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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Japan Today - News - NK rejects U.S. proposal on peaceful nuclear activities - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - NK rejects U.S. proposal on peaceful nuclear activities - Japan's Leading International News NetworkNK rejects U.S. proposal on peaceful nuclear activities

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Saturday, August 6, 2005 at 11:06 JST
BEIJING — North Korea has rejected a U.S. proposal at the six-nation nuclear talks in Beijing that Pyongyang be allowed to conduct peaceful nuclear activities if it returns to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and accepts international inspections, negotiation sources said Friday.

The six-nations — North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia — are making final efforts to work out a joint document aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. (Kyodo News)

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Shuttle crew begin journey home

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Shuttle crew begin journey home Shuttle crew begin journey home

Astronauts on the shuttle Discovery have undocked their craft from the International Space Station, in the first step towards returning home.

Nasa earlier declared the shuttle safe, clearing the way for the first step to Discovery's planned landing on Monday.

After saying goodbye to the station's two residents, the crew slowly undocked and fired the shuttle's jets to reposition it ready for re-entry.

It is Nasa's first shuttle mission since the Columbia disaster in 2003.

The Discovery crew parted from the Russian and American astronauts who hosted their nine-day stay on the International Space Station (ISS) with hugs and handshakes.

"We are so happy to have spent time up here," Discovery commander Eileen Collins said. "These are memories that we will have forever."

"We would love to have you stay a little longer... Have a good flight and soft landing," station astronaut John Phillips replied.

Safety measures

After unhitching, the shuttle orbited the space station to take photographs from all angles and check for damage.

Discovery's visit to the ISS may be the last shuttle mission for some time.


Nasa has grounded the fleet until it fixes the flying debris problem, which destroyed Columbia and resurfaced at Discovery's launch on 26 July.

Because of safety measures put in place after Columbia broke apart on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere, Discovery has been videotaped, photographed and laser-inspected.

In a shuttle program first, it has also been repaired by Steve Robinson and Japanese crew member Soichi Noguchi during one of their three spacewalks.

The men removed two loose cloth strips, which were protruding from the shuttle's belly.

US space agency officials debated whether to send the astronauts on a second spacewalk to fix a small tear in an insulating cloth protecting the surface of Discovery near the commander's window.

Nasa experts feared the cloth could come off during descent into the atmosphere and seriously damage the 100-tonne shuttle.

'In good shape'

But deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said on Thursday that Discovery was sturdy enough to withstand the heat of re-entry.

"We've assessed this risk to the very best of our engineering knowledge and we believe the vehicle is safe to fly and for re-entry," he said.

Paul Hill, lead shuttle flight director, also stressed that Nasa is confident of a safe return for Discovery.

"We are in really good shape," he said. "The vehicle is in pristine condition. All the tests are good, we are ready to go. But de-orbit is not a risk free activity. Our big risk now would be the weather."

The shuttle is expected to land early on Monday morning at Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral. The touchdown time, weather permitting, has been set for 0446 EDT (0946 BST; 0846 GMT).

Iran Rejects Offer to End Its Nuclear Impasse - New York Times

Iran Rejects Offer to End Its Nuclear Impasse - New York TimesAugust 7, 2005
Iran Rejects Offer to End Its Nuclear Impasse

TEHRAN, Aug. 6 - Iran announced Saturday that it would reject a proposal by three European countries aimed at ending the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program.

A Foreign Ministry statement announcing the decision came as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as Iran's new president.

President Ahmadinejad's new government now faces a decision about whether to proceed with Iran's announced plan to continue with a uranium conversion process that Tehran suspended a year ago, a step that the West has said may lead to it seeking sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, told state radio on Saturday that the European proposal, which was drawn up by Britain, France and Germany on behalf of the European Union, was "unacceptable."

"The proposals do not meet Iran's minimum expectations," he said, adding that Iran will send its official rejection to the Europeans within days.

Britain, Germany and France, which represent Europe in their negotiations with Iran, offered a package of economic, technological, political and security incentives to Iran on Thursday in return for Iran's cooperation to ensure its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.

The United States said Friday that it supported the European proposal. However, Western diplomats had said earlier that they expected Iran initially to reject the European plan.

Iran announced last week that it intended to remove seals the International Atomic Energy Agency had placed on its uranium conversion facilities in Isfahan, where raw uranium can be converted into gas.

Uranium enrichment is part of the process of making nuclear fuel, but at higher levels can serve in nuclear weapons. Iran voluntarily suspended the process last year while it negotiated with the Europeans about its nuclear program.

In his inauguration speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran would not give up its rights, but did not refer specifically to Iran's nuclear program.

"We want peace and justice for all and they are the integral part of our foreign policy," he said, addressing senior Iranian officials and foreign ambassadors at the ceremony. "I stress on these two principles so that countries which use the instrument of threat against our nation know that our people will never give up its right to justice."

"I don't know why some countries do not want to understand that the Iranian people will never give in to pressure," he added. "When people see such attitude, resistance grows in them and achieving a national right becomes an ideal."

European officials had said that if Iran rejected the offer, as they expected, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog, would probably meet on Tuesday in Vienna.

Mr. Asefi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said such a meeting would be an effort to pressure Iran.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but it has pursued a policy of concealment about the program for the past 20 years. An Iranian opposition group disclosed in 2002 that Iran had built a facility to enrich uranium in the city of Natanz.

The former Iranian government began negotiations in November 2003 with European representatives in an effort to divert the threat of United Nations sanctions and agreed to allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, 48, is taking office at a time of tension inside the country as well. Several bombs went off before the election in June, including one that killed 10 people in the Arab minority region of Ahwaz. Another bomb exploded outside three Western companies in northern Tehran this week and a judge was shot dead on the street.

Ethnic unrest in the western region of Kurdistan has led to the death of civilians and security forces. The government has tried to keep the unrest out of the news, but the foreign news media and Web sites have reported the events.

In the meantime, the local press has reported that Mr. Ahmadinejad has angered his conservative supporters by his refusal to yield to their choice of cabinet ministers, whom he must introduce to Parliament within two weeks.

Analysts said the recent chain of events had raised concerns among many Iranians.

"The domestic and international situation Iran is faced with has created the same shock for society that the unexpected victory of Mr. Ahmadinejad created in the election," said Hermidas Davood Bavand, a political analyst at Tehran University.

"Society is in a wait-and-see situation but there is a fear that the conservatives' foreign policies might lead the country into a crisis," he said.

Steven R. Weisman contributed reporting from Washington for this article.

CBS 46 Atlanta - Thousands March to Preserve Voting Rights Act

CBS 46 Atlanta - Thousands March to Preserve Voting Rights ActThousands March to Preserve Voting Rights Act
Aug 6, 2005, 3:39 PM
Lyndon Johnson signs voting rights bill, August 1965
Lyndon Johnson signs voting rights bill, August 1965
Selma, Alabama, 7 March 1965
Selma, Alabama, 7 March 1965

ATLANTA (AP) -- More than 10,000 marchers stormed Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and trekked through the historic Atlanta University Center chanting, singing and clapping on Saturday in support of extending the 40-year-old Voting Rights Act.

Organizers hope the "Keep the Vote Alive" march will pressure Congress and President Bush to extend key provisions of the landmark law, which expires in 2007.

"Forty years later, we're still marching for the right to vote," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who participated in the civil rights struggles that helped secure passage of the law in 1965. "Don't give up, don't give in. Keep the faith, keep your eyes on the prize."

Activists from across the country -- including Dick Gregory and Harry Belafonte -- joined Lewis, NAACP President Bruce Gordon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who heads the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, at Saturday's demonstration.

"The most fundamental aspect of our democratic existence is at stake," Belafonte said as the march got underway. "We are the keepers of the gates of democracy ... We must stand vigilant, as there are those among us who would steal our liberty and steal our souls."

Gregory added that "there is nothing more important in America than the right to register" to vote, even if that right is never exercised. He also noted that he was marching Saturday in much safer times than four decades ago, when he and other demonstrators faced violent police opposition in Selma, Ala.

"We were scared then, but there is no fear here today," said Gregory.

Civil rights groups fear conservatives will try to modify two key provisions of the law. One requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get federal approval before changing voting rules. The other requires election officials to provide voting material in the native language of immigrant voters who don't speak English.

In the weekly Democratic radio address, Lewis said his party is committed to strengthening the sections of the law that are set to expire.

"Our democracy depends on protecting the right of every American citizen to vote in every election," Lewis said.

Many supporters preached education and awareness Saturday.

"The right to vote is not in danger, but we must protect it against discrimination," Jackson said at a rally at the end of the march.

Activists also used the rally to protest Georgia's recently passed voter identification law, which critics call the most restrictive in the country. NAACP President Gordon on Saturday called the law "the most outrageous, oppressive, discriminatory" law he'd ever seen.

If that bill is approved by the Department of Justice, Jackson warned on Friday, it could "spread like a virus" to other states. Rainbow/PUSH is among a list of objectors that have urged the Department of Justice not to approve the law.

Demonstrators braved the heat and humidity for three hours early Saturday morning before the march began.

The hourlong hike to Morris Brown College's Herndon Stadium got off in fits and starts as the media clamored to photograph high-profile participants like Jackson, country singer Willie Nelson and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the former Southern Christian Leadership Conference president.

Jerky and disconnected at times, the crowd -- which Atlanta Police estimate numbered between 10,000 and 15,000 marchers -- was buoyed by marching bands and songs from the civil rights era.

Supporters who filled the stadium bleachers at the march's end were entertained by Stevie Wonder and greeted by members of Congress, civil rights activists and religious leaders who helped organize the event.

Many of the organizers marched alongside their constituents, including Gordon, who was attending his first march after only a week as NAACP leader.

"People need to understand if this act is not reauthorized and improved, we will lose the progress of the last 40 years," he said.

Where First A-Bomb Fell, Prayers Ask 'Never Again' - New York Times

Where First A-Bomb Fell, Prayers Ask 'Never Again' - New York TimesAugust 7, 2005
Where First A-Bomb Fell, Prayers Ask 'Never Again'

HIROSHIMA, Japan, Aug. 6 - At 8:15 a.m. Saturday, as tens of thousands of Japanese bowed their heads here to mark the instant when an atomic bomb fell 60 years ago, only the loud, telltale buzz of the summer cicadas broke the respectful silence.

In an hourlong ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park, participants, as in previous years, laid wreaths, burned incense, prayed for the souls of the dead, and gave impassioned pleas for world peace and the abolition of nuclear arms. Few in Hiroshima can remember an Aug. 6 that was not oppressively hot, and Saturday morning's blazing sun matched expectation and memory.

Still, on the 60th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack, some members of the aging and dwindling population of survivors expressed worries that Japan was shedding its postwar pacifism. The survivors, whose suffering had long made them Japan's most eloquent advocates for pacifism, said recent policy changes inside Japan had made them deeply pessimistic.

"The dispatch of our Self-Defense Forces to Iraq is completely out of line with pacifism," said Akihiro Takahashi, an A-bomb survivor and former director of the Peace Memorial Museum here. "In the future, the peace Constitution will no doubt be revised, and that will lead to conscription and, eventually, the possession of nuclear arms."

Since early 2004 Japan has had about 500 troops in southern Iraq, deployed on a humanitarian aid, noncombat mission.

A decade ago, on the last major anniversary of the dropping of the bomb, the possibility of Japan acquiring nuclear arms or revising its official renunciation of war was unthinkable. Today, North Korea's possible possession of nuclear weapons has led many here to worry about an arms race, and Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has begun the process of revising the American-imposed postwar Constitution.

"Things have changed," said Dr. Hiroshi Maruya, 80, a physician and survivor of the nuclear blast.

"Ten years ago, few could question Article 9 of the Constitution," he said of the war-renouncing clause. "But people talk about it openly now."

With government thinking no longer matching the survivors' message of pacifism, the general attitude toward them has changed, survivors and experts say.

Osamu Fujiwara, associate professor of peace studies at Tokyo Keizai University, said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did not follow his predecessors' practice of speaking to A-bomb survivors after the annual Aug. 6 ceremony.

"There is no political debate over this cancellation," Professor Fujiwara said. "The ceremony itself has become history, and the A-bomb itself has become a thing of the past."

Dr. Maruya described the government's attitude toward the survivors as "very cold."

"It's as if the government is saying, 'It is no use listening to you,' " he said. "Power politics is the theory of the new world."

In keeping with his city's idealistic pacifism, Hiroshima's mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba, has proposed working through the United Nations to eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide by 2020. But an editorial in Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, reflected the new prevailing mood toward this kind of pacifism by bluntly calling it "empty." The editorial added that the antinuclear campaign "should reflect reality."

Making the same kind of universal appeal for pacifism that the nation's leaders used to make, Mayor Akiba said of the anniversary on Saturday, "It is also a time of inheritance, of awakening, and of commitment, in which we inherit the commitment of the A-bomb survivors to the abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of genuine world peace, awaken to our individual responsibilities, and recommit ourselves to take action."

To that end, a couple of hours after the ceremony, Miyoko Watanabe, 75, told the story she had told countless times. Exactly 60 years ago she walked out of her house when the strong sun made her return for a parasol. At 8:15 a.m., as she stepped out of her house again, she saw a flash of light in the distance. As the fire blew toward her, she crouched to protect herself, according to the drills that she had been taught at school. The bomb left her relatively unharmed, but it seriously injured her mother and killed her father.

Her father was one of 140,000 people killed instantly or who died soon after the bomb was dropped by the Enola Gay. The population of Hiroshima, a city with many military sites at the time, was 350,000. Three days later, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing 80,000. Days later, Japan surrendered.

Her story, Ms. Watanabe said, was her testament to the future. But given the proliferation of nuclear arms, she said that the A-bomb survivors' message "hadn't gotten across."

"It may be empty," she said of the proposal to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2020. "But you can't move forward unless you advocate. We can't keep silent because we are uncertain about the results. We have to keep trying, one step at a time."

Mr. Koizumi, who called Hiroshima a world symbol for peace, spoke quickly and in a soft voice, receiving polite applause. "I offer deep prayers from my heart to those who were killed," Mr. Koizumi said, adding that Japan would not produce or possess nuclear weapons on its soil.

A passionate speech by Yohei Kono, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament and a famous pacifist, received the loudest applause. He said the use of the word "mistake" in the famous phrase engraved on a memorial here - "Let all the souls here rest in peace, as we will never repeat this mistake" - referred to the use of the bomb, as well as Japan's militarism in Asia.

Recently, a right-wing vandal tried to scrape off the word "mistake" from the memorial, and the damage was still visible.

Last week, in another attempt to play down Japan's wartime aggressions in Asia, the lower house of Parliament restated a resolution passed a decade ago for the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, but it removed the words "invasion" and "colonial rule." But declaring that Japan was the only country to have ever suffered an atomic bomb, the resolution again committed Japan to working for peace.

The resolution left some atomic-bomb survivors skeptical.

"The Japanese government says, 'the only country to have ever suffered from an atomic bomb,' when it's convenient for it," Mr. Takahashi said. "If the government believes that, it should act accordingly at the > China approves human trials for new SARS vaccine

BEIJING : China has approved a new vaccine for the pneumonia-like disease Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) to go through human trials, state media reported on Saturday.

The vaccine, developed by a Beijing-based inspection and quarantine body, was created in October and is undergoing clinical trials, the China Daily said.

Tests on monkeys at Wuhan University in central China's Hubei province proved successful, the paper cited an official surnamed Dong with the Beijing Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau as saying.

Dong claimed antibodies were found in the animals injected with the vaccine, and none of them developed symptoms of the deadly disease.

The official refused to say when and where the human trials would be carried out.

Dong said the vaccine could be produced in large quantities and had a longer shelf life than other existing vaccines which could enable it to prevent an outbreak more effectively.

"Our vaccine could be good for three years before it is injected into people," Dong said.

Another vaccine was meanwhile ready for a second phase of human trials.

Zhong Nanshan, president of the Chinese Medical Association, said last month that scientists in Beijing would test the effectiveness of the vaccine produced by a Beijing-based company among volunteers aged 20 to 60.

Initial trials involving 36 volunteers in Beijing found antibodies against the disease developed in all volunteers, without obvious side effects.

Scientists now want to sign up 300 volunteers for the second phase.

The new vaccine, produced by Beijing's Sinovac Biotech Co Ltd, must go through three phases of trials before it can be licensed for public use.

SARS emerged in China in late 2002 and spread globally to infect more than 8,000 people and kill some 800 worldwide, including 349 in China. - AFP/de

Some Bombs Used in Iraq Are Made in Iran, U.S. Says - New York Times

Some Bombs Used in Iraq Are Made in Iran, U.S. Says - New York TimesAugust 6, 2005
Some Bombs Used in Iraq Are Made in Iran, U.S. Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 - Many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there, United States military and intelligence officials said Friday, raising the prospect of increased foreign help for Iraqi insurgents.

American commanders say the deadlier bombs could become more common as insurgent bomb makers learn the techniques to make the weapons themselves in Iraq.

But just as troubling is that the spread of the new weapons seems to suggest a new and unusual area of cooperation between Iranian Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis to drive American forces out - a possibility that the commanders said they could make little sense of given the increasing violence between the sects in Iraq.

Unlike the improvised explosive devices devised from Iraq's vast stockpiles of missiles, artillery shells and other arms, the new weapons are specially designed to destroy armored vehicles, military bomb experts say. The bombs feature shaped charges, which penetrate armor by focusing explosive power in a single direction and by firing a metal projectile embedded in the device into the target at high speed. The design is crude but effective if the vehicle's armor plating is struck at the correct angle, the experts said.

Since they first began appearing about two months ago, some of these devices have been seized, including one large shipment that was captured last week in northeast Iraq coming from Iran. But one senior military officer said "tens" of the devices had been smuggled in and used against allied forces, killing or wounding several Americans throughout Iraq in the past several weeks.

"These are among the most sophisticated and most lethal devices we've seen," said the senior officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate intelligence reports describing the bombs. "It's very serious."

Pentagon and intelligence officials say that some shipments of the new explosives have contained both components and fully manufactured devices, and may have been spirited into Iraq along the porous Iranian border by the Iranian-backed, anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah, or by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. American commanders say these bombs closely matched those that Hezbollah has used against Israel.

"The devices we're seeing now have been machined," said a military official who has access to classified reporting on the insurgents' bomb-making abilities. "There is evidence of some sophistication."

American officials say they have no evidence that the Iranian government is involved. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the new United States ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, complained publicly this week about the Tehran government's harmful meddling in Iraqi affairs.

"There is movement across its borders of people and matériel used in violent acts against Iraq," Mr. Khalilzad said Monday.

But some Middle East specialists discount any involvement by the Iranian government or Hezbollah, saying it would be counter to their interests to support Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents, who have stepped up their attacks against Iraqi Shiites. These specialists suggest that the arms shipments are more likely the work of criminals, arms traffickers or splinter insurgent groups.

"Iran's protégés are in control in Iraq right now, yet these weapons are going to people fighting Iran's protégés," said Kenneth Katzman, a Persian Gulf expert at the Congressional Research Service and a former Middle East analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. "That makes little sense to me."

American commanders say they first saw the use of the new explosives in the predominantly Shiite area of southern Iraq, including Basra, but their use by insurgents steadily migrated into Sunni-majority areas north and west of Baghdad. It was unclear how the transfers were taking place.

The seizure of the recent arms shipment from Iran was first reported on Thursday night by NBC News and CBS News.

The influx of the new explosives comes as allied commanders are stepping up efforts to stop the infiltration of fighters, weapons and equipment along Iraq's porous borders with Iran and Syria. Ten days ago, for instance, Iraqi border enforcement agents seized a major shipment of weapons, apparently small arms, that officials suspect may have come from Iran, Maj. Gen. J. B. Dutton of the British Marines, commander of allied forces in southern Iraq, told reporters on Friday in a conference call from Basra.

More troubling are the broad array of roadside bombs that range from the improvised explosives made from modified 155-millimeter artillery shells and other materials to antitank mines like those that military officials say caused the blast on Wednesday that killed 14 marines and an Iraqi civilian in western Iraq.

American troops and the insurgents have been engaged for months in an expanding test of tactics and technology, with the guerrillas building bigger and more clever devices and the Americans trying to counter them at each turn.

"The terrorists are trying to adapt to that level of protection that our forces have; they have been motivated to try to find a way to get advantage," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said at a news conference on Thursday. "And occasionally, we're seeing I.E.D.'s that are sufficiently lethal as to challenge some of the level of protection."

Military officials say they are thwarting about 40 percent of the roadside bombs before they detonate, employing a range of countermeasures from jamming devices that disrupt the frequency of the explosives' triggers, to heightened patrols. Last week, the military successfully cleared 115 roadside bombs, General Alston said. But such bombs remain the No. 1 killer of American troops in Iraq.

"It's not just about the armor that you carry," he said. "It's about your tactics, and it's about how you evolve and develop those and try to defend yourself before those things detonate as well."

David S. Cloud contributed reporting for this article.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Offer by Europe Would Give Iran Nuclear Future - New York Times

Offer by Europe Would Give Iran Nuclear Future - New York TimesAugust 5, 2005
Offer by Europe Would Give Iran Nuclear Future

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 - In a first test of the new leadership in Iran, European negotiators have prepared a sweeping proposal that raises the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear reactors and fuel, and of achieving a full political and economic relationship with the West, if it ends nuclear activities suspected to be part of a weapons program, Western diplomats said Thursday.

The European offer, drafted with the tacit approval of the Bush administration, is to be transmitted by the end of this weekend as the latest step in a European-American effort to get Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear arms ambitions. That effort has run into repeated difficulties, most recently over Iran's announced intention to resume uranium conversion and enrichment in defiance of European warnings.

Western diplomats who have read the European offer or who know its contents said that it presented a full spectrum of relationships for Iran with the West, from technology sharing to trade preferences to security guarantees, if the Tehran government cooperates on nuclear matters, and also on improving human rights and combating terrorism. They said it was much more detailed and specific than the more general offers floated by the Europeans earlier this year, but they did not describe the offer in full.

Since it seeks a pledge by Iran to end the uranium conversion and enrichment activities that Iran insists are its prerogative under international accords governing nuclear technology, there is considerable doubt that Iran will accept it, at least right away. Iran suspended its nuclear work during the negotiations.

A senior Iranian official, reached by telephone on Thursday, said when told about the contents of the proposal that it seemed to fall far short of what Iran wanted.

"If the proposal asks Iran to continue its suspension indefinitely, let alone renouncing these activities, I think it will be dead on arrival," said the senior official, whose job involves him directly in these matters but who would not be identified by name because he had not seen the document. "I don't think it's prudent for the Europeans to make this presentation, because it shows that they have not moved their position from that of two years ago."

A European official said: "Our proposal pulls together a whole range of different ideas intended to forge a framework for an arrangement between Iran and the rest of the world. There are lots of political, economic and security elements, but the biggest piece is the offer of cooperation on a civilian nuclear program for Iran. We've never said that Iran cannot have one."

Bush administration officials say they cannot comment on the contents of the proposal, except to say that they approved of it. But the administration maintains that it cannot establish a normal relationship with Iran unless it changes its conduct, not simply in the nuclear sphere but in what the United States and the Europeans say is support of terrorism, particularly against Israel, and its interference in Iraq.

Details of the package were disclosed by diplomats who insisted they not be identified even by country because the package is supposed to be secret and its terms have not yet been formally presented to Iran.

The proposal would bar Iran from operating a "closed" nuclear fuel cycle, in which it would effectively control every aspect of fuel production and disposal. Instead, according to the diplomats who have seen it, the proposal suggests that Iran be allowed to acquire fuel and then transfer the used fuel to another country for disposal, precluding Iran from using it for weapons.

More specifically, Iran would be obliged to continue its current suspension of the conversion of raw uranium into a gas that can be enriched for use as fuel with the use of centrifuges that international inspectors have found in Iran in several places. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has said that it is investigating Iran's failure to disclose many elements of its program, would continue to play its inspection role to ensure compliance with the agreement.

While taking a hard line on uranium conversion and enrichment, the diplomats said, the proposal contains a face-saving provision for Iran conceding its right to certain activities it is being asked to give up. The wording, according to one diplomat, says that nothing in an agreement with Iran affects "the inalienable rights of all the parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

In some respects, Iran is not likely to be surprised by the basic outlines of the European proposal. France, Germany and Britain - the partners along with the European Union in the negotiations - have held firm to this broad position of barring uranium conversion and enrichment under pressure from Washington.

The view shared in Europe and Washington is that while Iran may have the right to enrich uranium as a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, which governs peaceful nuclear technology in nearly all countries with civilian nuclear programs, Iran has forfeited that right because it has been found over the years to be engaging in clandestine activities.

Iran's anger that it is being asked to give up activities allowed to other countries is at the heart of its repeated announcement that, like it or not, it will resume such work when it chooses. Indeed, Iran announced last week that it was renouncing its pledge of last year to suspend these uranium activities.

On the other hand, the Tehran government has not unilaterally resumed uranium conversion or enrichment. Instead, it has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to go to its facilities and break the inspectors' seals on equipment that would be used for these activities, and also to install monitors and sensors for the purpose of observing them.

Iran's announcement was made in the days leading up to the inauguration Saturday of the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who until recently was the mayor of Tehran.

It is widely believed in the West that Iran decided to invite the inspectors before Mr. Ahmadinejad took office in order not to taint him with the move or force him to make one of his first decisions in defiance of the wishes of the Europeans.

Several diplomats said that it was shrewd of Iran, in political terms, to invite the International Atomic Energy Agency to its nuclear facilities to break the seals and install monitors and sensors. That way, these diplomats said, Iran can claim to be showing the world that, while it is proceeding with uranium processing, not a single gram of fuel will go to a weapons program.

The international agency, meanwhile, has been taking its time before installing the sensors and monitors, to give the Europeans time to refine their proposal. The Europeans have rushed the proposal to meet a deadline of this week and have begun hinting that if Iran rejects it outright, or forces the seals to be broken, some countries may call for the agency's board to meet next week to address the matter.

That Iranian tactic, said several Western diplomats, seems clearly intended to woo wavering board members of the agency - notably Russia, China and several other countries with similar enrichment programs - that it is acting in good faith and doing what other countries are allowed to do. They expressed concern about getting enough votes on the board to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

All Headline News - Discovery Crew Confident Of Safe Return - August 5, 2005

All Headline News - Discovery Crew Confident Of Safe Return - August 5, 2005Discovery Crew Confident Of Safe Return

August 4, 2005 1:08 p.m. EST

Niladri Sekhar Nath - All Headline News Foreign Correspondant

Cape Canaveral, FL (AHN) - Space shuttle Discovery Commander, Eileen Collins says she is sure of returning her crew to Earth safely after successfully repairing the ship while in orbit.

She says, "We have looked at everything. I wouldn't fly this flight if I didn't think it was a safe thing to do." NASA says astronaut Stephen Robinson got rid of two troublesome pieces of filler material from the shuttle's belly. Collins has been quite ecstatic while describing the experience, "We were watching with anticipation and excitement."

She adds, When I saw Steve pull the gap filler out, I started clapping and we were cheering in the flight deck." Robinson says he had to be extra careful to ensure his body and none of his tools contacted the shuttle's delicate belly during the task. He also says, "I had my hand out and I had that purposely out there sort of as potential bumper. If I was going to hit anything on the orbiter, I wanted it to be my fingers in a springy position."

Thursday, the astronauts paid tribute to the seven Columbia astronauts who died in 2003 and others lost during previous space missions.

Court Nominee Advised Group on Gay Rights - New York Times

Court Nominee Advised Group on Gay Rights - New York TimesAugust 5, 2005
Court Nominee Advised Group on Gay Rights

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 - Judge John G. Roberts Jr., the Supreme Court nominee, gave advice to advocates for gay rights a decade ago, helping them win a landmark 1996 ruling protecting gay men and lesbians from state-sanctioned discrimination.

Judge Roberts, at the time an appellate lawyer for the Washington firm of Hogan & Hartson, did not write legal briefs or argue the case, lawyers involved said. But they said he did provide invaluable strategic guidance working pro bono to formulate legal theories and coach them in moot court sessions.

Judge Roberts did not disclose his role in the case to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which asked about pro bono work in a questionnaire. News of his participation was first reported Thursday in The Los Angeles Times, and it set off an immediate scramble on both the left and the right, upending perceptions of the nominee in both camps.

The White House immediately sought to reassure Judge Roberts's conservative backers, telephoning prominent leaders, including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, but it appeared that not all of them had been convinced.

The 1996 case, Romer v. Evans, is considered a touchstone in the culture wars, and it produced what the gay rights movement considers its most significant legal victory. By a 6-to-3 vote, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Colorado Constitution that nullified existing civil rights protections for gay men and lesbians and also barred the passage of new antidiscrimination laws.

"It's one more piece of the puzzle as we keep trying to find out who John Roberts is," said Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, the advocacy group that helped bring the Romer case. "Where does this fit in on his judicial philosophy and his view of the Constitution?"

Indeed, Judge Roberts's participation seems to stand in contrast to the picture that has emerged from his days as a young lawyer with the Reagan administration, when he advocated a more conservative approach to civil rights and voting rights. Lawyers in the Romer case said Thursday that Judge Roberts had not discussed its substance with them, but seemed to approach it more as an intellectual challenge.

Even so, reports of his involvement echoed on conservative talk shows Thursday, generating outrage and disbelief. "There's no question this is going to upset people on the right," Rush Limbaugh told his radio listeners. "There's no question the people on the right are going to say: 'Wait a minute. Wait a minute! The guy is doing pro bono work and helping gay activists?' "

A White House spokeswoman, Erin Healy, said Judge Roberts's involvement was minimal. "As in any other case," Ms. Healy said, "it is wrong to equate legal work product with personal opinions."

The lead plaintiffs' lawyer in the Romer case, Jean Dubofsky, said Thursday that she sought out Judge Roberts at the recommendation of Walter Dellinger, then a senior official in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton. Ms. Dubofsky, a former justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, said she was specifically seeking a conservative who could provide her an insider's road map, of sorts, helping her to anticipate objections from some of the court's more conservative members, like Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Judge Roberts, who once clerked for Justice Rehnquist and now serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, spent about six hours on the case, Ms. Dubofsky said. "He told me, 'You have to know how to count and to get five votes, you're going to have to pick up the middle.' "

And then, she said, Judge Roberts provided explicit instructions on how to do just that, telling her that she would have to prove to the court it did not have to overturn a previous case, Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld a ban on homosexual sodomy. He peppered her with questions in a moot court session.

"So when I was asked by Justice Scalia if they would have to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick to rule my way, I said no," Ms. Dubofsky said, adding, "In this particular case if you wanted to get the U.S. Supreme Court turned around on gay rights issues, you didn't have to win every gay rights case floating around out there."

Ultimately, in a forceful opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court said the Colorado provision had put the state's gay men and lesbians in a "solitary class," singling them out in violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee in a manner that was so sweeping as to be inexplicable on any basis other than animus. Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the justices to whom Judge Roberts is most often compared, issued a blistering dissent.

The Romer case proved to be the first step in the Supreme Court's ultimate disavowal of the Bowers decision in its 2003 ruling in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. That ruling, which overturned a Texas sodomy law, has drawn the ire of conservatives at a time when the Supreme Court is expecting still more cases involving gay rights. In November, the court is scheduled to hear a case that grows out of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gay service members. The question is whether Congress can withhold federal money from universities that restrict military recruiters' access to their students, in an effort to support gay rights. Judge Roberts would join in hearing that case, should he be confirmed by the first Monday in October, as Republicans hope.

Judge Roberts did not mention the Romer case in the response he filed to a questionnaire from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which asked about pro bono work. Committee Democrats said they were not troubled by the omission, because it did not appear that Judge Roberts had spent a significant amount of time on the case. He did list two other cases, including one in which he represented welfare recipients in the District of Columbia who were challenging cuts in their benefits.

Walter A. Smith, who was in charge of pro bono work at Hogan & Hartson from 1993 to 1997, and who worked extensively on the Romer case, said about a dozen lawyers at the firm assisted. He said he had little trouble recruiting Judge Roberts.

"It looked like a challenging, interesting, provocative, important case," said Mr. Smith, who is now the executive director of the D. C. Appleseed Center, a nonpartisan public interest legal group. "Everybody knew that, and I think he believed it was worth his time."

Mr. Smith said part of his job was to match lawyers with cases that would intrigue them, and that his initial instinct was that Judge Roberts would be willing, despite his conservative bent. In the past, Judge Roberts has made it a point to note that lawyers do not always agree with their clients.

"Every good lawyer knows that if there is something in his client's cause that so personally offends you, morally, religiously, if it so offends you that you think it would undermine your ability to do your duty as a lawyer, then you shouldn't take it on, and John wouldn't have," he said. "So at a minimum he had no concerns that would rise to that level."

Liberal critics of Judge Roberts, however, continued to assail him on Thursday as a foe of civil rights. "John Roberts was a key member of a right-wing policy team that waged a comprehensive assault on fundamental constitutional rights," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, "and that is most relevant to his qualification to be on the Supreme Court."

While some conservatives, including Dr. Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, said they were unconcerned about Judge Roberts's involvement in the Romer case, others signaled that the report had at least raised questions in their eyes.

James C. Dobson, chairman of the evangelical group Focus on the Family, said Judge Roberts's work in the case was "not welcome news to those of us who advocate for traditional values," though he said it did not necessarily mean that Judge Roberts shared the plaintiffs' views.

Colleen Parro, executive director of the Republican National Coalition for Life and one of the few conservatives to raise questions about Judge Roberts, said his work on the case was "cause for more caution and less optimism" about his nomination.

Linda Greenhouse contributed reporting from Washington for this article.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Nuclear neighbour hold key talks

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Nuclear neighbour hold key talks Nuclear neighbour hold key talks
Officials from India and Pakistan have begun two days of talks aimed at reducing the risk of a nuclear conflict between the two neighbours.

Proposals under discussion include an emergency hotline and information sharing before missile tests.

The discussions, in the Indian capital Delhi, are the third of their kind since a peace process began last year.

During nearly six decades of tensions, the two nuclear rivals have fought three major wars.

'New maturity'

Radio Australia - News - Japan drops visa requirement for Taiwanese visitors

Radio Australia - News - Japan drops visa requirement for Taiwanese visitorsJapan has decided to drop the visa requirement for visitors from Taiwan, as part of efforts to boost tourism.

Japan had already suspended visas for Taiwanese tourists between March 25 and September 25 to encourage them to attend the World Exposition, an international showcase of technology in central Aichi prefecture.

A bill has now been approved unanimously by the upper house of parliament, dropping the visa requirement altogether, from September 26.

Japan has also temporarily suspended its visa requirement for South Koreans so they can travel to the World Exposition.

The Japanese government has launched a "Visit Japan" campaign, aimed at drawing 10 million foreign tourists in 2010 compared with 5.73 million in 2003.

Novak Walks Off Live CNN Program - New York Times

Novak Walks Off Live CNN Program - New York TimesAugust 5, 2005
Novak Walks Off Live CNN Program

Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist whose unmasking of a C.I.A. operative touched off an investigation about a possible leak, stalked off a live appearance on CNN yesterday afternoon after James Carville, the Democratic strategist, accused him of trying to make a particular point "to show these right wingers" that he had "backbone" and was "tough."

The moderator of the program, Ed Henry, later said on the air that he had warned Mr. Novak that he planned to ask him "about the C.I.A. leak case."

"Hopefully, we'll be able to ask him about that in the future," Mr. Henry said.

That opportunity may not arrive soon. About two hours later, a spokeswoman for CNN, Laurie Goldberg, released a statement saying that the network had "asked Mr. Novak to take some time off." Asked later in a telephone interview whether Mr. Novak was being suspended from his work at the Cable News Network, Ms. Goldberg said, "We're characterizing it as a mutual decision."

In her earlier statement, Ms. Goldberg said: "Mr. Novak has apologized to CNN, and CNN apologizes to its viewers for his language and actions." Just before walking off the program, "Inside Politics," Mr. Novak uttered a profanity.

The heated exchange occurred in a minidebate between Mr. Carville and Mr. Novak over the possibility that Representative Katherine Harris of Florida, that state's former secretary of state, could win the Republican nomination for a Senate seat.

"She might get elected," Mr. Novak said.

After Mr. Carville tried to interrupt Mr. Novak twice, Mr. Novak said: "I know you hate to hear me. But you have to."

Mr. Carville interrupted again, saying of Mr. Novak, "He's got to show these right-wingers that he's got backbone."

A moment later, Mr. Carville said directly to Mr. Novak: "The Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show them you're tough."

Mr. Novak responded with a profanity, before telling Mr. Carville: "I hate that. Just let it go."

He stood up, removed his microphone and walked off.

Asked last night in a telephone interview why he thought Mr. Novak had acted as he did, Mr. Carville said, "Bob's probably got a lot going on in his life."

Mr. Novak did not respond to messages left last evening at his office and on his cellphone.

Though Mr. Novak's walk-off was extreme, the sparring between him and Mr. Carville was hardly unusual. For years, their disagreements had been a staple of "Crossfire," a program on which they were part of a rotating panel of debaters.

In January, the president of CNN's domestic networks, Jonathan Klein, announced his intention to cancel "Crossfire" because it and other such programs relied on "head butting debate."

Mr. Carville and Mr. Novak are, however, among the commentators scheduled to make periodic appearances on a new program, "The Situation Room," which begins Monday on CNN.

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - EnglishChina asks G4 to withdraw UN reform proposal 2005-08-05 11:16:39

BEIJING, Aug. 5 -- China's Ambassador to the United Nations is asking Japan, Germany, India and Brazil to withdraw their plan on UN Security Council reform after the so-called Group of Four's compromise proposal is rejected by African countries.

Leaders of the 53-member African Union leaders meeting in Ethiopia voted to ratify their own plan for reforming the council rather than endorse an alternative proposal from the G4.

Commenting on the outcome of the AU summit, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said Thursday at UN headquarters in New York City that it indicated clearly that the G-4 proposal is unpopular with the UN membership and can not garner the support of a two-thirds majority of the UN member states.

Without the support of African nations, if the G-4 puts its draft resolution to a vote, they would certainly be defeated, he warned, adding that they should withdraw the measure.

The senior Chinese diplomat also said the United States and China have agreed to work together to block the G4 plan. He said the consensus was reached during his meeting with his new US counterpart John Bolton on Tuesday.

He stressed that the G-4's proposal, if being implemented, would certainly damage the authority and effectiveness of the 15-nation council, the most powerful UN organ.

The G4 plan calls for 10 new members, made up of six permanent members without veto powers -- four for themselves and two for Africa -- and another four seats rotating for two-year terms.

The council's current 15 seats include 10 chosen by regions who rotate for two-year terms and five permanent members with veto power: the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

G-4 has been pushing for a vote by the General Assembly on its resolution before September, when world leaders will gather in New York for a UN summit to approve a package of proposals to reform the UN.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Shuttle crew see damage on Earth

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Shuttle crew see damage on Earth Shuttle crew see damage on Earth
Discovery Commander Eileen Collins described on Thursday how widespread environmental destruction on Earth is highly visible from the shuttle.

She warned people to take greater care of our planet and work towards protecting natural resources.

Her comments came as Nasa considered whether to send astronauts on an extra spacewalk to repair shuttle damage.

Discovery is currently linked with the International Space Station, orbiting 352km (220 miles) above the Earth.

"Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation," Commander Collins said during a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

We know that we don't have much air - we need to protect what we have
Commander Eileen Collins
"It's very widespread in some parts of the world. We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used."

"Thin as eggshell"

Commander Collins, who is making her fourth shuttle flight, said her view from space emphasised how Earth's atmosphere must be protected too.

"The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air - we need to protect what we have."

While Commander Collins chatted from space, US space agency officials were busy trying to decide whether a rip in an insulation blanket that protects part of the shuttle surface could tear off and strike the spacecraft when Discovery re-enters the atmosphere, possibly causing damage.

Engineers have been working overnight in a wind tunnel in an attempt to replicate the conditions around Discovery to see if damage is likely.

Discovery is on the first Nasa shuttle mission since Columbia overheated and broke up on re-entry to the atmosphere in 2003.

Deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said Nasa's concern stemmed from an abundance of caution since the Columbia disaster.

"I think in the old days we would not have worried about this so much," he told journalists. "We're just pounding this flat. We're not going to leave any stone unturned at this stage, to make sure the crew is safe during re-entry."

The agency is to decide later on Thursday whether to order a spacewalk to repair the blanket. The spacewalk would take place on Saturday, if needed.

Soichi Noguchi and Steve Robinson have already done three spacewalks, including one on Wednesday to remove loose cloth strips protruding from Discovery's belly.

Discovery and its crew of seven astronauts is due to return to Earth on 8 August.

Despite the latest tests the crew say they are not worried about their re-entry prospects.

"We are not too concerned about it, we think it's going to be fine," Commander Collins said. - NASA fixes one glitch, ponders another - Aug 3, 2005 - NASA fixes one glitch, ponders another - Aug 3, 2005NASA fixes one glitch, ponders another
Engineers review possible problem with thermal blanket

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- After Discovery astronaut Steve Robinson completed an unprecedented repair of a space shuttle in orbit Wednesday, NASA pondered the possibility of another threat.

Engineers now have to decide whether another spacewalk is needed to repair a damaged thermal blanket under one of the cockpit windows.

Of concern is whether the material would tear away during re-entry to Earth's atmosphere and strike the orbiter, especially when the shuttle slows from Mach 20 to less than Mach 6, said deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale.

Engineers estimate that any chunk of the blanket would weigh less than an ounce, Hale said. But NASA officials have to be concerned about "where might it go and what might it do."

The space agency has flown three samples of the material to its Ames Research Center in California to test them in a wind tunnel overnight.

Photos of the 20-inch-by-4-inch blanket show that it was punctured at one end -- possibly by debris -- and "poufed out" at the other, Hale said.
'A ride of a century'

During his six-hour spacewalk, Robinson removed fabric gap fillers sticking out from heat-resistant tiles on the shuttle's belly.

NASA had worried that protrusions of the fabric would cause excessive heating during re-entry.

"I'm grasping and pulling. ... It's coming out very easily. ... Beautiful," he said.

The challenge he faced was to remove the gap fillers without damaging the tiles, which protect Discovery from the 2,300-degree heat of re-entry. If that happened, the repair could pose more of a threat than the original problem.

Robinson called the spacewalk "a ride of a century," as Discovery's robotic arm maneuvered him to two areas along the spacecraft's underside near the nose.

His wireless mounted camera provided a spectacular view of the shuttle's hull as the craft orbited more than 220 miles above Earth.

"My eyes have never seen such a sight," Robinson said. (Full story)

"Stand tall and lean forward," NASA's mission control said as it moved him closer for the repair.

He carried forceps and a makeshift hack saw -- fashioned on the fly Tuesday by Discovery's crew -- in case he could not remove the fillers by hand.

The fillers are made from thin fabric stiffened with a ceramic material and plug gaps between the tiles.

Damage to the tiles was blamed for the loss of the shuttle Columbia, which broke up up during re-entry over Texas in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.

Discovery's mission, which began July 26, is NASA's first manned flight since that disaster.

"We proved we can get access to the bottom of the vehicle," said Cindy Begley, the Houston-based flight controller in charge of the spacewalk. "We just never needed to do that before."

She said the most important accomplishment of the flight has been the use of the robotic arm to view the entire underside of the shuttle.

That inspection -- mandated after the Columbia disaster -- turned up the protruding gap fillers.

Discovery flight director Paul Hill said he was "absolutely relieved" by the ease of the repair.

"You could hear sigh of relief through the building over there," he told reporters. "When he pulled the second one out, it was a huge relief. It's all downhill from here."

The spacewalk began at 4:48 a.m. ET, about a half-hour later than scheduled, and ended at 10:49 a.m.

Robinson and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi first had to install a new storage platform to the exterior of the international space station, with which Discovery has been docked since last week.

On Thursday, the crew will continue to transfer cargo from the space station to the shuttle's Raffaello multipurpose logistics module and then get some well-deserved downtime.

Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth on August 8.

Protruding gap fillers have been found after previous shuttle flights, but only after landing, leaving NASA experts with no way to know whether the material shifted before or after re-entry.

Because of the uncertainty about just how dangerous the protrusions might be, the space agency decided to err on the side of caution and try to remove them.

'04 Report Faulted Application of Shuttle Foam - New York Times

'04 Report Faulted Application of Shuttle Foam - New York TimesAugust 4, 2005
'04 Report Faulted Application of Shuttle Foam

HOUSTON, Aug. 3 - An internal NASA report last December warned of deficiencies in the way insulating foam was being applied to sections of the fuel tank to be used on the shuttle Discovery's current mission.

The report was provided to The New York Times by a person outside the space agency who is part of an informal network of people concerned about shuttle safety, and it did not recommend against launching the Discovery. But it delivered a harsh critique of the quality control and practices at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

That plant, managed by a major space contractor, Lockheed Martin, had come under intense criticism after a foam accident at liftoff led to the loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven astronauts in 2003.

While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration spent two and a half years and some $200 million to address foam problems after the disaster, they resurfaced on July 26, when a piece of foam as much as 33 inches long broke from the tank two minutes after liftoff. Future shuttle flights have been suspended until the problems are resolved.

The December 2004 report, by Conley Perry, a retired NASA division chief for quality engineering at the Johnson Space Center here, said it was obvious that Lockheed's external tank engineers "did not do a thorough job" of identifying the quirks and variations that can occur when foam is applied by hand. And despite the space agency's insistence that it would not allow scheduling pressures to dictate a return to flight before it was safe, Mr. Perry wrote, its reluctance to re-evaluate the quality-control problems "stems from the 'schedule-first' attitude" of Lockheed Martin management.

According to the report, even after two years of effort to correct the foam debris problem, "there will continue to be a threat of critical debris generation."

"This variable could reasonably be eliminated," the report went on, "and yet it continues."

The 23-page document was initially sent to safety managers by e-mail and came to be distributed more broadly. The person who provided it to The Times did so on condition of anonymity, saying he had not been authorized to read it.

Mr. Perry declined to discuss the document when reached by telephone.

The report was also reviewed by the independent group that monitored the space agency's progress in improving safety. A spokesman for that group referred questions to NASA.

David Mould, the agency's assistant administrator for public affairs, said a point-by-point response to the report was prepared but could not be released at this time because the information fell under confidentiality rules of the export controls that govern space technology.

But Mr. Mould added: "NASA and its contractors have made a number of process and quality improvements in the manual application of foam on the external fuel tank which have resulted in substantially less debris coming off the tank at launch. But as we saw, we still have work to do with the foam."

He continued, "There are still issues that we need to address and we will do that."

Marion LaNasa Jr., a Lockheed Martin spokesman, said, "We will defer to NASA regarding specifics of the memo, but would strongly emphasize that safety and quality are the guiding forces behind our workmanship on the external tank."

A former director of the Johnson Space Center, George Abbey, said that he had seen the paper and that its conclusions were cause for concern.

"You would think that American industry could solve and fix this whole problem when you look at what they've done to develop the technology that's gone into the rest of the shuttle," Mr. Abbey said.

As they prepared for the shuttle fleet's return to orbit, officials said they expected to see no foam bits larger than 0.03 pounds fall off the new tanks during the launching. The foam that broke away two minutes into the Discovery's liftoff, narrowly missing the craft, weighed 0.9 pounds. At least three other pieces also exceeded NASA's safety limits.

The agency administrator, Michael D. Griffin, has appointed a "tiger team" of engineers to find the causes of the incident and ways to fix the problem.

Attention has focused on the manufacture of the tank and on the area where the largest piece of foam fell off, a long aerodynamic feature known as the protuberance air load ramp, or PAL ramp.

The agency had long recognized that the PAL ramp could be a source of foam debris. Like the part of the tank in the Columbia's last mission, known as the bipod arm ramp, the foam on the PAL ramp is applied by hand. Those areas have tended to lose more foam than the large surface areas of foam that are applied by machine. Although flight histories showed only two incidents of foam loss from that ramp, the last in the early 1980's, there were dozens of night launchings in which falling foam would have been missed.

After the loss of the Columbia, NASA considered removing or redesigning the PAL ramp. But agency officials said that no good alternatives emerged, and ultimately decided not to change it. Instead, the ramp would be examined through an internal scan that would not require cutting into the material, to look for the air pockets, or voids, that are the leading cause of foam shedding.

Agency officials have broadly admitted since then that this decision was a mistake. As Dr. Griffin said in a television interview on Sunday, "We goofed on that one."

Mr. Perry's report did not dispute the decision to fly the tank with the hand-applied foam. According to the document, "there is no credible information available to bring into question the existing areas that have been designated as 'use as is' foam areas."

The paper concluded: "Notwithstanding the concerns discussed herein, I am comfortable with the decisions made by the various groups that identified the areas that required redesign and those that can be flown 'as is.' "

According to the report, Tank 121, which would be put on the Discovery flight, was "ready to support the resumption of flight operations."

As a test engineer, Mr. Perry worked on the investigation of the Apollo launching pad fire that killed three astronauts in 1967, and he conducted the test in which NASA burned a mockup of the capsule.

He retired in 1993 but was called back in the aftermath of the Columbia accident by the space agency's return-to-flight office of safety and mission assurance and was asked to monitor the quality of the operation at Michoud.

Mr. Abbey, the former Johnson Space Center director, said he was not surprised that Mr. Perry would not call for long delays over the PAL ramp issue, even though his overall criticism was so strong.

"I think he was probably torn between his recognition of the urgency to fly again and his concern about the tank," Mr. Abbey said.

He added that the problem with foam and the tank had needlessly undercut the successes of the return-to-flight mission. "You've got a complex system that's working amazingly well," Mr. Abbey said. By contrast, there have been persistent problems with "this essentially passive element that doesn't do much more than hold the fuel" for the eight and a half minutes it takes to reach orbit.

"That's given the shuttle - a great system - a bad name," he said. "And that's not fair."

Insurgents Using Bigger, More Lethal Bombs, U.S. Officers Say - New York Times

Insurgents Using Bigger, More Lethal Bombs, U.S. Officers Say - New York TimesAugust 4, 2005
Insurgents Using Bigger, More Lethal Bombs, U.S. Officers Say

The explosion that killed 14 marines in Haditha yesterday was powerful enough to flip the 25-ton amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in, in keeping with an increasingly deadly trend, American military officers say.

In recent months the roadside bombs favored by insurgents in Iraq have grown significantly in size and sophistication, the officers say, adding to their deadliness and defeating efforts to increase troops' safety by adding armor to vehicles.

The new problems facing the military were displayed more than a week earlier, on July 23, when a huge bomb buried on a road southwest of Baghdad Airport detonated an hour before dark underneath a Humvee carrying four American soldiers.

The explosive device was constructed from a bomb weighing 500 pounds or more that was meant to be dropped from an aircraft, according to military explosives experts, and was probably Russian in origin.

The blast left a crater 6 feet deep and nearly 17 feet wide. All that remained of the armored vehicle afterward was the twisted wreckage of the front end, a photograph taken by American officers at the scene showed. The four soldiers were killed.

And what happened in the aftermath of the July 23 attack provided further cause for alarm.

A British explosives expert, part of a special squad formed to investigate major insurgent bomb attacks, stepped on a second, smaller bomb buried near the first and was badly wounded, two American officers said. He later had an arm and a leg amputated. A third device, hidden a few yards away, was found and defused.

"This was a catastrophic event," said Sgt. Jason Knapp, an Air Force bomb technician who arrived at the scene of the multiple attacks the next morning. He found a foot from one of the American soldiers in the shallow water of a nearby canal. "It was pretty disturbing," he said.

Military personnel involved said the attack last month indicated to them that a new and deadly bomb-making cell singling out American patrols was operating near the large allied military base at the airport, an area that two officers said had seen little insurgent activity in months.

There was further evidence for that on Saturday. Less than a mile from the July 23 attack, four more American soldiers were killed when their Humvee was struck by another hidden bomb.

From the earliest days of the insurgency there has been a constantly evolving battle of wits between insurgent bombers and soldiers trying to stop the roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

As the threat from bombs and suicide attacks has grown, the Pentagon has rushed 24,000 armored Humvees to Iraq since late 2003. But the insurgents have responded by building bombs powerful enough to penetrate the vehicles' steel plating.

Senior American commanders say they have also seen evidence that insurgents are making increased use of "shaped" charges, which concentrate the blast and give it a better chance of penetrating armored vehicles, causing higher casualties.

Bomb-making techniques used by the anti-Israeli militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon have increasingly begun appearing in roadside bombs in Iraq. A senior American commander said bombs using shaped charges closely matched the bombs that Hezbollah used against Israel.

"Our assessment is that they are probably going off to school" to learn how to make bombs that can destroy armored vehicles, the officer said.

As the military has begun conducting post-bombing investigations, insurgents have increasingly been planting multiple devices at the same location, apparently to disrupt investigative teams sent to the blast site, or at least delay their work while they clear the site of any secondary bombs.

The British officer wounded investigating the site, whose name has not been released, was a member of the Combined Exploitation Cell, an American-led organization charged with identifying the insurgent bomb-makers, using clues recovered at bomb sites.

The organization is composed of specialists from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as from Britain and Australia.

The commander of the unit, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Kelly of the Navy, declined to comment on the incident, except to say that there was evidence that those who had set the first and the second bombs were thought to be connected.

In addition to the recent attacks in Haditha and near the airport, 10 marines were killed in two separate incidents in western Iraq in June when their armored Humvees were destroyed by roadside bombs, officials said.

Sometimes improvised explosive devices, known as I.E.D.'s, are placed in the open to draw in American disposal units. "A lot of times they plant fake I.E.D.'s and wait until you come on site to open up," said Sgt. Burnell Zachary. "Once the mortar rounds stop, the drive-bys come."

Last week, as an American bomb team was defusing a bomb in the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Amiriya in Baghdad, a passing black BMW opened fire on the unit and its security detail, according to an after-action report. An Iraqi police detachment that was providing security for the team returned fire and struck the passenger in the car in the chest, the report said.

A few blocks away, American snipers were watching an Iraqi man who was stacking rocks along a street that the bomb disposal unit would drive down as it was leaving the neighborhood, according to the report. They suspected that he was building a hiding place for a bomb.

"Snipers engaged and killed the individual, who appeared to be emplacing an I.E.D.," the report says.

At best, American soldiers familiar with the bomb problem say, they may be able to reduce the number of attacks, which average around 65 a day against Iraqis and Americans troops, and hand over the fight to Iraqi security forces sometime next year.

"It's not realistic to think we will stop this," says Sgt. Daniel McDonnell, who leads a three-man team of explosives technicians responsible for finding and defusing improvised explosive devices in Baghdad. "We're fighting an enemy that goes home at night and doesn't wear uniforms. But we can get it to an acceptable level."

Americans directly engaged in the fight say that while they are having some success at tracking down some of the perpetrators, there is a steady supply of Iraqis willing to set bombs for a small amount of money.

At least four Army bomb technicians have been killed by such hidden bombs this year, according to Capt. Gregory Hirschey, a company commander in the 717th Explosive Ordinance Disposal Battalion.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bush Remarks Roil Debate Over Teaching of Evolution - New York Times

Bush Remarks Roil Debate Over Teaching of Evolution - New York TimesAugust 3, 2005
Bush Remarks Roil Debate Over Teaching of Evolution

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 - A sharp debate between scientists and religious conservatives escalated Tuesday over comments by President Bush that the theory of intelligent design should be taught with evolution in the nation's public schools.

In an interview at the White House on Monday with a group of Texas newspaper reporters, Mr. Bush appeared to endorse the push by many of his conservative Christian supporters to give intelligent design equal treatment with the theory of evolution.

Recalling his days as Texas governor, Mr. Bush said in the interview, according to a transcript, "I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught." Asked again by a reporter whether he believed that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, Mr. Bush replied that he did, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Mr. Bush was pressed as to whether he accepted the view that intelligent design was an alternative to evolution, but he did not directly answer. "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," he said, adding that "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

On Tuesday, the president's conservative Christian supporters and the leading institute advancing intelligent design embraced Mr. Bush's comments while scientists and advocates of the separation of church and state disparaged them. At the White House, where intelligent design has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group, Mr. Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, sought to play down the president's remarks as common sense and old news.

Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the "social context" in science classes.

Intelligent design, advanced by a group of academics and intellectuals and some biblical creationists, disputes the idea that natural selection - the force Charles Darwin suggested drove evolution - fully explains the complexity of life. Instead, intelligent design proponents say that life is so intricate that only a powerful guiding force, or intelligent designer, could have created it.

Intelligent design does not identify the designer, but critics say the theory is a thinly disguised argument for God and the divine creation of the universe. Invigorated by a recent push by conservatives, the theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, with Kansas in the lead.

Mr. Marburger said it would be "over-interpreting" Mr. Bush's remarks to say that the president believed that intelligent design and evolution should be given equal treatment in schools.

But Mr. Bush's conservative supporters said the president had indicated exactly that in his remarks.

"It's what I've been pushing, it's what a lot of us have been pushing," said Richard Land, the president of the ethics and religious liberties commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Land, who has close ties to the White House, said that evolution "is too often taught as fact," and that "if you're going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists."

But critics saw Mr. Bush's comment that "both sides" should be taught as the most troubling aspect of his remarks.

"It sounds like you're being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and intelligent design is a sectarian religious viewpoint," said Susan Spath, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Science Education, a group that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools. "It's not fair to privilege one religious viewpoint by calling it the other side of evolution."

Ms. Spath added that intelligent design was viewed as more respectable and sophisticated than biblical creationism, but "if you look at their theological and scientific writings, you see that the movement is fundamentally anti-evolution."

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the president's comments irresponsible, and said that "when it comes to evolution, there is only one school of scientific thought, and that is evolution occurred and is still occurring." Mr. Lynn added that "when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they can be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class."

The Discovery Institute in Seattle, a leader in developing intelligent design, applauded the president's words on Tuesday as a defense of scientists who have been ostracized for advancing the theory.

"We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biblical origins," said Stephen Meyer, the director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture. "It's extremely timely and welcome because so many scientists are experiencing recriminations for breaking with Darwinist orthodoxy."

At the White House, intelligent design was the subject of a weekly Bible study class several years ago when Charles W. Colson, the founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, spoke to the group. Mr. Colson has also written a book, "The Good Life," in which a chapter on intelligent design features Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who is an assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning.

"It's part of the buzz of the city among Christians," Mr. Colson said in a telephone interview on Tuesday about intelligent design. "It wouldn't surprise me that it got to George Bush. He reads, he picks stuff up, he talks to people. And he's pretty serious about his own Christian beliefs."

Asia News : Nigerian woman loses drug suit in Malaysia, to face death penalty, ( Breaking News,Kerala news, India News,Us,UK,Kerala Shopping,Onam Spec

Asia News : Nigerian woman loses drug suit in Malaysia, to face death penalty, ( Breaking News,Kerala news, Nigerian woman loses drug suit in Malaysia, to face death penalty
Posted on 29 Hours,40 minutes Ago

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BY S Neethu
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s highest court has sentenced a Nigerian mother of five to death after refusing to overturn her drug trafficking conviction, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

A three-man panel of judges from the Federal Court maintained an earlier conviction in March 1999 ruling that Msimanga Lesaly, 40, was guilty of trafficking in 686 grammes of heroin in northern Kedah state in 1997.

Lesaly was caught with the drugs in a bag, after police stopped her and searched her belongings.

Lesaly, who had filed and lost an appeal in September 2004, had made a last-ditch legal attempt to escape the gallows in filing her final appeal in the Federal Court, the Malay-language Berita Harian daily reported.

Now, only a royal pardon can commute her sentence. Leasly’s lawyer has argued that the conviction was flawed as Lesaly was initially detained with another suspect, who was later released.

He claimed that Lesaly did not know the contents of the bag, which she was allegedly carrying for somebody else. Malaysia’s tough drug laws prescribe the mandatory death sentence by hanging for anyone caught smuggling in most types of drugs.

Japan Today - News - Citizens want Fusosha textbooks excluded from selection process - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Citizens want Fusosha textbooks excluded from selection process - Japan's Leading International News NetworkCitizens want Fusosha textbooks excluded from selection process

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Wednesday, August 3, 2005 at 06:26 JST
MATSUYAMA — A group of citizens asked the Matsuyama District Court on Tuesday to order Ehime Prefecture to exclude junior high school textbooks for history and social studies written by nationalistic scholars from its textbook selection process.

According to the claims filed by seven people, the textbook publisher, Fusosha Publishing Inc., illegally allowed teachers to browse the books, edited by members of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, before they passed the official textbook screening. (Kyodo News)

Japan Today - News - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Japan's Leading International News NetworkAhmadinejad takes reins in Iran as pressure mounts over nuclear stance

Wednesday, August 3, 2005 at 17:13 JST
TEHRAN — Ultra-conservative Mahmood Ahmadinejad takes over the Iranian presidency with Tehran under mounting pressure from the West over a threat to resume some nuclear activities.

Ahmadinejad, who came from nowhere to win a stunning election victory in June, will formally take office at a meeting in the office of supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

The European Union and United States on Tuesday issued sharp warnings to Tehran over its threatened violation of a deal suspending its some sensitive nuclear fuel work.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany and EU foreign policy supremo Javier Solana warned of "other courses of action" if Tehran carries through with its threat to resume uranium ore conversion, the first step in the cycle to producing fuel for nuclear reactors.

Ahmadinejad, who was a complete unknown until becoming Tehran mayor two years ago, has yet to give concrete indications of how Iran will look under his rule.

Branded by his enemies before his June 24 victory as a dangerous extremist, the former revolutionary guard has gone out of his way to vow there will be "no place for extremism" in his government. (Wire reports)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


China CRIENGLISH China Launches 21st Science Satellite
2005-8-2 16:28:14
China succeeded in launching its 21st return science and technology experimental satellite from theJiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

China succeeded in launching its 21st return science and technology experimental satellite from theJiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China Tuesday.

The satellite was projected with a Long March-2III Rocket Carrier at 15:30; about 20 minutes after it took off, the satellite entered the preset orbit, marking the success of the launching.

The satellite will be used to carry out scientific research, land surveying and mapping, and experiments in outer space. The Xi'an Satellite Measuring and Control Center will monitor the movements of the satellite.

It has been the 86th launching of the Long March series rockets, and it is the 44th successful space launch by China sinceOctober 1996.

In 1975, China launched its first return satellite from the Jiuquan base.

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Hiroshima survivors keep memories alive

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Hiroshima survivors keep memories alive Hiroshima survivors keep memories alive
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

An elderly man shuffled through the door of the classroom on the top floor of the Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin High School.

The class of young teenagers watched in silence as he slowly and deliberately pulled some pictures out of his bag and propped them against the blackboard.

They showed young Japanese with horrific burns.

He unfolded a map of Hiroshima. There was a big red circle drawn around the centre of the city.

Finally he turned to the class and cleared his throat.

"It was hell," he said.

Yukio Yoshioka, 76, is what is known in Japan as a "hibakusha".

When he was the same age as these schoolchildren he suffered terrible burns in the Hiroshima attack.

Now a pensioner, he's trying to pass on to a new generation the horrors of the atomic bomb.

It is not an easy task.

A new generation

The children sat impassive. As I watched them, it was hard to tell what they were feeling.

It doesn't matter if the young people understand or not - I just have to keep talking to them
Junko Kayashige

Before the class had started, they had been as rowdy and noisy as any teenagers anywhere else in the world.

But as they listened to him they were silent. No one asked any questions. Some of them, I'm sure, had heard this before.

Afterwards I asked him why he had come to the school.

"I feel it's important to try to make sure it never happens again," he said.

"We were the offending side, but also the victims. We harmed people in China, Korea and South East Asia. But the A-bomb was dropped on us, so we understand how difficult and terrible war is.

"We can understand how other people feel. We can see their point of view. I think that's what all the A-bomb survivors feel."

Further down the hall, another hibakusha was close to tears as she related her story to a class of children.

Despite the summer heat, Junko Kayashige was wearing a rather formal dress with a high neck.

"I try to cover my neck because of the damage," she said.

Ms Kayashige was six years old when the bomb was dropped on her city.

The scars she bears have been an embarrassment to her throughout her life.

Like many hibakusha she has suffered a great deal of discrimination from other Japanese, and that is why so many keep quiet.

But Junko Kayashige is different. She took the class back to that bright morning on 6 August 1945.

She said she remembered seeing the plane, and then experiencing the blast.

"When I came back to my senses," she said, "I found myself lying on the dirt ground under the window inside the house. My cousin was lying there too. My aunt and sister, who had been in the same room, had been blown further into the house."

Moving on

In this classroom, the pupils did ask a couple of questions at the end.

One told her his grandfather's most frightening memory was of the piles of dead bodies waiting to be burned.

"I agree with your grandfather," she said. "The images of the dead stayed with me for months. In fact, the stain left by one corpse on the street was visible for weeks. But unless you move on, put it behind you, you can't get on with your life."

"I just want to talk while I can still talk," she told me afterwards.

"It doesn't matter if the young people understand or not - I just have to keep talking to them."

The two hibakusha later met with others who had gone to see different classes, and they chatted about how the morning had gone.

"The other day I saw on television that talks on the non-proliferation treaty had broken down," said Ms Kayashige.

"It made me think that is partly because of the hibakusha's negligence. We haven't said enough to let the world know about the reality of the atomic bomb, especially in the United States. The US has the information but ordinary people don't know enough about it."

Mr Yoshioka agreed. "We really should eliminate war. It is the wish of those of us who experienced it. I want to pass on that wish to young people. That's why we're here today."

The average age of the hibakusha is now 72. It is hard to tell exactly how many are left, because many of those who survived the bombing kept quiet for fear of discrimination.

As well as visiting schools, hibakusha give talks to students in the city's Peace Park and work as peace volunteers in the city's museum.

Some find modern parallels to their suffering.

"When I see the children who've been bombed in Iraq," one woman told me, "I know why I have to carry on speaking out. We'll continue speaking out until people stop using these weapons."

Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say - New York Times

Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say - New York TimesAugust 2, 2005
Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say

For its next generation of space vehicles, NASA has decided to abandon the design principles that went into the aging space shuttle, agency officials and private experts say.

Instead, they say, the new vehicles will rearrange the shuttle's components into a safer, more powerful family of traditional rockets.

The plan would separate the jobs of hauling people and cargo into orbit and would put the payloads on top of the rockets - as far as possible from the dangers of firing engines and falling debris, which were responsible for the accidents that destroyed the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.

By making the rockets from shuttle parts, the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its price.

"The existing components offer us huge cost advantages as opposed to starting from a clean sheet of paper," the new administrator of NASA, Michael D. Griffin, told reporters on Friday.

The plan, whose origins go back two and a half years, is emerging at a time when it may help deflect attention from the current troubles of the shuttle fleet.

The Discovery's astronauts are to make a spacewalk tomorrow to fix a potentially hazardous problem with cloth filler on its belly.

Future missions have been indefinitely suspended while NASA tries to solve the persistent shedding of foam from the external fuel tank at liftoff.

The plan for new vehicles is to be formally unveiled this month. Its outlines were gleaned from interviews and reviews of trade reports, Congressional testimony and official statements. Some details were reported on Sunday in The Orlando Sentinel.

On Friday, Dr. Griffin emphasized the plan's safety, telling reporters that the new generation of rockets would have their payloads up high to avoid the kinds of dangers that doomed the Columbia two and a half years ago and threatened the Discovery last week when insulating foam broke off its fuel tank shortly after liftoff.

"As long as we put the crew and the valuable cargo up above wherever the tanks are, we don't care what they shed," he said. "They can have dandruff all day long."

Congress would have to approve the initiative, and many questions remain. John E. Pike, the director of, a private Washington research group on military and space topics, said he wondered how NASA could remain within its budget while continuing to pay billions of dollars for the shuttle and building a new generation of rockets and capsules.

Alex Roland, a former historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who now teaches at Duke University and is a frequent critic of the space program, said the plan had "the aroma of a quick and dirty solution to a big problem."

But supporters say it will let astronauts move expeditiously back into the business of exploration rather than endlessly circling the home planet, and do so fairly quickly.

"The shuttle is not a lemon," Scott J. Horowitz, an aerospace engineer and former astronaut who helped develop the new plan, said in an interview. "It's just too complicated. I know from flying it four times. It's an amazing engineering feat. But there's a better way."

Dr. Horowitz was one of a small group of astronauts, shaken by the Columbia disaster, who took it upon themselves in 2003 to come up with a safer approach to exploring space. Their effort, conceived while they were in Lufkin, Tex., helping search for shuttle wreckage, became part of the NASA program to design a successor to the shuttle fleet.

The three remaining shuttles are to be retired by 2010 under the Bush administration's plan for space exploration, which is intended to return humans to the Moon and eventually Mars.

The new vehicles would sidestep the foam threat altogether, and its supporters say they would have other advantages as well. The larger of the vehicles, for lifting heavy cargoes but not people, would be some 350 feet tall, rivaling the Saturn 5 rockets that sent astronauts to the Moon.

The smaller one, for carrying people, would still dwarf the shuttle, which stands 184 feet high with its attached rockets and fuel tank.

The spaceships would no longer look like airplanes. Their payloads, whether humans or cargo, would ride in capsules at the top rather than alongside the fuel tank - standard practice until the shuttle era. Rather than gliding back to Earth, they would deploy parachutes and land on the ground in the Western United States.

"The goal is not how good the stuff looks," said John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "It's results. The goal is to get people back to the Moon and eventually onto Mars. And this system, given the budget constraints, is a reasonable way to go."

A main advantage, supporters say, is that the big rocket could lift five or six times as much cargo as the shuttle (roughly 100 tons versus 20 tons), making it the world's most powerful space vehicle. In theory, it would be strong enough to haul into orbit whole spaceships destined for the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Just as important, officials and private experts say, the small rocket for astronauts would be at least 10 times as safe as the shuttle, whose odds of disaster are estimated at roughly 1 in 100. The crew capsule atop the rocket would rendezvous in orbit with gear and spaceships that the bigger rocket ferried aloft, or with the International Space Station.

"It's safe, simple and soon," said Dr. Horowitz, an industry executive since he left the astronaut corps in October. "And it should cost less money" than the shuttles. Their reusability over 100 missions was originally meant to slash expenses but the cost per flight ended up being roughly $1 billion.

"We need to get this as simple and affordable as possible," Dr. Horowitz said, "because there's a lot of other things we need to spend our money on when it comes to exploration."

Asked whether the new designs meant NASA was going back to the future, he replied, "You can say, 'Hey, that looks pretty retro,' " but he drew an analogy to passenger jets from decades ago and those of today. "They look the same," he said, "but are completely different."

By drawing on existing technology, the plan is meant to speed President Bush's goal of revitalizing human space exploration. At the same time, it would upend the strategy of NASA's previous administrator, Sean O'Keefe, who wanted to discard the shuttle in favor of military rockets, which would have required costly upgrades to make them safe for humans. And their payloads would have been relatively small, requiring strings of multiple rocket launchings.

Dr. Horowitz said he and two fellow astronauts ended up endorsing the traditional idea of putting payloads atop the rocket instead of on its side, as far as possible from the dangers below. They also envisioned an escape system that would lift the crew capsule out of harm's way if serious trouble arose.

After January 2004, when Mr. Bush announced a national effort to "extend a human presence across our solar system," Dr. Horowitz hit on the idea of using the shuttle's booster rocket as a first stage. He did the math and found it ideal. Moreover, the booster rocket was already approved for human flight and - despite its role in the 1986 Challenger disaster - had earned an excellent safety record.

The second stage of the crew rocket would feature a updated version of the J-2 engine, which in the 1960's and 1970's helped propel the astronauts to the Moon.

Dr. Horowitz said industry studies put the risk of catastrophic failure for the newly envisioned crew rocket at 1 in 1,000 to 3,000. "It's never going to be like driving your car," he said. "But it's a huge step in the right direction."

After leaving the astronaut corps, he went to work for the booster maker, ATK Thiokol, where he now leads the company's effort to develop the new family of rockets. An ATK Web site,, discusses the shuttle-derived vehicles. The giant cargo rocket would feature a large fuel tank atop throwaway shuttle engines and, hanging on its side, a pair of shuttle booster rockets.

Several analysts said that retaining the shuttle contractors would probably help the effort not only financially, but also politically. In Florida alone, a state with blood ties to the White House, the shuttle program employs some 14,000 technicians and engineers, managers and contractors.