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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Immigrant Rioting Flares in France for Ninth Night - New York Times

Immigrant Rioting Flares in France for Ninth Night - New York TimesNovember 5, 2005
Immigrant Rioting Flares in France for Ninth Night

AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS, France, Nov. 4 - France's worst urban violence in a decade exploded for a ninth night on Friday as bands of youths roamed the immigrant-heavy, working-class suburbs of Paris, setting fire to dozens of cars and buildings while the government struggled over the violence and the underlying frustrations fueling it.

The unrest, which has also spread to other parts of France with large North African and Arab populations, prompted the American and Russian governments to warn citizens visiting Paris to avoid its poor, outlying neighborhoods. France reduced train service to Charles de Gaulle Airport after two trains became targets of rioters earlier in the week.

A handicapped woman riding a bus in the Sevran suburb suffered burns over 20 percent of her body Thursday night after two youths doused the inside of the bus with a flammable liquid and set it on fire. Youths have also burned cars in Dijon, in the east, and in Marseille, in the south.

The violence has isolated the country's tough-talking, anticrime interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, whom some people blame for having worsened the situation with his blunt statements about "cleaning out" the "thugs" from those neighborhoods.

France has been grappling for years with growing unrest among its second- and third-generation immigrants, mostly North African Arabs, who have faced decades of high unemployment and marginalization. Critics say Mr. Sarkozy's confrontational approach has polarized the communities and the government.

"It's a game that has been started between the youth and Sarkozy," said a French-Algerian man wearing Chanel sunglasses outside Aulnay's mosque, in a converted warehouse. He would give his name only as Nabil. "Until he quits," he said, "it's not going to get better."

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met Friday afternoon with more than a dozen youths from troubled neighborhoods at his palatial offices in central Paris, hoping to find a solution to the unrest. He has promised to put in place an "action plan" before the end of the month to improve conditions in the country's poor neighborhoods.

France's foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, warned Thursday that France risked losing the integration battle in immigrant neighborhoods to radicalization of religious-based movements (diplomatic code for Islamic extremism).

For now, the violence seems to have been the work of unfocused teenagers and young adults without a clear political agenda.

"We see among the rioters kids of 13 to 15, who are swept along, who are encouraged to take all the risks, and the others, the ringleaders, who are used to creating trouble - they terrorize everyone, and don't want to stop," said Franck Cannarozzo, a deputy mayor of Aulnay. "Rather than playing on their Playstations, they attack the police."

The rioting began last week in Clichy-sous-Bois after two teenagers were electrocuted when they hid in an electrical substation from the police. Local youths, who believed the police had chased the boys into the enclosure, took to the streets, setting cars on fire in protest.

This came shortly after Mr. Sarkozy's populist anticrime campaign gathered speed when he declared a "war without mercy" on violence in the working-class suburbs, which were built up during the postwar period to move workers out of the city center and closer to the industrial zones that employed them.

Over the succeeding decades, North African and sub-Saharan immigrants replaced the working-class French who initially populated the neighborhoods. But jobs have dried up as the economy slowed - unemployment in some of the zones is as high as 30 percent - and the suburbs have become the French equivalent of America's inner cities.

While labor immigration tightened in the 1980's, illegal immigration and asylum seekers have kept many of the neighborhoods growing. In 2003, France became the world's leading destination for asylum seekers, surpassing the United States.

Immigration analysts say the current segregation is precursor to an inevitable reshaping of European societies forced to reopen their borders to increase the tax rolls and balance their aging, shrinking populations with immigrants.

Demographic pressures mean North African and sub-Saharan Africans will probably be at the forefront. By many estimates a majority of the 300 million Muslims already living along the Mediterranean's southern rim are under age 20.

Many in those neighborhoods say that they are being stigmatized by the interior minister's campaign and that the increased police presence results in harassment. Even before the deaths that set off the unrest last week, Mr. Sarkozy was pelted with stones and bottles during a highly publicized visit to the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil, where he had gone to outline a new plan to fight crime.

But Mr. Sarkozy has refused to back down, calling for "firmness and justice" in the face of the violence.

His stance has worsened a split in the governing Union for a Popular Majority party between his supporters and those of Mr. Villepin. Both men are vying to become the party's presidential candidate in 2007.

The opposition Socialists, deeply divided since earlier this year over a failed effort to ratify a European constitution, have been quick to capitalize on the unrest, accusing the governing party of neglecting the plight of the disenfranchised French-Arab and French-African youth.

On Thursday, the Interior Ministry released a report on the deaths that touched off the newest rioting, asserting that a third boy who survived the incident had said he and his friends were not being chased and were aware of the danger when they entered the substation enclosure. The report suggested that the boys were hiding from the police because one of those who died had a record of armed robbery and the other was part of a group that had broken into a construction site that evening.

But those points have been lost amid the ensuing violence.

"It's the police who are provoking us," said a bearded man in a white cap and North African robe in Aulnay who would give his name only as Mohamed. "They don't like foreigners."

He said he had moved to France from Algeria in 1971 and lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. All four of his children were born in France, and though he is unemployed, they have all found jobs.

"They say integrate, but I don't understand: I'm already French, what more do they want?" he said. "They want me to drink alcohol?"

Though France has a policy of officially ignoring ethnic differences in favor of French identity, its people have been slow to open their arms to newcomers who are told that they should enjoy the same rights.

"On paper we're all the same, but if your name is Mohamed, even with a good education, you can only find a job as a porter at the airport," said Kader, 23, who works at the airport. He complained that the immigrant suburbs had been neglected by the current government.

While the vast majority of the young people behind the nightly attacks are Muslim, experts and residents warned against seeing the violence through the prism of religion. The cultural divide between these second- and third-generation immigrants and the native French is deeper because they come from Muslim families, but to date the violence has had nothing to do with Islam.

But Islamic radicals recruit in France's troubled neighborhoods, and there is clearly a risk of deepening alienation and anger that could breed more extremism.

Manuel Valls, the mayor of Évry, where dozens of cars have been set afire, said the spreading unrest was more a game of copycats than coordinated action as young people vie to make the evening news. "It's a kind of hit parade by the neighborhoods," he said.

But Mr. Valls said the deeper symptoms of the neighborhoods must be addressed. "Each crisis is bigger, harsher and deeper, more revealing of the failure of our integration model," he said.

Ariane Bernard contributed reporting for this article.

People's Daily Online -- China adopts more pragmatic attitude in regional, international affairs

People's Daily Online -- China adopts more pragmatic attitude in regional, international affairsChina adopts more pragmatic attitude in regional, international affairs
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During the just-ended 10th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian prime ministers in Beijing, China and Russia have reached a series of agreements, from trade and economic cooperation to fight against terrorism, for the in-depth development of bilateral ties.

In the coming weeks, Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and the Republic of Korea, and attend the APEC meeting. US President George W. Bush is expected to start his second official visit to China. Chinese leaders will also participate in the first East Asia Summit in Malaysia in December.

Such frequent visits and international activities embody China's all-round diplomatic strategy with a pragmatic attitude, commented experts on international relations in Beijing.

Ruan Zongze, deputy director of China Institute of International Studies, said a flurry of major diplomatic activities reflect China's pursuit of a sound international environment crucial for the country's steady and peaceful development.

"Great differences exist among neighbours of China, a fact that requires China to give top priority to its relations with neighbouring countries," Ruan said.

At the same time, many of China's neighbours pin hopes on the country, as its rapid economic growth has become a power engine that helps drive the growth of its neighbours' economy, said Ruan.

As a perfect model of China's foreign policy toward its neighbours, the China-Russia strategic partnership of cooperation has, in recent years, witnessed remarkable progress thanks to a frequent exchange of high-level visits and intensified coordination in regional and international affairs between the two countries.

The ASEAN nations, China's major neighbours, are also assuming importance in China's foreign policy.

In his meeting with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a week ago, President Hu said China is ready to enhance communication and coordination with the ASEAN members in an effort to push forward the establishment of a China-ASEAN free trade area and East Asia regional cooperation.

China and ASEAN declared a strategic partnership in 2003 and a China-ASEAN free trade area is scheduled to be set up before 2010.

The Chinese president also mentioned China attaches importance to the first East Asia Summit, respects the consensus reached by the ASEAN members, and supports ASEAN's leading role in the summit for the meeting's success.

The inaugural East Asia Summit will be held in Malaysia on Dec. 14, at which the ASEAN members will meet China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

In addition to the steady development of its relations with neighbouring countries, China also commits itself to enhancing communication with major countries in the world in an effort to expand common interests and properly handle disputes.

Since the beginning of this year, President Hu has visited countries and regions in South East Asia, Central Asia and North America. He also held talks with leaders of other countries at the Asia-Africa Summit, the G8 plus five summit and the UN summit meeting.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said the upcoming tour, which starts next Tuesday and will bring Hu to Britain, Germany and Spain, will not only help beef up the cooperation between China and these countries in economic, sci-tech, education and cultural sectors, but also conduce to cementing political mutual trust.

In a few weeks, the planned visit of President Bush to China will definitely be a significant event in China's foreign affairs at the end of the year, as the China-US exchange of visits has always been a focus of public attention.

In September, President Hu met with President Bush in New York and the two agreed to further improve exchanges to expand consensus and cooperation. Bush said he was planning to visit China in November after a summit of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in the Republic of Korea.

It is believed that the upcoming meeting between the two presidents in such a context will play a positive role in eliminating doubts and enhancing mutual trust, so as to help set up a new mode of cooperative relations between the two countries.

Source: Xinhua

Hemisphere Summit Marred by Violent Anti-Bush Protests - New York Times

Hemisphere Summit Marred by Violent Anti-Bush Protests - New York TimesNovember 5, 2005
Hemisphere Summit Marred by Violent Anti-Bush Protests

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina, Nov. 4 - President Bush's troubles trailed him to an international summit meeting here on Friday as anti-Bush protesters turned violent just blocks from the gathering site, and Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's fiery populist leader, rallied a soccer stadium filled with at least 25,000 people against the United States.

Mr. Chávez, who has tried to use the summit meeting to stage a showdown with Mr. Bush, pronounced dead a free trade accord backed by Mr. Bush, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Left-wing groups throughout Latin America have long opposed the agreement, and some governments want more generous terms from Washington, so Mr. Bush had come here with hopes of jump-starting the stalled negotiations.

With the two-day summit meeting scheduled to end Saturday, negotiators were still struggling to find language endorsing the concept of free trade that would satisfy both the United States, its chief booster, and skeptics such as Brazil and Argentina, who have complained of American agricultural subsidies.

"Every one of us has brought a shovel, because Mar del Plata is going to be the tomb of F.T.A.A.," Mr. Chávez said. "F.T.A.A. is dead, and we, the people of the Americas, are the ones who buried it."

Several hundred rioters, separate from the crowd at the stadium, smashed windows, looted stores, chanted anti-Bush slogans and threw rocks at the police. Others lobbed gasoline bombs into a bank, causing a fire that destroyed the interior of the ground floor.

Mr. Bush spent his day away from the cacophony in the streets, either in meetings with Latin American leaders at the Sheraton Mar del Plata, on a heavily guarded bluff overlooking the Atlantic, or behind the barricades at the summit sessions.

The two were together in a group session, but Mr. Bush has so far refused to engage Mr. Chávez, and has tried to press the official summit themes of creating jobs and promoting democracy.

The president told reporters that if he saw the Venezuelan leader at the summit, "I will, of course, be polite." Mr. Bush added, "That's what the American people expect their president to do, is to be a polite person."

Mr. Bush, who polls show is the most unpopular American president ever among Latin Americans, appeared to acknowledge the ruckus he was at the center of when he made a morning appearance with Argentina's president, Néstor Kirchner, the host of the gathering.

"It's not easy to host all these countries," Mr. Bush said, addressing Mr. Kirchner. "It's particularly not easy to host, perhaps, me."

Beyond the economic issues, Mr. Bush was also trying to put political and personal relations with Latin America back on a positive track. As a candidate, he promised a new era of closer, more respectful, foreign relations, but governments in the region have complained consistently that what they got instead was neglect and indifference, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that made terrorism the focus of American foreign policy.

The Bush administration sought Friday to play down the protests, although the one official who directly addressed them on Friday, Thomas A. Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, spoke before the demonstrations became violent.

"I would just note that the kinds of demonstrations that we're going to see here in Mar del Plata are not unusual around these kinds of larger international gatherings," Mr. Shannon told reporters, in response to questions about the peaceful rally in the soccer stadium.

Police officers in riot gear responded with tear gas, and the violence appeared to be under control by evening. Banners carried by the looters and the graffiti they left on building walls indicated that they were members of several radical labor unions and far-left political parties that in the past have clashed with Mr. Kirchner.

The violence broke out at almost exactly the same time that Mr. Kirchner was delivering his welcoming speech to the gathering of 34 Western Hemisphere leaders, the Summit of the Americas, in the Teatro Auditorium, part of this resort city's heavily barricaded beachfront casino complex.

As the violence flared, Mr. Bush and the other leaders remained inside at the gathering.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Chávez, Mr. Bush's chief antagonist in Latin America, addressed some 25,000 peaceful protesters for more than two hours in the city's main soccer stadium. Mr. Chávez also accused the Pentagon of having a secret plan to invade his oil-rich country, similar to charges, always denied by the United States, that Mr. Chávez has made in the past.

"If it occurs to American imperialism, in its desperation, to invade Venezuela, a 100-years' war will begin," he said. Calling for Latin American unity in the face of what he described as American hegemony, he also said that "either our nation will be free or a flag will wave over its ruins. But we will not be a North American colony."

Before Mr. Bush left on his trip, he brushed off a question about possible protests during an interview with reporters from Latin American publications.

"Look, I understand not everybody agrees with the decisions I've made, but that's not unique to Central or South America," Mr. Bush said. "Truth of the matter is, there's people who disagree with the decisions I've made all over the world. And I understand that. But that's what happens when you make decisions."

There were also protest marches in Buenos Aires, the capital, where a branch of BankBoston and some fast food outlets, including a McDonald's, were attacked in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, a major teachers union announced a one-day strike to protest Mr. Bush's presence in Argentina.

In Mar del Plata, a favorite vacation spot south of Buenos Aires for middle-class Argentines, the violent protesters first made their way to the steel barriers marking the security perimeter around the summit site. At first, witnesses said, they merely threw rocks and gasoline bombs at police officers at the checkpoint and chanted slogans attacking Mr. Bush.

The riot police appeared after the attack on the bank and began to fire tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, forcing the protesters, most wearing ski masks or kerchiefs to hide their identity, to pull back. But as they did so, they attacked more than 50 of other stores and businesses, shattering windows and piling furniture, papers and computers in the street, where they were set ablaze.

Nearly all of those directly involved in the attacks seemed to be young men, some of them armed with truncheons, pipes, and slingshots that fired metal screws and bolts, others simply throwing rocks, bricks or chunks of concrete. The police said that more than 60 arrests were made.

At Mr. Chávez's peaceful rally, the Venezuelan president nonetheless mocked and taunted Mr. Bush, mostly without referring to him by name and occasionally just calling him "Mister," in English. Latin American presidents should keep their distance from the American leader, Mr. Chávez said, "because one by one, Bush's puppets have fallen."

As Mr. Chávez spoke, he was interrupted by chants from the crowd mocking Mr. Bush. Every mention of Fidel Castro, in contrast, was cheered, as were frequent references by Mr. Chávez to his desire to unite all of Latin America in a new wave of socialism.

"Chávez's is a voice that represents the entire Latin American community and the values we uphold, from national sovereignty to economic independence," said Silvio Torres, a 29-year-old government worker. "Would that every country were fortunate enough to have a leader like him."

Mr. Chávez's rally at the soccer stadium was preceded by a long march in a cold rain through the near-empty streets of this resort, Fearing violence and clashes with the police, many store owners along the route had closed their businesses and boarded up their windows. But that demonstration, at least, was entirely peaceful.

The thousands of protesters carried banners calling Mr. Bush a "fascist," "child-killer" or "genocidal beast," some with the "s" in his named replaced by a dollar sign or a swastika.

One marcher, Rafael Abu-Adal, a 52-year-old teacher from Buenos Aires, carried an Iraqi flag. His objective, he said, was not only to express solidarity with the Iraqi people, but also to draw a parallel to Latin America's situation.

"They are victims of American imperial power, and we are potential victims," he said. "Bush has destroyed their country with bombs, and unless we stop him, he will destroy ours through F.T.A.A."

Court Nominee Has Paper Trail Businesses Like - New York Times

Court Nominee Has Paper Trail Businesses Like - New York TimesNovember 5, 2005
Court Nominee Has Paper Trail Businesses Like

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 - Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. has reliably favored big-business litigants as he has pushed the federal appeals court in Philadelphia in a conservative direction.

His extensive paper trail of 15 years of opinions reveals a jurist deeply skeptical of claims against large corporations. A review of dozens of business cases in which Judge Alito has written majority or dissenting opinions or cast the decisive vote shows that, with few exceptions, he has sided with employers over employees in discrimination lawsuits and in favor of corporations over investors in securities fraud cases.

Judge Alito, President Bush's choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, cast the decisive vote in a case involving a major steel company, and in another involving a large chemical maker, over environmentalists in pollution cases.

He has set aside punitive damages in some cases and reduced them in others; has handed down dissents that, if they became law, would impose higher burdens for workers to successfully sue their employers for discrimination; and has routinely upheld restrictive arbitration clauses that have limited the remedies available to plaintiffs. (In a rare instance of setting aside an arbitration decision, he reversed an arbitration panel that had ordered the reinstatement of an intoxicated seaman on a moored oil tanker against the wishes of his employer, Exxon.)

In several cases, Judge Alito has found for the defendants facing accusations of antitrust violations, including one case in which he twice found in favor of a monopolist, 3M. (In that case, LePage's v. 3M, his view was rejected by a vote of 7-to-3 by the full circuit.) And by articulating a narrow view of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, he is viewed as a judge who would be skeptical of the involvement of federal regulators in matters he views to be strictly within the province of state officials.

It is such business cases, which arise far more often than privacy and abortion cases, that are the bread and butter of the appeals courts and the Supreme Court. And, according to his supporters and detractors, it is where Judge Alito has left his mark in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Judge Alito's record in business cases presents some political strengths and weaknesses as he heads into his confirmation hearing, scheduled to begin Jan. 9. Major business groups are preparing to spend millions of dollars to lobby on his behalf, and may help him with pivotal Democrats. Liberal groups, meanwhile, have begun to cite his record to make the case that he is insensitive to the plight of minorities and the environment.

The judge's reputation over the last 15 years was such that corporate lawyers relished the prospect of his participation in cases, while plaintiff's lawyers hoped to avoid him.

"We're always happy to see Judge Alito on the panel," said Robert C. Heim, the head of the litigation department at Dechert, a large law firm based in Philadelphia that represents some of the nation's largest corporations, typically facing accusations of antitrust, securities or corporate law violations. "He's generally a good judge for the cases we argue because we generally argue that the state of law does not favor the case that the plaintiffs are making and he's generally very receptive to that. He doesn't give an expansive reading to antitrust laws or securities laws."

Officials at the National Association of Manufacturers and the United States Chamber of Commerce said that as they combed through his record, they had been favorably impressed with what they had learned.

"He has come down on a host of issues in a way that the business community would prefer," said Robin Conrad, senior vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the legal arm of the United States Chamber of Commerce, who has been researching Judge Alito's opinions. "This is not a guy who is going to go off the reservation."

Officials at the National Association of Manufacturers, which is also expected to endorse the nomination formally in the coming weeks, agreed.

"Judge Alito has a reputation for strict interpretation of the Constitution, and that stands him in good stead with us," said John Engler, the association's president and a former Republican governor of Michigan.

Lawyers for organizations often on the other end of lawsuits involving businesses are alarmed about Judge Alito's record.

"We're concerned, based on his record, about what his appointment would mean for access to the courts by the people we represent," said Glenn Sugameli, senior litigation counsel at Earthjustice, a law firm that represents environmental groups and individuals seeking enforcement of environmental laws. "We're also concerned, based on his record, that his interpretation of the Commerce Clause threatens the enforcement of such laws as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act."

To be sure, in a small handful of instances the judge has ruled against the interests of business. In 1991, a year after he got to the bench, for instance, he issued a dissent in which he ruled that foreign seamen on American-flag ships should be covered by the minimum wage provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act. And in a dissent from a 2000 decision, he interpreted the statute-of-limitations provision of a race discrimination law to the benefit of the plaintiff in an employment case. In a third case, he voted with two other judges to dismiss an industry challenge to tougher environmental law standards in coal mining.

But those three cases, Cruz v. Chesapeake Shipping, Zubi v. AT&T, and Pennsylvania Coal Association v. Bruce Babbitt, are considered by both supporters and critics to be exceptions.

Cases favoring the defendant companies, like Sheridan v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Bray v. Marriott Hotels are far more prevalent. In Sheridan, 12 judges on the Third Circuit said that a hotel employee, Barbara Sheridan, had provided enough evidence of sex discrimination to permit her lawsuit to proceed to trial. Judge Alito, the sole dissenter in the case, would have made it easier for a defendant to rebut claims such as the one brought by Ms. Sheridan.

Similarly, Judge Alito found himself in dissent in Bray, another case involving a hotel worker making a claim of discrimination. The majority opinion sharply criticized Judge Alito's dissent, saying it "would immunize an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer's belief that it had selected the 'best' candidate, was the result of conscious racial bias."

In securities law cases, Judge Alito has taken a similarly dim view of some of the lawsuits brought by investors. In one case, In Re Burlington Coat Factory, for instance, investors filed a securities fraud suit after the company's stock dropped precipitously following poor earnings that came after favorable projections by company executives.

Dismissing the case in part on the grounds that it failed to satisfy Rule 9 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which governs pleading requirements in fraud cases, Judge Alito wrote: "To allow plaintiffs and their attorneys to subject companies to wasteful litigation based on the detection of a few negligently made errors found subsequent to a drop in stock price would be contrary to the goals of Rule 9 (b), which include the deterrence of frivolous litigation based on accusations that could hurt the reputations of those being attacked."

In environmental law, Judge Alito has generally also followed a narrow reading of the law. He cast a deciding vote in a 1997 case, Public Interest Research Group v. Magnesium Elektron, which dismissed a $2.6 million fine against the company for violating the Clean Water Act and found that the public interest group did not have the authority to bring a lawsuit. In other environmental cases, like W.R. Grace v. E.P.A., and United States v. Allegheny Ludlam, he has sided with large corporations seeking to overturn fines and remedial actions ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Should Repay Millions to Iraq, a U.N. Audit Finds - New York Times

U.S. Should Repay Millions to Iraq, a U.N. Audit Finds - New York TimesNovember 5, 2005
U.S. Should Repay Millions to Iraq, a U.N. Audit Finds

An auditing board sponsored by the United Nations recommended yesterday that the United States repay as much as $208 million to the Iraqi government for contracting work in 2003 and 2004 assigned to Kellogg, Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary.

The work was paid for with Iraqi oil proceeds, but the board said it was either carried out at inflated prices or done poorly. The board did not, however, give examples of poor work.

Some of the work involved postwar fuel imports carried out by K.B.R. that previous audits had criticized as grossly overpriced. But this is the first time that an international auditing group has suggested that the United States repay some of that money to Iraq. The group, known as the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq, compiled reports from an array of Pentagon, United States government and private auditors to carry out its analysis.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton, Cathy Mann, said the questions raised in the military audits, carried out in a Pentagon office called the Defense Contract Auditing Agency, had largely focused on issues of paperwork and documentation and alleged nothing about the quality of the work done by K.B.R. The monitoring board relied heavily on the Pentagon audits in drawing its conclusions.

"The auditors have raised questions about the support and the documentation rather than questioning the fact that we have incurred the costs," Ms. Mann said in an e-mail response to questions. "Therefore, it would be completely wrong to say or imply that any of these costs that were incurred at the client's direction for its benefit are 'overcharges.' "

The Pentagon audits themselves have not been released publicly. Ms. Mann said Kellogg, Brown & Root was engaged in negotiations over the questioned costs with its client in the work, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Developmentas been set for resolution of these issues," Ms. Mann said. The monitoring board, created by the United Nations specifically to oversee the Development Fund - which includes Iraqi oil revenues but also some money seized from Saddam Hussein's government - said because the audits were continuing, it was too early to say how much of the $208 million should ultimately be paid back.

But the board said in a statement that once the analysis was completed, the board "recommends that amounts disbursed to contractors that cannot be supported as fair be reimbursed expeditiously."

The K.B.R. contracts that have drawn fresh scrutiny also cover services other than fuel deliveries, like building and repairing oil pipelines and installing emergency power generators in Iraq. The documents released yesterday by the monitoring board did not detail problems with specific tasks in those broad categories, but instead summarized a series of newly disclosed audits that called into question $208,491,382 of K.B.R.'s work in Iraq.

A member of the monitoring board said questions about the contracts "had been lingering for a long time." Once the audits are completed, said the board member, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to be seen as speaking for the United Nations, the results will give the Iraqi government "the right to go back to K.B.R. and say, 'Look, you've overbilled me on this, this is what you could repay me.' "

The monitoring board authority extends only to making recommendations on any reimbursement. It would be up to the United States government to decide whether to make the payments, and who should make them. But Louay Bahry, a former Iraqi academic who is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the board's findings would stoke suspicions on the street in Iraq, where there had always been fears that the United States invaded the country to control its oil resources.

"Something like this will be caught in the Iraqi press and be discussed by the Iraqi general public and will leave a very bad taste in the mouth of the Iraqis," Mr. Bahry said. "It will increase the hostility towards the United States."

The audits may also come at a bad time for the Bush administration, since Vice President Dick Cheney's former role as chief executive of Halliburton has led to charges, uniformly dismissed by Mr. Cheney and the company, that it received preferential treatment in receiving the contracts. The early Kellogg, Brown & Root contracts in Iraq were "sole sourced," or bid noncompetitively.

"The Bush administration repeatedly gave Halliburton special treatment and allowed the company to gouge both U.S. taxpayers and the Iraqi people," Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, said in a statement on the new audits. "The international auditors have every right to expect a full refund of Halliburton's egregious overcharges."

Some of those contracts were paid for with American taxpayer money, but others were financed by Iraqi oil proceeds. Because the monitoring board was created to oversee those proceeds, its audits focus only on the work that was financed with Iraqi money. The board consists of representatives from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Iraqi government.

Besides the Pentagon audits, reports from the private auditing firm K.P.M.G. and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a United States government office, were used by the monitoring board.

Because Kellogg, Brown & Root employs K.P.M.G. separately for its own internal audits, the firm recused itself from some of the work on K.B.R. The recusal temporarily threw some of the auditing work into disarray, since K.P.M.G. had initially said that the conflict would not prevent it from proceeding. Ultimately, the special inspector general took over some of the work that K.P.M.G. dropped.

But some of the K.P.M.G. audits that were carried out, relying on Iraqi ministry documents, turned up what appears to be clear evidence of mismanagement and corruption among Iraqi officials that was apparently unrelated to the K.B.R. work. In its report on the Iraqi Oil Ministry, the auditing firm used the euphemism "nonrefundable fees" for bribes in the awarding of oil contracts. "We found two cases," the report said, "where nonrefundable fees ($10,000 and $20,000) were charged to obtain tender documents (total contract value $150,302,897)."

Other entries suggest the existence of $600,000 in ghost payrolling in the Electricity Ministry and additional evidence of bribes.

The K.P.M.G. audits also show ample evidence of the chaos that permeated the early reconstruction effort in Iraq, with paperwork on hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts won by firms other than K.B.R. that were lost or never completed, making it difficult or impossible to tell if the work was carried out properly.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Japan Today - News - Thailand expands martial law zone in troubled south - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Thailand expands martial law zone in troubled south - Japan's Leading International News NetworkThailand expands martial law zone in troubled south

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Friday, November 4, 2005 at 07:11 JST
BANGKOK — Thailand expanded Thursday the area of its troubled south covered by martial law, Thai army spokesman Col Acara Tiprote said.

He said the commander of the 4th Army Region imposed martial law on the Chana and Thepha districts in Songkhla Province because it is believed militants have been hiding weapons in the areas.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan 'water hose' jailors freed

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan 'water hose' jailors freed Japan 'water hose' jailors freed
Two Japanese prison guards have walked free from court despite being found guilty of killing an inmate by spraying him with a high-pressure hose in 2001.

Mikio Otomaru was given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, and Masahiro Takami a 14-month jail term, suspended for three years.

The judge backed the defence argument that the two men were trying to clean the victim and did not intend to kill.

Human rights groups regularly criticise the treatment of prisoners in Japan.

Nagoya District Court Judge Hideki Shibata said Otomaru and Takami, guards at Nagoya Prison, had tried to clean the 43-year-old victim, but that "it was done in an inadequate way that amounts to assault".

"It can be highly presumed that the inmate died as a result of the water discharge."

The men sprayed the inmate's bare buttocks which inflicted severe damage to his anus and rectum and he died the following morning of a bacterial infection.

"We can imagine the mortification of the inmate who died in humiliation," Mr Shibata said.

Appeal planned

Human rights activists criticised the ruling.

"From what we've heard from former prisoners, they were subjected to various kinds of abuse in the prison," said Makoto Teraoka, with Amnesty International Japan.

"That the judge did not recognise this as a form of punishment in his ruling was extremely regrettable."

Nagoya Prison has been at the centre of a series of abuse allegations.

Five other prison guards are currently on trial over the death and injury of two inmates who were restrained with leather handcuffs.

And a British man who was released from four years in the jail two years ago claimed he was beaten and feared for his life.

In May, after widespread criticism over the hosing death, Japan revamped its prison law for the first time since 1908, in order to clarify the rights of prisoners and to require guards to be trained in human rights.

Story from BBC NEWS:

NPR : Ex-Powell Staffer Discusses Cheney Role in Iraq War

NPR : Ex-Powell Staffer Discusses Cheney Role in Iraq WarEx-Powell Staffer Discusses Cheney Role in Iraq War

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Morning Edition, November 3, 2005 � Steve Inskeep talks with Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, about the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney's office over Iraq war policy. Wilkerson claims the vice president and others bypassed the rest of the government to control key decisions.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NPR : After Riots, Leaders Appeal for Calm in Paris

NPR : After Riots, Leaders Appeal for Calm in ParisAfter Riots, Leaders Appeal for Calm in Paris

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by Eleanor Beardsley

All Things Considered, November 2, 2005

Politicians and community leaders appeal for calm in Paris after six nights of rioting. The violence comes after two teenagers of African origin died while apparently fleeing police. Most of the protesters are immigrant youths, who say they suffer discrimination by French society and the police.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | World Bank warns of bird flu cost

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | World Bank warns of bird flu cost World Bank warns of bird flu cost
A bird flu pandemic would lead to "enormous global costs" for the world economy, a new World Bank report says.

In a study of East Asian economic performance, the World Bank identified bird flu as a "large shadow" already affecting growth in some areas.

Tourism, transport and retail sectors would all suffer if a pandemic broke out, while East Asia's poultry industry is already struggling, the bank said.

The warning came as regional leaders met for talks dominated by bird flu.

The World Bank predicted that East Asian economic growth would slow during 2006, but would suffer much more if a pandemic erupted.

"One large shadow looms over the generally positive economic outlook we have sketched out... and that is avian flu," said World Bank economist Homi Kharas.

In a separate analysis, the Asian Development Bank warned that the economic damage from a pandemic could be as high as $282bn (£158bn), assuming 20% of the region's population falls ill.

'SARS effect'

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 60 people in South East Asia since late 2003.

The foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam have agreed to co-operate closely to control the spread of the disease and develop a human vaccine.

Poultry stocks in Vietnam and Thailand have already fallen by 15% to 20% as a result of the disease and control measures such as culling.

Principally an avian disease, first seen in humans in Hong Kong in 1997
Almost all human cases thought to be contracted from birds
Possible cases of human-to-human transmission in Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam, but none confirmed

Further talks are expected in the prime ministers' meeting in Bangkok on Thursday.

The World Bank urged the international community to avert a possible catastrophe.

"There are great uncertainties about the timing, virulence and general scope of a future human flu pandemic," the report said.

"But all agree it could lead to at least several million human deaths."

Individual efforts to avoid infection, as well as official quarantines and travel restrictions, would have an immediate impact on the economy, the report added.

The short term effect of the pneumonia-like disease SARS in 2003 was, the report says, equivalent to about 2% of incomes in East Asia. SARS killed about 800 people.

China slowing

Without a bird flu pandemic, the report is more positive, noting that economies in East Asia have adjusted well to some fairly serious shocks, notably the doubling of oil prices.

Economic growth across the region is forecast to slow to 6.2% this year from 7.2% in 2004 but remain at the same level in 2006.

A combination of rising oil prices, a slowdown in the high-tech sector and a dip in Chinese consumer demand has subdued exports.

China's efforts to cool its unbridled economic expansion could prove partially successful, the World Bank said.

Its annual growth is expected to slow to 8.7% in 2006 from 9.3% this year, signalling a "very soft landing" for its economy.

Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Americas | Ex-White House aide due in court

BBC NEWS | Americas | Ex-White House aide due in court Ex-White House aide due in court
One of the most powerful officials of the Bush administration until he resigned last week, Lewis Libby, is due to make his first appearance in court.

Mr Libby, who was chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, faces five counts of perjury, making false statements and obstructing justice.

He denies the charges, which arise from an investigation into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

Her husband - a former ambassador - had criticised the case for invading Iraq.

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says court proceedings in the US capital are not routinely televised, so the administration should be spared the embarrassment of TV pictures showing a senior official in the dock.

But he adds that this day is still an unhappy one for the Bush administration.

Trial date

There is still no word on whether the president's chief political aide, Karl Rove, will also face legal action. His role in the affair is under review.

Mr Libby is expected to plead not guilty and be granted continuing bail.

A date is likely to be set for his full trial.

At that trial, several White House witnesses may be called, including Mr Cheney.

Mr Libby faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted but it is widely believed that, if jailed, Mr Libby would be pardoned by President George W Bush when he leaves office.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Monday, October 31, 2005

NPR : Bush Taps Alito for Supreme Court Vacancy

NPR : Bush Taps Alito for Supreme Court VacancyLegal Affairs
Bush Taps Alito for Supreme Court Vacancy

by Laura Sullivan

President Bush and Judge Samuel Alito, the new Supreme Court nominee

Judge Samuel Alito, right, speaks to reporters at the White House after President Bush announced Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, Oct. 31, 2005. Reuters

About Samuel Alito

Age, Birth Date: 55; April 1, 1950 in Trenton, N.J.

Education: AB, Princeton, 1972; JD, Yale, 1975

Career Highlights:
-- Alito clerked for Judge Leonard Garth of the Third Circuit, who is now his colleague on that court.

-- From 1977-1980, Alito served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the appellate division, where he argued cases before the circuit court to which he was later appointed.

-- From 1981-1985, Alito served as assistant to the solicitor general. He argued 12 cases on behalf of the federal government before the U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous other cases before the federal courts of appeals.

-- From 1985-1987, Alito served in the Office of Legal Counsel as deputy assistant attorney general, providing constitutional advice for the Executive Branch.

-- From 1987-1989, Alito served as U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Alito for the post. He was best known for prosecuting white-collar and environmental crimes, drug trafficking, organized crime and violations of civil rights.

-- In 1990, President George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Alito to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Alito was unanimously confirmed by voice vote by the U.S. Senate.

-- Alito has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions.

-- Judge Alito has argued 12 Supreme Court cases and at least two dozen court of appeals cases, and he has handled at least 50 others.

-- Alito has participated in various professional associations, including the New Jersey Federal Bar Association (member of advisory board); the New Jersey State Bar Association; the American Bar Association; and the Federalist Society.

Family: Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner, live in West Caldwell, N.J. They have two children, a college-age son, Philip, and a younger daughter, Laura. His late father, Samuel Alito Sr., was the director of New Jersey's Office of Legislative Services from 1952 to 1984. Alito's sister, Rosemary, is a top employment lawyer in New Jersey.

Sources: The Associated Press, White House, October 31, 2005 · President Bush has nominated federal Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, a choice that quickly cheered the many conservatives who were disappointed with his last pick. Bush moved swiftly after his first nominee, White House Counsel Harriet Miers, withdrew her name from consideration last week amid growing opposition from members of the right that she lacked experience and wasn't conservative enough.

Alito will likely escape that particular criticism. He has spent the past 15 years as a judge on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. During that time, he consistently took conservative positions on such issues as opposing abortion and favoring public displays of religion. In fact, he's been dubbed "Scalito" by colleagues, referring to conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Speaking at the White House Monday, Bush called Alito "one of the most accomplished and respected judges in America." He was careful to highlight Alito's extensive judicial experience. In contrast to Miers, the 55-year-old Alito has spent decades serving as a judge or arguing cases before one.

"He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions," Bush said. "This record reveals a thoughtful judge who considers the legal merits carefully and applies the law in a principled fashion."

Conservatives and many Republicans immediately hailed Alito's nomination. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "Anyone would be hard-pressed to name another nominee with such a sterling and distinguished record. Judge Alito believes the law -- not the judge -- should determine the results in a case."

Liberals and a number of Democrats swiftly criticized Mr. Bush's choice. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), said Alito was probably "too radical for the American people."

Alito's most well-known opinion is his dissent in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in October 1991. Alito and his colleagues on the 3rd Circuit sided with the state, agreeing that teenagers must have parental consent before obtaining an abortion. They also upheld legislation stating that women must wait 24 hours after receiving information on alternatives to abortion before undergoing the procedure. But in an opinion that dissented in part, Alito went a step further and said it was within the law to require women to notify their spouses before they get an abortion.

When the U.S. Supreme Court took up an appeal of the ruling in 1992, much of the 3rd Circuit's ruling was upheld. The court agreed some limits such as parental notification were valid. But it agreed with the majority of the lower court that requiring women to notify their husbands was unconstitutional. The high court disagreed with Alito's lone dissent, saying requiring spousal notification would present an "undue burden" to women seeking an abortion.

In other cases, Alito sided with communities and citizens who wished to display religious symbols. In one case, he said a city hall display of holiday religious and non-religious items was legal, in part because taxpayers did not pay for the displays.

More of his writings are likely to be sifted through in coming days and weeks, including rulings on political asylum, an opinion that a campus police officer could be suspended prior to a hearing after he had been arrested on drug charges, and a majority opinion that a high school did not uphold a student's right to an education when it did not protect him from a bully.

Alito was born in Trenton, N.J., on April 1, 1950. He graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School. After passing the bar, he clerked for Judge Leonard I. Garth on the 3rd Circuit, where Garth now presides.

Before being appointed to that court by President George H.W. Bush, Alito was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey. He also served as deputy assistant attorney general and assistant to the solicitor general.

Alito was careful not to express any political or personal opinions Monday as he accepted the nomination. As his wife, son and daughter looked on, he talked about his respect for the court and his family's immigration to the United States from Italy in 1914.

He also said he was thrilled to be nominated to fill the seat of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he said went out of her way to treat him gently the first time he argued before the Supreme Court.

"I was grateful to her on that happy occasion, and I am particularly honored to be nominated for her seat," he said.

The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia
Bush to Nominate Samuel Alito for Supreme Court, According to News Reports

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Syria faces sanctions vote at UN

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Syria faces sanctions vote at UN Syria faces sanctions vote at UN
The UN Security Council is set to consider punishing Syria if it fails to co-operate fully with the inquiry into the death of Rafik Hariri.

The US, France and the UK are backing a resolution calling for sanctions - in a move rejected by Syria as "dangerous".

The UN inquiry into the Lebanese ex-premier's death suggests Syrian and Lebanese officials were responsible.

Russia and China could both veto the resolution and it is unclear how they will vote despite US optimism.

For the resolution to pass, nine of the Security Council's 15 members must back it.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the resolution, saying the Security Council was "not an investigatory body and it would be wrong to mix criminal procedural mechanisms with interstate relations".

Ministers are due to assemble for the debate later on Monday but it is not clear when the actual vote will be held.

Tough report

Final preparations for the debate were made at a two-hour dinner in New York on Sunday between the foreign ministers of the three sponsors of the resolution, and Russia and China.

Mr Lavrov said he had expressed his concern to his counterparts.

China's Li Zhaoxing told reporters before the dinner that they should "just wait and see".

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said last week he did not foresee a veto.

The Security Council debate comes less than two weeks after UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis issued a hard-hitting report pointing the finger of blame at Syrian and Lebanese officials and accusing Syria of hindering his inquiry.

The draft resolution calls for a travel ban and the freezing of assets of those suspected of involvement in the assassination.

The text also calls for Syria to detain those named by investigators and to allow witnesses and suspects to be interviewed outside the country.

And it threatens further measures such as economic sanctions if Damascus fails to co-operate.

The killing of Hariri in a massive car bombing in Beirut earlier this year led to widespread criticism of Syria, which was forced to withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon as a result.

Syria has criticised the resolution as dangerous and has announced its own inquiry into the death.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Business | Chinese trade surplus set to soar

BBC NEWS | Business | Chinese trade surplus set to soar Chinese trade surplus set to soar
China's trade surplus is set to rise to a record $90bn (£50.5bn) in 2005, according to government forecasts, but export growth may slow next year.

China enjoyed a positive trade balance of $68bn in the first nine months of 2005 alone, the Commerce Ministry said, compared to a $32bn surplus in 2004.

Exports remain exceptionally strong, with 26% growth expected this year.

However, officials warned growth could slow next year due to increased protectionism in many markets.

Textile limits

According to government figures, curbs on Chinese exports by trading partners has reduced total trade by $8.9bn so far this year.

It is difficult to keep up such high growth due to the limitations of global markets and also trade protectionism
Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Co-operation

The US and Europe have both imposed limits on Chinese textile imports, which have ballooned after global quotas were scrapped at the start of the year.

They argue that their own manufacturers are being hurt by China's ability to produce mass goods cheaply.

The US and China have failed to agree a deal to regulate future imports amid calls by some US politicians for even greater restrictions on Chinese clothing sales.

Total Chinese exports are forecast to hit $745bn this year, according to the latest figures from the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Co-operation, a Commerce Ministry think-tank.

Imports are projected to rise 18% to $655bn.

Slowing down

Strong export growth has been the backbone of China's economic boom.

Total economic output has exceeded 9% in each of the last nine quarters.

However, officials believe the rate of export growth will slow next year.

"China's exports have maintained fast growth for four successive years and it is difficult to keep up such high growth due to the limitations of global markets and also trade protectionism," the Chinese Academy said in a statement.

"China is the biggest victim of trade protectionism. Such a trend won't show a fundamental change next year."
Story from BBC NEWS:

The Plank


A crucial lingering mystery about the Fitzgerald investigation has been the status of Karl Rove. Conservatives have been quick to claim vindication for Rove. On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume was defiantly bullish:

And the worry about Karl Rove, which I think absolutely cast a pall over the White House in terms of just everyone being so anxious about it, is now, for all intents and purposes, over, despite the prattle you see in the media about how the investigation is ongoing.

Robert Ray, I think, put his finger right on it. Something very dramatic would have to happen for him to be in further trouble. So it would appear that he will be back in full cry at the White House, which is a big deal.

But Monday's Washington Post suggests a distinctly different story:

[T]wo legal sources intimately familiar with Fitzgerald's tactics in this inquiry said they believe Rove remains in significant danger. They described Fitzgerald as being relentlessly thorough but also conservative throughout this prosecution -- and his willingness to consider Rove's eleventh-hour pleading of a memory lapse is merely a sign of Fitzgerald's caution.

The two legal sources point to what they consider Fitzgerald's careful decision not to charge Libby with the leak of a covert agent's identity, given that the prosecutor had amassed considerable evidence that Libby gave classified information, which he knew from his job should not be made public, to reporters. Another prosecutor might have stretched to make a leak charge, on the theory that a jury would believe, based on other actions, that Libby acted with bad intentions.

Another warning sign for Rove was in the phrasing of Friday's indictment of Libby. Fitzgerald referred to Rove in those charging papers as a senior White House official and dubbed him "Official A." In prosecutorial parlance, this kind of awkward pseudonym is often used for individuals who have not been indicted in a case but still face a significant chance of being charged. No other official in the investigation carries such an identifier.

That last point strikes me as especially compelling. Brit Hume can dismiss this as more media "prattle." At a minimum I have to think articles like this mean that the pall over the White House is not "for all intents and purposes, over."
--Michael Crowley

Doubts Cast on Vietnam Incident, but Secret Study Stays Classified - New York Times

Doubts Cast on Vietnam Incident, but Secret Study Stays Classified - New York TimesOctober 31, 2005
Doubts Cast on Vietnam Incident, but Secret Study Stays Classified

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 - The National Security Agency has kept secret since 2001 a finding by an agency historian that during the Tonkin Gulf episode, which helped precipitate the Vietnam War, N.S.A. officers deliberately distorted critical intelligence to cover up their mistakes, two people familiar with the historian's work say.

The historian's conclusion is the first serious accusation that communications intercepted by the N.S.A., the secretive eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, were falsified so that they made it look as if North Vietnam had attacked American destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964, two days after a previous clash. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the supposed attack to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but most historians have concluded in recent years that there was no second attack.

The N.S.A. historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence.

Mr. Hanyok concluded that they had done it not out of any political motive but to cover up earlier errors, and that top N.S.A. and defense officials and Johnson neither knew about nor condoned the deception.

Mr. Hanyok's findings were published nearly five years ago in a classified in-house journal, and starting in 2002 he and other government historians argued that it should be made public. But their effort was rebuffed by higher-level agency policymakers, who by the next year were fearful that it might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar with some internal discussions of the matter.

Matthew M. Aid, an independent historian who has discussed Mr. Hanyok's Tonkin Gulf research with current and former N.S.A. and C.I.A. officials who have read it, said he had decided to speak publicly about the findings because he believed they should have been released long ago.

"This material is relevant to debates we as Americans are having about the war in Iraq and intelligence reform," said Mr. Aid, who is writing a history of the N.S.A. "To keep it classified simply because it might embarrass the agency is wrong."

Mr. Aid's description of Mr. Hanyok's findings was confirmed by the intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the research has not been made public.

Both men said Mr. Hanyok believed the initial misinterpretation of North Vietnamese intercepts was probably an honest mistake. But after months of detective work in N.S.A.'s archives, he concluded that midlevel agency officials discovered the error almost immediately but covered it up and doctored documents so that they appeared to provide evidence of an attack.

"Rather than come clean about their mistake, they helped launch the United States into a bloody war that would last for 10 years," Mr. Aid said.

Asked about Mr. Hanyok's research, an N.S.A. spokesman said the agency intended to release his 2001 article in late November. The spokesman, Don Weber, said the release had been "delayed in an effort to be consistent with our preferred practice of providing the public a more contextual perspective."

Mr. Weber said the agency was working to declassify not only Mr. Hanyok's article, but also the original intercepts and other raw material for his work, so the public could better assess his conclusions.

The intelligence official gave a different account. He said N.S.A. historians began pushing for public release in 2002, after Mr. Hanyok included his Tonkin Gulf findings in a 400-page, in-house history of the agency and Vietnam called "Spartans in Darkness." Though superiors initially expressed support for releasing it, the idea lost momentum as Iraq intelligence was being called into question, the official said.

Mr. Aid said he had heard from other intelligence officials the same explanation for the delay in releasing the report, though neither he nor the intelligence official knew how high up in the agency the issue was discussed. A spokesman for Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was the agency's. director until last summer and is now the principal deputy director of national intelligence, referred questions to Mr. Weber, the N.S.A. spokesman, who said he had no further information.

Many historians believe that even without the Tonkin Gulf episode, Johnson might have found a reason to escalate military action against North Vietnam. They note that Johnson apparently had his own doubts about the Aug. 4 attack and that a few days later told George W. Ball, the under secretary of state, "Hell, those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish!"

But Robert S. McNamara, who as defense secretary played a central role in the Tonkin Gulf affair, said in an interview last week that he believed the intelligence reports had played a decisive role in the war's expansion.

"I think it's wrong to believe that Johnson wanted war," Mr. McNamara said. "But we thought we had evidence that North Vietnam was escalating."

Mr. McNamara, 89, said he had never been told that the intelligence might have been altered to shore up the scant evidence of a North Vietnamese attack.

"That really is surprising to me," said Mr. McNamara, who Mr. Hanyok found had unknowingly used the altered intercepts in 1964 and 1968 in testimony before Congress. "I think they ought to make all the material public, period."

The supposed second North Vietnamese attack, on the American destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy, played an outsize role in history. Johnson responded by ordering retaliatory air strikes on North Vietnamese targets and used the event to persuade Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on Aug. 7, 1964.

It authorized the president "to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force," to defend South Vietnam and its neighbors and was used both by Johnson and President Richard M. Nixon to justify escalating the war, in which 58,226 Americans and more than 1 million Vietnamese died.

Not all the details of Mr. Hanyok's analysis, published in N.S.A.'s Cryptologic Quarterly in early 2001, could be learned. But they involved discrepancies between the official N.S.A. version of the events of Aug. 4, 1964, and intercepts from N.S.A. listening posts at Phu Bai in South Vietnam and San Miguel in the Philippines that are in the agency archives.

One issue, for example, was the translation of a phrase in an Aug. 4 North Vietnamese transmission. In some documents the phrase, "we sacrificed two comrades" - an apparent reference to casualties during the clash with American ships on Aug. 2 - was incorrectly translated as "we sacrificed two ships." That phrase was used to suggest that the North Vietnamese were reporting the loss of ships in a new battle Aug. 4, the intelligence official said.

The original Vietnamese version of that intercept, unlike many other intercepts from the same period, is missing from the agency's archives, the official said.

The intelligence official said the evidence for deliberate falsification is "about as certain as it can be without a smoking gun - you can come to no other conclusion."

Despite its well-deserved reputation for secrecy, the N.S.A. in recent years has made public dozens of studies by its Center for Cryptologic History. A study by Mr. Hanyok on signals intelligence and the Holocaust, titled "Eavesdropping on Hell," was published last year.

Two historians who have written extensively on the Tonkin Gulf episode, Edwin E. Moise of Clemson University and John Prados of the National Security Archive in Washington, said they were unaware of Mr. Hanyok's work but found his reported findings intriguing.

"I'm surprised at the notion of deliberate deception at N.S.A.," Dr. Moise said. "But I get surprised a lot."

Dr. Prados said, "If Mr. Hanyok's conclusion is correct, it adds to the tragic aspect of the Vietnam War." In addition, he said, "it's new evidence that intelligence, so often treated as the Holy Grail, turns out to be not that at all, just as in Iraq."

TV Newsman Is His Own News in the Leak Case - New York Times

TV Newsman Is His Own News in the Leak Case - New York TimesOctober 31, 2005
The Journalist
TV Newsman Is His Own News in the Leak Case

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 - On any given Sunday, the cream of Washington officialdom presents itself for confession before Tim Russert, a big, bluff lawyer-turned-journalist who may be the capital's most intimidating interlocutor outside a courtroom or Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney, not a chatty guy, has been his guest no fewer than 10 times since taking office.

But on this particular Sunday, the news compelled Mr. Russert to turn his trademark attention to an atypical topic: himself.

"Inside the C.I.A. leak indictments, including the role of journalists, including yours truly," Mr. Russert intoned in no-nonsense staccato before a commercial break halfway through "Meet the Press," NBC News's top-rated Sunday morning interview program.

Mr. Russert has moderated it for nearly 14 years, and with it he now wields as much influence as any single working journalist in Washington.

For Mr. Russert, who is also NBC's Washington bureau chief, turns out to be a pivotal ear-witness to the only crime so far charged in the inquiry into the disclosure of a C.I.A. agent's classified identity that has consumed the intersecting circles of news organizations and politics in which he has been a prominent player for years.

It was Mr. Russert's 20 minutes of sworn testimony to the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, in a Washington law office on a summer Saturday in 2004 that helped undermine the account of Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr.: that Mr. Russert first told him that Valerie Wilson, the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador and a sharp critic of the Bush administration's rationale for war with Iraq, worked at the C.I.A.

The five-count grand jury indictment against Mr. Libby charges that he called Mr. Russert "on or about July 10, 2003" (four days before Ms. Wilson's identity became public in a column by Robert D. Novak) "to complain about press coverage of Libby by an MSNBC reporter" (by all evidence, Chris Matthews of "Hardball") and "did not discuss Wilson's wife with Russert" at all.

In a telephone interview on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Russert acknowledged some discomfort with his unusual role in the case, in which Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times have also contradicted Mr. Libby's account under subpoena. "We hate being in the middle of what we're reporting on," he said. "But it is what it is."

Mr. Fitzgerald is clearly counting on the credibility of the 55-year-old Mr. Russert, a popular figure who cut his teeth in Washington more than 25 years ago as an aide to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, as a crucial witness against Mr. Libby at any trial. But he would be far from the only one.

According to the indictment, Mr. Libby talked about Ms. Wilson's identity with at least six other people in the government, including Mr. Cheney, before talking with Mr. Russert, who says he learned about Ms. Wilson's name by reading Mr. Novak's column (and, good newshound that he is, he said he was irked not to have known it before). All those people have also told their stories and could be called to the stand.

If the charges in the indictment are true, it is by no means clear why Mr. Libby would have told investigators and the grand jury in March of last year that Mr. Russert was his source, except that he might have believed that Mr. Russert and the other journalists involved would not testify.

Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, has said that "Mr. Libby testified to the best of his honest recollection on all occasions" and cited the passage of time as a possible explanation for contradictory accounts. After getting waivers from Mr. Libby, all of the other journalists eventually testified, though Mr. Russert managed to avoid the protracted legal battles over the terms of such testimony that brought far more attention to Mr. Cooper and to Ms. Miller, who served 85 days in jail.

Mr. Russert declined to discuss the circumstances of his testimony in much detail beyond the official statements he and NBC issued at the time, and he largely confined himself to repeating those statements on the air on Sunday. But there is evidence he may have faced a somewhat easier decision than Mr. Cooper and Ms. Miller, because Mr. Libby was calling him not as a confidential source but as an angry viewer, upset about one or more MSNBC cable programs a day or two before his call.

On "Hardball" on July 8, 2003, for example, Mr. Matthews blamed Mr. Libby and others in the White House for failing to warn President Bush that a reference in his State of the Union speech that winter about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger was wrong. Mr. Wilson, a former ambassador to Gabon, had just published an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in which he said he had been sent to Niger by the C.I.A. the previous year to investigate an intelligence report about a possible uranium sale, and concluded that it was "highly doubtful."

Mr. Matthews said on the air, "Somebody's to blame here, and it's a very high level."

Mr. Libby testified to the grand jury about his conversation with Mr. Russert on March 5 and March 24 last year, and Mr. Russert was subpoenaed in May. NBC issued a statement at the time saying, "Russert was not the recipient of the leak," and vowed to fight the subpoena in federal court because of what it said was the potential chilling effect on its ability to cover the news. On July 20, 2004, the court rejected the network's arguments (although it did not make the decision public until Aug. 9) and on Aug. 7 Mr. Russert answered "limited questions" posed by Mr. Fitzgerald, an NBC statement said at the time.

Under an agreement with the prosecutor, NBC said, Mr. Russert did not go before the grand jury, and was not asked questions that would have required him to disclose information provided in confidence.

Steve Capus, the acting president of NBC News, said in a telephone interview Sunday that he was quite confident of Mr. Russert's ability to analyze the case on the air, despite his unusual role as a part of it. Mr. Cooper and Ms. Miller have each written first-person accounts of their own involvement.

"I feel that what we've done to date is a model of how we're going to handle this," Mr. Capus said. "We have tried to be as open as possible." He added: "I'm very comfortable with how Tim has handled himself."

As anyone who has ever watched his program during football season knows, Mr. Russert was born in Buffalo, and also worked as an adviser to former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York early in his tenure in Albany. It seems clear that some of his sharp-eyed instincts for covering the political world were honed while he worked in it, though he himself gives equal credit to "four years of Latin and going to law school."

Mr. Russert's wife, Maureen Orth, is a writer for Vanity Fair. Their son, Luke, is a student at Boston College.

Mr. Russert moves easily in the worlds of official and social Washington, in which politicians and reporters sometimes find themselves on the same playing field.

But Mr. Russert never goes out on Saturday nights, preferring to attend the 4 p.m. Catholic Mass at Georgetown University Hospital's chapel before preparing for his program.

Mr. Russert was appearing live on MSNBC with the anchor Brian Williams shortly before 1 p.m. Friday when NBC's legal correspondent, Pete Williams, who was Mr. Cheney's press secretary at the Pentagon more than a decade ago, began reading aloud from the indictment and mentioned Mr. Russert's name.

"Tim, this will be an interesting conversation," Brian Williams said. It was then that Mr. Russert first acknowledged that Mr. Libby had been calling not to explain but complain.

In the telephone interview, Mr. Russert said he had not had any particular prior relationship with Mr. Libby, and that there were "other people in the vice president's office I talk to much more regularly." He said important guests like Mr. Cheney and President Bush, who appeared during the election campaign last year, came on "Meet the Press" because "we have a significant audience."

Some of Mr. Russert's colleagues have reacted sharply to the charges about Mr. Libby's actions. On "Hardball" Friday night, Tom Brokaw, the retired NBC anchor, said of Mr. Libby: "In all the years I've been covering Washington scandals, this is the clumsiest case of lying I've ever been witness to," and said Mr. Libby "concocted this scheme, beginning by trying to set up Tim Russert."

But Mr. Russert said that he had been careful not to go beyond the facts, using the reprinted written quotations and snippets of video that are part of his patented technique. "What I did this morning is went through, very carefully, what's in the allegations, what I said, what the other reporters said," he said. "I'm not going to be judgmental."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

NPR : Unanswered Questions Remain in CIA Leak Case

NPR : Unanswered Questions Remain in CIA Leak CaseUnanswered Questions Remain in CIA Leak Case

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by Ari Shapiro

Weekend Edition - Sunday, October 30, 2005 · The five-count indictment this past Friday of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff answered some of the questions surrounding the unmasking of a CIA agent. Were there more people involved? And what happened to the original charge of revealing an agent's identity?

U.S. and Japan Agree to Strengthen Military Ties - New York Times

U.S. and Japan Agree to Strengthen Military Ties - New York TimesOctober 30, 2005
U.S. and Japan Agree to Strengthen Military Ties

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 - The United States and Japan announced Saturday a sweeping agreement to reshape their military alliance, including the reduction of marines on Okinawa and the construction of a new generation of radar equipment in Japan as part of a missile defense system.

After a morning meeting of the two nations' foreign and defense ministers and secretaries, a joint agreement was released calling on Japan to accept more responsibility for its own defense, and requiring the United States and Japan to further integrate planning in case of conflict. The two sides agreed to greater sharing of intelligence and to expand joint military training and exercises.

The document is yet another step in the evolution of modern Japan, which has already grown from a defeated adversary to an occupied nation to an economic powerhouse under the American security umbrella.

The agreement and subsequent statements gave a clear indication of Japan's desire to take an even greater role in global security missions within constitutional constraints imposed at the end of World War II. The meeting came as Japan has troops on a humanitarian mission in Iraq, the first time Tokyo has deployed its forces into a combat zone since World War II.

At a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the agreement would "ensure a durable, more balanced and surely more capable alliance."

His counterpart, Yoshinori Ono, the director general of the Japanese Defense Agency, said that Japan is ready to move beyond territorial defense to play a greater role in contributing to "peace and security around the world."

But Mr. Ono said Japanese military missions across Asia or around the globe would be for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, or for logistical support to counterterrorism missions conducted with the United States.

Although the use of the Japanese military beyond its territorial waters has been a striking extension for a nation that accepted pacifist limits in its postwar Constitution, Japan still would not insert combat troops into combat operations outside Japan.

Ending a decade of negotiations on the placement of American troops within Japan, the agreement seeks to remove a severe irritant in relations by reducing American military personnel on Okinawa, where residents complain of noise and crime.

The number of American military personnel in Japan, now about 50,000, will fall by 7,000 with the relocation of some Marine Corps units from Okinawa to Guam.

Anger among Okinawans at the American military reached near-crisis levels in 1995, when a local schoolgirl was raped by American servicemen.

The move also has significance for Guam, an American territory that is taking on increasing strategic importance in the Pacific.

The agreement calls on Japan to deploy the American X-band radar, a part of missile defense that identifies and tracks incoming warheads. North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998, shocking the public there.

The relocation of American forces on Japan and the reshaping of bilateral military headquarters is to be completed in six years. The cost of all movements of American forces in Japan will be paid by the Japanese government; no cost estimate was released Saturday at the conclusion of talks among Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Ono, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Japanese foreign minister, Nobutaku Machimura. President Bush is to visit Japan next month.

American and Japanese officials also announced an agreement to remove American aircraft from Futenma Marine Air Corps Station in a southern part of Okinawa that is now highly urban. A large part of the aircraft and crews will move to expanded facilities at an existing base, Camp Schwab, farther north.

The Pentagon news conference was held a day after Japan announced it had agreed to base a Nimitz-class American aircraft carrier in Yokosuka, 30 miles south of Tokyo, in 2008, the first time a nuclear-powered carrier has been allowed to use Japan as its home port.

The Japanese public is especially concerned about the basing of nuclear-powered warships in its territory because Japan is the only country ever attacked with atomic weapons.

China's Next Big Boom Could Be the Foul Air - New York Times

China's Next Big Boom Could Be the Foul Air - New York TimesOctober 30, 2005
China's Next Big Boom Could Be the Foul Air

BEIJING — The steady barrage of statistics trumpeting China's rise is often greeted elsewhere as if the figures were torpedoes and the rest of the world a sinking ship. Economic growth tops 9 percent! Textile exports jump 500 percent! Military spending up! Manufacturing up!

The numbers inflame the exaggerated perception that China is methodically inhaling jobs and resources and, in the process, inhaling the rest of the planet. Burp. There goes the American furniture industry. Burp. Thanks for your oil, Venezuela.

But one statistic offered last week by a top Chinese environmental official should stimulate genuine alarm inside and outside China. The official, Zhang Lijun, warned that pollution levels here could more than quadruple within 15 years if the country does not curb its rapid growth in energy consumption and automobile use.

China, it seems, has reached a tipping point familiar to many developed countries, including the United States, that have raced headlong after economic development only to look up suddenly and see the environmental carnage. The difference with China, as is so often the case, is that the potential problems are much bigger, have happened much faster and could pose greater concerns for the entire world.

"I don't think it will jump four or five times," Robert Watson, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said of the pollution prediction by Mr. Zhang. "But it could double or triple without too much trouble. And that's a scary thought, given how bad things are now."

China is already the world's second-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to surpass the United States as the biggest. Roughly a third of China is exposed to acid rain. A recent study by a Chinese research institute found that 400,000 people die prematurely every year in China from diseases linked to air pollution.

Nor does China's air pollution respect borders: on certain days almost 25 percent of the particulate matter clotting the skies above Los Angeles can be traced to China, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental experts in California predict that China could eventually account for roughly a third of the state's air pollution.

The air problem could become a major embarrassment if, as some experts believe, Beijing does not meet its environmental targets for 2008, when the Olympic Games will be played here.

For the Chinese government, the question is how to change the country's booming economy without crippling it. President Hu Jintao has made "sustainable development" a centerpiece of his effort to shift the country from unbridled growth to a more efficient economy. Mr. Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have repeatedly mentioned environmental protection in speeches.

The political attention comes as environmental problems are begetting social and economic problems. Violent riots have erupted in the countryside over contaminated water, stunted crops and mounting health woes. In a handful of villages, farmers have stormed chemical factories to stop the dumping of filthy water. Roughly 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted. In cities, people drink bottled water; in the countryside, most people are too poor to pay for bottled water, so they boil polluted water or simply drink it.

Public anger is also rising in cities. In some, air pollution is so thick that on the worst days doctors advise, impractically, against going outside. Last week, hundreds of people living in the Beijing outskirts protested plans for a factory they fear would inundate the neighborhood with pollution.

The severity of the situation has created an opening for environmentalists in and out of the government. Environmentalism is a chic issue for college students, who have participated in garbage cleanups and joined the growing number of nongovernment organizations focused on pollution. The once-meek State Environmental Protection Administration, or SEPA, has become more aggressive in identifying and going after polluters and calling for reforms.

But the political and practical obstacles are formidable. Car ownership has become part of the Chinese middle-class dream, and the car industry has become a major contributor to tax coffers and a force in the overall economy.

Industrial pollution is difficult to control because local officials often ignore emissions standards to appease polluting factories that pay local taxes. SEPA has closed factories, only to see them reopen weeks later. To make a serious reduction in air pollution, experts say, tougher, enforceable standards are needed, and many factories would need new pollution control equipment.

"There has to be the political will," said Steve Page, director of the E.P.A office of air quality planning and standards. "The challenge they face is how will these plants be lined up and told this will happen?"

Politically, the Communist Party has based its legitimacy on delivering economic growth and understands that the boom cannot be taken for granted: high growth is needed simply to keep unemployment in check, and top leaders fear that a slowdown could lead to social instability. Local officials are promoted, foremost, for delivering economic growth. This is why environmental officials have pushed for a new "green G.D.P.," which would alter how gross domestic product is calculated to reflect losses inflicted by environmental degradation.

The party is suspicious of environmental groups because of the role similar groups played in promoting grass-roots democracy in the "color" revolutions of central Asia. Human Rights Watch reported that some environmentalists were recently arrested.

But if there is resistance, there is progress, too. A law taking effect next year will require that China produce 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Fuel efficiency standards for new cars are already stricter than those in the United States. At an air pollution conference last Monday, environmental officials solicited advice from their peers in Europe and the United States.

Mr. Page, the E.P.A. official, praised Chinese officials and said China is considering the sort of regional pollution abatement strategies used in the United States. "They are wrestling with a lot of the same pollution problems that we wrestled with several years ago and that, to some extent, we still are grappling with," said Mr. Page, who attended the conference.

Ma Jun, an independent environmentalist based in Beijing, also praised the efforts by SEPA. Mr. Ma said China's status as the "workshop of the world" made it inevitable that its share of the world's pollution would increase. But he also cautioned that too many government ministries remained consumed by economic development. He said the government also needed to recognize the "environmental rights" of citizens.

"The pollution problem," he said, "is very serious."