and security, but that there are many potential pitfalls among the dynamics of the various nations of the region, not least the troubled bilateral relationship with Beijing, which took another twist last week.

Machimura dismissed as "unreasonable" complaints from Beijing that providing former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui with a tourist visa would be unacceptable to the Chinese government.

Taiwan factor

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said on 16 December that there is "no reason to reject" the application for a tourist visa on the grounds that the trip is a family holiday. The visa is likely to be granted before the end of the year.

Machimura: We will not change
position on China-Taiwan issue
Machimura echoed that support, saying, "We will issue the visa if there is an application because he is a civilian and coming as a tourist. He will not be taking part in politics in any way, but China has already filed a complaint.

"This is a very delicate issue but we will not change our position," he said, adding that it is unreasonable to link the 81-year-old Lee's visa with the diplomatic situation between China and Japan.

Beijing's ambassador to Tokyo, Wang Yi, made an official protest to Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi, saying the plan to issue the visa "is unacceptable" because "Lee Teng-hui is a leading figure who is trying to split China".

Tougher attitude?

Lee last visited Japan in April 2001, when he underwent treatment for a heart complaint, but had already retired from office 11 months earlier.

Previous applications to visit Japan, in November 2002 and in September this year, were turned down by Tokyo, but Machimura played down the suggestion that Japan adopting a tougher attitude towards Beijing.

"What we need to do is come up with proper answers to each of the questions that we face and resolve them one by one," he said.

Aljazeera
By Julian Ryall in Tokyo

You can find this article at:
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/AF7805EC-4975-452F-A09B-CE8D1FD5B9F1.htm

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Taiwan News > U.S. official calls Taiwan a 'landmine'



U.S. official calls Taiwan a 'landmine'
Date: 2004/12/23 12:56:49
SOURCE: Taiwan News
URL: http://www.etaiwannews.com/Taiwan/Politics/2004/12/23/1103767079.htm

A top U.S. official's description of Taiwan as the "biggest land mine" in Washington's relations with China sparked anxiety in Taipei on Wednesday, even as local officials tried to downplay the significance of the statement.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made the statement in an interview with the Public Broadcasting Service in the United States, also saying explicitly, "We all agree that there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China."

Responding to the comments, Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chih-mai said that Taiwan is consulting with the U.S. government on Armitage's statements, while Foreign Minister Chen Tan-sun (陳唐山) downplayed the remarks, saying that U.S. policy toward Taiwan remains unchanged.

Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said that "there were some terms that were never used before, that's why we have to consult with the U.S. government."

Taiwan has seen the United States as a protector in the decades-old rivalry with China.

Some political observers interpreted Armitage's comments as another crisis in Taiwan-U.S. relations, especially after Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Beijing in October that Taiwan does not enjoy sovereignty and suggested that Taiwan should eventually unify with China.

Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), executive director of the Institute of National Policy Research in Taipei, argued that Armitage's explicit statement on Taiwan's sovereignty would rationalize Beijing's planned "Anti-Secession Law," which it announced last Friday.

"That statement worries me more than his other comments," Lo said.

Asked by the PBS interviewer what was the biggest land mine in U.S.-China relations, Armitage replied: "I would say Taiwan. Taiwan is one. It's probably the biggest."

When asked if Washington would intervene if China launched an attack on Taiwan, Armitage said it would be inappropriate to respond to that question.

War is one of the powers of Congress, he told the interviewer.

Former Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Alexander Huang (黃介正), now a professor at Tamkang University's Institute of American Studies, suggested that the main purpose of Armitage's statement was to remind Taiwan of the necessity to increase its self-defense capability.

Michael Fonte, the Democratic Progressive Party's Washington liaison, said that lately the Bush administration has been frustrated with Taiwan's failure to pass the NT$610.8 billion budget for arm procurement, as well as with the challenges to the "one-China" policy.

Fonte advised that in the interest of repairing Taiwan-U.S. ties, Taiwan should stop challenging the "one-China" policy, as the U.S. sees the policy as a form of protection for Taiwan. China has also been pushing the U.S. for a revision of the policy to favor Beijing, Fonte said.

The United States, meanwhile, has assigned a serving military officer to its de facto embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan.

The institute has hired retired military officers over the past few decades as contractors to coordinate defense affairs between both sides, but the insisted that the latest move is "simply an effort to promote administrative efficiency in personnel matters, nothing more."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

icWales - North Korea nuclear situation 'reaching crisis point'

icWales - North Korea nuclear situation 'reaching crisis point':

North Korea nuclear situation 'reaching crisis point'

Dec 22 2004

A South Korean envoy today said that military pressure or economic sanctions would not stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and that a peaceful resolution of the issue must be reached in 2005 in order to avert a crisis.

"Unfortunately real negotiation to settle the North Korean nuclear issue has not begun yet," said Chung Dong-young, South Korea's unification minister, who also serves as chairman of the standing committee of its National Security Council.

Chung was in Beijing for meetings with Chinese officials to discuss efforts to start a new round of six-nation talks on US demands that the North give up its nuclear programs.

"In 2005 we will be at a crossroad," Chung said. "We can either find a breakthrough in resolving the matter or we can face a crisis situation."

Chung added: "There are some who talk of military pressure or economic sanction, but we do not want any military means to resolve the issue."

North Korea said last week it would treat sanctions as a "declaration of war."

North Korea accuses the United States of planning military action against Pyongyang. Washington denies that, saying it has no intention to invade or attack North Korea.

China has hosted three rounds of talks without a breakthrough. A fourth round that was to be held in September never took place because North Korea refused to attend.

China and South Korea are leading efforts to restart the talks, which also include the Japan and Russia.

North Korea says it will abandon its nuclear weapons development if the United States provides economic aid and security guarantees, including a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Blair hails Mid-East peace move

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Blair hails Mid-East peace move

Blair hails Mid-East peace move
Tony Blair says his talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders have achieved his goal of promoting a conference on reform in the Palestinian Authority.

The UK prime minister said the London conference would be an important opportunity to revive peace talks.

The summit, which Israel will not attend, aims to assist the Palestinians with democratic and economic reforms.

Mr Blair also briefly visited the tomb of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah - the first world leader to do so.

He nodded briefly towards the tomb, in what Palestinian officials said was a compromise gesture agreed at the last minute.

Palestinians said Mr Blair's delegation had ruled out laying a wreath - something Foreign Secretary Jack Straw did on 25 November.


The BBC's Paul Reynolds says the London conference will be a limited measure to shore up the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, who is expected to win the Palestinian presidential election on 9 January.

At a news conference following talks with Mr Blair, Mr Abbas said the British prime minister was "in a unique position to help us progress in our peaceful pursuit".

He added: "Your endeavour to hold a conference in London is another example of your deep commitment to this purpose. It is the first step towards achieving and consolidating the peace process."

Mr Blair said: "After many months and years when it has been very difficult to see progress, I think there is a great sense of hope that there can be progress...

"I hope that this London conference can play some part in that."

Renewed violence

Earlier, after the Jerusalem talks, Mr Sharon said the Palestinians had to end terror attacks before the stalled roadmap plan could be implemented.


HAVE YOUR SAY
The only real prospect for a settlement can come when the US applies real pressure on Israel
John M, UK

"Up until now, we don't see the slightest step on the part of the Palestinians," he said, before acknowledging that Palestinian leaders were in the middle of an election campaign that could be hampering their efforts.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops say they killed a Palestinian fighter in a raid on a Gaza refugee camp.

Tanks and troops moved into the Khan Younis camp in Gaza, in what the Israeli military said was an attempt to stop rocket attacks on Jewish settlements.

Eleven Palestinians died and at least 40 were hurt in an incursion into the same area over the weekend.

Wednesday also saw an Israeli working on the security barrier Israel is constructing in the West Bank killed by Palestinian gunfire west of the flashpoint city of Hebron.

Police also said that an Israeli woman stabbed to death at a co-operative farm near Jerusalem on Tuesday night was the victim of a Palestinian attack.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/4116709.stm

The New York Times > Washington > News Analysis: Bush's New Problem: Iraq Could Eclipse Big Domestic Agenda

The New York Times > Washington > News Analysis: Bush's New Problem: Iraq Could Eclipse Big Domestic Agenda: "December 22, 2004
NEWS ANALYSIS
Bush's New Problem: Iraq Could Eclipse Big Domestic Agenda
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON
December 22, 2004
NEWS ANALYSIS
Bush's New Problem: Iraq Could Eclipse Big Domestic Agenda
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 - The deadly attack on a United States military base in northern Iraq on Tuesday scrambled the Bush administration's hopes of showing progress toward stability there, while making clear that the war is creating a nasty array of problems for President Bush as he gears up for an ambitious second term.

Despite weathering criticism of his Iraq policy during the presidential campaign, Mr. Bush is heading into his next four years in the White House facing a public that appears increasingly worried about the course of events in Iraq and wondering where the exit is.

And as he prepares to take the oath of office a second time and to focus more of his energy on a far-reaching domestic agenda, he is at risk of finding his presidency so consumed by Iraq for at least the next year that he could have trouble pressing ahead with big initiatives like the overhauling of Social Security. At the same time, Mr. Bush faces fundamental questions about his strategy for bringing stability to Iraq. How can the United States - with the help of Iraqi security forces whose performance has been uneven at best - assure the safety of Iraqis who go to the polls on Jan. 30 when it cannot keep its own troops safe on their own base?

And are Mr. Bush and his defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, more vulnerable to criticism that they have failed to provide American forces with everything they need to take on a shadowy, fast-evolving enemy that, as the Tuesday attack showed, continues to display a notable degree of resilience?

The situation has left the White House sending two somewhat contradictory messages. One, alluded to by Mr. Bush at his news conference on Monday and stated explicitly by other administration officials on Tuesday, is that no one should expect either the violence to abate after the first round of elections on Jan. 30 or the United States to begin bringing troops home next year in substantial numbers.

"There should be no illusion," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on Tuesday, "that suddenly right after the election the Iraqis are going to be able to take over their own security. Certainly, we're going to be there through '05 in significant numbers."

The other message is that progress is being made in Iraq, that the insurgency will eventually be quelled and that there is no reason to change course.

"The idea of democracy taking hold in what was a place of tyranny and hatred and destruction is such a hopeful moment in the history of the world," Mr. Bush said Tuesday after visiting with wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I'm confident democracy will prevail in Iraq."

But Mr. Bush also said it was "a time of sorrow and sadness," and after meeting with Mr. Bush in the Oval Office early on Tuesday afternoon, Kweisi Mfume, the outgoing president of the N.A.A.C.P., described the president to reporters as "obviously distraught" over the loss of life from the attack.

For a year, the administration has suggested that Iraq would move closer to stability as it reached one milestone after another: the capture of Saddam Hussein; the handover of sovereignty and the appointment of an interim government; the deployment of Iraqi security forces; the military campaign to expel the insurgents from strongholds like Falluja; and the first round of elections next month.

Yet most of those milestones have passed with little discernible improvement in the security situation. Now some analysts are concerned that the elections could make the political situation in Iraq even more unstable by producing an outcome in which the Sunni minority feels so marginalized by the Shiite majority that it fuels not just further violence against Americans and Iraqis working with them but also more intense sectarian strife or even civil war.

The elections on Jan. 30 will be sandwiched between two critically important moments for Mr. Bush: his second inaugural on Jan. 20 and the first State of the Union address of his second term, probably in the first week of February.

As a result, the degree to which the elections come off smoothly or not, and whether they move Iraq toward stability or even greater chaos, could well put an early stamp on Mr. Bush's new term. And the elections and whatever violence surrounds them could compete with or overshadow his calls for action on changing Social Security, rewriting the tax code, revising the immigration laws and stiffening educational standards, among other domestic plans the White House intends to begin rolling out in January.

Supporters of Mr. Bush dismissed the idea that his Iraq policy was proving wrongheaded or that the difficulties in Iraq would torpedo the rest of the president's agenda by sapping his political support.

"On Iraq, what we've learned is that Americans are capable of worrying about something and simultaneously supporting it," said David Frum, a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Frum said, Mr. Bush understands the importance of leveling with the American people about the situation and making clear why it is important to see the job through.

But polls have shown for months that majorities or near-majorities of Americans think that invading Iraq was a mistake or not worth the cost in lives, money and prestige abroad.

"The big risk for the president is that if this continues to escalate, it could overtake much of what he wants to do," said Warren Rudman, the former Republican senator from New Hampshire, referring to the insurgency. "If this is in some way a precursor of an escalation into a more sophisticated attack by the guerilla insurgents, it would make members of Congress very uneasy and the American people very uneasy."

Taiwan plays down U.S. comments about the island being a "land mine" in U.S.-China relations

Taiwan plays down U.S. comments about the island being a "land mine" in U.S.-China relations: "Wednesday December 22, 11:55 AM
Taiwan plays down U.S. comments about the island being a 'land mine' in U.S.-China relations
Wednesday December 22, 11:55 AM
Taiwan plays down U.S. comments about the island being a "land mine" in U.S.-China relations

Taiwan on Wednesday played down comments by a top U.S. official who described the island as the biggest land mine in Washington's relations with China.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made the statement in an interview with the Public Broadcasting Service in the United States.

Taiwan sees the United States as its protector in its decades-old rivalry with China, and some here interpreted Armitage's comments as signal that Washington might be losing interest in the island.

Those fears were fanned when he reiterated that if there was a conflict between Taiwan and China, split by a civil war more than five decades ago, it would be up to the U.S Congress _ not the Bush administration _ to declare war on Beijing.

Taiwanese officials said there was no reason to think that Washington was changing its support for the island or trying to send a message, saying Armitage meant only Taiwan was a sensitive issue.

Asked by the PBS interviewer what the biggest land mine was in U.S.-China relations, Armitage replied: "I would say Taiwan. Taiwan is one. It's probably the biggest."

Beijing still considers the self-ruled, democratic island to be a province which must be unified, even at the cost of war. When asked if Washington would intervene if China launched an attack on Taiwan, Armitage said it would be inappropriate to respond.

War is one of the powers of Congress, he told the interviewer.

Taiwan's foreign ministry noted Wednesday that the word "land mine" was introduced by the questioner. Armitage only meant to say Taiwan "was a sensitive subject," ministry spokesman Michel Ching-long Lu told cable station ETTV.

Joseph Wu, the Cabinet member in charge of relations with China, also downplayed the remark.

"He is just using an expression Americans are rather familiar with," said Wu, who also did not see any significance in Armitage's comments about Congress.

The United States has no obligation to defend Taiwan in the case of war, Wu said, adding the Taiwan Relations Act only forced Washington to sell the island enough weapons to defend itself.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The New York Times > National > AARP Poll Shows Most Support Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana

The New York Times > National > AARP Poll Shows Most Support Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana: "December 19, 2004
AARP Poll Shows Most Support Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 19, 2004

AARP Poll Shows Most Support Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (AP) - Nearly three-fourths of Americans middle age and older support legalizing marijuana for medical use, according to a poll taken for AARP.

More than half of those questioned said they believed marijuana has medical benefits, while a larger majority agreed the drug is addictive.

AARP, whose 35 million members are all at least 50 years old, says it has no political position on medical marijuana and that its local branches have not chosen sides in the scores of state ballot initiatives on the issue in recent elections.

But with medical marijuana at the center of a Supreme Court case to be decided next year, and nearly a dozen states with medical marijuana laws on their books, AARP said, it decided to study the issue.

"The use of medical marijuana applies to many older Americans who may benefit from cannabis," said Ed Dwyer, an editor at AARP The Magazine, which will report on the issue in its March-April issue, scheduled to appear in late January.

Among the 1,706 adults age 45 and older who were polled in November, opinions varied along regional and generational lines and among the 30 percent of respondents who said they had smoked marijuana. AARP members represented 37 percent of the respondents.

Over all, 72 percent of respondents agreed "adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it." Those in the Northeast (79 percent) and West (82 percent) were more receptive to the idea than in the Midwest (67 percent) and Southwest (65 percent). In Southern states, 70 percent agreed with the statement.

Seventy-four percent of all those surveyed thought marijuana is addictive.