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Saturday, May 21, 2005

ESPN.com - NBA - Kareem to teach finer points of trash talk in Shanghai

ESPN.com - 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.

Harmony

"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 - Boston.com - Nation - News

Bush resolute on stem cell restrictions - The Boston Globe - Boston.com - 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
GINA KOLATA
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
By ERIC LICHTBLAU

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

Channelnewsasia.com

Channelnewsasia.com
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
By CHRISTINE HAUSER

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
By JOHN F. BURNS and ERIC SCHMITT

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:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/4558213.stm

Outrage and Silence - New York Times

Outrage and Silence - New York TimesMay 18, 2005
Outrage and Silence
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

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
By MARC LACEY

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

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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
By STAFF and WIRE REPORTS

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.

TheDay.com, New London, CT > Air Force Seeks Bush OK For Space Arms

TheDay.com, New London, CTFeatured in Military

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


By TIM WEINER
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.”

Monday, May 16, 2005

Business News : Malaysia should free ringgit -thinktank, ( Breaking News,Kerala news, India News,Us,UK,Kerala Shopping,Onam Special, Kerala Greetings,

Business News : Malaysia should free ringgit -thinktank,Malaysia should free ringgit -thinktank
8 Hour,15 minutes Ago

Business News, KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia should move now to unshackle its currency from the U.S. dollar rather than wait for China to revalue the yuan before doing anything, Malaysia's leading economic think-tank said on Monday.

Malaysia's ringgit is fixed at 3.8 to the dollar and, like the yuan, is widely considered to be undervalued, but most economists believe it will not dare to revalue or float the ringgit until China also allows its currency to appreciate.

"It is not advisable for Malaysia to wait for China on the exchange rate policy," Professor Mohamed Ariff, executive director of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, said in an essay published in The Star newspaper.

Malaysia competes with China for export markets, especially for electronics goods, and its exporters would suffer a temporary setback if it moved ahead of China and revalued, Mohamed said.

"But there are other considerations calling on Malaysia to 'de-peg' regardless (of China)," he added.

"For one thing the loss of export competitiveness will be temporary and will be tempered by the falling costs of imported components and parts and lower domestic prices."

Malaysia pegged its ringgit to the dollar in 1998 as part of a series of capital controls to shelter the economy from the Asian financial crisis. In the past three years, as the dollar has weakened, it has helped the trade-dependent Southeast Asian economy by making its own exports cheaper.

Tehrantimes.com > Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore to meet over Malacca Strait security

Description of Selected NewsMalaysia, Indonesia, Singapore to meet over Malacca Strait security


KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) -- The foreign ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore will meet in June to map new strategies to guard ships against piracy in the busy Malacca Strait, Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

Malaysia's Syed Hamid said the three littoral states would also discuss the controversial issue of mercenaries hired by seafarers to provide armed escorts.

"We do not want such private escort services to continue. If every ship starts carrying weapons, it can lead to an uncontrollable situation which is very dangerous," he was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency Saturday.

Malaysia and Indonesia had objected to the presence of private armed escort ships in the narrow waterway.

Syed Hamid said the meeting would be held on Indonesia's Batam island.

Malaysia said Saturday would launch its new maritime agency established to fight piracy, illegal fishing and environmental pollution in November.

The country has recently come under pressure from the United States and Japan to beef up security in the Malacca Strait after a spate of recent pirate attacks.

The narrow 960-kilometre-long (600-mile) strait, bordered by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The strait is used by about 50,000 ships a year carrying a third of world trade and half its oil supplies. The attacks have led to concerns the waterway and adjoining Singapore Strait are also vulnerable to terrorists.