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Saturday, April 30, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Vietnam remembers fall of Saigon

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Vietnam remembers fall of Saigon:Vietnam remembers fall of Saigon
Vietnam is commemorating the 30th anniversary of the communist victory in the Vietnam War.

Firework displays and a military parade will be held on Saturday in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon.

Speaking ahead of the celebrations, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said the victory of 30 April 1975 was "forever written in our nation's history".

But he added that Vietnam still faced many challenges and should move on from the past and look to the future.

Liberation Day, as it is known in Vietnam, marks the victory of communist North Vietnamese forces over the US-backed regime in the south.

The government says it hopes this year's anniversary commemorations will help to revive patriotism and national pride among the young.

Addressing senior Vietnamese leaders, war veterans and foreign diplomats - including US Ambassador Michael W Marine - in Hanoi, Mr Khai is quoted as saying: "Our people's victory in the resistance against the Americans for national salvation is forever written in our nation's history as one of the most glorious pages."

But he also said Vietnam needed to "avoid self-satisfaction, and realise the weaknesses and challenges posed to us".

And he added that his government advocated "friendly co-operation to strengthen relations with countries that took part in the Vietnam War."

The BBC correspondent, Brian Barron, was there in 1975 when North Vietnamese forces stormed into the presidential compound and brought down the American-backed government of South Vietnam.

He recalled hearing the sound of rockets and shells hitting the airport, and of systematic looting as authority collapsed.

Presidential Palace

At the Hanoi ceremony, costumed dancers re-enacted the war across a giant stage, miming the shooting down of warplanes and the misery of losing comrades to the fighting.

But the main commemorative events will take place in Vietnam's second city, Ho Chi Minh, on Saturday.

Events also include a parade by Vietcong veterans and a ceremony for those who were born 30 years ago to the day when communist tanks rolled through the gates of the city's Presidential Palace.

The Southern Vietnamese formally surrendered, marking the official end to a war which had claimed an estimated three million Vietnamese and some 58,000 American lives.

The red and yellow flag of Vietnam now adorns many of the streets and buildings of Ho Chi Minh City.

In front of the Presidential Palace, a large portrait of late President Ho Chi Minh, founder of today's Vietnam, takes pride of place.

The only high profile foreign visitor due to attend the celebrations is Cuban Defence Minister Raul Castro, President Fidel Castro's younger brother and apparent heir.

Cuba, along with the Soviet Union and China, were communist North Vietnam's key allies during the conflict.

More than 7,500 prisoners, including some political detainees, have been released this year as part of an anniversary amnesty.

The New York Times > Washington > Speech Gives Republicans Lift in Social Security Fight

The New York Times > Washington > Speech Gives Republicans Lift in Social Security Fight: April 30, 2005
Speech Gives Republicans Lift in Social Security Fight
By ROBIN TONER and ELISABETH BUMILLER

WASHINGTON, April 29 - House Republican leaders announced on Friday that they hoped to draft Social Security legislation by June, trying to demonstrate new energy behind President Bush's long-stalled initiative. Mr. Bush, a day after embracing a plan to restore the pension program's solvency by curtailing promised benefits for most future retirees, declared, "I'm confident we're going to get something done."

Mr. Bush ended his 60-day campaign to highlight the financial problems in Social Security with the public still skeptical about his approach, but he said he was confident the mood would shift: "The more they understand the nature of the problem, the more they're going to be saying to those of us who are serving, 'Go get it fixed.' "

But Mr. Bush's latest Social Security proposal, unveiled in a prime-time news conference on Thursday night, brought a firestorm of new criticism. Democrats asserted it would amount to deep cuts in benefits for most retirees and transform Social Security from a broad middle-class entitlement to a program aimed at the poor. AARP, the powerful lobby for older Americans, also dismissed the latest Bush proposal, with John C. Rother, policy director for the group, describing it as "an unnecessary and unfair benefit cut for the middle class."

Mr. Bush took his campaign to overhaul the 70-year-old retirement system to an audience of supporters and skeptics in suburban Virginia, highlighting what the poor would gain from his proposal. Under the approach he has embraced, people in the lowest 30 percent of the income spectrum would receive all the benefits now promised to them by current law. But the plan would reduce the growth in benefits now promised to middle-class and affluent retirees, using a sliding scale tied to income.

Mr. Bush and his allies argue that the plan will solve most of the solvency problems in Social Security while protecting those who need it most. "If you've worked all your life and paid in the Social Security system, you will not retire into poverty," Mr. Bush said at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, Va. "And there's a way to make that happen, and that is to have the benefits for low-income workers in a future system grow faster than benefits for those who are better off."

In a 44-minute "Conversation on Social Security" that featured the president as a moderator on stage with six people who agreed with him, Mr. Bush never used the words "cuts" or "reductions" to describe his plan for Social Security. He left the details to his press secretary, Scott McClellan, who said in a briefing an hour later that doing nothing about Social Security would result in future benefit cuts to all retirees, regardless of income.

Republicans also stepped up their efforts to cast the Democrats as obstructionists comfortably sunk into the status quo.

But Democrats seemed decidedly unfazed. Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York and his party's ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee, declared: "The main approach of Republicans to addressing Social Security's long-term financial challenge is big benefit cuts. They seem determined to make Social Security beneficiaries bear the entire burden of shoring up the system."

Democrats also reiterated that until Mr. Bush renounced his proposal to create private investment accounts in Social Security, financed by payroll tax revenues, they would not negotiate on strengthening the system. Such accounts have huge startup costs, putting additional strains on Social Security, experts say.

In the face of those divisions, Republican leaders sought to quicken the legislative pace, setting the stage for a frenetic late spring and summer. Representative Bill Thomas, Republican of California and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said his panel would begin weekly hearings on May 12, with the goal of producing legislation in June that "won't just be a Social Security bill," but would deal more broadly with retirement security, including new ways to encourage savings and provisions on long-term care.

Mr. Thomas did not embrace the details of Mr. Bush's solvency plan, but he did express support for its underlying idea: that lawmakers should protect those most dependent on Social Security from any cuts while curtailing the growth in benefits for middle- and upper-income people. "Those who have other options, perhaps, don't need to get as much as the current formula projects," Mr. Thomas said.

But he added that those middle- and higher-income people would need assurance that there "are provisions in there for them as well and that would be focused on pensions, retirement instruments, and the tax code itself." Mr. Thomas also reiterated that he supported Mr. Bush's proposal to create private retirement accounts.

In a day of dueling news conferences on Capitol Hill, Democrats asserted that Mr. Thomas and Mr. Bush were bent on changing the fundamental nature of Social Security. Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan, who is on the Ways and Means Committee, asserted that Republicans want to replace the government pension program with a system of private accounts for most Americans and a safety net for the lowest income. "The lines now are very clearly drawn," Mr. Levin said.

The partisan divisions were razor sharp. Mr. Thomas assailed the Democrats for what he called a decades-long effort to avoid the underlying demographic problems in Social Security and the plight of the poorest retirees.

In such a climate, 18 months before midterm elections, there was clear nervousness among the Republicans about the president's high-risk move toward limiting benefits. Some economic conservatives have warned that the party faces a growing risk in emphasizing solvency and advocating benefit cuts in the popular pension program. Stephen Moore, the president of the Free Enterprise Fund, a conservative lobby, said Friday, "I think Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are probably opening up Champagne bottles celebrating that they've put Republicans in this trap."

Because of the high political stakes, many have expected the House to hold back until the Senate moves on Social Security. That way, House Republicans could be spared from casting politically difficult votes until they are assured that legislation can actually pass the Senate, which is far more hostile terrain to the Bush plan. Now, the legislative pace is hard to predict.

Friday, April 29, 2005

International News Article | Reuters.com

International News Article | Reuters.com: By Jon Herskovitz

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States believes North Korea may be trying to harvest material for a nuclear bomb from a shut-down reactor, the chief U.S. negotiator to stalled nuclear talks said on Friday, adding that this would be "problematic."

"The plutonium reactor at Yongbyon has not been running going on three weeks," said Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill. "There could be an effort to reprocess (nuclear material)."

Hill told reporters after meeting South Korean officials that the reactor shutdown and the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test were of great concern to powers trying through six-way talks to coax Pyongyang into giving up its atomic programs.

"To go ahead and have a nuclear test at a time the six-party talks are in abeyance I think would be very troubling for the talks," Hill said.

"Efforts to harvest plutonium at a time the North Korean side is simply boycotting the talks would also be very problematic for the talks," he said.

Patience in Washington on the nuclear issue is wearing thin, but Hill told a news conference: "We are not abandoning the six-party process."

Proliferation experts say the North may have already harvested enough fissile material to produce six to eight plutonium bombs.

Earlier this month, U.S. newspapers reported that North Korea had stepped up activity at a site Washington believes can be used for an underground atomic test.

WEIGHING OPTIONS

In Washington on Thursday, the head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency told a Senate committee that North Korea had the ability to mount a nuclear device on a long-range missile and that the communist state could hit U.S. territory.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran issues fresh nuclear warning

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran issues fresh nuclear warning Iran issues fresh nuclear warning
Iran will resume nuclear enrichment if its talks with leading EU nations fail, says the country's foreign minister.

Kamal Kharrazi said Tehran would have no other choice if no agreement was reached at Friday's negotiations with France, Germany and the UK.

The group - known as the EU Three - want Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

They are offering Tehran economic, political and technological incentives for giving up the programme.

A previous round of talks in March ended with no agreement.

Delay

Mr Kharrazi was speaking in The Hague after talks with his Dutch counterpart, Bernard Bot.

"Iranian people fear a delay," Mr Kharrazi told reporters after the talks.

"They believe it is their inalienable right to have access to this technology for peaceful purposes."

The Europeans have warned they would back US moves to take Tehran to the UN Security Council if Iran breaches agreements or resumes uranium enrichment during the talks.

Iran maintains its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, but Washington suspects it of secretly trying to build a nuclear weapon.

CNN.com - All eyes on Taiwan-China meet - Apr 28, 2005

CNN.com - All eyes on Taiwan-China meet - Apr 28, 2005: All eyes on Taiwan-China meet

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Taiwan's main opposition leader is in Beijing ahead of a highly-anticipated meeting with China's president, the first between the two rivals in half a century.

The Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party have been bitter enemies since China's civil war, when Mao Zedong's Communists defeated the Nationalists.

Friday will see the first meeting of Nationalist and Communist party leaders since Chiang Kai-shek and Mao met in 1945.

Lien Chan, who leads the Nationalist or KMT Party, said he hopes the meeting will end decades of hostilities between the two.

"I want to meet China's leaders and start a dialogue with them on the most important issues in cross-Straits relations ... peace, and economic and cultural exchanges," said Lien.

Before his meeting with Chinese president Hu Jintao, who is also chairman of the Chinese communist party, Lien is giving a speech at Peking University.

While Taiwan's opposition leader is being feted in Beijing during his eight-day trip, Taipei airport was turned into a battleground when he left as opponents and supporters of independence for the island scuffled with each other and police.

Critics set off firecrackers and fought with police, denouncing Lien for kowtowing to Beijing as political tensions within Taiwan remain high over how to deal with China.

Opponents fear Lien's visit will undermine Taiwan's hopes for remaining separate from the Communist mainland.

For their part, Lien's supporters have argued the trip will ease tensions between Taipei and Beijing -- tensions that have increased in recent months following China's passage of a law allowing it to use force to prevent Taiwan from becoming independent.

For Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, Lien's visit is a major political embarrassment.

Chen, who been in office for five years, won reelection in a bitterly contested campaign battle against Lien last year.

On Thursday Chen registered his criticism of Beijing back home in Taipei.

Taiwan's president criticized China's "one country, two systems" policy in a speech before members of the Taiwanese association of Macau and Hong Kong.

Beijing introduced the plan as it negotiated the eventual handover of Hong Kong from British control.

Chen also dismissed Beijing's controversial anti-secession law that gives a legal basis for military action if Taiwan seeks independence from the mainland.

Beijing has refused to deal with Chen because of his pro-independence views and many observers believe China's invitation to Lien is part of an effort to isolate Chen and send a signal to the people of Taiwan that only politicians with a softer line on China can make progress with Beijing.

But whatever Lien achieves in his China visit he will have to sell it to Taiwan's people, who remain deeply divided over how the island should deal with its giant communist neighbor.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Georgia Report - News Detail Page >Perdue signs repeal of 'Jim Crow' laws

Georgia Report - News Detail Page: "Perdue signs repeal of 'Jim Crow' laws
by Tom Crawford on 4/28/2005

Perdue signs repeal of 'Jim Crow' laws
by Tom Crawford on 4/28/2005

Calling them a “stain on the state of Georgia,” Gov. Sonny Perdue signed four bills Thursday that repeal racially discriminatory laws adopted by white legislators in the 1950s and 1960s in an attempt to stop the integration of schools and public facilities.

“We all know these were intended as a roadblock to full citizen participation in government,” Perdue said during a signing ceremony in his office. “It was the right thing to do to take them off the books . . . it’s part of the process of racial reconciliation in Georgia.”

Most of these “Jim Crow” laws had long since been negated by court rulings, but two legislators have tried for several sessions to expunge them from the state code as well: Rep. Tyrone Brooks, a black Democrat from Atlanta, and Rep. Mike Coan, a white Republican from Lawrenceville.

Coan was unable to attend the bill signing ceremony Thursday morning, but Brooks and Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) looked on as Perdue signed the bills.

“This stain has been removed to some extent and this is a step in the right direction,” Brooks said. “It does help move us towards the racial reconciliation we are all seeking. It sends the right message to Georgians.”

The bills include:

* HB 25 repeals a law that authorized the governor to close a college if there was any threat of violence.
* HB 26 repeals a law that authorized the governor to suspend compulsory attendance laws in grades K-12.
* HB 27 repeals a law that allowed the General Assembly to provide tax-funded grants for students to attend private schools.
* HB 372 repeals a law that allowed local school systems to lease buildings to private schools.

Perdue signed legislation last week, HB 244, that is strongly opposed by African-American legislators because it will require voters to show photo identification at the polls, a requirement that critics say will suppress the turnout of black voters.

"It is ironic and significant that the governor signed the infamous HB 244, the most discriminatory voting law in the 21st Century, before he repealed the unenforceable Jim Crow laws,” said Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown (D-Macon), an African-American lawmaker.

“Governor Perdue is preaching reconciliation and peddling the politics of secrecy, exclusion, and division,” Brown said. “He says one thing and does another, but the people of Georgia are not fooled. Ordinary Georgians can see right through the governor’s empty rhetoric.”

The New York Times > International > International Special > Pope, Reviving Weekly Audience, Stresses Europe's Christian Roots

The New York Times > International > International Special > Pope, Reviving Weekly Audience, Stresses Europe's Christian RootsPope, Reviving Weekly Audience, Stresses Europe's Christian Roots
By IAN FISHER

VATICAN CITY, April 27 - The normal rhythms of the Vatican began returning Wednesday as Pope Benedict XVI held the traditional weekly papal audience, using the moment to express what may become a central theme of his papacy: the Christian roots of Europe.

Addressing thousands of pilgrims on a brilliant morning in St. Peter's Square, he explained that he had chosen the name Benedict for several reasons, among them the role that St. Benedict of Norcia in Italy, the sixth-century author of the monastic "Rule" that led to the founding of the Benedictine order, had on spreading Christianity in Europe. Benedict is one of the patron saints of Europe.

"He represents a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a strong reminder of the unrenounceable Christian roots of its culture and civilization," the pope said in Italian, one of at least six languages he used on Wednesday.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he was chosen pope last week, he wrote often of his worries that Europe had forgotten its Christian roots and therefore was in danger of losing its identity and spiritual grounding. His choice, as a European cardinal and one who has focused on the Roman Catholic Church's decline in Europe, has led to speculation that he will push for a "re-evangelization" of an increasingly secular Europe, though he has not yet announced any specific plan for doing so.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Japan Today - News - Taiwan opposition leader begins historic visit to China - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Taiwan opposition leader begins historic visit to China - Japan's Leading International News Network: "

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 05:37 JST
NANJING, China — Taiwan's Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan began in Nanjing on Tuesday an eight-day visit to China, the party's civil war rival for control of the mainland before 1949.

Lien was given a red-carpet welcome in this eastern city by the head of the Communist Party's Taiwan Office Chen Yunlin and leaders of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office as well as leading party officials from Jiangsu province.

It is the first visit by a Kuomintang (KMT) party chairman to mainland China since it lost a civil war to the Communists and fled to Taiwan in 1949.

Lien said he was 'honored and happy' and would 'cherish' his time in China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification by force if necessary.

He said he would use the visit to improve relations across the Taiwan Straits.

'Concerning the common future of the two sides of the straits and how we can reach a future of mutual benefit and a peaceful win-win situation, it is an issue that everyone is concerned about,' he said at the airport.

'The delegation of the Kuomintang hopes to reach the goal of a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship and we will work towards this. We really hope that people from all walks of life will also strive for this.'"

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Beijing rules on HK chief tenure

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Beijing rules on HK chief tenure Beijing rules on HK chief tenure
China has ruled that the next chief executive of Hong Kong should only serve for two years rather than five.

The new leader will serve out the remaining term of former leader Tung Chee-hwa, who resigned in March.

Critics say the fact that Hong Kong asked Beijing to rule on the issue has undermined the territory's autonomy.

There are suspicions Beijing decided on only a two-year term because of its doubts over the background of Mr Tung's expected successor, Donald Tsang.

He is currently serving as Hong Kong's interim leader.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Beijing rules on HK chief tenure

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Beijing rules on HK chief tenure Beijing rules on HK chief tenure
China has ruled that the next chief executive of Hong Kong should only serve for two years rather than five.

The new leader will serve out the remaining term of former leader Tung Chee-hwa, who resigned in March.

Critics say the fact that Hong Kong asked Beijing to rule on the issue has undermined the territory's autonomy.

There are suspicions Beijing decided on only a two-year term because of its doubts over the background of Mr Tung's expected successor, Donald Tsang.

He is currently serving as Hong Kong's interim leader.

Top News Article | Reuters.com > U.S. Says Fate of North Korea Nuclear Talks in Doubt

Top News Article | Reuters.com: "By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - The top U.S. diplomat on the North Korean nuclear crisis said on Wednesday that the fate of six-party talks on the issue was in doubt, signaling a limit to Washington's patience.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill arrived in Tokyo from Beijing as part of a whirlwind tour of the region aimed at finding a way to bring North Korea back into talks on its nuclear programs that have been stalled for nearly a year.

China has hosted three inconclusive rounds of the negotiations.

'The future of talks is very much uncertain at this point,' Hill told reporters as he left his hotel in Beijing.

'We continue to have a North Korean regime that is very ambivalent about whether it wants to find a negotiated settlement to this,' said the U.S. point man on North Korea, who was also in Seoul prior to Beijing.

North Korea said explicitly for the first time in February that it had nuclear weapons, ratcheting up the crisis that began in 2002 over what Washington said was its enrichment of uranium that could be used to make weapons."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Georgia Report - News Detail Page > Court overturns ‘obscene’ phone call law

Georgia Report - News Detail Page: "Court overturns ‘obscene’ phone call law
by Tom Crawford on 4/26/2005

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously struck down Tuesday a state law that had prohibited the making of lewd or obscene telephone calls, ruling that the statute violated the constitutional right to free speech.

“Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental personal rights and liberties protected from government intrusion by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” the court stated in an opinion written by Justice Robert Benham.

The court ruled that Georgia code section 46-5-21 “is an overbroad infringement on the right to free speech . . . it is clear the statute ‘lacks the precision that the First Amendment requires when a statute regulates the content of speech.’”

The state law thrown out by the court made it a misdemeanor offense for a person “by means of telephone communication in this state to make any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent.”

“Instead of applying only to obscene speech, it applies to speech that is merely indecent,” the court ruled. “Instead of making illegal such speech only when directed at minors, it makes such speech illegal when heard by adults. Instead of applying only to speech not welcomed by the listener and spoken with intent to harass, it applies to speech welcomed by the listener and spoken with intent to please or amuse.”

The court ruled in a case involving Anthony McKenzie, an 18-year-old who made five telephone calls to his 14-year-old girlfriend in 2003 while he was being held in the Forsyth County Detention Center. The calls were routinely tape-recorded at the jail and McKenzie was charged with five counts of making “harassing and obscene telephone calls” after his girlfriend’s mother complained to law enforcement authorities.

McKenzie was found guilty on two of the five counts in 2004 after a bench trial before Forsyth State Court Judge Philip C. Smith, who sentenced McKenzie to two years probation.

McKenzie’s attorney, R. Parker McFarland of Cumming, contended that the obscene phone call statute was unconstitutional in his appeal of McKenzie’s convictions. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a “friend of the court” brief that also alleged the law infringed upon free speech rights.

McFarland argued in his court filings that the Georgia law “permits the unbridled discretion of law enforcement officers to decide which conversation falls into this category.” He noted that the 14-year-old girlfriend accepted each of the five collect calls from McKenzie.

While acknowledging that some of the speech was “sexually explicit,” McFarland added, “when you consider it is being returned by the victim, I don’t know that it rises to the level of being obscene.”

Forsyth Solicitor General Leslie C. Abernathy, the State Court’s chief prosecutor, quoted several of the sexually explicit terms used in McKenzie’s phone conversations and said they were lewd, filthy and indecent “by any reasonable standard.”

McKenzie “is not prohibited from having what he describes as conversation between a boyfriend and his girlfriend; he just cannot have that conversation by telephone,” Abernathy said.

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Arms Move to Syria 'Unlikely,' Report Says

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Arms Move to Syria 'Unlikely,' Report Says: April 26, 2005
Arms Move to Syria 'Unlikely,' Report Says
By DAVID E. SANGER

The Bush administration's senior weapons inspector said in a report released last night that it was "unlikely" that Saddam Hussein's forces moved weapons to Syria, though he expressed concern about nuclear-related equipment that was apparently removed after American-led forces invaded Iraq.

In a 92-page addendum to a report issued last fall, Charles Duelfer, the head of the former Iraq Survey Group, was also highly critical of the way key Iraqi scientists were interviewed after their capture, suggesting opportunities to mine information from them might have been lost.

Mr. Duelfer, who took over the largely fruitless hunt for weapons after the resignation of David Kay, said, "Many detainees had as many as four different debriefers and were debriefed dozens of time, often by new, inexperienced and uninformed debriefers."

Nonetheless, he said, Mr. Hussein's large corps of scientists and engineers provided much of the critical information that led to the conclusion that Iraq posed little or no threat of using weapons of mass destruction against its own people, its neighbors or American forces.

On Syria, the report said that "no information gleaned from questioning Iraqis supported the possibility" that weapons were moved out of the country before the invasion, which was one theory about why no unconventional weapons were found.

Mr. Duelfer reported that his group, the Iraq Survey Group, believed "it was unlikely that an official transfer of W.M.D. material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, I.S.G. was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited W.M.D.-related materials."

In the addendum, posted last night on the C.I.A.'s Web site (www.cia.gov) and reported by The Washington Post, he also comes to largely the same conclusion that international weapons inspectors and some European nations argued before the war: that Mr. Hussein's weapons ambitions were defeated by inspections.

"U.N. sanctions and intrusive Unscom inspections dampened the regime's ability to retain its W.M.D. expertise," he wrote. "During the course of the 1990's, staffs were directed to civilian enterprises. Concomitantly, attention through emigration, retirement and natural processes occurred."

He concluded that there was little practical value in still detaining many scientists and engineers who worked in the projects, though he warned that if left jobless and penniless they could help another country or terror group develop weapons.

Mr. Duelfer also gave the administration's first significant account of what happened at Al Qaqaa, outside of Baghdad, where stockpiles of conventional explosives that had been sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency were looted. The revelation of that looting by The New York Times in the days leading up to the presidential election last year led to complaints by the Bush campaign that the release of the news had been timed to influence the election.

Mr. Duelfer reported that his inspectors did not get to the site until October 2004, about when the newspaper reports appeared, and apparently after the new Iraqi government reported the looting. The addendum shows pictures of the empty bunkers, though videos taken by television crews with American troops show the bunkers were still full of explosives well after the invasion.

Mr. Duelfer's report did not say why the explosives were left unguarded, even though they were considered especially dangerous.

In its most worrisome conclusion, the group "found that some nuclear-related dual-use equipment was missing from heavily damaged and looted sites" like Al Qaqaa, but its ultimate disposition could not be determined. While some of it was sold for scrap, "still others could have been taken intact to preserve their function," reinforcing conclusions of the Iraqi government and the I.A.E.A.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The New York Times > Washington > G.O.P. Senator Casts Doubt on U.N. Nominee

The New York Times > Washington > G.O.P. Senator Casts Doubt on U.N. Nominee G.O.P. Senator Casts Doubt on U.N. Nominee
By DOUGLAS JEHL

Published: April 25, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 24 - In contrast to optimistic statements from the White House, a top Republican senator said Sunday that John R. Bolton's prospects of winning Senate confirmation as ambassador to the United Nations were "too close to call."

The doubts expressed by the Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who spoke on the CNN program "Late Edition," came as Democratic critics sharpened attacks aimed at portraying Mr. Bolton as someone who sought to politicize intelligence judgments. Four of 10 Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have expressed concern about Mr. Bolton, on a panel where one Republican vote against him could keep the nomination from reaching the Senate floor.

China Rejects U.S. Pressure for Early Relaxation of Currency Controls, Criticizes U.S. Trade Deficit

China Rejects U.S. Pressure for Early Relaxation of Currency Controls, Criticizes U.S. Trade DeficitChina Rejects U.S. Pressure for Early Relaxation of Currency Controls, Criticizes U.S. Trade Deficit
The Associated Press
Published: Apr 24, 2005

BEIJING (AP) - A Chinese official rejected U.S. pressure for an early end to China's currency controls and said Washington should take action on its own soaring trade deficits instead of blaming other countries for its economic woes.

The comments Sunday by an official of China's foreign exchange regulator came after President Bush and other officials called on Beijing last week to end its policy of tying the value of its currency, the yuan, to the U.S. dollar.

The United States and other nations say Beijing's fixed exchange rate for its currency, the yuan, is too low and gives China's exporters an unfair price advantage.

"This we cannot accept. I say this in a very blunt manner," said Wei Benhua, vice director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, speaking at a gathering of Asian business and political leaders in southern China.

"I made it clear to them: this is your problem. You should put your own house in order before you blame your neighbors," said Wei, referring to a recent meeting with U.S. counterparts.

For the first two months of this year, the U.S. trade deficit was running at an annual rate of $717.2 billion - a full $100 billion above the record imbalance of $617.1 billion in 2004.

Chinese leaders say they plan to let the yuan trade freely on world markets eventually, but they say doing so immediately would damage the country's frail banks and financial industries.

"China has no time schedule for the reform," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Wei as saying. The government "cannot decide a proper time until the basic conditions mature."

Wei blamed the U.S. trade deficit on "a flawed US economic policy" and said China would make currency decisions based on its own economic needs, the reports said.

AP-ES-04-24-05 2220EDT

Japan Today - News - U.S. prison population soars - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - U.S. prison population soars - Japan's Leading International News Network:Monday, April 25, 2005 at 07:23 JST
WASHINGTON — Growing at a rate of about 900 inmates each week between mid-2003 and mid-2004, the nation's prisons and jails held 2.1 million people, or one in every 138 U.S. residents, the government reported Sunday.

By last June 30, there were 48,000 more inmates, or 2.3%, more than the year before, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The total inmate population has hovered around 2 million for the past few years, reaching 2.1 million on June 30, 2002, and just below that mark a year later.

While the crime rate has fallen over the past decade, the number of people in prison and jail is outpacing the number of inmates released, said the report's co-author, Paige Harrison. For example, the number of admissions to federal prisons in 2004 exceeded releases by more than 8,000, the study found.

Harrison said the increase can be attributed largely to get-tough policies enacted in the 1980s and 1990s. Among them are mandatory drug sentences, "three-strikes-and-you're-out" laws for repeat offenders, and "truth-in-sentencing" laws that restrict early releases.

"As a whole most of these policies remain in place," she said. "These policies were a reaction to the rise in crime in the '80s and early 90s."

Added Malcolm Young, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which promotes alternatives to prison: "We're working under the burden of laws and practices that have developed over 30 years that have focused on punishment and prison as our primary response to crime."

He said many of those incarcerated are not serious or violent offenders, but are low-level drug offenders. Young said one way to help lower the number is to introduce drug treatment programs that offer effective ways of changing behavior and to provide appropriate assistance for the mentally ill.

According to the Justice Policy Institute, which advocates a more lenient system of punishment, the United States has a higher rate of incarceration than any other country, followed by Britain, China, France, Japan and Nigeria.

There were 726 inmates for every 100,000 U.S. residents by June 30, 2004, compared with 716 a year earlier, according to the report by the Justice Department agency. In 2004, one in every 138 U.S. residents was in prison or jail; the previous year it was one in every 140.

In 2004, 61% of prison and jail inmates were of racial or ethnic minorities, the government said. An estimated 12.6% of all black men in their late 20s were in jails or prisons, as were 3.6% of Hispanic men and 1.7% of white men in that age group, the report said. (Wire reports)

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Territorial dispute boils again, straining Japan-South Korea ties / Rivalry returns despite threat of North Korea

Territorial dispute boils again, straining Japan-South Korea ties / Rivalry returns despite threat of North Korea:Seoul -- As Japan struggles to assuage angry protesters in China, its relations with South Korea have sunk to a new low after a long-simmering territorial dispute erupted again, threatening to spoil a tenuous rapprochement between the two countries.

The ruckus started, ironically, with an undiplomatic remark earlier this year during a ceremony to mark this year as Korea-Japan Friendship Year.

At what would have been a sleepy press event about the yearlong friendship festival, Japanese Ambassador Toshiyuki Takano asserted that the Tokdo islands -- two small, craggy peaks in the Sea of Japan that are claimed by both countries -- are "historically and legally Japan's territory. "

In response, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun threatened the possibility of "diplomatic war" in an open letter posted on his Web site if Japan did not atone for the 1910-1945 occupation of Korea and stop claiming the Tokdo islands as its territory.

The animosity over the islands runs so deep that Koreans have staged violent protests outside the Japanese Embassy throughout March and April, burning flags and tussling with riot police. In some of the more gruesome events, a 61-year-old woman and her 43-year-old son each cut off one of their fingers in a bloody tribute to Korea's claim, promising to send the flesh to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. A few days later, Heo Gyeong Wuk, whose father was forced to serve in Japan's colonial military, set himself on fire in front of the Japanese Embassy, suffering serious burns.

In the West, the protests may seem an inexplicable display of self- mutilation. But for Koreans, they are a measure of the country's ardent nationalism and intense rivalry with Japan.

"The Koreans have always ... been extremely careful to protect their own (territory) because they are surrounded," said Don Oberdorfer, author of "The Two Koreas." "They are extremely sensitive to any sense of encroachment."

Japan has long asserted a claim to what it calls the Takeshima islands. South Korea has occupied them since the 1950s and keeps a small police force stationed there.

Economically, the islands -- comprising a mere 43 acres -- are of value mainly for the fishing rights to the surrounding waters. But emotionally, they mean much more to both North and South Korea. Although 60 years have passed since the Japan ended its colonial rule over Korea, the psychological wounds of that occupation run deep.

Koizumi's expression of remorse over his country's invasion of its neighbors and wartime atrocities, expressed Friday during the Asia-Africa summit in Indonesia, apparently failed to mollify Seoul. South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae Chan spoke out at the summit against Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, saying, "A country that distorts history by glossing over the colonial past and hiding their misdeeds . .. will not be able to free itself from the shackles of the past."

He added that "remorse over the past must be genuine and must be put into action."

Even before the latest uproar, South Korea was reassessing its relations with Japan. At the end of last year, legislators passed a law to reopen investigations of those who collaborated with the Japanese during the occupation, a painful purge supported by Roh's administration. And earlier this year, hundreds of pages of documents covering the 1965 treaty that normalized diplomatic relations with Japan were made public. Under the treaty, which settled all claims regarding the occupation, South Korea agreed to some $800 million in grants and loans and gave up its right to any future claims.

Those disclosures may have stoked public animosity toward Japan because only a few victims of Japan's occupation received compensation. Instead, former President Park Chung Hee channeled the funds to budding industries that later contributed to South Korea's explosive growth.

The dispute comes at a time when ties between Korean and Japanese companies have blossomed. Samsung Electronics and Sony signed a deal last year to produce liquid crystal display screens for flat screen televisions in Korea and shipped the first flat screens on Monday. Korean culture is also increasingly popular in Japan. Korean actor Bae Yong Joon, star of the soap opera "Winter Sonata," is a heartthrob for middle-age Japanese women, and Japanese tourists flock to Korea for its stylish yet economical shopping.

The two countries also have strategic reasons to remain on good terms. Both are keenly aware of the threat from North Korea, which admitted in February to producing nuclear weapons. North Korea has tried to capitalize on the anti-Japanese feeling raging in South Korea and China; earlier this month, its foreign ministry labeled Japan a "political dwarf" and called for it to withdraw from six-nation disarmament talks with Pyongyang.

Some experts worry that the diplomatic spat will jeopardize Japanese- Korean diplomatic initiatives.

"To harp on the past and cultivate a sense of national victimhood creates warped perceptions and bad choices," said Aidan Foster-Carter, a Korea research fellow at the University of Leeds in England. "Many young South Koreans dislike Japan and the U.S., but like North Korea and China. Is this wise? That is what happens when gut feeling trumps cool, rational calculation."

But such arguments matter little to South Koreans affronted by Japan's territorial claims. "It makes us more passionate because we had our country taken away by Japan in the past," said Park Song Tae, a 35-year-old resident of Seoul. "It violates our sovereignty when Japan insists it is their land.''

BBC NEWS | Europe | Benedict XVI is installed as Pope

BBC NEWS | Europe | Benedict XVI is installed as Pope: Benedict XVI is installed as Pope

Pope Benedict XVI has been formally installed as Pope in an open-air Mass in St Peter's Square in Rome.

The Pope has been presented with the symbols of power the Papal ring and the pallium - a narrow stole of white wool.

During his sermon the new Pope reached out to Jews and called for unity with other Christian denominations.

The open-air service is being attended by political and religious leaders from around the world along with about half a million pilgrims packing the square.

Applause and cheers


SYMBOLS OF POWER
PALLIUM
Embroidered with five red crosses representing blood of Christ
Made from lambs wool signifying role as shepherd
Reserved for bishops and Popes
When worn by Pope is symbol of pontifical power
PAPAL RING
Known as the Fisherman's Ring
Made from gold
Bears image of St Peter in a boat fishing and name of Pope
Acts as papal seal
Is destroyed when Pope dies

The two-hour inauguration ceremony began with the 78-year-old German Pope and the Roman Catholic cardinals processing to the site of St Peter's tomb, underneath St Peter's Basilica, to pray.

The Pope, dressed in a gold robe over sacred white vestments, then emerged from the church into the sunshine of St Peter's Square as a choir sang the Laudes Regiae, a litany calling for divine assistance for the new Pope.

The crowd of pilgrims applauded loudly as they saw Benedict XVI, waving flags, many of them German ones, and cheering.

Challenges ahead

In his homily, as he did in the first Mass following his election as Pope, Benedict XVI spoke of his inadequacies as Pontiff and how the prayers of others would sustain him in his task:

"I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone.

"All the Saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me. And your prayers, my dear friends, your indulgence, your love, your faith and your hope accompany me."

Speaking of the challenge ahead of him, the Pope said his primary role was not to present a programme of governance to the Church and to pursue his own ideas, but to listen to the will of God and be guided by it.

Break from tradition

As well as being steeped in tradition the ceremony contained new elements - in a break with previous papal installations the attending cardinals did not kneel before the Pope and pledge obedience.

Instead this ritual was carried out by a group of 12 people, chosen to represent the diversity of the Church and the 12 original apostles.

The group is comprised of three cardinals, a bishop, a priest, a deacon, a married couple, a nun, a monk and two young people who have received the sacrament of confirmation.

The service will end with the "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the city and the world") blessing pronounced by the Pope in Latin.

In centuries gone by, the new pontiff would be crowned with a special tiara and carried around the square in a wooden chair, but this ritual was abolished by Pope John Paul I.

After the mass, Benedict XVI will be driven around in a car, which the Vatican has already announced will be different from the one used by the late John Paul II and known as "popemobile".

German pilgrims

Thousands of Germans have flocked to Rome over the past few days, eager to see a fellow countryman mount the throne of St Peter for the first time since the mid-11th century.

Volunteers from Italy's German-speaking areas have been on hand to welcome them.

The Pope's elder brother, 81-year old Reverend Georg Ratzinger, is also attending the inauguration along with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Horst Koehler.

Other heads of state and government include French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Spanish King Juan Carlos.

US President George W Bush is represented by his brother Jeb, the Florida Governor, who leads a delegation of 21 members of Congress.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan told to reflect on war past

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan told to reflect on war past: Japan told to reflect on war past
Chinese President Hu Jintao has urged Japan to "seriously reflect" on its wartime history and back up government apologies with action.

Mr Hu made the comments after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, after weeks of tension between the two countries.

He also said the dispute should be resolved through dialogue.

Mr Koizumi told a press conference that the two leaders had had a "frank and meaningful" exchange.

The leaders met in private on the sidelines of an Asia-Africa summit, following three weeks of anti-Japanese protests in China triggered by:

* Tokyo's approval of new school textbooks that China says gloss over Japan's behaviour before and during World War II

* Japan's quest to gain a permanent seat at the UN Security Council

Tensions were raised again on Friday when Japanese lawmakers visited the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, honouring the Japanese who died during World War II, including a number of war criminals.

'Hurt feelings'

Addressing delegates on Friday, Mr Koizumi reiterated his country's "deep remorse" over its wartime actions.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Hu said that showing remorse was not enough.

Japan's recent behaviour had been offensive and the country needed to take concrete steps to face up to its wartime past, he said.

"[Japan] should never do anything again that would hurt the feelings of the Chinese people or the people of other Asian countries," he added.

Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage
Junichiro Koizumi
Japanese Prime Minister

Japan also needed to meet its commitments not to support the independence of Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, Mr Hu said.

"We hope both sides will make efforts so that Sino-Japanese relations can be on a healthy and stable development track," he said.

Despite those comments, the two sides, now major trading partners, do seem keen to patch things up, says the BBC's Andrew Harding in Jakarta.

The Chinese leader said both sides would lose if there was confrontation. In that spirit, the Chinese authorities have recently clamped down on street protests triggered by the row.

When the summit in Jakarta started on Friday, Mr Koizumi said: "In the past Japan through its colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous damage and suffering for the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations.

"Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility."

The wording repeats previous Japanese apologies, but analysts say the international setting gave the statement added weight.