Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Saturday, August 13, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | Chavez revokes US agent immunity

BBC NEWS | Americas | Chavez revokes US agent immunity Chavez revokes US agent immunity
Caracas has withdrawn the diplomatic immunity of US anti-drugs officials working in Venezuela.

It follows a move by the US State Department to revoke the visas of six Venezuelan officials in Washington.

Both countries are locked in a row after President Hugo Chavez accused the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of spying on his government.

Washington denies the charge, accusing Caracas of failing to co-operate in the fight against drug-trafficking.

'Strike back'

Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel said his country would apply "strict reciprocity" in the allocation of visas to US officials.

"For every attack, there will be a reaction, for every strike, a strike back...and the revoking of visas will mean reciprocal action," he said.

"We are no longer going to accept civilian employees of the [DEA] being assigned to the US embassy, because that gives them the benefit of immunity," he said.

Correspondents say the dispute will add to the already tense diplomatic relations between Caracas and Washington.

Earlier this week, President Chavez, a fierce critic of the Bush administration, said he was suspending co-operation with the DEA.

"The DEA has used the pretext of fighting drug trafficking... to spy on Venezuela's government," he said last Sunday.

Venezuelan prosecutors have been investigating the activities of DEA agents working in the South American country.

Venezuela is an important transport route for cocaine from neighbouring Colombia, which produces 80% of the world's supply.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Ex-Klan Figure in 1964 Killings Is Freed on Bail - New York Times

Ex-Klan Figure in 1964 Killings Is Freed on Bail - New York TimesAugust 13, 2005
Ex-Klan Figure in 1964 Killings Is Freed on Bail

Edgar Ray Killen, the former Klansman whose conviction in June in the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers in Mississippi seemed to close one of the state's darkest chapters, was released yesterday when a judge granted bail pending an appeal.

The release raises the possibility that Mr. Killen, 80 and in poor health, will die a free man after serving barely six weeks of his sentence.

He was convicted on three counts of manslaughter on June 21, 41 years to the day after a mob of Klansmen killed the three campaigners - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - in an incident that galvanized national support for the civil rights movement. Prosecutors said Mr. Killen organized the mob.

Judge Marcus Gordon of Circuit Court, who gave Mr. Killen the maximum possible sentence, said in court that he had little choice but to set bond while Mr. Killen appealed his conviction. Judge Gordon said the state had not proved that Mr. Killen, who uses a wheelchair, was a flight risk or threat.

"It's not a matter of what I feel, it's a matter of the law," Judge Gordon said.

Rita Bender, wife of Mr. Schwerner, said the judge had not considered the danger to the community in the broader sense.

"To me this indicates a lack of understanding the seriousness of, and conveying the seriousness of, crimes of racial violence," Ms. Bender said by telephone from Seattle, where she lives.

Mr. Killen's release, she said, increases "the risk of violence by people who get the message once again that there is no control over them."

Jewel Rush McDonald, a member of the black church where the three victims had made contacts for a voter registration drive, also denounced the decision after attending the court proceedings.

"We have worked so hard in trying to clear this dark cloud from over Neshoba County, and as far as I'm concerned the judge just set us back 41 years," Ms. McDonald said.

Her church, Mount Zion United Methodist, has been a major force in a multiracial coalition that issued a "call for justice" in the case last year, before Mr. Killen's indictment.

To make the bond, which Judge Gordon set at $600,000, five friends of Mr. Killen put up property, County Clerk Patti Duncan Lee said. Mr. Killen and his brother Bobby also put up a parcel of land valued at $38,000, Ms. Lee added.

Seven witnesses, including a man who put up property, vouched for Mr. Killen.

Mr. Killen took the stand, complaining of a lack of medical care since he entered the Central Mississippi prison in Pearl, though he acknowledged that he had been seen by doctors.

"They checked me through the line like a cattle auction," he said. "I'm very unhappy with the treatment I've received."

Mr. Killen is recovering from a logging accident in March and required an oxygen tank at his trial.

Mr. Killen said he had to bribe a convict to obtain a pillow.

"I can barely sleep," he said. "I still don't understand how I could lie in severe pain for 24 hours and no one even brings me an aspirin. I'm not a drug addict."

A spokesman for the State Corrections Department said Mr. Killen had received proper medical care and he was not aware of any complaints.

Prosecutors worked for years to build the case against Mr. Killen, as other cases from the civil rights era were successfully reopened, resulting in convictions that at had one time seemed impossible.

When Mr. Chaney, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Schwerner disappeared, the nation was riveted by the search for them. Their bodies were found in an earthen dam, and the federal government tried 18 men in 1967 on charges that they conspired to deprive the three victims of their civil rights. Seven men were convicted. None served more than six years in prison.

In Mr. Killen's federal case, the all-white jury hung, 11 to 1, in favor of conviction. In the state trial this year, the jurors did not convict him of the most serious charge of murder, but rather manslaughter. The prosecution and the defense agreed that Mr. Killen was not present at the actual killings. Prosecutors maintained that he had planned the deaths and disposal of the bodies.

If Mr. Killen had been convicted of murder, he would not be eligible for release on bond.

Legal experts and others questioned the bail decision. James E. Prince III, publisher of The Neshoba Democrat, a weekly newspaper, said:

"He may not be capable of enacting revenge, but he has stature within a certain community. And they are capable of enacting revenge. It's difficult to bring closure on the reign of terror with him out of prison It's difficult, because that fear is still there with him out."

Mr. Prince criticized District Attorney Mark Duncan, for "a fairly weak presentation," saying Mr. Duncan had failed to emphasize Mr. Killen's connection to hate groups that might be capable of terror or violence. Mr. Prince noted that Mr. Killen was convicted of telephone harassment, a felony, in the 70's.

Experts have said Mississippi law is not crystal clear on when a judge has to grant bail. The law says a person convicted of any felony other than child abuse, sexual battery of a minor or a crime in which a death sentence or life imprisonment is imposed is entitled to be released on bail pending appeal if the convict shows that he is not a flight risk or a danger.

The statute also says the convict is entitled to release "within the discretion of a judicial officer," and "only when the peculiar circumstances of the case render it proper."

Jerry Mitchell contributed reporting from Philadelphia, Miss., for this article.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Bush warns Iran on nuclear plans

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Bush warns Iran on nuclear plans Bush warns Iran on nuclear plans
US President George W Bush says he still has not ruled out the option of using force against Iran, after it resumed work on its nuclear programme.

He said he was working on a diplomatic solution, but was sceptical that one could be found.

The UN's atomic watchdog has called on Iran to halt nuclear fuel development.

Iran, which denies it is secretly trying to develop nuclear arms, restarted work at its uranium conversion plant at Isfahan on Monday.

"All options are on the table," said Mr Bush, when asked about the possible use of force during an interview for Israeli TV.

"The use of force is the last option for any president. You know we have used force in the recent past to secure our country," he said.

Mined uranium ore is purified and reconstituted into solid form known as yellowcake
Yellowcake is converted into a gas by heating it to about 64C (147F)
Gas is fed through centrifuges, where its isotopes separate and process is repeated until uranium is enriched
Low-level enriched uranium is used for nuclear fuel
Highly enriched uranium can be used in nuclear weapons

The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says the president wants to send a clear warning to Tehran, although in reality the US already has its hands full in neighbouring Iraq.

'Cost them dearly'

The former Iranian President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has expressed surprise at Thursday's call by the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA, for Iran to suspend its nuclear activities.

The IAEA asked its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, to report on Iran's compliance by 3 September.

Speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran, Mr Rafsanjani said western opposition to Iran's decision to resume its nuclear programme would, as he put it, cost them dearly.

"Our people are not going to allow their nuclear rights to be seized," Mr Rafsanjani said. He said he was astonished that no country opposed the European Union-sponsored resolution, adopted by the IAEA, that urged Iran to stop any work on processing uranium for enrichment.

He emphasised that Iran's decision to resume its nuclear programme was irreversible, and said his country could not be treated like Iraq or Libya. The IAEA's 35-member governing body met in emergency session this week after Iran ended a nine-month suspension of work at Isfahan.

Iran insists it needs nuclear power as an alternative energy source, but Western nations fear it has plans to produce nuclear weapons.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - EnglishExperts call for review of death penalty 2005-08-13 08:12:03

BEIJING Aug 13 -- Law experts have called for the death penalty to be dropped as punishment for non-violent crimes to ease the extradition of some 4,000 suspected corrupt officials who have fled abroad.

Top legislature and court sources have told China Daily though there are so far no concrete plans, moves are already being taken to ensure a more reliable and just capital punishment system.

According to a report from the Ministry of Commerce, more than 4,000 Chinese corrupt officials have fled overseas in recent years, taking with them around US$50 billion in stolen funds.

Despite that China has extradition treaties with more than 20 countries, the United States, Japan, Canada and many other countries where fugitives run to, are not among them, said Chu Huaizhi, law professor with Peking University, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Some countries hesitate to sign extradition treaties with China, partially because Chinese courts can hand down the death sentence for non-violent offences, such as corruption, he said.

If the suspected corrupt officials were not threatened with the death penalty, countries may be more willing to co-operate with China to extradite them, and some may not have fled in the first place, Chu added.

Forty, mostly non-violent, offences were added to the list of crimes punishable by death under the 1997 Criminal Law reform and there are currently a total of 68 crimes that can result in the death penalty, sources said.

"Chinese scholars on the Criminal Law have reached a common understanding that China should gradually get rid of the death penalty," Chen Xingliang, vice-president and professor at the Law School of Peking University, told China Daily.

"To abolish the death sentence is a world trend and China should conform to it," he said.

Another Criminal Law scholar, Professor Zhao Bingzhi, from the Renmin University of China, said, as the first step, the death penalty should be dropped against non-violent crimes.

Afterwards, crimes that do not violate human lives should be exempted, the professor said.

Zhao said he hoped, eventually, the death penalty would disappear from China completely.

But sources with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, said they do not, as yet, have any plans to eradicate the death penalty.

According to the five-year legislation plan adopted by the NPC Standing Committee in 2003, legislators are due to discuss a draft to the amendment to the Criminal Law, which could touch on the capital punishment issue.

"It is impossible to say what items in the law will be revised until the relevant Standing Committee conference decides," a source told China Daily.

Sources with the Supreme People's Court said the death penalty was a legislation issue, the court merely acted in accordance with current laws.

According to a report by the China News Service, the Supreme People's Court may withdraw the right to review cases in which the death sentence has been passed from next year.

Currently, the provincial, municipal and autonomous region levels of high people's courts review cases in which the death sentence has been passed ahead of execution.

Some cases in which innocent people were executed have emerged in recent years.

Premier Wen Jiabao said at a press conference in March after the NPC annual session that China will not drop the death penalty.

"More than half the countries in the world still have the death penalty," he said.

Wen vowed to adopt effective systems to ensure the reliable and just use of capital punishment.

South Korea scrambles to downplay rift with Washington over North Korea - Yahoo! News

South Korea scrambles to downplay rift with Washington over North Korea - Yahoo! News South Korea scrambles to downplay rift with Washington over North Korea

Fri Aug 12,11:26 AM ET

South Korea scrambled to downplay an apparent policy rift with the United States over North Korea after a senior minister endorsed Pyongyang's right to maintain a civilian nuclear program.

Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young threw a new complication Thursday into six-party negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear drive, saying that Pyongyang had a "natural right" to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Officials here stressed that Chung had been talking about what Pyongyang might have if the communist state rejoins a global non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and meets other international obligations.

"Our official stance is that North Korea would be able to engage in civilian nuclear activities if and when it gives up weapons programs, returns to the NPT and observes IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards," Cho Tae-Yong, head of the foreign ministry's task force on the nuclear issue, told reporters.

The United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are in negotiations with North Korea in an effort to persuade Pyongyang to renounce its program to develop nuclear weapons.

Thirteen days of intensive discussions in Beijing recessed Sunday for three weeks with no agreement. A main stumbling block was North Korea's insistence on retaining civilian nuclear capacity.

Cho dismissed as "irresponsible" news reports that South Korea was moving to persuade the United States and other participants in the six-way talks to endorse North Korea's right to peaceful nuclear activities.

He stressed that North Korea, under any circumstances, must not possess uranium-enrichment or plutonium-reprocessing facilities and graphite-moderated reactors.

A Unification Ministry spokesman denied any rift with the United States.

"There is nothing like a rift between Seoul and Washington on this issue," he said.

In Washington, Adam Ereli, deputy State Department spokesman, also played down suggestions of policy differences.

"There's no rift between the United States and South Korea," he said. "We are close partners in a broad bilateral relationship and particularly in our common approach to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula."

Ereli added: "There's a negotiation going on. And in any negotiation, you've got at least as many views as there are parties, sometimes more."

After the nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula rekindled in October 2002, North Korea has reactivated a graphite-moderated reactor which experts say produces greater amounts of plutonium, raw material for weapons, than light-water reactors.

North Korea currently has an old Soviet-built graphite-moderated five-megawatt experimental reactor at its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon and is now building 50-megawatt and 200-megawatt reactors of similar types.

Taiwan Works to Reduce Ghost - Month Trash - New York Times

Taiwan Works to Reduce Ghost - Month Trash - New York TimesTaiwan Works to Reduce Ghost - Month Trash

Filed at 9:34 a.m. ET

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Environmentally conscious Taipei authorities are taking a novel approach to this year's annual ghost month, when Taiwanese burn thick stacks of paper money to appease the spirits of the dead: they're providing small garbage bags to limit the amount of immolated cash.

To insure that wandering ghosts will not disturb the peace and prosperity of the living over the ensuring 12 months, many Chinese burn copious amounts of paper money and set up tables laden with food during the seventh month of the lunar year -- ghost month.

But in recent years Taipei's authorities have become increasingly concerned that large stacks of immolated cash are adding to the city's already serious air pollution problems.

As a remedy, the Taipei City Government said on Friday it will distribute a bag for each household in which symbolic amounts of paper money can be placed.

''You can address the bag to wandering spirits in general or to specific dead persons of your choice,'' the government said in a statement, adding that municipal garbage trucks would dispose of the bags in high-powered incinerators.

This year's ghost month observance began on Aug. 5 and will continue until Sept. 3. It is marked not only on Taiwan, but in Chinese societies throughout the world.

stocks, shares, news, FTSE, online trading - Interactive Investor

stocks, shares, news, FTSE, online trading - Interactive InvestorTaiwan begins deploying cruise missiles on mobile launchers - report
Article layout: raw

TAIPEI (AFX) - Taiwan has begun deploying cruise missiles on mobile launchers that are capable of hitting major military targets in southeast China, the China Times said.

The newspaper said that the defense ministry's new missile command has deployed the Hsiung Feng missiles, which have a range of 1,000 kilometers, across the island.

The missiles, each costing some 100 mln twd, were developed by Taiwan's military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, the paper said.

The institute is also developing cruise missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers, it added.

The China Times said President Chen Shui-bian has inspected the missile command and witnessed a mock launch of the cruise missiles.

The defense ministry has declined to comment on the report.

Taiwan reportedly successfully test-fired its first cruise missile earlier this year which flew more than 500 kilometers before hitting its target.

Last month, the Pentagon released a report warning that China has deployed up to 730 ballistic missiles targeting the island.

RedNova News - International - Tokyo district adopts history text in whitewash row

RedNova News - International - Tokyo district adopts history text in whitewash rowTokyo district adopts history text in whitewash row

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Tokyo district adopted on Friday a history textbook that critics say whitewashes Japan's past militarism, a decision that could anger Asian neighbors.

Japan's Education Ministry approved the new edition of "The New History Textbook," written by nationalist scholars, in April, prompting outrage in China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's aggression until 1945 persist.

An official at the education board in Suginami, a mostly residential area of western Tokyo, confirmed that the text had been adopted for use in junior high schools but would give no further details.

The debate on whether to adopt the textbook in Suginami, which is home to some 500,000 people and has 23 junior high schools, was so fiercely politicized that a final decision had been postponed for a week.

In the end, three out of five members of the board voted in favor of the textbook, Kyodo news agency said.

Hisao Ishiyama, head of a group of academics and teachers opposed to the textbook, said he was shocked by the result.

"This will force schools to use the textbook for the next four years, meaning that many people will be exposed to its very warped version of history," he said. "It is an extremely distressing result."

Critics say the book, sponsored by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (Tsukurukai), plays down the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China and ignores the sexual enslavement of women for Japanese soldiers.

In a partial translation provided by the Tsukurukai, the textbook suggests that Japan's military activities helped lead to the liberation of Asian countries from Western colonial rule.

Those in Suginami who voted in favor said children were unable to have hope for their country in the future by reading about only negative images of Japan's past, while opponents said they fear the book encourages warfare as it says Japanese soldiers fought "bravely" in World War Two, Kyodo added.

Authors and supporters of the textbook say it corrects a "masochistic" view of history which they say has deprived Japanese of pride and patriotism.

A previous version of the textbook, approved in 2001, was adopted by fewer than 1 percent of school districts nationwide, but Tsukurukai and its supporters hope to increase that to 10 percent with the new edition.

Late last month, Tokyo's education board adopted the textbook for use at four state-run schools and 22 schools for the blind, the deaf, and the physically and mentally handicapped.

In mid-July, the city of Otawara in Tochigi prefecture, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Tokyo, became the first municipal government to adopt the book. It also adopted a civics textbook, approved by the Tsukurukai, that has upset South Korea as it reiterates Tokyo's claim to two tiny islands disputed by Seoul.

Ishiyama said he did not believe the Suginami decision would have much impact on how many districts adopt the history textbook, since most had already made their decision. "What is different this time is the great amount of activity on the part of politicians, especially among the (ruling)

The Pioneer > Home

The Pioneer > Home Malaysia declares emergency in two regions

PTI/ Kuala Lumpur

Schools, offices and factories remained closed in Malaysia's biggest harbour and a tourist spot as authorities declared a state of emergency in the two areas and set up a 125 member special team to fight one of the worst pollution crisis of the country triggered by the forest fires from neighbouring Indonesia.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asked citizens to pray for rains to put an end to the crisis which has disrupted air traffic and forced closure of schools and universities.

In Port Klang and Kuala Selango, the two areas under emergency, all earthworks and activities at quarries have come to a halt though supermarkets, clinics and other vital services are open.

Schools also remained closed across Kuala Lumpur as the city continued to be blanked by a swathe of thick haze.

People were seen sporting face masks as air pollution spiralled to unhealthy levels in the few days. All airports and ports in the country will be closed until the haze situation improves, Transport minister Chan Choy said.

Friday, August 12, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Mars probe launches at third try

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Mars probe launches at third try Mars probe launches at third try

Nasa's Mars probe has launched after two days of delays, on a mission to map and find water on the Red Planet.

The $720m (£397m) Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) blasted off at 1243 BST (1143 GMT) on Friday after being delayed for two days running.

A launch attempt on Thursday was scrubbed due to a sensor malfunction.

MRO will arrive at Mars in March on a four-year mission; its cameras will send back the clearest images yet of the planet from space.

"What a difference a day makes," said Nasa launch manager Chuck Dovale. "It couldn't have been any smoother."

The spacecraft is the size of a small bus and weighs about 2,000kg; it will carry some of the most sophisticated instruments ever taken to the Red Planet.

Cameras and spectrometers will enable scientists to study Mars' composition and structure and search for surface features related to water.

1) 3m High-gain antenna
2) High-resolution Imaging Science Experiment
3) Electra UHF communications relay
4) Mars Climate Sounder
5) Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars
6) Orbit insertion thrusters
7) Shallow subsurface radar
8) Thrusters
9) Optical Navigation camera
10) Low-gain antennae
A radar sounder will look for liquid water reservoirs that may exist beneath the surface of Mars.

"A prime goal of ours is to achieve higher spatial resolution in our observations of the surface and of the atmosphere and of the sub-surface by radar," said Richard Zurek, MRO project scientist.

"When you increase your resolution and you still want to cover adequate areas of the planet what you have to be able to do is return much more data than previous missions have done."

As such, MRO is also equipped with the largest communications antenna ever sent to the Red Planet, which will transmit 10 times more data each minute than previous Mars probes. This will allow the robotic probe to serve as a powerful communications relay for future missions to the surface.

Life search

Nasa has adopted the mantra "follow the water" in its approach to robotic exploration of the Red Planet, since water is an essential ingredient for life. One of the scientific objectives of the mission is to investigate whether Mars could once have supported microbial life forms.

"Dramatic discoveries, about recent gullies, near-surface permafrost and ancient surface water have given us a new Mars in the past few years," said Michael Meyer, Mars exploration chief scientist.

"Learning more about what has happened to the water will focus searches for possible Martian life, past or present."

The US space agency mission could also reveal what happened to lost Mars landers such as the British-built Beagle 2 probe, which was lost in 2003, and the US Mars Polar Lander, which disappeared in 1999.

Professor Colin Pillinger, from the Open University, who led the Beagle 2 mission, said: "If we could just see some trace of it on the surface then at least we could see how far it got - the not knowing is the worst bit.

"It will be a very difficult thing to do, but this is our best chance of finding out what happened and we will be watching the progress of the mission with great interest and anticipation."

Future plans

Thursday's attempt was abandoned because sensors that monitor fuelling of the rocket were giving a "dry" reading even though the rocket was being filled with hydrogen propellant.

A scheduled lift-off on Wednesday was scrubbed after a gyroscope of the type used in the Atlas V failed while being incorporated into a rocket unrelated to the MRO mission.

MRO will join two operational US orbiters - the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey - and one European orbiter, Mars Express, at the Red Planet.

Two US robotic rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been on the Martian surface for the past 18 months, investigating the geology of Mars.

Nasa is planning two further Mars missions this decade: the Phoenix module, set for launch in 2007, and Mars Science Laboratory in 2009.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | New launch window for Mars probe

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | New launch window for Mars probe New launch window for Mars probe
The US space agency's new Mars probe is set for launch on Friday, during a two hour window running from 1243 BST (1143 GMT) to 1443 BST (1343 GMT).

The $500m (£276m) Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was due to launch on Thursday, but controllers called a halt just a few minutes before blast-off.

It will arrive in March to look for evidence of water and hunt for landing sites for future manned missions.

MRO can transmit 10 times more data each minute than previous Mars probes.

Water search

The spacecraft is the size of a small bus and weighs about 2,000kg; it will carry some of the most sophisticated instruments ever taken to the Red Planet.

Once in orbit around Mars, the spacecraft's cameras will send back the clearest images yet of the planet from any orbiting spacecraft. This will enable scientists to study Mars' composition and structure and search for surface features related to water.

1) 3m High-gain antenna
2) High-resolution Imaging Science Experiment
3) Electra UHF communications relay
4) Mars Climate Sounder
5) Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars
6) Orbit insertion thrusters
7) Shallow subsurface radar
8) Thrusters
9) Optical Navigation camera
10) Low-gain antennae
A radar sounder will look for liquid water reservoirs that may exist beneath the surface of Mars.

"A prime goal of ours is to achieve higher spatial resolution in our observations of the surface and of the atmosphere and of the sub-surface by radar," said Richard Zurek, MRO project scientist.

"When you increase your resolution and you still want to cover adequate areas of the planet what you have to be able to do is return much more data than previous missions have done."

As such, MRO is also equipped with the largest communications antenna ever sent to the Red Planet. This will allow it to serve as a powerful communications relay for future missions to the surface.

Nasa has adopted the mantra "follow the water" in its approach to the robotic exploration of the Red Planet, since water is an essential ingredient for life. One of the scientific objectives of the mission is to investigate whether Mars could once have supported microbial life forms.

Beagle clues

British scientists hope the US space agency mission will also reveal what happened to the lost Mars probe, Beagle 2.

Professor Colin Pillinger, from the Open University, who led the Beagle 2 mission, said: "If we could just see some trace of it on the surface then at least we could see how far it got - the not knowing is the worst bit.

"It will be a very difficult thing to do, but this is our best chance of finding out what happened and we will be watching the progress of the mission with great interest and anticipation."

The launch marks the first use by Nasa of the powerful Atlas V rocket, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

A scheduled launch on Wednesday was scrubbed after a gyroscope of the type used in the Atlas V failed while being incorporated into a rocket unrelated to the MRO mission. The problem was not found to have affected this launch vehicle, a Nasa spokesman said.

Thursday's launch was also abandoned because, during loading of the hydrogen fuel tank, sensors showed a "dry" reading when they should have been reading "wet".

A similar problem forced Nasa to scrub the launch of the space shuttle Discovery from Cape Canaveral on 13 July.

MRO will join two operational US orbiters - the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey - and one European orbiter, Mars Express, at the Red Planet.

Two US robotic rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been on the Martian surface for the past 18 months, investigating the geology of Mars.

Nasa is planning two further Mars missions this decade: the Phoenix module, set for launch in 2007, and Mars Science Laboratory in 2009.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Tens of Thousands Protest Gaza Pullout - New York Times

Tens of Thousands Protest Gaza Pullout - New York TimesAugust 12, 2005
Tens of Thousands Protest Gaza Pullout

Filed at 3:26 a.m. ET

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- Tens of thousands of anti-pullout protesters filled a square in downtown Tel Aviv, vowing that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank will not happen. Most settlers, however, were leaving a key village in northern Gaza.

The demonstrators filled the square in front of Tel Aviv city hall, named after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was gunned down there after a peace rally in 1995. Protesters carried signs criticizing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, architect of the pullout, which begins next week.

The theme of the demonstration was ''Gush Katif and Samaria, I pledge (allegiance),'' a slogan painted in black on an orange background of many of the signs in the crowd. Orange is the color adopted by the protesters to symbolize their struggle against the pullout.

Gush Katif is the main block of settlements in Gaza, and Samaria refers to the northern West Bank, where four settlements are to be removed in the government's ''disengagement'' plan.

At the beginning of the rally, veteran settler activist Pinchas Wallerstein chanted the slogan, and the crowd replied in unison.

Settler leader Bentsi Leiberman vowed that opponents would block the soldiers with their bodies when the pullout comes, but reiterated that the disobedience would be passive.

''Disengagement will not be carried out,'' he said to the roar of the crowd.

''We will not allow Jews to be expelled from our land,'' he said.

Settler leaders say they will send thousands toward Gaza next week in an attempt to reinforce the 8,500 settlers there. Many are expected to leave before the Aug. 17 deadline, but others plan to stay and offer resistance.

On Thursday the military stopped giving permits to friends and relatives of settlers to enter Gaza, charging that many visitors have remained behind.

Security was tight. About 2,000 police patrolled the area of the demonstration, and each protester was carefully checked before entering the square. Weapons were banned, and police X-rayed bags, using airport-style machines mounted on trucks.

President Bush endorsed the withdrawal in an interview broadcast Thursday on Israel TV. ''The disengagement is, I think, a part of making Israel more secure and peaceful,'' he said.

Sharon has said repeatedly he will not back down from his plan to remove about 9,000 Jewish settlers from 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank in a massive military operation scheduled to begin Aug. 17.

Many have already left.

Nissanit, a community of about 1,100 people at the northern edge of Gaza, was nearly deserted Thursday.

The furniture, windows and even the red roof tiles had been removed from many of the houses, leaving them empty shells, their yards filled with boxes and broken hunks of plastic furniture.

Two women hugged and cried in the middle of the street. A few people filled pickup trucks with the last remaining boxes and chairs they needed to move.

''It looks awful. It hurts my heart to see the houses like this,'' said Yossi Elus, a 30-year-old electrician from the settlement, as he removed air conditioning units for his neighbors.

Over the past few weeks, Elus dismantled more than 50 air conditioners as the families in this secular community began leaving.

Though he deeply opposed the pullout, Elus did not want to risk losing up to a third of his compensation package by staying here after the deadline to protest, as the government has threatened. He moved his family earlier to a house he is renting in the nearby Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Eli Kabooli, 46, stood in his empty house, the floor littered with wires and white plastic molding, looking around for anything left to salvage.

His wife and two children moved Wednesday, but they only starting packing a week ago.

''My wife couldn't start earlier,'' he said. ''She'd pack and she'd cry.''

City to Release Oral Histories of 9/11 Friday - New York Times

City to Release Oral Histories of 9/11 Friday - New York TimesAugust 12, 2005
City to Release Oral Histories of 9/11 Friday

A rich vein of city records from Sept. 11, including more than 12,000 pages of oral histories rendered in the voices of 503 firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians, will be made public today.

The histories - a mosaic of vision and memory recalling the human struggle against surging fire, confusion, and horror - were compiled by the New York City Fire Department beginning in October 2001, but to this date, no one from the department has read them all or used them for any official purpose.

The city has announced that it will also release today a written log of calls to the 911 system, many from trapped office workers, as well as tapes of fire dispatchers. Other records, including tapes of 911 operators, are being assembled and are not yet ready for release, city officials said.

The New York Times sought the records under the freedom of information law in February 2002, but the Bloomberg administration refused to make them public and the newspaper sued the city. Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, ordered the city to release most, but not all, of the records.

Over the last three and half years, The Times has obtained some of these records through unofficial channels, and they can be found on the Web at These include the dispatch tapes, nearly 100 of the Fire Department oral histories, and a log of calls to Emergency Medical Service dispatchers that were channeled through the 911 system.

A group of families of people who died in the attack intervened in the suit brought by The Times, also urging release of the records. One of those family members, Rosaleen Tallon, noted that Zacarias Moussaoui, an admitted member of Al Qaeda who is accused of plotting with the Sept. 11 hijackers, long ago obtained the same documents in preparation for his criminal trial that were being denied to her and other families by the Bloomberg administration. The city also initially refused access to the records to investigators from both the 9/11 Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, but relented when legal action was threatened.

In the Fire Department accounts, the testimony of many fire officers and firefighters was both moving and blunt. When the accounts obtained by The Times were made public, they opened a new dimension to the discussions about fire operations that day and pointedly raised questions about whether some of the department's deaths might have been avoided.

In the histories, the firefighters recalled losing touch with one another that morning and being unable to deliver or hear warnings about the imminent collapse of the towers. They described the physical toll of climbing 20 and 30 flights of stairs, laden with gear and outfits that weighed nearly 100 pounds. They included descriptions of a loss of command of the firefighters going up the stairs, the lack of communication between the police and fire departments, and the small measures by which people survived or died.

The accounts include such serendipities as an aide to a chief, who stood by his side in the lobby of the south tower at the Trade Center site, then left for the adjoining hotel to use a bathroom. Shortly after he left, the south tower collapsed, killing everyone inside.

For all their power, the oral histories are individual narratives, the accounts of men and women who saw the day, at times yards from death. They were originally gathered on the order of Thomas Von Essen, the city fire commissioner on Sept. 11, who said he wanted to preserve those accounts before they became reshaped by a collective memory. He was succeeded as commissioner in January 2002 by Nicholas Scoppetta. Some of the oral histories were reviewed, but not all, a spokesman for Mr. Scoppetta said last night. Mr. Scoppetta declined to be interviewed.

Sally Regenhard, the mother of Christian Regenhard, a firefighter killed that day with his engine company, had been one of those who joined the suit for the release of the records, in hope that the oral histories might provide some clue on where her son had been.

"It has been almost four years, and I've been waiting for any information on my son," Mrs. Regenhard said. "He disappeared that day with his entire engine company. No one can tell me what happened to him - not even the smallest detail."

Early in his administration, Mr. Scoppetta refused to release the oral histories because he said he had been advised by federal prosecutors that their publication might impede the prosecution of Mr. Moussaoui. The department also advanced the position in court that the firefighters who had provided the oral histories did so with specific promises of confidentiality.

The department withdrew that claim. Mr. Scoppetta later found little support from federal prosecutors, judges, or defense lawyers for the position that Mr. Moussaoui's right to a fair trial would be hampered by publishing the recollections of firefighters or paramedics.

The city found more success in another line of argument: that release of certain records would violate the privacy of the dead, or cause emotional distress to the living. The Court of Appeals allowed the oral histories to be edited under a limited set of circumstances. It also refused to order the city to release all of the 911 tapes, saying that the callers' voices should not be made public. The other half of the conversations, involving the operators who spoke with the callers, will eventually be made public.

"We're gratified that it's finally being done," said David E. McCraw, a lawyer for The Times. "We believe it should have been done a long time ago. We believe the public is ultimately the beneficiary. We hope the city will move quickly to release the 911 tapes."

Officials Warn of Possibility of Attack Around Sept. 11 - New York Times

Officials Warn of Possibility of Attack Around Sept. 11 - New York TimesAugust 12, 2005
Officials Warn of Possibility of Attack Around Sept. 11

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 - A group of F.B.I. counterterrorism analysts warned this week of possible terrorist attacks in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago around Sept. 11, but officials cautioned on Thursday that they were skeptical about the seriousness of the threat.

The warning grew out of intelligence developed from an overseas source indicating that terrorists might seek to steal fuel tanker trucks in order to inflict "mass casualties" by staging an anniversary attack, officials said.

The information led F.B.I. joint terrorism task forces in Los Angeles and Newark to alert other government and law enforcement officials privately this week about the threat, law enforcement officials said. Several government officials in Washington who were briefed on the threat said it was described as credible and specific enough to warrant attention.

But other law enforcement officials in Washington and New York said that while they were aware of the warnings and were concerned about the Sept. 11 anniversary, they remained somewhat skeptical about the latest threat.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was planning to send out another confidential law enforcement bulletin on Thursday to qualify the earlier one and emphasize that the threat of a possible tanker attack had not been verified.

"The information is uncorroborated, and the source is of questionable reliability," said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. "This information continues to be evaluated by the intelligence community."

There were no immediate plans to raise the national threat level, although urban transit systems remain on higher alert after last month's subway attacks in London.

Domestic security officials have long thought that tanker trucks could be used in terrorist attacks. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are considered at the top of potential targets, along with Washington and Las Vegas, because of their size, high profiles, symbolic value and past plots by Al Qaeda.

New York City's police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said in a statement that the department was aware of the threat.

"The New York City Police Department already has measures in place to protect against truck bombs and other threats," Mr. Kelly said. "We are expanding those measures, not in response to this latest information, but as part of ongoing refinements to our overall counter terrorism posture."

Paul J. Browne, the department's chief spokesman, said that for the last three and a half years the department had had a high-profile program for stopping trucks in the financial district in Lower Manhattan, which was intensified after the London attacks. "And you can expect to see even more throughout the city in the months ahead," Mr. Browne said.

Another law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the matter, called the information in the advisory "a generic threat," adding, "There is no great level of confidence in the credibility of the source."

The official noted that the New York Police Department had long been concerned about the use of trucks as weapons, and that while little credence was given to the advisory it prompted officials to re-examine the threat posed by trucks.

"There is nothing that would cause us to react to the particular threat," the official said. "What we are reacting to is the generic nature of the threat."

"Trucks have been talked about by Al Qaeda all the time," the official said. "They used that tactic around the world, so we're using this as an opportunity to fine-tune our strategy."

In 2002, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for killing 21 people in a suicide attack on a Tunisian synagogue by a man driving a fuel truck.

The Los Angeles police chief, William J. Bratton, said his department had been made aware of the information several days ago.

"Our counterterrorism bureau already looks at any reports of stolen or missing trucks that carry anything hazardous," Mr. Bratton said. "The L.A.P.D.'s traffic coordination section has stepped up random checks of large vehicles. This stream of reporting is similar to others we've seen since 9/11."

The original alert, issued by an F.B.I. terrorism task force in Los Angeles on Wednesday, warned that "Al Qaeda leaders plan to employ various types of fuel trucks as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in an effort to cause mass casualties in the U.S. prior to the 19th of Sept," according to a law enforcement official who had read it. "Attacks are planned specifically for New York ,Chicago and Los Angeles. It is unclear whether the attacks will occur simultaneously or be spread out over a period of time, and the goal of the attack is to collapse the U.S. economy," it said.

It also warned that terrorists would seek to hijack gasoline tankers or trucks hauling oxygen and ram them into a gasoline station to cause major explosions. Although F.B.I. officials have previously said that they have no conclusive evidence that Al Qaeda has sleeper cells in the United States, the alert asserted that "the attackers will be members of small Al Qaeda cells which are spread throughout the U.S."

In interviews, law enforcement officials acknowledged concern about possible attacks timed with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"There's always that possibility, and it's something we always look at very closely because it is such a symbolic day," said a senior Justice Department official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about disclosing classified material.

The significance of the Sept. 19 date mentioned in the F.B.I. alert was not made clear. Officials said they were also concerned that attacks might be timed around the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts on Oct. 4.

The split in opinion about how seriously to treat the latest report reflected the continued uncertainty in the federal government over how far it should go in responding to what may be unclear threats - at the risk of alarming an already skittish public.

The Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. have stepped up their ability to collect and analyze information on possible threats and spread it quickly to federal, state and local officials.

But some local law enforcement officials say they are still not getting all of the information they need from the federal government, leading some police departments to form their own informal intelligence network to share terrorist information. Federal officials have also had several false alarms that became public, and the elevation of the threat level last summer after reports about possible attacks on financial centers in New York and Washington led to accusations that the move was politically motivated in advance of the presidential election.

"We get threat information all the time, and this comes in the normal course of doing business," said an F.B.I. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the threat assessments publicly.

As for the analysts' report of a possible September attack, he said, "We consider this unsubstantiated, uncorroborated information."

Japan Today - News - Malaysia declares emergency as smog hits danger level - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Malaysia declares emergency as smog hits danger level - Japan's Leading International News NetworkMalaysia declares emergency as smog hits danger level

Send to a friendPrint

Friday, August 12, 2005 at 07:10 JST
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia declared a state of emergency Thursday in two provinces near its capital Kuala Lumpur after the acrid smog brought by forest fires in Indonesia hit dangerous levels.

In what is the worst haze crisis in eight years, a thick pall of noxious smog has enveloped the capital and its surrounding areas since last week. (Kyodo News)

Japan Today - News - Four stage rare protest in Singapore - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Four stage rare protest in Singapore - Japan's Leading International News NetworkFour stage rare protest in Singapore

Send to a friendPrint

Friday, August 12, 2005 at 07:12 JST
SINGAPORE — About a dozen police officers in riot gear swooped down on four people staging a rare protest in Singapore's central business district Thursday.

The protestors, all Singaporeans, carried a placard in front of a government pension fund building calling for greater transparency in Singapore, apparently in the wake of a recent controversy over alleged misuse of donors' funds by Singapore's richest charity, the National Kidney Foundation. (Kyodo News)

People's Daily Online -- 600-year-old ancient warship found in east China

People's Daily Online -- 600-year-old ancient warship found in east China600-year-old ancient warship found in east China
font size ZoomIn ZoomOut

Archaeologists have recently found a well-preserved ancient warship dated back to some 600 years ago, at a relics site in the ancient Dengzhou Harbor in Penglai, east China's Shandong Province.

This is the first discovery of a large ancient ship in China in over two decades.

The wooden ancient vessel, more than 20 meters long, is believed to be a warship from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), said You Shaoping, director of the Shandong Cultural Heritage Bureau, on Thursday.

The value of the ancient warship is yet to be determined by experts, said You, adding that it is similar to another ancient ship excavated not far away from the site about 20 years ago, but better preserved than that one.

In 1984, a warship of Yuan Dynasty was found in Penglai, and the ancient ship was the largest and best preserved ancient ship in China at that time.

The ancient ship, unearthed in 1984, is 28 meters long, 5.6 meters wide, and 1.2 meters high. The streamline warship was designed for fast navigation, said experts.

During the excavation of the ship some 20 years ago, a second ancient ship was found. But archaeologists buried it up again because half of the ship was covered by a local home.

Local government conducted a desilting project at the ancient harbor site this year. As residents of the site were relocated, archaeologists began to excavate the buried ship. To their surprise, the third, better preserved ship was discovered.

Experts said Chinese navigation in the Yuan and Ming ( 1368-1644) dynasties was relatively developed. The ancient Dengzhou harbor had been an important military harbor in north China 1,000 years ago.

The discovery of the ancient ships is of great importance to the research of China's history of warships and harbors, said experts.

Source: Xinhua

Most Expensive Homes In America 2005: South -

Most Expensive Homes In America 2005: South - Forbes.comMost Expensive Homes In America 2005: South
Sara Clemence

A $10 million mansion? Available in droves. A $20 million estate? Practically commonplace. It's not until you reach the dizzying heights of $25 million and up that you enter the realm of the most expensive homes in the South.

For the second installment of our annual series on the most expensive homes in the U.S., we turned our gaze to the region below the Mason-Dixon line. (For the Most Expensive Homes in the U.S.: Northeast, click here.) We found that prices are highest at the bottom. In other words: Florida.

With perpetual sunshine, abundant beaches, no income taxes and plenty of docking space for yachts, Florida has long been a hot spot for the wealthy and well known. So it's little surprise that nine of the ten most expensive houses in the South are in the Sunshine State.

To see full list click here.

In fact, although there are pricier properties currently on the market in other states, Florida holds the record for the most expensive house ever sold in the U.S. In late 2004, Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire who controls Revlon (nyse: REV - news - people ) and other brands, sold his six-acre oceanfront estate, Casa Apava, in Palm Beach for $70 million.

Unlike the most expensive homes in the Northeast, every single home on our list is on the water--sometimes two bodies of water, in the case of barrier island estates.

Florida's real estate market has been getting more expensive across the board. Statewide, the median price of an existing home increased 31% from June 2004 to June 2005, and 108% from five years ago, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. In Palm Beach County, the median sales price--the point at which half the homes cost less and half cost more--hit a record high this year.

The most expensive homes moved up a notch as well. Last year, the lowest-priced home on our list cost $24 million.This year, it was replaced by a $25.5 million property that ranked higher on our 2004 list.

The most expensive home on last year's list, Abe Gosman's $48 million Palm Beach mansion, sold at a bankruptcy auction to Donald Trump. In its place is an even costlier palace on an exclusive man-made island in Biscayne Bay. The Star Island estate features exotic amenities, including a biometrically secured wine cellar and outdoor air conditioning system. Neighbors include Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal--though not for long, he hopes.

O'Neal recently put his outsized Star Island estate on the market for $32 million, placing it fourth on our list. It has its own tennis and racquetball courts (no basketball court, as far as we know), but rumor has it he was tired of the tourist boats that lurked outside his property. Maybe he could swap properties with another celebrity, Latin recording star Julio Iglesias, whose home on nearby Indian Creek Island was built for privacy, and hits our list at a mere $29 million.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bush Signs $286.4 Billion Transportation Bill - New York Times

Bush Signs $286.4 Billion Transportation Bill - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
Bush Signs $286.4 Billion Transportation Bill

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 - President Bush happily signed the $286.4 billion transportation bill today in a bipartisan celebration that demonstrated the unifying powers of roads, bridges and other public works projects.

"This bill's going to help modernize the highway system and improve quality of life for a lot of people," Mr. Bush declared at a Caterpillar plant in the Chicago suburb of Montgomery, Ill.

"Highways just don't happen," Mr. Bush went on. "People have got to show up and do the work to refit a highway or build a bridge, and they need new equipment to do so. So the bill I'm signing is going to help give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs."

The transportation bill includes money for thousands of projects across the country. To put it another way, it has something for every state and just about every Congressional district, as reflected in the votes that enacted it in late July: 412 to 8 in the House and 91 to 4 in the Senate.

Critics of the bill have complained that it is wasteful. But the president, who flew to Illinois from his ranch in Crawford, Tex., rejected that view. "It accomplishes goals in a fiscally responsible way," he said.

Mr. Bush heaped praise on Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, whose district includes Montgomery and who introduced the president today. Mr. Bush also had warm words for other Republicans who helped to fashion the bill and who accompanied him today: Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Representatives Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Tom Petri of Wisconsin, who is on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

But in a striking example of friendliness across the political divide, Mr. Bush said he was proud to be with Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, Senators Richard J. Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois, and Representative Rahm Emanuel of the Chicago area - Democrats all.

The ranking Democrat on the House transportation committee, Representative James L. Oberstar of Minnesota, was applauded after being recognized by Mr. Bush, who apparently has forgiven him for a gibe in last year's campaign.

Last October, President Bush rechristened the Iron Range region of Minnesota, calling it "the Iron Ridge." Shortly thereafter, at a rally in chilly Hibbing, Minn., Mr. Oberstar pounced upon Mr. Bush's mistake.

"Welcome to the Iron Ridge!" Mr. Oberstar shouted, to guffaws. "Poor old George. He was thinking of his Homeland Security Secretary - Tom Range!"

All that was forgotten today, as President Bush even paid tribute to Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, a Democrat who had worked hard to defeat the president and whose brother William was Al Gore's campaign chairman in 2000. (The Daleys did defeat Mr. Bush, at least in Illinois. Mr. Bush was swamped there in 2000 and 2004.)

This morning, Mr. Bush called Richard Daley "a great mayor of a great city" after observing "you want him on your side."

On the transportation bill, at least, Democrats and Republicans were on the same side today.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Pinochet's wife and son charged

BBC NEWS | Americas | Pinochet's wife and son charged Pinochet's wife and son charged
A judge has charged the wife and son of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet as accomplices in a multi-million dollar tax fraud case.

Lucia Pinochet was detained at the military hospital in Santiago, where she has been receiving treatment.

The couple's youngest son, Marco Antonio Pinochet, is being held at a police station in the capital.

The case relates to offshore accounts where Gen Pinochet and his family allegedly hid more than $13m (£7m).

Investigating judge Sergio Munoz ordered Mrs Pinochet's arrest, having interviewed her last month for the second time in a year.

"Nobody in Chile is above the law," said Osvaldo Puccio, the government secretary general.

Fraud allegations

Gen Pinochet was stripped of his legal immunity from prosecution in June over alleged crimes linked to the secret accounts.

The allegations were over tax evasion, false declarations, avoiding an assets embargo and the use of false passports.

The general's lawyers have launched an appeal against the decision with the Supreme Court.

Gen Pinochet's lawyers said all the money in the accounts was legitimately earned, but he has offered to pay back taxes on some of the money.

Gen Pinochet, 89, headed a military junta from 1973 to 1990, during which more than 3,000 people died in political violence.

The courts have so far ruled the general is too ill to be charged over human right abuses during his presidency.
Story from BBC NEWS:

CBS 46 Atlanta - Indicted Former Atlanta Mayor Hires a Lawyer

CBS 46 Atlanta - Indicted Former Atlanta Mayor Hires a LawyerIndicted Former Atlanta Mayor Hires a Lawyer
Aug 9, 2005, 7:47 PM

ATLANTA (AP) -- Washington lawyer William R. "Billy" Martin has been named to lead the defense team of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell against federal corruption charges.

Campbell, who left office in 2002 after two four-year terms, was indicted about a year ago on charges of bribery, fraud and racketeering after a four-year investigation into alleged City Hall corruption during his administration.

Ten people have been convicted, including a strip club owner who said he gave Campbell 50-thousand dollars to push through a liquor license application. The ex-mayor said today that Martin will help prove his innocence.

Campbell said the government has spent millions investigating him and, "manufactured a groundless case based solely on convicted felons and perjurers to justify this senseless inquisition."

Martin said he intends to help Campbell clear his name. Martin is a member of the Blank Rome firm who has represented clients including political leaders, professional athletes and celebrities.

Japan Today - News - Malaysia's haze worsens - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Malaysia's haze worsens - Japan's Leading International News NetworkMalaysia's haze worsens

Send to a friendPrint

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 13:51 JST
KUALA LUMPUR — Thick acrid smog shrouding a huge part of western Malaysia since last week has affected shipping operations in the Malacca Strait and authorities said Wednesday that the air pollution has reached hazardous levels.

The Star newspaper reported Wednesday that a container ship ran aground due to poor visibility as forest fires in Indonesia's Sumatra and Riau provinces blanketed the region with a thick haze. (Kyodo News)

BBC NEWS | Europe | 'No money' for Bolshoi renovation

BBC NEWS | Europe | 'No money' for Bolshoi renovation 'No money' for Bolshoi renovation

By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Moscow

The world-famous Bolshoi Theatre in Russia is at the centre of a funding row with the government.

The ministry of finance has announced it does not have the cash to pay for planned renovation work.

The Bolshoi, which has already closed for work meant to last three years, has been told to slash its costs significantly if it wants to proceed.

But the project's chief architect, Nikita Shangin, says he will walk out if the theatre does not get the money.

The government says it will not pay the $880m (£490m) the theatre says the work will cost.

'Urgently needed' repairs

It has called on the Bolshoi management to cut its budget by around 60%.

The government's position is clear. They say they could use that kind of cash to build 10 theatres," Mr Shangin explained.

"So I say fine, let's do that - but they won't be the Bolshoi. This theatre is part of our cultural heritage."

But the Bolshoi today is crumbling. Its managers say the 180-year-old building is in urgent need of structural repairs.

The walls and foundations need reinforcing. The stage need updating and, behind stage, the equipment is ancient.

The theatre's director says it is not even safe to be inside as the building no longer conforms to modern safety standards.

He argues that the money the government is offering is only enough for a cosmetic facelift. Yet, he says, the Bolshoi needs so much more.
Story from BBC NEWS:

9/11 Panel Seeks Inquiry on New Atta Report - New York Times

9/11 Panel Seeks Inquiry on New Atta Report - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
9/11 Panel Seeks Inquiry on New Atta Report

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 - Members of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks called on Congress to determine whether the Pentagon withheld intelligence information showing that a secret American military unit had identified Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as potential threats more than a year before the attacks.

The former commission members said the information, if true, could rewrite an important chapter of the history of the intelligence failures before Sept. 11, 2001.

"I think this is a big deal," said John F. Lehman, a Republican member of the commission who was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration. "The issue is whether there was in fact surveillance before 9/11 of Atta and, if so, why weren't we told about it? Who made the decision not to brief the commission's staff or the commissioners?"

Mr. Lehman and other commissioners said that because the panel had been formally disbanded for a year, the investigation would need to be taken up by Congress, possibly by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

"If this is true, somebody should be looking into it," said Thomas H. Kean, the commission chairman and a former Republican governor of New Jersey.

Detailed accounts about the findings of the secret operation, known as Able Danger, were offered this week by Representative Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and by a former defense intelligence official.

Their comments are the first assertion by current or former officials that Mr. Atta, an Egyptian who was the lead hijacker, had been identified as a potential terrorist before the attacks.

Spokesmen for the commission members said this week that although the staff was informed by the Pentagon in late 2003 about the existence of a so-called data-mining operation called Able Danger, the panel was never told that it had identified Mr. Atta and the others as threats.

In a final report released last summer called the authoritative history of the attacks, the commission of five Democrats and five Republicans made no mention of the secret program or the possibility that a government agency had detected Mr. Atta's terrorist activities before Sept. 11.

The Pentagon has had no comment on the credibility of the accounts from Mr. Weldon and the intelligence official.

At a news briefing on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he could not comment on reports about Able Danger and suggested that he knew nothing about such an operation.

"I can't," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "I have no idea. I've never heard of it until this morning. I understand our folks are trying to look into it."

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Christopher Conway, said later that "there were a number of intelligence operations prior to the attacks of 9/11" but that "it would be irresponsible for us to provide details in a way in which those who wish to do us harm would find beneficial."

An intelligence official said Tuesday that the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, was "working closely with the Department of Defense to learn more" about Mr. Weldon's statements. The official confirmed that the congressman recently met with Mr. Negroponte, but declined to discuss the subject.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, said in an interview that although he could not comment on classified subjects, he had recently talked with Mr. Weldon and that "I do take seriously any issues that may be brought to light by other members of Congress."

A spokeswoman for Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that "the committee is aware of Congressman Weldon's concerns" and that it "is looking into it."

Mr. Weldon went public with his information after having talked with members of the unit in his research for a new book on terrorism. He said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he had spoken with three team members, all still working in the government, including two in the military, and that they were consistent in asserting that Mr. Atta's affiliation with a Qaeda terrorism cell in the United States was known in the Defense Department by mid-2000 and was not acted on.

An outspoken member of Congress on military and intelligence questions, Mr. Weldon, a champion of military data mining like Able Danger, has helped arrange interviews for reporters with the former military intelligence official. The official insisted on anonymity, saying he did not want to jeopardize political support for future data mining in the military.

The official said in an interview Monday that the Able Danger team was created in 1999 under a directive signed by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to assemble information about Al Qaeda networks around the world.

He said that by the middle of 2000 the operation had identified Mr. Atta and three of the other future hijackers as a member of an American-based cell and that the information was presented that summer in a chart to the Pentagon's Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla.

The official said that the chart included the names and photographs of Mr. Atta and the others, Marwan al-Shehhi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawar al-Hamzi. Mr. Weldon and the intelligence official said Able Danger members had recommended that the information be shared with the F.B.I., an the idea that was rejected.

The official said the information was also not shared with the C.I.A. or other civilian intelligence agencies. "This was a highly compartmented program with very limited distribution," he said.

General Shelton said Tuesday that he did not recall authorizing the creation of the unit but that "we had lots of initiatives to find out where Al Qaeda was."

The former intelligence official said he was among a group that briefed the former staff director of the Sept. 11 panel, Philip D. Zelikow, and at least three other staff members about Able Danger when the staff members visited the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in October 2003. The official said that he had explicitly mentioned Mr. Atta in the briefing as a member of the American terrorist cell.

Mr. Kean, the commission head, said the staff members were confident that Mr. Atta's name was not mentioned in the briefing or subsequent documents from the Pentagon.

"None of them recalls mention of the name Atta," he said. "I think if that had been mentioned, it would have been on the tips of their tongue."

Mr. Kean said he had asked the staff members to retrieve their classified notes from government storage to be certain about not overlooking any reference to Mr. Atta or to an American-based cell in any of the Pentagon material.

A State Department spokesman for Mr. Zelikow, who joined the department this year, had no immediate comment.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting for this article.

NASA Must Tackle Foam, Fuel Tank and Future of the Program - New York Times

NASA Must Tackle Foam, Fuel Tank and Future of the Program - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
NASA Must Tackle Foam, Fuel Tank and Future of the Program

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Aug. 9 - The shuttle Discovery glided back to Earth in a predawn landing here in the Mojave Desert on Tuesday, after a mission of 14 days and 5.8 million miles that successfully returned NASA to human spaceflight but also added pressure on the agency to move beyond the shuttle program.

"We're happy to be back," the shuttle's commander, Col. Eileen M. Collins, said shortly after the Discovery touched down. "We congratulate the whole team on a job well done."

The Discovery mission blended success and frustration, hope and poignancy. The shuttle program manager, William W. Parsons, called it a "wildly successful mission." But the launching was delayed repeatedly, and a problem with a fuel level sensor forced mission controllers to scrub a planned July 13 effort just two and a half hours before liftoff. And though modifications made to the external fuel tank resulted in far less launching debris than usual, five large pieces of foam - one weighing nearly a pound - popped off the tank, showing that a potentially fatal problem had not been corrected.

NASA has said that until the foam mystery is solved and the problem fixed, shuttles will not fly again.

The somewhat rocky start to the resumption of shuttle flights could end up speeding the nation's shift to the post-shuttle era, aerospace experts and analysts say. They contend that the suspension in shuttle missions could hasten the demise of the winged spaceships, already headed for retirement by 2010, and give new urgency to taking the next step in human space exploration.

"It's a good time to take a step back and think about the future of the space program," Roger A. Pielke Jr., director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said in an interview. "Choosing not to fly the shuttle would open up resources to get on sooner with what comes next."

In the weeks ahead, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to unveil blueprints for a new generation of space vehicles derived from shuttle parts, though experts debate whether the agency can afford to pursue both old and new approaches simultaneously.

Louis D. Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society, a group in Pasadena, Calif., that advocates space exploration, said that the Discovery's bittersweet flight "makes clear that the shuttle is not our vehicle of the future."

"It's barely, in the best case, our vehicle for a short time in the present," Dr. Friedman said.

One NASA adviser raised the possibility of limiting the risk to humans by removing astronauts entirely and turning the shuttles into cargo haulers to the International Space Station - an option the space agency seldom mentions in public, but has quietly studied.

Both the shuttle and the space station would require modifications to achieve automated rendezvous, as the Russians do with robot vessels that dock routinely at the station. And the agency has shunned such a step because of the public appeal of piloted space flight.

Still, some experts say the new unease over the shuttle means that such upgrades ought to be considered as a way of eliminating the risk to astronauts.

Dr. Pielke said NASA needed to work hard on alternatives even if the shuttles kept flying because they were likely to experience another catastrophic failure, from which the program could not recover.

"At any time, the shuttle may retire itself," he said, "and we ought to be planning for that."

But John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, questioned whether pouring money into some of the alternatives, especially the new vehicles derived from shuttle parts, could speed their arrival.

"If we were to retire the shuttle, it wouldn't get us new systems significantly faster," Dr. Logsdon said. "It would mean we'd end up paying Russia to haul people and cargo back and forth to the station."

He added that NASA managers during the Discovery's mission proved themselves cool even under great stress and uncertainty.

"That gives significant confidence that NASA will be able to manage the shuttle for the rest of its lifetime," Dr. Logsdon said. "The humans came out better than the machine."

On paper, the goals of this mission were straightforward: resupplying the space station and testing an external tank that had been modified so as not to shed the kind of launching debris that doomed the Columbia.

But the crew - Colonel Collins and Col. James M. Kelly, Stephen K. Robinson, Wendy B. Lawrence, Charles J. Camarda, Andrew S. W. Thomas and Soichi Noguchi of Japan - ended up having a busy two weeks.

They tested new technologies and techniques for detecting, measuring and repairing damage to insulating tiles and panels. They produced startling photography from space and conducted a bold spacewalk to pull dangling bits of cloth from the shuttle's underbelly, a procedure that the spacewalker Dr. Robinson called "the first baby step" to developing the capability for repair while in orbit. And, of course, there was the dramatic landing.

The shuttle was originally supposed to come home to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But unpredictable weather and rain uncomfortably close to the center led mission managers to "wave off" four Florida landing opportunities in two days, and finally to call for a change of plans.

"How do you feel about a beautiful, clear night with a breeze down the runway in the high desert of California?" asked Ken Ham, an astronaut at mission control who communicates with the shuttle.

Colonel Collins replied, "We are ready for whatever we need to do."

She fired the shuttle engines to start the re-entry, and an hour later the shuttle was streaking across the California coast from the southwest and flying north of Los Angeles on a course that took it between Oxnard and Ventura. A characteristic double sonic boom could be felt over Edwards as the craft passed overhead.

Colonel Collins took over the controls from the guidance computers once the shuttle dropped below supersonic speed, and she brought the spacecraft - at that point, essentially a brick with wings - in for its touchdown on the air base's 15,000-foot concrete runway 2-2 at 8:11:22 a.m. Eastern time, a half-minute ahead of schedule.

As the shuttle came to a stop, Mr. Ham said, "Congratulations on a truly spectacular test flight," and added, "Welcome home, friends."

At a news conference after the landing, Michael D. Griffin, NASA's administrator, said that the new external tank had provided valuable data for engineers, who could now address the foam problem.

"It's not quite a perfect tank," Dr. Griffin said, "but now they have some data."

He emphasized that space travel, even after more than 40 years, was young and still poorly understood. "It's just barely possible to do it," he said of space flight. "If anything goes wrong, it's not possible to do it."

But it is well worth doing, Dr. Griffin said. "This is an important enterprise for America and the world, for humanity to engage in," he said.

Not right away, however. Though the shuttles are grounded, Dr. Griffin said he was still hoping for a "eureka moment" that would lead to a quick fix. Whatever the chances of that happening, the landing at Edwards means that the shuttle will have to be ferried back to Florida atop one of NASA's two specially adapted Boeing 747's, a process that will cost the space agency at least a week of preparation for future flight.

The Mojave layover will prevent the Discovery from being prepared in time to serve as a possible rescue rocket for the planned launching of the shuttle Atlantis at the end of next month, if the launching goes forward on schedule. At the morning briefing, Dr. Griffin said, "We're going to try as hard as we can to get back to space this year," but he also said the flights would not be rushed.

"We will fly each shuttle mission when it is ready," he said.

Mark L. Polansky, an astronaut who has been assigned to command the Discovery on a mission next year, said the latest mission made him "very happy," but he added: "We know we have a lot of things we need to look at. We know we have work in front of us that we must do."

For the crew of the Discovery, the seven members of the Columbia crew and their fate were never far from mind.

Colonel Kelley, the pilot, acknowledged feeling "a moment of trepidation" when Colonel Collins started the engines to take the craft out of orbit and into the punishing heat of re-entering the atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound.

During the descent, he said, he watched some of the onboard displays more than others to see whether the Discovery was showing any of the warning signs that the Columbia did two and a half years ago before it broke up and killed its seven-member crew.

Was the nose of the craft yawing to one side? Were the steering jets using more propellant than they should, as if fighting an inexorable force?

"I was watching through the period when Columbia broke apart," Colonel Kelley said. "I was looking at the things that happened to them."

To many at NASA, the most important thing is that the process has begun. It is the best way, they say, to honor their former colleagues and friends.

LeRoy Cain, entry flight director for Tuesday's landing and the final Columbia mission, said at a news briefing, "My thoughts over the past several years have drifted to Columbia thousands of times, literally." Mr. Cain suggested that the Discovery's mission might help heal the wounds created by the Columbia disaster.

"It's a great tribute to the Columbia crew that we're flying again," he said. "I know that they would want us to be flying again"

Mr. Cain, who was also entry flight director on the final Columbia mission, added, "I'm at peace with the fact that we are where I think they would want us to be."

John Schwartz reported from Edwards Air Force Base for this article, and William J. Broad from New York. Warren E. Leary contributed reporting from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Simon Romero from Houston.

Mayor of Baghdad Is Deposed; Insurgents Kill 4 U.S. Troops - New York Times

Mayor of Baghdad Is Deposed; Insurgents Kill 4 U.S. Troops - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
Mayor of Baghdad Is Deposed; Insurgents Kill 4 U.S. Troops

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 10 - Armed men entered Baghdad's municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city's mayor and installed a member of Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia.

In continuing violence, the United States military announced today that four American soldiers were killed on Tuesday and six others were wounded when insurgents attacked a patrol near Baiji in northern Iraq. Two Iraqi policemen and four civilians were killed in a suicide car bombing today in western Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d'état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

"This is the new Iraq," said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. "They use force to achieve their goal."

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq's capital city and that Mr. Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri.

The militia has been credited with keeping the peace in heavily Shiite areas in southern Iraq but also accused of abuses like forcing women to wear the veils demanded by conservative Shiite religious law.

"If we wanted to do something bad to him, we would have done that," said Mazen A. Makkia, the elected city council chief who led the ouster on Monday and who had been in a lengthy and unresolved legal feud with Mr. Tamimi.

"We really want to establish the state of law for every citizen, and we did not threaten anyone," Mr. Makkia said. "This is not a coup."

Mr. Makkia confirmed that he had entered the building with armed men but said that they were bodyguards for him and several other council members who accompanied him. Witnesses estimated that the number of armed men ranged from 50 to 120. Mr. Makkia is a member of a Shiite political party that swept to victory during the across-the-board Shiite successes during January's elections.

Mr. Tamimi, the deposed mayor, was appointed by the central government and held ministerial rank. He was originally put in place by L. Paul Bremer III, the top American administrator in the country until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Baghdad is the only city in Iraq that is its own province, and the city council had previously appointed Mr. Tahaan as governor of Baghdad province, with some responsibilities parallel to Mr. Tamimi's. But the mayor's office was clearly the more powerful office, a fact that proved to be a painful thorn in the side of Mr. Makkia, who believed that the council, which he controls, should hold sway in Baghdad.

Mr. Makkia provided a phone number for Mr. Tahaan, but the phone did not appear to be turned on. A spokesman for the American Embassy in Baghdad said that he was aware of the developments but that he had no immediate comment.

When asked whether the Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a politician with another Shiite Islamic party, Dawa, was concerned about developments at the municipality, a spokesman, Laith Kubba, said, "My guess is, yes, he is."

Mr. Kubba said he had not yet had a chance to talk with the prime minister about the issue. But gave clear indications that the prime minister would not stand in the way of the move.

Weeks ago, Mr. Tamimi had offered to resign or retire, saying that the budget he had been given was not adequate. For a city of six million people, the central government had given him a budget of $85 million; he had requested $1 billion.

As of Tuesday, the prime minister still had not formally accepted the offer, Mr. Kubba said. But he said the offer could be used to find a way to formally remove Mr. Tamimi.

"It's more or less a fait accompli that he's not going back to office," Mr. Kubba said. He added that Mr. Tahaan would be considered an interim mayor until the prime minister settled on someone to take the post permanently.

Leaders of the country's major political parties, meanwhile, resumed a summit meeting to break the deadlock over Iraq's new constitution, which was delayed by the same sandstorm on Monday.

The deadline for the constitution is in five days and the parties have so far failed to resolve several crucial issues like the role of Islam in the government, the future of the ethnically mixed and oil-rich city of Kirkuk and the scope of self-rule for regions outside Iraqi Kurdistan.

After the meeting, the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, said discussion focused mainly on the issue of autonomy and the distribution of oil revenues. He expressed confidence that the group would complete the constitution on time, but added, "As the English people would say, the devil is in the details."

The four American soldiers killed in northern Iraq on Tuesday were under the command of the 42nd Infantry Division of New York, the military said today. Six others were wounded in the attack.

The three Iraqi policemen were members of a group on patrol in the western Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya, an Interior Ministry official said. A fourth officer was wounded.

Insurgents also fired a mortar round into Antar Square in the Adamiya neighborhood, killing a traffic policeman and wounding seven other people, the ministry official said.

In other violence on Tuesday, an American soldier was killed and two were wounded when a car bomb exploded as a patrol passed through a crowded square in central Baghdad, the military said. An official at the Interior Ministry said at least three civilians were killed and 54 wounded in the same blast. Mortars landed near a mosque in southern Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding four, the official said.

At least nine security officials were killed in four separate shooting incidents around Baghdad on Tuesday. An American marine was killed by small-arms fire on Monday in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, the military said, and a soldier assigned to the marines was killed by small-arms fire near Habbaniya, also west of the capital.

In Washington, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that Iran had become a conduit for weapons smuggled into Iraq and used by insurgents, and he criticized Tehran for not doing more to prevent the smuggling.

"Weapons clearly, unambiguously from Iran have been found in Iraq," he said at a Pentagon briefing. He added: "It's a big border. It's notably unhelpful for the Iranians to allow weapons of those types to cross the border."

Defense officials have said recently that components and fully manufactured bombs from Iran began appearing about two months ago and that a large shipment was captured last month in northeast Iraq after coming across the border.

Mr. Rumsfeld's comments were the first confirmation by a senior American official that such smuggling was occurring. Mr. Rumsfeld said it was not clear who in Iran was responsible for the shipments, which some specialists have said could be the work of smugglers or splinter insurgent groups, rather than the government of Iran.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said at the briefing that Iraqi and American forces have made arrests in Haditha, where 20 marines were killed in two ambushes last week, after tips from Iraqis in the area. "The public came forward and said these are the folks," General Myers said.

Mr. Tamimi, the ousted mayor, said he believed that Shiite political parties had forced the takeover in Baghdad in order to position themselves for the elections once a constitution is agreed upon.

For his part, he said, he had lost the sense of enthusiasm that had brought him back to Iraq after nearly a decade in exile.

"When I left in 1995, every day, it is years for me," Mr. Tamimi said. "But now when I leave I don't think I will be sorry. I leave because I cannot live in such conditions."

Dexter Filkins, Khalid al-Ansary and Kirk Semple contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article, and David S. Cloud from Washington.

Ferrer's Bid Mines Hopes of an Ethnic City - New York Times

Ferrer's Bid Mines Hopes of an Ethnic City - New York TimesAugust 10, 2005
Ferrer's Bid Mines Hopes of an Ethnic City

Over the last decade, Fernando Ferrer has come to define Democratic politics in New York City and all their searing divisions.

In 1997, he ran for mayor but dropped out before the primary, leading some moderate and Hispanic Democrats to support Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Republican incumbent, who won re-election. In 2001, he came within a hair of winning the Democratic primary runoff, losing to Mark Green in a battle that split the party along ethnic lines and contributed to its defeat that November.

Now, as he pursues a mayoral bid for the third time, leading Democrats and numerous polls suggest that the stars are finally aligned in his favor for the Sept. 13 primary, and his strategists are hoping that he will not only take first place, but will capture the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

It has been a remarkable rise for Mr. Ferrer from a drug- and violence-riddled South Bronx neighborhood to become the city's most prominent Hispanic politician. But that road, especially the stretch that runs through his campaign this year, has also been bumpy, pocked with seeming inconsistencies that have exposed some of the old party divisions.

As a result, many party leaders have questioned whether Mr. Ferrer, 55, is the person who can finally remake the traditional Democratic power base and break a decade-long Republican hold on City Hall. And underlying the political concerns is the sense that Mr. Ferrer's style - cautious to the point of inertia - will fail to energize the coalition of labor, minorities and whites he so needs for victory should he make it to the November general election.

For months, Mr. Ferrer has been going around the city, reaching far beyond his Bronx roots and seeking to draw in the middle-class voters who have proven key to winning city elections. His message - given at a backyard fund-raiser in an affluent Staten Island neighborhood one swampy night, or at an African Methodist Episcopal church in southeast Queens on another - strikes traditional Democratic themes in a city that has turned its back on the party, at least in selecting its mayors: that government can solve city ills through building more subsidized housing, by hiring more employees, by taxing Wall Street to improve its schools.

At the core of his candidacy is his belief that many New Yorkers face huge challenges merely trying to get by in the city, given rising housing costs, public schools that often fail to provide an adequate education, and a lack of attractive jobs for all but the elite. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, he argues, does not even recognize these concerns and panders only to business concerns and wealthier New Yorkers.

In carrying that message, Mr. Ferrer is mining the same potent yet flammable vein of ethnic aspiration, minority kinship and class anxiety that he did in his failed 2001 bid. But he is also emphasizing his common-man credentials, portraying himself as an ordinary striving New Yorker who raised himself up through hard work and opportunity.

"If not for a good, sound education, I would not be standing here before you today," he often says. "Someone else would."

It is a message his advisers hope will resonate in neighborhoods throughout the city, and it is one that he, among all of the candidates, is uniquely suited to bear.

Unlike the other Democratic candidates, Mr. Ferrer can point to a hardscrabble New York background in which he surmounted formidable obstacles. Raised during tough times by a working mother who divorced when her only son was 8, he worked odd jobs around the neighborhood beginning at 10, excelled both in and out of school and became the first in his family to graduate from college.

But it was in political circles that Mr. Ferrer made his mark early on, charting a course that reflects an earlier age of New York civic life, when promising candidates were nurtured by a county political machine that groomed them for higher office. Known as a policy grind who is part operator and part conciliator, he quickly rose to prominence in the City Council and, through his ties to the powerful Bronx Democratic organization, was anointed in 1987 as Bronx borough president, the springboard to his mayoral aspirations.

Even though Mr. Ferrer portrays himself as a reluctant politician, his path from a South Bronx tenement can often seem like a finely rendered road map to City Hall.

"My idea of Freddy all this time is that ever since I've known him he's been running for office," said Angelo Falcón, a political scientist who first met Mr. Ferrer when they were teenagers. "You know the guy who wants to be student president and he's like a real cutthroat politician in high school? Well, that was Freddy."

And now, Mr. Ferrer is making what could be his last stand, his final chance to attain an office his wife, Aramina, says he was clearly destined for when she met him back in high school.

"I always knew," Ms. Ferrer, a public school principal, said in an interview in the couple's Bronx apartment in Riverdale. "I knew he was extraordinary because he was so focused, so serious and so smart. I thought, 'Wow, where did you get that from?'"

Public Service Boot Camp

The roots of where he got that from lie on Fox Street in the South Bronx, in the ghost of a five-story walk-up where Mr. Ferrer lived in circumstances that he mentions frequently but describes, when pressed, only in the most general terms. His early youth was "beautiful," he says, with stickball on the block, Sunday breakfast at his grandmother's house after church and pizza every Friday night with his mother and sister (both named Susan) at the Venice Restaurant on Wales Avenue.

But as the Bronx slowly gave itself over to the ravages of the drug trade and middle-class flight during the 1960's, things began to change in his neighborhood. His grandmother, Inocenzia Lopez, was mugged in her building. There were frequent arrests on the streets. The superintendent stopped making repairs.

There had been early harbingers of the trouble ahead. At 6, Mr. Ferrer said, he and his mother found anti-black and anti-Hispanic graffiti scrawled on a sign. "Get out of the neighborhood," it read.

"Now I had never heard those terms in my life," Mr. Ferrer recalled in an interview at his campaign headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, referring to ethnic slurs in the graffiti. When he asked what they meant, he said, his mother replied, "Well that's us."

After the departure of Mr. Ferrer's father, Santiago, of whom he will say only that they had "tough moments," money was tight, so Mr. Ferrer began working odd jobs as a child, first shining shoes, then making deliveries, including the case of Pabst Blue Ribbon quart bottles he walked up five flights to one apartment every Saturday.

Mr. Ferrer describes his grandmother, who prepared food in the kitchen of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and his mother, who was a hotel bookkeeper, as hard-nosed women who pushed him to excel in school and make something of himself. If his grandmother was stirring oatmeal at the stove and he got out of line, Mr. Ferrer recalled, he got a spoonful of the thick porridge flicked onto his cheek.

But it was his involvement in the Puerto Rican youth leadership group Aspira in high school that may have set the direction of his life, helping to develop his serious side while laying the groundwork for his political ambitions and public persona. Even now, on the campaign trail, he can seem like an overachieving debate-club president, bristling at questions or peppering his speech with words like ameliorate and temporize.

Former members of Aspira describe it as a kind of public service boot camp, with seminars on Robert's Rules of Order and work on voter registration drives, that served as a catapult to prominence for generations of young Latinos. But the organization also helped its members form a sense of Nuyorican identity, one that promoted mainstream values in contrast to the more militant groups of that day.

"It was great because it gave us an opportunity to see that we weren't alone in our schools, gave us an opportunity to see that, yes, we were smart," said Marlene Cintrón, the executive director of the HopeLine, a South Bronx charity that helps immigrants, adding, "and we could get empowered together."

Luis A. Miranda Jr., a former Aspira leader who was once president of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation and is now one of Mr. Ferrer's closest advisers, described the organization as serious-minded, like Mr. Ferrer.

"It wasn't just to stay out of trouble," he said. "You had to sign an agreement that you were going to get good grades, that you were going to strive to be the best in your class." Recalling a trip to Puerto Rico, Mr. Miranda summarized the gravity of the group: "There is a beach 10 miles away from you but, no, you go to the legislature and you spend the day talking to the legislators."

Among his peers, Mr. Ferrer developed a reputation that would follow him into politics for being intelligent and driven with a flair for cogent, articulate debate.

"We used to call him Sit Down Freddy," Ms. Cintrón said, because at Aspira meetings, he always had something to say. "And we were like, 'Sit down! Sit down, Freddy.' So we knew even back then, that we were going to be seeing - and hearing - a lot from Freddy."

A top student at the demanding Cardinal Spellman High School in the Northeast Bronx, Mr. Ferrer became president of its Aspira chapter. But there was another side to his exuberance, some say. At one point, he discovered that a treasurer had misspent about $10 of the group's money, so he hauled the girl before a meeting, recalled Mr. Falcón, a member at the time, and reduced her to tears.

"He was like a prosecutor," Mr. Falcón said. "He could have talked to her privately, but instead he made a big deal of it. He was just that kind of a guy."

Fast Political Celebrity

After high school, Mr. Ferrer went on to New York University in the Bronx on scholarship, and studied government, philosophy and the classics. After graduation, he worked for several government agencies and elected officials in the city and state, and eventually became a district leader. He became close to the Bronx Democratic Party, which, mindful of the demographic changes sweeping the borough, was looking for promising young, loyal Puerto Ricans to nurture for leadership roles.

After losing his first election - a race for the State Assembly that he ran on a bet - he became a councilman in 1982, which put him on a fast track to political celebrity. Before long, political operatives began talking of him as potentially the city's first Latino mayor.

"Freddy was one of the stars of the Council," said Peter F. Vallone, who led the Council for 16 years. "Freddy was the kind of council member who understood the difference between doing something that was popular and doing something that was right," Mr. Vallone said, adding that he always chose the latter.

But in 1987, when the Bronx borough president, Stanley Simon, resigned amid impending indictments stemming from a bribery scandal, Mr. Ferrer was installed as borough president. He was reluctant at first - "I thought if God was good to me, I'd be a congressman," he recalled. "I enjoyed being a legislator."

Nonetheless, laboring against low expectations, Mr. Ferrer took to the job with a certain gusto. He says his first two acts were to clean house, figuratively (asking for staff resignations) and literally (stripping the Bronx County Courthouse, where the borough president's office is, of its graffiti). He says now that he liked being in charge because he saw the potential to help improve the Bronx, but he also clearly enjoyed the status that came with being an executive. Although he is best known as Freddy to the outside world, his staff began addressing him as Mr. President, a label that some aides use to this day.

"I made the transition from the legislative to the executive in 20 minutes," Mr. Ferrer said in an interview at a Brooklyn diner. "I liked it, it worked for me, I had a very clear sense of what I wanted to accomplish."

At the time, the borough had become a dystopian punch line and a popular synonym for urban blight, something Mr. Ferrer says he was determined to change. He is fond of saying on the campaign trail that under his watch, the Bronx gained more than 66,000 units of housing and 34,000 new jobs. It was even selected as an All-America City by the National Civic League in 1997.

But Mr. Ferrer's role has been debated over the years, with fans heaping credit on him and others saying he was simply the steward of a renaissance that mirrored the city's broader recovery from the depths of a wrenching decline. At the same time, consultants and public policy experts say that after the 1990 Charter revision diluted much of the power of the borough presidents, Mr. Ferrer's ability to act as much more than a cheerleader was severely curtailed.

At the same time, Mr. Ferrer's close relationship to the Bronx Democratic machine, with its reputation for shady dealings if not outright corruption, has always hovered around him.

Still, he gained a reputation as a relentless advocate for his borough, and before long he became restless. In 1997, he ran for mayor for the first time, a decision Mr. Ferrer, who often refers to himself in the second person, said he reached because "you come to realize, in the context of this city, the place to try to make a positive difference in people's lives is City Hall, the mayoralty." In that race, he sought to position himself as a moderate. Before abruptly dropping out, he competed for the Democratic berth that ultimately went to Ruth W. Messinger, who lost to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Republican incumbent.

After four more years as borough president, he tried in 2001, as his term ended by law, to carve out a territory to the left of the other Democrats. He ran as the anti-Rudy and casting himself as the savior of the "other New York," where he said people left behind by the freight train of the Giuliani administration lived.

That message brought him to the brink of winning the primary runoff, although his opponents labeled it divisive. And he is still tainted by the treacherous ethnic and racial politics that exploded in the contest against Mark Green. To this day, many Democrats blame Mr. Ferrer and his supporters for the Democratic Party's defeat on Election Day, saying that in a fit of spite after losing the runoff, they failed to rally behind Mr. Green, paving the way for Mr. Bloomberg's victory.

An Ethnic Investment

Since then, Mr. Ferrer has lived a more serene life, quietly finishing a master's degree in public administration at Baruch, and running the Drum Major Institute, a public policy advocacy center he redirected to focus on problems of the working poor and the middle class, concerns that form the backbone of his campaign.

He was also able to spend more time with his family, including his daughter, Carlina, and his two young grandsons, and indulge his passion for cooking. Self-taught in the kitchen, but by many accounts accomplished, and a man who is perhaps at his most animated when discussing the relative merits of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and White Castle burgers, Mr. Ferrer said he had to think long and hard about whether he wanted to start down this road again.

"I was not especially eager to do it because I happen to like the idea of coming home for dinner," he said. "I didn't need another run to affirm my life - I had a nice life," he added, tucking into a potato-and-onion omelet, like the ones he ate at his grandmother's house growing up.

Mr. Ferrer says that he was spurred to run by his disillusionment with how Mr. Bloomberg has governed the city, but his candidacy also represents the chance to pay off the investment of an entire generation of Latino leaders and prove the political maturation of the city's largest minority group.

And for Mr. Ferrer, the heart of his candidacy lies in his upbringing, in contrast to Mr. Bloomberg, who he says has no understanding of the problems of ordinary New Yorkers.

At a Midtown diner in the spring, Mr. Ferrer put it this way. "Everything I am, everything I've become, every opportunity I've ever had has been as a result of being a kid growing up in New York," he said, speaking slowly and tapping the table, seemingly unsure that he was being understood. "I want those same opportunities for generations to follow."