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Saturday, August 27, 2005

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Government 'wastes' African aid

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Government 'wastes' African aid Government 'wastes' African aid
The government has been accused of wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of African aid.

The BBC's Five Live Report said it found more than £700,000 spent on hotel bills and meals in Malawi for US staff.

The National Audit Office said it may mount an investigation into the use of consultants by the Department of International Development (DFID).

The DFID has yet to issue a response to the accusations, which will be aired in a programme on Sunday.

'Phantom aid'

One project in Malawi funded by the DFID has been accused of using international flights to fly in pens and notebooks bought in Washington DC.

The BBC report looked at several projects funded by the department in Malawi, which is considered to be the tenth-poorest country in the world.

Patrick Watt of charity Action Aid said: "(This is) another example of aid money not really getting down to people who most urgently need to benefit from it."

He said: "It's an example of phantom aid, when what Malawi needs is real aid."

US agencies which had been brought in as consultants included the National Democratic Institute (NDI), used on a project to improve the parliamentary committee system in Malawi.

The £1m donated to the project from US funds was used solely to pay for NDI staff there, the BBC report said.

Spending defended

Over the four years of the project, the DFID donated £3m to the project. Of that, £586,423 was spent on hotels in Malawi for the NDI staff. Another £126,062 was spent on meals.

An ex-staff member said computers, notebooks and other stationery had been bought in Washington DC and flown over rather than bought locally.

There are large areas of the aid system that are in urgent need of reform
Patrick Watt
Action Aid

An NDI spokeswoman defended the spending, and said the British department had never questioned the spending.

World Learning, a US group which had been brought in to distribute £4m of British money to strengthen Malawian society had to cancel the project after six months and a cost of £300,000. Dozens of local staff not face losing their jobs.

Mr Watt said the large amounts of money spent of administration and overseas staff meant "there are large areas of the aid system that are in urgent need of reform".

Malawian campaigner Rafiq Hajat said: "Where you have so-called experts who come from outside, charge exorbitant fees, live a five-star lifestyle and then go back having left a couple of reports mouldering on the shelf, that's how I would define phantom aid."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Japan Today - News - Bush's popularity hits lowest level ever - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Bush's popularity hits lowest level ever - Japan's Leading International News NetworkBush's popularity hits lowest level ever

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Saturday, August 27, 2005 at 07:45 JST
WASHINGTON — U.S. President George W Bush's approval rating has plummeted to the lowest level in his four and half years in the White House, according a poll conducted Aug 22-25.

According to the Gallup poll, 40% of Americans approve of Bush's job performance while 56% disapprove. It is the worst result for the president since he took office in January 2001. Bush was re-elected in November.

Japan Today - News - U.N. human rights commissioner to visit China - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - U.N. human rights commissioner to visit China - Japan's Leading International News NetworkU.N. human rights commissioner to visit China

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Saturday, August 27, 2005 at 15:36 JST
BEIJING — U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will visit China over the coming week to help Beijing make progress on human rights-related issues, the United Nations said in a statement.

Arbour will visit China from Monday through Friday to sign an agreement with Chinese officials on "facilitating" China's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The covenant is a 29-year-old agreement that calls on nations to let their people freely determine their political status and not be arbitrarily arrested. It has been signed by 152 countries.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ethiopia blames EU for protests

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ethiopia blames EU for protests Ethiopia blames EU for protests
The Ethiopian government has accused EU observers of contributing to post-election violence during which about 40 people died.

It said the EU mission "illegally and secretly leaked information" to the opposition, prompting protests in June.

The statement was issued days after an EU report said the 15 May polls failed to meet international standards.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's coalition retained its majority but opposition parties gained many seats.

'Mistakes'

The statement says the "leaked information" gave opposition supporters the confidence to take to the streets to protest against the elections.

"The mission, against the regulations of its tasks as an observer, illegally and secretly leaked unfounded information to the opposition which gave them confidence wrongly so as to lead them to violence in the streets," the government statement said.

It added the EU mission's report released this week criticising the election process was "intended simply to cover its mistakes".

The government believes the EU told the opposition long before the results had been officially released that it had won the polls, says the BBC's Grant Ferrett.

He says EU officials have dismissed the allegations, noting that they were made soon after the release of their critical report.

Several days of violence followed the parliamentary elections and around 40 people were killed when police fired on protesters.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Daily Times - Site Edition

Daily Times - Site Edition E-Mail this article to a friendPrinter Friendly Version

Asia to cheer as Japan economy steps up a gear

SINGAPORE: Japan’s decline for more than a decade — and China’s rise — have led many to dismiss the world’s second-largest economy as something of a has-been in terms of its regional impact. But times are changing.

Japan is showing signs of a sustainable, albeit gradual, recovery. And this could translate into an economic boost for Asia, economists say. With all the attention on China, it is easy to forget how important the yen is — most Asian currencies are still highly correlated with their Japanese counterpart.

As Japan’s economy rebounds, Asia is expected to benefit from increased demand for regional exports, more investment and a competitive edge as the yen strengthens. “Japan has been a bit of a forgotten economy over the past decade and its economic influence arguably has waned due to that,” said Standard Chartered regional economist Mike Moran. “But what we are now seeing is a genuinely sustainable recovery, that will put the spotlight back on Japan and how important it is from an Asian, as well as global, perspective.”

While recoveries in the past few years have given way to disappointment, the current rebound is largely driven by private-sector consumption and capital spending instead of just export growth, analysts say. This makes it more likely to stand the test of time. Japanese corporate bankruptcies are declining, while the jobless rate hit a seven-year low of 4.2 percent in June.

Merrill Lynch chief economist TJ Bond said Japan has become one of the most important drivers of Asian exports this year. In the first half of 2005, Asian exports to Japan rose 15.7 from a year earlier. Exports to the United States rose 5.1 percent.

Bond said that excluding China, Asia notched up $18 billion of extra exports to Japan in the first half, raising Asian gross domestic product by 0.6 of a percentage point. He said a healthy growth rate for the Asia economy ex-China is about 5.5 percent. Analysts say that because Japan has strong trade links with countries where wages are low, Southeast Asia stands to gain more than Northeast Asia from a Japanese domestic recovery. Indonesia, for instance, sends the bulk of its exports to Japan.

Slow, steady progress: Still, Japan is not expected to overtake the United States or China as a main export destination for Asia any time soon.

Japan accounted for 12 percent of average Asian trade in 2004, calculations from Merrill Lynch and data provider CEIC show. That compared with almost 20 percent for the United States, 17.4 percent for the Europe Union and 15.2 percent for China.

Also, Japan is likely to pick up gradually, rather than show stellar growth.

Japan’s economy is expected to grow 2.0 percent in price-adjusted terms in the 2005/06 fiscal year. China’s economy is forecast to rack up GDP growth of 9.2 percent this year. “Growth will probably continue to come from China but the Japanese economy seems to be gaining its charge right now and that should be helpful in complementing demand from China and the US,” said David Cohen, economist at Action Economics.

Prices in Japan have fallen every year since 1998. But declines in the core consumer price index have been moderating and the index is expected to start rising from October.

“Reflation in the world’s second-largest economy is bound to have a positive spillover to the rest of Asia, which should not be underestimated,” Goldman Sachs said in a recent note. And a recovery in Japan should mean an increase in Japanese foreign direct investment (FDI) into Asia, analysts say.

Asian FDI by Japan has risen slightly in the past two years to about $9.39 billion in 2004, but is down from more than $12 billion in the mid 1990s, Japanese data shows.

Economists say the next wave of FDI from Japan should favour Asia, excluding China, as flows into China have reached a peak. A stronger yen, the likely result of a recovering Japanese economy, meanwhile is seen giving the region’s exporters a competitive edge.

Merrill Lynch’s Bond said the yen is especially important for South Korea as Korean and Japanese firms go head-to-head in areas such as cars and steel. A stronger yen is likely to be welcome by Korea, which has had to grapple with won strength. The Korean won has risen more than 15 percent against the dollar since the start of 2004 and more than 20 percent versus the yen to seven-year peaks in early August.

“If the yen rallied and broke 100 against the dollar that would be more significant for Asia than the tiny move we have seen so far in the renminbi,” said Bond. “To get there, we will need to see the recovery in Japan unfold. If we do see a sustained recovery, an end to deflation, those are things that will significantly change the outlook.” reuters

Al-Qaeda targeting US, Australia "this year": South Korean intelligence - Yahoo! News

Al-Qaeda targeting US, Australia "this year": South Korean intelligence - Yahoo! News Al-Qaeda targeting US, Australia "this year": South Korean intelligence

2 hours, 39 minutes ago

Al-Qaeda has listed the United States and Australia as prime targets for attacks this year along with Britain, South Korea's spy agency has reported, according to a lawmaker.

South Korea, Japan and the Philippines are secondary targets, South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) told parliament this week, quoting a "senior" Al-Qaeda member arrested last month.

"According to NIS, this terrorist testified that South Korea, Japan and the Philippines are secondary targets, while the United States, Britain and Australia are the prime targets for this year," a lawmaker told AFP.

NIS did not reveal the name of the Al-Qaeda member, where he was arrested or what country handed over the information, according to the lawmaker sitting on the National Assembly's intelligence committee, who requested anonymity.

The comments come after the Financial Times quoted French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere as saying that an Asia-Pacific financial centre such as Sydney, Tokyo or Singapore could be targeted by Al-Qaeda extremists.

NIS told the committee that security officials were on alert for attacks in South Korea, which is hosting an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the southern port of Busan in November.

South Korea, Japan and the Philippines have all contributed troops to the US-led war in Iraq. South Korea, which like Japan hosts US military bases, has 3,600 troops in Iraq, the third-largest contingent after the United States and Britain.

Britain has already been targeted by extremists this year with 56 people dying in the July 7 bombing of three subway trains and a double-decker bus in London.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard on Friday acknowledged his country was a possible terror target as he responded to the Financial Times report.

"I have said for a long time this country can't imagine that it's free from the prospect of a terrorist attack," he said.

"We are, in my view, well prepared. But the important thing is not to have an effective response mechanism after the attack, the aim is to try and stop it occurring in the first place."

In the interview published on Friday, Bruguiere, France's top terrorist investigator, said Asian financial centres could be targeted to undermine investor confidence.

"We have elements of information that make us think that countries in this region, especially Japan, could have been targeted" by the Al-Qaeda network, he said.

"Any attack on a financial market like Japan would mechanically have an important economic impact on the confidence of investors. Other countries in this region, such as Singapore and Australia, are also potential targets."

Asia-Pacific financial capitals reacted calmly to the report but officials said the region was prepared for the worst.

Friday, August 26, 2005

All Headline News - Federal Commission Votes To Close Renowned Military Hospital - August 26, 2005

All Headline News - Federal Commission Votes To Close Renowned Military Hospital - August 26, 2005Federal Commission Votes To Close Renowned Military Hospital

August 25, 2005 12:30 p.m. EST

Hector Duarte Jr. - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Washington, DC (AHN) - A federal commission votes to close one of the top Army hospitals, as it begins its second day of deliberations on plans to restructure U.S. military bases.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC has treated presidents and foreign leaders, as well as veterans and soldiers, including those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon Plan will relocate hospital staff and services from Walter Reed to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland in order to create an expanded facility, as well as a regional hospital at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

The commission says kids coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan deserve to have up-to-date medical care, citing the hospital as old and in need of modernization.

Costs, including construction and renovations, would total $989 million. The commission cites the Pentagon would save $301 million over 20 years. The revamped facility will be renamed Walter Reed. The current hospital counts about 185 beds, while the expanded facility would house 340.

Later Thursday, the nine-member panel is slated to begin debating the Air Force's plans, as it steamrolls through hundreds of Pentagon proposals at a steady pace, following four months of study and preparation.

Commission Chairman Anthony Principi says he expects to finish the voting no later than Friday. The commission must send a final report to President Bush by September 8.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ivory Coast rebels reject polls

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ivory Coast rebels reject polls Ivory Coast rebels reject polls
Rebels who control the north of Ivory Coast say they will not accept the elections intended to restore peace and stability, scheduled for 30 October.

The New Forces say it is impossible to hold free and fair elections within two months, and insist that President Laurent Gbagbo step down.

They refuse to disarm until pro-Gbagbo militias also lay down their weapons.

Ivory Coast, once West Africa's richest country, has been divided in two for three years.

The UN recently repeated its threat to impose sanctions on those who are blocking the peace process.

War fears

The BBC's James Copnall in the main city, Abidjan, says the New Forces' statement means they are now saying out loud what they - and the unarmed political opposition - have been saying privately for some time.

Just two months before the elections are due, the electoral roll has still not been drawn up.

In the statement, which followed six days of discussions in the rebel stronghold of Bouake, they warned they would "take their responsibilities" if Mr Gbagbo was still in power in November.

Our correspondent says the statement reinforces fears about what may happen if the elections are not held on time.

The last major outbreak of fighting was last November, when the Ivorian air force bombed Bouake.

The rebels also hit out at the mediator for the Ivory Coast conflict, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, saying he favoured Mr Gbagbo.

Mr Mbeki has approved Mr Gbagbo's legal reforms, which the rebels say do not go far enough to redress alleged prejudice against northerners - one of the key factors behind the rebellion.

A spokesman for Mr Gbagbo told the BBC his side had no reaction until after Mr Mbeki presented a report to the UN Security Council at the end of this month.

Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Death sentences in Musharraf plot

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Death sentences in Musharraf plot Death sentences in Musharraf plot
Five men have been sentenced to death in Pakistan after being found guilty of involvement in a plot to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf.

The five include one soldier, military spokesman Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan told the BBC on Friday.

The men were arrested after a suicide attack on Gen Musharraf's convoy on 25 December, 2003.

Earlier this month a former soldier was executed after being found guilty of conspiracy to kill the president.

The soldier was named as Naik Arshad Mehmood, a former military commando.

Suicide attack

The five men "were convicted in the assassination attempt on the president on December 25 2003," Maj Gen Sultan told Reuters, referring to the second of two attempts on Gen Musharraf that month.


DEATH SENTENCES
Naik Arshad Mehmood
Zubair Ahmed
Rashid Quereshi
Ghulam Sarwar
Akhlaq Ahmed

Two suicide bombers tried to ram explosive-laden vehicles into the president's limousine, killing 17 people.

Maj Gen Sultan said that three other people convicted of involvement in the plot were jailed.

Last week, a former soldier who was found guilty of conspiracy to assassinate Gen Musharraf was executed in Multan.

Islamuddin Siddiqui was part of a group involved in the first attempt, in which a road bridge was blown up using powerful explosives, but they missed Gen Musharraf's car by seconds.

A military court had found Siddiqui guilty of conspiring to kill the Pakistani leader.

Several low-ranking army and air force officers were arrested for their alleged involvement in the two attempts on the life of Gen Musharraf.

Many of them are being tried by two separate military courts.

Gen Musharraf has been a target for Islamic militants since joining the US-led "war on terror" following the attacks of 11 September 2001.

He survived the first attack on 14 December thanks, apparently, to electronic jamming devices which blocked a signal to a remote-controlled bomb.

The blast destroyed a bridge minutes after his motorcade had passed over it. No-one was hurt.

Seoul holds Tokyo responsible for wartime atrocities - Yahoo! News

Seoul holds Tokyo responsible for wartime atrocities - Yahoo! News Seoul holds Tokyo responsible for wartime atrocities

Fri Aug 26, 4:23 AM ET

South Korea says Japan is still legally responsible for colonial-era atrocities, citing declassifed official documents including a 1965 treaty on normalizing diplomatic ties.

The allegation is likely to fuel a diplomatic row with Japan at a time when bilateral ties are already at a low over territorial disputes and the content of some current Japanese history textbooks.

Seoul renewed the claim for compensation for the victims of "inhumane crimes" including sex slaves after the foreign ministry on Friday declassified 35,000 pages of diplomatic documents including the 1965 treaty with Japan.

The government said the normalization treaty showed the agreement failed to address the issue of compensating suffers of abuses during Japan's 35-year colonial rule.

"The Japanese government is still legally responsible for inhumane crimes such as comfort women, which involved state power including the government and the military," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Up to 200,000 Korean women are believed to have served as comfort women, who were sex slaves mobilized for Japanese troops during World War II.

"We will continue to seek diplomatic solutions to these inhumane crimes," said Yu Chong-Sang, deputy minister for planning of the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

But the government does not intend to demand that Japan renegotiates the normalization accord, he said.

Japan says the issue of compensation has already been settled by the normalization treaty.

South Korea received 800 million dollars in grants and loans from Japan under the 1965 agreement in return for giving up its demand for compensation for Japan's colonization of Korea between 1910 and 1945.

The money breaks down into 300 million dollars in economic aid and 500 million dollars in loans.

Although the purpose of the 300 million aid package was not specified in the agreement, it was intended to meet Seoul's demand for compensation for sufferings sustained by the forced laborers, the office said.

But South Korea spent only one 10th of the money for the victims of forced labor while using the rest for economic construction projects.

Print Story: Singapore carves niche in stem cell research on Yahoo! News

Print Story: Singapore carves niche in stem cell research on Yahoo! News Singapore carves niche in stem cell research

By Mia Shanley2 hours, 57 minutes ago

South Korea stole headlines after creating the world's first cloned dog, but the tiny city-state of Singapore is quietly preparing to take the fruits of its stem cell research straight to the market.

Steven Fang, chief executive of Singapore-based CyGenics AX> , said more Singapore-based firms are taking the greenfield research of U.S. and Korean scientists and turning it into marketable technology safe for human use.

CyGenics develops and markets adult stem-cell related products, services and technologies.

"Stem cell development needs to be turned into a mature technology that is of meaningful use to humans," said Fang, at the company's blood bank, where umbilical cord blood is frozen for possible future use in the fight against lymphoma, anemia and bone marrow cancer.

"We are trying to make the stem cell technology safe for humans to use."

In 2002, a Singapore boy suffering from leukemia was treated with stem cells from his baby sister, whose parents had stored blood from her umbilical cord at the company's storage facility, CordLife. The boy is now in remission.

Researchers believe that stem cells could one day be used to provide individually tailored tissue and organ transplants, or repair spinal cord injuries.

When asked whether Asia was leading the stem cell research race, Fang said: "To a great extent, yes. Asia got a head start."

Researchers in Asia got a boost in funding after the Bush administration sought restrictions on government support for stem-cell research in the United States.

"But in practical terms, the U.S. can catch up," said Fang, who is also the chairman of BioSingapore, an association that represents biomedical enterprises.

Singapore has promoted the biomedical sector with grants, tax incentives and the 2003 opening of a S$300 million biotech park. The grants have attracted foreign experts like Alan Colman, who was part of the team that created Dolly the sheep in Scotland.

Federal funding for work with stem cells taken from human embryos is limited in the U.S., due mainly to ethical reasons, though researchers can use private money as they wish.

CyGenics, founded in 2004, does not conduct embryonic stem cell research, though Singapore laws allow for therapeutic, not reproductive, cloning.

READY TO MULTIPLY

The loss-making firm now has more than 3,000 clients in Singapore and receives requests from around the world for its storage services. In March, it launched a new facility in Hong Kong aimed at the North Asia market and the company said it is already taking in a large volume of clients.

Fang said the company makes money from its cord blood bank but is spending heavily on research and development. It expects its cell sciences business, which manufactures, markets and distributes biomedical products to break even this year.

CyGenics wants to multiply.

"We see a need to be global, to have a global footprint," Fang said. "We want to expand our facility base."

Executives want to set up facilities in China, but also sees the country as one of the toughest markets to break into because of regulatory issues.

Fang sees Asia and Europe as holding the greatest potential for expansion as the U.S. is already a very mature market.

"Growing organically is very important, but joint-ventures or mergers and acquisitions are equally important. We are eyeing deals in the U.S., Australia and Asia," he said.

India, China, Australia, Britain and Scandinavia were near-term targets for expansion, he said. CyGenics has two labs in the U.S., where it has a S$2.9 million contract with the Department of Defense to test vaccines against biological agents like anthrax.

Bush Steps In as Charter Talks in Iraq Reach Breaking Point - New York Times

Bush Steps In as Charter Talks in Iraq Reach Breaking Point - New York TimesAugust 26, 2005
Bush Steps In as Charter Talks in Iraq Reach Breaking Point
By DEXTER FILKINS and JAMES GLANZ

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 25 - Talks over the Iraqi constitution reached a breaking point on Thursday, with a parliamentary session to present the document being canceled and President Bush personally calling one of the country's most powerful Shiite leaders in an effort to broker a last-minute deal.

Mr. Bush intervened when some senior Shiite leaders said they had decided to bypass their Sunni counterparts, as well as Iraqi lawmakers, and send the document directly to Iraqi voters for their approval.

The calls by Shiite leaders to ignore the Sunnis' request for changes to the draft constitution provoked threats from the Sunnis that they would urge their people to reject the document when it goes before voters in a national referendum in October.

At day's end, American officials in Washington declared that the Iraqis had made "substantial and real progress" toward a deal on the constitution. And senior Iraqi leaders said they would make a last-ditch effort on Friday to strike a deal.

But after so many days of fruitless negotiations, some senior political leaders here suggested that time had run out.

"There are still some negotiations, but if we don't have any compromise, then that's it," said Sheik Khalid al-Atiyya, a Shiite negotiator. "We will go to the election to vote on it."

A decision by the Shiites to move ahead without the Sunnis would be a considerable blow to efforts by the Bush administration to bring the leaders of the Sunni minority into the negotiations over the constitution.

Mr. Bush and American officials here have expressed hope that bringing the Sunnis into the drafting of the constitution could help coax them into the political mainstream, and ultimately begin to undercut support for the guerrilla insurgency. The Sunnis largely boycotted the parliamentary elections in January.

In recent weeks, Sunni leaders across north and central Iraq have begun telling their communities to register for and vote in the Oct. 15 referendum on the constitution and in the parliamentary elections scheduled for December. That trend could be endangered if Sunni leaders are not part of a deal on the constitution.

Indeed, the events of Thursday raised the prospect that the Sunnis would try to reject the constitution when it goes before the voters. Under the rules agreed to last year, a two-thirds majority voting against the constitution in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces would send the document down to defeat. The Sunnis are thought to constitute a majority in three provinces.

By Thursday night, Sunni leaders were declaring that they had been victimized by the majority Shiites, and they were already making plans to sink the constitution at the polls.

"We will call on people to say no to this constitution," said Kamal Hamdoun, a Sunni leader who is head of the Iraqi Bar Association. "This constitution was written by the powerful people, not by the people."

"This constitution achieved the ambitions of the people who are in power," he added.

The Sunni leaders adamantly oppose language in the constitution that could allow the Shiites to create a vast autonomous region in the oil-rich southern part of the country. In the current draft, the constitution says each province may form its own federal region and join with others.

In the debate over autonomous regions, the Kurds, who already have one such region in the north, largely stood on the sidelines. But the Sunnis say that such an arrangement could cripple the Iraqi state, and that the Shiite autonomous region would probably fall under the sway of their Shiite-dominated neighbor, Iran.

Despites their protests, there are widespread doubts about the sincerity of the Sunni negotiators. Most of the 15 members of the Sunni negotiating committee were members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and there is a growing sense among Shiite leaders that their primary goal is to block any agreement at all.

In any case, the Shiite leadership has been ardent in its desire to set up a Shiite-dominated autonomous region, particularly Abdul Aziz Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. As advocated by Mr. Hakim, the Shiite region would comprise nine of Iraq's 18 provinces, nearly half the nation's population and its richest oil fields.

Mr. Hakim and many of the senior members of his group, the Supreme Council, lived for many years in Iran and even fought on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's. The Supreme Council is suspected by American officials of receiving large amounts of assistance from the Iranian government.

The effort by the Shiites to bypass the Sunnis began Thursday afternoon, when they canceled a meeting of the Iraqi National Assembly, which was set to gather, and possibly vote, on the final draft constitution. While many Iraqi leaders first interpreted that decision as simply a delay, the Shiites made it clear that they were considering bypassing the Assembly altogether and of forgoing any further changes to the document.

Because the majority Shiites dominate the National Assembly, there is little the Sunnis can do to stop them from writing whatever constitution they choose.

The concern that a deal on the constitution was falling apart appeared to have to prompted Mr. Bush to call Mr. Hakim to urge a comprise. One Iraqi official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Americans, who have already expressed their frustration with the Sunnis, have recently become irritated with what they regard as the stubbornness of the Shiites as well.

"The Americans are very angry that the Shia are not agreeing on this," the Iraqi official said. "They really want them to make these concessions to the Sunnis to keep them on board."

"They think that without keeping the Sunnis on board, many things will go wrong, including the security," the official said.

The other outstanding issue was whether the constitution would contain language banning any remnants or symbols of the Baath Party, which was dominated by Sunnis. The Sunnis are concerned that this may lead to their exclusion from government jobs and that they will be unfairly discriminated against in public life.

While some Iraqi leaders expressed hope that more negotiations would produce a breakthrough, there was also evidence that the more they talked, the more the distance between them grew.

When the negotiations began Thursday morning, Sunnis came in with an ambitious list of demands on issues like federalism and de-Baathification, both of which they ardently oppose and would like to excise from the constitution.

As the day wore on, no breakthrough materialized. "We discussed all the articles that we have a problem with, but we didn't find any solution," said Haseeb Aref, one of the Sunni negotiators.

Meanwhile, some of the Sunnis maintained that after all the missed deadlines, the current government had lost its own legal standing.

Under the language of the interim constitution currently in force, the National Assembly is required to dissolve itself if it does not complete a new constitution by the deadline, unless it amends the constitution. It failed to do either one of those on Thursday.

"The process was illegal," said Kamal Hamdoun, the Sunni member of the committee. "They don't have a right to extend."

At a news briefing late Thursday evening, Hachem al-Hassani, the speaker of the National Assembly, felt compelled to respond to those allegations. He said he believed that the assembly had proceeded strictly according to the law.

As common ground fell away, leaders of the majority Shiites expressed confidence that the Sunnis would fail to muster the necessary two-thirds majority in three provinces to sink the constitution.

Ordinary Sunnis, said Ali al-Dabbagh, a Shiite leader, "do not all have the same views and the same ideas." As a result, he said, opponents of the constitution "will not get 'no' in the referendum."

Mr. Hassani, a secular Sunni who has supported the Shiite leaders, expressed hope that the talks on Friday would produce the compromise that has eluded negotiators so far.

"We think the door is still open to find a solution," Mr. Hassani said.

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

Base Closing Panel Backs Ellsworth Air Force Base - New York Times

Base Closing Panel Backs Ellsworth Air Force Base - New York TimesAugust 26, 2005
Base Closing Panel Backs Ellsworth Air Force Base
By DAVID S. CLOUD

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - The independent commission reviewing the Pentagon's plan to close or reorient hundreds of military bases voted today to keep open Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, rejecting the Defense Department's recommendation.

The 8-to-1 vote is a big victory for Senator John Thune, the Republican who last fall defeated Tom Daschle, then the Senate's Democratic leader, on a promise to use his clout to spare the base.

The decision on Ellsworth, South Dakota's second-largest employer, was one of the most politically sensitive to come before the panel in its three days of hearings this week.

Senator Thune told reporters at the hearings that the decision was a big step in "meeting the emerging threats of the future" He added, "South Dakota needs Ellsworth, but we believe that America also needs Ellsworth."

Asked whether he was politically strengthened by the decision, Senator Thune said: "This fight was not about me. It was all about the people of South Dakota and Rapid City who were impacted by the decision. This whole decision was about the merits. It had nothing to do with politics."

Later today, the commission will consider another hotly contested proposal when it decides the fate of Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Most famous for its cold war-era arsenal of missiles and nuclear bombers aimed at the Soviet Union, Ellsworth is home to half the nation's fleet of B1-B bombers. The Pentagon had wanted to move all the bombers to Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.

On Thursday, the commission decided to create a major new medical center for troops just outside Washington, by merging the operations of the aging Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the nearby National Naval Medical Center.

The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted 8 to 0 with one abstention to close the nearly 100-year-old Walter Reed hospital on Washington's outskirts and expand the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

A new 340-bed hospital would be built at the Bethesda site, which the Pentagon is planning to name the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Walter Reed, which has been treating many of the most severely wounded soldiers from Iraq, will remain open while the new facility is being built, which will take several years. Walter Reed normally operates about 200 beds.

Commissioners said they believed that the Pentagon's $989 million estimate for building the new hospital understated the likely cost, but said they were endorsing the move anyway because of the opportunity to build a state-of-the-art facility for treating wounded troops.

"Whatever it costs, we need to incur that cost to provide that world-class care to an extraordinary group of men and women in harm's way," said the commission's chairman, Anthony J. Principi, the former secretary of veterans affairs.

City officials in Washington have questioned the benefit of closing Walter Reed and shifting the medical care it provides to Bethesda, several miles away. But the Pentagon has argued that a single facility serving all the military services would be more efficient and improve care, by combining specialists in one place.

The Pentagon said the shift would save $301 million over 20 years and that most of the 5,630 jobs at Walter Reed will move to the new hospital.

On Thursday, its second day of deliberations on a final list to present to the president and Congress, the commission made few major changes to the Pentagon blueprint, which would close or consolidate 62 large military bases and 775 smaller installations and assign new missions to many existing facilities.

But in a rebuff to the Defense Department, the commission voted 7 to 2 late Thursday against sharply reducing the operations at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska, opting to keep 24 F-16 fighters at the base, rather than moving them to an installation in Nevada.

The Pentagon had wanted to shut down most of the base's operations, except for brief periods when planes would be sent there to train on its expansive bombing ranges. The plan would have saved $1.8 billion over 20 years, the Pentagon said.

But commissioners said partly closing the base was not feasible because harsh Alaska winters required constant upkeep of the facilities. The commission went along with the Pentagon plan to move some A-10 attack planes from the base, but voted to keep the F-16s there, which would ensure the base remains open year-round.

Also on Thursday, the commission approved moving more than 20,000 military and civilian jobs from leased offices in northern Virginia to various military bases in the state, including Fort Belvoir, Fort Lee and the Marine Corps base in Quantico. The Pentagon proposed the shift to save money and to protect employees better from possible terrorist attacks by putting them within military installations.

The panel also agreed to close Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio and relocate most of its operations to Fort Sam Houston in the same city. The new facility will help train medics and other medical personnel for all the services, consolidating training that now occurs around the country.

Over all, the Pentagon has said it would save nearly $50 billion in the next 20 years if all its proposals are adopted this year. But on Wednesday the commission removed two major installations from the list- the Navy submarine base in Groton, Conn., and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Me., which reduced the expected savings by around $2.9 billion.

The commission, which was created by Congress, intends to finish its deliberations on Friday. By Sept. 8, it must send its recommendations to President Bush, who has said he intends to forward the plan to Congress.

Congress can then vote to accept or reject the list as a whole; it is barred from making changes by the law that created the commission. In the four previous rounds of base closing, Congress has allowed the commission's list to go into effect without a vote.

Terence Neilan contributed reporting from New York for this article.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

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Whites only' sign stirs a suit
Black workers take action after notice allegedly put on bathroom door at Alabama Tyson plant

August 19, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The way African-American workers tell it in the lawsuit filed last week, the "Whites Only" sign was posted on the door of the freshly renovated bathroom at Tyson's poultry plant in Ashland, Ala. Only white employees had the keys.

After some complaints, the sign was removed, but the bathroom was kept locked, and the refrigerator and cabinets in a new employee lounge were padlocked. Only white workers had keys.

"When I was young, my mother used to tell me stories about segregated bathrooms," Henry Adams, a plaintiff in the suit, wrote in a statement. "I never thought that her reality of 71 years ago would become my reality today."

Adams and 12 other African-American workers at the plant filed a discrimination suit last week against Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat producer.

The regional office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is also suing Tyson for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination. The nonpartisan Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also stepped in on the workers' behalf.

"While this country has made great strides in addressing issues of racism, unfortunately, there are still people who have not yet gotten the message that segregation in the workplace will not be tolerated," Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director of EEOC's Birmingham office, wrote in a statement.

Tyson officials said they investigated the allegations and found they have no merit.

"We're surprised and disappointed by this legal action," Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for the Arkansas-based company, wrote in a statement. "The presence of any sign suggesting whites only or segregation of any kind is, without a doubt, a violation of our corporate polices and contrary to our corporate culture."

He said the company has "zero tolerance for racism."

In the lawsuit, black workers said an "Out of Order" sign was posted and the bathroom kept locked soon after it was renovated in the summer of 2003. Meanwhile, some white workers, including a supervisor, had keys and used it. Soon after, the "Whites Only" sign appeared, the lawsuit says.

A lawyer for the workers said a white employee reported that a supervisor told him to post the sign. It was removed, but black workers who complained said they faced retaliation, from suspensions to firings. A break room once used mostly by blacks was closed that summer. In a new lounge, the refrigerator and cabinets were locked and only whites had keys, the suit says.

Over the years, black workers were also subjected to racial slurs and comments, according to court papers. In one case, the lawsuit said, a picture of two monkeys with black workers' names underneath was posted on the locker of a black employee.

Lawyers for the workers said the racist sign pushed them to take legal action.

"They couldn't be quiet anymore," said Audrey Wiggins, a staff attorney with the Lawyers' Committee.

The workers are asking the court to force Tyson to set corrective polices. They are also seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

Wiggins said the suit should send a message that "the 21st-century workplace won't tolerate this kind of situation."

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Victory for Japan's war critics

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Victory for Japan's war critics Victory for Japan's war critics
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

A Japanese court has rejected a claim that journalists made up the story of a killing competition carried out by Japan's army in China in 1937.

It is a rare legal victory for the critics of Japan's wartime past.

The relatives of two officers, accused of taking part in a race to decapitate Chinese soldiers, had sued for damages, claiming the report was fabricated.

Japan and China dispute the scale of murder, rape and looting during Japan's wartime occupation of parts of China.

As Japan's Imperial Army approached the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937, war correspondents sent back home morale-boosting reports which were published in national newspapers.

One described the exploits of two officers who were said to have staged a competition to be the first to behead 100 Chinese soldiers.

The two men were later executed by the Chinese government.

'Not proven'

Two years ago, though, their relatives lodged a claim for $330,000 (36m yen) in damages from two newspapers - one, whose forerunner published the story in 1937, and another which carried an article repeating the allegations in 1971.

The families claimed the stories were false because they had not been proved. Now Tokyo's district court has rejected their suit.

The officers had admitted they raced to kill 100 people, the judge said.

Although the original article included some false elements and exaggeration, since a final historical assessment of the contest has not been made, it is difficult to say it was fiction, he added.

The journalist who wrote the follow-up article in the 1970s claimed the case had been brought by those trying to deny the Nanjing massacre.

It is an event still disputed by scholars in Japan and China, and continues to cause difficulties between the two countries more than half a century after it happened.
Story from BBC NEWS:

CBS 46 Atlanta - Survey ranks UGA 12th in party schools

CBS 46 Atlanta - Survey ranks UGA 12th in party schoolsSurvey ranks UGA 12th in party schools
Aug 23, 2005, 11:00 AM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The University of Wisconsin-Madison tops a list of the nation's best party schools -- despite a decade-long effort by the school to reduce its reputation for heavy drinking.

The list released yesterday shows that Brigham Young University leads "stone cold sober" schools for the eighth straight year.

The University of Georgia in Athens ranks 12th.

The rankings are based on survey responses regarding alcohol and drug use, hours of study each day, and the number of students in fraternities and sororities.

Schools often criticize the list, while the American Medical Association has urged Princeton Review to stop putting it out, saying it legitimizes students' drinking.

UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley dismissed the report as "junk science that results in a day of national media coverage."

The list -- which is NOT affiliated with Princeton University -- is based on online surveys of more than 110-thousand college students and is included in the Princeton Review's "Best 361 Colleges."

Other universities listed in the Top 10 party schools were Ohio University-Athens, Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, University of California-Santa Barbara, State University of New York at Albany, Indiana University-Bloomington, University of Mississippi, University of Iowa, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Loyola University New Orleans.

List of the top party schools as compiled by the Princeton Review:

1. University of Wisconsin-Madison
2. Ohio University-Athens
3. Lehigh University
4. University of California-Santa Barbara
5. State University of New York at Albany
6. Indiana University-Bloomington
7. University of Mississippi
8. University of Iowa
9. University of Massachusetts-Amherst
10. Loyola University New Orleans
11. Tulane University
12. University of Georgia
13. Penn State University
14. West Virginia University
15. The University of Texas-Austin
16. University of Tennessee-Knoxville
17. University of New Hampshire
18. University of Florida
19. Louisiana State University
20. University of Maryland-College Park

China CRIENGLISH

China CRIENGLISH "American Flying Tigers" Veterans Continue Reminiscent Journey in China
2005-8-23 23:18:02 Xinhua

Veteran American "Flying Tiger" pilots left here for Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu Province on Tuesday to continue their reminiscent journey to the former battlegrounds where they helped Chinese fight Japanese invaders during World War II.

They paid a three-day visit to Guilin City in southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where the renowned American Volunteer Group known as the "Flying Tigers," organized by Claire Lee Chennault, was stationed when fighting Japanese military planes and warships 60 years ago.

While in Guilin, they visited the then Yangtang airport located 15 kilometers away from Guilin and went specially to see Lin Zhihong, aged 89, who served as an interpreter for the pilots during the wartime.

One of the veterans, Leonardo, is 82 year-old now. He joined the group to fight in Guilin when he was only 19 years old.

After the visit, Leonardo said he was very pleased to note that the local government has set up a monument to commemorate the meritorious service made by American soldiers in their united fight with Chinese resistance army during the World War II.

Shanghai will be the last leg of their trip.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Israeli settler eviction complete

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Israeli settler eviction complete Israeli settler eviction complete
Israeli troops have completed the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip and West Bank in line with PM Ariel Sharon's withdrawal plan.

After token resistance, the last to leave were protesters at the West Bank settlements of Sanur and Homesh.

All of the 8,500 or so settlers in Gaza were removed in a six-day operation that ended on Monday.

However, about 450,000 settlers remain in about 120 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

It is the first time Israel has withdrawn from Palestinian land captured in the 1967 war.

But Mr Sharon says he will not give up the main settlement blocks - or halt settlement building as required by the US-backed roadmap peace plan.

The houses of the settlers are being demolished in agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which will assume responsibility for the land once the Israeli army has left.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Monday, August 22, 2005

BBC NEWS | South Asia | 'Half Asian children' in poverty

BBC NEWS | South Asia | 'Half Asian children' in poverty 'Half Asian children' in poverty
Nearly half of Asia's 1.3bn children live in poverty, denied basic needs, says a new report.

India has the largest number of poor children in Asia, with 80% of its 400m young severely deprived, it says.

Child aid organisation, Plan, author of the report, has pledged to spend $1bn on poverty reduction in 12 Asian countries over the next decade.

It also wants rich nations to reduce subsidies given to their own farmers and to cancel Third World debt.

'Serious impact'

The "Growing up in Asia" report states that 600m Asian children under the age of 18 lack access to either food, safe drinking water, health or shelter.

Of those, 350m were described as "absolutely poor", meaning they do not have access to two or more of a child's essential necessities.

A child's gender, class and caste have a significant influence on her or his wellbeing
Growing up in Asia report

"Asia has more than twice as many severely deprived children as sub-Saharan Africa," said Michael Diamond, Plan's Asia regional director.

"This scale of child poverty will have a serious impact on Asia's future prospects, unless it is addressed now."

Despite high growth rates in countries like India and China, millions of families were being left behind, according to the report.

Among the causes, the report said, were the pressure of rapid population growth on scarce resources, lack of access to education, health care, clean water or sanitation, caste discrimination, and weak governance and corruption.

In India, 60% of all children were classed as "absolutely poor", with almost half of all children under five malnourished.

Plan said India also had the highest number of working children in the world.

China, the report said, had made "great strides in poverty reduction in recent years".

Only 13m of its 380m child population were deprived, according to Plan's report.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Israel Withdraws Its Last Jewish Settlers From Gaza Strip - New York Times

Israel Withdraws Its Last Jewish Settlers From Gaza Strip - New York TimesAugust 22, 2005
Israel Withdraws Its Last Jewish Settlers From Gaza Strip
By STEVEN ERLANGER

NETZARIM, Gaza Strip, Aug. 22 - After nearly 40 years of occupation, Israel pulled its last settlers out of Gaza today, leaving this symbolic and devout settlement, surrounded on three sides by Palestinians.

Under an agreement with the army and the government, the roughly 1,000 residents here, plus another 300 or so who had come to support them, left their homes without resistance. After a prayer service and ceremony at the synagogue, the residents said they would go to Jerusalem, to pray at the Western Wall, and then move all together to the empty college dormitories of the University of Judea and Samaria, in Ariel, another Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

But before the school year begins, they will move again, as a collective, to re-establish Netzarim, probably in the Negev, according to Shlomit Ziv, 35, a teacher.

But like all the residents interviewed here, Mrs. Ziv, a mother of eight children, is confident that her family will return to Gaza and re-establish Netzarim here, in what they consider part of the land of Israel given by God to the Jews.

"I'm absolutely sure that if I cannot live here, my children or my great-grandchildren will come back to blossom Netzarim," Mrs. Ziv said.

Netzarim means sapling or progeny, and Rabbi Tzion Tzion-Tawil, after helping to lead the prayer service of residents and soldiers, said: "We are leaving against our will, but we are not going out with heads bowed. The saplings that are being uprooted here we will plant throughout the country until we make our return to Netzarim."

But Netzarim has always been controversial, regarded by the Palestinians as "a bone in the throat," because movement in and out, along protected roads in armored busses, often interferes with Palestinian freedom of travel within Gaza as Israeli soldiers abruptly close checkpoints with no explanation.

The Israeli ability to cut Gaza into three parts through such measures was one of the strategic reasons in 1972 to build Netzarim, which prime minister Ariel Sharon once said was as Israeli as Tel Aviv. Netzarim, which became a center for religious Jews, also became a little romanticized in the Israeli psyche.

But the army spent millions to protect the people here, with at least 500 soldiers and a squad of armor always engaged, let alone the need to run the hourly armored bus service. Seventeen soldiers have died for Netzarim, and few army commanders, speaking privately, are not sorry to lay down the burden and costs of its defense.

Brig. Gen. Hagai Dotan of the police, in charge of the pullout here, is a practical man who acknowledges that the cost of defending Netzarim was very high. As for his own task, he said that some residents would be able to return on Tuesday to pack their belongings, and that there would be one more search through the settlement. "Tomorrow is clean-up day," he said, "to find the weirdos who believe the Messiah will come."

At least one resident had workers setting the foundation for a roof on a new house, which will be destroyed with everything else here, probably by the end of the week.

Israel's occupation of Gaza continues, however, with the military still in place, controlling Gaza's borders, seacoast and airspace and deciding who may come and go. Still, the Israeli military says it plans to pull out of its installations within a month, and from the border with Egypt by the end of the autumn. While serious issues of access of both goods and people remain to be negotiated, Palestinians will have considerably more freedom of movement within Gaza and will no longer have to stare at the huge concrete walls and watchtowers that encircled the settlements.

At least 5,000 soldiers and police officers traveled today to the northern West Bank, where four small settlements - two of them empty - will also be evacuated, probably beginning on Tuesday.

The other two settlements, Sanur and Homesh, are expected to be more difficult, with their few residents supplemented by West Bank settler youth who say they are eager to resist the army and the police and who have barricaded themselves in buildings and prepared makeshift weapons to repel security forces, just as in Kfar Darom. But those inside are reported to have more serious arsenals including stones, sharp metal projectiles, knives and stun grenades. Some may also be more heavily armed.

While Sanur boasts an old Ottoman jail and police station that will be difficult to storm, Homesh may prove to be the harder task, police officials say. They estimate that up to 1,000 people may be in the two settlements, most of them nonresidents.

Israeli political reaction to the Gaza pullout was heated, with settler supporters in Parliament accusing Mr. Sharon of being "an insensitive and obtuse liar, not fit to lead," according to Uzi Landau. Another legislator, Effie Eitam, who lived in Gaza, said: "The revenge you'll suffer will be political. The right will boycott you and bring you down."

Mr. Sharon, for his part, told soldiers on Sunday that he would continue to build within the existing settlement blocs in the West Bank, where Israel aims to keep three large settlement conurbations - Gush Etzion, Ariel and Maale Adumim - and that he would continue to try to link Maale Adumim to Jerusalem. The Bush administration has criticized such building as a violation of Israel's pledges under the road map toward peace.

Mr. Sharon, widely expected to move to the right before elections that could come as early as the spring, also pledged again that he would make no unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank. "There will be building in the settlement blocs," he said, according to The Jerusalem Post. "I will build."

In Gaza today, a missing French television journalist, Mohamed Ouathi, walked into a Gaza police station eight days after he was reported kidnapped at gunpoint by three armed men who forced him into a car. walked into a Gaza police station. No group had declared responsibility for the abduction.

Japan Today - News - Malaysia Airlines posts huge loss - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Malaysia Airlines posts huge loss - Japan's Leading International News NetworkMalaysia Airlines posts huge loss

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005 at 04:00 JST
KUALA LUMPUR — Hit by high fuel costs, Malaysia Airlines System Bhd. reported Monday a net loss of 280.7 million ringgit ($74.5 million) in the first quarter, against a net profit of 26.6 million ringgit for the same period a year earlier.

The state-controlled airline also announced the sudden departure of its managing director Ahmad Fuaad Dahalan

Business News > The Independant

Business NewsMalaysia's ringgit lacklustre one month after dollar peg removed

AFP, KUALA LUMPUR

Aug 21: Malaysia's ringgit has had a lacklustre month since abandoning the peg to the dollar, and its failure to appreciate is triggering more selling from disappointed investors, analysts say.

Malaysia dumped the peg of 3.8 ringgit to the dollar on July 21, minutes after China revalued its yuan. The peg was introduced during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis but by 2005 had outlived its usefulness.

The central bank made it clear it would ensure the ringgit appreciated only gradually under the new managed float, but many brokers forecast it to rise to 3.5 to the dollar by year's end.

However, since making initial gains it has gradually drifted back down to 3.7687 on Thursday, its weakest level since the day after the peg was dropped. On Friday it rallied slightly to close the week at 3.7655 to the dollar.

"Clearly the Malaysian ringgit's performance so far has been a bit disappointing," said Singapore-based JP Morgan analyst Claudio Piron. "China has effectively revalued its currency by 2.0 per cent.

Malaysia's was widely regarded as being undervalued by 8.0-10 per cent and yet if we were going to calculate it today the appreciation of the ringgit would come to just 0.7 per cent." Cedric Ong, a senior dealer with Public Bank, said disillusioned foreign investors were cashing out of the ringgit.

"Initially when the ringgit strengthened everyone was bullish but... now people think that the central bank may not want the ringgit to strengthen too much," he said.

"Obviously I'd prefer a stronger ringgit, I think this is slightly disappointing. A slow, gradual process would be good for the country," he said.

Ong said he believed 3.70 would be a fair value for the currency, but that it was not likely to reach that level by the end of the year.

OSK analyst Lee Soo Kai said that in the long term the ringgit would strengthen but that in the short term it was being buffeted by investment flows.

"Investors who have put their money in in anticipation that the ringgit will strengthen... are losing patience and taking their money out of the system and that has depressed the ringgit over the past few days," he said.

"There was a tremendous inflow of hot money immediately after the re- pegging in anticipation that the ringgit would strengthen to 3.7 in a very short span of time, which did not materialise," he said.

Lee said the central Bank Negara had successfully prevented a rapid appreciation by both intervening in financial markets and scaring off speculators by making its intentions public.

"Investors start wondering whether it will really appreciate at all so they start selling, so in a way they don't need to intervene so much because of that," he said. "In a way it is self-fulfilling".

Piron said the ringgit's performance was not a reflection of the fundamentals of the Malaysian economy, which is forecast to expand by 5.0-6.0 per cent this year, and that a stronger dollar was also a contributing factor.

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - EnglishChina, Africa witnessed fruitful co-op in forum follow-up actions
www.chinaview.cn 2005-08-22 17:06:46

BEIJING, Aug. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- China and Africa have carried out a series of cooperation goals to implement follow-up actions of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum and gained fruitful outcome, a Chinese diplomat said here Monday.

Xu Jinghu, secretary-general of the Secretariat of the Chinese Follow-up Committee and director-general of the African Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry made the remarks at the on-going Fourth Senior Officials Meeting of the cooperation forum.

Chinese and African leaders maintained a frequent exchange of visits. In 2004, four Chinese leaders, namely President Hu Jintao,top legislator Wu Bangguo, Vice President Zeng Qinghong and Vice Premier Huang Ju visited Africa, which is unprecedented in Sino-African history, Xu said.

She noted that Chinese government departments and non-governmental organizations, legislature and parties kept active exchange and cooperation.

China and Africa also retain close consultations and coordination in international affairs, which safeguarded the common interests of the developing countries, she said.

Sino-African cooperation also witnessed sound growth, she said.China offered 167 items of aid to 46 African countries from 2004 to May, 2005, which contributed to the building of infrastructure projects, including roads, schools, water supply and hospitals.

The Chinese investment and two-way trade also helped to enhance Sino-African relations. Chinese direct investment to Africa reached 135 million US dollars in 2004 and 124 million US dollars in the first six months of this year, Xu said.

African exports to China is also on rise while bilateral trade volume is expanding. Sino-African trade hit 18.08 US dollars fromJanuary to June this year, up about 42.57 percent year on year. Among that, Chinese imports from Africa was 9.62 billion US dollars, up about 39.41 percent.

Human resource training is also an important component part of the cooperation forum's follow-up action. China hosted more than 100 training programs for 2,446 African personnel in 2004, ranging from the spheres of agriculture, sanitation and health-care, education and culture,to customs and diplomatic sectors.

China plans to offer training program for more than 3,800 African personnel in 2005, according to Xu.

MSNBC - China kickbacks create trouble for U.S. firms

MSNBC - China kickbacks create trouble for U.S. firms: "Staff Researcher Richard Drezen in New York and Special"

China kickbacks create trouble for U.S. firms
Lure of profits tempts some foreign companies to adopt unethical practices
By Peter S. Goodman
The Washington Post
Updated: 2:37 a.m. ET Aug. 22, 2005

SHANGHAI - For multinational companies grappling with stagnant sales, China has become a magnet for investment and a huge potential market beckoning with growth. Yet the lure of China profits combined with pervasive local corruption is tempting foreign companies and managers and bringing them into conflict with U.S. anti-bribery laws.

In interviews, China-based executives, sales agents and distributors for nine U.S. multinational companies acknowledged that their firms routinely win sales by paying what could be considered bribes or kickbacks -- often in the form of extravagant entertainment and travel expenses -- to purchasing agents at government offices and state-owned businesses.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their businesses, said such payments are usually funneled through distribution companies or public-relations firms to minimize the chance of prosecution by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which enforce the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

"It's normal industry practice," said a salesperson at a unit of a major U.S.-based technology company with a substantial retail presence in China.

Reverse dynamic?
American business leaders often describe their China operations idealistically, suggesting that their presence here will compel Chinese competitors to adopt more ethical business practices. But in one key regard, the dynamic operates in reverse, with U.S. companies adopting Chinese-style tactics to secure sales, as they compete in a market in which Communist Party officials routinely control businesses, and purchasing agents consider kickbacks part of their salary.

Managers of U.S. companies say they are caught in a dilemma: They are answerable to shareholders on Wall Street and home offices that demand a piece of an increasingly lucrative Chinese market. Yet they are also held to account at home by the Department of Justice and the SEC.

"It's a different market, and you can face unrealistic expectations," said Kathryn L. Buer, who said she was fired last year as head of Asia-Pacific operations for Datastream Systems Inc. after she unearthed problems with how the South Carolina software company had been booking sales in China.

Buer recently settled a whistleblower lawsuit she filed against Datastream following her termination. Last month, the Nasdaq stock market delisted Datastream shares after the company failed to file earnings reports on time.

Zhu Jianhua, Datastream's interim China manager from May to July of 2004, said the company had booked revenue after signing contracts without actually delivering goods. Sales agents also used liberal entertainment funds to win business. In one instance, he said, his staff had arranged to fly a buyer to the United States for training, tacking on a tour of New York. "I stopped it," he said. "That's not right."

Datastream President C. Alex Estevez said he would not comment on personnel matters. "Datastream has a strong interest in developing business throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim, including China," Estevez said. "In doing so, we intend to use proper and legal means."

Finally yielding profit
Fueling the aggressive play is the growing recognition that China -- long a graveyard for the dreams of foreign investors -- is finally yielding profit.

"Companies are seeing some of their fastest growth in China, and it's profitable growth," said Kristin J. Forbes, a former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and now a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Writing last year in the China Economic Quarterly, journalist Joe Studwell called 2003 "the best year in at least a century for making money in China." Studwell, author of "The China Dream" and an articulate skeptic of business prospects in China, crunched data filed by mainland China and Hong Kong affiliates of U.S. publicly traded companies, concluding that their China earnings rose from $1.9 billion in 1999 to $4.4 billion in 2003.

But just as the late-1990s technology bubble in the United States fostered a free-money and rule-bending mentality, a series of corruption cases involving U.S.-based multinationals underscores the pressures managers face to make good on the Chinese bonanza.

In December, the Justice Department announced that InVision Technologies, a California-based manufacturer of airport security screening systems, had agreed to pay an $800,000 penalty as part of a settlement after admitting that its distributors in China, Thailand and the Philippines had bribed government officials to gain sales.

In a separate settlement with the SEC filed in February, InVision -- since acquired by General Electric Co. -- paid a $500,000 penalty and surrendered $589,000 in profits. According to the SEC settlement document, in April 2004 InVision paid $95,000 to a Chinese distributor even though it knew of a "high probability" that the agent would use some of this money to pay for foreign travel for government officials to complete the sale of some $2.8 million in security equipment for a state-controlled airport in the southern city of Guangzhou.

In May, the SEC resolved a case against Diagnostic Products Corp., a Los Angeles-based medical equipment firm, with the firm surrendering $2 million in profits. The SEC charged that between 1991 and 2002 the company's Chinese subsidiary, DePu Biotechnological & Medical Products Inc., handed out $1.6 million in bribes to doctors and other workers at state-owned Chinese hospitals to generate business.

The payouts "were made with the knowledge and approval of senior officers of DePu," the SEC said in a notice of enforcement proceedings. DePu's office in Tianjin did not respond to calls.

In March, Chinese media reported that the head of state-owned China Construction Bank, Zhang Enzhao, had been detained on corruption charges. He remains under investigation and house arrest.

A lawsuit filed in Monterey County, Calif., alleges that Zhang and his associates took $1 million in bribes disguised as consulting fees from a U.S.-software company, Alltel Information Services, while also accepting a golf outing to Pebble Beach. In exchange, Alltel Information Services, then a division of Alltel Corp., walked away with contracts worth $176 million from the bank, the lawsuit claims. The suit was filed by Grace & Digital Information Technology Co. Ltd., a Chinese company that asserts its own contract for the bank's software business was breached because of the bribes.

In a reply filed in federal court in San Jose, Jim N. Wilson, former executive with Alltel Information Services -- since purchased by Fidelity National Financial Inc. and renamed Fidelity Information Systems -- dismissed the allegations of bribery as "completely false." In an SEC filing on Aug. 9, Alltel Corp. said the SEC had opened an informal inquiry into the matter. Alltel did not respond to requests for comment about the SEC probe.

Last year, Lucent Technologies Inc., the giant telecommunications firm, sacked its China president and chief operating officer along with a marketing executive and finance officer after what the company described as "internal control deficiencies" that could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Chinese media reported that the executives were found by internal auditors to have bribed officials at state-owned telecommunications companies. Lucent declined to furnish details, asserting that it is cooperating with federal investigators.

The sources at U.S. companies and Chinese distribution firms said the Lucent case was hardly unusual. Most companies that engage in such practices limit their exposure to prosecution by cutting intermediary firms into their sales, leaving it to distributors to close the deal, the sources said.

But using middlemen as conduits for payments does not insulate U.S. and U.S.-listed companies against American anti-corruption statutes, said Patrick M. Norton, managing partner of the Beijing office of the law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP.

'Willful ignorance is not a defense'
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act's anti-bribery provisions, which carry criminal penalties of up to five years in prison for individuals and fines reaching $2 million for companies, specifies that "U.S. persons" are forbidden from paying or offering to pay "anything of value" to a "foreign official" with a "corrupt purpose" of gaining business. Norton said the Justice Department has been interpreting the statute to include bribes paid by foreign companies and agents on behalf of U.S. companies.

"Willful ignorance is not a defense," Norton wrote in the journal China Law & Practice last year. "U.S. businesses in China are responsible under the FCPA for ensuring that their agents do not do indirectly what the U.S. businesses are prohibited from doing directly."

Nevertheless, such behavior appears common. "What happened at Lucent is happening at all the big tech companies," said a senior manager at a distribution company that sells products for Hewlett-Packard Co. He said H-P cuts his company in as a means of lubricating deals without handling the money directly.

"This happens 90 percent of the time on H-P's Unix business," the distributor said. "The bosses at H-P know the situation."

In a written statement, H-P said it uses distribution companies "to effectively expand coverage" across China, adding that the company operates "in a legal and ethical manner around the world."

"We are unaware of any specific examples of inappropriate behavior by our partners at this time," the statement continued. "Should proof be provided to the contrary we will clarify and pursue the matter, and follow up with appropriate action."

Most kickbacks are handled as rebates that land in a communal fund inside the government agency or company responsible for the purchase, to avoid making individuals vulnerable to corruption charges, sources said.

"The fund is for the department's use," said a former executive for a major U.S. technology company. "It pays for vacations to Las Vegas and Hong Kong, visits to hostess bars, gifts for spouses. Everybody knows about this."

Staff Researcher Richard Drezen in New York and Special Correspondents Eva Woo and Jason Cai in Shanghai contributed to this report.

In Explaining Life's Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash - New York Times

In Explaining Life's Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash - New York TimesAugust 22, 2005
In Explaining Life's Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash
By KENNETH CHANG

At the heart of the debate over intelligent design is this question: Can a scientific explanation of the history of life include the actions of an unseen higher being?

The proponents of intelligent design, a school of thought that some have argued should be taught alongside evolution in the nation's schools, say that the complexity and diversity of life go beyond what evolution can explain.

Biological marvels like the optical precision of an eye, the little spinning motors that propel bacteria and the cascade of proteins that cause blood to clot, they say, point to the hand of a higher being at work in the world.

In one often-cited argument, Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and a leading design theorist, compares complex biological phenomena like blood clotting to a mousetrap: Take away any one piece - the spring, the baseboard, the metal piece that snags the mouse - and the mousetrap stops being able to catch mice.

Similarly, Dr. Behe argues, if any one of the more than 20 proteins involved in blood clotting is missing or deficient, as happens in hemophilia, for instance, clots will not form properly.

Such all-or-none systems, Dr. Behe and other design proponents say, could not have arisen through the incremental changes that evolution says allowed life to progress to the big brains and the sophisticated abilities of humans from primitive bacteria.

These complex systems are "always associated with design," Dr. Behe, the author of the 1996 book "Darwin's Black Box," said in an interview. "We find such systems in biology, and since we know of no other way that these things can be produced, Darwinian claims notwithstanding, then we are rational to conclude they were indeed designed."

It is an argument that appeals to many Americans of faith.

But mainstream scientists say that the claims of intelligent design run counter to a century of research supporting the explanatory and predictive power of Darwinian evolution, and that the design approach suffers from fundamental problems that place it outside the realm of science. For one thing, these scientists say, invoking a higher being as an explanation is unscientific.

"One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed," said Douglas H. Erwin, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution. "That's a fundamental presumption of what we do."

That does not mean that scientists do not believe in God. Many do. But they see science as an effort to find out how the material world works, with nothing to say about why we are here or how we should live.

And in that quest, they say, there is no need to resort to otherworldly explanations. So much evidence has been provided by evolutionary studies that biologists are able to explain even the most complex natural phenomena and to fill in whatever blanks remain with solid theories.

This is possible, in large part, because evolution leaves tracks like the fossil remains of early animals or the chemical footprints in DNA that have been revealed by genetic research.

For example, while Dr. Behe and other leading design proponents see the blood clotting system as a product of design, mainstream scientists see it as a result of a coherent sequence of evolutionary events.

Early vertebrates like jawless fish had a simple clotting system, scientists believe, involving a few proteins that made blood stick together, said Russell F. Doolittle, a professor of molecular biology at the University of California, San Diego.

Scientists hypothesize that at some point, a mistake during the copying of DNA resulted in the duplication of a gene, increasing the amount of protein produced by cells.

Most often, such a change would be useless. But in this case the extra protein helped blood clot, and animals with the extra protein were more likely to survive and reproduce. Over time, as higher-order species evolved, other proteins joined the clotting system. For instance, several proteins involved in the clotting of blood appear to have started as digestive enzymes.

By studying the evolutionary tree and the genetics and biochemistry of living organisms, Dr. Doolittle said, scientists have largely been able to determine the order in which different proteins became involved in helping blood clot, eventually producing the sophisticated clotting mechanisms of humans and other higher animals. The sequencing of animal genomes has provided evidence to support this view.

For example, scientists had predicted that more primitive animals such as fish would be missing certain blood-clotting proteins. In fact, the recent sequencing of the fish genome has shown just this.

"The evidence is rock solid," Dr. Doolittle said.

Intelligent design proponents have advanced their views in books for popular audiences and in a few scientific articles. Some have developed mathematical formulas intended to tell whether something was designed or formed by natural processes.

Mainstream scientists say that intelligent design represents a more sophisticated - and thus more seductive - attack on evolution. Unlike creationists, design proponents accept many of the conclusions of modern science. They agree with cosmologists that the age of the universe is 13.6 billion years, not fewer than 10,000 years, as a literal reading of the Bible would suggest. They accept that mutation and natural selection, the central mechanisms of evolution, have acted on the natural world in small ways, for example, leading to the decay of eyes in certain salamanders that live underground.

Some intelligent design advocates even accept common descent, the notion that all species came from a common ancestor, a central tenet of evolution.

Although a vast majority of scientists accept evolution, the Discovery Institute, a research group in Seattle that has emerged as a clearinghouse for the intelligent design movement, says that 404 scientists, including 70 biologists, have signed a petition saying they are skeptical of Darwinism.

Nonetheless, many scientists regard intelligent design as little more than creationism dressed up in pseudoscientific clothing. Despite its use of scientific language and the fact that some design advocates are scientists, they say, the design approach has so far offered only philosophical objections to evolution, not any positive evidence for the intervention of a designer.

'Truncated View of Reality'

If Dr. Behe's mousetrap is one of the most familiar arguments for design, another is the idea that intelligence is obvious in what it creates. Read a novel by Hemingway, gaze at the pyramids, and a designer's hand is manifest, design proponents say.

But mainstream scientists, design proponents say, are unwilling to look beyond the material world when it comes to explaining things like the construction of an eye or the spinning motors that propel bacteria. What is wrong, they ask, with entertaining the idea that what looks like it was designed was actually designed?

"If we've defined science such that it cannot get to the true answer, we've got a pretty lame definition of science," said Douglas D. Axe, a molecular biologist and the director of research at the Biologic Institute, a new research center in Seattle that looks at the organization of biological systems, including intelligent design issues. Dr. Axe said he had received "significant" financing from the Discovery Institute, but he declined to give any other details about the institute or its financing.

Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, compares the design approach to the work of archaeologists investigating an ancient civilization.

"Imagine you're an archaeologist and you're looking at an inscription, and you say, 'Well, sorry, that looks like it's intelligent but we can't invoke an intelligent cause because, as a matter of method, we have to limit ourselves to materialistic processes,' " Dr. Meyer said. "That would be nuts."

He added, "Call it miracle, call it some other pejorative term, but the fact remains that the materialistic view is a truncated view of reality."

William Paley, an Anglican priest, made a similar argument in the early 19th century. Someone who finds a rock can easily imagine how wind and rain shaped it, he reasoned. But someone who finds a pocket watch lying on the ground instantly knows that it was not formed by natural processes.

With living organisms so much more complicated than watches, he wrote, "The marks of design are too strong to be got over."

Mainstream scientists say that the scientific method is indeed restricted to the material world, because it is trying to find out how it works. Simply saying, "it must have been designed," they say, is simply a way of not tackling the hardest problems.

They say they have no disagreement with studying phenomena for which there are, as yet, no explanations.

It is the presumption of a designer that mainstream scientists dispute, because there are no artifacts or biological signs - no scientific evidence, in other words - to suggest a designer's presence.

Darwin's theory, in contrast, has over the last century yielded so many solid findings that no mainstream biologist today doubts its basic tenets, though they may argue about particulars.

The theory has unlocked many of the mysteries of the natural world. For example, by studying the skeletons of whales, evolutionary scientists have been able to trace the history of their descent from small-hoofed land mammals. They made predictions about what the earliest water-dwelling whales might look like. And, in 1994, paleontologists reported discovering two such species, with many of the anatomical features that scientists had predicted.

Darwin's Finches

Nowhere has evolution been more powerful than in its prediction that there must be a means to pass on information from one generation to another. Darwin did not know the biological mechanism of inheritance, but the theory of evolution required one.

The discovery of DNA, the sequencing of the human genome, the pinpointing of genetic diseases and the discovery that a continuum of life from a single cell to a human brain can be detected in DNA are all a result of evolutionary theory.

Darwin may have been the classic scientific observer. He observed that individuals in a given species varied considerably, variations now known to be caused by mutations in their genetic code. He also realized that constraints of food and habitat sharply limited population growth; not every individual could survive and reproduce.

This competition, he hypothesized, meant that those individuals with helpful traits multiplied, passing on those traits to their numerous offspring. Negative or useless traits did not help individuals reproduce, and those traits faded away, a process that Darwin called natural selection.

The finches that Darwin observed in the Galápagos Islands provide the most famous example of this process. The species of finch that originally found its way to the Galápagos from South America had a beak shaped in a way that was ideal for eating seeds. But once arrived on the islands, that finch eventually diversified into 13 species. The various Galápagos finches have differently shaped beaks, each fine-tuned to take advantage of a particular food, like fruit, grubs, buds or seeds.

Such small adaptations can arise within a few generations. Darwin surmised that over millions of years, these small changes would accumulate, giving rise to the myriad of species seen today.

The number of organisms that, in those long periods, ended up being preserved as fossils is infinitesimal. As a result, the evolutionary record - the fossils of long-extinct organisms found preserved in rock - is necessarily incomplete, and some species appear to burst out of nowhere.

Some supporters of intelligent design have argued that such gaps undermine the evidence for evolution.

For instance, during the Cambrian explosion a half a billion years ago, life diversified to shapes with limbs and shells from jellyfish-like blobs, over a geologically brief span of 30 million years.

Dr. Meyer sees design at work in these large leaps, which signified the appearance of most modern forms of life. He argues that genetic mutations do not have the power to create new shapes of animals.

But molecular biologists have found genes that control the function of other genes, switching them on and off. Small mutations in these controller genes could produce new species. In addition, new fossils are being found and scientists now know that many changes occurred in the era before the Cambrian - a period that may have lasted 100 million years - providing more time for change.

The Cambrian explosion, said David J. Bottjer, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California and president of the Paleontological Society, is "a wonderful mystery in that we don't know everything yet."

"I think it will be just a matter of time before smart people will be able to figure a lot more of this out," Dr. Bottjer said. "Like any good scientific problem."

Purposeful Patterns

Intelligent design proponents have been stung by claims that, in contrast to mainstream scientists, they do not form their own theories or conduct original research. They say they are doing the mathematical work and biological experiments needed to put their ideas on firm scientific ground.

For example, William A. Dembski, a mathematician who drew attention when he headed a short-lived intelligent design institute at Baylor University, has worked on mathematical algorithms that purport to tell the difference between objects that were designed and those that occurred naturally.

Dr. Dembski says designed objects, like Mount Rushmore, show complex, purposeful patterns that evince the existence of intelligence. Mathematical calculations like those he has developed, he argues, could detect those patterns, for example, distinguishing Mount Rushmore from Mount St. Helens.

But other mathematicians have said that Dr. Dembski's calculations do not work and cannot be applied in the real world.

Other studies that intelligent design theorists cite in support of their views have been done by Dr. Axe of the Biologic Institute.

In one such study, Dr. Axe looked at a protein, called penicillinase, that gives bacteria the ability to survive treatment with the antibiotic penicillin. Dr. Meyer, of the Discovery Institute, has referred to Dr. Axe's work in arguing that working proteins are so rare that evolution cannot by chance discover them.

What was the probability, Dr. Axe asked in his study, of a protein with this ability existing in the universe of all possible proteins?

Penicillinase is made up of a strand of chemicals called amino acids folded into a shape that binds to penicillin and thus disables it. Whether the protein folds up in the right way determines whether it works or not.

Dr. Axe calculated that of the plausible amino acid sequences, only one in 100,000 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion - a number written as 1 followed by 77 zeroes - would provide resistance to penicillin.

In other words, the probability was essentially zero.

Dr. Axe's research appeared last year in The Journal of Molecular Biology, a peer-reviewed scientific publication.

Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University and a frequent sparring partner of design proponents, said that in his study, Dr. Axe did not look at penicillinase "the way evolution looks at the protein."

Natural selection, he said, is not random. A small number of mutations, sometimes just one, can change the function of a protein, allowing it to diverge along new evolutionary paths and eventually form a new shape or fold.

One Shot or a Continual Act

Intelligent design proponents are careful to say that they cannot identify the designer at work in the world, although most readily concede that God is the most likely possibility. And they offer varied opinions on when and how often a designer intervened.

Dr. Behe, for example, said he could imagine that, like an elaborate billiards shot, the design was set up when the Big Bang occurred 13.6 billion years ago. "It could have all been programmed into the universe as far as I'm concerned," he said.

But it was also possible, Dr. Behe added, that a designer acted continually throughout the history of life.

Mainstream scientists say this fuzziness about when and how design supposedly occurred makes the claims impossible to disprove. It is unreasonable, they say, for design advocates to demand that every detail of evolution be filled in.

Dr. Behe, however, said he might find it compelling if scientists were to observe evolutionary leaps in the laboratory. He pointed to an experiment by Richard E. Lenski, a professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State University, who has been observing the evolution of E. coli bacteria for more than 15 years. "If anything cool came out of that," Dr. Behe said, "that would be one way to convince me."

Dr. Behe said that if he was correct, then the E. coli in Dr. Lenski's lab would evolve in small ways but never change in such a way that the bacteria would develop entirely new abilities.

In fact, such an ability seems to have developed. Dr. Lenski said his experiment was not intended to explore this aspect of evolution, but nonetheless, "We have recently discovered a pretty dramatic exception, one where a new and surprising function has evolved," he said.

Dr. Lenski declined to give any details until the research is published. But, he said, "If anyone is resting his or her faith in God on the outcome that our experiment will not produce some major biological innovation, then I humbly suggest they should rethink the distinction between science and religion."

Dr. Behe said, "I'll wait and see."