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Saturday, February 26, 2005

New York Times > Bush and Putin's Show of Unity Hints at Tensions


Published: February 24, 2005

RATISLAVA, Slovakia, Feb. 24 - President Bush gently expressed concern about President Vladimir V. Putin's retreat from democracy as he stood at Mr. Putin's side tonight here, and Mr. Putin responded that the United States had its own domestic problems and that he would listen to some of Mr. Bush's ideas but not comment on others.

In a joint news conference at Bratislava Castle that was intended to portray unity but offered glimpses of tension, Mr. Bush said that he and Mr. Putin had just had a "frank" exchange in a one-on-one meeting that lasted more than an hour, the longest the two leaders have ever met alone, with interpreters the only other people in the room.
Mr. Bush did not say what he meant by "frank," but a senior administration official who briefed reporters on Mr. Bush's meeting with President Jacques Chirac of France this week said he did not want to describe that session as "frank" because "it usually means a euphemism for 'bad.' "
In the news conference, which had been built up during Mr. Bush's four-day trip across Europe as a showdown with Mr. Putin, Mr. Bush said Russia had undergone an "amazing transformation" toward democracy, which he said included universal principles like the rule of law, protection of minorities, a free press and a viable political opposition.
"I was able to share my concerns about Russia's commitment in fulfilling these universal principles," Mr. Bush said. "I did so in a constructive and friendly way."
Mr. Putin responded to Mr. Bush by saying: "I believe that some of his ideas could be taken into account in my work, and I will pay due attention to them, that's for sure. Some other ideas, I will not comment on."
To underscore the display of unity and warmth, the United States and Russia jointly announced shortly before the news conference three agreements on trade, energy and nuclear proliferation.
During an outdoor speech in cold, wet snow flurries earlier in the day, Mr. Bush seemed to fire a warning shot at Mr. Putin not to intervene in other former Soviet republics as he had in Ukraine.
"The democratic revolutions that swept this region over 15 years ago are now reaching Georgia and Ukraine," Mr. Bush said.
"In 10 days, Moldova has the opportunity to place its democratic credentials beyond doubt as its people head to the polls. And inevitably, the people of Belarus will someday proudly belong to the country of democracies."
Mr. Bush met with Mr. Putin in this Central European capital this afternoon in what was expected to be a strained hour-and-a-half session in part focused on Mr. Putin's rollback of democratic reforms and his crackdown on dissent.
Mr. Bush had said all week during his first trip to Europe since his re-election that he would press Mr. Putin on his reasons for his retreat from democratic reforms.
"I look forward to talking to him about his decision-making process," Mr. Bush told a group of young German business leaders in Mainz, Germany, on Wednesday, the third day of a four-day trip intended to repair European relationships ruptured by the war with Iraq.
But Russian officials had also said that Mr. Putin might challenge Mr. Bush on his own concerns about the actions of the United States around the world and the American election system.
Bush administration officials had suggested that such concerns include the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the disputed 2000 election in which Mr. Bush became president by a single vote of the Supreme Court.
Today's meeting was the first between the two leaders since shortly after Mr. Bush's re-election in November, when the two met in Chile. A senior Bush administration official said after that meeting that Mr. Bush had raised some concerns about Mr. Putin's stifling of dissent, and that Mr. Putin had given a long, elaborate response.
In part to offset the difficult atmosphere surrounding the latest Bush-Putin meeting, the Bush administration announced earlier today that the United States and Russia had agreed to a deal to limit the spread of the shoulder-fired missiles called Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or Manpads.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

Village Voice > War Crimes

VOICE in the News
By Nat Hentoff
There cannot be an absence of moral content in American foreign policy. Europeans giggle at this, but we are not European, we are American, and we have different principles. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Telegraph, London, February 5, 2005
It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture . . .Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, a U.S. statute implementing Article 3, International Convention Against Torture, which this country has signed
For three years, there have been sporadic reports in some of the media, including this column, of the CIA's sending detainees (prisoners without charges or lawyers) to countries (among them are Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, and Uzbekistan) where the CIA knows they will be tortured to extract information the CIA can't dig out of them.
The Washington Post has done the most revealing investigative reporting, along with furious editorials, on this brutal form of kidnapping. And in these columns, I have tried to add to the story from other sources: human rights organizations and reporters around the world. In the February 11 New York Times, Bob Herbert put these actions by our government—in flagrant violation of American and international law—plainly:
"Jettisoning the rule of law to permit such acts of evil as kidnapping and torture is not a defensible policy for a civilized nation. It's wrong. And nothing good can come from it."
Now, in the February 14 New Yorker, there is a long, detailed, clearly documented story, "Outsourcing Torture"—the most important piece run by The New Yorker since John Hersey's internationally resounding essay on what we did to Hiroshima in Japan with the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare.
This report by Jane Mayer should be read by every member of Congress, which has yet to conduct a substantive investigation—with subpoena powers—into these horrific practices. There's talk of only a cursory "review." Much more is needed. The extraditions are so secret that even the 9-11 Commission members were not allowed to ask questions about these "extraordinary renditions," as the CIA bureaucratically calls them.
I know that senators Patrick Leahy, Ted Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, and Richard Durbin have read Jane Mayer's piece, as has Representative Ed Markey. Durbin, Dodd, and Markey tried to get legislation through in the last term that would throw some initial light on what is happening to detainees, but the bills were killed by the Republican leadership and the White House. (Durbin's was also snuffed out with the help of our new secretary of state.)
As I shall document later in this series, the CIA's "extraordinary renditions" began in the Clinton administration, but have been greatly expanded under George W. Bush, who piously and repeatedly pledges that this country will never, ever condone or practice torture. So do his loyalists, the new attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In my more than 25 years as a New Yorker staff writer (while I was also a Voice columnist), its legendary editor, the late William Shawn, ran many of my pieces. But he killed one because, he told me, it might deleteriously affect our war in Vietnam. The piece was a profile of A.J. Muste, the chief strategist of the anti-war movement.
The present New Yorker editor, David Remnick, has no such reservation about affirming Justice Louis Brandeis's mandate for a free society: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."
My one suggestion to Remnick about this crucial Jane Mayer article is that he make it more widely available by publishing it in pamphlet form, or in other readily available formats, and also send it to all members of Congress—along with an invitation to George W. Bush to respond to it. And what does Porter Goss, who runs the CIA, have to say about these kidnappings?
Members of Congress should be especially interested in Mayer's references to John Yoo, who, as deputy assistant attorney general under John Ashcroft, was a principal adviser to the president on how to evade international and American law in the war on terror. (For background on Yoo and other accomplices in these crimes, see the essential new book, the 1,284-page The Torture Papers, Cambridge University Press, edited by Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel. It will chill your bones.)
From Jane Mayer's "Outsourcing Torture":
"As Yoo saw it, Congress doesn't have the power to 'tie the President's hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique. . . . It's the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can't prevent the President from ordering torture.'
"[Yoo] went on to suggest that President Bush's victory in the 2004 election, along with the relatively mild challenge to Gonzales mounted by the Democrats in Congress, was 'proof that the debate is over. . . . The issue is dying out. The public has had its referendum.' "
Do you agree that the debate is over? (John Yoo is now a professor at the prestigious UC Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall, presumably teaching the rule of law.)
There will be more in this intermittent series about the special extralegal rules the president has given the CIA, as well as additions to Mayer's article. But I urge you to get this 80th anniversary issue of The New Yorker, and then insist that your members of Congress interrogate the top-level perpetrators of war crimes in this administration.
On the floor of the Senate, as the vote was to be called on Alberto Gonzales's nomination for attorney general, Ted Kennedy—in what may be the most quotable remark of his career—said: "We have a choice. Do we stand for the rule of law, or do we stand for torture? This vote will speak volumes about whether . . . [we] match our lofty rhetoric about fundamental values."
Following the president, a majority of the Senate chose torture. How much do you care?

More Liberty Beat
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A library defies Castro and the American Library Association on Freedom to Read

Condi Rice: Misrule of Law
The new secretary of state, the president's confidante, plays by his code of justice

The Ghosts of Torture
New attorney general twists the rule of law to which he is 'deeply committed'

Intimidated Classrooms
New York Civil Liberties Union: students can dissent in class only if professor permits

Targeting Congress on Torture
Making the Bush team responsible for international crimes against detainees

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Monday, February 21, 2005 - Bush calls for 'new era of trans-Atlantic unity' - Feb 21, 2005 - Bush calls for 'new era�of trans-Atlantic unity' - Feb 21, 2005

Bush calls for 'new era of trans-Atlantic unity'
President urges peace in Mideast, support for Iraq

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- President Bush told European leaders Monday that trans-Atlantic unity was essential to take on shared challenges -- including Middle East peace, an alleged Iranian nuclear threat and moves away from democracy in Russia.

On the first day of his fence-mending tour through Europe, Bush dined with French President Jacques Chirac, who was among the most vocal critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Speaking briefly to the media alongside Chirac, Bush said making this his first dinner in Europe since he won re-election shows "how important" his relationship with Chirac is "for me personally ... and for my country."

"Every time I meet with Jacques, he's got good advice," Bush said, turning to Chirac. "I'm looking forward to listening to you."

Chirac, through a translator, said the United States and France have "always had warm relations" and share "many ideals and values," which they have worked for 200 years to "keep alive." In the struggle against weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, he said, "we have the same approach."

Asked if relations were strong enough that Chirac would be invited to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush joked, "I'm looking for a good cowboy."

The pair did find common ground with a call for Syria to leave Lebanon in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In a joint statement, they added: "We support the U.N. investigation into this terrorist act and urge the full cooperation of all parties in order to identify those responsible for this act.

Though his itinerary includes just two other countries -- Germany and Slovakia -- Bush is planning to meet with virtually every major political player on the continent, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Those two, along with Chirac, spearheaded the fight against the war in Iraq.

Bush will also meet with new Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

In a televised address Monday, Bush called for the rifts of recent years to be put in the past.

"Today, America and Europe face a moment of consequence and opportunity," the president said.

"Together, we can once again set history on a hopeful course, away from poverty and despair and toward development and the dignity of self-rule; away from resentment and violence and toward justice and the peaceful settlement of differences."

He added, "As past debates fade, as great duties become clear, let us begin a new era of trans-Atlantic unity." (Transcript)

Bush expanded on the foreign policy vision he laid out in last month's inaugural address, saying that his goal is one shared by democratic leaders worldwide.

The effort to combat terrorism and spread liberty is "not an American strategy or European strategy or Western strategy," he said.

"Spreading liberty for the sake of peace is the cause of all mankind," he said, adding that "our alliance has the ability and the duty to tip the balance of history in the favor of freedom."

"Our greatest opportunity, and our immediate goal, is peace in the Middle East," he said, adding that "lasting successful reform in the Middle East will not be imposed from the outside. It must be chosen from within."

Bush said that a settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was within reach. "Our peace depends on their hope and freedom," Bush said.
Syria told to leave Lebanon

He also called on Syria to "end its occupation of Lebanon," saying "the Lebanese people have the right to be free." (Anti-Syria protest in Beirut)

"The United States and Europe share an interest in a democratic, independent Lebanon," he said.

"Our shared commitment to democratic progress is being tested in Lebanon, a once-thriving country that now suffers under the influence of an oppressive neighbor. Just as the Syrian regime must take stronger action to stop those who support violence and subversion in Iraq, it must end its support for terrorist groups seeking to destroy the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

He called on European leaders to support U.S. efforts to end what the Bush administration describes as a nuclear threat from Iran.

"In Iran, the free world shares a common goal. For the sake of peace, the Iranian regime must end its support for terrorism and must not develop nuclear weapons," he said to applause.

Many Europeans fear the United States may launch military action against Iran, even as European leaders are involved in negotiations with the Islamic republic. The United States has refused to enter those discussions.

Bush said that "no option can be taken permanently off the table. Iran is, however, different from Iraq. We're in the early stages of diplomacy."

He also called for democratic reforms in Iran. "The time has arrived for the Iranian regime to listen to the Iranian people and respect their rights and join in the movement toward liberty that is taking place all around them."

The Iraq war strained European-U.S. relations. Bush's trip, which follows a swing through Europe by new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is aimed in no small part at building support for U.S. efforts to expand democracy worldwide over the coming years.

All countries "now have an interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq, which will fight terror, be a beacon of freedom and be a source of true stability in the region," he said.

Monday evening, thousands demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, many staunchly opposing the Iraq war. Some held huge signs reading "Bush Not Welcome" or "Bush Go Home." At least one sign referred to him as an "outlaw."

Belgian officials reported the protests were peaceful. Hundreds of police were on hand.

In his speech, Bush said he supported Russia's admission into the World Trade Organization, but said "all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia."

"For Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law," he said.

The president and first lady Laura Bush arrived Sunday evening in Brussels, the headquarters of the NATO alliance. He will meet with fellow NATO leaders and members of the European Council on Tuesday in addition to having one-on-one meetings with two European leaders who supported his Iraq policy -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Find this article at: - N. Korea 'reverses' on talks - Feb 21, 2005 - N. Korea 'reverses' on talks - Feb 21, 2005

N. Korea 'reverses' on talks

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il says his country is willing to resume talks with its neighbors and the United States if Washington "would show trustworthy sincerity and move (its stance)," Pyongyang's official news agency has announced.

"We will go to the negotiating table anytime if there are mature conditions for the six-party talks thanks to the concerted efforts of the parties concerned in the future," the state news agency KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

The agency said Pyongyang "would as ever stand for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and its position to seek a peaceful solution to the issue through dialogue remains unchanged."

The six-party talks include North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

North Korea announced on February 10 that it would withdraw from the talks and declared for the first time that it possessed nuclear weapons, blaming a hostile U.S. stance for the impasse.

But, in what appears to be a reversal, Pyongyang said Tuesday that its government "has never opposed the six-party talks but made every possible effort for their success."

The announcement came after a Chinese envoy visited Pyongyang Monday for talks related to the two-year-old standoff.

Wang Jiarui told Kim that Beijing wanted to ensure that Pyongyang's "reasonable concerns are given serious consideration," KCNA reported.

The six nations have held three rounds of talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons development in return for economic and diplomatic rewards.

A fourth round of talks scheduled for September 2004 did not take place when North Korea refused to attend, citing what it called a "hostile" U.S. policy.

North Korea has said it wants security guarantees from the United States.

Tuesday's announcement is the latest twist in a series of heated accusations and statements over the past week and a half, which sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity.

On Saturday, U.S. and Japanese officials issued a joint statement calling North Korea's nuclear program "a direct threat to the peace and stability" of Asia.

"We share a concern about events on the Korean Peninsula," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the meetings.

"It is really time for the North Koreans to take seriously that concern" and return to six-party talks, she said.

The United States hoped Wang would impress upon North Korea that "there can be no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula," Rice added.

North Korea responded the following day by accusing Japan of aspiring to rule a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" begining with an invasion of Korea with the assistance of the United States. (U.S., Japan 'plotting invasion')

North and South Korea never signed a peace agreement after the 1953 armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, and the border between the two remains the most heavily fortified in the world.

Find this article at:

The New York Times > Hunter S. Thompson, 65, Author, Commits Suicide

February 21, 2005
Hunter S. Thompson, 65, Author, Commits Suicide

Hunter S. Thompson, the maverick journalist and author whose savage chronicling of the underbelly of American life and politics embodied a new kind of nonfiction writing he called "gonzo journalism," died yesterday in Colorado. Tricia Louthis, of the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, said Mr. Thompson had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Woody Creek, Colo., yesterday afternoon. He was 65.
Mr. Thompson, a magazine and newspaper writer who also wrote almost a dozen books, was perhaps best known for his book, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which became a Hollywood movie in 1998. But he was better known for his hard-driving lifestyle and acerbic eye for truth which he used in the style of first-person reporting that came to be known as "gonzo" in the 1960's, where the usually-anonymous reporter becomes a central character in the story, a conduit of subjectivity.
"Nobody really knows what it means, but it sounds like an epithet," he said in an interview that, for him, journalism "can be an effective political tool."
Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville, Ky, on July 18, 1939, the son of an insurance agent. He was educated in the public school system and joined the United States Air Force after high school. There, he was introduced to journalism, covering sports for an Air Force newspaper at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He was honorably discharged in 1958 and then worked a series of jobs writing for small-town newspapers.
It was in the heat of deadline that gonzo journalism was born while he was writing a story about the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan's magazine, he recounted years later in an interview in Playboy magazine.
"I'd blown my mind, couldn't work," he told Playboy. "So finally I just started jerking pages out of my notebook and numbering them and sending them to the printer. I was sure it was the last article I was ever going to do for anybody."
Instead, he said, the story drew raves and he was inundated with letters and phone calls from people calling it "a breakthrough in journalism," an experience he likened to "falling down an elevator shaft and landing in a pool of mermaids."
He went on to become a counter cultural hero with books and articles that skewered America's hypocrisy.
"He wrote to provoke, shock, protest and annoy," Timothy Crouse wrote in his book "The Boys on the Bus," about the 1972 presidential campaign.
Mr. Thompson influenced a generation of writers who saw in his pioneering first-person, at times over-the-top writing style.
As a young man, he was heavily influenced by Jack Kerouac and wholeheartedly followed Kerouac's approach in which the writer revels in his struggles with writing.
Among his books were "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing on the Campiagn Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "Generation of Swine" and "Songs for the Doomed."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Townsville Bullitin > Parker sax bids top $300,000

Parker sax bids top $300,000
From correspondents in New York

LEGENDARY jazz virtuoso Charlie Parker's alto saxophone has sold for nearly $US262,000 ($331,980) at an auction of jazz memorabilia in New York.

The 430 lots on offer at the sale included instruments, clothing and musical scores from Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, John Coltrane and Stan Getz.
Along with the saxophones, trumpets and drum sets, there was a lot of bidder interest in the hand-written items, including a profanity-laced letter from Armstrong to his agent which sold for $US29,500 ($37,380).
Another highlight was the original musical arrangement for Coltrane's classic song, A Love Supreme, written by the musician himself in pencil and blue ink.
The three sheets of manuscript that made up the lot were the target of some aggressive bidding and finally sold for $US129,500 ($164,000).
"Today is kind of sacred," said T.S. Monk, who attended the auction as the son of jazz great Thelonious Monk and an award-winning musician in his own right.
"They are all so alive," Monk said of the musicians represented at the sale. "They're alive in our hearts, they're alive in our collective souls.
"Sometimes their message was muted by racism, other times by politics and even artistic snobbery.
"But their music has flourished. It's grown and profoundly influenced all those that it has touched."
Unusually for such a high-profile collection, the auction house organising the sale, Guernsey's, had provided no price estimates, and the vast majority of lots had no reserve price attached.
However, a tenor saxophone that belonged to John Coltrane was withdrawn after it failed to make $US500,000 ($633,500).,5942,12321170,00.html - Spin Cycled > Tancredo bill on Taiwan angers China - Spin Cycled: "ticle Published: Sunday, February 20, 2005

spin cycled
Tancredo bill on Taiwan angers China
By The Denver Post

Rep. Tom Tancredo seems to always be able to cause a stir, even if he has to go halfway around the world to do it. Few on this side of the Pacific took much notice last week when the Littleton Republican introduced a bill to end the United States' 'one China' policy and resume normal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

But his move was front-page news in Asia. According to the Xinhua Financial Network, the Chinese government 'angrily condemned' Tancredo's bill and demanded that the Bush administration block the bill. The Xinhua network is affiliated with the official Chinese news agency with a slightly different name.

'This is a gross interference in China's internal affairs and sends a mistaken signal to Taiwan independence forces,' foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan was quoted as saying by Xinhua. 'The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and staunch opposition to this.'" - Report: Friend secretly taped Bush - Feb 20, 2005 - Report: Friend secretly taped Bush - Feb 20, 2005

Report: Friend secretly taped Bush

NEW YORK (AP) -- Private conversations with George Bush secretly taped by an old friend before he was elected president foreshadow some of his political strategies and appear to reveal that he acknowledged using marijuana, The New York Times has reported.

The conversations were recorded by Doug Wead, a former aide to George W. Bush's father, beginning in 1998, when Bush was weighing a presidential bid, until just before the Republican National Convention in 2000, the Times reported Saturday.

The tapes show Bush crafting a strategy for navigating the tricky political waters between Christian conservative and secular voters, repeatedly worrying that evangelicals would be angered by a refusal to bash gays and that secular Americans would be turned off by meetings with evangelical leaders.

On one tape, Bush explains that he told one prominent evangelical that he would not "kick gays, because I'm a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?"

In early tapes, Bush dismisses the strength of John McCain for the nomination and expresses concern about rival Steve Forbes. He also praises John Ashcroft as a promising candidate for Supreme Court justice, attorney general or vice president.

Bush also criticizes then-Vice President Al Gore for admitting marijuana use and explains why he would not do the same.

"I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions," he said, according to the Times. "You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."

According to the article, Wead played 12 of the tapes to a Times reporter. He said he recorded them because he viewed Bush as a historic figure. He is the author of a new book on presidential childhoods.

The White House did not deny the authenticity of the tapes.

"The governor was having casual conversations with someone he believed was his friend," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said, referring to Bush.