Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

French Leader Ousts Premier Over Lost Vote on Europe

June 1, 2005

French Leader Ousts Premier Over Lost Vote on Europe

PARIS, May 31 - President Jacques Chirac of France appointed his longtime protégé Dominique de Villepin as prime minister on Tuesday in an effort to restore confidence in the French government after the country's decisive rejection of a constitution for Europe.

In a televised address on Tuesday evening, Mr. Chirac confirmed the departure of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and confessed that the rejection of the referendum on the European Union constitution on Sunday had begun a period of "difficulties and uncertainties" that required the French to "rally together around the national interest."

He promised that the top priority of the new government would be job creation, an acknowledgment that opposition to the constitution was motivated as much by anxiety over the French economy as it was by fears of an enlarged Europe.

Criticism of the appointment came swiftly, as the left and even some on the right said Mr. Chirac was out of touch with his electorate. Mr. de Villepin, who emerged as Europe's most vocal opponent of the war in Iraq when he was foreign minister, was faulted as the wrong choice for prime minister because he lacked economic credentials.

The French cabinet shift comes on the eve of a similar referendum on the European Union constitution in the Netherlands, where up to 62 percent of the Dutch electorate was poised to vote no, according to a poll published Tuesday in the newspaper De Volkskrant.

Dutch voters have some of the same complaints as the French, including the fear of losing rights and benefits in a more powerful Europe.

A Dutch rejection of the constitution, after France's no vote on Sunday, is likely to kill the constitution, at least in its present form, because it requires approval by all 25 European Union members.

In a sign of increased anxiety about the future of Europe, the euro fell again after Mr. Chirac's announcement, sinking to an eight-month low of about $1.23 in trading on Tuesday before rising again.

Underscoring his struggles in the past two years of his presidency, Mr. Chirac also announced in his address that he was appointing a political foe, Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of the governing center-right party, to a crucial cabinet post with the honorary title of minister of state.

Mr. Sarkozy, 50, who is the most popular politician on the right and was a leading candidate for the prime minister's job, is widely expected to also be appointed interior minister. He has already held that post, considered the most important job after the prime minister.

Late last year in a fit of pique, Mr. Chirac forced Mr. Sarkozy to resign from his job as finance minister after he decided to run for the leadership of their party as a springboard for his bid for the presidency in 2007.

As for the 51-year-old Mr. de Villepin, Mr. Chirac explained that he had been chosen because he had "the necessary authority, competence and experience."

More than that, however, the appointment seemed based on trust.

Mr. de Villepin, a former career diplomat who writes poetry and long tomes on figures like Napoleon in his spare time, has never served in an elected office and has little experience managing the French economy.

But he served as Mr. Chirac's closest adviser in the first seven years of his presidency, and Mr. Chirac once described him as "a little like a son."

Still, the choice of Mr. de Villepin sends the signal that Mr. Chirac has not heard the message of the millions of voters who rejected the constitution to protest the government's failure to improve the economy and out of fear that they would lose generous but costly social benefits.

"De Villepin has shown he is capable of making big, huge speeches about the world, but not with dealing with economic files," said Roland Cayrol, the research director of the National Foundation of Political Sciences and the director of the CSA Polling Institute, in a telephone interview. "He has not spoken out on economics or even social matters, so he is a big question mark."

In a ceremony transferring power in the courtyard of the prime minister's office, Mr. de Villepin praised Mr. Raffarin for his "exemplary courage" and "the important, difficult reforms that were indispensable for the recovery of our country," but he said nothing about his own plan of action.

At a moment when polls show that the workers, farmers and low-level civil servants voted decisively against the elite, Mr. Chirac has picked a man with a noble-sounding name who wears monogrammed shirts, carries a Gucci briefcase and holds a degree from the most elite school in France, the École Nationale d'Administration.

Political figures on both ends of the spectrum faulted the appointment.

"This is the worst choice the president could have made," said Jean-Pierre Kucheida, the Socialist mayor of Liévin, in a telephone interview. "It's nobility that's coming back. It is the old regime in power. The referendum was a cry of despair, of sadness, an enormous protest that could end up on the streets. The president was discredited. He should have resigned."

Liévin is a former mining city in northern France that has 25 percent unemployment. On Sunday, 78 percent of the voters there cast ballots against the constitution.

The Green Party said that with the nomination, "Jacques Chirac insults the French."

Even politicians from Mr. Chirac's center-right Union for a Popular Movement were reserved in their comments.

"It's true that it would have been preferable if Mr. de Villepin had rubbed up against voters," said Jean-Paul Fournier, the center-right mayor of the southern city of Nîmes, in a telephone interview.

Mr. de Villepin could not be more different from his predecessor, Mr. Raffarin. A rumpled, self-described "bumpkin from the provinces" who started out in life as a wholesale coffee merchant, Mr. Raffarin served as a senator, the president of the regional council and a member of the European Parliament from the farming region of Poitou-Charentes in southwestern France.

How Mr. de Villepin will be able to succeed where Mr. Raffarin failed is unclear. As a result of the defeat of the referendum, Mr. de Villepin may feel pressured to increase spending on social services to boost the government's popularity, widening the budget deficit.

Even though the French prime minister does not deal with foreign policy, the appointment of Mr. de Villepin is likely to deepen the Bush administration's suspicions about France.

As foreign minister, he enraged the Bush administration, particularly former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, with his relentless criticism of the American-led war and occupation in Iraq and his vision of a new activist, romantic vision of the world in which France would regain the centrality it lost long ago.

Mr. Powell and Mr. de Villepin initially had a good relationship, which unraveled at the time of a Security Council forum on terrorism in January 2003 demanded by the French in the prelude to the Iraq war.

In Mr. Powell's eyes, the meeting turned into a forum to slam Washington, when, without warning, Mr. de Villepin declared in a news conference that "Nothing! Nothing!" justified war. Mr. Powell felt betrayed.

The following month, Mr. de Villepin's impassioned speech in the Council arguing that war should be a last resort was greeted with applause from the audience - and even more anger from Washington.

Once described in the French magazine Le Point as "a silver wolf with burning eyes," Mr. de Villepin made no secret that he felt constrained in his 14 months as interior minister, a job that required him to do things like honor policemen and fine-tune immigration policy rather than travel to the capitals of the world.

Unlike Mr. Chirac, a natural politician who draws energy from mingling with the crowds, Mr. de Villepin seems ill at ease among France's rank and file.

Mr. Chirac's move reflects a circling-the-wagons strategy. He could have chosen Mr. Sarkozy, the former interior and finance minister, who was the first choice of the French for the job in opinion surveys after the vote on Sunday.

But Mr. Chirac and Mr. Sarkozy are openly contemptuous of each other. Mr. Sarkozy threw his support behind Mr. Chirac's rival, Édouard Balladur, in the 1995 campaign for president. And he has repeatedly criticized Mr. Chirac, suggesting openly that he is too old to run for a third term in 2007.

Mr. Sarkozy does not seem to have much respect for Mr. de Villepin, either. Without mentioning him by name, Mr. Sarkozy said in a campaign appearance for the referendum last week in Nice, "Those who have the right to speak in the name of France are those who once in their lives have faced a direct election by the people and who, better yet, who have managed to win their trust."

On Tuesday, however, Mr. Sarkozy was gracious. "I will assume my responsibility and my duties," he told a meeting of Parliament members from his party. "What would you say if I decided to stand by and watch the ship sink?"

Hélène Fouquet contributed reporting for this article.

N.Y. Times > 'Deep Throat' Unmasks Himself as Ex-No. 2 Official at F.B.I.

June 1, 2005
'Deep Throat' Unmasks Himself as Ex-No. 2 Official at F.B.I.
WASHINGTON, May 31 - Deep Throat, the mystery man who reigned as Washington's best-kept secret source for more than 30 years, was not just any shadowy, cigarette-smoking tipster in a raincoat. He was the No. 2 official of the F.B.I., W. Mark Felt, who helped The Washington Post unravel the Watergate scandal and the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, a feat that he lived to see disclosed on Tuesday, frail but smiling at 91.
In a final plot twist worthy of the saga that Mr. Felt helped to spawn, Vanity Fair magazine released an article from its July issue reporting that Mr. Felt, long a prime suspect to Nixon himself, had in recent years confided to his family and friends, "I'm the guy they used to call 'Deep Throat.' "
Within hours - after Mr. Felt himself, in failing health since suffering a stroke in 2001, appeared in the doorway of his daughter's home in Santa Rosa, Calif. - The Post confirmed his role. He was the official who encouraged its reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to follow the trail from the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington to the highest levels of the Nixon administration.
Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein initially declined to confirm the Vanity Fair article, believing they had promised Mr. Felt unconditional confidentiality till his death. Meanwhile, The Post, which had guarded the secret as closely as the formula for Coca-Cola, suddenly found itself scrambling to deal with a monthly magazine's scoop of the final footnote to the biggest story in its history.
"It's been The Post's story forever," said Tom Wilkinson, an assistant managing editor of the paper, "and you never like to see those things go to somebody else."
Mr. Felt spent more than 30 years at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a protégé of its legendary director, J. Edgar Hoover, and was bitterly disappointed after Hoover's death in May 1972 - a month before the Watergate break-in - that Nixon went outside the agency for a new chief. In the past, he repeatedly denied being Deep Throat, and his family said he had been torn about whether to reveal his role and about whether his actions were appropriate for a law enforcement officer.
Indeed, some old Nixon hands like Patrick J. Buchanan, the onetime presidential speechwriter, and G. Gordon Liddy, a convicted Watergate conspirator, reacted to the disclosure of his identity with derision that a top government official would pass word of possible crimes to Mr. Woodward rather than to a prosecutor.
The Post's articles eventually led to Congressional investigations, a special criminal prosecutor, an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives and Nixon's resignation in the face of probable conviction by the Senate.
Mr. Felt's grandson Nick Jones, a 23-year-old law student, read a statement on his family's behalf on Tuesday, explaining, "As he recently told my mother, 'I guess people used to think Deep Throat was a criminal, but now they think he's a hero.' " Mr. Jones added that his grandfather believed that "the men and women of the F.B.I. who have put their lives at risk for more than 50 years to keep this country safe deserve more recognition than he."
Mr. Felt later appeared and spoke briefly to reporters, saying: "Hey, look at that. We appreciate you coming out like this."
Deep Throat began life as someone Mr. Woodward described only as "my friend," but he was rechristened by a Post editor in honor of the pornographic film of that name that was then a national sensation. Over the years, the list of possible real-life counterparts for the shadowy figure Hal Holbrook played in the film of Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein's best-selling book, "All The President's Men," has ranged widely - and often improbably - including Henry Kissinger and the first President George Bush, who was then ambassador to the United Nations.
But much of the most serious and informed speculation has long centered on the F.B.I., and on Mr. Felt, who was convicted in 1980 on unrelated charges of authorizing government agents to break into homes secretly, without warrants, in a search for anti-Vietnam War bombing suspects from the radical Weather Underground in 1972 and 1973. Five months later, President Ronald Reagan pardoned him on the grounds that he had "acted on high principle to bring an end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation."
In 1992, on the 20th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, the journalist James Mann cited Mr. Felt as a suspect in an article for The Atlantic Monthly, in which he theorized that Deep Throat's motive was to defend the nation from another kind of threat: to the institutional power, prerogatives and integrity of the F.B.I., which under Hoover had spent decades telling presidents what to do. Suddenly, veterans like Mr. Felt were being told what to do by the Nixon White House, and did not like it.
Mr. Woodward, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment, confirmed as much in comments to The Post's Web site on Tuesday. He said he had decided to confirm his source's identity, despite his concerns that Mr. Felt might not be competent enough to release him from his 33-year-old pledge of confidentiality.
"There's a principle involved," Mr. Bernstein said in a telephone interview from New York, before The Post's confirmation. "Reporters may be going to jail today for upholding that principle, and we don't and won't belittle it now."
The reality may be a bit more complex. The Vanity Fair article, written by a Felt family friend and lawyer, John D. O'Connor, portrays a polite but persistent dialogue between the Felt family and Mr. Woodward in recent years over who should control the rights (and benefits) to such a sensational story.
In encouraging her father to tell his own story, Mr. Felt's daughter, Joan, spoke of the money it might make to help pay tuition bills for her children. For his part, the article says, Mr. Woodward, who has built a lucrative career as a best-selling author, had expressed repeated concerns about whether Mr. Felt, his memory fading and faculties diminished, was really in a position to understand what he was doing.
Told by Mr. Felt's daughter that her father seemed to have unusually clear memories of him, Mr. Woodward, the Vanity Fair article says, simply responded: "He has good reason to remember me."
The Watergate tapes disclosed that Nixon himself had singled out Mr. Felt for special suspicion, once asking his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, "Is he a Catholic?" Mr. Haldeman replied that Mr. Felt, who is of Irish descent, was Jewish, and Nixon, who often liked to see Jews at the root of his troubles, replied: "It could be the Jewish thing. I don't know. It's always a possibility."
William D. Ruckelshaus, who resigned as Nixon's deputy attorney general rather than fire the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in 1973, said Tuesday that he had often wondered whether Deep Throat was a composite, simply because of the sheer amount of information he seemed to know about the extent of the Watergate conspiracy.
But Mr. Ruckelshaus noted that Mr. Felt had access to the voluminous F.B.I. interview files, some 1,500 in all, in the agency's investigation into the Watergate affair. "He would see all the agent interviews - they would come through his office - so he would have been privy to an awful lot of information," he said.
Indeed, more than 30 years ago, well before he and Mr. Bernstein had become household names and Deep Throat a legend, Mr. Woodward tantalizingly told the writer Timothy Crouse, in his 1972 campaign book, "The Boys on the Bus," that they had "got somebody at the Justice Department to say, 'Yeah, this whole damn thing is a Haldeman operation,' " directed from the White House, but that the source had said, "We'll never get him and you'll never get him."
In "All The President's Men," Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein paint Deep Throat as a colorful character, steeped in the Washington of an earlier time, "an incurable gossip, careful to label rumor for what it was, but fascinated by it." They added: "He could be rowdy, drink too much, overreach. He was not good at concealing his feelings, hardly ideal for a man in his position. Of late, he had expressed fear for the future of the executive branch, which he was in a unique position to observe."
In the current climate of public skepticism about the use of anonymous sources in journalism, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein went out of their way in their statement yesterday to note that "many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate."
But Mr. Bernstein, in a second telephone interview after their confirmation, said: "This is a case history and a case lesson of why it is so important that we have confidential sources. If you were to look back at the original stories, I think hardly any of them had named sources. There's no way this reporting could have been done, nor is there any way that good reporting at a lot of places can be done, without anonymous sources."
At least one prominent Washingtonian expressed a slight nostalgia that the mystery had been solved.
"I mean, I always suspected it, but I never asked," said Sally Quinn, whose husband, Benjamin C. Bradlee, the former executive editor of The Post, was until Tuesday one of only four people publicly known to know the truth. "First of all, I didn't want to be rejected, and I knew he wouldn't tell me. And I knew that if somebody else blabbed, I would get blamed.
Mr. Bradlee himself told The Post that while he had known Deep Throat was a senior F.B.I. official during the investigation he learned his name only after Nixon resigned.
Ms. Quinn added: "There's been a certain mystique about the story that will not be there any more. Everybody loves a secret that can be kept. Deep Throat has become this living legend, like Camelot. And now it isn't anymore."

Monday, May 30, 2005

French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution - New York Times

French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution - New York TimesMay 30, 2005
French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution

PARIS, May 29 - Turning its back on half a century of European history, France decisively rejected a constitution for Europe on Sunday, plunging the country into political disarray and jeopardizing the cause of European unity.

The victory for the no vote - 55 percent to 45 percent - came in a nationwide referendum on the European Union constitution after a bruising campaign that divided France and alarmed Europe.

Foreshadowed in recent polls, the no vote could doom the 448-article treaty because all 25 members of the European Union must ratify it before it can take effect.

The rejection could signal an abrupt halt to the expansion and unification of Europe, a process that has been met with growing disillusionment among the wealthier European Union members as needier countries like Bulgaria and Poland have negotiated their entry.

President Jacques Chirac, who had predicted France's isolation in Europe if the constitution was rejected, smiled stiffly as he struggled to mask his disappointment.

"The decision of France inevitably creates a difficult situation for the defense of our interests in Europe," he said in a brief statement broadcast live on television. Hinting at possible cabinet changes, he added, "I will tell you in the very next days my decisions regarding the government and its priorities."

Early this month, Mr. Chirac had vowed not to change his government if the referendum failed, saying it was "neither a plebiscite nor a moment of political change."

But the vote, which made France the first country to reject the treaty, has deeply wounded the French president. More than 50 years ago, France was a founding member of the six-country precursor to the current European Union. Mr. Chirac had assumed that through the constitution, a document similar in some ways to the Constitution that binds the United States, France could promote a stronger, more unified Europe that could project not only economic but also political power around the world. He repeatedly spoke of a "multipolar world" with Europe as one of the poles counter-balancing the United States.

After the vote, some extreme opponents of the constitution called for Mr. Chirac to resign.

"We are tonight before a major political crisis," said Philippe de Villiers, head of the right-wing Movement for France and a vocal lobbyist against the constitution. He added that Mr. Chirac had two choices: resignation "given the fact that he had been so personally involved" or the dissolution of Parliament.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front, faulted Mr. Chirac for threatening the French with "chaos" if they voted no, adding, "He isn't qualified, it seems to me, to remain as the head of the country."

About 70 percent of France's registered 41.8 million voters cast ballots, a high turnout on a Sunday that was also Mother's Day here. Throughout the day in Paris, electronic billboards all across town said: "Don't let the others decide for you. Go vote."

Pollsters said the rejection reflected French voters' anger at the 72-year-old president and his center-right government for failing to improve the country's troubled economy, as well as fear that the treaty would erode France's generous cradle-to-grave social safety net.

The debate had been colored by fear of the mythical "Polish plumber," the worker from recent European Union members from the East who is increasingly free to move West and willing to work for lower pay than Frenchmen.

Proponents of the "no" fueled voters with fear of a more powerful European Union where France no longer has influence, and of an increasingly "Anglo-Saxon" and "ultraliberal" Europe where free-market capitalism runs wild.

France's rejection makes it more likely that the Netherlands, where polls show that 60 percent of voters plan to reject the constitution, will vote no in the referendum there on Wednesday. Nine other European Union members have approved it.

The Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, called on voters to approve the constitution despite France's rejection, saying: "There is all the more reason to say yes so that some progress can be recorded with the constitutional treaty. Each country has its own responsibility."

The constitution is essentially a vehicle to streamline decision-making in the expanded 25-member bloc and a blueprint for the next stage of its growth and unification. It eliminates the six-month rotating European Union presidency, creating a president with a maximum five-year term; details a list of basic rights; and determines what functions, such as issuing visas or making rules on immigration, will be governed by the European Union headquarters in Brussels and what others, like foreign policy and defense, will remain with member states.

It is conceivable that the constitution could be voted on by the French again or even revised, although the process would be cumbersome.

Even without the constitution, the European Union will go on as before under existing treaties.

But the vote stalls the forward momentum of Europe and makes it more vulnerable to economic and political uncertainty. It could paralyze decision-making in the European Union for months, complicate the process of admitting new members, and make it even more difficult to impose discipline on members' spending and inflation levels.

European officials quickly expressed anxiety over the ramifications of the vote.

The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, declined to say if Britain would proceed with a popular vote on the constitution next year. "This raises profound questions for all of us about the direction of Europe," he told reporters. "What we want now is a period of reflection."

In Germany, which has approved the constitution, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called the French rejection "a blow for the constitutional process, but not the end of it." In a gesture of solidarity with his French counterpart, he added, "It is also not the end of the German-French partnership in and for Europe."

Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, who currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, insisted the ratification process must proceed in other countries.

This is the 10th time in the France's 47-year-old Fifth Republic that citizens have been called by the president to vote in a referendum.

The only other rejection was in 1969, when de Gaulle proposed a measure to renovate the Senate, create regions and seek support after the student uprisings of May 1968. De Gaulle pledged to leave office if the "no" won, and when it did by a small margin, he resigned the next day.

While Mr. Chirac said he would not resign, there has been intense speculation, even in his party, and the media in recent weeks that rejection of the constitution would prompt him to fire Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, whose popularity is at an abysmal 21 percent.

Dominique de Villepin, the interior minister and former foreign minister, is considered a front-runner to replace Mr. Raffarin, and one close confidante said Mr. de Villepin had been quietly assembling a staff and anticipating a cabinet shuffle.

Other contenders include Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of Mr. Chirac's party but also Mr. Chirac's political foe.

The referendum polarized France, with extremes of both the left and the right aligning in the no bloc and the center-right and most of the Socialist Party in the yes camp.

The schism was borne out in and around Paris, where wealthy neighborhoods seemed to vote yes, while poor neighborhoods voted no.

At a preschool turned polling place in the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly, 83 percent voted yes. That is the territory of Mr. Sarkozy, who was once mayor there.

"It's like building a house, you don't stop halfway," said Omar Bentchakal, the retired head of a small painting company, as he cast his ballot there. "It would be unfortunate if we were the country who laid the first stone, but that we wouldn't be there to put in the last one, that we're not following through. I would be hurt, really, if we voted no."

At the polling place at the Karl Marx primary school in downtown Bobigny, a working-class suburb of Paris, by contrast, there was no sense that Europe's future hinged on the constitution.

With 18 percent unemployment and a large ethnic Arab and African population, 72 percent of the voters there said no.

Bernard Birsinger, the suburb's Communist mayor, accused Mr. Chirac of fear-mongering and dissembling when he predicted political and economic doom for France if the country rejected the constitution.

"We are already in a Europe of unemployment and regression," said Mr. Birsinger, adding, "We know that the destiny of France is not threatened."

For him, this was a moment to say no to authority, just as the French did in the 1789 revolution.

"Happily, certain people rose up and said no," he said. "They didn't ask the king for permission to make a revolution."

Hélène Fouquet and Ariane Bernard contributed reporting for this article.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Day After Nuclear Deal, Iran Is Cleared to Start W.T.O. Process - New York Times

Day After Nuclear Deal, Iran Is Cleared to Start W.T.O. Process - New York TimesMay 26, 2005
Day After Nuclear Deal, Iran Is Cleared to Start W.T.O. Process
International Herald Tribune

GENEVA, May 26 - Members of the World Trade Organization agreed today to allow Iran to begin membership talks, with the United States dropping its opposition after Tehran promised to continue its freeze on nuclear activities.

The opportunity to join the body, which sets global trade rules, is likely to be seen as a reward to Iran for its pledge to European negotiators Wednesday not to push ahead with threats to restart its nuclear enrichment program.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and German met with the Iranians in Geneva on Wednesday. A European Union negotiator had said that no specific incentives were brought up at the meeting, but that the Europeans agreed to present Iran with detailed proposals by early August at the latest on how to move toward consensus on Iran's nuclear program.

In Paris last November, Iran agreed to suspend all of its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities while it negotiated the economic, nuclear, political and security benefits it would receive.

Mohammad Reza Alborzi, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said at a closed-door session of the trade group's General Council, "Today, this house, with this decision, has done service to itself by correcting a wrong,"

He added: "We have a forward-looking approach to our accession process. Iran has substantive and extensive trade relations with nearly all states present here."

Mr. Alborzi also played down any connection between the trade membership talks and the nuclear talks.

"We don't see it that way, and I don't think that the W.T.O. sees it that way," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Trade issues are trade issues."

But before the meeting today, the news agency also quoted a senior official in Washington as saying the Americans would not block Iran's membership bid "in support of the diplomacy of our European friends."

The United States trade representative to the trade organization, Linnet Deily, attended the meeting today of the W.T.O.'s General Council, where the decision was made.

Neither Ms. Deily nor other American trade representatives in Washington or Brussels were available for comment.

The United States, which accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, has vetoed its efforts to join the trade group since its first application in 1996.

But the United States softened that position earlier this year, saying it would support Iran's entry and consider sales of commercial aircraft parts if Iran permanently stopped uranium enrichment.

The trade organization agreed to set up a working group to look further into Iran's possible membership, said Fabien Delcros, a spokesman for the European Commission's mission to the group, who was at the meeting. No time frame was set for the talks, he added.

A number of other countries, including Russia, are also on the waiting list to join the trade group, a process that can take years. It took China, which joined in 2001, more than 15 years of talks before becoming a member. The process has always taken at least three years, the group said.

The 148 member states of the General Council make decisions by consensus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Wormhole 'no use' for time travel

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Wormhole 'no use' for time travel Wormhole 'no use' for time travel
By Paul Rincon
BBC News science reporter

For budding time travellers, the future (or should that be the past?) is starting to look bleak.

Hypothetical tunnels called wormholes once looked like the best bet for constructing a real time machine.

These cosmic shortcuts, which link one point in the Universe to another, are favoured by science fiction writers as a means both of explaining time travel and of circumventing the limitations imposed by the speed of light.

The concept of wormholes will be familiar to anyone who has watched the TV programmes Farscape, Stargate SG1 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The opening sequence of the BBC's new Doctor Who series shows the Tardis hurtling through a "vortex" that suspiciously resembles a wormhole - although the Doctor's preferred method of travel is not explained in detail.

But the idea of building these so-called traversable wormholes is looking increasingly shaky, according to two new scientific analyses.

Remote connection

A common analogy used to visualise these phenomena involves marking two holes at opposite ends of a sheet of paper, to represent distant points in the Universe. One can then bend the paper over so that the two remote points are positioned on top of each other.

[The wormholes] you would like to build - the predictable ones where you can say Mr Spock will land in New York at 2pm on this day - those look like they will fall apart
Stephen Hsu, University of Oregon
If it were possible to contort space-time in this way, a person might step through a wormhole and emerge at a remote time or distant location.

The person would pass through a region of the wormhole called the throat, which flares out on either side.

According to one idea, a wormhole could be kept open by filling its throat, or the region around it, with an ingredient called exotic matter.

This is strange stuff indeed, and explaining it requires scientists to look beyond the laws of classical physics to the world of quantum mechanics.

Exotic matter is repelled, rather than attracted, by gravity and is said to have negative energy - meaning it has even less than empty space.

Law breaker

But according to a new study by Stephen Hsu and Roman Buniy, of the University of Oregon, US, this method of building a traversable wormhole may be fatally flawed. In a paper published on the arXiv pre-print server, the authors looked at a kind of wormhole in which the space-time "tube" shows only weak deviations from the laws of classical physics.

These "semi-classical" wormholes are the most desirable type for time travel because they potentially allow travellers to predict where and when they would emerge.

Wormholes entirely governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, on the other hand, would likely transport their payloads to an undesired time and place.

Calculations by the Oregon researchers show a wormhole that combines exotic matter with semi-classical space-time would be fundamentally unstable.

This result relies in part on a previous paper in which Hsu and Buniy argued that systems which violate a physical principle known as the null energy condition become unstable.

"We aren't saying you can't build a wormhole. But the ones you would like to build - the predictable ones where you can say Mr Spock will land in New York at 2pm on this day - those look like they will fall apart," Dr Hsu said.

Tight squeeze

A separate study by Chris Fewster, of the University of York, UK, and Thomas Roman, of Central Connecticut State University, US, takes a different approach to tackling the question of wormholes.

Amongst other things, their analysis deals with the proposal that wormhole throats could be kept open using arbitrarily small amounts of exotic matter.

Fewster and Roman calculated that, even if it were possible to build such a wormhole, its throat would probably be too small for time travel.

It might - in theory - be possible to carefully fine-tune the geometry of the wormhole so that the wormhole throat became big enough for a person to fit through, says Fewster.

But building a wormhole with a throat radius big enough to just fit a proton would require fine-tuning to within one part in 10 to the power of 30. A human-sized wormhole would require fine-tuning to within one part in 10 to the power of 60.

"Frankly no engineer is going to be able to do that," said the York researcher.

The authors are currently preparing a manuscript for publication.

Supporting view

However, there is still support for the idea of traversable wormholes in the scientific community. One physicist told BBC News there could be problems with Hsu's and Buniy's conclusions.

"Violations of the null energy condition are known to occur in a number of situations. And their argument would prohibit any violation of it," the scientist commented.

"If that's true, then don't worry about Hawking radiation from a black hole; the entire black hole vacuum becomes unstable."

The underlying physics of wormholes was not in doubt, the researcher argued. The real challenge was in explaining how to engineer wormholes big enough to be of practical use.

Cambridge astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is amongst those researchers who have pondered the question of wormholes.

In the 1980s, he argued that something fundamental in the laws of physics would prevent wormholes being used for time travel. This idea forms the basis of Hawking's Chronology Protection Conjecture.

Saturday, May 21, 2005 - NBA - Kareem to teach finer points of trash talk in Shanghai - NBA - Kareem to teach finer points of trash talk in ShanghaiSkyhook, intimidation part of Jabbar 'curriculum'
Assocaited Press

SHANGHAI, China -- Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is on a mission to teach trash talking in Shanghai.

The NBA's career scoring leader will lead a camp exploring cultural differences between American and Asian players. Along with teaching his famous skyhook, Abdul-Jabbar will touch on using language to intimidate opponents.

Chinese players Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets and Wang Zhizhi of the Miami Heat came from a basketball tradition that is less physical and more team-oriented, and needed some guidance to get used to the more individualistic, aggressive American style of play.

Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks and the Desmond Mason of the Milwaukee Bucks will join Abdul-Jabbar in the camp, which begins Saturday. Players, coaches and psychologists hope to use the experience of Yao to prepare Asian players for real-life situations. Campers will also learn about footwork, rebounding, nutrition and mental preparation.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Kashmir solution 'within grasp'

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Kashmir solution 'within grasp' Kashmir solution 'within grasp'
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said a solution to the dispute over Kashmiris within the grasp of himself and the Indian leader, Manmohan Singh.

He was speaking at the concluding session in Islamabad of a meeting of South Asian parliamentarians.

"We must grasp a fleeting moment," Gen Musharraf told reporters afterwards.

At least four Indian soldiers were killed on Friday in Indian-administered Kashmir. More than 40,000 people have died in 14 years of insurgency.


"I personally feel it [Kashmir's solution] should be done within the tenures of [Indian] Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and myself," Mr Musharraf said in Islamabad.

"Since I believe that this harmony exists between us two, I strongly believe - if we really are sincere about reaching a final peace - it would be more possible that it is reached between us two."

Bush resolute on stem cell restrictions - The Boston Globe - - Nation - News

Bush resolute on stem cell restrictions - The Boston Globe - - Nation - NewsBush resolute on stem cell restrictions
Vows to veto bills that would ease limits on funding

By Deb Riechmann, Associated Press | May 21, 2005

WASHINGTON -- President Bush condemned stem-cell research advances in South Korea yesterday and said he worried about living in a world in which human cloning was condoned. He said he would veto any legislation aimed at loosening limits on federal support.

''I'm very concerned about cloning," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. ''I worry about a world in which cloning becomes acceptable."

''I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is -- I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it."

Republicans in Congress are sharply divided over the stem cell issue, which could lead to the first veto of Bush's presidency. The president's comments were aimed at putting the brakes on a bill gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.

That bill would lift Bush's ban on using federal dollars to do research on embryonic stem-cell lines developed after August 2001. The president's veto threat drew immediate reaction from the sponsors of the bipartisan bill, Representatives Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, and Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado.

Castle said the legislation would not allow the cloning of embryos or embryo destruction. Instead, it would let government-funded researchers work with stem cells culled from embryos left over from fertility treatments.

''The bottom line is when a couple has decided to discard their excess embryos, they are either going to be discarded as medical waste, or they can be donated for research," Castle said.

DeGette said: ''It's disappointing that the president would threaten to use his first veto on a bill that holds promise for cures to diseases that affect millions of Americans. Support for expanding federal stem-cell research in an ethical manner remains strong in Congress."

Stem cells are building blocks for every tissue in the body. Supporters of embryonic stem-cell research, including Nancy Reagan, say it could lead to cures for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other degenerative brain and nerve diseases.

Bush supports research on adult stem cells, but placed a ban on using federal money to do research on the embryonic stem cells created after August 2001. These stem cells are extracted from days-old embryos, which are destroyed in the process. Bush and some religious and conservative groups who believe life begins at conception say they are offended by the research and don't think tax money should be used to finance it.

Some House Republicans are throwing their weight behind an alternative bill that would encourage stem cell research that uses blood from umbilical cords. Extracting stem cells from cord blood does not require the destruction of an embryo.

Trent Duffy, White House deputy press secretary, said the administration is looking favorably at that bill, too, but he stopped short of endorsing the legislation. Researchers, however, said stem cells created from the blood of umbilical cords grow into fewer types of tissues, and it is unclear whether they will be as flexible in research as the embryonic.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who is undergoing chemotherapy in his battle against Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph system, is pushing stem cell legislation with Senators Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. The three said their bill would make reproductive cloning, to produce a baby, a crime punishable by up to 10 years. But they want to allow for cloning for the purpose of obtaining stem cells to be used in treating disease.

Amid the controversy in Washington, Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University announced Thursday that he again had successfully cloned human embryos -- this time extracting stem cells from embryos created using the DNA of sick and injured patients. It was the second time in a little more than a year that Hwang had successfully cloned human embryos.

Other governments see the promise of stem cell research and are poised to take advantage of it, said Dr. Janet Rowley of the University of Chicago, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and coauthor of recent national ethics guidelines for stem cell research.

''We in the United States, again because of ideology, are sitting back and watching," she said, adding that she hoped the South Korean work would pressure Congress to take a ''more responsible position on federal support for the use and investigation of human embryonic stem-cell lines."

Bush began his day yesterday at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, where he reaffirmed his position on sensitive issues such as abortion and stem cell research. He urged people to ''pray that America uses the gift of freedom to build a culture of life."

And the president recalled the legacy of the late Pope John Paul II, saying, ''The best way to honor this great champion of human freedom is to continue to build a culture of life where the strong protect the weak."

The Birmingham News > Koreans develop recipe for cloning

Koreans develop recipe for cloningKoreans develop recipe for cloning
Human embryos created to harvest stem cells
Saturday, May 21, 2005
New York Times News Service

In what scientists say is a stunning leap forward, a team of South Korean researchers has developed a highly efficient recipe for producing human embryos by cloning and then extracting their stem cells.

Writing today in the journal Science, they report that they used their method to produce 11 human stem cells lines that are genetic matches of 11 patients ages 2 to 56.

Previously, the same group, led by Dr. Woo Suk Hwang and Dr. Shin Yong Moon of Seoul National University, produced a single stem cell line from a cloned embryo, but the process was so onerous that scientists said it was not worth trying to repeat it, and some doubted the South Koreans' report was even correct.

Plan to Let F.B.I. Track Mail in Terrorism Inquiries - New York Times

Plan to Let F.B.I. Track Mail in Terrorism Inquiries - New York TimesMay 21, 2005
Plan to Let F.B.I. Track Mail in Terrorism Inquiries

WASHINGTON, May 20 - The F.B.I. would gain broad authority to track the mail of people in terror investigations under a Bush administration proposal, officials said Friday, but the Postal Service is already raising privacy concerns about the plan.

The proposal, to be considered next week in a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would allow the bureau to direct postal inspectors to turn over the names, addresses and all other material appearing on the outside of letters sent to or from people connected to foreign intelligence investigations.

The plan would effectively eliminate the postal inspectors' discretion in deciding when so-called mail covers are needed and give sole authority to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if it determines that the material is "relevant to an authorized investigation to obtain foreign intelligence," according to a draft of the bill.

The proposal would not allow the bureau to open mail or review its content. Such a move would require a search warrant, officials said.

The Intelligence Committee has not publicly released the proposal, but a draft was obtained by The New York Times.

The provision is part of a broader package that also strengthens the bureau's power to demand business records in intelligence investigations without approval by a judge or grand jury.

The proposals reflect efforts by the administration and Senate Republicans to bolster and, in some ways, broaden the power of the bureau to fight terrorism, even as critics are seeking to scale back its authority under the law known as the USA Patriot Act.

A debate over the government's terrorism powers is to begin in earnest at a session of the Intelligence Committee on Thursday, in what is shaping up as a heated battle over the balance between fighting terrorism and protecting civil rights in the post-Sept. 11 era.

The F.B.I. has conducted mail covers for decades in criminal and national security investigations. But the prospect of expanding its authority to monitor mailings alarmed some privacy and civil rights advocates and caused concerns among postal officials, as well. They said the proposal caught them off guard.

"This is a major step," the chief privacy officer for the Postal Service, Zoe Strickland, said. "From a privacy perspective, you want to make sure that the right balance is struck between protecting people's mail and aiding law enforcement, and this legislation could impact that balance negatively."

The new proposal "removes discretion from the Postal Inspection Service as to how the mail covers are implemented," Ms. Strickland said in an interview. "I worry quite a bit about the balance being struck here, and we're quite mystified as to how this got put in the legislation."

Officials on the Intelligence Committee said the legislation was intended to make the F.B.I. the sole arbiter of when a mail cover should be conducted, after complaints that undue interference from postal inspectors had slowed operations.

"The F.B.I. would be able to control its own investigations of terrorists and spies, and the postal service would have to comply with those requests," said an aide to the Intelligence Committee who is involved in the proposal but insisted on anonymity because the proposal remains confidential.

"The postmaster general shouldn't be able to substitute his judgment for that of the director of the F.B.I. on national security matters," the aide said.

The proposal would generally prevent the post office from disclosing a mail cover. It would also require the Justice Department to report to Congress twice a year on the number of times the power had been used.

Civil rights advocates said they thought that the proposal went too far.

"Prison wardens may be able to monitor their prisoners' mail," said Lisa Graves, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, "but ordinary Americans shouldn't be treated as prisoners in their own country."

Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest group here, said the proposal "certainly opens the door to abuse in our view."

"The Postal Service would be losing its ability to act as a check on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers," Ms. Hofmann said.

Postal officials refused to provide a tally of mail covers, saying the information was confidential. They said the Postal Service had not formally rejected any requests from the bureau in recent years.

A tally in 2000 said the Postal Service conducted 14,000 mail covers that year for a variety of law enforcement agencies, a sharp increase over the previous year.

The program has led to sporadic reports of abuse. In the mid-1970's the Church Committee, a Senate panel that documented C.I.A. abuses, faulted a program created in the 1950's in New York that used mail covers to trace and sometimes open mail going to the Soviet Union from the United States.

A suit brought in 1973 by a high school student in New Jersey, whose letter to the Socialist Workers Party was traced by the F.B.I. as part of an investigation
Taiwanese leader's approval rating drops despite election victory

TAIPEI : Taiwan pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian's approval rating has dropped to 33 percent from 43 percent a year ago when he was inaugurated for a second-term, a survey says.

Chen's disapproval rating rose to 51 percent from 42 percent, despite his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) election victory last Saturday, according to TVBS news channel, which conducted the poll Monday and Tuesday.

The rest of the 1,012 questioned had no comment.

Fifty-six percent of those polled said they were dissatisfied with Chen's handling of ties with China following landmark visits to the mainland by two opposition leaders.

Some 27 percent supported the president, who wants to maintain the island's sovereignty and has rejected Beijing's insistence that there is only "one China," of which Taiwan is a part.

Chen's DPP won the weekend election of the 300-member National Assembly, garnering 127 seats to the main opposition Kuomintang's 117 in a record low turnout of 23 percent.

Kuomintang leader Lien Chan and People First Party head James Soong recently visited China at Beijing's invitation in a high-profile bid analysts said was to undermine support for independence-leaning Chen.

The two said their visits were meant to bridge differences between the two rival governments and pave the way for peace talks.

The TVBS poll found 47 percent of respondents were satisfied with Lien's performance in dealing with China while 38 percent unhappy. The approval rate for Soong was 35 percent against a disapproval of 50 percent.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory even though the island has been ruled as a de facto independent state since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Cross-strait relations have been strained since Chen first won power in 2000 on a platform stressing Taiwan's independent identity and denouncing China's missile build-up targeting the island.

He was re-elected last year. - AFP /ch

CBS 46 Atlanta - Atlanta crime drops in last year

CBS 46 Atlanta - Atlanta crime drops in last yearAtlanta crime drops in last year
May 20, 2005, 4:38 PM

ATLANTA (WGCL-TV) -- Atlanta police claim the city's becoming safer, and now they have the numbers to prove it.

According to a new crime report, the number of homicides are drastically down, nearly 50 percent, from March 2004 to March 2005.

Police also say rape, robbery and assaults are also down.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

CBS 46 Atlanta - UGA drops out of laptop program

CBS 46 Atlanta - UGA drops out of laptop programMarietta
UGA drops out of laptop program
May 19, 2005, 12:12 PM

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) -- The University of Georgia is no longer evaluating the Cobb County schools' laptop program, citing questions about its objectivity that could undermine the computer initiative. The university was Apple Computer's choice to evaluate the $70 million program, which eventually could give laptops to all teachers and to students in middle and high school.

University of Georgia's Learning and Performance Support Laboratory director Michael Hannafin, in a May 10 letter to Cobb Superintendent Joe Redden, said the group was dropping out of the review because the objectivity of the research lab had been questioned for several weeks. "While these concerns are baseless, it is nonetheless essential that the citizens of Cobb County have utmost confidence in the integrity of the evaluation," Hannafin wrote.

The laptop program "is a significant undertaking and should not be undermined by unwarranted distractions." Hannafin did not identify the source of the questioning, but said Cobb would be better served by starting over with an evaluation team whose objectivity would not be questioned.

"To me, it was an issue of where is the greater good served," Hannafin said. Before moving to the second or third phases of the program, the school system wanted a study on the issue.

Bids from Dell, IBM and Apple all included proposals for who would conduct a study on the program's effectiveness. Based on the number of computers provided, Apple agreed to pay $214,540 for the University of Georgia to study the program.

40 Years Later, Exhibition Revives Memory of Malcolm X - New York Times

40 Years Later, Exhibition Revives Memory of Malcolm X - New York TimesMay 19, 2005
40 Years Later, Exhibition Revives Memory of Malcolm X

His voice was silenced 40 years ago when he was shot and killed during a rally in New York City.

But today, the words of Malcolm X were heard and seen once again by hundreds of people at the opening of an exhibition of his recorded speeches, letters, photographs and personal items at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

The 250-item exhibition, "Malcolm X: A Search for the Truth," coincides with the 80th anniversary of his birth in Omaha.

It displays, for the first time, items that his family and organizers of the exhibition say will enable scholars to take a fresh look at the thinking and life of one of the most important black figures of the 20th century.

It is the most extensive personal record of Malcolm X's life and thought that has ever been made available to the public, Howard Dodson, chief of the Schomburg Center, said in an interview. "Because of that there are still a number of aspects of his life that are not fully known and fully appreciated," he said.

Within two hours of the opening of the exhibition, which runs through Dec. 31, several hundred people had visited. Students took turns reading aloud to each other from Malcolm X's letters from prison, while tourists looking at photos remarked at the construction of the buildings and dress of people attending rallies in Harlem in the 1960's that had been held not far from where the library is located.

Visitors also stood transfixed at a television screen playing, over and over again, excerpts from some of Malcolm X's speeches and debates.

Fight for justice, Malcolm X said in one scene, his head slightly down as he peered intently through his trademark dark-rimmed eyeglasses. "As long as there is a need to struggle and protest and fight," he said.

The timeline of Malcolm X's life, from his birth in Nebraska until his death at the Audubon ballroom on Feb. 21 , 1965, is fixed in frame after frame of black and white photographs, or scrawled in tidy penmanship in his letters.

They describe the days in the 1940's when he was involved in selling drugs and bootleg whiskey, his time in prison and the process of self-education and eventual conversion to the Nation of Islam. Beginning in 1953 he began preaching as a minister at temples in Detroit and Boston, eventually establishing his Temple 7 in New York.

Malcolm X's battered leather briefcase is enclosed in a glass case, next to copies of the Koran and his Bible, with notes scribbled on the margins. There are copies of his Arabic language practice worksheets, and letters home from Egypt in which he sends his best wishes to his wife, Betty Shabazz, and his daughters, using the Arabic greeting "Assalumu Aliakum."

Tyrone Guiles, a 42-year old man who works for a healthcare network, scanned Malcolm X's books and letters. "He taught us that color is not something to bind you," he said.

Eager faces of young black men and women, pressed up against police barriers while waiting for a 1961 rally on West 125th Street, peer into the camera in some of the black and white photographs that cover the walls of the exhibition hall.

"That is me," said Earl Harley, 69, who makes belt buckles, as he picked himself out of the crowd in one of the photographs.

He began to cry.

"He taught us to be fair and honest," he said. "To keep our heads up."

The eager faces of the marchers contrast with the somber expressions in another photograph, of mourners waiting in line to view his body in an open casket in 1965.

One of them was Alethia Ford, 63, who wraps gifts at Bloomingdale's, and recalled the day she stood on that same line with her toddler son, Ricky.

"His killing took a lot away from us," she said, looking up at the picture. "But I have what he taught me in here," she said, her hand over her heart.

There are pictures of the scene in the ballroom where he was shot, the ripped business card that was in his breast pocket at the time, a copy of the autopsy report and the retrieved shell casings that felled him at the age of 39.

Jeffrey Cousino, a 33 year old graduate student in international relations at Yale University, read Malcolm X's prison letters through a glass case.

"His message transcends race," he said. "He had a desire to look beyond his immediate world view."

Japan Today - News - Russia won't support nuclear N Korea, says envoy to China - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Russia won't support nuclear N Korea, says envoy to China - Japan's Leading International News NetworkRussia won't support nuclear N Korea, says envoy to China

Friday, May 20, 2005 at 05:08 JST
BEIJING — Russia would not support a nuclear North Korea and none of Pyongyang's neighbors will, outgoing Russian Ambassador to China Igor Rogachev said Thursday.

Asked whether Russia would be able to live with a nuclear North Korea, Rogachev said, "No, never." (Kyodo News

Generals Offer Sober Outlook on Iraqi War - New York Times

Generals Offer Sober Outlook on Iraqi War - New York TimesMay 19, 2005
Generals Offer Sober Outlook on Iraqi War

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 18 - American military commanders in Baghdad and Washington gave a sobering new assessment on Wednesday of the war in Iraq, adding to the mood of anxiety that prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come to Baghdad last weekend to consult with the new government.

In interviews and briefings this week, some of the generals pulled back from recent suggestions, some by the same officers, that positive trends in Iraq could allow a major drawdown in the 138,000 American troops late this year or early in 2006. One officer suggested Wednesday that American military involvement could last "many years."

Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American officer in the Middle East, said in a briefing in Washington that one problem was the disappointing progress in developing Iraqi police units cohesive enough to mount an effective challenge to insurgents and allow American forces to begin stepping back from the fighting. General Abizaid, who speaks with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld regularly, was in Washington this week for a meeting of regional commanders.

In Baghdad, a senior officer said Wednesday in a background briefing that the 21 car bombings in Baghdad so far this month almost matched the total of 25 in all of last year.

Against this, he said, there has been a lull in insurgents' activity in Baghdad in recent days after months of some of the bloodiest attacks, a trend that suggested that American pressure, including the capture of important bomb makers, had left the insurgents incapable of mounting protracted offensives. But the officer said that despite Americans' recent successes in disrupting insurgent cells, which have resulted in the arrest of 1,100 suspects in Baghdad alone in the past 80 days, the success of American goals in Iraq was not assured.

"I think that this could still fail," the officer said at the briefing, referring to the American enterprise in Iraq. "It's much more likely to succeed, but it could still fail."

The officer said much depended on the new government's success in bolstering public confidence among Iraqis. He said recent polls conducted by Baghdad University had shown confidence flagging sharply, to 45 percent, down from an 85 percent rating immediately after the election. "For the insurgency to be successful, people have to believe the government can't survive," he said. "When you're in the middle of a conflict, you're trying to find pillars of strength to lean on." Another problem cited by the senior officer in Baghdad was the new government's ban on raids on mosques, announced on Monday, which the American officer said he expected to be revised after high-level discussions on Wednesday between American commanders and Iraqi officials.

The officer said the ban appeared to have been announced by the new defense minister, Sadoun al-Dulaimi, without wider government approval, and would be replaced by a "more moderate" policy. To raise the level of public confidence, the officer said, the new government would need success in cutting insurgent attacks and meeting popular impatience for improvements in public services like electricity that are worse, for many Iraqis, than they were last year. But he emphasized the need for caution - and the time it may take to complete the American mission here - notes that recur often in the private conversations of American officers in Iraq.

"I think it's going to succeed in the long run, even if it takes years, many years," he said. On a personal note, he added that he, like many American soldiers, had spent long periods of duty related to Iraq, and he said: "We believe in the mission that we've got. We believe in it because we're in it, and if we let go of the insurgency and take our foot off its throat, then this country could fail and go back into civil war and chaos."

Only weeks ago, in the aftermath of the elections, American generals offered a more upbeat view, one that was tied to a surge of Iraqi confidence that one commander in Baghdad now describes as euphoria. But this week, five high-ranking officers, speaking separately at the Pentagon and in Baghdad, and through an e-mail exchange from Baghdad with a reporter in Washington, ranged with unusual candor and detail over problems confronting the war effort.

By insisting that they not be identified, the three officers based in Baghdad were following a Pentagon policy requiring American commanders in Baghdad to put "an Iraqi face" on the war, meaning that Iraqi commanders should be the ones talking to reporters, not Americans. That policy has been questioned recently by senior Americans in Iraq, who say Iraqi commanders have failed to step forward, leaving a news vacuum that has allowed the insurgents' successful attacks, not their failures, to dominate news coverage.

The generals' remarks, emphasizing the insurgency's resilience but also American and Iraqi successes in disrupting them, suggested that American commanders may have seen an opportunity after Secretary Rice's trip to inject their own note of realism into public debate. In talks with Iraq's new Shiite leaders, she urged a more convincing effort to reach out to the dispossessed Sunni Arab minority, warning that success in the war required a political strategy that encouraged at least some Sunni insurgent groups to turn toward peace.

The generals said the buildup of Iraqi forces has been more disappointing than previously acknowledged, contributing to the absence of any Iraqi forces when a 1,000-member Marine battle group mounted an offensive last week against insurgent strongholds in the northwestern desert, along the border with Syria.

American officers said that 125 insurgents had been killed, with the loss of about 14 Americans, but acknowledged that lack of sufficient troops may have helped many insurgents to flee across the border or back into the interior of Iraq. The border offensive was wrapped up over the weekend, with an air of disappointment that some of wider goals had not been achieved - possibly including the capture of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Islamic militant who is the American forces' most-wanted man in Iraq.

General Abizaid, whose Central Command headquarters exercises oversight of the war, said the Iraqi police - accounting for 65,000 of the 160,000 Iraqis now trained and equipped in the $5.7 billion American effort to build up security forces - are "behind" in their ability to shoulder a major part of the war effort. He blamed a tendency among Iraqi police to operate as individuals rather than in cohesive units, and said this made them more vulnerable to insurgents' intimidation.

Another American officer, in an e-mail message from Baghdad, suggested a wider problem in preparing Iraqi forces capable of taking over much of the fighting, which was the Pentagon's goal when it ordered a top-to-bottom shakeout last year in the retraining effort. He said the numbers of Iraqi troops and police officers graduating from training were only one measure of success.

"Everyone looks at the number of Iraqi forces and scratches their heads, but it is more complex than that," he said. "We certainly don't want to put forces into the fight before they can stand up, as in Falluja," the battle last November that gave American commanders their first experience of Iraqi units, mostly highly trained special forces' units, that could contribute significantly to an American offensive.

One of starkest revelations by the commanders involved the surge in car bombings, the principal insurgent weapon in attacks over the past three weeks that have killed nearly 500 people across central and northern Iraq, about half of them Iraqi soldiers, police officers and recruits.

Last week, Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American trainer in Iraq, defended the Iraqi security forces, saying in an e-mail message, "They are operating effectively with coalition forces - and, in some cases, are operating independently - in the effort to find the locations at which vehicles are rigged with explosives."

The senior officer who met with reporters in Baghdad said there had been 21 car bombings in the capital in May, and 126 in the past 80 days. All last year, he said, there were only about 25 car bombings in Baghdad.

[On Thursday, gunmen shot and killed a senior Iraqi Oil Ministry official, Ali Hameed, in Baghdad, The Associated Press reported, citing a police official.]

The officer said American military intelligence had information that the car-bombing offensive had been ordered by a high-level meeting of insurgents in Syria within the past 30 days, and that reports indicated that one of those at the meeting may have been Mr. Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who was named by Osama bin Laden earlier this year as Al Qaeda's chief in Iraq. In statements on Islamic Web sites, groups loyal to Mr. Zarqawi have claimed responsibility for many of the car bombings.

The officer said that in two of the recent Baghdad bombings, investigators had found indications that the men driving the cars had been bound with duct tape before the attacks. He said the foot of one of the attackers, in a marketplace bombing last week that killed 22 people in south Baghdad, had been found taped to his vehicle's accelerator. In another case, the officer said, the attacker's hands were taped to the vehicle's wheel.

The implication was that those planning the attacks wanted to be sure that the vehicles would continue to their targets even if the drivers were killed by American or Iraqi gunfire as they approached.

Arriving at a lunch with reporters from a meeting with Iraqi cabinet ministers and military commanders, the officer said he expected the government to make an early move to revise the defense minister's announcement of a ban on raids on mosques and religious schools. The revised policy, the American officer implied, would allow Iraqi forces, backed by Americans, to raid mosques when they are used as insurgent strongholds.

John F. Burns reported from Baghdad for this article and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Business | African growth at eight-year high

BBC NEWS | Business | African growth at eight-year high African growth at eight-year high
African economies grew more than 5% in 2004, their highest growth in eight years, spurred by high commodity prices, a report has said.

The African Economic Outlook, produced by the OECD Development Centre and the African Development Bank, praised "steadily prudent economic policies".

But it pointed out that Africa was still vulnerable to regional conflicts.

And it called for more debt relief, action against corruption and support for small businesses.

Oil boost

Growth in the region benefited from new oilfields coming on stream in Angola, Chad and Equatorial Guinea.

Central Africa saw a 14.4% rise in growth in 2004 due to the expansion of its oil production capacity.

East Africa grew by 6.8%, while West Africa grew by just half that amount, 3.4%.

Greater political stability in some countries and a significant rise in official development aid to Africa helped foster growth.

African agricultural production also took a turn for the better after the ending of the drought of 2003, which hit Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda.

However, the OECD and the African Development Bank expect average African growth to be a little slower next year as no new oil fields will be coming on stream in Central Africa.

The report also highlighted the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region in Sudan, economic collapse in Zimbabwe and conflicts in Ivory Coast and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo as factors constraining growth.

Missing middle

The report highlighted what it calls the "missing middle", the shortage of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

Outside of North Africa, Mauritius and South Africa, successful businesses tend to be either very small, such as cooked food sellers, hairdressers and tailors, or very large, such as oil companies or multinationals.

Lack of access to affordable bank loans and credit is the biggest obstacle to the development of African SMEs, the report found.

Leasing, franchising and credit-guarantee schemes can all help small businesses avail of credit, it said.

Too much regulation is also a problem, the report found

While it takes just two weeks to set up a business in Morocco, it can take five months in Angola.

Other obstacles to setting up SMEs include political unrest and the lack of such basic services as electricity and water.

The report was launched in Abuja, Nigeria, at the African Development Bank meeting.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Outrage and Silence - New York Times

Outrage and Silence - New York TimesMay 18, 2005
Outrage and Silence

It is hard not to notice two contrasting stories that have run side by side during the past week. One is the story about the violent protests in the Muslim world triggered by a report in Newsweek (which the magazine has now retracted) that U.S. interrogators at Guantánamo Bay desecrated a Koran by throwing it into a toilet. In Afghanistan alone, at least 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in anti-American rioting that has been linked to that report. I certainly hope that Newsweek story is incorrect, because it would be outrageous if U.S. interrogators behaved that way.

That said, though, in the same newspapers one can read the latest reports from Iraq, where Baathist and jihadist suicide bombers have killed 400 Iraqi Muslims in the past month - most of them Shiite and Kurdish civilians shopping in markets, walking in funerals, going to mosques or volunteering to join the police.

Yet these mass murders - this desecration and dismemberment of real Muslims by other Muslims - have not prompted a single protest march anywhere in the Muslim world. And I have not read of a single fatwa issued by any Muslim cleric outside Iraq condemning these indiscriminate mass murders of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds by these jihadist suicide bombers, many of whom, according to a Washington Post report, are coming from Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim world's silence about the real desecration of Iraqis, coupled with its outrage over the alleged desecration of a Koran, highlights what we are up against in trying to stabilize Iraq - as well as the only workable strategy going forward.

The challenge we face in Iraq is so steep precisely because the power shift the U.S. and its allies are trying to engineer there is so profound - in both religious and political terms.

Religiously, if you want to know how the Sunni Arab world views a Shiite's being elected leader of Iraq, for the first time ever, think about how whites in Alabama would have felt about a black governor's being installed there in 1920. Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and are indifferent to their brutalization.

At the same time, politically speaking, some Arab regimes prefer to see the pot boiling in Iraq so the democratization process can never spread to their countries. That's why their official newspapers rarely describe the murders of civilians in Iraq as a massacre or acts of terror. Such crimes are usually sanitized as "resistance" to occupation.

Salama Na'mat, the Washington bureau chief for the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat, wrote the other day: "What is the responsibility of the [Arab] regimes and the official and semiofficial media in the countries bordering Iraq in legitimizing the operations that murder Iraqis? ... Isn't their goal to thwart [the emergence of] the newborn democracy in Iraq so that it won't spread in the region?" (Translation by Memri.)

In identifying the problem, though, Mr. Na'mat also identifies the solution. If you want to stop a wave of suicide bombings, the likes of which we are seeing in Iraq, it takes a village. I am a big believer that the greatest restraint on human behavior is not laws and police, but culture and religious authority. It is what the community, what the village, deems shameful. That is what restrains people. So how do we get the Sunni Arab village to delegitimize suicide bombers?

Inside Iraq, obviously, credible Sunnis have to be brought into the political process and constitution-drafting, as long as they do not have blood on their hands from Saddam's days. And outside Iraq, the Bush team needs to be forcefully demanding that Saudi Arabia and other key Arab allies use their media, government and religious systems to denounce and delegitimize the despicable murder of Muslims by Muslims in Iraq.

If the Arab world, its media and its spiritual leaders, came out and forcefully and repeatedly condemned those who mount these suicide attacks, and if credible Sunnis were given their fair share in the Iraqi government, I am certain a lot of this suicide bombing would stop, as happened with the Palestinians. Iraqi Sunnis would pass on the intelligence needed to prevent these attacks, and they would deny the suicide bombers the safe houses they need to succeed.

That is the only way it stops, because we don't know who is who. It takes the village - and right now the Sunni Arab village needs to be pressured and induced to restrain those among them who are engaging in these suicidal murders of innocents.

The best way to honor the Koran is to live by the values of mercy and compassion that it propagates.

The Mournful Math of Darfur: The Dead Don't Add Up - New York Times

The Mournful Math of Darfur: The Dead Don't Add Up - New York TimesMay 18, 2005
The Mournful Math of Darfur: The Dead Don't Add Up

KHARTOUM, Sudan - Darfur's dead have been tossed into the bottoms of wells, dumped into mass graves, interred in sandy cemeteries and crudely cremated. Children have been snatched from the arms of their mothers and thrown into fires, villagers dragged on the ground behind horses and camels by ropes strung around their necks.

All of which makes the important and politically charged task of counting the precise number of victims of the two-plus years of war in western Sudan a virtually impossible exercise.

Is the death toll between 60,000 and 160,000, as Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick told reporters during a recent trip to the region?

Or is it closer to the roughly 400,000 dead reported recently by the Coalition for International Justice, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization that was hired by the United States Agency for International Development to try to determine whether the killing amounts to genocide. (Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called the Darfur killing genocide last year, but Mr. Zoellick has studiously avoided the issue.) The State Department has said the higher mortality figures offered by some groups are "skewed" by overestimates of the number of deaths from violence in Darfur, rather than from disease and other causes.

Those trying to tally the terror are engaging in guesswork for a cause. They say they are trying to count the deaths to shock the world into stopping the number from rising higher than it already is. Sudan has not issued an estimate of its own, although officials in Khartoum label the numbers floating around as propaganda.

With death certificates nonexistent, census figures hopelessly out of date and much of Darfur's population uprooted from its home villages and scattered into makeshift settlements and camps, the only feasible way to count is through broad-brush statistical analysis.

To the survivors, the various estimates are impossible to grasp. In the middle of the mayhem, they often had no idea how many people were slain in their own tiny villages when the government-backed militias, known as the janjaweed, swept in full of so much fury.

"So many died," Ibrahim Adam Abdallah said simply, his face blank, when asked how many lives were lost in Seraf, a settlement in South Darfur that was first emptied a year ago and set on fire in April, to ensure that no one ever goes home.

John Hogan, the John D. MacArthur professor of sociology and law at Northwestern University who led the compilation of the numbers for the Coalition for International Justice, argues that devising a death toll for Darfur is worth the effort, even if it is a rough approximation. "To focus the attention of people, it's important to give them some sense of the scale of what's happening in Darfur," he said.

Error is inevitable, Mr. Hogan acknowledged. "Obviously, this is not correct to the person, or even the 10 or the 100," he said. "But it's much better to have information of some kind - and this is a good estimate - than no information."

Whatever the actual figure, it is undoubtedly a moving target. People are still dying from sickness, starvation and exposure at rates that experts say are higher than the already elevated rates at which they died before the conflict began in early 2003. And although Darfur has long been known for its lawlessness, violent deaths are regarded as far higher than normal, as well.

Totaling up the dead in Africa's wars has always been particularly challenging, from the mass killing in Rwanda (in which somewhere around 800,000 people died) to the continuing war in Congo (where the toll is now estimated to be in the neighborhood of 3.8 million).

The continued insecurity in Darfur and the rugged nature of the vast battlefield make counting its dead a particularly error-prone exercise.

The World Health Organization looked into the health consequences last year when it estimated that 70,000 people had died over a seven-month period from malnutrition and disease linked to the conflict.

Researchers for the Coalition for International Justice then released their more comprehensive review. They were not able to get into Sudan, but under an American government contract they managed to conduct 1,136 interviews with refugees in eastern Chad, asking them whether they had family members who had died in violent circumstances or were missing.

From this survey, the coalition's researchers established a death rate of 1.2 per 10,000, which is alarmingly high. Applying that figure to the estimated number of displaced people in Chad, the coalition concluded that 142,944 people may have been killed by government forces or allied militias, the main groups ravaging the civilian population.

The figure is rough. It assumes that every missing relative has died, which will surely not prove true. It assumes that the death rate among relatives of the refugees in Chad is similar to the rate among those who remained in Darfur, which may or may not be accurate.

The Coalition for International Justice then took the W.H.O. study and - assuming that same number of people died in the beginning of the conflict from sickness as two years later - projected the death estimates for the entire Darfur war. The total number of health-related deaths came to 253,619, for a grand total of 396,563 deaths.

In its attempt to determine whether the killing amounted to genocide, the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur conducted extensive interviews in all three Darfur states and studied numerous raids in minute detail. In some cases, the commission reported the number of militiamen who swept into a village, the number of government bombers flying overhead and the number of corpses left behind.

Despite such precision, the commission made no attempt to come up with a Darfur-wide death toll. In fact, commissioners found that totaling up the number of damaged villages in Darfur was difficult enough. Estimates range from 700 to well over 2,000.

Still, the counting continues, and eventually, when Darfur's violence mercifully ends, a number will be agreed upon. That number, like the figure of 800,000 for the Rwanda massacre, will be forever appended to the awful events. The rest of the world, slow to react to Darfur, will then have plenty of opportunity to think about it, and wonder why it was able to grow as large as it did.

Japan Today - News - Blair presses ahead with ID cards - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Blair presses ahead with ID cards - Japan's Leading International News NetworkBlair presses ahead with ID cards

Send to a friendPrint

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 07:29 JST
LONDON — British Prime Minister Tony Blair embarked on his third term and final in office Tuesday with controversial plans for identity cards, a scheme likely to test out his Labour Party's sharply reduced majority in parliament.

The ID card plan was among anti-terror and security measures announced Tuesday by Queen Elizabeth II at the official re-opening of parliament following the May 5 general election, when Blair's Labour Party won re-election.

Japan Today - News - Newsweek struggles to contain fallout - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Newsweek struggles to contain fallout - Japan's Leading International News Network: "Newsweek struggles to contain fallout
Newsweek struggles to contain fallout

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 07:32 JST
NEW YORK — Newsweek's formal retraction of a story that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran has done little to calm a critical storm unleashed against the magazine on the diplomatic, political and media fronts.

The assault on Newsweek's probity ranged from accusations of shoddy journalism to charges that the weekly had blood on it hands following violent anti-U.S. demonstrations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Arab News >Malaysia Blasts Israel for Banning Mahathir

Malaysia Blasts Israel for Banning MahathirMalaysia Blasts Israel for Banning Mahathir
Deutsche Presse-Agentur

KUALA LUMPUR, 18 May 2005 — Malaysia yesterday criticized the Israeli government and called it arrogant for banning former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad from entering Jerusalem, saying the city was “not theirs”.

Mahathir was visiting the West Bank on Monday when he was prevented from entering Jerusalem by Israeli authorities.

“Jerusalem is not (Israel’s) ... It is an open town that anyone can visit,” said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mahathir’s only intention in visiting the area was to see and understand the situation for himself, Najib told the official Bernama news agency.

“Mahathir indirectly wants to help find a political solution in keeping with the decision of the world to set up peace in Palestine,” he said.

Mahathir, who retired in October 2003 after 22 years in power, championed the Palestinian cause throughout his years as a veteran Southeast Asian leader.

The former prime minister had caused uproar in Israel and the Western world just before his retirement when he said that Jews rule the world by proxy, getting others to fight and die for them.

Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

Latino Defeats Incumbent in L.A. Mayor's Race - New York Times

Latino Defeats Incumbent in L.A. Mayor's Race - New York TimesMay 18, 2005
Latino Defeats Incumbent in L.A. Mayor's Race

LOS ANGELES, May 18 - Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa unseated Mayor James Hahn on Tuesday to become the city's first Hispanic mayor in more than a century, confirming the rising political power of Latinos in the nation's second-largest city.

After a lackluster term tainted by corruption allegations at City Hall, Mr. Hahn was turned out of office in favor of a high school dropout and son of the barrio who turned his life around to become speaker of the California Assembly and then a member of the Los Angeles City Council.

With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Villaraigosa had 225,328 votes, or 59 percent, to 158,732 votes for Mr.Hahn, or 41 percent.

Striding to the podium at his victory party amid chants of "Si, se puede," Spanish for "Yes, we can," Mr. Villaraigosa thanked his family and the people who had inspired him over the years, and promised to "bring this great city together."

"You all know I love L.A., but tonight I really love L.A.," an exuberant Mr. Villaraigosa told supporters.

The two candidates were a study in contrasts. Mr. Hahn, the son of one of the region’s most popular politicians, Kenneth J. Hahn, who served 40 years as a county supervisor, was buttoned-down to the point of drabness. He acknowledged a case of "charisma deficit disorder," but said he was interested in getting things done, not touting his accomplishments.

Mr. Villaraigosa, who is as outgoing as Mr. Hahn is shy, was raised on the Latino east side by a single immigrant mother. He dropped out of high school for a time, then worked his way through the University of California, Los Angeles, and became a union organizer and then speaker of the state Assembly. He has been a member of the Los Angeles City Council since 2003.

The contest was a rematch of the 2001 mayoral race, which Mr. Hahn won by seven points after trailing Mr. Villaraigosa for much of the campaign. That race featured a number of late attacks by Mr. Hahn, who repeatedly attacked Mr. Villaraigosa for a letter he had written seeking clemency for a convicted cocaine trafficker.

Mr. Hahn’s campaign was similarly negative this time, even using the same slogan, "Los Angeles can’t trust Antonio Villaraigosa." Mr. Hahn accused his opponent, a former president of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, of being soft on crime. He also noted that Mr. Villaraigosa had accepted thousands of dollars in campaign donations from out-of-state businessmen bidding on city contracts.

Mr. Villaraigosa, who outpolled Mr. Hahn in the primary election by 33 percent to 24 percent, generally ran an upbeat, front-runner’s campaign. Although some of his advertisements noted the federal investigation of possible corruption in city contracting under Mayor Hahn, Mr. Villaraigosa mainly stressed what he called his ability to bring Los Angeles’s varied geographic, ethnic and racial communities together.

In this he was aided by Mr. Hahn’s two most significant actions as mayor. In 2002, Mr. Hahn engineered the ouster of Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks, an African-American, which alienated many black voters who had supported Mr. Hahn in 2001. Mr. Hahn also campaigned vigorously to defeat an effort by residents of the San Fernando valley to secede from the city of Los Angeles, angering a part of the city that had provided a major share of his margin of victory over Mr. Villaraigosa four years ago.

Mr. Villaraigosa will be the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since 1872, but he won the office on more than the votes of the city’s Latinos, who make up nearly half of the city’s population but barely a quarter of the electorate.

"If you look at Antonio, he would be a credible candidate from any ethnic group," said Harry Pachon, director of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California, which studies trends in Latino politics. "He has a liberal background, he’s an ex-president of the A.C.L.U. for Southern California, he has union credentials, he was speaker of Assembly. He’s punched his ticket in so many places."

Dr. Pachon said that Mr. Villaraigosa was also able to split the African-American vote, which had been solidly in Mr. Hahn’s column in 2001. It was the first time a Los Angeles mayoral candidate had successfully melded a Latino-black coalition to win office, he said.

"I will never forget where I came from. And I will always believe in the people of Los Angeles," Mr. Villaraigosa said Tuesday night.

In other races Tuesday:
-- Former City Councilman Bob O'Connor beat a crowded field of Democrats in the Pittsburgh mayoral primary. Mr. O'Connor will be heavily favored to win in November because Pittsburgh is predominantly Democratic. Mayor Tom Murphy is not seeking a fourth term.

-- In Dover, Pa., a party-line split emerged in a school board primary that has made national headlines because of the board's October decision to require that ninth-grade students be told about "intelligent design" when they learn about evolution in biology class. Republicans picked seven incumbent school board members who support the policy, while Democrats favored a slate of seven challengers who say intelligent design doesn't belong in science class. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex, it must have been created by some kind of guiding force.

-- Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, once called "America's Deadliest D.A." for her pursuit of the death penalty, took a big step toward winning a full fourth term by cruising to victory in the Democratic primary. The 64-year-old prosecutor defeated a 38-year-old lawyer who accused Ms. Abraham of being soft on City Hall corruption.

-- In Erie, Pa., Mayor Rick Filippi, who is under indictment on charges of using insider information to try to profit from real estate deals, lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary. The primary came a day before he faced a preliminary hearing in the corruption case.

The Times's John M. Broder contributed reporting for this article from Los Angeles., New London, CT > Air Force Seeks Bush OK For Space Arms, New London, CTFeatured in Military

Air Force Seeks Bush OK For Space Arms
Proposed change would be opposed by many U.S. allies

Published on 5/18/2005

The Air Force, saying it must secure space to protect the nation from attack, is seeking President Bush's approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defensive space weapons, according to White House and Air Force officials.

The proposed change would be a substantial shift in American policy. It would almost certainly be opposed by many American allies and potential enemies, who have said it might create an arms race in space.

A senior administration official said that a new presidential directive would replace a 1996 Clinton administration policy that emphasized a more pacific use of space, including spy satellites' support for military operations, arms control and nonproliferation pacts.

Any deployment of space weapons would face financial, technological, political and diplomatic hurdles, although no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction.

A presidential directive is expected within weeks, said the senior administration official, who is involved with space policy and insisted that he not be identified because the directive is still under final review, and the White House has not disclosed its details.

Air Force officials said Tuesday that the directive, which is still in draft form, did not call for militarizing space. “The focus of the process is not putting weapons in space,” said Maj. Karen Finn, an Air Force spokeswoman, who said that the White House, not the Air Force, makes national policy. “The focus is having free access in space.”

With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them.

“We haven't reached the point of strafing and bombing from space,” Pete Teets, who stepped down last month as the acting secretary of the Air Force, told a space-warfare symposium last year. “Nonetheless, we are thinking about those possibilities.”

In January 2001, a commission led by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the newly nominated defense secretary, recommended that the military should “ensure that the president will have the option to deploy weapons in space.”

It said that “explicit national security guidance and defense policy is needed to direct development of doctrine, concepts of operations and capabilities for space, including weapons systems that operate in space.”

The effort to develop a new policy directive reflects three years of work prompted by the report. The White House would not say if all the report's recommendations would be adopted.

In 2002, after weighing the report of the Rumsfeld space commission, Bush withdrew from the 30-year-old Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned space-based weapons.

Ever since then, the Air Force has sought a new presidential policy officially ratifying the concept of seeking American space superiority.

The Air Force believes “we must establish and maintain space superiority,” Gen. Lance Lord, who leads the Air Force Space Command, told Congress recently. “Simply put, it's the American way of fighting.” Air Force doctrine defines space superiority as “freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack” in space.

The mission will require new weapons, new space satellites, new ways of doing battle and, by some estimates, hundreds of billions of dollars. It faces enormous technological obstacles. And many of the nation's allies object to the idea that space is an American frontier.

Yet “there seems little doubt that space-basing of weapons is an accepted aspect of the Air Force” and its plans for the future, Capt. David C. Hardesty of the Naval War College faculty says in a new study.

A new Air Force strategy, Global Strike, calls for a military space plane carrying precision-guided weapons armed with a half-ton of munitions. Lord told Congress last month that Global Strike would be “an incredible capability” to destroy command centers or missile bases “anywhere in the world.”

Pentagon documents say the weapon, called the common aero vehicle, could strike from halfway around the world in 45 minutes. “This is the type of prompt Global Strike I have identified as a top priority for our space and missile force,” Lord said.

The Air Force's drive into space has been accelerated by the Pentagon's failure to build a nuclear-missile defense on earth. After spending 22 years and nearly $100 billion, Pentagon officials say they cannot reliably detect and destroy a threat today.

“Are we out of the woods? No,” Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, who directs the Missile Defense Agency, said in an interview. “We've got a long way to go, a lot of testing to do.”

While the Missile Defense Agency struggles with new technology for a space-based laser, the Air Force already has a potential weapon in space.

In April, the Air Force launched the XSS-11, an experimental microsatellite with the technical capability to disrupt other nations' military reconnaissance and communications satellites.

Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range “from tap on the shoulder to toast,” in the words of an Air Force plan.

Hardesty, in the new issue of the Naval War College Review, calls for “a thorough military analysis” of these plans, followed by “a larger public debate.”

“To proceed with space-based weapons on any other foundation would be the height of folly,” he concludes, warning that other nations — not necessarily allies — would follow America's lead into space.

Despite objections from members of Congress who thought “space should be sanctified and no weapons ever put in space,” Teets, then the Air Force under secretary, told the space-warfare symposium last June that “that policy needs to be pushed forward.”

Last month, Gen. James E. Cartwright, who leads the U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services nuclear forces subcommittee that the goal of developing space weaponry was to allow the nation to deliver an attack “very quickly, with very short time lines on the planning and delivery, any place on the face of the earth.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who is chairman of the subcommittee, worried that the space-based common aero vehicle might be used in ways that would “be mistaken as some sort of attack on, for example, Russia.”

“They might think it would be a launch against them of maybe a nuclear warhead,” Sessions said. “We want to be sure that there could be no misunderstanding in that before we authorize going forward with this vehicle.”

Cartwright said the military would “provide every opportunity to ensure that it's not misunderstood,” and that Global Strike simply aimed to “expand the choices that we might be able to offer to the president in crisis.”

Senior military and space officials of the European Union, Canada, China and Russia have objected publicly to the notion of American space superiority.

They think that “the United States doesn't own space — nobody owns space,” said Teresa Hitchens, vice president of the Center for Defense Information, a policy-analysis group in Washington that tends to be critical of the Pentagon. “Space is a global commons under international treaty and international law.”

No nation will “accept the U.S. developing something they see as the death star,” Hitchens told a Council on Foreign Relations meeting last month. “I don't think the United States would find it very comforting if China were to develop a death star, a 24/7 on-orbit weapon that could strike at targets on the ground anywhere in 90 minutes.”

International objections aside, Randy Correll, an Air Force veteran and military consultant, told the council, “the big problem now is it's too expensive.”

The Air Force does not put a price tag on space superiority. Published studies by leading weapons scientists, physicists and engineers place the cost of a space-based system that could defend the nation against an attack by a handful of missiles at anywhere from $220 billion to $1 trillion.

Richard Garwin, widely regarded as one of the deans of American of weapons science, and three colleagues wrote in the March issue of IEEE Spectrum, the professional journal of electric engineering, that “a space-based laser would cost $100 million per target, compared with $600,000 for a Tomahawk missile.”

“The psychological impact of such a blow might rival that of such devastating attacks as Hiroshima,” they wrote. “But just as the unleashing of nuclear weapons had unforeseen consequences, so, too, would the weaponization of space. What's more, each of the proposed space weapons systems has significant physical limitations that make alternatives more effective and affordable.”

Surveillance and reconnaissance satellites are a crucial component of space superiority. But the biggest new spy-satellite program, Future Imagery Architecture, has tripled in price to about $25 billion while producing less than promised, military contractors say. A new space technology to detect enemy launchings has risen to more than $10 billion from a promised $4 billion, Teets told Congress last month.

But Lord said such problems should not stand in the way of the Air Force's plans to move into space.

“Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny,” he told an Air Force conference in September. “Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future.”