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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Japan Today - News - Syria pledges to cooperate after U.N. Hariri murder report - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Syria pledges to cooperate after U.N. Hariri murder report - Japan's Leading International News NetworkSyria pledges to cooperate after U.N. Hariri murder report

Sunday, October 23, 2005 at 06:58 JST
DAMASCUS — Syria on Saturday pledged to cooperate with the international community even as it rejected a U.N. report on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri that implicated top Syrian figures.

The report accused Syria of blocking and misleading the four-month-long investigation into the February bomb blast that killed Hariri and 20 others on the Beirut seafront, and raised the threat of international sanctions.


"The report was influenced by the political climate that prevailed in Lebanon after the (Hariri) assassination, and it is based on preconceived ideas that led to accusatory and slanderous conclusions against Syria without any proof," said joint foreign minister Ahmed Arnus.

Syria will be the "only one to suffer the negative consequences of this report," he told a press conference in the Syrian capital.

Foreign ministry legal adviser Riad Daudi said the report was "politicised by regional and international parties with a view to harming Syria," and added that the "report presents no proof... it was based on hypotheses."

Daudi criticized the credibility of testimony provided by Hariri allies cited in the report, who gave their accounts of Syrian threats against Hariri, the former prime minister and popular billionaire business tycoon.

Nevertheless, "Syria remains committed to the decisions of international legality, and we will continue to cooperate with the international community," Daudi said.

"We don't say 'no' to cooperation, but we must see under what conditions."

Syria is "ready to deploy every effort to clarify the content of this report," he said.

The report, released by German chief prosecutor Detlev Mehlis on Thursday in New York, found "converging evidence" of Syrian and Lebanese involvement in Hariri's murder.

"It is incumbent upon Syria to clarify a considerable part of the unresolved questions," the report said.

Witness testimony named President Bashar al-Assad's brother, Maher, who is chief of the presidential guard, and his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who heads military intelligence, as being part of a circle that plotted the assassination.

The assassination sparked political turmoil for Syria, the longtime powerbroker in neighboring Lebanon.

Amid international outcry over the Hariri killing and widespread finger-pointing at Damascus, Syria was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April after a 29-year military presence.

Analysts said that for Syria, slapped with U.S. sanctions in 2004 and seeing deteriorating relations with Europe and even some Arab countries, the explosive allegations contained in the U.N. report were likely to bring matters to a head.

The report will mark "the beginning of negotiation or confrontation" between Damascus and the international community, said Lebanese political analyst Joseph Bahut.

Syria's state-run newspaper Tishrin echoed the retorts of Syrian officials who had rejected the results of the probe as erroneous and politically motivated.

"In a crime such as the one committed against Rafiq Hariri, the investigation lasts years and not a few months. The results of the report constitute a mix of contradictions," Tishrin said.

Syrians on the streets of the capital blamed the United States for skewing the report and also voiced concern.

"Americans want to extend their hegemony over Iraq across the entire region via this report," said Samir, a 28-year-old information technology professional.

"Why all this talk about Hariri? Why doesn't anyone do anything about the Palestinians who are being killed every day, not to mention the Iraqis?" asked a man who gave his name only as Samir. (Wire reports)

Japan Today - News - Religious riots break out in Egypt - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Religious riots break out in Egypt - Japan's Leading International News NetworkReligious riots break out in Egypt

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Sunday, October 23, 2005 at 07:02 JST
CAIRO — Egyptian Muslims and Coptic Christians traded barbs Saturday over deadly riots sparked by a play deemed offensive to Islam, despite a public display of unity ahead of November elections.

Friday's clashes — which left three dead and around 60 wounded — were some of the worst intercommunal violence Egypt has seen in years, underscoring the fragile religious balance of the Arab world's most populous country.

Japan Today - News - Japan voices concern to U.S. over nuclear cooperation with India - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Japan voices concern to U.S. over nuclear cooperation with India - Japan's Leading International News NetworkJapan voices concern to U.S. over nuclear cooperation with India

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Sunday, October 23, 2005 at 06:43 JST
TOKYO — Japan expressed concern to the United States last month over an agreement Washington reached with New Delhi to help promote civilian nuclear power in India, Japanese government sources said Saturday.

At bilateral talks on disarmament and nonproliferation in Washington in September, Japanese officials told the United States that offering nuclear technical assistance to India, which is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, could "send the wrong message to North Korea and Iran," the sources said.

NPR : Journalist: U.S. Soldiers Burned Taliban Bodies on Orders

NPR : Journalist: U.S. Soldiers Burned Taliban Bodies on OrdersJournalist: U.S. Soldiers Burned Taliban Bodies on Orders

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Image from televised report

All Things Considered, October 21, 2005 · The Pentagon has ordered an inquiry into an incident in which U.S. soldiers allegedly burned the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters. Stephen Dupont, the photojournalist who shot images of the incident, says he believes the Americans were following orders to burn the bodies for hygiene reasons.

Bush Pushes U.N. to Move Swiftly on Syria Report - New York Times

Bush Pushes U.N. to Move Swiftly on Syria Report - New York TimesOctober 22, 2005
Bush Pushes U.N. to Move Swiftly on Syria Report
By WARREN HOGE

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 21 - President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Friday for urgent Security Council action in response to a United Nations report implicating high ranking members of the Syrian government in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.

Noting that "the report strongly suggests that the politically motivated assassination could not have taken place without Syrian involvement," Mr. Bush, in Simi Valley, Calif., said the world must "respond accordingly."

He said he had spoken to Ms. Rice about the need for prompt United Nations action on the report, which he described as "deeply disturbing."

The report, made public Thursday, called the Feb. 14 killing of Mr. Hariri a "terrorist act" and said it was carefully planned over many months by Syrian leaders with the complicity of Lebanese security forces. The main suspect has been identified by a diplomat with intimate knowledge of the inquiry as the powerful chief of Syria's military intelligence, the brother-in-law of Syria's president.

Mr. Hariri and 20 others died when a bomb blew up his convoy on a downtown Beirut street.

Ms. Rice, en route to Alabama on Friday, said that "accountability is going to be very important for the international community." The Security Council, she said, "is going to have to be the focal point."

The comments indicated that the United States was determined to rely on the report's damning of Damascus to further its campaign to isolate Syria, which it holds responsible for financing anti-Israel guerrilla groups and encouraging insurgents crossing its border into Iraq.

John R. Bolton, the United States ambassador, said the report required a "strong follow-up" from the Council's members.

The Security Council is scheduled to take up the report, written by a German prosecutor, Detlev Mehlis, on Tuesday. In his report, Mr. Mehlis said the killing was carried out by "a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities."

The report said that "there is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act."

Syria's ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, dismissed the report on Friday as politically motivated and not credible. He said that Damascus had offered full cooperation.

Mr. Bolton, who termed Mr. Mekdad's denials "ridiculous," accused Syria of failing to cooperate with the investigators, which, he said, was "diplospeak for obstruction of justice."

"The report concludes there is probable cause to believe that high-level Syrian officials were involved in the Hariri assassination, that there's clear evidence of obstruction of justice on the part of the Syrians, failure to cooperate," Mr. Bolton said. "That is what the Security Council needs to take up in a serious way."

Asked if sanctions against Damascus were under consideration, he said only, "We're considering still a range of options."

Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, after arriving in Birmingham, Ala., with Ms. Rice, said of the findings, "you cannot leave a report like this on the table."

"We have to consider it and consider it actively," he said.

He and Ms. Rice were careful not to recommend any specific possible actions against Syria.

Though the report transmitted to Security Council members on Thursday evening did not name the key conspirators, an electronic version of it that included five names was distributed to some media outlets. The names included those of Maher Assad, brother of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and their brother-in-law Asef Shawkat, the chief of military intelligence, who is considered the most powerful man in the country after the president.

They and three others met periodically to plot the killing, with their last gathering in the home of Mr. Shawkat 7 to 10 days before the assassination, the report said. The report cited as its source for the officials' names an unnamed Syrian who lives in Lebanon and has had contact with high-level Syrian officers posted there.

Syria dominated Lebanese politics for nearly three decades until earlier this year, when, in response to a Security Council resolution proposed by the United States and France, it withdrew some 20,000 troops and intelligence officers. Mr. Hariri was opposed to continued Syrian influence in Lebanon, and many Lebanese believed that position led to his death and suspect Syria of ordering it.

The last-minute adjustments to the report, made Thursday morning when Mr. Mehlis was meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan, raised questions among reporters of whether the United Nations chief had asked that the report be toned down and made less accusatory of individuals.

Mr. Mehlis held a news conference and Mr. Annan released a statement on Friday, both vigorously denying there had been any interference.

Stepháne Dujarric, Mr. Annan's spokesman, said that the secretary general had insisted from the start on the independence of Mr. Mehlis's report. "The secretary general has at no time made any attempt to influence the content of the report," he said.

Mr. Mehlis said, "No one outside of the report team influenced these changes and no changes whatsoever were suggested by the secretary general or anyone at the U.N."

He said he himself had taken the step once he realized the report was to be made public Thursday night. He explained that he thought it was important to maintain their "presumption of innocence" since they had only been accused by an anonymous source.

Otherwise, he said, "It could give the wrong impression that this was an established fact."

The published report makes a single reference to Mr. Shawkat, saying he tried to force Ahmad Abu Adass, a member of a militant Islamic group, to make a false confession at gunpoint. The Mehlis report said that Mr. Adass had nothing to do with the crime.

The report said that the Syrian authorities, after initially resisting, had cooperated "to a limited degree." It specifically accused the country's foreign minister, Farouq al-Shara, of misleading the investigators.

Mr. Mehlis, a 25-year veteran of the Berlin prosecutor's office with a record of solving high-profile terror cases, has had his investigation extended until Dec. 15. It is currently four months old and involves 30 investigators and 70 staff.

In an interview this week with the German news magazine Stern, Mr. Mehlis acknowledged that he knew his report would fuel the American-led campaign against Syria. "I don't want to compare myself to Hans Blix, but I know now how he must have felt," he said. His reference was to the former United Nations arms inspector in Iraq whose findings that there were no unconventional weapons were contested by Washington.

Steven R. Weisman contributed reporting from Birmingham, Ala., for this article.

Japan Today - News - Powell's top aide blasts Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Powell's top aide blasts Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal - Japan's Leading International News NetworkPowell's top aide blasts Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal

Saturday, October 22, 2005 at 08:08 JST
WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's top aide has accused Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of creating a "cabal" that has hijacked U.S. foreign policy.

Retired colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Powell's right-hand man for 16 years in the public and private sectors, also skewered President George W Bush, saying the U.S. leader was "not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either."


"I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran," Wilkerson, who was Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, said Wednesday at a policy forum at the New America Foundation.

"The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process," he said.

"What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made," he said.

The Bush administration "made decisions in secret, and now I think it is paying the consequences of having made those decisions in secret. But far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences," Wilkerson said.

"You and I and every other citizen like us is paying the consequences, whether it is a response to (Hurricane) Katrina that was less than adequate certainly, or whether it is the situation in Iraq, which still goes unexplained."

He added: "So you've got this collegiality there between the secretary of defense and the vice president, and you've got a president who is not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either.

"And so it's not too difficult to make decisions in this what I call Oval Office cabal, and decisions often that are the opposite of what you'd thought were made in the formal process."

He said the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" is influenced by the business world and that Cheney was a member of the "military industrial complex."

"How much influence on their decisions? I think a lot — in how much the decisions reflect their connections with the cartels and the corporations and so forth, I think a lot. I think the president, too," Wilkerson said.

The former top aide, who has criticized the administration in the past, accused the administration of "cowboyism" in its dealings with former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung, who won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, which ushered in a new era of rapprochement between the two Koreas.

"When you put your feet up on a hassock and look at a man who's won the Nobel Prize and is currently the president of South Korea, and tell him in a very insulting way that you don't agree with his assessment of what's necessary to be reconciled with the North, that's not diplomacy, that's cowboyism," he said.

Wilkerson also accused Powell's successor, former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, of cozying up to the president and of being "extremely weak" in her previous post.

As Bush's confidante before becoming secretary of state, "she made a decision that she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president," he said.

The retired officer admitted that his dissenting views have hurt his relationship with Powell. "He's not happy," he said. (Wire reports)

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | US politician praises North Korea

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | US politician praises North Korea US politician praises North Korea
North Korea is committed to dismantling its nuclear weapons programme, an unofficial US envoy has said, after a visit to the capital Pyongyang.

Bill Richardson said he was "very pleased" with North Korea's willingness to make progress in six-nation talks.

Pyongyang has already pledged to abandon its nuclear weapons in an earlier round of the talks.

Mr Richardson, former US ambassador at the UN, said North Korea now wanted to focus on a civilian nuclear programme.

"Their view is that what needs to be addressed is the light water reactor," he said.

North Korea has said it will renounce its nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and security guarantees and foreign help in building a civilian nuclear programme.

Mr Richardson said Pyongyang officials had indicated they may eventually allow US and other monitors into the country to ensure none of the spent fuel from a civilian reactor is diverted to weapons.

'Show of transparency'

Mr Richardson, the governor of the US state of New Mexico, spent several days meeting North Korean officials and touring their nuclear facilities last week.

He later told the South Korean foreign minister that the North had indicated it was willing to comply with international non-proliferation treaties and to allow UN monitoring of its nuclear programme.

"I was impressed with their tone, and their commitment to principles," he told reporters in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Mr Richardson said he had been allowed to tour a nuclear facility in Yongbyon, in an apparent "show of transparency" that "bodes well for six-party talks".

The next round of talks - involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, the US and Russia - will be held in the first week of November, he said.

"My view is that we should not expect an agreement in the next round," he said. "There will be measurable progress that might lead to a future agreement."

Food aid

The nuclear dispute with Pyongyang began in late 2002, when the US accused North Korea of having a uranium-based nuclear arms programme, in violation of international agreements.

Separately, Mr Richardson said North Korea had told him UN food aid workers will be allowed to remain in the country, reversing an earlier threat to kick them out.

In recent years, the UN and other international agencies have been feeding up to six million of the poorest and most vulnerable North Koreans.

Mr Richardson said a new agreement could enable the UN's World Food Programme workers to stay on "under a renewed definition of what development aid is".

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BBC NEWS | Americas | Mexico reels under force of Wilma

BBC NEWS | Americas | Mexico reels under force of Wilma Mexico reels under force of Wilma
Storm surges are reaching as high as the third storey of some hotels as Hurricane Wilma batters Mexico's popular Cancun resort area.

The "extremely dangerous" hurricane is "relentlessly pounding" Cancun and Cozumel, the US hurricane agency said.

Local governor Felix Gonzales said winds of 140mph (225km/h) had damaged buildings considered hurricane-proof.

Hotel windows on the resort island of Cozumel have been shattered, trees and roofs torn down and streets flooded.

Wilma is expected to linger over the Yucatan peninsula for 30 to 36 hours at the weekend, Alberto Hernandez of Mexico's National Meteorological System said.

It was downgraded to a Category Three hurricane early on Saturday as wind speed dropped to 125mph (205km/h).

But the National Hurricane Center in the US still described Wilma as "really clobbering northeastern Yucatan".

It has already left Cancun without electricity and with only sporadic telephone service, with hundreds of power and telephone poles torn down, Mexico's El Universal newspaper reports.


HAVE YOUR SAY
The heavy steel shutters are secured and generators are in place
Patrick Sheehy,
Homestead, Florida

Hundreds of thousands of tourists and residents have moved to shelters in Cancun.

In Cuba, some 370,000 people have been ordered out of the hurricane's path as it lashes western areas with heavy winds and rain.

And people are fleeing their homes in Florida, which the storm is expected to reach early next week.

Slow-moving

Mr Gonzales, governor of Quintana Roo state, said the storm had caused "great destruction".

He said the slow pace of the hurricane made it particularly dangerous.

"The eye is enormous, which means that there will be a six- or seven-hour calm, people will think that the storm has passed but that will not be the case," he said.

With Yucatan airports now closed, tens of thousands of tourists in the area have been moved inland or are now taking cover from the winds.

Conditions in scores of emergency shelters in Cancun and elsewhere are said to be cramped and hot, with no power to run air conditioning.

"I never in my life wanted to live through something like this," cook Guadalupe Santiago told the Associated Press news agency as winds lashed the Cancun hotel where she had taken refuge.

Mexico's President Vicente Fox said he planned to travel to the affected region as soon as possible.

"Now is the time to save lives and protect the population, and we are working on that," he said. "Afterward, we will begin the phase of helping citizens and reconstruction."

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Cancun says the spectacle has remained both dramatic and unchanging for hours, with an increasing amount of debris blown from buildings as they slowly succumb to the storm.

The peninsula and isolated areas of Cuba can expect 25 to 50cm (10 to 20in) of rain by Sunday, with some parts of Cuba hit by up to 100cm (40in), the NHC says.

Huge waves are crashing on to Cuba's westernmost tip, and heavy rains were reported to have cut off several small communities.

Record season

In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush has declared a state of emergency, although mandatory evacuations for Florida Keys residents were put back, as Wilma's slow speed means it may not arrive until Monday.

2005 has been one of the most destructive hurricane seasons on record. Wilma is the 12th of the year - a figure equalled only once, in 1969, since record-keeping began in 1851.

By one measure, Wilma was the strongest ever, with the lowest barometric pressure on record in the Atlantic basin.

Thousands of people died in Central America earlier this month in landslides and floods following torrential rains brought by Hurricane Stan.

Mexico: Tourists told to leave high-risk coastal resorts
Cuba: Coastal residents evacuated and some schools closed
US: Visitors and non-residents ordered to leave Florida Keys
Times: All times GMT

Story from BBC NEWS:

Friday, October 21, 2005

Top Syrian Seen as Prime Suspect in Assassination - New York Times

Top Syrian Seen as Prime Suspect in Assassination - New York TimesOctober 21, 2005
Top Syrian Seen as Prime Suspect in Assassination
By JOHN KIFNER and WARREN HOGE

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 20 - The United Nations investigation into the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon is focusing on the powerful brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as the main suspect, a diplomat with intimate knowledge of the inquiry said Thursday.

The diplomat spoke as a long-awaited United Nations report on the killing made public on Thursday said it was a carefully planned terrorist act organized by high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers.

Though the report did not include names, the diplomat said the investigators were focusing on Syria's military intelligence chief, Asef Shawkat, the president's brother-in-law.

"Their main lead is that he is the ringleader," the diplomat said. "This is where it is heading."

Detlev Mehlis, the United Nations investigator, has been given an extension until December to continue his inquiry. He said his commission had in four months interviewed more than 400 people, reviewed 60,000 documents and arrested four high-level officials of the Lebanese "security and intelligence apparatus."

"There is evidence in abundance," the diplomat said. "But to get every piece of the puzzle they need more time." He spoke on condition of anonymity because of what he described as the extreme sensitivity of the matter.

Mr. Shawkat is considered the second most powerful man in Syria and has been seen as a likely candidate to take over the country if the embattled Mr. Assad were removed from office.

The diplomat, describing Syria as a "country run by a little family clique," said the involvement of any one in Mr. Assad's inner circle would be a severe blow to the government.

"There is absolutely no doubt, it goes right to the top," he said. "This is Murder Inc."

In his report, Mr. Mehlis said the killing last February was carried out by "a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities."

The report said, "There is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act."

The 54-page report said the crime had been planned "over many months" and that the movements of Mr. Hariri and the convoy he traveled in had been closely monitored with his "itineraries recorded in detail."

As evidence of the coordination, the report listed cellphone records that showed close street-by-street observation of his convoy by people planning the killing. It also said the telecommunications antenna near the crime scene had been tampered with.

Mr. Hariri and 15 others died when a bomb blew up his six-car convoy on a downtown Beirut street.

It said the van containing the bomb had earlier been seen in a Syrian military base in Lebanon.

Mr. Mehlis and his investigators spent several days in September interrogating Syrian security officials in a resort near the Syria-Lebanon border, and his report said that leads developed there "point directly towards Syrian security officials as being involved with the assassination."

Indications that the Mehlis report would reveal a Syrian role in the Hariri killing have focused pressure on Mr. Assad and caused intense anxiety in political circles in Damascus and Beirut.

As the investigation tightened this month, the Syrian interior minister, Ghazi Kanaan, who for two decades had called the shots in Lebanon as Syria's virtual proconsul, was found dead in his Damascus office, shot in the mouth with his own pistol.

Syria's official news agency announced that the death had been a suicide.

The United Nations investigators - as well as many Lebanese and Syrians - cast doubt on that account, suspecting instead that he was either killed by government agents or forced to kill himself under some threat.

Investigators had two theories, the diplomat said: "One was that he had either given information to Mr. Mehlis or was about to. The other was that he was involved in plotting a coup."

The United States has sought support from allies in the region to isolate Syria and force Mr. Assad to cease the support and financing of anti-Israel militias and stop what Washington believes is a willingness by Damascus to infiltrate insurgents across its border with Iraq.

John R. Bolton, the United States ambassador, said, "After an initial read, the results are clearly troubling and will require further discussion with the international community."

Diplomats from the United States, Britain and France have been discussing options for action against Syria to be considered next week by the Security Council. Mr. Mehlis will brief the Council on his report on Tuesday.

Among the options are two resolutions that would step up pressure on Damascus to end actions destabilizing the region, according to a European diplomat familiar with talks on the subject between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the French president, Jacques Chirac, in Paris last week.

He said one resolution would be put forward under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which calls for forceful measures like economic and diplomatic sanctions, and the other under Chapter 6, which calls for solutions through negotiation and mediation.

The United States and France sponsored the original resolution in September 2004 calling on Lebanon to reject Syrian interference in its politics and calling on all foreign forces to leave the country. The resolution led to the eventual departure of 20,000 Syrian troops and the virtual end of the decades-long domination of Lebanese politics by Syria.

A second report on Syria originally scheduled for this week, has been put off until next week to avoid what United Nations officials described as a "congestion" of measures dealing with Damascus. That report will verify whether all Syrian troops and intelligence officials have truly withdrawn from Lebanon and track progress in disarming militias as required by a United Nations resolution.

The Mehlis report showed that the commission had discredited a number of other leads and claims of responsibility for the killing that might have been put forward to disguise the real authors of the crime.

Mr. Mehlis said a number of witnesses feared they would be harmed if it became known that they had cooperated with the commission, and said that consequently he had not identified any of them in the report.

He said there were now competent judicial and security authorities in Lebanon to carry forward the investigation with international assistance and support.

Beirut's streets were empty Thursday night as many Lebanese stayed home fearing possible violence resulting from the release of the report. In recent months, a string of bombings have rattled the fragile peace of the city, underscoring the gravity of the political crisis set off by the assassination of Mr. Hariri.

In Beirut, late night traffic on Hamra Street, normally a busy thoroughfare, was little more than a trickle as Lebanese soldiers made spot searches of cars and bicyclists, and armored vehicles patrolled some streets.

A group of young men gathered round a television in a food shop, listening to news of the release of the report but not quite knowing what to make of it.

"Did they name Shawkat?" one man asked.

"I'm not sure," the store owner said.

"Whom did they name?" another asked.

"We don't know yet," said several others as they tried to turn up the volume to listen to the announcer who pored through the report.

Hassan M. Fattah contributed reporting from Beirut for this article.

Reporters sans fronti�res - Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index - 2005

Reporters sans fronti�res - Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index - 2005Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005

North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan are the world’s “black holes” for news

Western democracies slip back, with the US falling more than 20 places

North Korea once again comes bottom of the Reporters Without Borders fourth annual World Press Freedom Index, released today. It is closely followed in the 167-country list by Eritrea (166th) and Turkmenistan (165th), which are other “black holes” for news where the privately-owned media is not allowed and freedom of expression does not exist.

Journalists there simply relay government propaganda. Anyone out of step is harshly dealt with. A word too many, a commentary that deviates from the official line or a wrongly-spelled name and the author may be thrown in prison or draw the wrath of those in power. Harassment, psychological pressure, intimidation and round-the-clock surveillance are routine.

East Asia (Burma 163rd, China 159th, Vietnam 158th, Laos 155th), Central Asia (Turkmenistan 165th, Uzbekistan 155th, Afghanistan 125th, Kazakhstan 119th) and the Middle East (Iran 164th, Iraq 157th, Saudi Arabia 154th, Syria 145th) are where journalists have the toughest time and where government repression or armed groups prevent the media operating freely.

The situation in Iraq (157th) deteriorated further during the year as the safety of journalists became more precarious. At least 24 journalists and media assistants have been killed so far this year, making it the mostly deadly conflict for the media since World War II. A total of 72 media workers have been killed since the fighting began in March 2003.

But more and more African and Latin American countries (Benin 25th, Namibia 25th, El Salvador 28th, Cape Verde 29th, Mauritius 34th, Mali 37th, Costa Rica 41st and Bolivia 45th) are getting very good rankings.
Western democracies slip back

Some Western democracies slipped down the Index. The United States (44th) fell more than 20 places, mainly because of the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and legal moves undermining the privacy of journalistic sources. Canada (21st) also dropped several places due to decisions that weakened the privacy of sources and sometimes turned journalists into “court auxiliaries.” France (30th) also slipped, largely because of searches of media offices, interrogations of journalists and introduction of new press offences.

At the top of the Index once again are northern European countries Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands, where robust press freedom is firmly established. The top 10 countries are all European. New Zealand (12th), Trinidad and Tobago (12th), Benin (25th) and South Korea (34th) are the highest-ranked countries in other continents.
Press freedom, economic development and independence

Countries that have recently won their independence or have recovered it are very observant of press freedom and give the lie to the insistence of many authoritarian leaders that democracy takes decades to establish itself. Nine states that have had independence (or recovered it within the past 15 years) are among the top 60 countries - Slovenia (9th), Estonia (11th), Latvia (16th), Lithuania (21st), Namibia (25th), Bosnia-Herzegovina (33rd), Macedonia (43rd), Croatia (56th) and East Timor (58th).

The Index also contradicts the frequent argument by leaders of poor and repressive countries that economic development is a vital precondition for democracy and respect for human rights. The top of the Index is heavily dominated by rich countries, but several very poor ones (with a per capita GDP of less than $1,000 in 2003) are among the top 60, such as Benin (25th), Mali (37th), Bolivia (45th), Mozambique (49th), Mongolia (53rd), Niger (57th) and East Timor (58th).

Reporters Without Borders compiled this Index of 167 countries by asking its partner organizations (14 freedom of expression groups from around the world) and its network of 130 correspondents, as well as journalists, researchers, legal experts and human rights activists, to answer 50 questions designed to assess a country’s level of press freedom. Some countries are not mentioned for lack of information about them.
How the index was compiled The ranking
N° Country Note
1 Denmark 0,50
- Finland 0,50
- Iceland 0,50
- Ireland 0,50
- Netherlands 0,50
- Norway 0,50
- Switzerland 0,50
8 Slovakia 0,75
9 Czech Republic 1,00
- Slovenia 1,00
11 Estonia 1,50
12 Hungary 2,00
- New Zealand 2,00
- Sweden 2,00
- Trinidad and Tobago 2,00
16 Austria 2,50
- Latvia 2,50
18 Belgium 4,00
- Germany 4,00
- Greece 4,00
21 Canada 4,50
- Lithuania 4,50
23 Portugal 4,83
24 United Kingdom 5,17
25 Benin 5,50
- Cyprus 5,50
- Namibia 5,50
28 El Salvador 5,75
29 Cape Verde 6,00
30 France 6,25
31 Australia 6,50
- South Africa 6,50
33 Bosnia and Herzegovina 7,00
34 Jamaica 7,50
- Mauritius 7,50
- South Korea 7,50
37 Japan 8,00
- Mali 8,00
39 Hong-Kong 8,25
40 Spain 8,33
41 Costa Rica 8,50
42 Italy 8,67
43 Macedonia 8,75
44 United States of America (American territory) 9,50
45 Bolivia 9,67
46 Uruguay 9,75
47 Israel 10,00
48 Bulgaria 10,25
49 Mozambique 10,50
50 Chile 11,75
51 Dominican Republic 12,25
- Taiwan 12,25
53 Cyprus (North) 12,50
- Mongolia 12,50
- Poland 12,50
56 Croatia 12,83
57 Niger 13,00
58 Timor-Leste 13,50
59 Argentina 13,67
60 Botswana 14,00
- Fiji 14,00
62 Albania 14,17
63 Brazil 14,50
- Tonga 14,50
65 Serbia and Montenegro 14,83
66 Ghana 15,00
- Panama 15,00
68 Nicaragua 15,25
69 Paraguay 15,50
70 Romania 16,17
71 Congo 17,00
- Guinea-Bissau 17,00
- Seychelles 17,00
74 Moldova 17,50
- Tanzania 17,50
76 Angola 18,00
- Honduras 18,00
78 Burkina Faso 19,00
- Senegal 19,00
80 Uganda 19,25
81 Lesotho 19,50
82 Central African Republic 19,75
83 Cameroon 20,50
- Liberia 20,50
85 Kuwait 21,25
86 Guatemala 21,50
87 Ecuador 21,75
88 Comoros 22,00
89 Malawi 22,75
90 Burundi 23,00
- Cambodia 23,00
- Qatar 23,00
- Venezuela 23,00
- Zambia 23,00
95 Togo 23,75
96 Jordan 24,00
97 Madagascar 24,50
98 Turkey 25,00
99 Georgia 25,17
100 Kosovo 25,75
- United Arab Emirates 25,75
102 Armenia 26,00
- Gabon 26,00
- Guinea 26,00
- Indonesia 26,00
106 India 27,00
107 Thailand 28,00
108 Lebanon 28,25
109 Chad 30,00
- Kenya 30,00
111 Kyrgyzstan 32,00
112 Ukraine 32,50
113 Malaysia 33,00
- Tajikistan 33,00
115 Sri Lanka 33,25
116 Peru 33,33
117 Haiti 33,50
118 Swaziland 35,00
119 Kazakhstan 36,17
- Morocco 36,17
121 Djibouti 37,00
122 Rwanda 38,00
123 Bahrein 38,75
- Nigeria 38,75
125 Afghanistan 39,17
126 Sierra Leone 39,50
127 Mauritania 40,00
128 Colombia 40,17
129 Algeria 40,33
130 Gambia 41,00
131 Ethiopia 42,00
132 Palestinian Authority 42,50
133 Equatorial Guinea 44,00
- Sudan 44,00
135 Mexico 45,50
136 Yemen 46,25
137 United States of America (in Iraq) 48,50
138 Russia 48,67
139 Philippines 50,00
140 Singapore 50,67
141 Azerbaijan 51,00
142 Bhutan 51,50
143 Egypt 52,00
144 Côte d’Ivoire 52,25
145 Syria 55,00
146 Democratic Republic of Congo 57,33
147 Tunisia 57,50
148 Maldives 58,50
149 Somalia 59,00
150 Pakistan 60,75
151 Bangladesh 61,25
152 Belarus 61,33
153 Zimbabwe 64,25
154 Saudi Arabia 66,00
155 Laos 66,50
- Uzbekistan 66,50
157 Iraq 67,00
158 Vietnam 73,25
159 China 83,00
160 Nepal 86,75
161 Cuba 87,00
162 Libya 88,75
163 Burma 88,83
164 Iran 89,17
165 Turkmenistan 93,50
166 Eritrea 99,75
167 North Korea 109,00

Post provided by Damir Tokic
Communications Law Student

Thursday, October 20, 2005

About.com's Race Relations Guide Discusses Out of Wedlock Births and the African American Community - Printer Friendly

About.com's Race Relations Guide Discusses Out of Wedlock Births and the African American Community Out-of-Wedlock Births and the African-American Community

From Susan Pizarro-Eckert,Your Guide to Race Relations.
Marriage and Parenting in the Black Community
Eugene Cane (an African American writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) tackles the tough social question regarding single parenting in the African-American community. An issue, which he believes has an impact on everything from crime to education to poverty.

"Why are there so many out-of-wedlock births in the African-American community?" He asks, and presents statistics indicating that nearly 70% of black babies are born out of wedlock - surely an incredible figure.

Interviews with 162 low-income white, African-American and Hispanic women in Philadelphia are summarized and synthesized by sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas in a book "Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage," published by the University of California Press.

"Contrary to popular opinion," write Edin and Kefalas, "most 'baby mamas' don't become single mothers because they no longer believe in marriage. The reason is instead attributed to the lack of qualified candidates for establishing a family.

June Perry, Executive Director of New Concept Self Development, a non-profit social service agency offering programs for low-income families, agrees that "Many black women don't have a large pool of candidates for marriage due to social realities." Reasons for the limited pool include lack of employment, incarceration rates, and the general reluctance of black women to marry outside their race are highlighted.

Even Bill Cosby (much to the embarassment and ire of some members of the black community) has confronted the black community and caused controversy, chastising young black men for "beating up your women because you can't find a job," blasting poor parenting in the ghettoes, heaping scorn on Ebonics, and lambasting aimless blacks for squandering the hard-won gains of the civil rights movement.

As for a solution...well, the book suggests that it may be a bit more complicated than asking black women to change their minds and seek to tie the knot.

Senate Fails to Raise Minimum Wage - New York Times

Senate Fails to Raise Minimum Wage - New York TimesOctober 19, 2005
Senate Fails to Raise Minimum Wage
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- Senate proposals to raise the minimum wage were rejected Wednesday, making it unlikely that the lowest allowable wage, $5.15 an hour since 1997, will rise in the foreseeable future.

A labor-backed measure by Sen. Edward Kennedy would have raised the minimum to $6.25 over an 18-month period. A Republican counterproposal would have combined the same $1.10 increase with various breaks and exemptions for small businesses.

The Kennedy amendment to a spending bill went down 51-47, and the GOP alternative 57-42. Under a Senate agreement, they would have needed 60 votes for approval.

Kennedy, D-Mass., said Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the depth of poverty in the country and he pointed out that a single parent with two children working a minimum wage earns $10,700 a year, $4,500 below the poverty line.

He said it was "absolutely unconscionable" that in the same period that Congress has denied a minimum wage increase, lawmakers have voted themselves seven pay raises worth $28,000.

But Republican opponents, echoing the arguments of business groups, said higher minimum wages can work against the poor if they force small businesses to cut payrolls or go out of business.

"Mandated hikes in the minimum wage do not cure poverty and they clearly do not create jobs," said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who offered the Republican alternative.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked Wednesday about Kennedy's measure, said President Bush "believes that we should look at having a reasonable increase in the minimum wage. ... But we need to make sure that, as we do that, that it is not a step that hurts small business or prices people out of the job market."

Enzi's proposal would provide tax and regulatory relief for small business, permit tips to be credited in complying with minimum wage hikes and expand the small business exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It also would have put into law a "flextime" system, opposed by organized labor as an assault on overtime pay, under which workers could work more in one week and take time off the next.

Both proposals, amendments to a fiscal 2006 spending bill, needed 60 votes to pass.

Kennedy, who has campaigned relentlessly for a minimum wage increase, picked up one vote from the 46 votes for a similar measure in March. On Tuesday he modified his proposal, which originally called for a $2.15 increase over 26 months, in hopes of attracting more Republicans.

The first minimum wage of 25 cents an hour was enacted under President Roosevelt in 1938. Congress has since voted eight times to increase it, including under Republican presidents Eisenhower, Ford and George H.W. Bush. Congress approved the last increase in 1996, with the second stage, boosting the rate to $5.15, taking effect in 1997.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages higher than the national level, including Washington State at $7.35, according to the Labor Department. Twenty-six states are the same as the federal level; two -- Ohio and Kansas -- are below; and six do not have state laws.

Also on Wednesday, Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, proposed adding $3.1 billion to the administration's $2 billion request this year for emergency heating assistance for low income families.

"We're about see a second tidal surge from Katrina and Rita," with rising energy costs, Reed said.

A vote could take place Thursday, with GOP leaders saying an emergency spending bill to be taken up soon was a better venue for the heating assistance debate.

Forbes.com - Magazine Article

Forbes.com - Magazine Article

International
Republican Fissures Imperil Bush Agenda
Oxford Analytica, 10.20.05, 6:00 AM ET

President George W. Bush is struggling to contain criticism from conservative activists upset by his decision to nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. The Bush Administration is for the first time facing serious dissent from within the Republican Party.

Bush has experienced a steady decline in political momentum throughout 2005. After setting out an expansive program at home and abroad in his January Inaugural Address and February State of the Union speech, the president struggled to impose his agenda in Congress and rally public support. Despite these setbacks, the broader conservative movement and Republican Party remained essentially loyal to the Administration. Therefore, the present public discontent within the Republican Party is unprecedented during the president's time in Washington. For observers beyond the Washington "beltway," the origins of these troubles may be opaque:

-- Improved Standing. Bush's overall public approval ratings, while unimpressive, have recovered from their nadir during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, an event that embarrassed the White House.

-- Washington Scandals. Several "scandals" have emerged involving figures close to the president, although thus far they have created a greater stir in the Washington press corps than among the public at large.

While these difficulties--and the fear that they might imperil the Republican majorities on Capitol Hill in the November 2006 midterm election--have disturbed conservatives, they are not at the core of current intra-Party warfare. Republican operatives have spent years cobbling together an effective governing coalition. Until now, the White House has been adept at playing to this hard core of conservative support. However, events and White House policy choices have recently aggravated three distinct sections of the conservative movement:

1. Fiscal Conservatives. The "big government" conservatism associated with the Bush White House has long caused resentment among fiscal conservatives. This section of the Republican Party expressed particular distaste concerning:

-- expanded federal funding for education;

-- the addition an expensive prescription-drug benefit package to the to the Medicare old-age health care program; and

-- ballooning federal budget deficits throughout the Bush Administration.

These irritants were tolerated, in part, because of the imperatives of the "war on terror" and the drive to establish a stable Republican majority in Washington. However, victory in the 2004 elections suggested that the latter objective had been secured, and fiscal conservatives began to push for austerity during the Bush second term.

Recently, two factors have pushed fiscal conservatives into open revolt:

Congressional "Pork." There was concern over Bush's July decision to sign the $286 billion Transportation Bill.

Katrina Costs. There was unhappiness over the president's policy to federalize spending on the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

2. Social Conservatives. Bush could afford a degree of discontent among fiscal conservatives, provided that he retained the backing of his socially conservative bedrock. This group was pleased by the Roberts nomination. The political sophistication of that appointment led activists to assume that a similarly effective strategy would be employed to nominate a right wing ideologue to the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. These high hopes caused the overwhelming majority of social conservatives to greet the appointment of Miers with disappointment or outrage. This is a particularly critical nomination, because O'Connor frequently served as a moderate swing vote on the Court. Even those conservatives who are willing to tolerate the Miers appointment have scant enthusiasm for it.

3. Foreign Policy Conservatives. Although it has been less public than either fiscal or social conservative dissent, the course of events in Iraq has exacerbated fissures between traditional foreign policy "realists" and their antagonists in the small, influential faction that provided the primary impetus for the Iraq War. The continued difficulty establishing a secure and stable democratic regime in Iraq has also raised questions about the broader objective of democracy promotion in the Middle East.

These conservative divisions have the potential to cripple the White House political and legislative agenda. The Republican majorities in Congress are not large by historical standards, and may be especially sensitive to internal Party fissures.

Republican infighting presents the White House with both short-term and long-term challenges:

1. Short-Term Hazard. For the moment, the conflict between the White House and social conservatives over the Miers nomination looms large. However, its fallout, either way, will not endure. Bush's vigorous defense of her appointment will either force social conservatives to put aside their doubts, or her nomination will collapse, and a chastened president will be obliged to produce another name more acceptable to his base.

2. Longer-Term Split. The emerging chasm with fiscal conservatives is far more serious. A long-suppressed disagreement about the basic character of Republican government has opened and will not easily be closed. Fiscal conservatives in Congress will attempt to introduce major spending reductions. The initiative will probably earn the support of the majority of the House caucus but be resisted by a coalition of centrist Republicans, leading committee chairmen and Democrats.

3. Subtle Danger. The Administration risks finding itself defending an Iraq policy that is attacked for an overly slow pace of troop withdrawals by Democrats and an overly rapid pullout by the right.

Republican jockeying to succeed Bush further complicates the political picture for the White House. The two most high-profile potential candidates are Sens. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Neither is close to the Party's conservative base. A number of more right wing senators are considering a run, but need to boost their cause by increasing their national name recognition. At the moment, the easiest way to raise their profiles is to support aggrieved conservative constituencies against the White House.

Given that the Administration's current woes are mainly the product of Republican fratricide, there is little incentive for the Democratic Party to inject itself in the debate. Instead, the Democrats will pursue a counter-punching strategy, which includes:

-- vigorously pursuing emerging scandals among the congressional leadership and the Administration;

-- focusing on Miers' inexperience rather than her ideology; and

-- simultaneously portraying Republicans on Capitol Hill as fiscally irresponsible, and callous for cutting social welfare programs such as Medicaid.

The paradox of these internal difficulties for Bush is that they may prove to have little bearing on his public standing in the polls. If the economy strengthens, and the Iraqi security situation improves, it is conceivable that Bush's approval ratings could creep back above 50%.

Emerging divisions within the Republican Party represent a greater danger to the president's capacity to govern than low public opinion-poll ratings. The greatest challenge to his authority may come from fiscal conservatives upset by runaway spending on Iraq, Katrina and social programs, rather than social conservatives challenging Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court.

To read an extended version of this article log on to Oxford Analytica's Web site.

Oxford Analytica is an independent strategic consulting firm drawing on a network of more than 1,000 scholar experts at Oxford and other leading universities and research institutions around the world. For more information please visit www.oxan.com, and to find out how to subscribe to the firm's Daily Brief Service, click here.

Miers Is Asked to Redo Reply to Questions - New York Times

Miers Is Asked to Redo Reply to Questions - New York TimesOctober 20, 2005
Miers Is Asked to Redo Reply to Questions
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers suffered another setback on Wednesday when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to resubmit parts of her judicial questionnaire, saying various members had found her responses "inadequate," "insufficient" and "insulting."

Senators Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the committee chairman, and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat, sent Ms. Miers a letter faulting what they called incomplete responses about her legal career, her work in the White House, her potential conflicts on cases involving the administration and the suspension of her license by the District of Columbia Bar.

Their letter also asked her to provide detailed accounts of private reassurances about her views given by the White House or its allies to some conservative supporters who have been anxious about her positions on abortion and other social issues.

The letter asked Ms. Miers to respond within a week. Mr. Specter said he had scheduled hearings on her confirmation to begin Nov. 7, overruling Democratic objections that they did not have enough information to evaluate her because of her scant record on constitutional issues before joining the White House. Both Mr. Specter and Mr. Leahy said they would not set any deadline for the conclusion of the hearings.

"If the questions are not answered or their answer is incomplete, as they have been, then it's going to be a long hearing indeed," Mr. Leahy said.

Veteran senators and aides said they could not recall another occasion when the committee had sent back a nominee's answers to a questionnaire because they were incomplete. Former Senator Daniel R. Coats of Indiana, the administration's appointed guide for Ms. Miers on Capitol Hill, defended her answers in the Senate questionnaire as a work in progress.

"From the very first, Harriet Miers told Senator Specter that she had years of files to go through and that there would likely have to be a follow-up on some of the questions," Mr. Coats said. "She's more than willing to diligently provide the information as soon as possible. As you know, it's mountains of information."

Mr. Specter, however, has said that Ms. Miers told him last week that she would complete the questionnaire by last Friday.

The do-over of the questionnaire is the latest in a series of problems for Ms. Miers's nomination. Conservative intellectuals have said she is unqualified and have called for her withdrawal. Social conservatives have withheld their support because she lacks a clear record. And this week liberal groups set off alarms over her past opposition to abortion rights.

Ms. Miers sent the senators her own letter acknowledging a separate omission. She wrote that after submitting her answers on Tuesday, "I became aware that, as a result of administrative oversight, my Texas Bar license was suspended from Sept. 1 to Sept. 26, 1989, due to late payment of my bar dues."

Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the White House, said the late payment was the result of an error by Ms. Miers's law firm, which paid its partners dues.

Some of the new questions may be politically challenging for Ms. Miers and the White House. One inquiry in the original questionnaire pointedly asked her about reports that in conference calls with conservative supporters the administration and its allies had offered private assurances about her views on abortion and other matters.

The first part of the question asked if she had made any statement to anyone about how she might rule from the bench, and a second part requested information about "all communications by the Bush administration or individuals acting on behalf of the administration to any individuals or interest groups with respect to how you would rule."

Ms. Miers's one-word answer to both was "No."

The senators repeated the inquiry in their new letter. "This would include any and all communications, including those about which there have been recent press reports, in which friends and supporters of yours, among others, were said to have been asked by the White House to assure certain individuals about your views," they wrote. "If you do not have firsthand knowledge of these communications, please endeavor to determine what sorts of communications, if any, took place."

In a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Specter said, "It's been a chaotic process, very candidly, as to what has happened because of all of the conference calls and all of the discussions which are alleged in the back room."

Mr. Leahy vowed not to allow "quiet promises over conference calls" in the debate on her nomination.

In their letter, Senators Specter and Leahy asked for a more detailed explanation of the constitutional issues Ms. Miers handled as a senior aide or lawyer in the White House. Another question sought related documents that she had helped prepare there. If most of her experience with constitutional law "was gained during your years in the White House," the senators wrote, "it is important that we know more about the specifics of that experience."

The requests could step up a potential clash with the White House, which has sought to withhold such details to protect the confidentiality of its deliberations.

The letter also faulted Ms. Miers, who was President Bush's personal lawyer before entering the White House, for answering a question about potential conflicts of interest on the bench by merely citing ethics laws.

"We are aware of statutes and codes that generally govern these matters," the senators wrote, "but recusal decisions of Supreme Court justices are more complicated because they are not subject to further review."

"Please be more specific," the senators wrote, referring to how she might handle recusals in "cases arising out of matters on which you worked at the White House, or as a lawyer for President Bush in his personal capacity, or in service to his various campaigns."

Democratic aides, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the inquiry, said they had in mind cases arising from antiterrorism legislation or the torture of prisoners of war, among others.

The letter also shined a new light on Ms. Miers's disclosure on Tuesday that while she was in the White House, the District of Columbia Bar suspended her law license briefly for nonpayment of dues.

The senators requested documentation, correspondence and "canceled checks" that might "help us understand the facts and circumstances of your suspension."

The letter repeated a request to list "all litigated matters in which you were involved" and the senators said aides had identified many other cases not in her original reply.

Elisabeth Bumiller contributed reporting for this article.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Japan Today - News - China touts democratic achievements - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - China touts democratic achievements - Japan's Leading International News NetworkChina touts democratic achievements

Send to a friendPrint

Wednesday, October 19, 2005 at 16:01 JST
BEIJING — China issued a lengthy white paper on its democratic achievements Wednesday, a week after a U.S. government and congressional commission issued an even lengthier report detailing what it views as China's lack of democracy.

The 74-page white paper issued by the State Council, titled Building of Political Democracy in China, lists democratic shifts in the ruling Communist Party, the court system and the country's ethnic autonomous regions like Tibet. It calls these advances a contribution to humankind.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Court strips Pinochet of immunity

BBC NEWS | Americas | Court strips Pinochet of immunity Court strips Pinochet of immunity
Chile's former military ruler, Augusto Pinochet, has been stripped of his immunity from prosecution over tax fraud charges.

The ruling, by Chile's Supreme Court, is in connection with an investigation into bank accounts held by General Pinochet overseas.

The charges include tax evasion, filing a false tax return and using false passports to open accounts abroad.

The Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Santiago Court of Appeals.

In September, Gen Pinochet, who is 89 years old, was stripped of his immunity from prosecution in relation to the disappearance of dozens of dissidents during "Operation Colombo" in 1973.

He is currently undergoing new medical tests to determine whether he can stand trial for human rights abuses in relation to this case.

Efforts to try Gen Pinochet on human rights charges have so far failed.

In previous cases, the Supreme Court has lifted Gen Pinochet's immunity from prosecution but later found him unfit to stand trial on medical grounds.

More than 3,000 people died in political violence during his 1973-1990 regime, an official inquiry has concluded.
Story from BBC NEWS:

CBS 46 Atlanta - County hot over ACLU prayer lawsuit

CBS 46 Atlanta - County hot over ACLU prayer lawsuitMarietta
County hot over ACLU prayer lawsuit
Oct 19, 2005, 11:55 AM

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) -- Cobb County officials are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed in August by the Georgia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union charging the county with making "overly Christian" prayers before meetings.

Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens and Cobb Planning Commission Chairman Bob Homan were both named as defendants in the ACLU's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta. Seven Cobb County residents were also plaintiffs in the suit.

The ACLU claims the prayers before commission meetings are too Christian. One prayer ended, "in the name of Jesus our savior," and dozens more since 2003 mentioned Jesus, according to the lawsuit.

The ACLU is not challenging the commission's right to pray before meetings.

In its response to the lawsuit, county officials denied that the prayers alienate certain citizens, said the prayers were not "an unconstitutional endorsement of religion" and did not "trivialize religion."

Prayer continues at county meetings while the lawsuit is pending.

Miers Hits Another Snag as Senators Fault Her Questionnaire - New York Times

Miers Hits Another Snag as Senators Fault Her Questionnaire - New York TimesOctober 19, 2005
Miers Hits Another Snag as Senators Fault Her Questionnaire
By DAVID STOUT

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - The contentious nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court hit another snag this afternoon when both the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Judiciary Committee said her responses to senators' questions had thus far been unsatisfactory.

The committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said Ms. Miers should redo a questionnaire prepared by a bipartisan Senate panel because her initial responses had been insufficient on "many, many of the items."

The ranking Democrat, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, agreed that Ms. Miers's effort on the questionnaire had been "inadequate," adding that some of his Senate colleagues had found her responses "ranged from incomplete to insulting."

But both Mr. Specter and Mr. Leahy rejected any suggestion that the Miers nomination was doomed.

"Give this nominee a chance to be heard," said Mr. Specter, who announced that her confirmation hearings would begin before his committee on Nov. 7, as expected.

Mr. Leahy said he had asked Democratic colleagues to "keep your powder dry, wait till we've had the hearing, and then make up your mind."

But this afternoon's announcement by Senators Specter and Leahy, who by all appearances have an excellent working and personal relationship and praised each other today, is bound to be unsettling for President Bush, who has repeatedly pronounced Ms. Miers, his White House counsel, an outstanding lawyer and a person who deserves to be on the Supreme Court.

Ms. Miers's questionnaire responses were made public on Tuesday. They created a considerable stir, largely because she disclosed that in 1989, while running for the Dallas City Council, she expressed support for a constitutional ban on abortion except to protect the life of the pregnant woman.

The concerns expressed today by Senators Specter and Leahy were more general. For instance, Mr. Specter said Ms. Miers had offered only "a skimpy little group" of cases she had worked on.

Mr. Leahy added: "We don't have enough in this questionnaire, the answers so far, to go forward. That's why we have to have more."

Ms. Miers has never been a judge. In the absence of a judicial "paper trail," some senators have asked the White House to provide more information and documents related to her work there - requests that President Bush has so far resisted on grounds of executive privilege.

Mr. Specter was asked how Mr. Miers's initial responses to questions could have been so sparse, given the White House's comments that she has been actively involved in previous judicial nominations.

"I really can't explain it," replied Mr. Specter, who said earlier that perhaps Ms. Miers needed "a crash course in constitutional law."

The Judiciary Committee has 10 Republicans and 8 Democrats. One Democrat, Charles E. Schumer of New York, said on Tuesday that he was disappointed with Ms. Miers's responses.

Mr. Leahy said today that the questionnaire sent to Ms. Miers was a bipartisan work. "I don't know of anybody who would tell you in that committee that they were satisfied with the responses," he said.

In those responses, Ms. Miers emphasized that courts should not make "social policy," emphasizing the limits of judicial power and placing less emphasis on respect for precedents.

"Parties should not be able to establish social policy through court action, having failed to persuade the legislative branch or the executive branch of the wisdom of their preferred course," she wrote in an echo of conservative arguments against decisions like the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling recognizing abortion rights.

That answer might ease some of the worries on the political right, where much of the criticism of her nomination has emanated, but the lackluster reception for her questionnaire responses over all will probably not quell concerns among either Republicans or Democrats over her qualifications for a lifetime appointment to the most powerful court in the land.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China reaffirms 'no first strike'

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China reaffirms 'no first strike' China reaffirms 'no first strike'
A senior Chinese general has assured US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of Beijing's "no first use" of nuclear weapons policy, reports say.

US officials said Gen Zing Zhiyuan made the remarks when Mr Rumsfeld paid an unprecedented visit to the headquarters of China's nuclear arsenal.

There have been concerns that China might use nuclear weapons if the US intervened in a conflict with Taiwan.

Meanwhile Chinese President Hu Jintao urged better military ties with the US.

In a meeting with Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Hu said although the military relationship had improved in recent years there was still room to expand, US defence officials said.

"All this will better help military forces of our two countries to better enhance mutual understanding and friendship," he said.

They discussed US President George W Bush's visit to Beijing in November and plans to increase military educational exchanges.

Mr Rumsfeld has used the visit to highlight what he describes as a lack of transparency in China's military spending.

Military budget concerns

US officials said Mr Rumsfeld was the first foreigner to visit the Strategic Rocket Forces, at Qinghe outside Beijing, and that previous requests to go there had always been denied.

He was given a briefing on the command's structure and training, but without details about missile numbers.

Gen Jing, quoted by US officials, denied that Chinese missiles were targeting any country.

He also appeared to disavow a statement in June by Gen Zhu Chengzhu that China would have to respond with nuclear weapons if targeted by US forces in a crisis over Taiwan.

Earlier Mr Rumsfeld told his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan that China's recent increases in its defence budget were raising suspicions about its intentions.

But Mr Cao said China's priority was economic not military growth, and denied spending was understated.

"It is not necessary or even possible for us to massively increase the defence budget," he said.

China's official military spending this year is $30bn, but the Pentagon said in June that the real figure was $90bn.

China has consistently increased its defence spending since the 1990s, but Chinese officials say the increase is needed to modernise its armed forces and pay better salaries.

China also says its budget is dwarfed by US military spending, which last year totalled $440bn.
Story from BBC NEWS:

CNN.com - Arrest warrant issued for DeLay - Oct 19, 2005

CNN.com - Arrest warrant issued for DeLay - Oct 19, 2005Arrest warrant issued for DeLay
A routine step before court appearance

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- A Texas court issued a warrant Wednesday for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking, where he is likely to face the fingerprinting and photo mug shot he had hoped to avoid.

Bail was initially set at $10,000 as a routine step before his first court appearance on conspiracy and money laundering charges. Travis County court officials said DeLay was ordered to appear at the Fort Bend County jail for booking.

The warrant was "a matter of routine and bond will be posted," DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said.

The lawyer declined to say when DeLay would surrender to authorities but said the lawmaker would make his first court appearance Friday morning.

The charges against the Texas Republican stem from allegations that a DeLay-founded Texas political committee funneled corporate money into state GOP legislative races through the National Republican Party. Texas law prohibits use of corporate money to elect state candidates.

DeLay is charged with conspiracy to violate state election laws and money laundering, felony counts that triggered House Republican rules that forced him to step aside as majority leader.

Two separate indictments charge that DeLay and two political associates had the money distributed to state legislative candidates in a roundabout way -- sending it from the political action committee in Texas to the Republican National Committee in Washington and finally back to candidates' campaigns.

DeLay has denied wrongdoing.

The effort had major political consequences, first by helping Republicans take control of the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections. The Legislature then redrew congressional boundaries according to a DeLay-inspired plan, took command of the state's U.S. House delegation and helped the GOP retain its U.S. House majority.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Hurricane Wilma 'strongest ever'

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Hurricane Wilma 'strongest ever' Hurricane Wilma 'strongest ever'
Hurricane Wilma, which has swelled into a dangerous Category Five storm, is the strongest hurricane ever recorded, the US National Hurricane Center says.

It says the storm's barometric pressure - a measure of its strength - was the lowest on record in the Atlantic basin.

Its winds of near 175mph (280km/h) and heavy rains are threatening Cuba, Mexico and the Cayman Islands.

At least 11 people in have been killed in Haiti by floods and landslides associated with Wilma.

Forecasters say the hurricane presents a "significant threat" to Florida, which it is expected to hit this weekend.

Officials in the vulnerable Florida Keys island chain have ordered visitors and non-residents to leave.

The Central American states of Honduras and Nicaragua have also issued alerts, and are expecting tropical storm conditions within the next 36 hours.

The hurricane, which was classified as a tropical storm on Tuesday, is expected to dump inches of rain across the region.

In Jamaica, Wilma was blamed for one death after heavy rainfall flooded several low-lying communities, blocked roads and forced 100 people into shelters, according to local officials.

Evacuation

As of 1100 (1500 GMT), the centre of the hurricane was about 325 miles (520km) south-east of Cozumel, Mexico.

Wilma is moving west-north-west at a speed of 7mph (11km/h) towards Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, but is expected to turn north-west in the next 24 hours.

The Mexican authorities have told tourists to evacuate high-risk areas along the coast near the holiday resort of Cancun, AFP news agency reports.

The strong winds have forced music television station, MTV, to postpone its Video Music Awards Latin America, which had been scheduled to take place in the resort of Playa del Carmen.

The storm is the record-tying 12th hurricane of the season, the same number reached in 1969. It is the most for one season since record-keeping began in 1851.

Residents in the Florida Keys have already begun buying emergency supplies.

"People have learned their lesson and know better how to prepare. We're not waiting until the last minute anymore," Andrea Yerger, of Port Charlotte, told the Associated Press news agency.

She was buying material to protect her house, which had to be gutted after suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Charley last year.


HAVE YOUR SAY
The next few days are crucial, but most people are prepared for the worst
Jane Box, Fort Myers, Florida, USA
Wilma has raised concerns regarding oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The areas threatened by the new hurricane are still recovering from the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The authorities in New Orleans have told residents to be ready to evacuate, although Louisiana is not in Wilma's predicted path at present.

Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 1,200 people along the US Gulf Coast in August. Hundreds more died in Mexico and Central America when Hurricane Stan struck early this month.

HURRICANE WILMA, 19 OCTOBER 2005
Source: United States National Hurricane Center

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NPR : Saddam Trial Begins in Baghdad

NPR : Saddam Trial Begins in BaghdadSaddam Trial Begins in Baghdad

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by Anne Garrels

Saddam Hussein speaks to the judge as his trial begins in a courthouse in Baghdad's Green Zone

Morning Edition, October 19, 2005 · Former leader of Iraq Saddam Hussein's trial opened Wednesday in Baghdad. Saddam faces multiple charges of crimes against humanity for ordering a mass killing of Shiite men in 1982.

Saddam refused to acknowledge the tribunal's authority and maintained that he was still the Iraqi president. He and seven associates also on trial face the death penalty if convicted.

NPR : China's Oil Demand Complicates Relations with U.S.

NPR : China's Oil Demand Complicates Relations with U.S.China's Oil Demand Complicates Relations with U.S.

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by Mike Shuster

Morning Edition, October 19, 2005 · This year the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company made a bid to buy the American oil company Unocal, sparking a new controversy between Washington and Beijing and reinforcing that China is a real competitor for oil and energy around the globe. In the third part of his series on China-U.S. relations, Mike Shuster looks at China's growing demand for oil.

No Final Report Seen in Inquiry on C.I.A. Leak - New York Times

No Final Report Seen in Inquiry on C.I.A. Leak - New York TimesOctober 19, 2005
No Final Report Seen in Inquiry on C.I.A. Leak
By DAVID JOHNSTON
and RICHARD W. STEVENSON

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 - The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is not expected to take any action in the case this week, government officials said. A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

A final report had long been considered an option for Mr. Fitzgerald if he decided not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, although Justice Department officials have been dubious about his legal authority to issue such a report.

By signaling that he had no plans to issue the grand jury's findings in such detail, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to narrow his options either to indictments or closing his investigation with no public disclosure of his findings, a choice that would set off a political firestorm.

With the term of the grand jury expiring Oct. 28, lawyers in the case said they assumed Mr. Fitzgerald was in the final stages of his inquiry.

The focus of Mr. Fitzgerald's inquiry has remained fixed on two senior White House aides, Karl Rove, who is President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., who is Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Both had conversations with reporters about a C.I.A. officer whose name was later publicly disclosed.

It is not clear whether Mr. Fitzgerald has learned who first identified the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, to the syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak in July 2003.

Some of the lawyers in the case say Mr. Fitzgerald seems to be wrestling with decisions about how to proceed, leaning toward indictments but continuing to weigh thousands of pages of documents and testimony he has compiled during the nearly two-year inquiry.

In recent days, Mr. Fitzgerald has repeatedly told lawyers in the case that he has not made up his mind about criminal charges.

Mr. Fitzgerald has been investigating whether administration officials deliberately disclosed Ms. Wilson's identity - she is also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame - in response to criticism by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, of the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs before the invasion.

Some lawyers in the case had expressed hope that a final report would provide Mr. Fitzgerald with a vehicle to disclose his investigative findings even if he absolved everyone of wrongdoing. Democrats in Congress had also expressed a desire for such a report, apparently hoping it would offer fresh details about the administration's actions.

Any decision will be announced in Washington and not in Chicago, where Mr. Fitzgerald is the United States attorney, Justice Department officials said.

In his daily news briefing, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday that a successful completion to the inquiry would be one in which Mr. Fitzgerald would "determine the facts and then outline those facts for the American people."

Asked if that meant the White House would favor a public report if there were no indictments, Mr. McClellan said that the decision was Mr. Fitzgerald's, but that "we would all like to know what the facts are."

Such a report could not only show where evidence failed to result in criminal charges, but also make recommendations for changes in law, disciplinary actions or criticize the conduct of public officials whose actions did not rise to the level of criminal behavior.

Given the political ramifications attached to Mr. Fitzgerald's decisions, officials at the White House have begun discussing what would happen if Mr. Rove was indicted.

Among the names being discussed to take some of Mr. Rove's responsibilities should he have to step aside, an outside adviser to the White House said, are Dan Bartlett, currently Mr. Bush's counselor; Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee; and Robert M. Kimmitt, the deputy Treasury secretary.

Under Justice Department regulations, it is not clear whether Mr. Fitzgerald has the authority to issue a final report, even if he wanted to, although he has operated under a broad delegation of authority, issued in a pair of letters by James B. Comey, the former deputy attorney general. Those directives gave Mr. Fitzgerald virtually the same power as the attorney general to conduct criminal inquiries.

But even the attorney general is restricted in what information he can release publicly or present to Congress when it has been obtained, as Mr. Fitzgerald has gathered it, through extensive use of a grand jury, whose proceedings are secret. Even so, some lawyers have argued that Mr. Fitzgerald could issue such a report and have said there is general authority to report his findings if they are requested by Congress.

Without a report, it seems likely that questions about the case may remain unanswered and that a complete account of the administration's activities may never be known, including the details of testimony by the scores of administration officials who were interviewed in the inquiry.

The likelihood that crucial details might be kept secret would be increased if Mr. Fitzgerald brought charges that were narrowly focused on perjury, false statement or obstruction of justice counts involving misstatements by officials in their testimony. But he has also examined broader potential violations, among them whether there was an illegal effort, directed by senior officials, to disclose Ms. Wilson's identity.

Officials who testified or were questioned by investigators also included John Hannah, Mr. Cheney's principal deputy national security adviser.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Cannabis cancer risk played down

BBC NEWS | Health | Cannabis cancer risk played down Cannabis cancer risk played down
Cannabis smoke is less likely to cause cancer than tobacco smoke, a leading US expert says.

Dr Robert Melamede, of the University of Colorado, said that, while chemically the two were similar, tobacco was more carcinogenic.

He said the difference was mainly due to nicotine in tobacco, whereas cannabis may inhibit cancer because of the presence of the chemical THC.

But health campaigners warned against complacency.

Cannabis remains the most commonly-used drug in the UK with one in 10 people using it in the last year, according to the British Crime Survey.

Smoke from tobacco and cannabis contains many of the same carcinogens, and cell damage linked to lung cancer has been found in the lungs of chronic cannabis smokers
Jean King, of Cancer Research UK

The Class C drug, which was downgraded in 2004, has already been linked to mental health problems and breathing difficulties.

But scientists are also exploring whether it can be used to treat a range of conditions, including multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.

Dr Melamede said whereas nicotine activated carcinogenic compounds, THC - one of 60 cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant - had been shown to inhibit them in mice cells.

"Compounds found in cannabis have been shown to kill numerous cancer types including lung, breast, prostate, leukaemia, lymphoma and skin cancer."

But he said the effects of cannabis were complex as evidence also suggested low doses of THC could stimulate growth of lung cancer cells.

Smoking

And he added the two could interact as cannabis was often smoked with tobacco.

"It is possible that as the cannabis-consuming population ages, the long-term consequences of smoking cannabis may become more similar to what is observed with tobacco.

"However, current knowledge does not suggest that cannabis smoke will have a carcinogenic potential comparable to that resulting from exposure to tobacco smoke."

Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, said many of the studies that had looked at the link between cancer and cannabis had used purified cannabinoids.

"Results from such studies may not represent the overall effects of cannabis smoke, which contains more than 400 chemicals.

"Smoke from tobacco and cannabis contains many of the same carcinogens, and cell damage linked to lung cancer has been found in the lungs of chronic cannabis smokers."

And she added there should be no complacency as cannabis was often smoked with tobacco, which is responsible for a quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Japan Today - News - Japanese most popular Asian cuisine in New York, says Zagat - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Japanese most popular Asian cuisine in New York, says Zagat - Japan's Leading International News NetworkJapanese most popular Asian cuisine in New York, says Zagat

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005 at 14:06 JST
NEW YORK — Japanese cuisine is now the most popular Asian food in New York, surpassing Chinese, according to the annual Zagat survey, which was published on Monday.

While five of the top 10 restaurants were French, led by Le Bernadin, five of the top 20 were Japanese, including Masa which boasts a sushi menu that starts at $350 per person.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China calls off Japanese visit

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China calls off Japanese visit China calls off Japanese visit
China has called off a visit by Japan's foreign minister in apparent protest at Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's attending a controversial war shrine.

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura was due in Beijing this month, but a Chinese spokesman said his country was "not in a position to receive him".

Mr Koizumi visited the Yasukuni shrine on Monday, sparking Chinese complaints.

The shrine honours Japan's war dead, including 14 people judged as war criminals after World War II.

Mr Machimura's visit had been intended to repair relations between the two countries, which have been strained by an ongoing row about Mr Koizumi's shrine visits, as well as disputes over gas fields and history text books.

The visit was also intended to pave the way for a meeting between Mr Koizumi and Chinese President Hu Jintao, Japan's JiJi Press reported.


YASUKUNI SHRINE
Built in 1869 to honour victims of the Boshin Civil War
Now venerates the souls of 2.5m of Japan's war dead
Those enshrined include 14 Class A war criminals

Mr Koizumi's latest visit to the Yasukuni shrine came on the same day as China was celebrating the successful return to Earth of its manned Shenzhou VI spacecraft.

"Given the present serious situation of China-Japan relations, this visit is not timely," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan.

His visit "fans the flames of Japan's extreme rightist forces who distort and deny their country's wartime history," Mr Kong added. "We believe such activities will surely result in very serious political consequences."

The Chinese statement came just hours after nearly 200 members of the Japanese parliament also went to the shrine.

The MPs, who include senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, visit the shrine regularly.

Private capacity

Japan's Defence Minister Yoshinori Ono said on Tuesday that Mr Koizumi visited the shrine as a private citizen.

"It is understandable that he went to mourn those who gave their lives for their country and to promise never to go to war again," Mr Ono said.

It was Mr Koizumi's fifth visit to Yasukuni since he became prime minister in 2001.

South Korea has also protested against the latest visit.

A South Korean spokesman said on Monday that President Roh Moo-hyun was unlikely to meet Mr Koizumi for a summit later in the year.

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Japan Today - News - Rumsfeld arrives in China to discuss Taiwan, other issues - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Rumsfeld arrives in China to discuss Taiwan, other issues - Japan's Leading International News NetworkRumsfeld arrives in China to discuss Taiwan, other issues

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005 at 03:00 JST
BEIJING — U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Beijing Tuesday for discussions on military relations and the status of Taiwan. Rumsfeld will meet Wednesday with President Hu Jintao, National Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Vice Military Commissioner Guo Boxiong, officials from the two countries said.

The purpose of Rumsfeld's first China trip is to rebuild military relations that dipped in April 2001 when a Chinese spy plane went down in the South China Sea while trying to chase off a U.S. spy plane near its airspace, the American Forces Press Service said. Control of Taiwan looms as a discussion topic, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said Tuesday at a press briefing.

NPR : U.S. States, Cities Courting Chinese Firms

NPR : U.S. States, Cities Courting Chinese FirmsU.S. States, Cities Courting Chinese Firms

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by Adam Hochberg

All Things Considered, October 18, 2005 · Cities and states that lost manufacturing and textile jobs to Chinese competition are now trying to lure Chinese companies. In South Carolina, a Chinese refrigerator factory has hired 200 people and plans to expand. Governors of other states see potential in China investment as well.

Court Nominee Backed Anti-Abortion Amendment in 1989 - New York Times

Court Nominee Backed Anti-Abortion Amendment in 1989 - New York TimesOctober 18, 2005
Court Nominee Backed Anti-Abortion Amendment in 1989
By DAVID STOUT

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 - President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, Harriet E. Miers, pledged support in 1989 for a constitutional amendment that would ban abortions except when necessary to save the life of the woman.

Ms. Miers expressed her support for such an amendment in an April 1989 survey sent out by Texans United for Life. The disclosure virtually guarantees that Ms. Miers will be questioned heavily during hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on abortion rights and whether she can separate her personal views from legal issues.

As a candidate for a seat on the Dallas City Council, Ms. Miers answered "yes" to the following question: "If Congress passes a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit abortion except when it was necessary to prevent the death of the mother, would you actively support its ratification by the Texas Legislature?"

Ms. Miers answered "yes" to all the organization's questions, including whether she would oppose the use of public money for abortion and whether she would use her influence to keep "pro-abortion" people off city health boards and commissions.

Ms. Miers also said she would refuse the endorsement of any organization that supported "abortion on demand," would use her influence as an elected official "to promote the pro-life cause," and would participate "in pro-life rallies and special events."

But Ms. Miers also took a position that upset some conservatives during the 1989 campaign, saying that she supported equal civil rights for gay men and lesbians, although she did not support repealing a local ban on sodomy.

A copy of the 1989 survey accompanied the 57-page questionnaire that Ms. Miers filled out for the Senate. The Senate questionnaire, made public this morning, includes material ranging from routine biographical data to Ms. Miers's views on "judicial activism."

But Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the Judiciary Committee, was not impressed. "The questionnaire was bipartisan and reasonable, but the answers are disappointing, spare and unilluminating," he said.

Abortion seems likely to be the most contentious issue in the unfolding debate over whether Ms. Miers should be confirmed, especially since she would succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has voted to uphold abortion rights.

Conservatives had hoped that President Bush would nominate an unmistakable, unambiguous conservative, preferably a high-profile jurist or legal scholar, to fill Justice O'Connor's seat, and some have expressed dismay that Ms. Miers, who has never been a judge, has no record of opinions to bolster her beliefs.

When Mr. Bush said recently that Ms. Miers's Christian faith was pertinent to the overall discussion of her fitness to serve on the Supreme Court, his words were widely seen as a signal to conservatives that she would indeed be an anti-abortion justice. But the continuing unease of some conservatives, coupled with the reaction of some politicians who are liberal or middle of the road, raises the fear for Ms. Miers and her backers that she may have opposition across the political spectrum, albeit for different reasons.

But Ms. Miers has her strong supporters as well. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Texas Republicans, spoke on her behalf today in an appearance with a former Texas Supreme Court justice, Raul Gonzalez.

Mr. Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary Committee and a former judge, called the nominee "a consummate professional" who has handled many cases like those that reach the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Hutchison said Ms. Miers was "eminently qualified" and would make "a great justice." And Judge Gonzalez said she was qualified "by any objective criteria - integrity, competence, real-world experience, intellect."

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and a member of the Judiciary Committee, is a strong supporter of abortion rights and pressed Judge John G. Roberts Jr., Mr. Bush's nominee for chief justice of the United States, on the issue. In the end, she voted against Judge Roberts, who was nonetheless confirmed by the full Senate.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, supports the right to abortion. But the other nine Republicans on the committee include some of the Senate's most ardent abortion foes, like Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. The eight Democrats on the committee generally support abortion rights.

Now that the issue of abortion has become central to Ms. Miers's candidacy, she is sure to undergo scrutiny from liberals as well as conservatives, both politicians and non-politicians. The release of the 1989 questionnaire brought a quick reaction from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, whose interim president, Karen Pearl, said the document "raises grave concerns for women's health, rights and safety in this country."

But the chief White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that "Harriet Miers, just like Chief Justice Roberts, recognizes that personal views and ideology and religion have no role to play when it comes to making decisions on the bench."

"The role of a judge is very different from the role of a candidate or a political officeholder," Mr. McClellan said of the 1989 document. "What she was doing in that questionnaire was expressing her views during the course of a campaign. The role of a judge is to apply the law in a fair and open-minded way."

Another subject sure to be debated at her confirmation hearings, which are tentatively set for early November, is that of "judicial activism," a term often used by conservatives to describe what they see as "legislating from the bench." Ms. Miers's comments on judicial activism are sure to be well received by conservatives.

"The role of the judiciary in our system of government is limited," she wrote in the Senate questionnaire. "While its role and its independence are essential to the proper functioning of our tripartite system of government, the courts cannot be the solution to society's ills, and the independence of the courts provides no license for them to be free-wheeling."

Like Judge Roberts, Ms. Miers expressed an appreciation of stability and predictability in the law. "Humility and self-restraint require the judiciary to adhere to its limited role and recognize that where applicable precedent exists, courts are not free to ignore it," she wrote.

On the other hand, she said, there are instances in which revisiting precedent is not only right but necessary. Again like Judge Roberts, she cited the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, in which the Supreme Court unanimously declared public school segregation unconstitutional - and in so doing swept aside a late-19th Century ruling that had upheld "separate but equal" schools.