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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Great Wall inspection to be done

Great Wall inspection to be doneGreat Wall inspection to be done
2005-12-29 Beijing Time
PREPARATIONS are ongoing for the first comprehensive inspection of a Great Wall section built during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), according to the China Great Wall Society yesterday.

The program will start in April or May next year, said Dong Yaohui, vice chairman and secretary general of the China Great Wall Society.

The society has already inspected a section built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The section built during the Qin Dynasty is deteriorating due to both erosion and human activity. The section is poorly understood or protected, Dong said.

China's first emperor, Qinshihuang, founder of the Qin Dynasty, had the Great Wall built to defend the country against the Xiongnu, an ancient race in north China.

Researchers believed the vast project was built by more than 1 million workers in 12 years.

Since the 1980s, the central government has allocated special funds to restore the national monument.

Xinhua

Rivals in Fatah Join to Endorse Candidates for Parliament - New York TimesRivals in Fatah Join to Endorse Candidates for Parliament

Rivals in Fatah Join to Endorse Candidates for Parliament - New York TimesRivals in Fatah Join to Endorse Candidates for Parliament
By GREG MYRE

JERUSALEM, Dec. 28 - The two rival factions in Fatah, the party of the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, resolved enough of their differences today to submit a single list of candidates for parliamentary elections on Jan. 25.

However, the friction within Fatah was again on display, as gunmen from the movement seized election offices in five towns in the Gaza Strip and waged shootouts with the Palestinian police. Dozens of gunmen battled security forces at the election offices in Gaza City, and one policeman was shot in the leg.

Fatah has dominated Palestinian politics for decades, but is increasingly split along generational lines. Mr. Abbas, 70, represents the old guard, while younger leaders have been demanding more prominent positions.

"What is important is that we go through the election process united," Mr. Abbas said at a news conference in Gaza City. He said it was also essential that the election take place "with sportsmanship and a spirit of transparency and fairness so that we can achieve the true democracy that we all want."

Marwan Barghouti, the most prominent figure among the younger Fatah leaders, was placed at the top of the list of Fatah candidates. Mr. Barghouti, 46, is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison after being convicted last year of orchestrating five killings. He remains hugely popular among young Palestinians.

Other young leaders were also given places on the Fatah list that should assure them seats in Parliament, while a number of veteran Fatah figures are now unlikely to make the cut.

On Dec. 14, the final day to register for the elections, the young leaders announced a breakaway faction called "The Future," and submitted their own list of candidates. However, a Palestinian court ruled that the candidate lists could be revised and resubmitted today.

Fatah remains the favorite in next month's elections, but it is facing an increasingly strong challenge from the Islamic faction Hamas, which is competing for the first time.

Fatah's internal feuds have produced frequent acts of lawlessness, like today's takeover of elections offices by Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a militant faction linked to Fatah. The gunmen, who have staged several such raids, were again demanding that the younger leaders receive prominent places on the election list.

In another development, Israel declared the northernmost part of the Gaza Strip a no-go zone for Palestinians, with military aircraft dropping leaflets that said anyone in the zone risked being shot.

"Anyone who does not heed this warning is placing his or her life in immediate danger," the leaflet says.

Palestinians fired a rocket from northern Gaza this evening, and the Israelis responded with artillery rounds, but there were no reports of injuries.

Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza in September, but says it cannot tolerate continued Palestinian rocket fire from the area. There was no indication that ground troops plan to re-enter Gaza. However, helicopters, drones and possibly other aircraft are expected to maintain round-the-clock patrols.

Mr. Abbas condemned the Israeli move, saying, "Israel left the Gaza Strip and has no right to return under any pretext, such as the firing of rockets, which I also condemn."

Israel said it was acting because the Palestinian Authority had failed to prevent the attacks.

"These steps are being taken to stop the firing of rockets on Israeli towns, which we have every right to do," said David Baker, an official in the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The "buffer zone" consists largely of three former Jewish settlements on the northern edge of Gaza, and the military said the zone was currently uninhabited.

Israel's military destroyed the homes after the settlers were evacuated, and the Palestinians have not yet begun removing the rubble or rebuilding the area.

However, militants have entered the former settlements to fire rockets toward the Israeli coastal town of Ashkelon, which was previously out of range. The rockets have not yet hit the town, but are coming increasingly close.

The Palestinians have fired more than 200 rockets since the Israeli pullout, according to the military. No Israelis have been killed, but the rockets have caused damage and injuries.

Also in Gaza, Palestinian gunmen kidnapped three Britons in the southern border town of Rafah, Palestinian security officials said.

Initial reports were sketchy, but security officials said it appeared the kidnapping occurred after a British couple crossed from Egypt into Gaza, where they were met by their daughter.

Gunmen in Gaza have kidnapped Westerners on multiple occasions in the past year. The gunmen have issued various demands that include jobs in the Palestinian security forces or the release of a jailed relative. All of those kidnapped have been freed unharmed, usually after just a few hours.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

World Digest

World DigestWorld Digest



December 27, 2005

Pinochet to remain under house arrest
SANTIAGO, Chile // Chile's top court refused yesterday to drop charges against Gen. Augusto Pinochet in connection with the disappearance of six dissidents during his military regime, and it ruled that the former dictator must remain under house arrest. It was the latest in a string of legal setbacks for Pinochet, 90, in his long fight against human rights and corruption charges. He has been under house arrest since Nov. 24, when he was indicted for the six disappearances.

London mayor lists aborted attacks
LONDON // Terrorists tried to attack London eight times between the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and July 7, when suicide bombers killed dozens on the city's transport system, London's mayor said yesterday. Ken Livingstone said there had been two attempted attacks since July 7, including a failed attack on the transport network July 21. Livingstone did not provide details of the attempted attacks.

N. Korea pursues talks with Japan
SEOUL, South Korea // North Korea agreed Sunday on a new format for bilateral negotiations with Japan, a position motivated mainly by Pyongyang's desire for Tokyo to act as a go-between in a bid to break the political impasse between North Korea and the United States, according to diplomatic sources. North Korea hopes the negotiations eventually will lead to the normalization of diplomatic relations with Japan.

Hussein half-brother says U.S. offered deal
AMMAN, Jordan // Two lawyers for Saddam Hussein said yesterday that the former Iraqi president's half-brother claims U.S. officials offered him a ranking government position in Iraq if he testified against Hussein but he rejected the deal. Barazan Ibrahim purportedly made the claim Thursday during a closed-door hearing by the Iraqi High Tribunal. American officials could not be reached for comment on the claim yesterday.

Taliban claims 200 suicide attackers
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan // A top Taliban commander said more than 200 rebel fighters were willing to become suicide attackers against U.S. forces and their allies - a claim dismissed as propaganda yesterday by Afghanistan's government, which said the hard-line militia was weakening. In an interview Sunday with the Associated Press, the commander, Mullah Dadullah, ruled out any reconciliation with the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and claimed the country's new parliament - its first in more than 30 years, inaugurated last week - was "obedient to America."

2,400 coal mines closed in China
BEIJING // China has closed 2,411 coal mines for safety violations its latest campaign to reduce the death toll in the troubled industry and will start requiring mines to post safety bonds, news reports said yesterday. A total of 12,990 mines were ordered to suspend operations for safety inspections, and 2,411 of them were told to shut permanently, the official Xinhua News Agency said. China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with more than 5,000 deaths reported every year.

[From wire reports]

CBS 46 Atlanta - Remembering the Tsunami One Year Later

CBS 46 Atlanta - Remembering the Tsunami One Year LaterRemembering the Tsunami One Year Later
Dec 27, 2005, 08:54 AM
Tourists realize the danger, many too late, on Dec. 26, 2004.
Tourists realize the danger, many too late, on Dec. 26, 2004.

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- Survivors wept and prayed beside mass graves and at beachside memorials Monday, marking one year since earthquake-churned walls of water crashed ashore in a dozen nations, sweeping away hundreds of thousands of lives and uniting the world in grief and horror.

Mourners filled mosques in Indonesia's shattered Aceh province, the region hit hardest. Candlelight vigils in chilly Sweden remembered citizens lost during sunny holidays. An achingly personal tribute -- a bouquet of white roses -- stuck in the sand in Thailand.

In a taped message, President Bush recalled "the acts of courage and kindness that made us proud" in the sorrowful days after the disaster. Former President Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for tsunami recovery, promised not to let the world forget its pledges of aid.

Survivors relived the terrible awe they felt when the sea rose as high as 33 feet and surged inland for miles with seemingly unstoppable force, carrying along trees, houses, train cars -- and thousands people -- in a churning rush.

"I was not afraid at the time," said Muhammad Yani, 35, who scrambled to the second floor of an Aceh mosque and watched a muddy torrent roiling with people and debris. "I was more aware than ever that my soul belonged to Allah."

Like most survivors, Yani's family was devastated. Both his parents and a younger brother were killed.

"It was under the same blue sky, exactly one year ago, that Mother Earth unleashed her most destructive power upon us," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a crowd at a ceremony in Banda Aceh, provincial capital of Aceh province, which had 156,000 dead and missing.

He sounded a tsunami warning siren -- part of a system that did not exist last year -- at 8:16 a.m., the moment the first wave hit, to herald a minute's silence.

On Dec. 26, 2004, the region's most powerful earthquake in 40 years tore open the sea bed off the Sumatran coast, displacing billions of tons of water and sending waves roaring across the Indian Ocean at jetliner speeds as far away as East Africa.

The impact was staggering. Water swept a passenger train from its tracks in Sri Lanka, killing nearly 2,000 people in a single blow. Entire villages in Indonesia and India disappeared. Lobbies of five-star hotels in Thailand were filled with corpses.

At least 216,000 people were left dead or missing and nearly 2 million lost their homes in a disaster that still rends hearts.

On Monday, about the time the waves hit a year ago, a man sat alone on Patong beach in Thailand weeping quietly as the sea gently lapped before him, belying its earlier fury. A white rose bouquet jutted from the sand nearby. He refused to talk to a reporter.

Nearby, Ulrika Landgren, 37, had come from Malmoe, Sweden, to see where nine of her friends died. "Somehow it's good to see this place," she said, tears leaking from behind her sunglasses.

Indonesia tested its tsunami warning system for the first time Monday. Alarms sounded in the Sumatran town of Padang, 620 miles south of Banda Aceh, sending residents fleeing for higher ground in a simulation.

"We knew it was just a drill," said Candra Yohanes, 55, who was among those who ran. "Still, when I heard the siren, my heart was pounding so hard."

Dozens of powerful aftershocks have rattled the region since last year's magnitude-9 quake, keeping people anxious about the possibility of another tsunami.

Somber ceremonies were held around the world.

In Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapakse met with survivors near the site of the deadly train accident. Butchers hung up their knives to show respect for life, and Buddhist monks chanted prayers through the night.

Thousands of Indians attended an interfaith service at an 18th century church, then marched to a mass burial ground.

Sweden, Germany, Finland and other European countries held memorials to mourn their dead. The tsunami killed more than 2,400 foreigners, many of them European tourists, in Thailand.

Somalis gathered in mosques along the East African nation's coast to commemorate the 289 people who disappeared in the waves and to pray for the tens of thousands still homeless.

"It was so brutal, so quick, and so extensive that we are still struggling to fully comprehend it," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a videotaped message played in Banda Aceh.

The tsunami generated one of the most generous outpourings of foreign aid ever known -- some $13 billion in pledges. But frustration is growing among the 1.4 million people still living in tents, plywood barracks or with family and friends.

"You want to talk about changes, we've seen nothing," said Baihqi, a 24-year-old Acehnese survivor, waving a hand dismissively at the jumble of scrap iron and plastic sheeting that is all that remains of his neighborhood. "Many promises of aid, but that's all we get -- promises."

The anniversary "just means we've existed for one year," he said.

For most, though, it was a day to think about the hellish events of a year ago, about death, about survival.

On Thailand's Patong Beach, Raymond and Sharon Kelly recalled how she escaped because her husband boosted her onto a wall. He was swept away and washed inside a shop, but managed to open a skylight and get on the roof.

"I never thought I would come back. Every day I would cry," she said.

Despite their fears, the couple from Hull, England, came back to remember and to pay respects to those who were lost.

As they talked, a man tapped Sharon on the shoulder and said, "Remember me?"

It was Adolf Ruschitschka, 69, from Ruesselsheim, Germany. The two had been trapped together on a rooftop ringed by the savage, swirling waters.

Shaking with emotion, Sharon embraced him, tears pouring down her face.

Monday, December 26, 2005

CBS 46 Atlanta - UGA police will begin arresting students for underage drinking

CBS 46 Atlanta - UGA police will begin arresting students for underage drinkingUGA police will begin arresting students for underage drinking
Dec 25, 2005, 10:39 PM

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Starting next year, underage students caught drinking at the University of Georgia will be arrested and sent to jail. The change represents a tougher stance on underage drinking after years of simply giving out citations.

U-G-A Police Chief Jimmy Williamson says the new policy is aimed at changing campus culture and increasing students' sense of responsibility. Williamson says he hopes the stigma of being arrested and jailed will deter students from the excessive drinking that can lead to other crimes.

University spokesman Tom Jackson says U-G-A police started issuing citations instead of arresting students in 1998 after parents complained about the way students were treated when arrested. But Jackson says the citation policy "is not working very well," so U-G-A police are returning to the old policy.

Some students complain that the new policy is unfair, but admit it will probably make them think twice about drinking on campus.

CBS 46 Atlanta - Katrina evacuees spike turnout at Hosea Feed the Hungry

CBS 46 Atlanta - Katrina evacuees spike turnout at Hosea Feed the HungryKatrina evacuees spike turnout at Hosea Feed the Hungry
Dec 25, 2005, 10:37 PM

ATLANTA (AP) -- Refugees from Hurricane Katrina helped swell the ranks of those seeking a Christmas meal Sunday from a 35-year-old program dedicated to feeding the poor and homeless. Organizers of Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless said about 12,000 people were served a traditional holiday meal at Atlanta's Turner Field, up about 20 percent from last year, while another 7,000 meals were delivered, doubling last year's total.

Event co-director Elisabeth Omilami said Hurricane Katrina evacuees now living in and around Atlanta likely were the cause of the increases. "A lot of the addresses were hotels," said event co-director Elisabeth Omilami. "There's no way to really explain it other than that." The federal government estimates more than 106,000 Katrina evacuees fled to Georgia, most of them to the metro Atlanta area. More than 46,000 evacuees registered for federal assistance in the state.

Civil rights activist Hosea Williams began the charity in 1971, serving 100 men a week each Sunday. Omilami took the reins in 2000 after her father's death and runs the program with her husband, Afemo. The group provides meals for over 40,000 people on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year. Omilami said that, for the first time ever, the group had to spend about $15,000 on turkey, ham, chicken and other food for the Christmas meal. In October, she said the group was about two months behind schedule on food donations -- largely due to the number of meals the group served to evacuees in the weeks following the Aug. 29 Gulf Coast storm..com

Powell Speaks Out on Domestic Spy Program - New York Times

Powell Speaks Out on Domestic Spy Program - New York TimesDecember 26, 2005
Powell Speaks Out on Domestic Spy Program
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 - Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said on Sunday that it would not have been "that hard" for President Bush to obtain warrants for eavesdropping on domestic telephone and Internet activity, but that he saw "nothing wrong" with the decision not to do so.

"My own judgment is that it didn't seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants," Mr. Powell said. "And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it. The law provides for that."

But Mr. Powell added that "for reasons that the president has discussed and the attorney general has spoken to, they chose not to do it that way."

"I see absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of actions," he said.

Asked if such eavesdropping should continue, Mr. Powell said, "Yes, of course it should continue."

Mr. Powell said he had not been told about the eavesdropping activity when he served as secretary of state.

He spoke on the ABC News program "This Week" about the disclosure, first reported in The New York Times, that Mr. Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to intercept communications by Americans without approval from a special foreign intelligence court.

Though Mr. Powell stopped short of criticizing Mr. Bush, his suggestion that there was "another way to handle it" was another example of his parting company on a critical issue with the president he served for four years.

This fall, Mr. Powell broke with the administration on the issue of torture, endorsing a move by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to pass a measure in Congress banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees by all American authorities, including intelligence personnel. The White House at first opposed the measure but later accepted it.

Since leaving office at the end of Mr. Bush's first term, Mr. Powell has been involved in several business and public service ventures, including the establishment of the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at City College of New York, his alma mater.

On Iraq, Mr. Powell repeated earlier statements that differed somewhat from those of Mr. Bush, saying he did not know whether he would have advocated going to war with Iraq if he had known that the country had no stockpiles of illicit weapons.

Referring to the case for going to war if there were no such weapons, Mr. Powell said he would have told the president, "You have a far more difficult case, and I'm not sure you can make the case in the absence of those stockpiles."

Mr. Powell said he expected American troop levels to continue to go down in the coming year out of necessity, because it will become difficult to sustain the current high levels and because the effort to train Iraqis should be successful.

The main worry in Iraq, he said, is the growth of semi-independent militias with allegiance to sectarian groups within the Iraqi military.

Asked if the ethnic divisions in Iraq that were reinforced by the recent elections posed a threat of civil war, Mr. Powell said, "I think it is something we all have to be worried about."

Seeking a Public Voice on China's 'Angry River' - New York Times

Seeking a Public Voice on China's 'Angry River' - New York TimesDecember 26, 2005
Rule by Law
Seeking a Public Voice on China's 'Angry River'
By JIM YARDLEY

XIAOSHABA, China - Far from the pulsing cities that symbolize modern China, this tiny hillside village of crude peasant houses seems disconnected from this century and the last. But follow a dirt path past a snarling watchdog, sidestep the chickens and ducks, and a small clearing on the banks of the Nu River reveals a dusty slab of concrete lying in a rotting pumpkin patch.

The innocuous concrete block is also a symbol, of a struggle over law that touches every corner of the country.

The block marks the spot on the Nu River where officials here in Yunnan Province want to begin building one of the biggest dam projects in the world. The project would produce more electricity than even the mighty Three Gorges Dam but would also threaten a region considered an ecological treasure. This village would be the first place to disappear.

For decades, the ruling Communist Party has rammed through such projects by fiat. But the Nu River proposal, already delayed for more than a year, is now unexpectedly presenting the Chinese government with a quandary of its own making: will it abide by its own laws?

A coalition led by Chinese environmental groups is urging the central government to hold open hearings and make public a secret report on the Nu dams before making a final decision. In a country where people cannot challenge decisions by their leaders, such public participation is a fairly radical idea. But the groups argue that new environmental laws grant exactly that right.

"This is the case to set a precedent," said Ma Jun, an environmental consultant in Beijing. "For the first time, there is a legal basis for public participation. If it happens, it would be a major step forward."

China's leaders often embrace the concept of rule of law, if leaving open how they choose to define it. For many people in China's fledgling "civil society" - environmentalists, journalists, lawyers, academics and others - the law has become a tool to promote environmental protection and to try to expand the rights of individuals in an authoritarian political system.

But trying to invoke the law is risky. Chinese nongovernmental organizations, few of which existed a decade ago, have taken up the Nu as a major cause. But the activism on the Nu and other issues has provoked deep suspicions by the Communist Party even as a broader clampdown against such NGO's has forced some to shut down. The government knows China has a drastic pollution problem and has passed new environmental laws. But top leaders also demand high economic growth and need to increase energy supplies to get it. The "green laws" are becoming a crucible to test which side will prevail and whether ordinary people can take part in the process.

The closed process that led to the Three Gorges Dam is what opponents of the Nu dams most want to avoid. In the late 1980's, a wide range of intellectuals and others tried in vain to force public hearings to discuss the environmental and social costs of a project that has flooded a vast region and forced huge relocations. Ultimately, opponents could only muster a symbolic victory as the final vote in the National People's Congress included an unusually high number of abstentions or nay votes.

The central government is still deliberating how to proceed on the Nu. Domestic media coverage has been banned in recent months. Three central government ministries refused interview requests, as did provincial officials in Yunnan. Local officials along the Nu River, after initially agreeing to an interview, failed to reply to a list of written questions.

Out in the jagged mountains along China's remote southwestern border, villagers in Xiaoshaba gather information about their future from rumors. In early December, a team of surveyors inventoried property and measured the narrow terrace of village farmland along the Nu. Several villagers say local officials have told them that everyone would be relocated around the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, which ends in early February - even if the dams have not yet been approved.

"If they tell me to move," said one villager, Zhang Jianhua, "I have no other choice."

A Legal Reprieve

In the spring of 2003, a slender, studious man named Yu Xiaogang learned that the hydropower industry was eyeing the rivers of southwestern China. Mr. Yu, an environmental resources manager, knew that China believed that hydropower was a cleaner alternative for its energy shortages and that the Nu was considered one of the country's richest, untapped resources. But he and others believed that the Nu would be untouchable.

The Nu, which translates as Angry River, roars out of the Tibetan Plateau east of the Himalayas and plunges through steep canyons just inside the border with Myanmar, formerly Burma, as it careers south before crossing the border.

In China, it passes through a mountainous region with more than 7,000 species of plants and 80 rare or endangered animals and fish. Unesco said the region "may be the most biologically diverse temperate ecosystem in the world" and designated it a World Heritage Site in the summer of 2003.

"We were very happy because we thought the Nu would be protected and would have no problems," said Mr. Yu, who also led Green Watershed, an environmental NGO.

But not long after the World Heritage designation, a state-run provincial newspaper announced that a public-private consortium planned to build 13 dams on the river. The project would be the largest cascade dam system in the world, and it appeared politically unstoppable.

The majority partner, the China Huadian Corporation, was a state-owned goliath; the local government was a minority partner. In Beijing, the State Development and Reform Commission, a powerful government ministry, had approved the dams in August and planned to present the plan to the State Council, or the Chinese cabinet, for final approval. Construction would begin in September 2003.

The environmental community was blindsided. More than 50,000 people, most of them from ethnic minority hill tribes, would be relocated. The Nu also was one of only two free flowing rivers in China. The State Environmental Protection Administration, or SEPA, the country's environmental watchdog, criticized the project in its official newspaper. But SEPA was considered one of the weakest ministries in the central government.

Then, a snag arose - a bureaucratic delay, hardly uncommon in China. August became September and the proposal had not yet been presented for final approval. During the delay, a new environmental law took effect on Sept. 1. Based on an American model, the China Environmental Impact Assessment Law required comprehensive environmental reviews in the planning stages of major public and private development projects.

Decades of relentless economic growth had left China with dire pollution problems and squandered natural resources. President Hu Jintao had made "sustainable development" a new government mantra. The assessment law gave the environmental agency new powers to handle and approve environmental reviews before a project was approved. It also called for public participation, including hearings, as part of the review, though it did not detail specific guidelines.

But it would take public pressure to force action on the Nu case. Despite its uniqueness and natural beauty, the Nu was not well known, largely because of its isolated location.

In September 2003, an environmental conference in Beijing brought together academics, government environmental officials and NGO's to discuss the Nu. A month later, Pan Yue, the outspoken vice minister of the environmental agency, organized China's first "Green Forum," a public relations event that included Chinese music and film stars.

One person at the forum was a woman named Wang Yongchen, a member of Green Earth Volunteers, an environmental NGO in Beijing. Initially, the Green Earth Volunteers had concentrated on tree planting and teaching children about the environment. But in recent years, the group had participated in efforts to stop a dam proposal in Sichuan Province.

At the forum, Ms. Wang persuaded 62 celebrities and film stars to sign a petition in support of "natural" rivers. She would later donate money to build 30 libraries in poor villages along the Nu.

By early 2004, the controversy had attracted worldwide interest as 60 international organizations agreed to lobby the Chinese government about the Nu. Hundreds of volunteers in China called Unesco to protest the dam proposal. The country's most prominent NGO, Friends of Nature, embraced the cause, while an environmental group in Sichuan collected more than 10,000 signatures to stop the project.

But the crucial factor was the Sept. 1 law. As the project appeared to be nearing approval, biologists, academics and environmentalists all argued that the government had not properly conducted an environmental review.

In late winter, as Ms. Wang guided a tour of Chinese journalists, her cellphone rang. A friend informed her that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had temporarily suspended the project so that it could be "carefully discussed and decided on scientifically."

Ms. Wang began to cry with joy. Later, some Chinese newspapers speculated that Mr. Wen's edict meant that the project was dead.

Mr. Yu thought otherwise.

"I thought this was the first success of public participation," he said. "But I did not think the decision was final."

Opening a Closed Process

Located a short drive from the city of Liuku, Xiaoshaba is like countless poor villages along the Nu. Peasants live in crude homes, some under the same roof as their livestock and chickens. Some villagers have never gone farther than Liuku; some have never left the village. But on a May afternoon in 2004, a bus arrived. Inside was Yu Xiaogang, and he wanted to take villagers on a trip.

The prime minister's order to suspend the project had stunned developers and provincial officials. A delegation had hurried to Beijing to try to restart the process. At the same time, the government's environmental agency focused on the assessment review.

Mr. Yu was anxious to get villagers involved because the law had highlighted public participation. Most villagers knew nothing about the project or how it would change their lives.

"I thought we must let the Nu River people have their voice," Mr. Yu said.

So he offered to take a small group of villagers to the site of the Manwan Dam on the upper reaches of Mekong River in the southern Yunnan. In 2002, Mr. Yu had written an assessment of the social costs of the Manwan project, a report later endorsed by the prime minister at the time, Zhu Rongji. Leaving from Xiaoshaba, Mr. Yu took 14 peasants on a daylong journey to the Manwan, where they found many people living as scavengers.

"They heard how the government made promises but didn't follow through," Mr. Yu said. "Ten years later, nobody cared about them. The Nu River people were shocked."

Mr. Yu later led a small group of peasants to a Beijing hydropower conference jointly sponsored by the United Nations and China's National Development and Reform Commission. As several speakers extolled the virtues of dams, the dusty group of peasants sat in the upper reaches of the auditorium. Mr. Yu was allowed to speak at a sub-session of the conference. The villagers had practiced giving speeches but were not granted a speaking slot.

Meanwhile, momentum seemed to be shifting in favor of dam supporters. Prime Minister Wen had visited Yunnan to confer with provincial officials. Two prominent scholars toured the Nu - on a trip sponsored by dam developers - and attracted wide public attention by attacking the environmentalists.

But that criticism was insignificant compared to a broader governmental crackdown under way against nongovernmental organizations.

In the spring of this year, President Hu ordered an intensive examination of NGO's because of concerns of the role that environmental groups had played in helping to topple governments in Central Asia. In a secret speech to top officials, Mr. Hu warned that the United States was using such groups to try to foment social unrest.

Before, NGO's had hoped that onerous licensing restrictions were about to be repealed. Instead, environmental groups and other NGO's across the country were closely scrutinized, with some losing their licenses. Some groups began to fear that the "legal space" granted to the civil society would be tightened, or closed.

In Yunnan, officials began to pressure opponents. Mr. Yu would not comment about whether he had come under pressure. But acquaintances say he that has been forbidden from traveling to international conferences and that officials have put pressure on him.

In Beijing, the environmental assessment report was finished by this summer. But the Ministry of Water Resources, noting that government reports about international rivers were considered proprietary information, declared a small section of the assessment to be a state secret and forbade its release.

Dam opponents said the section could remain secret but argued that publicizing the rest of the report was essential for public discussion of the project. The government still had not outlined the potential environmental risks or explained what would happen to relocated villagers.

So on Aug. 31, opponents mailed a letter to the State Council and later posted it on the Internet. It cited Chinese law and said any decision without public participation "lacks public support and cannot tolerate history's scrutiny."

Nearly four months later, the government had not responded.

An Uncertain Future

A traffic sign on the narrow, unpaved road that passes through Xiaoshaba carries a propaganda message: "A Model Village for Democratic Rule of Law." A short walk away, beside the concrete block marking the proposed first dam, Guan Fulin, 55, said she had spoken to the surveyors who measured the village land in early December.

"The officials told us it is definitely going to happen," Mrs. Guan said. She trusted that the government would take care of her but admitted that she did not yet know how she would be compensated or where she would go. Pointing to the village, she said, "All these people will be moving."

If so, it would likely signal the start of a hydropower gold rush in Yunnan Province. One study estimated that China might build enough new dams, most of them in Yunnan, to double its hydroelectric output in the next five years. One plan would inundate one of the most popular tourist attractions in China - Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Part of the frenzied hydropower development is driven by the thirst for new energy supplies. But part of it is caused by the breakup of the state monopoly that once controlled electrical generation in China. That breakup left regional state-owned energy giants who were each assigned "assets" - like rivers or coal deposits. Each faces competitive pressures to develop new power plants quickly in order to claim market share.

Mr. Ma, the environmental consultant in Beijing, said environmentalists understood that China faced a complex challenge in developing new energy sources even as it must reduce pollution. But he said this intense pressure to develop was why laws that provide oversight and public review must serve as safeguards.

"Before the Nu River proposal, you would hear about opposition to certain projects," Mr. Ma said. "But it was all based on the tremendous courage of individuals. This time, we see progress in Chinese law that makes it possible for a more systemic challenge."

He added: "There is now more awareness of environmental rights and the rights of people as citizens. For such a major problem, they believe they have the right to know about it and at least have their views heard."

The dispute over the Nu seems at a standstill. Ultimately, the decision on holding hearings may fall to the prime minister. Earlier this year, Unesco issued a statement expressing its "gravest concerns" about the potential damage to the World Heritage Site. In October, environmentalists boycotted a dam conference linked to the National Reform and Development Commission. Organizers had promised to show parts of the assessment report, but environmentalists believed it was an effort to avoid full public hearings.

Ms. Wang, of the NGO Green Earth Volunteers, described the dilemma in simple terms.

"If the law is not enforced, what shall we do?" she asked. "We have this law. Why doesn't this law work?"

Courts Criticize Judges' Handling of Asylum Cases - New York Times

Courts Criticize Judges' Handling of Asylum Cases - New York TimesDecember 26, 2005
Courts Criticize Judges' Handling of Asylum Cases
By ADAM LIPTAK

Federal appeals court judges around the nation have repeatedly excoriated immigration judges this year for what they call a pattern of biased and incoherent decisions in asylum cases.

In one decision last month, Richard A. Posner, a prominent and relatively conservative federal appeals court judge in Chicago, concluded that "the adjudication of these cases at the administrative level has fallen below the minimum standards of legal justice."

Similarly, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia said in September that it had "time and time again" been forced to rebuke immigration judges for their "intemperate and humiliating remarks." Citing cases from around the country, the court wrote of "a disturbing pattern" of misconduct in immigration rulings that sent people back to countries where they had said they would face persecution.

The harsh criticism may stem in part from a surge in immigration cases before the federal appeals courts. Immigration cases, most involving asylum seekers, accounted for about 17 percent of all federal appeals cases last year, up from just 3 percent in 2001. In the courts in New York and California, nearly 40 percent of federal appeals involved immigration cases.

The increase occurred after Attorney General John Ashcroft made changes in 2002 to streamline appellate review within the immigration courts, which are part of the Justice Department.

Many federal appeals court judges say those changes essentially shifted work to their courts. The Justice Department counters that the increase is largely unrelated to the Ashcroft changes and is instead the result of a higher rate of appeals in the courts in New York and California.

Jonathan Cohn, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department, said the quality of the decisions rendered by the immigration courts on the whole was good, noting that the government won more than 90 percent of the cases in the federal appeals, or circuit, courts.

"The circuit courts do not see any of the tens of thousands of correctly decided cases that aliens choose not to appeal," Mr. Cohn said. "They're only seeing a fraction of the cases, and only a small fraction of those give rise to criticism."

But that criticism can be very sharp, particularly given the temperate language that is the norm in the federal appellate courts.

In the Philadelphia decision in September, Judge Julio M. Fuentes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit had this to say about Annie S. Garcy, an immigration judge, or I.J., in Newark: "The tone, the tenor, the disparagement, and the sarcasm of the I.J. seem more appropriate to a court television show than a federal court proceeding."

Judge Garcy ordered Qun Wang returned to China, where he said his wife had been forcibly sterilized. "He's a horrible father as far as the court's concerned," Judge Garcy ruled, saying Mr. Wang was obsessed with having a son and did not pay enough attention to his daughter, who is disabled.

All of that was irrelevant to the issues before Judge Garcy, Judge Fuentes wrote, returning the case to the immigration system for a rehearing before a different judge. "The factual issue before" Judge Garcy, Judge Fuentes wrote, had been only "whether Wang's wife had been forcibly sterilized and whether, if he returned to China, the Chinese government would inflict improper punishment on him for leaving the country."

Through a spokeswoman, Judge Garcy declined to comment.

In another decision, Judge Marsha S. Berzon of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, said a decision by Nathan W. Gordon, an immigration judge, was "literally incomprehensible," "incoherent" and "indecipherable." A crucial sentence in Judge Gordon's decision, she said, "defies parsing under ordinary rules of English grammar."

Judge Gordon ordered Ernesto Adolfo Recinos de Leon returned to Guatemala, notwithstanding Mr. Recinos's testimony that he would be persecuted there for his political activities. Judge Berzon sent the case back to the immigration system for another hearing.

Judge Gordon, now retired, did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the unit of the Justice Department responsible for immigration adjudications, declined requests for interviews with officials there but provided answers to written questions.

"We would caution against drawing broad conclusions," the statement said, "from a small number of cases in the federal courts." The nation's roughly 215 immigration judges, the statement continued, "handle more than 300,000 matters every year," and "the vast majority of I.J.'s do an excellent job given such a large caseload."

Denise Noonan Slavin, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, a union affiliated with the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said she was concerned about what she called the rising number of "scathing opinions" from federal appeals court judges.

"To go name-calling and having an open season on judges, it's crossing the line of civility," Judge Slavin said. "That is not to say that immigration judges don't make mistakes."

But Lory Diana Rosenberg, a former judge on the administrative body within the Justice Department that reviews decisions from immigration judges before they reach the federal appeals courts, said the recent criticisms were warranted.

"They're a brave, honest and proper reaction," Ms. Rosenberg said, "to a pattern of unfettered misuse of authority."

Mary M. Schroeder, the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, which hears almost half of all immigration appeals, said the current system was "woefully inadequate."

Immigration judges, she said, "are very unevenly qualified, and they work under very bad conditions."

The people who appear before immigration judges often do not speak English, and their cases often turn in part on changing political and social conditions around the world. In a decision in March, Judge Posner wrote that immigration judges' "lack of familiarity with relevant foreign cultures" was "disturbing."

Judge Slavin, who sits in Miami, disagreed, saying she and her colleagues often had a sophisticated understanding of conditions in the most relevant countries, which are China for immigration judges in New York and Philadelphia; Eastern Europe for those in Chicago; Haiti, Columbia and Venezuela for those in Miami; and Central and South America for those in California.

"I know more about Haitian politics than the people coming before me," Judge Slavin said. But she acknowledged both the difficulty and the importance of her work.

"Immigration law can be life-or-death decisions in terms of whether you're going to send someone back to a place where they may be killed," Judge Slavin said. "I have over 1,000 cases on my docket. Most of us do about four decisions a day. In Texas, on the border, you might get 10 a day."

Judges at the top and bottom of the system blame the administrative body between them, the Board of Immigration Appeals, for the surge in appeals and the mixed quality of the decisions reaching the federal appeals courts. The board is meant to act as a filter, correcting erroneous or intemperate decisions from the immigration judges and providing general guidance. The losing party can appeal the board's decision to the federal courts.

But the board largely stopped reviewing immigration cases in a meaningful way after it was restructured by Mr. Ashcroft in 2002, several judges said.

Mr. Ashcroft reduced the number of judges on the board to 11 from 23. "They just hacked off all the liberals is basically what they did," said Ms. Rosenberg, who served on the board from 1995 to 2002.

Mr. Ashcroft also expanded the number of appeals heard by a single board member and encouraged the use of one-word affirmances in appropriate cases.

The goal of the changes, Mr. Ashcroft said, was streamlining. The board had a backlog of more than 56,000 cases, which fell to 32,000 by September 2004.

At a conference at New York Law School in September, John M. Walker Jr., the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, said the changes at the board level served to transfer its backlog to his court and other federal appeals courts.

"He just moved the problem from one court to another court," Judge Walker said of Mr. Ashcroft.

In the two and a half years after April 2002, said John R. B. Palmer, a staff lawyer at the Second Circuit, his court received twice as many appeals from immigration board decisions as it had in the previous 30 years combined.

Several federal appeals court judges said they were frustrated by the quality of the board's review of decisions from immigration judges.

In his March decision, Judge Posner wrote that the board often affirmed "either with no opinion or with a very short, unhelpful, boilerplate opinion even when" the immigration judge had committed "manifest errors of fact and logic."

As a consequence, Judge Walker said, "We're the first meaningful review that the petitioner has."

In its statement, the immigration review office said "we absolutely disagree" with Judge Walker's comment. "Each decision that comes before the board is carefully reviewed by a staff attorney and at least one board member," the statement said.

According to the office, the number of one-word affirmances dropped this year, to about 20 percent from about a third in previous years.

The solution to some of what recent criticisms identified as problems, several federal appeals court judges said, is to add positions to the immigration board and to require judges there to explain the reasons for their decisions.

"At least write a couple of pages, three pages," said Jon O. Newman, a judge on the Second Circuit. "It would really help us."

An article to be published early next year in the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal concludes that the shift toward the federal appeals court "was triggered by the high volume of B.I.A. decisions issued starting in March 2002, and a general dissatisfaction with the B.I.A.'s review."

In its statement, the immigration review office disagreed.

"The surge in federal appeals," the statement said, "is not related to the board's increased number of decisions but the rate of appeal." In some parts of the country, immigrants appeal only 7 percent of the time, the statement said. In the states covered by the federal appeals courts in New York and California, the appeals rate is now more than 30 percent.

At an argument in an appeal of an immigration case in September in Chicago, the three judges on the panel expressed exasperation with the current state of affairs.

"Does the Justice Department have any idea of what is happening to your cases in this court?" Judge Posner asked Cindy S. Ferrier, the government lawyer defending the decision of the immigration judge.

She said yes.

A second judge, Ilana Rovner, offered Ms. Ferrier a measure of sympathy.

"It is so cruel to send a lovely human being like you in here to be a messenger of such madness, such nonsense," Judge Rovner said.

Friday, December 23, 2005

From Back-Channel Contacts, Blueprint for a Deal - New York Times

From Back-Channel Contacts, Blueprint for a Deal - New York TimesDecember 23, 2005
From Back-Channel Contacts, Blueprint for a Deal
By SEWELL CHAN and STEVEN GREENHOUSE

On Wednesday morning, Roger Toussaint's closest advisers encouraged him to face his difficult circumstances. The workers in Mr. Toussaint's union, who had brought the city's transit system to a halt, were incurring fines and public scorn with each day of the union's strike.

What's your endgame? the advisers asked him gently.

Already, Mr. Toussaint had sent intermediaries to seek Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's aid in ending the deadlock with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to several people involved in the discussions.

But by noon, other labor leaders had become more blunt in counseling Mr. Toussaint, suggesting that his union was in real peril.

In an early afternoon telephone conference call with 40 union leaders, according to people who participated, Mr. Toussaint showed his frustration as he sought a public showing of support.

"I don't need anyone standing on the sidelines holding my coat," one person recalled his saying. "I need someone to take off their coats."

Eventually, Mr. Toussaint's back-channel communication to Mr. Bloomberg paid off, and the groundwork for a return to work was laid.

Mr. Toussaint signaled that if the transportation authority relaxed its demands involving pensions - the issue at the heart of the contract dispute - he would be willing to bargain over workers' making payments toward their health benefits. Mr. Bloomberg, after initial skepticism, indicated it might be a formula for success.

It was. Less than 24 hours after Mr. Toussaint's moments of hard reckoning, mediators announced that the union leadership felt sufficiently encouraged about progress to announce that the union was ready to call off the strike.

The story of what happened over those 24 hours - the role of the state mediators, the background role of the Bloomberg administration, the contrasting realities of heated public exchanges and behind-the-scenes headway - was pieced together through interviews with government officials, labor leaders and people close to the union and the authority. The principals themselves, Mr. Toussaint and top officials of the authority, have agreed to conduct the remaining negotiations toward a final contract in secret.

The beginning of the end of the transit strike of 2005 started innocuously, with the arrival around 3 p.m. on Tuesday of a middle-aged man with a dimpled chin and a dark gray mustache. He slipped into a Midtown hotel unnoticed, 12 hours after the city's subway and bus workers walked off the job for the first time in 25 years.

The man, a mediator from the state's Public Employment Relations Board who had traveled from Albany to enter what for New Yorkers was the World Series of conflict resolution, would help establish enough of a negotiating peace that millions of people who had been all but stranded in their own city could resume their normal lives.

The mediator, Richard A. Curreri, and two other veteran mediators practiced shuttle diplomacy inside the Grand Hyatt hotel near Grand Central Terminal. But their main accomplishment may not have been performing feats of persuasion so much as providing public cover for each side to resume negotiations, even as a war of rhetoric continued to rage at news conferences and on picket lines.

Mr. Curreri, a lawyer who has worked for the board since 1990 and is its director of conciliation, invited two other mediators to join him on Tuesday: Martin F. Scheinman, a lawyer and veteran arbitrator and mediator who has helped settle thousands of labor contracts, and Alan R. Viani, who was the chief negotiator for District Council 37, the city's largest union of municipal workers, from 1973 to 1985. They would work through the night on Wednesday before emerging early yesterday to say an end to the strike was at hand.

Even though Gov. George E. Pataki opposed negotiations unless the strike ended, and Mr. Toussaint opposed negotiations unless pensions were dropped from the table, all day Wednesday top negotiators for the two sides met repeatedly with the mediators - in effect, negotiating through a third party.

On Wednesday, Mr. Toussaint had clearly begun to appreciate the depth of the problems faced by Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union. Those who were advising him said he seriously contemplated the prospect of being jailed and the economic harm to his workers.

Around 10 a.m., Mr. Toussaint called two other labor leaders: Bruce S. Raynor, the general president of Unite Here, the union representing apparel, hotel and restaurant workers, and Mike Fishman, president of the city's giant union of building service workers, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union. Mr. Toussaint asked the two men, who had both supported Mr. Bloomberg's re-election, to call the mayor to urge him to pressure Peter S. Kalikow, chairman of the authority, to drop his demands on pensions, according to Mr. Raynor.

In its final offer, the authority demanded that future workers pay 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions, compared with 2 percent from current workers. Mr. Toussaint condemned that proposal as onerously high and as treating tomorrow's workers worse than today's.

Mr. Raynor said he had tried to gauge the mayor's response to the idea of having the authority back off on its pension demands and instead consider higher health care contributions from workers as a way of achieving long-term savings. The mayor at first rejected the notion, but "eventually he came around to believing that was a good idea," Mr. Raynor said.

Mr. Raynor said he and Mr. Fishman had tried to serve as informal mediators. "We both believe that you have to find a solution, the quicker the better, and we both had credibility with the mayor and with Roger," Mr. Raynor said.

The resolution of the strike picked up speed Wednesday afternoon, even after harsh public performances by the mayor and by Mr. Toussaint, as well as by Mr. Pataki, who demanded that the workers return to their jobs before negotiations could resume. When David Catalfamo, a spokesman for Mr. Pataki, was asked on Wednesday whether the authority was free to bargain, he replied in an e-mail message, "The M.T.A. can speak for themselves."

Mr. Toussaint went before television cameras on Wednesday afternoon and tried to claim the moral high ground in the dispute. He tried to place the strike in the context of social justice and likened the illegal walkout to Rosa Parks's civil disobedience. He also tried to raise the ante, by offering to resume talks immediately if the authority agreed to drop its pension demands.

Two hours later, more than a dozen union leaders - representing teachers, CUNY professors, police detectives and municipal workers, among other groups - stood before the same cameras and vigorously asserted that Mr. Toussaint's demand to have pensions dropped from the talks was fair and reasonable. What they did not do was declare support for the strike.

Privately, in the conference call on Wednesday afternoon, they had warned Mr. Toussaint that the fines, public anger and contempt citations from the strike could be disastrous.

"All day long there were a couple of us, that kept on trying to figure out what can settle this, what can solve this," said Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers. "We were very concerned that management was going to bear down and go after the union."

She and Assemblyman Brian M. McLaughlin, a Queens Democrat who is the president of the New York City Central Labor Council, spoke to both Mr. Toussaint and Mr. Kalikow. Mr. McLaughlin said yesterday he was aware that the union's position was delicate but credited Mr. Toussaint for being willing to return to the table. "Nobody really knew where Roger was willing, or not willing, to go," he said. "He said if this issue was removed from the table, we could within hours reach an agreement."

Mr. McLaughlin said the strike had been a major obstacle in getting the authority to make concessions. "You have to work past things," he said. "Once there's a strike, attitudes change. Politicians go more for blood than conflict resolution, and place the blame squarely on one side."

Bill Lynch, a former deputy mayor who has advised Mr. Toussaint, said the unions' stance and the communications with Mr. Bloomberg had been critical in persuading the transportation authority to bend. "I think that they were hearing all that static out there and I think, with the municipal unions coming as strongly as they did, the momentum toward saving the pensions was starting to build," Mr. Lynch said. The transportation authority, he said, was "losing ground on that issue."

Enter the mediators. Their proposal - having the union agree to return to work with the transportation authority essentially acknowledging that pensions were all but off the table - ultimately allowed each side to swallow something.

Barry L. Feinstein, a former Teamsters leader who has served on the authority's board since 1989 and is close to Mr. Pataki and Mr. Kalikow, said Mr. Kalikow deserved credit for showing resolve without foreclosing the possibility of reopening talks. He said many people had expected Mr. Kalikow to give in under the threat of a strike.

"Many people thought that he wouldn't be able to take the pressure, that he would fold, that he would do whatever had to be done to prevent a strike, that the M.T.A. would avoid a strike at any cost," Mr. Feinstein said. "That didn't happen."

Jerome Lefkowitz, a labor lawyer who helped draft a state law that provides for mediation and arbitration in contract disputes involving police, firefighters and transit workers, said he felt the law had helped people find a path of reason.

"Mediators must have the facility to listen to what the negotiators are saying and to hear priorities and demands that may not be articulated explicitly," he said. "When they start making progress, more tradeoffs follow pretty quickly, once you can break the ice."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New York Transit Strike Ends After 3 Days - New York Times


New York Transit Strike Ends After 3 Days - New York Times

December 22, 2005
State Mediators Set Up Plan That Leads to End of 60-Hour Ordeal
By STEVE GREENHOUSE
and SEWELL CHAN

New York City transit employees will return to work today and limited subway and bus service could resume within hours, officials from Transit Workers Union, Local 100, said at midafternoon.

The order to return to work came after the union's executive board voted 38 to 5, with two abstentions, to accept a preliminary framework of a settlement plan as a basis to end the walkout.

The framework had already been agreed to by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

State mediators devised the framework for a settlement after all-night negotiations with the union and the M.T.A.

"I'm pleased to announce that the Local 100 executive board just voted overwhelmingly to direct transit workers to return to work immediately and to resume bus and subway service throughout the five boroughs of New York City, and we thank riders for their patience and forbearance," President Roger Touissant said outside union headquarters this afternoon. "We will be providing various details regarding the outcome of this strike in the next several days."

A few minutes earlier, one of the executive board members, George Perlstein, who said he had voted against the settlement plan, angrily told reporters that the union had not achieved its goals.

"We got nothing. Absolutely nothing," he said.

It remains unclear when all subways and buses will start running again, but it could take up to 18 hours to fully restore service.

The resumption of bus and subway service would end a 60-hour ordeal for New Yorkers, in which residents - who are heavily dependent upon public transportation - resorted to walking, bicycling, hitchhiking and enduring traffic jams as early as 3:30 a.m. to get into Manhattan for work.

Word of a possible end to the strike began filtering out earlier in the day.

"Over the last 48 hours we have met separately with both T.W.U. and the M.T.A.," mediator Richard A. Curreri said at a news conference this morning.. "While these discussions have been fruitful, an agreement remains out of the parties' reach at this time. It is clear to us, however, that both parties have a genuine desire to resolve their differences."

Mr. Curreri added: "In the best interests of the public, which both parties serve, we have suggested, and they have agreed, to resume negotiations while the T.W.U. takes steps toward returning its membership to work."

The agreement, said several people close to the negotiations who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive stage of the talks, would give every side some of what it asked for.

It would allow Gov. George E. Pataki to save face because the final negotiations would not take place until the strikers return to work, the people said, and it would apparently allow the union's president, Roger Toussaint, to save face because, they believe, the authority's pension demands - which are at the crux of the deadlock - have been significantly scaled back.

In light of the progress in negotiations, State Supreme Court Justice Theodore T. Jones delayed a hearing scheduled for this morning on possible fines and jail terms for union leaders under the Taylor Law, which prohibits strikes by public employees. The hearing was rescheduled for 4 p.m. today

In Albany, Governor Pataki hailed the progress, and credited the Taylor Law, which requires mediation once an impasse is declared.

"I just am pleased the Taylor Law, that sets up this process, was in this case followed by both sides and moved things forward in a positive way," Mr. Pataki said in a televised news conference.

Commuters, who have had to make it to work and home any way possible, also saw hope in the mediator's words.

"It's a small victory for sanity, which is a good thing in the holiday season," said Guy Molinari, 44, who commutes to Manhattan from Bergen County, New Jersey each day.

Mr. Curreri and two other mediators were appointed by the state's Public Employment Relations Board on Tuesday afternoon after the union declared a strike at 3 a.m. that day and the authority said the talks had reached an impasse.

Mr. Curreri, the board's director of conciliation, met with lawyers for the union that afternoon. Mr. Curreri also invited two veteran mediators - Martin F. Scheinman, a longtime arbitrator who has negotiated many labor agreements, and Alan R. Viani, the former chief negotiator at D.C. 37, the city's largest municipal workers union - to join him.

All three met with both sides for hours at a time on Wednesday and into the night. The authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, and Mr. Toussaint both participated in the talks on Wednesday and early this morning.

Most of the system's 6,300 subway cars have been placed in underground tunnels or in train yards, one next to another, since the strike began. Supervisors have been running empty trains over the rails to keep the rails polished and prevent rust. The 4,600 buses have been stored and guarded at 18 depots.

Employees would have to return to their shifts, tracks and signals would have to be inspected, and subway cars and buses examined before the subways and buses could run.

If all employees promptly returned at the start of their next shift, some subways could begin to run eight hours after managers and supervisors get word that the strikers are returning, officials said.

The news is an abrupt change from Wednesday's developments, when a war of rhetoric surrounding the strike entered a louder and more contentious phase, with Mr. Toussaint demanding that thorny pension issues be removed from the table before the strikers returned to work. But Governor Pataki joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in saying that the transit workers must end the strike before negotiations could resume, contradicting the M.T.A.'s earlier position that it would talk anytime.

In addition to disagreements over pensions, the union and the M.T.A. have also had a difficult time on health care benefits. The transportation authority had originally demanded that future transit workers contribute 2 percent of their pay toward health premiums. It reduced that demand to 1 percent several days before the strike deadline, then dropped that demand altogether, just hours before the strike deadline. Current workers do not pay premiums for the union's basic health plan.

Mr. Toussaint's union has repeatedly said he would not agree to a contract that treated future workers worse than current workers - on pension or health insurance.

Several people close to the negotiations said they expected the two sides to discuss proposals to have the union agree to have all workers, current and future, pay health premiums

Repeatedly saying that he wants to beat back the wave of concessions demanded by managements across the country, Mr. Toussaint has also insisted that he would not agree to a contract that required all workers to pay health premiums.

On Wednesday, the authority took the highly unusual step of running television advertisements urging individual workers to return to their jobs.

Even so, there was evidence of a willingness to compromise, at least behind the scenes, as both sides met separately with state mediators the first possible step toward taking the dispute to arbitration. Mr. Toussaint attacked the mayor and the governor Wednesday for what he called the use of "insulting and offensive language," apparently referring to the mayor's characterization of the strike by the city's 33,700 subway and bus workers as "thuggish" and "selfish."

In a speech that belied the union's tenuous position - it is already being fined $1 million a day - Mr. Toussaint seemed to cast the conflict in a social-justice context. In describing the struggle of his largely minority union, he invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, saying: "There is a higher calling than the law. That is justice and equality."

Despite Mr. Toussaint's vow not to return to the table until the pension demand was dropped, he and his top lawyers met with state mediators for hours at a time. State mediation could have either led to a solution to the differences, or forced the two sides to binding arbitration. While Mr. Toussaint reiterated his opposition to binding arbitration, he did not rule it out.

Mayor Bloomberg on Wednesday recited a litany of misery brought on by the strike: business was down 40 percent in some restaurants and 60 percent in some stores; home health aides were unable to reach their patients; people were delaying chemotherapy and radiation; the New York Blood Center declared a state of emergency; attendance at museums and theaters was down; the holiday crowds on Fifth Avenue had thinned.

After the first day of chaos, there were signs that systems were being fine-tuned and people were adapting. Some suburban trains took to skipping stops to get into Manhattan faster. Police checkpoints ran more smoothly.

Still, Wednesday's evening rush was as chaotic as Tuesday night's, with long lines almost everywhere.

The transit strike, the first in a quarter century, began at 3 a.m. Tuesday after negotiations between the union and the transit authority broke down over the authority's last-minute demand that all new transit workers contribute 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions - up from the 2 percent that current workers pay.

The authority has said it needs to rein in its soaring pension costs. Mr. Toussaint has argued that, under state law, it is illegal for the authority to insist on including a pension demand as part of a settlement.

On Wednesday, Justice Jones ordered the union leaders to appear in court to face contempt charges and possibly jail. He also agreed to consider a request by the city for a temporary restraining order, which could lead to strikers being assessed additional fines. Justice Jones brought up the possibility of jail for top union officials during proceedings in which James B. Henly, the lead state lawyer in the case, was seeking fines against Mr. Toussaint and two other officials of Local 100 - Ed Watt, the secretary-treasurer and Darlyne A. Lawson, the recording secretary.

The union's lawyer, Arthur Z. Schwartz, argued that the judge could not rule on the state's request for fines against the three officials because they were in mediation, and not present in court. Although he had not been asked by the state, the authority or the city to jail any union officials, Justice Jones said "one or more of these people could possibly be sent to jail" and agreed that they needed to be present.

Mr. Toussaint, at his news conference, reiterated the union's argument that the authority had forced the union to strike by illegally insisting on pension changes. Under the state's Taylor Law, one side cannot make pensions a condition of a settlement. But in 1994 and in 1999, both sides agreed on pension changes.

"We are prepared to resume negotiations, right away, right this minute," he said. "If the pension issue were taken off the table, that would form the basis for us to ask our members - to ask our executive board - to ask our members to go back to work."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Matthew Sweeney, Michael Cooper, Janon Fisher, Thomas J. Lueck, Jesse McKinley, Colin Moynihan, Fernanda Santos, Shadi Rahimi and Timothy Williams.

No Timetable Is Announced on Resumption of Service - New York Times

No Timetable Is Announced on Resumption of Service - New York TimesDecember 22, 2005
No Timetable Is Announced on Resumption of Service
By STEVE GREENHOUSE and SEWELL CHAN

After meeting with both sides through the night, state mediators have devised a preliminary framework for a settlement of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contract dispute that would allow strikers to return to work later today, according to four people close to the negotiations.

The people emphasized that the details of a final settlement would take at least a day or two longer to be finalized, although buses and subways would be running before that.

The agreement, they said, would give every side some of what it asked for.

It would allow Gov. George E. Pataki to save face because the final negotiations would not take place until the strikers return to work, the people said, and it would apparently allow the union's president, Roger Toussaint, to save face because, they believe, the authority's pension demands - which are at the crux of the deadlock - have been significantly scaled back.

The mediators were appointed by the state's Public Employment Relations Board on Tuesday afternoon after the union declared a strike at 3 a.m. that day and the authority said the talks had reached an impasse.

Richard A. Curreri, the board's director of conciliation, met with lawyers for the union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, that afternoon. Mr. Curreri also invited two veteran mediators - Martin F. Scheinman, a longtime arbitrator who has negotiated many labor agreements, and Alan R. Viani, the former chief negotiator at D.C. 37, the city's largest municipal workers union - to join him.

All three met with both sides for hours at a time on Wednesday and into the night. The authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, and Mr. Toussaint both participated in the talks on Wednesday and early this morning, the people said. They did not want to be identified because of the sensitive stage of the negotiations.

The news is an abrupt change from Wednesday's developments, when a war of rhetoric surrounding the strike entered a louder and more contentious phase, with Mr. Toussaint demanding that thorny pension issues be removed from the table before the strikers returned to work. But Gov. George E. Pataki joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in saying that the transit workers must end the strike before negotiations could resume, contradicting the M.T.A.'s earlier position that it would talk anytime. The authority took the highly unusual step of running television advertisements urging individual workers to return to their jobs.

Even so, there was evidence of a willingness to compromise, at least behind the scenes, as both sides met separately with state mediators - the first possible step toward taking the dispute to arbitration. And late last night, members of the union's executive board were summoned to headquarters for an emergency meeting at 1 a.m. Then, a short time later, it was postponed indefinitely.

In State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, Justice Theodore T. Jones ordered the top three union leaders to appear today to face charges of criminal contempt and possibly be jailed under the law that prohibits strikes by public employees.

For his part, Mr. Toussaint attacked the mayor and the governor for what he called the use of "insulting and offensive language," apparently referring to the mayor's characterization of the strike by the city's 33,700 subway and bus workers as "thuggish" and "selfish."

In a speech that belied the union's tenuous position - it is already being fined $1 million a day - Mr. Toussaint seemed to cast the conflict in a social-justice context. In describing the struggle of his largely minority union, he invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, saying: "There is a higher calling than the law. That is justice and equality."

Despite Mr. Toussaint's vow not to return to the table until the pension demand was dropped, he and his top lawyers were meeting with state mediators for hours at a time. State mediation could either yield a solution to the differences, or force the two sides to binding arbitration. While Mr. Toussaint reiterated his opposition to binding arbitration, he did not rule it out.

And while Governor Pataki vowed that there would be no negotiations as long as workers were striking, Peter S. Kalikow, the chairman of the authority, was in the Grand Hyatt hotel Wednesday night, suggesting he was still willing to meet with Mr. Toussaint. Though he issued a statement highly critical of Mr. Toussaint's words, it included language hinting the authority still wanted to talk.

Mayor Bloomberg recited a litany of misery brought on by the strike: business was down 40 percent in some restaurants and 60 percent in some stores; home health aides were unable to reach their patients; people were delaying chemotherapy and radiation; the New York Blood Center declared a state of emergency; attendance at museums and theaters was down; the holiday crowds on Fifth Avenue had thinned.

After the first day of chaos, there were signs that systems were being fine-tuned and people were adapting. Some suburban trains took to skipping stops to get into Manhattan faster. Police checkpoints ran more smoothly.

Still, the evening rush was as chaotic as Tuesday night's, with long lines almost everywhere.

More cars entered Manhattan. About 36,000 cars entered between 5 and 10 a.m., up 18 percent over Tuesday, said Kay Sarlin, a spokeswoman for the City Department of Transportation. The Staten Island ferry had more passengers than usual; commuters thronged ferry terminals at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and at Hunters Point in Long Island City. The city reopened Fifth and Madison Avenues, which had been closed to all but emergency vehicles on the first day. There were scattered reports of price gouging by taxi and livery car drivers, the mayor said.

The burden of the strike fell unevenly upon New Yorkers of different classes.

For many living in Manhattan, the strike remained an inconvenience, not a hardship. Some, like Dave Halman, a 35-year-old Wall Street banker, worked from home the first day. On Wednesday, he was out on West 96th Street waiting for a company shuttle. "It's fine," he said. "We went through the blackout, 9/11 and now most people are taking this in stride."

But for many more, the impact was harsher. Stan Decker said he had walked nearly seven miles from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn to Jamaica, Queens. "They're hurting the ordinary people, they're not hurting the big shots," Mr. Decker, 59, said of the union. A union member himself, he complained, "Everybody's paying for health insurance. Why should they be different? When they overdo it like this, they hurt unions because if gives people a bad impression."

In its television advertisement, broadcast on the local cable channel NY1 News, the president of New York City Transit, Lawrence G. Reuter, said that "many hundreds of employees have already reported to work and we commend them." He urged employees to report to designated locations, listed on the agency's Web site, to avoid "severe legal and financial consequences."

On picket lines outside a bus depot in Midtown Manhattan and outside a transit plant, on West 53rd Street, some striking workers hinted they were having second thoughts. They said they live paycheck to paycheck, burdened with mortgages, many with children and ailing relatives to care for. Some said they had begun to wonder if they would be the ones to lose the most.

Mayor Bloomberg, too, raised the question of whom the strike is hurting.

"Roger Toussaint and the board have sought to portray the strike as a fight for working people," he said at a news conference. "That argument doesn't hold any water. Working people are the ones that are being hurt. Busboys are getting hurt, garment industry workers are getting hurt, owners of mom-and-pop businesses are being hurt."

The transit strike, the first in a quarter century, began at 3 a.m. Tuesday after negotiations between the union and the transit authority broke down over the authority's last-minute demand that all new transit workers contribute 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions - up from the 2 percent that current workers pay.

The authority has said it needs to rein in its soaring pension costs. Mr. Toussaint has argued that, under state law, it is illegal for the authority to insist on including a pension demand as part of a settlement.

At a news conference, Mr. Pataki said: "There aren't going to be any talks while you're out there walking. Come back to work. And then the M.T.A., I'm sure, will be willing to engage in negotiations. But not while you're engaged in an illegal strike."

Asked about the union's demand that pensions be taken off the table, the governor said, "I don't care what the union says, until they come back to work."

The governor's staff would not elaborate on his words, nor say whether they represented a change in the state's stance. Mr. Kalikow, who was appointed by the governor, said in his statement that the authority was ready to negotiate, but warned ominously that time was running out.

"The M.T.A. has remained in the hotel since the strike commenced, ready to negotiate," Mr. Kalikow said. He added: "It is becoming clear that we are rapidly approaching the point at which further waiting would be futile."

Justice Jones ordered the union leaders to appear in court to face contempt charges and possibly jail. He also agreed to consider a request by the city for a temporary restraining order, which could lead to strikers being assessed additional fines. Justice Jones brought up the possibility of jail for top union officials during proceedings in which James B. Henly, the lead state lawyer in the case, was seeking fines against Mr. Toussaint and two other officials of Local 100 - Ed Watt, the secretary-treasurer and Darlyne A. Lawson, the recording secretary.

The union's lawyer, Arthur Z. Schwartz, argued that the judge could not rule on the state's request for fines against the three officials because they were in mediation, and not present in court. Although he had not been asked by the state, the authority or the city to jail any union officials, Justice Jones said "one or more of these people could possibly be sent to jail" and agreed that they needed to be present.

Mr. Toussaint, at his news conference, reiterated the union's argument that the authority had forced the union to strike by illegally insisting on pension changes. Under the state's Taylor Law, one side cannot make pensions a condition of a settlement. But in 1994 and in 1999, both sides agreed on pension changes.

"We are prepared to resume negotiations, right away, right this minute," he said. "If the pension issue were taken off the table, that would form the basis for us to ask our members - to ask our executive board - to ask our members to go back to work."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Michael Cooper, Janon Fisher, Steven Greenhouse, Thomas J. Lueck, Jesse McKinley, Colin Moynihan, Fernanda Santos, Shadi Rahim and Timothy Williams.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

China Says Economy Much Bigger Than Thought - New York Times

China Says Economy Much Bigger Than Thought - New York TimesChina Says Economy Much Bigger Than Thought
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 10:15 a.m. ET

BEIJING (AP) -- China said Tuesday its economy is much bigger and less dependent on exports than previously reported, issuing new data that analysts said make its roaring growth look easier to sustain and could encourage even more foreign investment.

A new survey of China's economy boosted its official output for 2004 by 16.8 percent by taking into account emerging service businesses, the government said. It said services' share of the economy rose sharply, while that of manufacturing fell.

The results show China's mainland replacing Italy as the world's 6th-largest economy, trailing Britain and France. China would jump to No. 4, behind only the United States, Japan and Germany, if it added in Hong Kong, which reports its economic figures separately.

The figures mean China's rates of exports and investment are smaller as a percentage of the total economy, possibly easing fears that they were unsustainably high, analysts said.

''The Chinese economic miracle will look less like a miracle and more like a normal country,'' said Steve Tsang, director of the Asian Studies Center at St. Antony's College at Britain's Oxford University.

''It would mean the economy's ability to continue at the current rate of growth is better,'' Tsang said.

The figures were released by the National Bureau of Statistics, which said it surveyed 30 million businesses, including restaurants, karaoke bars and others in booming service industries.

The new data put China's 2004 gross domestic product, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, at nearly 16 trillion yuan ($2 trillion). That was up 2.3 trillion yuan ($285 billion) from numbers previously reported.

''Based on these figures, we can have even more confidence in our long-term fairly fast and sustained economic growth,'' Li Deshui, director of the statistics bureau, said at a news conference.

Even more important could be the finding that Chinese consumers are spending much more than previously thought, fueling economic growth and reducing reliance on exports, economists said.

Based on the new data, exports fell from 34 percent of the economy to 29 percent, cutting China's ''very high export dependency,'' Jun Ma, chief economist for Greater China at Deutsche Bank, said in a research report.

Ma's report said such evidence of strong consumer spending could encourage planners to stimulate even more growth in services, creating new opportunities for foreign investors.

The government will be revising GDP growth figures back to 1993, Li said.

The new figures should not affect China's policy on the politically sensitive exchange rate of its currency, Li said. China's trading partners complain that its government-controlled exchange rate is too low, giving Chinese exporters and unfair price advantage.

And Li emphasized that despite the upward revision in sheer economic size, China's vast population of 1.3 billion people means it still ranks below the top 100 countries in output per capita.

''We still have a long way to go to catch up with the developed countries,'' he said.

Economists have long said China understated the size of its economy due to its failure to collect statistics accurately from small, private businesses, especially in services.

The key problem was a system that focused on manufacturing and relied on each company to keep an employee to report statistics, something that few private businesses do.

Other governments have reported similarly large jumps in output when they switch economic measures, including a 17 percent increase for Indonesia in 2004 and 11 percent for Norway in 1995, according to the World Bank.

Li, the statistics official, said Beijing will have to wait until it compiles figures for 2005 to figure out its current rank among the world's economies.

''But undeniably they're going to be the second-largest economy in the world in a few years,'' said David Cohen of the consulting firm Action Economics in Singapore. ''And then the question is, At what point do they surpass the U.S. in size?''

U.S. weapons at last make Taiwan parliament agenda

U.S. weapons at last make Taiwan parliament agendaU.S. weapons at last make Taiwan parliament agenda
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's ruling party managed to get a $11 billion U.S. arms package, which it sees as key to keeping the balance of power with China, on to parliament's agenda on Tuesday after being stalled by the opposition 41 times.

The United States, which recognises China and not Taiwan, offered the package of advanced weapons in 2001. Taiwan has since cut its budget for the arms from $18 billion to $11 billion

Many security analysts see the Taiwan Strait, which separates China and Taiwan, as one of Asia's most dangerous flashpoints.

Lawmakers from Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their allies voted 12 to 5 in a sub-committee responsible for setting parliament agenda while many opposition lawmakers were in a separate meeting.

But the victory could be short-lived as the opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), which once ruled all China, and People First Party control a slim parliamentary majority and vowed to overturn the decision on Friday.

The two parties favour closer ties with China and say the purchase is expensive, provocative and unnecessary.

They have stopped the issue getting on parliament's agenda 41 times. The delay has fuelled worries in Washington that Taipei is not serious about its own defence.

China has viewed Taiwan as part of Chinese territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the self-governed democracy of 23 million people back to the fold -- by force if necessary.

The United States recognises the mainland as China's sole legitimate government -- the "one-China" policy -- but in a deliberately ambiguous piece of foreign policy it is also obliged by law to help Taiwan defend itself.

"We will send the issue back to the procedural committee on Friday," KMT legislative caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan told reporters.

"They have started a confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties ... at a time when our priority should be to review the government budget," Tseng said.

The special budget is to pay for eight diesel-electric submarines and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft.

The government dropped six anti-missile Patriot Advanced Capability-3 batteries from the deal, although it still plans to buy the systems using the defence ministry's regular budget.

President Chen Shui-bian has said he hoped rival parties could set aside domestic political rhetoric after Dec. 3 local government elections, in which the opposition won a crushing victory against the ruling party.

KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou has recently hinted at room for discussion, saying the party supports legitimate self-defence, but is against a "sucker's" arms purchase.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Eritrea broke law in border war

BBC NEWS | Africa | Eritrea broke law in border war Eritrea broke law in border war
Eritrea triggered the border war with Ethiopia when it attacked its neighbour in May 1998, an international commission in the Hague has ruled.

Since there was no armed attack against Eritrea, its attack on Ethiopia could not be justified as lawful self-defence under the United Nations charter.

Eritrea is now liable to compensate Ethiopia for damages caused, it said.

Tensions over the border have risen in recent months with both countries sending more troops there.

Last week, Western UN staff in Eritrea left at the request of Eritrea.

Most of the UN peacekeepers deployed to monitor the border under a peace accord that ended the war in 2000 are from Asian and African countries and have stayed behind.

The Claims Commission - that was set up as part of the peace agreement - said that settling such disputes by use of force could not be considered self-defence.


TENSE BORDER
Dec 2000: Peace agreement
Apr 2002: Border ruling
Mar 2003: Ethiopian complaint over Badme rejected
Sep 2003: Ethiopia asks for new ruling
Feb 2005: UN concern at military build-up
Oct 2005: Eritrea restricts peacekeepers' activities
Nov 2005: UN sanctions threat if no compliance with 2000 deal

"[Eritrea] is liable to compensate Ethiopia for the damages caused by the violation of international law," the ruling, published on its website, said.

Ethiopia has welcomed the ruling.

The war was ostensibly fought over the dusty town of Badme, which was awarded to Eritrea by another commission set up as part of the peace agreement.

But Ethiopia has not yet withdrawn its forces from Badme, frustrating Eritrea.

Under the peace accord, the two states agreed to accept the findings of the border commission.

In recent months, Eritrea has placed increasingly tight restrictions on the operations of the UN peacekeeping force deployed along the border and ordered Western UN staff to withdraw.

Last week, the UN Security Council strongly condemned what they called Eritrea's unacceptable actions and restrictions on the peacekeeping mission and warned it could have implications for the operation's future.

It also emphasised the need for progress in implementing the Boundary Commission's decision over Badme.

The Horn of Africa neighbours' two-year conflict led to some 80,000 deaths.

Story from BBC NEWS:

A Korean TV Show Reports, and the Network Cancels It - New York Times

A Korean TV Show Reports, and the Network Cancels It - New York TimesDecember 21, 2005
A Korean TV Show Reports, and the Network Cancels It
By JAMES BROOKE

SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 17 - Last June, Hwang Woo Suk, South Korea's celebrated stem cell scientist, was named Supreme Scientist of the nation. Korean Air gave him first-class air tickets for a decade.

Then a member of Dr. Hwang's laboratory team secretly posted a denunciation of his work on a confidential Internet bulletin board maintained by "PD Notebook," South Korea's leading investigative news show. According to the tipster, Dr. Hwang faked some of the human stem cell cloning data that had been published days earlier in Science, the Washington-based monthly.

Fast-forward six months. In recent days, two "PD Notebook" programs on Dr. Hwang's lapses have pried open the lid of a laboratory where the news often seemed to be too good to be true. Last week, in a rolling series of press conferences here and in the United States, Dr. Hwang and two former collaborators confirmed some of the allegations originally e-mailed by the whistle-blower to the Internet bulletin board.

So, Choi Seung Ho, the "PD Notebook" executive producer who unraveled Korea's cloning scandal, must be the toast of Seoul.

Well, not exactly. On Saturday afternoon, he sat unsmiling in his newsroom, dressed in black and blue, dragging occasionally on a menthol cigarette. Protesters had picketed his network, MBC. Death threats and photos of family members of his reporting team had been posted on the Internet. All 12 advertisers had fled the program. After 15 successful years of "PD Notebook," MBC has pulled the plug.

"The show is suspended; we are waiting for the final decision by the executives," Mr. Choi said. Referring to the public backlash, he said: "Of course we anticipated this to some extent, but it was so much stronger than we expected. It made us realize once again how important this individual was for Korea."

Mr. Choi is in the journalistic doghouse partly for tearing down a national icon, a charismatic, handsome scientist who was the modern, successful face that South Koreans yearned to show the world.

But it is also partly because he allowed South Korea's ultracompetitive journalism world to spur him to use techniques that tarnished his work.

In one crucial interview, a former co-worker of Dr. Hwang, now working at the University of Pittsburgh, is led to believe that his former boss is about to be arrested for fraud.

When the worker, Kim Seon Jong, starts to talk about faking photographs for the Science article, he can be seen nervously asking if the interview was being filmed. No answer comes from the story's producer, who is holding a bag with a hidden camera. Instead, the producer hints that if he cooperates with MBC, he will be protected from arrest. To this date, no one has been arrested in the case.

"That must be a flagrant violation of journalism guidelines," said Shin Hak Lim, chairman of the National Union of Media Workers, a trade organization. He noted that MBC apologized because of the public outcry, and docked Mr. Choi and the story's producer, Han Hak Soo, one month's pay.

The Korean Broadcasting Commission, a government agency, reviewed the tapes and a spokesman told the press that the commission "has judged that it is highly likely that the program violated regulations on fairness, objectivity, human rights violations and statistics and public surveys under the broadcast law."

As protesters picketed MBC, even South Korea's president, Roh Moo Hyun, commented in a statement on his Web site: "I also feel MBC's program was annoying. But after I saw MBC's program battered en masse, I felt heavy-hearted."

The journalistic jury is still out in South Korea, a nation of news devotees that has ridden an emotional roller coaster over escalating accusations and denials swirling around Dr. Hwang.

"Many people now understand why MBC produced those programs," said Lee Hyun Jae, a 24-year-old business administration student at Seoul National University, where Dr. Hwang did his work. "They have uncovered many areas we would like not to believe. If Dr. Hwang had had more research in a couple of months, with better results, people might never have known about the problems. MBC has done their job. But people will never forgive them for that."

Others said that the network should have been prepared for the reaction.

"It is admirable that they were investigating this man, when everyone else was idolizing him," Jang Se Ju, a 25-year-old agricultural science student at the university, said. "Why did they take on an issue they could not handle at the end of the day?"

Her lunch partner, Kim Yang Hee, a 26-year-old education student, said she feared the volatility of public opinion.

"When Dr. Hwang was made into a religious icon that was idolized, I was afraid we were unable to criticize him," she said. "Before, we were idolizing him. Now I fear that there will be an atmosphere of making him responsible for all the failures."

Noting the "strong criticism of reporting techniques of 'PD Notebook,' " she said: "I thought it was strange to see it suddenly disappear after they had all these achievements over many years. I thought it was not a rational decision - an emotional decision."