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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Spill in China Brings Danger, and Cover-Up - New York Times

Spill in China Brings Danger, and Cover-Up - New York TimesNovember 26, 2005
Spill in China Brings Danger, and Cover-Up
By JIM YARDLEY

HARBIN, China, Nov. 25 - A toxic 50-mile band of contaminated river water slowly washed through this frigid provincial capital on Friday, leaving schools and many businesses closed, forcing millions of people to spend a third straight day without running water and raising fears of a long-term environmental disaster.

Yet a local newspaper seemed just as concerned about a disaster that did not happen. "There Will Not Be an Earthquake in Harbin," promised a large front-page headline in The Modern Evening Times.

The strange headline, coming as nationwide attention in China is focused on the dangerous benzene and nitrobenzene spill that contaminated the local Songhua River, seemed to have been a misprint. But, instead, it was an effort to dispel the wild rumors that mushroomed after Monday, when city officials pointedly did not mention the spill of the liquid chemicals in their initial public notice shutting down the municipal water system.

The city tried to convince the public that a shutdown was necessary to conduct routine repairs on the pipes. Suspicions instantly erupted. There had already been an inexplicable rash of rumors that the government had detected signs of an earthquake. Now those rumors escalated, and enough people panicked that officials had to confirm the spill, but the public relations damage was already done.

It seems that in their efforts to hide a chemical spill, Harbin officials may have helped fuel unfounded fears of an earthquake. The provincial earthquake bureau has since issued a reassuring statement that no temblors are predicted.

"They were trying to lie and get by," Qi Guangzhong, 64, said as he walked on a promenade beside the brown waters of the Songhua on Friday. "The government wanted to hide this."

The earthquake rumors, if bizarre, are just one of the consequences of a government response that appeared secretive and misleading at a time when China is eager to prove to the outside world that it is a candid international partner on issues like containing avian influenza.

In the Chinese news media and on the Internet, public anger seethed this week over the spill, in which an estimated 100 tons of benzene and nitrobenzene poured into the river after an explosion at the state-owned Jilin Petrochemical Company in Jilin City, 236 miles upstream from Harbin. One citizen has already sued the state-owned company responsible for the spill, seeking a symbolic $2 and a public apology, state news media reported.

The public dissatisfaction came as the central government on Friday sent an inspection team, including disciplinary officials, to investigate the spill and its aftermath in Harbin. "The presence of disciplinary officials in the team indicates punishments of irresponsible acts are on the way," the official New China News Agency reported.

At the same time, teams of environmental officials began gauging the potential damage on the Songhua as signs appeared that the immediate crisis was easing. Readings taken from the river showed that the toxicity of the water was steadily declining as inflows of water and the progression of the spill diluted the toxicity.

On the streets of Harbin, life seemed normal, if somewhat surreal, given that a major metropolitan area of several million people had almost no running water or usable toilets and that thousands of residents seemed to have fled. But the public anxiety from earlier in the week eased noticeably after the arrival of truckloads of bottled water to prevent shortages in drinking supplies.

City officials, reacting to initial reports of price gouging, put a freeze on water prices. At several corner markets, boxes of water were stacked high outside. On one street, a crowd of people stood around a fire truck, waiting for water.

"We're not worried," said a teenager playing on a swing set at a playground near the river.

Harbin officials have said the water system could be restored as soon as Saturday, when the slick of polluted water is expected to move past the city on its slowly moving path through northeastern China toward Russia. But it seemed more likely that the system would remain shut down for several days as officials determine the potential environmental and public health risks. The river supplies more than 80 percent of Harbin's public water supply.

Scientists in China have already warned of potentially dangerous long-term hazards as the benzene seeps into the soil near the riverbed or is ingested by fish and other marine life. The chemical factory, a subsidiary of state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, the country's largest oil company, produces benzene, a colorless liquid derived from petroleum. Drinking liquids with high levels of benzene can cause illness or even death. Benzene is also considered a carcinogen, and is linked particularly to a variety of leukemia and lymphoma.

Ma Jun, an environmentalist in Beijing and author of "China's Water Crisis," said the chemical spill had exposed enormous potential problems that existed all across China after decades of rampant industrial development. In fact, one person was killed Friday in an explosion at another chemical plant, in Sichuan Province.

"We're in the process of quadrupling our economy," Mr. Ma said. "The risks are also growing. Pollution discharges are rising. We need to face the reality that we are becoming a society at risk."

Mr. Ma also blamed the chemical plant for initially denying the spill. "Instead of informing the downstream cities and communities that they were in the path of danger, it just kept denying the toxic spill," he said. "This denial is not acceptable."

Chinese health officials were sharply criticized for covering up the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which originated in southern China in November 2002 but was not acknowledged by the authorities for several months, and then only after it had spread to Hong Kong and Beijing.

Since then, the government has earned growing praise from international health officials for being more open and responsive about public health outbreaks, like avian influenza. Lately, however, scientists have begun to question the low number of bird flu infections listed in China, which has reported only three, compared with 91 in Vietnam, with less than a tenth the population.

On Friday, the roles played by different government agencies in the chemical spill began to emerge in a flurry of articles published in the Chinese media. The different accounts, including some from the official New China News Agency, suggest that officials in Jilin and Harbin had initially sought to prevent news of the explosion from reaching the public.

After the explosion that caused the spill, factory officials initially announced that the accident posed no threat of air pollution. Officials also denied at that time that any benzene had spilled into the Songhua.

Apparently, government officials in Jilin also initially denied the chemical spill to their downstream neighbors in Heilongjiang Province, home of Harbin. But Jilin officials finally told their peers in Heilongjiang on Nov. 19, according to a Shanghai newspaper, The News Morning Post.

Meanwhile, China Youth Daily reported that local environmental officials in Jilin had first sought to dilute the spill by dumping reservoir water into the Songhua, rather than telling the public. By Monday, officials in Harbin were preparing to announce the shutdown of the water supply but feared news of the chemical spill would incite a public panic, according to The News Morning Post. So they made the announcement about the maintenance work on the pipes.

In serious accidents like this one, provincial and local officials often wait for cues from the central government in Beijing on how to respond publicly. It is unclear if top leaders played a role in the official subterfuge about the spill. Some unconfirmed reports said Prime Minister Wen Jiabao eventually ordered disclosure of the problem in Harbin.

The official English-language newspaper, China Daily, published an unusually blunt commentary that singled out the chemical company for criticism.

"We do not know what is behind the cover-up," the commentary stated. "It might be because they were afraid that they would have to pay money for the losses the pollution has incurred in Harbin, and it might be because they were afraid of losing face.

"But the fact is they have brought shame on themselves by covering up the truth."

The China Daily commentary portrayed Harbin officials as innocent victims who had responded effectively to the crisis. But many Harbin residents were immediately suspicious when city officials announced that the water would be stopped for maintenance work.

Mr. Qi, the man walking along the river, said the timing was too strange: Why would the city do routine work when the subzero temperatures of winter are about to begin?

Standing beside the river, Mr. Qi said he had first learned of the explosion by watching a Shanghai television station. "People are angry," he said. "The consequences could have been grave if people had started drinking the water and dying."

Then, he gazed at the brown, partly frozen waters. "It looks the same today, maybe even a little better," Mr. Qi said. "The pollution is always heavy in the river."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Japan Today - News - Kenyan president dumps cabinet - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Kenyan president dumps cabinet - Japan's Leading International News NetworkKenyan president dumps cabinet

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Thursday, November 24, 2005 at 07:39 JST
NAIROBI — Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki fired his entire cabinet Wednesday after the embarrassing rejection this week by voters of a new constitution he backed in a referendum that had deeply split the government.

In a step aimed at cushioning the blow from Monday's landmark plebiscite to his political fortunes ahead of elections in 2007, Kibaki sacked all ministers and their deputies and said he would name a new government within two weeks.


"Following the results of the referendum, it has become necessary for me, as the president of the republic, to re-organize my government to make it more cohesive and better able to serve the people of Kenya," he said.

"In accordance with the powers conferred upon me under the constitution of Kenya, I have directed that the offices of all ministers and all assistant ministers become vacant," Kibaki said in a televised address to the nation.

The announcement of the move, which takes immediate effect, came just 24 hours after the president conceded his camp had lost its bid to have voters adopt the first major changes to Kenya's 42-year-old independence constitution.

Nearly 60% of voters rejected the new charter, which was vehemently opposed by Kibaki's political foes and some members of his cabinet as it retained near-absolute powers in the office of the president.

Critics, including several ministers in his ruling coalition, said the draft defied popular demands for significant power to be devolved to a prime minister that Kibaki promised when he was elected three years ago on a reform platform.

Analysts warned that the vote was a sign of growing disenchantment with the president, who has been accused of failing to follow through on campaign pledges to crack down on corruption and revamp Kenya's economy.

"It had become clear to the president that this was indeed a vote of 'no confidence' in his government," said Nairobi-based political analyst Opiyo Oketch. (Wire reports)

Japan Today - News - Bush's Al-Jazeera 'bomb plan' criticized - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Bush's Al-Jazeera 'bomb plan' criticized - Japan's Leading International News NetworkBush's Al-Jazeera 'bomb plan' criticized

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Friday, November 25, 2005 at 07:40 JST
DOHA — Journalists in several Arab capitals staged protests Thursday over reports that U.S. President George W Bush wanted to attack Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera's Doha headquarters.

Dozens of staff turned out for a symbolic sit-in at the Doha headquarters, with similar protests at the channel's foreign bureaux.


About 100 of the channel's journalists and employees have signed a petition calling on its board of governors to launch an official inquiry into the claim, which appeared in Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper.

They also demanded an immediate end "to attacks and incitement against Al-Jazeera and its employees" and called for "the opening of an inquiry into the bombing of Al-Jazeera's offices in Kabul and Baghdad."

The Daily Mirror reported the existence of a memo which summarized a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in which the U.S. president was reported to have wanted to bomb the channel's headquarters while Blair opposed the idea.

The channel's director addressed the Doha sit-in from London, telling the gathered workers that he was trying to meet Blair.

"We have requested an urgent meeting with the British prime minister and editors of newspapers and other media in London," said Wadhah Khanfar.

"We have adopted a plan of action that we have immediately started to implement," he said, calling for next week to be "an Al-Jazeera and freedom of expression week."

"We won't be quiet until we have reached the truth, which we will make public," Khanfar added.

Protestors also called for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to intervene "to bring the American administration and the British government to explain their attitude in this matter."

Al-Jazeera's reporting of the Iraq war angered Washington, but the White House described the Daily Mirror report as "outlandish."

Tariq Ayub, an Al-Jazeera journalist, was killed by a missile which hit the channel's office in Baghdad during the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003.

Al-Jazeera's bureau in the Afghan capital was also hit by American bombs, with the Pentagon saying it thought the building was an al-Qaida base.

Lebanese journalists, including Al-Jazeera employees, organised a protest in Beirut, where bureau chief Ghassan Ben Jeddo demanded an "inquiry into this matter" and the bombings in Kabul and Baghdad.

"The American administration is attacking the freedom of expression that is one of the founding principles of American democracy," added the president of Lebanon's audiovisual council, Abdel Hadi Mahfuz.

Other Lebanese media workers taking part in the sit-in included those from Al-Manar, the television station of Shiite fundamentalist movement Hezbollah.

The group, which Washington describes as "terrorist," issued a statement saying the affair has unveiled the true face of the United States as self-declared defenders of freedom of speech.

In Cairo, Al-Jazeera journalists also staged a protest at their bureau, where banners were set up saying "We want the truth."

Chief Cairo correspondent Hussein Abdel Ghani said: "We're here and in every office of our network today to demonstrate our deep concern about the story that was published about how Bush was thinking of bombing our headquarters."

"We're asking the United Nations and the international community for this story to be investigated," he said.

"It's unacceptable to shut down freedom of speech. It's crazy that the threat comes from a country that we used to consider as a model for us in the Arab world." (Wire reports)

Japan Today Discussion

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Is it any wonder?
J-dog Click here to see all messages by J-dog Click here to see profile of: J-dog (Nov 25 2005 - 11:53)
The Bushites endorsing W's plan to bomb Al-Jazeera want to bomb anyone, anywhere, who reports news that doesn't portray the US in a positive light. Do they also wish, along with Ann Coulter, that McVeigh had bombed the NY Times?

November 2001: The Al-Jazeera offices in Kabul are bombed by US forces during the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
December 15, 2001: Sami Muhyideen al-Haj, an assistant cameraman for Al-Jazeera, is arrested by Pakistani authorities along the Afghan-Pakistani border while on assignment for the network. He is later transferred to U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, where he is still being held to this day without formal charges.
March 29, 2003: Four members of the Al-Jazeera crew in Basra, the only journalists inside the city, come under gunfire from British tanks as they are filming distribution of food by Iraqi government officials.
April 7, 2003: A clearly marked Al-Jazeera vehicles comes under fire from US forces on a motorway near Baghdad.
April 8, 2003: Al-Jazeera cameraman reporter Tareq Ayoub is killed when a US missile slams into the station's Baghdad bureau.
April 21, 2003: British forces detain Al-Jazeera TV correspondent Mohammad Al-Sayed Mohsen in the Iraqi city of Basra where he is covering the US-led occupation... The Al-Jazeera correspondent says it was the third time British forces had harassed him...
September 10, 2003 U.S. troops detain Al-Jazeera correspondent Atwar Bahgat and her cameraman in the Ghazaliya section of Baghdad... The Associated Press quoted an unnamed military spokesman as saying that the journalists had violated unspecified “ground rules.”
November 2003: Coalition troops detain two Al-Jazeera staffers covering an explosion at a police station in western Baghdad on allegations they had prior knowledge of the car bombing. Al-Jazeera dismissed the charges as ridiculous, and the men were later freed.
November 3, 2003: Salah Hassan, an Al-Jazeera cameraman, is arrested while interviewing people at the scene of a roadside bomb attack on a US military convoy in Dialah, near the eastern Iraqi city of Baquba. US troops repeatedly accuse him of knowing in advance about the bomb attack and of lying in wait to get footage. "I told them to review my tapes, that it was clear I had arrived thirty or forty minutes after the blast. They told me I was a liar," says Hassan. He is taken to the military base at Baghdad International Airport, held in a bathroom for two days, then flown hooded and bound to Tikrit... He was later released for lack of evidence.
November 7, 2003: Sami Awad, a Lebanese cameraman working as a freelancer for a German TV network, says that when he and his crew tried to check out a report Friday about hand grenades being thrown at a U.S. patrol in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers threw them to the ground and pointed their weapons at their heads. "They checked our identity badges and then let us go, saying they thought we were with Al-Jazeera,"
January 2004: Iraq's then-Governing Council bans Al-Jazeera reporters from entering its offices or covering its news conferences for a month because it had reportedly shown disrespect toward prominent Iraqis.
May 21, 2004: Al-Jazeera employee, Rashid Hamid Wali, is shot and killed covering fighting in the city of Karbala.
August 5, 2004: The Iraqi government suspends Al-Jazeera's Baghdad operations, accusing it of inciting violence.
September 4, 2004: The Iraqi government shuts down Al-Jazeera's Baghdad operations indefinitely because al-Jazeera had failed to offer an explanation of its editorial policies. The station's spokesman, Jihad Ballout, said the office in Baghdad was stormed by Iraqi security forces hours before the order was announced.

Last February CNN's top news executive Eason Jordan was forced, under pressure, to resign his position after a major furor erupted over remarks he had made on a January 27, 2005 panel. Jordan had reportedly suggested (in an "off-the-record" panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland) that coalition forces had deliberately targeted some journalists in Iraq.

A few months later, Linda Foley, national president of The Newspaper Guild, likewise incurred the ire of conservatives for similar comments contained in a letter she had sent to President Bush, and in a panel discussion at the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis on May 13, criticizing the U.S. investigation into the deaths of journalists in Iraq: “Journalists are not just being targeted verbally or politically. They are also being targeted for real in places like Iraq. And what outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there’s not more outrage about the number and the brutality, and the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq. I think it’s just a scandal.”

In view of recent revelations, especially those involving George W. Bush's apparent willingness to deliberately bomb Al-Jazeera's Qatar headquarters, it would seem Eason Jordan and Linda Foley have been vindicated and are owed an apology. The public is owed a Congressional investigation. http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2005/11/23/19120/600

Taipei Times - archives

Taipei Times - archivesPublished on TaipeiTimes
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2005/11/25/2003281610

Poll shows strong support for Taiwan
PERCEPTIVE: The Gallup poll of Americans and Europeans said that most consider Taiwan to be a separate state and that its features rank more favorably than China's
By Jimmy Chuang
STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP
Friday, Nov 25, 2005,Page 1

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The result of a recent poll that was conducted by the US-based Gallup Organization showed that more than 60 percent of the interviewees in five countries see Taiwan as a sovereign country, and also that most people view it more favorably than China.

The Government Information Office (GIO) commissioned Gallup to study the country's image among opinion leaders and the general public in the US, Japan, France, Germany and the UK.

The result of the study showed that Japanese favor Taiwan over China by a margin of almost two to one, slightly more than the gap recorded for Americans.

The result also showed that the three European countries also favor Taiwan over its rival, but did not give specifics.

The survey showed that the strongest impressions for most interviewees in all five countries about Taiwan were of the country's advanced technology, its strong economy, "delicious" food and natural attractions.

As for the strongest impression about Taiwanese people, most interviewees felt that Taiwanese people were hard-working, friendly as well as peace-loving.

Taiwan has been trying for years to regain admission to the UN, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations, but Chinese pressure has convinced most countries not to support it.

Still, the survey showed that the majority of interviewees supported Taiwan's application to the UN, while more than 72 percent supported Taiwan's joining the WHO.

The Gallup survey, which has a margin of error of 3 percent, was conducted by telephone in May and June. Pollsters interviewed 1,500 adults from the general public and 200 opinion leaders in each of the five countries.

"The government should reflect how to translate these positive attitudes toward Taiwan into action," said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), the executive director of the Institute for National Policy Research.

"It is a sign that China's campaign to undermine the country's legitimacy is not working at all," said GIO Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智).

"The study also showed us that more than 60 percent of the respondents in the five countries see Taiwan and China as two separate sovereign countries," he said.

Taiwanese academics said that the survey's results make it imperative for the government to develop a concrete strategy to take advantage of the support it enjoys.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia investigates abuse claim

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia investigates abuse claim Malaysia investigates abuse claim

Malaysia has launched an inquiry after a video emerged which apparently shows a police officer humiliating an ethnic Chinese woman.

The clip, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, purportedly shows the naked woman being forced to squat as she is watched by a woman in uniform.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said the incident was a severe blow to Malaysia's image.

It follows a number of complaints against police by Chinese tourists.

A Malaysian delegation is due to travel to China next week to mend relations between the two countries.

Outrage

Mr Razak said he took the matter seriously and promised action against those responsible if the incident was genuine.

A Malaysian police spokesman said officers were checking to see who made the recording and where it was filmed.

If police personnel are really involved, then this is police abuse
Azmi Khalid
Interior Minister

Interior Minister Azmi Khalid said the incident should not have happened.

"If police personnel are really involved, then this is police abuse," he said, quoted by the Reuters news agency.

The clip, thought to have been filmed on a mobile phone, appears to show the prisoner and a female police officer.

The officer, who wears a Muslim headscarf, stands in front of the woman, who is forced to strip naked, grasp her ears and squat repeatedly.

It is a punishment common in Malaysian schools and is designed to humiliate, says the BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur.

The pictures are accompanied by what appears to be a recording of verses from the Koran being recited, although it is unclear if the recording would have been audible to the woman.

The pictures were passed to an opposition lawmaker who released them in the lobby of the Malaysian parliament.

Profiling

Mr Khalid is due to fly to Beijing next Wednesday to placate the Chinese over the treatment of their tourists in Malaysia.

There has been a marked drop in Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia since reports of the alleged abuses surfaced.

A number of Chinese women have claimed they were forced to strip in Malaysian police stations while being spied upon.

Malaysian immigration officers have also been accused of profiling young female Chinese visitors as would-be prostitutes.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Chinese surfers reject political control

Chinese surfers reject political controlChinese surfers reject political control

Porn and violence should be censored, but not political discussion
Simon Burns, vnunet.com 25 Nov 2005

The vast majority of China's internet users want to be free to discuss and read about politics online, but also believe that people should be protected from pornographic and violent content, according to a recent survey funded by a US foundation.

Only eight per cent of Chinese surfers believe that political content should be controlled, down from 12 per cent in 2003. However, 73 per cent want restrictions on violence, and 85 per cent on pornography.

"Based on its open technology, the internet is having a profound impact on China's relatively closed traditions, culture and political system," said the survey, which was supervised by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and funded by the Markle Foundation, a privately-funded US think-tank.

Compared to citizens in other countries, Chinese people are unusually optimistic about the political benefits of the internet, the report found.

Sixty per cent of respondents believe that "higher-level officials will better understand the common people's views through the internet", and more than half thought that the internet gave people more opportunities to criticise government policy.

Although Chinese surfers are optimistic that the internet will "have a positive effect on political transparency", the vast majority do not use government websites.

Compared with research in several other countries, the report pointed out, " only Chinese subjects responded positively about the political role of the internet".

"The number one purpose of going online is to read the news," the report stated, with domestic, international and social news all being read by roughly half of net users. The report noted that the most frequently accessed news category is entertainment, read by 65 per cent.

The 2,376 internet users questioned in the survey tend to trust domestic sources of online news more than foreign sources.

Traditionally, China's authorities have exercised tight censorship of news outlets, particularly with regard to political information, and strongly encouraged self-censorship, although this control has relaxed slightly in recent years.

The survey also showed that people still trust traditional media more than they do the internet.

"In China to date the internet has become an entertainment and communication highway, but not an information highway," said Professor Guo Liang of the Research Center for Social Development, who headed the team that carried out the survey.

Internet access in China is still limited to a small, non-representative segment of the population, although it is spreading fast.

"Internet adoption reaches only about eight per cent of the total population, " the report said, adding that the typical user is young, urban, single, well educated and well paid.

The report's findings were based on face-to-face interviews with 2,376 people at randomly selected homes in five cities, 75 per cent of them in China's three largest urban centres of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Urban residents account for around 40 per cent of China's population, and tend to be considerably better paid and better educated.

Questions on the Legality of Campaign Fund-Raising - New York Times

Questions on the Legality of Campaign Fund-Raising - New York TimesNovember 25, 2005
Congressional Memo
Questions on the Legality of Campaign Fund-Raising
By CARL HULSE

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 - The American system of underwriting political campaigns is often derided as legalized bribery. Now the Justice Department is contending that it can amount to illegal bribery as well.

In pursuing a case that threatens to envelop Congress in an election-year lobbying scandal, federal prosecutors are arguing that campaign dollars and other perks routinely showered on lawmakers by those with legislative and political interests on Capitol Hill can reach the level of criminal misconduct.

The prosecutors say that among the criminal activities of Michael Scanlon, a former House leadership aide who pleaded guilty on Monday to bribery conspiracy, were efforts to influence a lawmaker identified in court papers only as Representative No. 1 with gifts that included $4,000 to his campaign account and $10,000 to a Republican Party fund on his behalf.

Lawyers and others who follow such issues say the case against Mr. Scanlon amounted to a shift by the Justice Department, which, they say, has generally steered clear of trying to build corruption cases around political donations because the charges can be hard to prove.

"The department has rarely charged campaign contribution cases," said Joseph E. diGenova, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. "It would be a surprise that a contribution that has been lawfully reported" would lead to a criminal charge.

The case against Mr. Scanlon, who became wealthy in a partnership with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, reaches far beyond the contributions to Representative No. 1. Court documents filed by prosecutors lay out an extensive conspiracy in which Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff, identified in the documents only as Lobbyist A, sought to defraud clients - mainly Indian tribes with gambling interests - and win legislative help from lawmakers in exchange for campaign donations, trips, dinners, greens fees and jobs.

Watchdog groups and some lawmakers say the emerging details of how at least one set of well-connected lobbyists operated should help build momentum for changes in lobbying rules. And, they say, the case demonstrates that the Justice Department shares their longstanding contention that campaign contributions can be used to game the system.

"I think the Justice Department wants to show that there is a line that can be crossed," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Others say a vast majority of lawmakers are committed to operating within the rules that already exist and in any event would not be easily swayed by the attentions of special interests, no matter how generous.

"Contributions can only take you so far," said former Senator John B. Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat who has relocated to a K Street law firm and is now advising clients on lobbying strategy. "I tell them, 'Look, you can give to an elected official and take them to lunch, dinner and breakfast. But if you are asking them to vote yes on an issue and they have 2,000 letters from home telling them to vote no, then you have a problem.' "

Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican who has acknowledged being Representative No. 1, dismisses any suggestion that he was persuaded to do Mr. Scanlon's bidding because of campaign aid or perks like meals, entertainment or overseas travel.

"Whenever Representative Ney took official action," a statement from his office said, "actions similar to those taken by elected representatives every day as part of the normal, appropriate government process, he did so based on his best understanding of what was right and not based on any improper influence."

But the scrutiny of Mr. Ney has caught the attention of anxious lawmakers who have lobbying relationships of their own. It has also spurred advocacy groups. The campaign finance watchdog Democracy 21, for instance, is calling for inquiries by the House and Senate ethics committees into whether three dozen other members of Congress received contributions in exchange for intervening on behalf of a client of Mr. Abramoff.

The Associated Press reported this month that various lawmakers of both parties had asked the Interior Department to reject a casino application from a tribe that was a rival to one of Mr. Abramoff's clients. The lawmakers later received campaign aid from the tribe and Mr. Abramoff. Among the beneficiaries was the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who received a $5,000 contribution to his political action committee shortly after sending a letter to the department in 2002.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid, said Mr. Abramoff and the donation had had nothing to do with the position of the senator, who Mr. Manley noted was an author of Indian gaming laws and an opponent of new Indian casinos. "There was absolutely no connection between the letter and the contributions," he said.

Federal law requires that to prove bribery, the government must establish that a "thing of value" was provided in a direct effort to obtain a specific official act - the essential quid pro quo. A more vague expectation that something like a contribution might influence a public official has been deemed insufficient.

Mr. diGenova and others said that as a result, the Justice Department had been reluctant to try to link official actions to political donations, leaning instead toward cases in which public officials had been personally enriched.

Those watching the current case see Mr. Scanlon's decision to cooperate in the continuing investigation of Mr. Abramoff and others as a crucial link to the possibility of further charges: as an insider, he could conceivably provide evidence of a strong tie between efforts to influence lawmakers and their official actions.

Criminal charges aside, some watchdogs and members of Congress say they hope that public exposure of lobbying abuse stirs the Congressional ethics committees to police lawmakers more aggressively and that it simultaneously builds support for tighter lobbying restrictions.

"I think most Americans play by the rules and expect their leaders in government to do the same," said an author of one such proposal, Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts. "It is time for Congress to clean up its act."

States' Coffers Swelling Again After Struggles - New York Times

States' Coffers Swelling Again After Struggles - New York TimesNovember 25, 2005
States' Coffers Swelling Again After Struggles
By JOHN M. BRODER

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 24 - After four years of tight budgets and deepening debt, most states from California to Maine are experiencing a marked turnaround in their fiscal fortunes, with billions of dollars more in tax receipts than had been projected pouring into coffers around the country.

The windfall is a result of both a general upturn in the economy and conservative budgeting by state officials in recent years, and it is leading to the restoration of school funding, investments in long-neglected roads and bridges, debt reduction, and the return of money borrowed from cities and counties.

In Sacramento, officials are setting aside part of a multibillion-dollar revenue windfall to build up California's depleted cash reserves. Delaware has appropriated money for a pilot program for full-day kindergarten, and Florida will spend nearly $400 million on a new universal preschool program for 4-year-olds. Some states, including New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Oklahoma, are pouring significant new sums into public colleges and universities after several years of sharp cutbacks.

One sign of the improved fiscal health, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, is that only five states were forced to make midyear budget cuts, totaling $634 million, in the fiscal year that ended, for most states, on June 30. In 2003, by contrast, 37 states cut spending in the middle of the budget year, by a total of $12.6 billion, the association said.

But the good news is not universal and may prove short-lived. The Great Lakes States continue to be hammered by the loss of manufacturing jobs, and full recovery from the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast States will take years.

And experts warn that even though tax revenues are rising in most of the country, demands on state budgets - particularly for education, health care and pensions - are growing even faster.

"The general picture is that revenue is coming in better than expected for quite a few states," said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers.

"The problem," Mr. Pattison said, "is that the states are like the guy who had been laid off and his income went way down, and now he's got a job again. But in the meantime, he put a lot of expenses on his credit card, his kids' tuition went up and he tapped into his retirement fund. That's exactly what a lot of states did."

During the lean years, states resorted to a lot of one-time fixes to balance their budgets while maintaining services. They cut spending, raised taxes, drew down their rainy-day funds, relied on federal programs, delayed payments to employee pension funds and borrowed heavily. Now they are coping with the hangover from those stopgap solutions.

In California, for example, increased tax collections and the cumulative effect of state spending cuts produced a turnaround in the state's budgetary fortunes, to the tune of nearly $4 billion, according to analysts for the governor's office and the Legislature. Officials now project a surplus of $5.2 billion at the end of the current fiscal year, up from an earlier projection of $1.3 billion. But all of that excess revenue will be consumed during the coming fiscal year, and the state will find quickly itself back in the red unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers agree on longer-term solutions to the chronic imbalance between revenue and spending.

"We still have to control the rate of growth in spending," said H. D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance.

Governor Schwarzenegger, a Republican, sponsored a ballot measure this fall that would have forced reductions in state spending when revenue fell short of projections, but it was soundly rejected by voters, who responded to heated warnings from state employee and teachers unions that it would mean steep cuts in education and other services. Mr. Palmer said the governor would work with the Legislature on another approach.

The picture in New York is similar to that in California. New York entered the fiscal year that began in April with a projected deficit of $4.2 billion. Instead, because of a sharp rise in personal income taxes and capital gains receipts, the state now expects to end the year with a surplus of $1 billion, a $5 billion turnaround in one year. But Michael Marr, the communications director for the New York state budget office, said rapidly rising costs for Medicaid, education and other state programs demanded continued fiscal caution.

New York City has also seen a significant brightening of its fiscal picture. Income, sales and real estate transfer taxes are coming in above forecasts, cutting the projected deficit for the next fiscal year to $2.25 billion from $4.5 billion, the City Hall budget office reported this week.

New Jersey's finances, too, have benefited from the upturn in the economy and a relatively strong stock market, with state tax revenue growing at a double-digit rate over last year. New Jersey is one of several states considering tax cuts in the current fiscal year. The newly elected governor, Senator Jon Corzine, a Democrat, promised property tax relief in the recent campaign.

Indiana is also considering property tax cuts, perhaps offset by an increase in cigarette taxes. Lawmakers in Utah are looking at ways to reduce sales or income taxes after the state took in $90 million more in taxes than anticipated in the first four months of the current fiscal year.

Michigan's economy remains in the doldrums because of the deep slump in the auto industry, and its state budget woes have eased only slightly, said Jay Wortley, senior economist at the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. Revenues are expected to grow by a modest 3.2 percent in the current year over the year just ended, Mr. Wortley said. But that rate of growth will not begin to make up for five years of cutbacks in virtually all state services, he added.

Mr. Wortley said prison costs were rising, local governments were not getting promised payments from the state and financing for state universities remained tight. The state is selling publicly owned property and is borrowing against anticipated revenue from the nationwide settlement with tobacco companies to make ends meet.

Despite all that, Michigan officials are debating a package of business tax cuts to attract and retain high-technology companies to replace the jobs lost in manufacturing.

State officials know that the tax cuts will create additional stress on the budget, Mr. Wortley said. "But they feel they have to do something to turn the economy around," he said. "The only thing state government can do to help business is to cut taxes."

And then there are Mississippi and Louisiana.

Both states entered the current fiscal year on a high note. In Louisiana, oil and gas royalties were coming in at a record pace and sales tax revenue was growing at a double-digit clip. Mississippi ended the last fiscal year with a healthy surplus, and the current year began strong, with sales, corporate and individual income taxes exceeding estimates in July alone by $22 million.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, followed by Hurricane Rita.

"In the absence of these storms," said Greg Albrecht, chief economist for Louisiana's legislative fiscal office, "we were rocking and rolling. Just before they hit, we were sitting around saying, Look at all the money we're going to have. We were finally going to come back from the recession of 2001."

"Then the storms came along and just pulled the rug out from underneath us," Mr. Albrecht said.

Louisiana has emptied its rainy-day fund and cut $600 million from its $7.3 billion annual budget, and the state is still looking for ways to fill what has become a gaping hole in its finances.

Mississippi, which was also hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, took out a $500 million line of credit to make up for lost sales and income taxes and to provide disaster assistance to state residents. J. K. Stringer Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, said that despite the devastation after the storm, revenue rebounded in October because of heavy spending by federal workers, insurance companies and thousands of evacuees from neighboring Louisiana.

But Mr. Stringer said the state faced unknowns that made it impossible to draft a budget for the coming year.

"We got things under control here," he said, "other than three little unknowns: how much state revenue we're going to collect, how much this thing is going to cost us and how much money we're going to get from the feds."

"Other than that," Mr. Stringer said, "we've got a firm handle on things."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution - New York Times

A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution - New York TimesNovember 24, 2005
A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution
By HOWARD W. FRENCH

SHANGHAI, Nov. 23 - On her fourth day of keeping a Web log, she introduced herself to the world with these striking words: "I am a dance girl, and I am a party member."

"I don't know if I can be counted as a successful Web cam dance girl," that early post continued. "But I'm sure that looking around the world, if I am not the one with the highest diploma, I am definitely the dance babe who reads the most and thinks the deepest, and I'm most likely the only party member among them."

Thus was born, early in July, what many regard as China's most popular blog.

Sometimes timing is everything, and such was the case with the anonymous blogger, a self-described Communist Party member from Shanghai who goes by the pseudonym Mu Mu.

A 25-year-old, Mu Mu appears online most evenings around midnight, shielding her face while striking poses that are provocative, but never sexually explicit.

She parries questions from some of her tens of thousands of avid followers with witticisms and cool charm.

Chinese Web logs have existed since early in this decade, but the form has exploded in recent months, challenging China's ever vigilant online censors and giving flesh to the kind of free-spoken civil society whose emergence the government has long been determined to prevent or at least tightly control.

Web experts say the surge in blogging is a result of strong growth in broadband Internet use, coupled with a huge commercial push by the country's Internet providers aimed at wooing users. Common estimates of the numbers of blogs in China range from one million to two million and growing fast.

Under China's current leader, Hu Jintao, the government has waged an energetic campaign against freedom of expression, prohibiting the promotion of public intellectuals by the news media; imposing restrictions on Web sites; pressing search engine companies, like Google, to bar delicate topics, particularly those dealing with democracy and human rights; and heavily censoring bulletin board discussions at universities and elsewhere.

So far, Chinese authorities have mostly relied on Internet service providers to police the Web logs. Commentary that is too provocative or directly critical of the government is often blocked by the provider. Sometimes the sites are swamped by opposing comment - many believe by official censors - that is more favorable to the government.

Blogs are sometimes shut down altogether, temporarily or permanently. But the authorities do not yet seem to have an answer to the proliferation of public opinion in this form.

The new wave of blogging took off earlier this year. In the past, a few pioneers of the form stood out, but now huge communities of bloggers are springing up around the country, with many of them promoting one another's online offerings, books, music or, as in Mu Mu's case, a running, highly ironic commentary about sexuality, intellect and political identity.

"The new bloggers are talking back to authority, but in a humorous way," said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. "People have often said you can say anything you want in China around the dinner table, but not in public. Now the blogs have become the dinner table, and that is new.

"The content is often political, but not directly political, in the sense that you are not advocating anything, but at the same time you are undermining the ideological basis of power."

A fresh example was served up last week with the announcement by China of five cartoonlike mascot figures for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. They were lavishly praised in the press - and widely ridiculed in blogs that seemed to accurately express public sentiment toward them.

"It's not difficult to create a mascot that's silly and ugly," wrote one blogger. "The difficulty is in creating five mascots, each sillier and uglier than the one before it."

A leading practitioner of the sly, satirical style that is emerging here as an influential form of political and social commentary is a 38-year-old Beijing entertainment journalist named Wang Xiaofeng. Mr. Wang, who runs a site called Massage Milk, is better known to bloggers by his nickname, Dai San Ge Biao, which means Wears Three Watches.

His blog mixes an infectious cleverness with increasingly forthright commentary on current events, starting with his very nickname, which is a patent mockery of the political theory of the former Chinese Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin, which was labeled San Ge Dai Biao, or the Three Represents.

In a recent commentary, as the government stoked patriotic sentiment during the commemoration of the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, Mr. Wang asked who really fought the enemy, making the provocative observation that only two Communist generals had died fighting Japan, while more than 100 of their Nationalist counterparts had.

"In blogging I don't need to be concerned about taboos," Mr. Wang said. "I don't need to borrow a euphemism to express myself. I can do it more directly, using the exact word I want to, so it feels a lot freer."

Another emerging school of blogging, potentially as subversive as any political allegory, involves bringing Chinese Web surfers more closely in touch with things happening outside their country.

Typically, this involves avid readers of English who scour foreign Web sites and report on their findings, adding their own commentary, in Chinese blogs.

Several bloggers like this have become opinion leaders, usually in areas like technology, culture, current events or fashion, building big followings by being fast and prolific.

One of the leading sites was run by Isaac Mao, a Shanghai investment manager who had built a following writing about education and technology. His site, isaacmao.com, was later blocked by the authorities after he posted a graphic purporting to illustrate the workings of the firewall operated by the country's censors.

Mr. Mao, an organizer of the first national bloggers' conference in Shanghai this month, recently went back online at isaacmao.blogbus.com/s1034872/index.html.

By far the biggest category of blogs remains the domain of the personal diary, and in this crowded realm, getting attention places a premium on uniqueness.

For the past few months, Mu Mu, the Shanghai dancer, has held pride of place, revealing glimpses of her body while maintaining an intimate and clever banter with her many followers, who are carefully kept in the dark about her real identity.

"In China, the concepts of private life and public life have emerged only in the past 10 to 20 years," she said in an online interview. "Before that, if a person had any private life, it only included their physical privacy - the sex life, between man and woman, for couples.

"I'm fortunate to live in a transitional society, from a highly political one to a commercial one," she wrote, "and this allows me to enjoy private pleasures, like blogging."

A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution - New York Times

A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution - New York TimesNovember 24, 2005
A Party Girl Leads China's Online Revolution
By HOWARD W. FRENCH

SHANGHAI, Nov. 23 - On her fourth day of keeping a Web log, she introduced herself to the world with these striking words: "I am a dance girl, and I am a party member."

"I don't know if I can be counted as a successful Web cam dance girl," that early post continued. "But I'm sure that looking around the world, if I am not the one with the highest diploma, I am definitely the dance babe who reads the most and thinks the deepest, and I'm most likely the only party member among them."

Thus was born, early in July, what many regard as China's most popular blog.

Sometimes timing is everything, and such was the case with the anonymous blogger, a self-described Communist Party member from Shanghai who goes by the pseudonym Mu Mu.

A 25-year-old, Mu Mu appears online most evenings around midnight, shielding her face while striking poses that are provocative, but never sexually explicit.

She parries questions from some of her tens of thousands of avid followers with witticisms and cool charm.

Chinese Web logs have existed since early in this decade, but the form has exploded in recent months, challenging China's ever vigilant online censors and giving flesh to the kind of free-spoken civil society whose emergence the government has long been determined to prevent or at least tightly control.

Web experts say the surge in blogging is a result of strong growth in broadband Internet use, coupled with a huge commercial push by the country's Internet providers aimed at wooing users. Common estimates of the numbers of blogs in China range from one million to two million and growing fast.

Under China's current leader, Hu Jintao, the government has waged an energetic campaign against freedom of expression, prohibiting the promotion of public intellectuals by the news media; imposing restrictions on Web sites; pressing search engine companies, like Google, to bar delicate topics, particularly those dealing with democracy and human rights; and heavily censoring bulletin board discussions at universities and elsewhere.

So far, Chinese authorities have mostly relied on Internet service providers to police the Web logs. Commentary that is too provocative or directly critical of the government is often blocked by the provider. Sometimes the sites are swamped by opposing comment - many believe by official censors - that is more favorable to the government.

Blogs are sometimes shut down altogether, temporarily or permanently. But the authorities do not yet seem to have an answer to the proliferation of public opinion in this form.

The new wave of blogging took off earlier this year. In the past, a few pioneers of the form stood out, but now huge communities of bloggers are springing up around the country, with many of them promoting one another's online offerings, books, music or, as in Mu Mu's case, a running, highly ironic commentary about sexuality, intellect and political identity.

"The new bloggers are talking back to authority, but in a humorous way," said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. "People have often said you can say anything you want in China around the dinner table, but not in public. Now the blogs have become the dinner table, and that is new.

"The content is often political, but not directly political, in the sense that you are not advocating anything, but at the same time you are undermining the ideological basis of power."

A fresh example was served up last week with the announcement by China of five cartoonlike mascot figures for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. They were lavishly praised in the press - and widely ridiculed in blogs that seemed to accurately express public sentiment toward them.

"It's not difficult to create a mascot that's silly and ugly," wrote one blogger. "The difficulty is in creating five mascots, each sillier and uglier than the one before it."

A leading practitioner of the sly, satirical style that is emerging here as an influential form of political and social commentary is a 38-year-old Beijing entertainment journalist named Wang Xiaofeng. Mr. Wang, who runs a site called Massage Milk, is better known to bloggers by his nickname, Dai San Ge Biao, which means Wears Three Watches.

His blog mixes an infectious cleverness with increasingly forthright commentary on current events, starting with his very nickname, which is a patent mockery of the political theory of the former Chinese Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin, which was labeled San Ge Dai Biao, or the Three Represents.

In a recent commentary, as the government stoked patriotic sentiment during the commemoration of the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, Mr. Wang asked who really fought the enemy, making the provocative observation that only two Communist generals had died fighting Japan, while more than 100 of their Nationalist counterparts had.

"In blogging I don't need to be concerned about taboos," Mr. Wang said. "I don't need to borrow a euphemism to express myself. I can do it more directly, using the exact word I want to, so it feels a lot freer."

Another emerging school of blogging, potentially as subversive as any political allegory, involves bringing Chinese Web surfers more closely in touch with things happening outside their country.

Typically, this involves avid readers of English who scour foreign Web sites and report on their findings, adding their own commentary, in Chinese blogs.

Several bloggers like this have become opinion leaders, usually in areas like technology, culture, current events or fashion, building big followings by being fast and prolific.

One of the leading sites was run by Isaac Mao, a Shanghai investment manager who had built a following writing about education and technology. His site, isaacmao.com, was later blocked by the authorities after he posted a graphic purporting to illustrate the workings of the firewall operated by the country's censors.

Mr. Mao, an organizer of the first national bloggers' conference in Shanghai this month, recently went back online at isaacmao.blogbus.com/s1034872/index.html.

By far the biggest category of blogs remains the domain of the personal diary, and in this crowded realm, getting attention places a premium on uniqueness.

For the past few months, Mu Mu, the Shanghai dancer, has held pride of place, revealing glimpses of her body while maintaining an intimate and clever banter with her many followers, who are carefully kept in the dark about her real identity.

"In China, the concepts of private life and public life have emerged only in the past 10 to 20 years," she said in an online interview. "Before that, if a person had any private life, it only included their physical privacy - the sex life, between man and woman, for couples.

"I'm fortunate to live in a transitional society, from a highly political one to a commercial one," she wrote, "and this allows me to enjoy private pleasures, like blogging."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bush Spoke of Attacking Arab News Channel, British Tabloid Says - New York TimesNovember 23, 2005

Bush Spoke of Attacking Arab News Channel, British Tabloid Says - New York TimesNovember 23, 2005
Bush Spoke of Attacking Arab News Channel, British Tabloid Says
By ALAN COWELL

LONDON, Nov. 22 - The Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera urged Britain and the United States on Tuesday to investigate a British newspaper report that Prime Minister Tony Blair had dissuaded President Bush from bombing the station's headquarters in the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Bush was said to have referred to the idea of bombing Al Jazeera's studios in Qatar, a close Western ally, according to a document quoted Tuesday in The Daily Mirror. The tabloid said it was quoting from a leaked government memo said to contain a transcript of a conversation by Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004.

The Bush administration has frequently depicted Al Jazeera's broadcasts as showing anti-American bias.

Mr. Blair's office said it never talked about leaked documents.

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, told The Associated Press via an e-mail message, "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response."

In a statement on Tuesday referring to the British and American governments, Al Jazeera said that "in the event that the memo is found to be accurate, it would be incumbent on them to explain their positions on statements regarding the deliberate targeting of journalists and news organizations."

Al Jazeera also said that, if genuine, the memo would cast "serious doubts" on previous American insistence that the military had not intentionally made targets of the station's offices and staff in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The British news agency the Press Association said that David Keogh, a Cabinet Office civil servant, and Leo O'Connor, who worked as a researcher in the office of Tony Clarke, a Parliament member, would appear in court next week to face charges under the Official Secrets Act in relation to the memo.

Mr. Keogh is accused of passing it to Mr. O'Connor, thus committing a "damaging disclosure."

According to The Daily Mirror, Mr. Clarke returned the memo to Mr. Blair's office.

The article drew comment from opponents of the Iraq war, including Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister in the Labor government.

"If it was the case that President Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera in what is after all a friendly country, it speaks volumes and it raises questions about subsequent attacks that took place on the press that wasn't embedded with coalition forces," he said.

Sir Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said, "On this occasion, the prime minister may have been successful in averting political disaster, but it shows how dangerous his relationship with President Bush has been."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Forbes.com - Magazine Article

Forbes.com - Magazine ArticleGM's Bumpy Road
Forbes.com staff, 11.21.05, 5:00 PM ET

In a desperate struggle to pull General Motors out of its financial slide, Chief Executive G. Richard "Rick" Wagoner Jr. said today that the company would lay off up to 30,000 workers, 5,000 more than previously announced, and close all or part of nine manufacturing plants to achieve $7 billion in cost reductions on a running-rate basis by the end of 2006--$1 billion above its previously indicated target.

The largest automaker in the U.S., GM (nyse: GM - news - people ) continues to struggle with foreign competition, deep pension and healthcare costs for its workers, and higher fuel prices, which have hurt sales of high-margin vehicles like SUVs.

Last week, after the automaker's shares fell to their lowest level since 1987, Wagoner said GM had a turnaround plan and a strong balance sheet, including $19 billion in cash and another $16 billion in a trust fund for retiree health care. But that cushion could vanish quickly if GM can't muster a turnaround soon. GM has lost $6 billion in North America so far this year and has been burning through cash at a rate of about $5 billion per year.

--From staff and wire reports

CBS 46 Atlanta - GM to close Doraville plant, others by 2008

CBS 46 Atlanta - GM to close Doraville plant, others by 2008GM to close Doraville plant, others by 2008
Nov 21, 2005, 10:00 AM

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Corp. announced plans Monday to cut 30,000 manufacturing jobs and close nine North American assembly, stamping and powertrain facilities by 2008 as part of an effort to get production in line with demand.

Among the plants being closed is one in Doraville, Ga.

Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of the world's largest automaker, announced the closures during a speech to employees from GM's Detroit headquarters before the financial markets opened. Wagoner said GM also will close three service and parts operations facilities.

"The decisions we are announcing today were very difficult to reach because of their impact on our employees and the communities where we live and work," Wagoner said. "But these actions are necessary for GM to get its costs in line with our major global competitors. In short, they are an essential part of our plan to return our North American operations to profitability as soon as possible."

The Doraville plant, which employs 2,900, will remain open until it the end of its current products' life cycles, plant spokesman Michael Merrick said.

The plant began operations in 1947. Models it currently builds there include: the Buick Terraza, Chevy Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6 and the Saturn Relay, Merrick said.

Merrick said he could not talk about the mood of workers at the plant in light of the announcement.

GM said the plan is to achieve $7 billion in cost reductions on a running rate basis by the end of 2006 -- $1 billion above its previously indicated target. The number of job cuts also was above earlier estimates. GM said earlier this year it planned to cut 25,000 jobs by 2008, mostly through attrition.

GM said the other plants that will close are in Oklahoma City, Lansing, Mich., Spring Hill, Tenn., and Ontario, Canada.

An engine facility in Flint, Mich., will close, along with a powertrain facility in Ontario and metal centers in Lansing and Pittsburgh.

Parts distribution centers in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Portland, Ore., also will close, as well as one other to be announced later. A shift also will be removed at a plant in Moraine, Ohio.

Wagoner said last month the automaker would announce plant closures by the end of this year to get its capacity in line with U.S. demand. GM plants currently run at 85 percent of their capacity, lower than North American plants run by its Asian rivals. The plant closings aren't expected to be final until GM's current contract with the United Auto Workers expires in 2007.

GM has been crippled by high labor, pension, health care and materials costs as well as by sagging demand for sport utility vehicles, its longtime cash cows, and by bloated plant capacity. Its market share has been eroded by competition from Asian automakers led by Toyota Motor Corp. GM lost nearly $4 billion in the first nine months of this year.

The automaker could be facing a strike at Delphi Corp., its biggest parts supplier, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month. GM spun off Delphi in 1999 and could be liable for billions in pension costs for Delphi retirees.

GM also is under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting errors.

Last week, after the automaker's shares fell to their lowest level in 18 years, Wagoner sent an e-mail to employees saying the company has a turnaround strategy in place and has no plans to file for bankruptcy.

China holds line during Bush visit - Asia - Pacific - International Herald Tribune

China holds line during Bush visit - Asia - Pacific - International Herald Tribune China holds line during Bush visit
By David E. Sanger and Joseph Kahn The New York Times

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2005
BEIJING In a day of polite but tense encounters between Washington and the world's fastest-rising economic and military power, President Hu Jintao of China told President George W. Bush on Sunday that he was willing to speed the resolution of economic differences with the United States, but he gave no ground on permitting greater political freedoms or on the status of Taiwan.

While the two leaders were described by American officials as more comfortable with each other than in any previous encounter, Hu made it clear, by his words and his government's action, that he had no intention of giving in to American pressure.

American officials said none of the human rights cases on a list Bush gave to Hu in September had been resolved by the time Bush stepped into the Great Hall of the People Sunday morning.

In fact, by Sunday afternoon Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appearing before reporters, acknowledged that dissidents appear to have been put under house arrest or detained in advance of the trip, and she said the issue was being raised "quite vociferously with the Chinese government."

Talking with reporters on Sunday evening, Bush said his talks amounted to a "good, frank discussion," but he seemed unsatisfied. He chose his words about Hu carefully and repeated that the relationship with China was "complex," though later he added that it is "good, vibrant, strong."

"China is a trading partner, and we expect the trade with China to be fair," he said. "We expect our people to be treated fairly here in this important country."

Bush attended an early morning service at a state-sanctioned Protestant church near Tiananmen Square, and he said, "My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly." But religious activists in Beijing complained that dozens of Christians who wanted to worship alongside Bush were turned away or detained by security forces.

Christians in Shanghai and several other cities said the police detained people who belong to underground churches to prevent them from staging demonstrations for greater religious freedom during Bush's visit.

Dozens of political activists, including Bao Tong, a former senior Communist Party official who has become a critic of one-party rule, and Hu Jia, who has pressed for greater action to combat AIDS, were forbidden to leave their homes or use their telephones while Bush was in Beijing, according to people close to Bao and Hu who said they could not be identified because of possible retaliation by the government.

Bush, as he has through much of his Asia trip, continued to focus attention on Iraq. He talked at length about the arguments that have consumed Washington in his absence, and argued that members of the House or Senate who oppose his approach to Iraq have a right to dissent but also "a responsibility to provide a credible alternative."

"Leaving prematurely will have terrible consequences, for our own security and for the Iraqi people," he said, applauding Congress for voting down a resolution for immediate withdrawal - one that was worded so that its defeat was almost assured. "And that's not going to happen so long as I'm president."

If Iraq was his immediate problem, dealing with China's increasingly assertive tone on economic and military issues, and Hu's quiet resistance to Bush's calls for political liberalization, is clearly a challenge that will last far beyond his presidency.

After a day of talks that began with a 90-minute-long meeting inside the Great Hall of the People, Bush emerged with little progress to report beyond a $4 billion deal for 70 Boeing aircraft for China.

Even that agreement in principle - to purchase the 737-700 and 737-800 jets as part of a larger order that Boeing officials hope will total 150 airplanes - seemed highly preliminary. One person with detailed knowledge of the negotiations said that the actual contract, including the price tag for each aircraft, was still under negotiation.

He declined to be identified because of the commercial sensitivity of the pending contract. That strongly suggested the deal had been announced ahead of time to provide the White House with at least one trophy during Bush's visit.

Bush himself seemed tense during much of the day - when asked about it later by a reporter, he said "Have you ever heard of jet lag?" - except when he took the afternoon to go mountain biking.

But unlike his weekend forays in Washington, he was not alone: He took his trek with the Chinese athletes training for the 2008 Olympics.


Bush said Sunday night that he concluded that "it is clear that I couldn't make the Chinese cycling team," despite the fact that his hosts let him take the lead. As he entered the Great Hall of the People for dinner on Sunday night, he was greeted by Hu and laughingly told him that the team "treated me with respect. They did not run me to the ground."

American officials had set low expectations for what Bush might accomplish Sunday beyond deepening his relationship with Hu, a man he had expected would embrace reforms more quickly than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

But while administration officials stressed that a personal chemistry had begun to develop between the two men that made it easier to grapple with trade, currency and geopolitical problems, they put none of that comity on public display.

Hu, who almost never interacts with either the Chinese or the foreign media, declined what Bush administration officials described as a request to take media questions after their meeting. China's foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, attributed the silence by the Chinese leader to the tightness of Bush's schedule, though the president managed to hold such news conferences both with the prime minister of Japan and the president of South Korea.

On economic issues that are of major concern to American businesses - letting market forces set the value of the undervalued Chinese currency and protecting intellectual property from rampant piracy in China - Bush made marginal progress.

He secured a public statement from Hu that he would "unswervingly press ahead" to ease a $200 billion annual trade surplus that wildly outstrips anything Bush's father faced with Japan in the late 1980s.

But Hu set no schedule for further currency moves, which are politically unpopular in China because they would make Chinese goods less competitive abroad. An American participant in the meetings in the Great Hall of the People said it was clear "no Chinese leader was going to act immediately under the pressure" of a request from a foreign leader.

Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao detailed for Bush steps they were taking to curb the theft of movies, software and other goods, stressing that they believed such steps were necessary for the development of the Chinese economy.

But had Bush stepped a few hundred yards away into the shops off Tiananmen Square - a place he avoided being pictured, American officials said, because of the still-raw memories of the shooting of protesters there in 1989 - he could have paid a few dollars for DVDs of several current American movies and what appeared to be a working copy of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system.


U.S. officials have expressed frustration that Hu has made similar commitments before, but that so far progress was maddeningly slow.

The Chinese also appeared to completely rebuff the administration efforts to win some human rights concessions during Bush's trip.

None of the journalists, businessmen, and political dissidents that the United States has claimed have been unjustly imprisoned or persecuted by the Chinese judicial authorities have been released.

Chinese officials often make at least modest human rights concessions ahead of a presidential visit. But Hu, who has led a concerted and sustained crackdown on intellectual and media freedoms since he took power in 2002, has shown little inclination to make the kinds of gestures that his predecessors did.

"The Chinese leadership now argues that all such cases must be handled according to law," said Fan Yafeng, an outspoken scholar who has pressed for broader political and legal freedoms. "They pretend that the law operates independently of the party, which it does not."

Asked if the Chinese were trying to send Washington a message, Rice said that "I don't think this has anything to do with particular Chinese attitudes of this leadership. I expect that this leadership will understand, as the former leadership did, that these are issues of concern to the president, concern to Americans, and that we'll keep pressing on human rights."

Bush said that the two men also discussed strategies for handling the potential outbreak of avian flu and the long-running nuclear outbreak of North Korea.

Rice, who briefed journalists on Sunday afternoon, argued that the Chinese government was not trying to slow down the negotiations in hopes of putting off a confrontation with Pyongyang.

Hu visited there recently to meet Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.

"My impression, strong impression, is that the Chinese government very much wants to see this issue resolved," she said.



Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.


BEIJING In a day of polite but tense encounters between Washington and the world's fastest-rising economic and military power, President Hu Jintao of China told President George W. Bush on Sunday that he was willing to speed the resolution of economic differences with the United States, but he gave no ground on permitting greater political freedoms or on the status of Taiwan.

While the two leaders were described by American officials as more comfortable with each other than in any previous encounter, Hu made it clear, by his words and his government's action, that he had no intention of giving in to American pressure.

American officials said none of the human rights cases on a list Bush gave to Hu in September had been resolved by the time Bush stepped into the Great Hall of the People Sunday morning.

In fact, by Sunday afternoon Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appearing before reporters, acknowledged that dissidents appear to have been put under house arrest or detained in advance of the trip, and she said the issue was being raised "quite vociferously with the Chinese government."

Talking with reporters on Sunday evening, Bush said his talks amounted to a "good, frank discussion," but he seemed unsatisfied. He chose his words about Hu carefully and repeated that the relationship with China was "complex," though later he added that it is "good, vibrant, strong."

"China is a trading partner, and we expect the trade with China to be fair," he said. "We expect our people to be treated fairly here in this important country."

Bush attended an early morning service at a state-sanctioned Protestant church near Tiananmen Square, and he said, "My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly." But religious activists in Beijing complained that dozens of Christians who wanted to worship alongside Bush were turned away or detained by security forces.

Christians in Shanghai and several other cities said the police detained people who belong to underground churches to prevent them from staging demonstrations for greater religious freedom during Bush's visit.

Dozens of political activists, including Bao Tong, a former senior Communist Party official who has become a critic of one-party rule, and Hu Jia, who has pressed for greater action to combat AIDS, were forbidden to leave their homes or use their telephones while Bush was in Beijing, according to people close to Bao and Hu who said they could not be identified because of possible retaliation by the government.

Bush, as he has through much of his Asia trip, continued to focus attention on Iraq. He talked at length about the arguments that have consumed Washington in his absence, and argued that members of the House or Senate who oppose his approach to Iraq have a right to dissent but also "a responsibility to provide a credible alternative."

"Leaving prematurely will have terrible consequences, for our own security and for the Iraqi people," he said, applauding Congress for voting down a resolution for immediate withdrawal - one that was worded so that its defeat was almost assured. "And that's not going to happen so long as I'm president."

If Iraq was his immediate problem, dealing with China's increasingly assertive tone on economic and military issues, and Hu's quiet resistance to Bush's calls for political liberalization, is clearly a challenge that will last far beyond his presidency.

After a day of talks that began with a 90-minute-long meeting inside the Great Hall of the People, Bush emerged with little progress to report beyond a $4 billion deal for 70 Boeing aircraft for China.

Even that agreement in principle - to purchase the 737-700 and 737-800 jets as part of a larger order that Boeing officials hope will total 150 airplanes - seemed highly preliminary. One person with detailed knowledge of the negotiations said that the actual contract, including the price tag for each aircraft, was still under negotiation.

He declined to be identified because of the commercial sensitivity of the pending contract. That strongly suggested the deal had been announced ahead of time to provide the White House with at least one trophy during Bush's visit.

Bush himself seemed tense during much of the day - when asked about it later by a reporter, he said "Have you ever heard of jet lag?" - except when he took the afternoon to go mountain biking.

But unlike his weekend forays in Washington, he was not alone: He took his trek with the Chinese athletes training for the 2008 Olympics.


Bush said Sunday night that he concluded that "it is clear that I couldn't make the Chinese cycling team," despite the fact that his hosts let him take the lead. As he entered the Great Hall of the People for dinner on Sunday night, he was greeted by Hu and laughingly told him that the team "treated me with respect. They did not run me to the ground."

American officials had set low expectations for what Bush might accomplish Sunday beyond deepening his relationship with Hu, a man he had expected would embrace reforms more quickly than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

But while administration officials stressed that a personal chemistry had begun to develop between the two men that made it easier to grapple with trade, currency and geopolitical problems, they put none of that comity on public display.

Hu, who almost never interacts with either the Chinese or the foreign media, declined what Bush administration officials described as a request to take media questions after their meeting. China's foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, attributed the silence by the Chinese leader to the tightness of Bush's schedule, though the president managed to hold such news conferences both with the prime minister of Japan and the president of South Korea.

On economic issues that are of major concern to American businesses - letting market forces set the value of the undervalued Chinese currency and protecting intellectual property from rampant piracy in China - Bush made marginal progress.

He secured a public statement from Hu that he would "unswervingly press ahead" to ease a $200 billion annual trade surplus that wildly outstrips anything Bush's father faced with Japan in the late 1980s.

But Hu set no schedule for further currency moves, which are politically unpopular in China because they would make Chinese goods less competitive abroad. An American participant in the meetings in the Great Hall of the People said it was clear "no Chinese leader was going to act immediately under the pressure" of a request from a foreign leader.

Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao detailed for Bush steps they were taking to curb the theft of movies, software and other goods, stressing that they believed such steps were necessary for the development of the Chinese economy.

But had Bush stepped a few hundred yards away into the shops off Tiananmen Square - a place he avoided being pictured, American officials said, because of the still-raw memories of the shooting of protesters there in 1989 - he could have paid a few dollars for DVDs of several current American movies and what appeared to be a working copy of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system.


U.S. officials have expressed frustration that Hu has made similar commitments before, but that so far progress was maddeningly slow.

The Chinese also appeared to completely rebuff the administration efforts to win some human rights concessions during Bush's trip.

None of the journalists, businessmen, and political dissidents that the United States has claimed have been unjustly imprisoned or persecuted by the Chinese judicial authorities have been released.

Chinese officials often make at least modest human rights concessions ahead of a presidential visit. But Hu, who has led a concerted and sustained crackdown on intellectual and media freedoms since he took power in 2002, has shown little inclination to make the kinds of gestures that his predecessors did.

"The Chinese leadership now argues that all such cases must be handled according to law," said Fan Yafeng, an outspoken scholar who has pressed for broader political and legal freedoms. "They pretend that the law operates independently of the party, which it does not."

Asked if the Chinese were trying to send Washington a message, Rice said that "I don't think this has anything to do with particular Chinese attitudes of this leadership. I expect that this leadership will understand, as the former leadership did, that these are issues of concern to the president, concern to Americans, and that we'll keep pressing on human rights."

Bush said that the two men also discussed strategies for handling the potential outbreak of avian flu and the long-running nuclear outbreak of North Korea.

Rice, who briefed journalists on Sunday afternoon, argued that the Chinese government was not trying to slow down the negotiations in hopes of putting off a confrontation with Pyongyang.

Hu visited there recently to meet Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.

"My impression, strong impression, is that the Chinese government very much wants to see this issue resolved," she said.



Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.


BEIJING In a day of polite but tense encounters between Washington and the world's fastest-rising economic and military power, President Hu Jintao of China told President George W. Bush on Sunday that he was willing to speed the resolution of economic differences with the United States, but he gave no ground on permitting greater political freedoms or on the status of Taiwan.

While the two leaders were described by American officials as more comfortable with each other than in any previous encounter, Hu made it clear, by his words and his government's action, that he had no intention of giving in to American pressure.

American officials said none of the human rights cases on a list Bush gave to Hu in September had been resolved by the time Bush stepped into the Great Hall of the People Sunday morning.

In fact, by Sunday afternoon Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appearing before reporters, acknowledged that dissidents appear to have been put under house arrest or detained in advance of the trip, and she said the issue was being raised "quite vociferously with the Chinese government."

Talking with reporters on Sunday evening, Bush said his talks amounted to a "good, frank discussion," but he seemed unsatisfied. He chose his words about Hu carefully and repeated that the relationship with China was "complex," though later he added that it is "good, vibrant, strong."

"China is a trading partner, and we expect the trade with China to be fair," he said. "We expect our people to be treated fairly here in this important country."

Bush attended an early morning service at a state-sanctioned Protestant church near Tiananmen Square, and he said, "My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly." But religious activists in Beijing complained that dozens of Christians who wanted to worship alongside Bush were turned away or detained by security forces.

Christians in Shanghai and several other cities said the police detained people who belong to underground churches to prevent them from staging demonstrations for greater religious freedom during Bush's visit.

Dozens of political activists, including Bao Tong, a former senior Communist Party official who has become a critic of one-party rule, and Hu Jia, who has pressed for greater action to combat AIDS, were forbidden to leave their homes or use their telephones while Bush was in Beijing, according to people close to Bao and Hu who said they could not be identified because of possible retaliation by the government.

Bush, as he has through much of his Asia trip, continued to focus attention on Iraq. He talked at length about the arguments that have consumed Washington in his absence, and argued that members of the House or Senate who oppose his approach to Iraq have a right to dissent but also "a responsibility to provide a credible alternative."

"Leaving prematurely will have terrible consequences, for our own security and for the Iraqi people," he said, applauding Congress for voting down a resolution for immediate withdrawal - one that was worded so that its defeat was almost assured. "And that's not going to happen so long as I'm president."

If Iraq was his immediate problem, dealing with China's increasingly assertive tone on economic and military issues, and Hu's quiet resistance to Bush's calls for political liberalization, is clearly a challenge that will last far beyond his presidency.

After a day of talks that began with a 90-minute-long meeting inside the Great Hall of the People, Bush emerged with little progress to report beyond a $4 billion deal for 70 Boeing aircraft for China.

Even that agreement in principle - to purchase the 737-700 and 737-800 jets as part of a larger order that Boeing officials hope will total 150 airplanes - seemed highly preliminary. One person with detailed knowledge of the negotiations said that the actual contract, including the price tag for each aircraft, was still under negotiation.

He declined to be identified because of the commercial sensitivity of the pending contract. That strongly suggested the deal had been announced ahead of time to provide the White House with at least one trophy during Bush's visit.

Bush himself seemed tense during much of the day - when asked about it later by a reporter, he said "Have you ever heard of jet lag?" - except when he took the afternoon to go mountain biking.

But unlike his weekend forays in Washington, he was not alone: He took his trek with the Chinese athletes training for the 2008 Olympics.


Bush said Sunday night that he concluded that "it is clear that I couldn't make the Chinese cycling team," despite the fact that his hosts let him take the lead. As he entered the Great Hall of the People for dinner on Sunday night, he was greeted by Hu and laughingly told him that the team "treated me with respect. They did not run me to the ground."

American officials had set low expectations for what Bush might accomplish Sunday beyond deepening his relationship with Hu, a man he had expected would embrace reforms more quickly than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

But while administration officials stressed that a personal chemistry had begun to develop between the two men that made it easier to grapple with trade, currency and geopolitical problems, they put none of that comity on public display.

Hu, who almost never interacts with either the Chinese or the foreign media, declined what Bush administration officials described as a request to take media questions after their meeting. China's foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, attributed the silence by the Chinese leader to the tightness of Bush's schedule, though the president managed to hold such news conferences both with the prime minister of Japan and the president of South Korea.

On economic issues that are of major concern to American businesses - letting market forces set the value of the undervalued Chinese currency and protecting intellectual property from rampant piracy in China - Bush made marginal progress.

He secured a public statement from Hu that he would "unswervingly press ahead" to ease a $200 billion annual trade surplus that wildly outstrips anything Bush's father faced with Japan in the late 1980s.

But Hu set no schedule for further currency moves, which are politically unpopular in China because they would make Chinese goods less competitive abroad. An American participant in the meetings in the Great Hall of the People said it was clear "no Chinese leader was going to act immediately under the pressure" of a request from a foreign leader.

Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao detailed for Bush steps they were taking to curb the theft of movies, software and other goods, stressing that they believed such steps were necessary for the development of the Chinese economy.

But had Bush stepped a few hundred yards away into the shops off Tiananmen Square - a place he avoided being pictured, American officials said, because of the still-raw memories of the shooting of protesters there in 1989 - he could have paid a few dollars for DVDs of several current American movies and what appeared to be a working copy of the Microsoft Windows XP operating system.


U.S. officials have expressed frustration that Hu has made similar commitments before, but that so far progress was maddeningly slow.

The Chinese also appeared to completely rebuff the administration efforts to win some human rights concessions during Bush's trip.

None of the journalists, businessmen, and political dissidents that the United States has claimed have been unjustly imprisoned or persecuted by the Chinese judicial authorities have been released.

Chinese officials often make at least modest human rights concessions ahead of a presidential visit. But Hu, who has led a concerted and sustained crackdown on intellectual and media freedoms since he took power in 2002, has shown little inclination to make the kinds of gestures that his predecessors did.

"The Chinese leadership now argues that all such cases must be handled according to law," said Fan Yafeng, an outspoken scholar who has pressed for broader political and legal freedoms. "They pretend that the law operates independently of the party, which it does not."

Asked if the Chinese were trying to send Washington a message, Rice said that "I don't think this has anything to do with particular Chinese attitudes of this leadership. I expect that this leadership will understand, as the former leadership did, that these are issues of concern to the president, concern to Americans, and that we'll keep pressing on human rights."

Bush said that the two men also discussed strategies for handling the potential outbreak of avian flu and the long-running nuclear outbreak of North Korea.

Rice, who briefed journalists on Sunday afternoon, argued that the Chinese government was not trying to slow down the negotiations in hopes of putting off a confrontation with Pyongyang.

Hu visited there recently to meet Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.

"My impression, strong impression, is that the Chinese government very much wants to see this issue resolved," she said.



Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.


BEIJING In a day of polite but tense encounters between Washington and the world's fastest-rising economic and military power, President Hu Jintao of China told President George W. Bush on Sunday that he was willing to speed the resolution of economic differences with the United States, but he gave no ground on permitting greater political freedoms or on the status of Taiwan.

While the two leaders were described by American officials as more comfortable with each other than in any previous encounter, Hu made it clear, by his words and his government's action, that he had no intention of giving in to American pressure.

American officials said none of the human rights cases on a list Bush gave to Hu in September had been resolved by the time Bush stepped into the Great Hall of the People Sunday morning.

In fact, by Sunday afternoon Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, appearing before reporters, acknowledged that dissidents appear to have been put under house arrest or detained in advance of the trip, and she said the issue was being raised "quite vociferously with the Chinese government."

Talking with reporters on Sunday evening, Bush said his talks amounted to a "good, frank discussion," but he seemed unsatisfied. He chose his words about Hu carefully and repeated that the relationship with China was "complex," though later he added that it is "good, vibrant, strong."

"China is a trading partner, and we expect the trade with China to be fair," he said. "We expect our people to be treated fairly here in this important country."

Bush attended an early morning service at a state-sanctioned Protestant church near Tiananmen Square, and he said, "My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship