Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Lieberman's Iraq Stance Brings Widening Split With His Party - New York Times

Lieberman's Iraq Stance Brings Widening Split With His Party - New York TimesDecember 10, 2005
Lieberman's Iraq Stance Brings Widening Split With His Party

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 - Five years after running as the vice-presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket and a year after his own presidential bid, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut has become an increasingly unwelcome figure within his party, with some Democrats seeing him more as a wayward son than a favorite son.

In the last few days, the senator has riled Democratic activists and politicians here and in his home state with his vigorous defense of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war at a time some Democrats are pressuring the administration to begin a withdrawal.

Mr. Lieberman particularly infuriated his colleagues when he pointed out at a conference here that President Bush would be commander in chief for three more years and said that "it's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that."

"We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril," Mr. Lieberman said.

Much of the open criticism has been from liberal groups and House members. But his comments have also rankled Democrats in the Senate. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, phoned Mr. Lieberman this week to express concerns with his views, Mr. Reid's aide said.

"Senator Reid has a lot of respect for Senator Lieberman," said Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman. "But he feels that Senator Lieberman's position on Iraq is at odds with many Americans."

An aide to another leading Democratic senator who insisted on anonymity said the feelings toward Mr. Lieberman could be summed up as, "The American people want to hold George Bush accountable for the failed policy in Iraq, and Senator Lieberman doesn't."

Mr. Lieberman, who remains immensely popular in his home state, is aware of the hornet's nest he has stirred.

"Some Democrats said I was being a traitor," he said in an interview on Friday, adding that he was not surprised by the reaction, "given the depth of feeling about the war."

Although some Democrats are upset with Mr. Lieberman, Republicans are embracing him, with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld singling him out, and his support for the war, for praise in speeches this week.

"He is entirely correct," Mr. Cheney said on Tuesday at Fort Drum, N.Y. "On this, both Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree. The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission."

Concerns about Mr. Lieberman's coziness with the administration grew this week when he had breakfast with Mr. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Later, rumors spread that Mr. Bush was considering asking Mr. Lieberman to join the administration to succeed Mr. Rumsfeld next year as defense secretary.

"It's a total fantasy," Mr. Lieberman said. "There's just no truth to it."

In the interview on Friday, he said the two sides were making too much of his comments, and he argued that the overreactions reflected how politically polarized the debate over the war had become.

Mr. Lieberman noted that his positions on Iraq had not changed over the years, dating from 1991, when he supported the first Persian Gulf war. In 1998, he and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, proposed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein official American policy.

"The positive and negative reactions may have less to do with the substance of what I said than with the fact that a Democrat is saying it," Mr. Lieberman said. "It reflects the terribly divisive state of our politics."

He has always been something of a maverick in his party. He was the first prominent Democrat to chastise President Bill Clinton openly for his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky.

More recently, Mr. Lieberman, a centrist, angered Democratic activists by expressing a willingness to work with President Bush to overhaul Social Security, an effort that ultimately stalled in Congress.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, said the breach was deep.

"I completely disagree with Mr. Lieberman," Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference. "I believe that we have a responsibility to speak out if we think that the course of action that our country is on is not making the American people safer."

The question in some quarters now is whether the moderate brand of politics practiced by Mr. Lieberman, who is up for re-election next year, will hurt him when the electorate is so divided, particularly over some of the president's policies.

This week, for example, former Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. criticized his continued support of the Iraq war and said that if no candidate challenged the senator on it next year, he would consider running.

In 1988, Mr. Lieberman, who was attorney general of Connecticut, narrowly defeated Mr. Weicker, a Republican senator. Two years later, Mr. Weicker ran for governor as an independent and won. He served one term before retiring in 1995.

Mr. Weicker remains something of a fixture in state politics, well known for his independent streak. In 1999, Reform Party supporters encouraged him to run for president in 2000, but he ultimately decided against that.

Mr. Lieberman faces trouble in other quarters in his home state. Although few elected Democrats would criticize him publicly, several Democratic activists promised retaliation at the polls.

James H. Dean, brother of Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, lives in Connecticut and heads Democracy for America, a group that is gathering signatures on the Internet for a letter that criticizes the senator.

An aide to James Dean said he and others from the group would deliver the letter to Mr. Lieberman's office in Hartford on Tuesday. The aide said the letter had 30,000 signatures.

Other Democratic activists warned that they might try to organize a primary challenge against Mr. Lieberman, specifically because of his position on the war.

Tom Matzzie, the Washington director for, a liberal advocacy group with 10,000 members in Connecticut, said it would consider a challenge if the right candidate came along.

"It's like a betrayal," Mr. Matzzie said of Mr. Lieberman's stand on the war. "He is cheering the Bush Iraq policy at a time when Republicans are running away from the president."

But for all the criticism that Mr. Lieberman faces, few people say they believe that he is vulnerable to a challenge.

For his part, Mr. Lieberman said he would run hard on his record.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," he said. "I know there are a lot of people in the party who disagree with me about the war."

U.S., Under Fire, Eases Its Stance in Climate Talks - New York Times

U.S., Under Fire, Eases Its Stance in Climate Talks - New York TimesDecember 10, 2005
U.S., Under Fire, Eases Its Stance in Climate Talks

MONTREAL, Saturday, Dec. 10 - The United States dropped its opposition early Saturday morning to nonbinding talks on addressing global warming after a few words were adjusted in the text of statements that, 24 hours earlier, prompted a top American official to walk out on negotiations.

At the same time, other industrialized nations that have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty binding them to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, agreed to start meeting to set new deadlines once the existing pact's terms expire in 2012.

Such is the nature of progress in the 17-years-and-counting effort by the world's nations to act in the face of scientists' conclusions that emissions from burning essential fuels like coal and oil are raising temperatures and could potentially disrupt climate patterns and inundate coasts.

The United States and China, the world's current and projected leaders in greenhouse gas emissions, still refused to agree to mandatory steps to curtail the emissions as the talks drew toward a close early Saturday.

But there was a growing sense that some longstanding barriers, particularly between developed and developing nations, were starting to erode under the weight of evidence that climate was shifting in potentially dangerous ways.

In a sign of its growing isolation on climate issues, the Bush administration had come under sharp criticism for walking out of informal discussions on finding new ways to reduce emissions under the United Nations' 1992 treaty on climate change.

The walkout, by Harlan L. Watson, the chief American negotiator here, came Friday, shortly after midnight, on what was to have been the last day of the talks, during which the administration has been repeatedly assailed by the leaders of other wealthy industrialized nations for refusing to negotiate to advance the goals of that treaty, and in which former President Bill Clinton chided both sides for lack of flexibility.

At a closed session of about 50 delegates, Dr. Watson objected to the proposed title of a statement calling for long-term international cooperation to carry out the 1992 climate treaty, participants said. He then got up from the table and departed.

Environmentalists here called his actions the capstone of two weeks of American efforts to prevent any fresh initiatives from being discussed. "This shows just how willing the U.S. administration is to walk away from a healthy planet and its responsibilities to its own people," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate change project at the World Wildlife Fund.

In the end, though, some adjustments of wording - including a shift from "mechanisms" to the softer word "opportunities" in one statement - ended the dispute.

In Washington, Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman, said the administration was determined to achieve greenhouse-gas reductions not through binding limits but through long-term work to develop cleaner technologies.

"If you want to talk about global consciousness," he said, "I'd say there's one country that is focused on action, that is focused on dialogue, that is focused on cooperation, and that is focused on helping the developing world, and that's the United States."

There were still a few more details involving Russia that were being worked on, but delegates and participants among the 9,000 people in the halls were confident the overall deal would hold.

The amount of progress is still achingly slow, many environmentalist say. The world's major sources of greenhouse emissions - the United States, big developing countries like China and India, and a bloc led by Europe and Japan - remain divided over how to proceed under both the 1992 treaty and the Kyoto Protocol, an addendum that took effect this year.

The original treaty - since ratified by 189 nations, including the United States - has no binding restrictions. The Kyoto pact does impose mandatory limits on industrialized nations, but they do not apply to developing nations, including China and India. The United States and Australia have rejected that pact.

On Friday, countries bound by the Kyoto Protocol were close to agreeing on a plan to negotiate a new set of targets and timetables for cutting emissions after its terms expire.

But under pressure from some countries already having trouble meeting Kyoto targets, the language included no specific year for ending talks on next steps, instead indicating that parties would "aim to complete" work "as soon as possible."

Early in the afternoon, Mr. Clinton gave a hastily arranged speech to the thousands of delegates in which he sketched a route around the impasse that included gentle rebukes of those seeking concrete targets and also of the Bush administration.

Mr. Clinton said that, given the impasse over global targets for emissions, countries might do better to consider specific, smaller initiatives to advance and disseminate technologies that could greatly reduce emissions in both rich and poor countries.

"If you can't agree on a target, agree on a set of projects so everyone has something to do when they get up in the morning," he said.

In a comment clearly directed at the Bush administration, he declared to waves of applause that just as the United States had taken a precautionary approach in its fight against terrorism, "there is no more important place in the world to apply the principle of precaution than the area of climate change."

"I think it's crazy for us to play games with our children's future," Mr. Clinton said. "We know what's happening to the climate, we have a highly predictable set of consequences if we continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and we know we have an alternative that will lead us to greater prosperity."

The Montreal talks have yielded significant new signs that developing countries are beginning to consider ways to promote economic growth without increasing emissions.

Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica and Brazil all proposed ways to add incentives for reducing destruction of rain forests to the climate agreements. China agreed to additional discussions under both the 1992 and Kyoto treaties about ways to involve big developing countries in projects that could curb the heat-trapping pollution - as long as they did not involve binding limits.

But even if new talks under the Kyoto treaty lead to new targets for industrial nations, some scientists said Friday that they would not be enough to stem harmful warming without broader actions by the biggest and fastest-growing polluters.

In a statement from London, Lord Martin Rees, the new president of Britain's Royal Society, an independent national scientific academy, said the disputes among wealthy nations over how to reduce emissions were distracting them from carrying out steps to make the cuts.

Environmental campaigners insisted that the Kyoto process would eventually force other countries, particularly the United States, to act. These advocates predicted a growing market for "cap and trade" credits, in which businesses acquire credits by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions below a required level, then sell those credits to other businesses or even other countries, which can then increase their output of emissions above the target level.

Friday, December 09, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China cancels talks with Japan

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China cancels talks with Japan China cancels talks with Japan
China's foreign minister has cancelled a meeting with Japan and South Korea in protest at repeated visits by Japan's leader to a controversial war shrine.

The meeting was to have been held on the sidelines of an Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) summit which formally begins next week.

Host Malaysia's foreign minister told delegates on Friday that Asean member Burma must speed up democratic reforms.

Syed Hamid Albar said Burma's recalcitrance was embarrassing Asean.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said the meeting between himself and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts had been cancelled.

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

China had already cancelled a planned meeting between the three countries' leaders.

China and South Korea are angry because of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including 14 people judged as war criminals after World War II.

"The leader of a certain country is still worshipping war criminals. Surely this is wrong," Li Zhaoxing told reporters covering the Asean foreign ministers' meeting, which has already begun in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur.

"For an important leader of an important country to be so arrogantly and blatantly hurting the feelings of the people of other Asian countries, what sort of behaviour is this?" he said.

Slow to reform

Burma was also the subject of diplomatic frustration on Friday.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Burma needed to show more progress in its purported pursuit of democratic reforms, and to indicate when it planned to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from long-term house arrest.

"We respect the position of Myanmar [Burma] as a member of Asean, but at the same time I don't think any single country in Asean does not feel impatient, or does not feel uncomfortable, because it does create problems and difficulties for us," he said.

"In order to defend Myanmar together, Myanmar itself must be able to show us movement in respect of the roadmap [to democracy] as well as the position of Aung San Suu Kyi."

Next week's Asean summit differs from previous meetings in that it will bring together a bigger grouping of countries than usual.

Dubbed the East Asia Summit, it will gather Asean's 10 members and its usual summit attendees Japan, South Korea and China, with three new guests - India, Australia and New Zealand.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Africa | Nigeria arrests runaway governor

BBC NEWS | Africa | Nigeria arrests runaway governor Nigeria arrests runaway governor
A Nigerian state governor who was charged with money laundering in the UK has been impeached and arrested in his oil-rich home state of Bayelsa.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was detained by police after losing the immunity from prosecution that he enjoyed in office.

He has always said he is innocent of charges that he laundered £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts.

As Nigeria battles to shed a reputation for corruption, this is the first time a governor has been impeached.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in the state capital, Yenagoa, says there is a heavy security presence on the streets of the city.

Everyone wants him
EFCC's Osita Nwajah

Bayelsa State police commissioner, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, said he personally took Mr Alamieyeseigha into custody and met no resistance.

"He doesn't appear very concerned to me," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The governor is now being transferred to the capital, Abuja, our correspondent says.

On the run

"The cover of immunity has been taken away from him by the impeachment. We are going to move in immediately... The man has several cases against him. Everyone wants him," Osita Nwajah, spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told AFP.

I think we need to commend the courage of the State House Assembly of Bayelsa for restoring the honour of the Nigerian people
Femi Fani-Kayode
Presidential spokesman

Seventeen out of the state assembly's 24 members voted in favour of impeachment after considering the report of a panel that has been investigating the governor.

Before the vote, the speaker said the governor had not responded in anyway to the notice of his impeachment made more than two weeks ago.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is facing allegations of fraud by a special anti-corruption court sitting in the northern city of Kaduna.

He is also on the run from the UK authorities after he jumped bail last month in London, where he has been charged with money laundering.

Nigerian officials said Mr Alamieyeseigha left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

Mr Alamieyeseigha has told the BBC that the $3.2m found in London does not belong to him.


He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

This move is an achievement for President Olusegun Obasanjo's anti-corruption crusade.

"I think we need to commend the courage of the State House Assembly of Bayelsa State for doing the right thing and restoring the honour of the Nigerian people," presidential spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode told Focus on Africa.

The president set up the EFCC anti-corruption body in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Last week, the governor was suspended from the PDP.

Story from BBC NEWS:

People's Daily Online -- Top lawmaker: China willing to strengthen judicial cooperation with Asian, European countries

People's Daily Online -- Top lawmaker: China willing to strengthen judicial cooperation with Asian, European countriesTop lawmaker: China willing to strengthen judicial cooperation with Asian, European countries
font size ZoomIn ZoomOut

China is willing to strengthen judicial cooperation with Asian and European countries on the basis of mutual respect and equality, Wu Bangguo, China's top legislator, said Friday at the opening ceremony of Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Prosecutors-General Conference.

Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, spoke highly of the establishment and development of the ASEM, calling it a new mechanism of cooperation between the two continents, both boast a long history, a splendid culture, and both have made great contribution to the civilization and progress of the human society.

He called for increasing exchanges of information to form a cooperative mechanism, expand channels for cooperation, enrich the content of cooperation, and improve the efficiency of cooperation, so as to join forces in cracking down upon cross-border and organized crimes.

Wu said terrorism, corruption, money-laundering and drug-related crimes are international public hazards. It is a common aspiration for peoples of Asian and European nations and an obligatory duty for procuratorates of these countries to strengthen international cooperation and join forces in cracking down upon cross-border organized crimes.

According to Wu, China has become members of several international conventions on fighting organized crimes and corruption, signed 72 judicial assistance protocols or agreements on cooperation with 48 foreign countries, signed protocols on extradition with 24 foreign countries, and participated in 25 multi-national conventions on judicial cooperation.

At the end of his speech, Wu informed the audience of the enormous achievements China has made in the 10th five-year plan period (2001-2005) and its goals in the 11th five-year (2006-2010) program.

He said that China will firmly take the road of peaceful development and consistently implement an independent, self-reliant and peaceful foreign policy. China was, is and will always be a steadfast power for safeguarding world peace and promote a common development, he stressed.

The conference is sponsored by China's Supreme People's Procuratorate and national procuratorates of Denmark and the Republic of Korea (ROK), with the attendance of more than 800 representatives from 46 countries and regions, five international organizations, and procurator-generals from China's provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

Source: Xinhua

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Economy Lifts Bush's Support in Latest Poll - New York Times

Economy Lifts Bush's Support in Latest Poll - New York TimesDecember 8, 2005
Economy Lifts Bush's Support in Latest Poll

After months of political erosion, President Bush's approval rating improved markedly in the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, largely tracking Americans' more positive attitudes toward the economy.

But his presidency is still plagued by widespread doubts about his handling of the war in Iraq, with 52 percent of poll respondents saying the Bush administration intentionally misled the public when its officials made the case for war. A majority of Americans want the United States to set some timetable for troop withdrawal; 32 percent want the number of American troops reduced, and 28 percent want a total pullout.

The survey, conducted Dec. 2-6, showed Mr. Bush's approval rating at 40 percent, up from 35 percent a month ago, which was the low point of his presidency. His gains primarily came among men, independents, 18-to-29-year-olds and conservatives. He remains a fiercely polarizing figure, with an approval rating of 79 percent among Republicans, 12 percent among Democrats and 34 percent among independents.

Over all, 53 percent of Americans disapprove of Mr. Bush's job performance, down from 57 percent a month ago.

Despite his gains, Mr. Bush's 40 percent approval rating remains among his lowest, and is still substantially lower than that of Presidents Bill Clinton (who was at 58 percent) or Ronald Reagan (who was at 68 percent) at comparable points in their second terms.

The telephone poll of 1,155 adults nationwide had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

As Republican strategists have hoped, Mr. Bush seems to be getting a political lift from the economy. Mr. Bush has tried hard to highlight good economic news in recent weeks, which have seen a drop in the price of gasoline and new figures showing strong growth in the third quarter. The poll showed that 56 percent describe the national economy as good, up from 47 percent a month ago.

"Things are not that bad," Susan Huru, a 47-year-old independent from Wasilla, Alaska, said in a follow-up interview after the poll was completed. "I can still afford things except for maybe gas."

Mr. Bush's handling of the economy also got slightly better marks - 38 percent approve, up from 34 percent last month. (In contrast, his overall rating on foreign policy continued to fall, to 36 percent from 38 percent in September and 42 percent in August.)

In another measure of national mood closely followed by political strategists, the percentage of Americans who say the country is "seriously off on the wrong track" has declined - to 60 percent, from 68 percent a month ago.

Charles Cook, who publishes an independent political newsletter tracking Congressional races, said Mr. Bush's uptick in the poll is "consistent with everything else out there." He added: "It looks like they're finally getting a little bit of credit for the economy performing as strongly as it has. We've had good economic news for a while, but Iraq so dominated things it couldn't break through."

Still, 11 months before the midterm elections, the poll found much that was ominous for the Republican Congressional majority. Only 33 percent of Americans said they approve of the way Congress is doing its job, while 53 percent disapprove. Such approval ratings have been registered throughout 2005, reflecting a level of discontent with Congress that rivals that of the tumultuous mid-1990's.

The Congressional approval rate among independents in the latest poll was just 32 percent.

If the elections were held today, 42 percent of registered voters said they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their district, while 33 percent said they would vote for the Republican.

Democrats had a substantial edge among independents, with 38 percent saying they would vote for the Democratic candidate, while 22 percent preferred the Republican. While the poll did not measure the races in individual districts, the findings are indicative of the two parties' relative strength.

The poll suggested that Republicans are not wrong to emphasize highly localized races focused on the strengths and familiarity of their incumbents. Sixty percent of all respondents said they approve of their own representative's job performance, while 24 percent disapprove.

Anxiety and doubt over the war in Iraq still pervade the political mood. More than half of those polled - 57 percent - said Congress is not asking enough questions about the president's policy in Iraq.

The increasingly bitter debate over the justification for the war is mirrored among the public. Only 23 percent said they believe that Mr. Bush, in the run-up to the war, was telling the entire truth about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Forty-five percent said Mr. Bush was mostly telling the truth on the weapons but hiding something, and 25 percent said the president was mostly lying.

Moreover, despite the Bush administration's intensive campaign in recent days to persuade the public that there is a "strategy for victory" in Iraq, the poll found widespread doubt. Asked if Mr. Bush has "a clear plan for victory in Iraq," 68 percent said he does not, and 25 percent said he does.

The war continues to be the main focus of Mr. Bush's critics. When asked why they disapproved of Mr. Bush's job performance, more than half mentioned Iraq. "We were taken in on the war," said Virginia Loarca, 29, a Democrat who works in customer service for an airline. "Too many kids are dying, and it's not being reported on how many body bags are actually coming back."

There was some positive news for Mr. Bush on Iraq: Approval of his handling of Iraq rose to 36 percent, from 32 percent in October. And more Americans said that going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do - 48 percent, compared with 42 percent in October. That increase in support came primarily from Republicans.

But even with that shift, Americans remain evenly divided on the war, with another 48 percent saying the United States should have stayed out of Iraq.

Fifty-eight percent said they want the United States to set a timetable for troop withdrawal, an idea opposed by Mr. Bush.

An overwhelming majority - 81 percent - said the Bush administration has not clearly explained how long American troops will have to remain in Iraq.

When asked what the United States should do now in Iraq, 32 percent said it should decrease American troop levels, while 28 percent said it should completely withdraw the troops. Twenty-four percent said troop levels should stay the same, while 11 percent backed an increase.

Not surprisingly, most Democrats and independents want troops decreased or completely withdrawn; most Republicans support maintaining or increasing the number of troops in Iraq.

Still, there are political risks for Democrats if they move too far toward their base: 36 percent of respondents (including a third of the independents) said they would be less likely to vote for their Congressional representative if he or she advocated an immediate withdrawal, while 21 percent said they would be more likely to vote for that official. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader of the House, recently embraced a call for a speedy withdrawal.

Moreover, many Americans remain anxious about the impact of withdrawal, with 46 percent saying it would increase the likelihood of violence in Iraq and 40 percent saying it would increase the likelihood of terrorism against the United States.

As the parties head into the election year, the poll found voters giving Democrats the advantage on handling Medicare, the economy, the war in Iraq and immigration. Republicans continue to have the edge as the party best able to deal with terrorism.

But when voters were asked which party shares their moral values, the parties were nearly even - 43 percent said the Democrats, 41 percent said the Republicans.

Megan Thee and Marina Stefan contributed reporting for this article.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - EnglishChina calls for joint efforts with Japan to improve ties 2005-12-07 00:06:22

 BEIJING, Dec. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- China on Wednesday urged politicians and insightful people from China and Japan to join efforts to bring bilateral ties back to normal.

"The politicians and people with insight of the two countries should work together to conquer difficulties so as to promote the normal development of bilateral ties and ensure that the two countries will be friendly from generation to generation," Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong said when meeting with a delegation of the Japanese Social Democratic Party led by the party leader Fukushima Mizuho.

"The China-Japan relationship is currently faced with serious difficulties and China is not the one who should shoulder the responsibility," Zeng said.

The vice president said the visits of Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors convicted class-A World War II criminals along with other war-dead, have seriously hurt Chinese people's feelings and impaired the political foundation of Sino-Japanese ties.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine in October, the fifth since he took office in April 2001.

Describing China and Japan as close neighbors and countries of great regional influence, Zeng said the development of Sino-Japanese relations concerns not only the fundamental interests of the two peoples but also the prosperity and stabilityof Asia and the whole world.

"The Chinese party and government value the relations with Japan," Zeng said, expressing the hope that the two countries bear in mind the three political documents reached between the two countries and realize peaceful coexistence, friendship, reciprocal cooperation and common development with the attitude of taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future.

Zeng also expressed his appreciation of the Social Democratic Party, saying that the party has played an active role in promoting the friendly cooperation between China and Japan.

He said the Communist Party of China will join efforts with the Japanese party to push forward Sino-Japanese ties.

Fukushima said the Japanese leader's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is a major obstacle blocking the healthy development of bilateral ties and her party is firmly opposed to it.

She said the Social Democratic Party of Japan believes that Japan should face up to its historical responsibility and adhere to peaceful development.

Fukushima said the relations between Japan and China are important and her party will continue making efforts to promote bilateral good-neighborly and friendly cooperation.

Tomiichi Murayama, Japan's former prime minister who was at the meeting as an advisor to the Japanese delegation, said the friendship between Japan and China was established and cultivated by the older generations of leaders of the two countries and efforts should be made to bring the bilateral ties back to normal. Enditem

Business Report - Samsung hits Matsushita with patent lawsuit

Business Report - Samsung hits Matsushita with patent lawsuitSamsung hits Matsushita with patent lawsuit
December 7, 2005

Seoul - South Korea's Samsung SDI said on Wednesday it has filed a patent violation lawsuit in the United States against Japan's Matsushita and its subsidiary Panasonic.

The legal action came after a year of negotiations failed to resolve a dispute between Samsung SDI and Matsushita over plasma display panel (PDP) technologies.

"We filed a case against Matsushita and Panasonic over their violation of our patents on key PDP manufacturing technology," Samsung SDI said in a statement.

Samsung SDI is the world's largest maker of PDPs, which are flat screens used for thin televisions and other display monitors and are one of the fastest growing segments in the hi-tech market. - AFP

BBC NEWS | Africa | UN demands halt to Eritrea order

BBC NEWS | Africa | UN demands halt to Eritrea order UN demands halt to Eritrea order
The United Nations Security Council has told Eritrea not to expel European and North American peacekeepers from its disputed border with Ethiopia.

It said the order for the troops to leave within 10 days was unacceptable and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan added his voice to the condemnation.

Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea are poor amid fears of a new war.

The expulsion would make UN observation of the border almost impossible, a BBC correspondent reports from Eritrea.

We have no intention of jeopardising a fundamental principle of the universality of the peacekeeping operation
Jean-Marie Guehenno
head of UN peacekeeping

There has been no explanation for Eritrea's decision to expel the peacekeepers or why personnel from the United States, Canada and Europe including Russia were singled out.

But diplomats in Eritrea assume it is an expression of Eritrea's frustration that the international community has done so little to finalise the demarcation of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, the BBC's Ed Harris reports from Asmara.

Reports suggest at least 150 staff may be affected - mainly observers and civilian staff.

Ethiopia has called Eritrea's move "inappropriate and unhelpful".

The two states went to war in 1998. A peace deal in 2000 led to a border ruling by an independent commission.

'Without preconditions'

Mr Annan said in a statement the Eritrean order was inconsistent with the country's obligations to respect the international character of UN staff.

"The United Nations cannot accede to Eritrea's request and demands that the government immediately and unequivocally rescind its decision without preconditions," he said.

The 15 members of the Security Council did not outline any sanctions against Eritrea but said they would consult on how to respond to what they called "the unacceptable action".

June 2000: Peace agreement
Apr 2002: Border ruling
Mar 2003: Ethiopian complaint over Badme rejected
Sep 2003: Ethiopia asks for new ruling
Feb 2005: UN concern at military build-up
Oct 2005: Eritrea restricts peacekeepers' activities
Nov 2005: UN sanctions threat if no compliance with 2000 deal

Eritrea announced its move in a letter which warned the UN mission in Eritrea it was advisable to comply.

The head of UN peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, said his impression was that Eritrea was frustrated with the absence of progress on resolving the border dispute.

Eritrea has complained about Ethiopia's refusal to accept the demarcation of their border by an independent commission following the war.

Mr Guehenno said the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (Unmee) was already in a difficult situation because of Eritrea's flight ban on UN helicopters and other restrictions but that it was not planning to pull out any of the people who had been mentioned.

"We have no intention of jeopardising a fundamental principle of the universality of the peacekeeping operation representing the whole of the international community," he said in New York.

Digging in

There are some 3,300 peacekeepers and military observers from some 40 countries, 191 civilians and 74 UN volunteers working at Unmee.

UN troops, including some 1,500 from India, patrol a 900km long buffer zone which is just 25km wide and falls on the Eritrean side of the old border.

Ethiopia has not yet withdrawn its forces from the town of Badme, which was awarded to Eritrea.

Frustrated with the stalemate, Eritrea has imposed restrictions on the activities of the UN peacekeeping force patrolling the border buffer zone in the past few months.

Both sides have reinforced their military positions.

Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe tent rejection 'puzzling'

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe tent rejection 'puzzling' Mugabe tent rejection 'puzzling'

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's rejection of tents for hundreds of thousands of people made homeless this year is puzzling, a top UN envoy says.

Jan Egeland said he could not understand why the UN offer to supply tents was unacceptable when they were fine for people in Europe and the US.

Mr Mugabe's spokesman said Zimbabweans were "not tent people" and they wanted the UN to build permanent homes.

Some 700,000 people lost their jobs or homes in the demolitions, the UN says.

The figure is disputed by the government, which says it carried out Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Rubbish) to reduce crime and overcrowding.

Speaking in Johannesburg after a four-day visit to Zimbabwe, UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs Mr Egeland said this rationale was deeply flawed.

"The eviction campaign seems to me wholly irrational in all of its aspects - you lowered the standard of living rather than increasing it."

'Extremely serious'

Mr Mugabe last week agreed to let the UN provide food aid to some three million people over the next year.

"The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is extremely serious and it is deteriorating," Mr Egeland said.

"If they [tents] are good enough for people in Europe and the United States who have lost their houses, why are they not good enough for Zimbabwe?" he added.

After "frank" talks with Mr Mugabe on Tuesday, Mr Egeland said they had agreed that the international community should do more to meet humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe.

Mr Egeland spent Monday meeting people living in camps and said some of them were living in inadequate conditions.

Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Americas | US man shot dead on Florida plane

BBC NEWS | Americas | US man shot dead on Florida plane US man shot dead on Florida plane
The flight originated in Medellin
A man who claimed to have a bomb on board an American Airlines plane in Miami was shot dead by a US federal officer, officials say.

Rigoberto Alpizar, a 44-year-old US citizen, was shot after fleeing an air marshal. No device has been found.

Alpizar had arrived in Miami, Florida, from Ecuador and was boarding a flight to Orlando.

It is the first time since the attacks of 11 September 2001 that a US air marshal has shot at a passenger.

The US dramatically increased the number of air marshals on flights after the 2001 attacks.

Local police and federal officers are investigating the incident, but officials say so far there is no hint of any links to terrorism.

However, as a precaution, federal air marshals were deployed in airports across the country.

'Appropriate action'

Miami federal air marshal chief James Bauer told a press conference that the incident happened at about 1410 (1910 GMT).

Aplizar, who was carrying a backpack and travelling with a woman thought to be his wife, had cleared customs and was boarding the Orlando flight, which originated in Medellin, Colombia.

Shots were fired as the team attempted to subdue the subject
Homeland security spokesman

At some point, he said "threatening words", Mr Bauer said.

He was confronted by air marshals on board the flight, refused to comply with their demands and fled the aircraft.

A spokesman for the homeland security department said he then reached into his bag, at which point, consistent with air marshal training, the air marshals "took the appropriate actions".

"Shots were fired as the team attempted to subdue the subject," the spokesman said.

A witness told local television that the man frantically ran down the aisle of the Boeing 757 and that a woman with him said he was mentally ill and had not taken his medication.

Television images showed police and emergency response officers surrounding the plane after the incident.

Later, investigators spread passengers' bags on the tarmac as sniffer dogs checked them for explosives.
Story from BBC NEWS: - Golf- Woods wins player of the year for seventh time - Golf- Woods wins player of the year for seventh timeWoods wins player of the year for seventh time
/ Associated Press
Posted: 17 hours ago

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) - Tiger Woods won the PGA Tour player of the year award Tuesday for the seventh time in his nine full seasons, the final prize in a year that featured two major championships among his six tour titles.

It was the fifth time Woods has swept the three major awards - the Jack Nicklaus Trophy as player of the year, the Arnold Palmer Award for leading the money list and the Byron Nelson Award for having the lowest scoring average.

"It's not about winning player of the year awards," Woods said at the Target World Challenge. "It's about winning tournaments that allow you to get these awards."

Woods previously won player of the year from the PGA of America, which is based on points. The tour's award is a vote of the players, although tour officials have refused to release vote totals.

Dana Quigley, who won the money title on the 50-and-older circuit, won the Champions Tour player of the year, while Jason Gore was the Nationwide Tour player of the year having won three times to earn an instant promotion to the big leagues.

Sean O'Hair was voted PGA Tour rookie of the year. He earned his card at Q-school, won the John Deere Classic in July and finished his season at 18th on the money list with more than $2.4 million. He had never played in a PGA Tour event until this season.

Olin Browne was voted comeback player of the year on the PGA Tour, returning from nagging shoulder and back injuries and retooling his swing in his mid-40s to win the Deutsche Bank Championship and qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time.

Other awards announced Tuesday:

-Jay Haas was rookie of the year on the Champions Tour, winning twice in only 10 starts.

-Peter Jacobsen was comeback player of the year on the Champions Tour, winning the Senior Players Championship.

Woods has failed to win PGA Tour player of the year only twice since his first full season in 1997 - both times while overhauling swing in 1998 and in 2004. He won only one tournament each of those years.

He started this year with a victory in the Buick Invitational, outlasted Phil Mickelson in a tense duel at Doral, then captured his fourth green jacket with a playoff victory over Chris DiMarco in the Masters. He essentially clinched the award with a wire-to-wire victory in the British Open.

Woods said the award was a product of winning, but his first player of the year was far more significant. That was in 1997, when his four victories included a 12-shot win in the Masters.

"The first one was the most meaningful because it was my first full year on tour," he said. "To be awarded player of the tour from your peers, and get respect from your peers in your first full year out was more than I could have ever imagined."

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - EnglishChina ready to enhance ties with Indonesia 2005-12-07 21:25:27

BEIJING, Dec. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- China will combine efforts with Indonesia in promoting long-term development of bilateral ties based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, a senior Chinese party official said here Wednesday.

Wu Guanzheng, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), made the remarks when meeting with Hadi Utomo, chairman of Indonesia's Democratic Party.

Wu said that the past few years saw frequent high-level exchange of visits, improved political mutual trust between the two countries and all-round cooperation in various fields.

"Development of China-Indonesia friendly and cooperative ties accords with the fundamental interests of the two peoples and benefits peace and stability in the region and the world as a whole," Wu said.

He believes that the friendly exchanges between the CPC and major Indonesian parties, including the Democratic Party, will play a bigger role in promoting development of state-to-state relations.

Hadi said his party values very much Indonesia-China relations and is ready to enhance exchanges with the CPC to implement the consensus reached by heads of the two countries in their recent meetings to promote the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties.

China and Indonesia agreed to build a strategic partnership in April when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Jakarta. Enditem

NPR : Mubarak's Party Leads in Contentious Egyptian Vote

NPR : Mubarak's Party Leads in Contentious Egyptian VoteMubarak's Party Leads in Contentious Egyptian Vote

Listen to this story... by Peter Kenyon

Morning Edition, December 7, 2005 · President Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party is close to winning a two-thirds majority of seats in the final round of runoff elections in Egypt's parliamentary races. But the vote has been marred by violence and charges of unfair practices by Egyptian authorities.

Taiwan's political pendulum swings - Opinion -

Taiwan's political pendulum swings - Opinion -

By Tony Parkinson
December 7, 2005

The resurgence of the Kuomintang should ease tensions with Beijing.

THE Kuomintang is surging back towards primacy in the politics of Taiwan. Perverse though it seems, nobody will welcome this comeback more than the old enemy in Beijing.

After having its 50-year rule of the island rudely interrupted for the past five years by the new kids on the block, the Democratic Progressive Party, the heirs of Chiang Kai-shek appear to have adjusted to the rhythms of democracy, and the art of modern election campaigning. This weekend, the KMT announced itself as very much on the march, winning more than two-thirds of local and provincial elections across the island, including the crucial stronghold of Taipei County.

The landslide victory signals a dramatic shift in voter sentiment away from the ruling DPP and President Chen Shui-bian. Across the straits, the Chinese Communist Party will be jubilant. Beijing knows the result will be interpreted internationally as a referendum on the DPP's China policy and, hence, a repudiation of Chen's efforts to put further distance between Taiwan and the mainland.

The reality, of course, is far more nuanced.

One explanation for voter disenchantment with the DPP is its failure to deliver on long-promised reforms, in part due to a stalemate in the legislature. Conversely, there is alarm in the public sector, notably in the army and among teachers, about proposals to wind back their retirement benefits. There is also a general anxiety about Taiwan's more subdued economic performance in recent years.

Although most advanced economies would settle happily for Taiwan's economic growth this year of 3.6 per cent, this is seen in Taipei as a less-than-exemplary outcome, especially when the Government is running budget deficits. Never far from the surface is a sense of unease at being overshadowed — and a fear of being overwhelmed — by the emerging economic powerhouse of China.

Such is the sense of apprehension, the DPP has been urging business to pull back on its enthusiasm for investment in manufacturing on the mainland, and urging Taiwanese capital to diversify its interests in the neighbourhood, with particular focus on Vietnam. Officially, the argument goes that this would reduce exposure to the risk of political upheaval or economic downturn in China. But implicit is an attempt to unravel economic interdependence that some in government fear will compromise Taiwan's capacity to resist China's strenuous efforts to impose its will on what it sees as a renegade province.

China's strategy is to suffocate the separate identity of Taiwan. The Beijing leadership has declared this mission a sacred responsibility.

Hence, its unrelenting and ruthless campaign to isolate the island, and the positioning of more than 700 missiles on the Fujian coast to remind Taiwan's elected rulers of the shift in the military balance, and its readiness to use force.

In this latest election campaign, however, China kept a low profile.

Although it was a Chinese-controlled TV network that first published details of perhaps the most egregious smear in these local elections — a none-too-convincing spy camera portrayal of DPP officials handing out what may have been wads of cash to supporters at a campaign rally in Taipei County — Beijing, it seems, has come to understand the risks of a backlash when it intervenes too overtly in Taiwan's domestic campaigning.

One consequence of the DPP's stunning defeat may be that China calculates it can afford to sit back and wait out the remaining two years of Chen's presidency, in the expectation Taiwan may soon elect a leader and government more amenable to its one China, two systems prescription for reunification.

For the one indisputable fact to emerge from this weekend is that KMT party chief, Ma Ying-jeou — or Chairman Ma as he is frequently described — becomes the emphatic frontrunner leading towards the 2008 presidential elections.

For Chen, halfway into his second term, the challenge is to avoid being condemned to lame-duck status. One chastening lesson for the DPP, and Chen, is that they will have to prove far more adept at cohabitation with the KMT if they are to secure the passage of important reforms through the Parliament. They have paid a heavy political price for the brinkmanship and head-butting of recent years.

What might this mean to Chen's assertive pro-independence stance? Is he willing or capable of seeking detente with the mainland? Probably not. The Beijing leadership is far more likely to see its interests as better served by awaiting the return to power of people with whom they think they can do business.

Yet, for all this, it would be unwise to assume events are leading inexorably towards China prevailing on the Taiwan question. No elected leadership on the island — DPP or KMT — is ever going to meekly surrender sovereignty according to the Beijing formula.
Tony Parkinson is a senior columnist.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saddam Hussein boycotts hearing

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saddam Hussein boycotts hearing Saddam Hussein boycotts hearing
The trial of Saddam Hussein and seven of his former Baath Party regime colleagues has resumed without the former leader in the courtroom.

He is complaining about the conditions in which he is being held and how the trial is being conducted.

On Tuesday the former leader told his judges to "go to hell", vowing that he would not return to an "unjust" court.

Meanwhile the eight-year-old son of a guard at the trial was abducted from outside his Baghdad home on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear if the kidnapping was related to the trial.

Thousands of Iraqis, including many children, have been abducted - mainly for money - since the Iraqi leader was ousted in 2003.

In overnight violence, a man arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill the top trial investigator was freed by gunmen from a hospital in Kirkuk.


Saddam Hussein and seven former aides are on trial over the 1982 killing of 148 Shia Muslims in the Iraqi town of Dujail.

They all deny the charges against them and could face the death penalty if convicted.

He should receive the same level of justice as he bestowed on others
JK, Nottingham

Wednesday's hearing had been due to resume in the morning in the specially constructed courtroom in Baghdad's Green Zone.

However, it was delayed by four hours by wrangling over how to proceed in the face of Saddam Hussein's boycott.

Under Iraqi law the trial can continue without the defendant present in the courtroom.

According to AFP news agency, as the hearing got under way, Saddam's lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi stood up to thank the chief judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin for allowing the trial to continue.

Arrangements may be made for the former president to watch the trial on a closed circuit TV link, with the right to intervene at certain points, possibly via a microphone, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson says.

'Go to hell!'

Previous court sessions have been marked by frequent violent outbursts from the former Iraqi leader, who has complained constantly that the trial is unjust.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, the former leader shouted at the judge: "I will not return, I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!"

This was after the judge ruled that the court would reconvene on the next day to hear two more witnesses, overruling Saddam's lawyers' request for a longer break.

Until now, many observers have felt that Saddam has used his appearances in court to great effect, calling on his followers to continue their fight against the American presence in Iraq and condemning the 2003 invasion again and again.

The defence team has long challenged the legitimacy of the process - which is being conducted by an Iraqi court set up under a mixture of Iraqi and international statutes.

On Monday two men appeared in open court to give harrowing accounts of torture and imprisonment.

On Tuesday another man and two female witnesses, testifying from behind a curtain, their voices electronically distorted to avoid identification, described being beaten and given electric shocks by Iraqi intelligence agents.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Supreme Court Weighs Military's Access to Law Schools - New York Times

Supreme Court Weighs Military's Access to Law Schools - New York TimesDecember 7, 2005
Supreme Court Weighs Military's Access to Law Schools

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 - The military wants access to law schools on the same basis as other potential employers seeking to recruit students, although openly gay law students, of course, need not apply. The law schools insist that only those employers who pledge not to discriminate, against gay men and lesbians or anyone else, are welcome.

For more than 10 years, the two sides have circled one another as Congress pulled the noose ever tighter in the form of a threatened withholding of federal money from noncompliant universities. A showdown in the Supreme Court appeared inevitable, and on Tuesday it finally took place.

The result was a lopsided argument during which the justices appeared strongly inclined to uphold a federal law known as the Solomon Amendment, which withholds federal grants from universities that do not open their doors to military recruiters "in a manner at least equal in quality and scope" to the access offered civilian recruiters.

Or as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. put it succinctly: "It says that if you want our money, you have to let our recruiters on campus."

The constitutional question was one of free speech and association. The federal appeals court in Philadelphia, ruling last year in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of some three dozen law schools, barred enforcement of the Solomon Amendment on the ground that it forced the schools to "propagate, accommodate and subsidize the military's expressive message" of disapproval of homosexuality despite the law schools' commitment to equal rights for their gay students.

Since 1991, the American Association of Law Schools, which includes 166 of the 188 accredited law schools, has required its member schools to insist that prospective employers agree to a policy of nondiscrimination on grounds that include sexual orientation. As law schools began to bar military recruiters, Congress responded with a series of amendments to military spending bills. While the measures were addressed to universities, and not specifically to law schools, it was the law schools that were the source of resistance.

At first, Congress provided only that Defense Department grants would be withheld. Eventually, it added a long list of federal agencies and made clear that a denial of access by any part of a university would jeopardize federal grants to the entire university. At this point, with the stakes so high, law schools began to give in, many complying grudgingly by relegating military recruiters to off-campus locations. Congress responded last year by adding the provision that requires not only access, but equal access.

In the argument on Tuesday, the law school coalition's lawyer, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, had difficulty gaining traction as he urged the justices to uphold the appeals court's judgment that the Solomon Amendment amounted to "compelled speech" by forcing the law schools to convey the military's message. Chief Justice Roberts made his disagreement unmistakable.

"I'm sorry, but on 'compelled speech,' nobody thinks that this law school is speaking through those employers who come onto its campus for recruitment," the chief justice said. "Nobody thinks the law school believes everything that the employers are doing or saying."

The lawyer adjusted his focus. The law schools have their own message, "that they believe it is immoral to abet discrimination," he said.

This time, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor took issue. "But they can say that to every student who enters the room," she said.

"And when they do it, your honor, the answer of the students is, we don't believe you," Mr. Rosenkranz said.

"The reason they don't believe you is because you're willing to take the money," Chief Justice Roberts interjected. "What you're saying is this is a message we believe in strongly, but we don't believe in it to the detriment of $100 million."

Earlier, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement had assured the justices that the Solomon Amendment permitted law schools to be clear, even outspoken, in their disagreement with the military's policy.

Asked by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg what a law school "could do concretely while the recruiter is in the room," Mr. Clement replied that as long as the school granted equal access, "They could put signs on the bulletin board next to the door. They could engage in speech. They could help organize student protests."

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy indicated that he thought Mr. Clement was conceding too much. "You mean they could organize a student protest at the hiring interview room, so that everybody jeers when the applicant comes in the door?" he asked, adding, "I'm surprised."

Justice Antonin Scalia asked, smiling, "You're not going to be an Army recruiter, are you?"

"I won't be one of them," the solicitor general replied, "but I think the Army recruiters are not worried about being confronted with speech" as long as they had the same access as other recruiters.

At the beginning of the government's argument in the case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, No. 04-1152, several justices challenged Mr. Clement's assertion that the military was simply seeking equal access. These justices, reflecting an argument in a brief filed by a group of Harvard Law School professors, noted that requiring all recruiters, including the military, to accept a nondiscrimination policy would, in fact, amount to equal treatment and so would satisfy the Solomon Amendment.

"You're receiving what other employers in the same situation would receive," Justice Scalia told Mr. Clement. Interpreting the statute in that way would "avoid a difficult constitutional question," Justice Stephen G. Breyer said.

Mr. Clement replied, "I don't think there's a difficult constitutional question to be avoided here." He urged the justices to avoid the conclusion "that the statute effectively accomplishes nothing."

With both sides clothing their arguments in the language of nondiscrimination, it became clear that the nondiscrimination principle cuts in more than one direction. Justice Breyer suggested to Mr. Rosenkranz that a victory for the law schools might also provide a constitutional basis for others to object to abiding by other federal antidiscrimination laws.

"They also have the same right, Bob Jones University, because they disapprove of social mixing of the races?" Justice Breyer asked, referring to the Greenville, S.C., university that lost its tax-exempt status because of its racial policies in a Supreme Court case 25 years ago.

Mr. Rosenkranz tried to argue that the government could demonstrate a compelling need to eradicate racial discrimination.

But the military has needs of "immense national importance" also, Justice Scalia said.

In the end, it appeared that the law schools' ability to distance themselves from the military, even while yielding to the demand for access, was sufficient in the justices' minds to save the Solomon Amendment.

"It seems to me quite a simple matter for the law schools to have a disclaimer on all of their e-mails and advertisements that say the law school does not approve, and in fact, disapproves of the policies of some of the employers who you will meet," Justice Kennedy told Mr. Rosenkranz. "That's the end of it," he said.

And Justice Breyer asked "why you don't have here what I'd say is normal in the First Amendment area, that the remedy for speech you don't like is not less speech, it is more speech."

The State of New Orleans - New York Times

The State of New Orleans - New York TimesDecember 7, 2005
Op-Ed Contributors
The State of New Orleans

HOW will we know when New Orleans is rebuilt? Will it be when all the jobs and public services are back in place? Will it have to do with the amount of money spent? Or will it be when the number of displaced families receiving federal housing aid dwindles from 600,000 to just a few?

In truth, no consensus exists. But that has not stopped rebuilding from going forward, as government agencies, businesses and New Orleanians all struggle to start over. Now, 100 days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, it is worth asking: Just who is benefiting from this rebuilding? And how much has actually been accomplished?

Data are scarce, but there are enough indicators to illustrate what the residents of New Orleans are discovering upon their returns. To start with, the job market is significantly smaller. Fast-food chains may be passing out signing bonuses, but the metropolitan area has still lost more than 220,000 jobs. Vital public services are functioning selectively, which has a tremendous effect on what type of people can return. Before the storm, more than a quarter of residents relied on city bus lines; with only 10 percent of the fleet now in service, returnees need to have cars to get to jobs and shopping.

Fortunately, tourists may also be coming back. Numbers here are even scarcer, but we do know that nearly one out of every two hotels and one out of every three restaurants have reopened. It is not clear how many paying customers are actually visiting, but the growing number of "open for business" placards have been a welcome sign for everyone in the bankrupt city.

In effect, New Orleans remains in a state of emergency more than three months after it was officially declared. While some people - particularly those with their own transportation and children in private schools - have been able to start remaking their homes and lives, most everyone else remains in a holding pattern.

Bruce Katz and Matt Fellowes are, respectively, director of the metropolitan policy program and a senior research associate at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Nigel Holmes is a graphic designer.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'New mammal' seen in Borneo woods

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'New mammal' seen in Borneo woods 'New mammal' seen in Borneo woods
By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

You don't find new mammals that often, and to do so must be extraordinary
Callum Rankine
In the dense central forests of Borneo, a conservation group has found what appears to be a new species of mammal.

WWF caught two images of the animal, which is bigger than a domestic cat, dark red, and has a long muscular tail.

Local people, the WWF says, had not seen the species before, and researchers say it looks to be new.

The WWF says there is an urgent need to conserve forests in south-east Asia which are under pressure from logging and the palm oil trade.

The creature, believed to be carnivorous, was spotted in the Kayan Mentarang National Park, which lies in Indonesian territory on Borneo.

The team which discovered it, led by biologist Stephan Wulffraat, is publishing full details in a new book on Borneo and its wildlife.

"You don't find new mammals that often, and to do so must be extraordinary," said Callum Rankine, head of the species programme at WWF-UK.

"We've got camera traps there, which are passive devices relying on infra-red beams across forest paths," he told the BBC News website.

"Lots of animals come past - it's much easier than pushing through the forest itself - and when an animal cuts the beam, two cameras catch images from the front and back."

Not a lemur

So far, two images are all that exist. But they were enough to convince Nick Isaac from the Institute of Zoology in London that the animal may indeed be new.

"The photos look most like a lemur," he told the BBC News website. "But there certainly shouldn't be lemurs in Borneo."

These long-tailed primates are confined to the island of Madagascar.

"It's more likely to be a viverrid - that's the family which includes the mongoose and civets - which is a very poorly known group," Dr Isaac said.

"One of the photos clearly shows the length of the tail and how muscley it is; civets use their tails to balance in trees, so this new animal may spend chunks of its time up trees too."

That could be one reason why it has not been spotted before. Another could be that access to the heart of Borneo is becoming easier as population centres expand and roads are built.

The WWF says this is the heart of the issue. It accuses the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia, which each own parts of Borneo, of encouraging the loss of native jungle by allowing the development of giant palm oil plantations.

Last week Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, chief minister of Sarawak, the larger Malaysian state on Borneo, said that such claims are unfounded and part of a smear campaign.

He told the BBC News website that palm oil plantations are mainly sited on land which had previously been cleared for cultivation or are in "secondary jungle".

But the WWF says species like the new viverrid - if new viverrid it be - are threatened by such development.

It is concerned that other as yet unknown creatures may go extinct before their existence can be documented.

The group is planning to capture the new species in a live trap so it can be properly studied and described.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunni Candidates in Iraq Find Enemies on All Sides - New York Times

Sunni Candidates in Iraq Find Enemies on All Sides - New York TimesDecember 5, 2005
Sunni Candidates in Iraq Find Enemies on All Sides

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 4 - The car swerved in front of Sheik Ayad al-Izzi's sedan as he was crossing a bridge, on the way back to the capital after he had delivered a campaign speech in a western farming town rife with insurgents.

Another car pulled alongside, and men with Kalashnikov rifles fired into the sheik's vehicle.

His candidacy in the coming parliamentary elections ended abruptly on that concrete span. The attack on Nov. 28 instantly killed Sheik Izzi and two colleagues from the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the country's most prominent Sunni Arab political groups. The assassins have not been found.

"Day after day, our people are sacrificing themselves for their beliefs," Ayad al-Samarraie, a party leader, said after hundreds of mourners marched out of the party headquarters in western Baghdad last week, raising the sheik's wooden coffin. "There are many groups trying to wreck the political process."

With just a little more than a week before the vote on Dec. 15 for a full, four-year government, the Bush administration sees Sunni Arab participation as the most crucial aspect of this final stage in the political process it created after toppling Saddam Hussein.

But perhaps no one has more enemies than the Sunni Arab politicians who have committed themselves to taking part in the elections. Claiming to speak for factions in the insurgency, they campaign by denouncing the Shiite-led government and American forces, yet are hounded by zealous Sunni militants like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who reject any involvement in the political process and brand the politicians as traitors.

Many of the administration's hopes for helping Iraq build a stable government that can fight its own battles - and for extricating the United States from a politically unpopular war - are pinned to election day. If large numbers of Sunni Arabs vote, the thinking goes, the strength of the insurgency may be diverted into the political process, and the American military can begin withdrawing its 160,000 troops.

Many Sunni Arabs, who ruled Iraq for decades, boycotted the vote last January for a transitional National Assembly, but say they now regret that because they ceded too much power to the Shiites and Kurds.

The Shiite Arabs, who make up at least 60 percent of the population, see the coming election as their chance to enshrine majority rule of the country, denied them since Iraq was formed by colonial powers during the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire.

The Kurds, one-fifth of Iraq, want enough say in the new government to protect the autonomous status of their northern homeland, and to stem the growing religious influence of the Iranian-backed Shiite parties.

Everyone knows that much is at stake. Nearly 230 groups or individual politicians have registered, with some of those having banded together into 19 coalitions. Campaign posters and television advertisements are proliferating.

Sunni Arab parties are expected to make a strong showing in the elections for two reasons: Sunni clerics have issued a widespread call for their congregations to vote, and the electoral system divides most of the 275 parliamentary seats by province, guaranteeing that Sunni-dominated regions will get representation.

Even if it is unclear exactly how many seats the Sunni Arab parties will win, they will wield significant leverage in the formation of the new government, and no doubt use this to try to force the Shiites and Kurds to compromise on major issues like regional autonomy, the legal role of Islam and the sharing of oil wealth.

But in the final days of campaigning, the path to power is beset with dangers. Sheik Omar al-Jubouri, the head of the human rights office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said at least 10 party members had been killed since the party announced in October the formation of a religious Sunni Arab coalition called the Iraqi Consensus Front to run in the election.

In early November, gunmen seriously wounded a well-known Sunni Arab candidate, Fakhri al-Qaisi, as he was driving in western Baghdad.

Days later, the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party branch in Ramadi, the capital of hostile Anbar Province, was accosted as he began pulling down anti-election posters that Mr. Zarqawi's group, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, had plastered in a central mosque. Insurgents dragged away the politician as worshipers watched, said Alaa Makki, the party's campaign manager. The man later was found dead.

Tarik al-Hashimi, the head of the party, said he began receiving threats in October. He carries a handgun in his briefcase, he said, and travels with armed bodyguards.

"I've gotten letters," Mr. Hashimi, a businessman and former army officer, said as he reclined in his office. "There have been messages circulated in mosques, e-mails and telephone calls. They say, 'Your name is atop the assassination list. You're an infidel now.' "

But only some of the dangers involve Sunni militants. Party officials say they are equally fearful of the Shiite-led government's security forces, units made up of militiamen who some believe to be carrying out abductions and killings. Sheik Jubouri said 400 members of the Iraqi Islamic Party had been wrongly arrested since the formation of the religious Sunni coalition.

Some people blame Shiites rather than Sunni fighters for the assassination of Sheik Izzi. Last week, the Islamic Army of Iraq, a militant Sunni group, denounced the murder in an Internet posting. "We were stunned by the bad news," the militants wrote. Al Qaeda also denounced the killing on Sunday.

More than any other Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, which says it has 435 offices across Iraq, has tried to straddle the line between engaging in the political process and siding with what it considers the legitimate resistance, meaning nationalist guerrillas. It was founded in the 1960's as an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood. The group has regular contact with American officials here - the Americans even gave it one of 25 seats on the Iraqi Governing Council in 2003. But the party boycotted last January's elections, denouncing the American-led siege of Falluja.

In the late summer, it joined other Sunni Arab politicians in rejecting the proposed constitution when Shiite and Kurdish leaders ignored their demands. Then just days before the constitutional referendum in October, the party broke ranks with the Sunni establishment by asking voters to approve the document, after having negotiated a clause that would allow revisions by the new Parliament.

"That was one of the hardest decisions," Mr. Hashimi said.

That is when threats against the party increased. Offices were firebombed in Falluja and Ramadi. Gunmen ambushed clerics with ties to the party.

In recent weeks, the party has made an effort to strengthen its street credibility among the Sunnis. It made a flurry of announcements saying vote fraud had probably taken place during the referendum. It has also come out more vocally than ever against mass arrests by the Iraqi government and American forces.

Hatem Mukhlis, a Sunni Arab who heads a rival secular party in the election, the Assembly of Patriots, said the Iraqi Islamic Party had made the wrong decision by supporting the constitution, and was now desperately trying to salvage its reputation.

"They were generally considered to be traitors," said Mr. Mukhlis, a doctor who lived in the United States for 20 years. "They were really holding the stick in the middle, trying to do both things at once."

But the Iraqi Islamic Party has formidable allies in the two other prominent Sunni groups that are part of the Iraqi Consensus Front, the religious coalition expected to be the Sunni Arab front-runner in the elections. The alliance, which takes as its symbol the Islamic crescent and a palm frond, even has celebrity endorsements - Iraq's most famous soccer player, Ahmad Radhi, said at a news conference last week that he supported the coalition.

At a recent indoor rally in western Baghdad, one of the coalition's leaders, Adnan Dulaimi, who wields enormous influence in Sunni mosques, called on hundreds of clerics to tell their congregations to back the coalition. He promised it would help bring back the old Iraqi Army, take a stand against the detainee system and try to end the Shiite-led purges of former Baath Party members from the government.

"I've already called on people in Friday Prayer to support this list," said a slim, white-turbaned imam from Diyala Province, Sheik Ayad Ahmed Dulaimi, as he stood outside the hall. "We've suffered oppression. In order not to be marginalized, we need power in the National Assembly."

This access to mosques gives the coalition a huge advantage over more secular candidates like Mr. Mukhlis. The Iraqi Islamic Party has also begun advertising on television and putting up posters. The party has a campaign budget of $700,000, much of it raised through minimum donations of $200 from each member, said Mr. Makki, the campaign manager.

But to win Sunni Arab votes, these parties have to campaign in the most perilous parts of Iraq, where Mr. Zarqawi and other jihadists also hold sway.

"It's all dangerous, the work we're doing," Haider Khalil Hamid, 24, said as he worked with a dozen men to plaster posters for the Iraqi Islamic Party on a Baghdad boulevard. "The most important thing is to change the current government. The Sunnis don't feel comfortable with this sectarianism. Under Saddam's regime, it was good. Even in the time of Ayad Allawi, it was better than now."

Mr. Allawi, the former prime minister and a secular Shiite, will be a strong contender for the Sunni Arab vote because of his image as a tough leader and his former role in the Baath Party. Another ex-Baathist, Saleh Mutlak, has also emerged as a popular candidate among Sunnis. But whoever is their favorite politician, many Sunni Arabs say they must turn out to vote this time around.

"We will not let anyone marginalize us, and we will take our political right in administering Iraq," said Ibrahim Musleh al-Muhammadi, 40, a businessman in Falluja. "We say 'no' to the occupier and 'yes' to the freedom of Iraq."

Sahar Najib contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article, and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Falluja.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Details Emerge on a Brazen Escape in Afghanistan - New York Times

Details Emerge on a Brazen Escape in Afghanistan - New York TimesDecember 4, 2005
Details Emerge on a Brazen Escape in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 - The prisoners were considered some of the most dangerous men among the hundreds of terror suspects locked behind the walls of a secretive and secure American military detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Their escape, however, might as well have been a breakout from the county jail.

According to military officials familiar with the episode, the suspects are believed to have picked the lock on their cell, changed out of their bright orange uniforms and made their way through a heavily guarded military base under the cover of night. They then crawled over a faulty wall where a getaway vehicle was apparently waiting for them, the officials said.

"It is embarrassing and amazing at the same time," an American defense official said. "It was a disaster."

The fact of the escape was disclosed by the American authorities shortly after it set off an intense manhunt at Bagram, 40 miles north of Kabul, on the morning of July 11. But internal military documents and interviews with military and intelligence officials indicate it was a far more serious breach than the Defense Department has acknowledged.

One of the four suspects was identified as Al Qaeda's highest-ranking operative in Southeast Asia when he was captured in 2002, a fact that emerged only during an unrelated military trial last month. Another, a Saudi, was also described by intelligence officials as an important Qaeda operative in Afghanistan.

The detainees planned their breakout meticulously, United States officials said, apparently studying the guards' routines, getting themselves moved into a cell that was less visible to the guards and taking advantage of construction work that was intended to expand and improve security at the prison.

"Based upon the findings of the investigation, it appears that the detainees had a clear understanding of the operating procedures of the guards inside the facility," said the chief spokesman for United States military forces in Afghanistan, Col. James R. Yonts.

One American intelligence official said the prisoners also took advantage of "a perfect storm" of mistakes by the military guards. The escape is believed to have been the first from one of the detention centers established by the United States for people suspected of being terrorists after 9/11. Military officials, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the incident are classified, said there was still much they did not know about how the men escaped.

Although an American military police guard was initially suspected of having helped the prisoners, he was eventually cleared. Half a dozen other soldiers, including officers and sergeants, have received administrative punishments, a senior military official in Afghanistan said.

"It was bizarre to me," said Maj. Gen. Peter Gilchrist of Britain, who served at the time as the deputy commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan in Kabul. "I don't understand how it could happen."

Military officials have often cited the danger posed by the prisoners at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as a reason for the extreme security measures and harsh conditions there. Prisoners are typically shackled by their hands and feet when outside their cells and rarely move without an escort of at least two guards. During interrogations, they have often been forced into uncomfortable "safety positions" or chained to a bolt on the floor.

The two prisoners believed to have led the escape, Omar al-Faruq, a Kuwaiti who was the former Qaeda operative in Southeast Asia, and Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, the Saudi, had for months been awaiting transfer to Guantánamo Bay, officials said. For reasons they have not explained, the military authorities gave different names for both men in announcing the escape last summer.

At the time of Mr. Faruq's arrest in Jakarta, Indonesia, in early June 2002, he was considered one of the most important Qaeda figures ever captured by the United States. Three months later, he told C.I.A. interrogators at Bagram that he had been sent to the region to plan large-scale attacks against American Embassies and other targets there.

Intelligence officials gave differing views on the importance of Mr. Kahtani. One official described him as having been responsible at one point for maintaining Al Qaeda's operational support structure in Afghanistan; another said he was an important Qaeda fighter, but not a senior-level operative.

According to a classified, one-page military report on the escape that was reviewed by The New York Times, those two detainees - along with a Syrian prisoner identified as Abdullah Hashimi and a Kuwaiti named Mahmoud Ahmad Muhammad - were being held with four other men in Cell 119, on the ground floor of the Bagram prison.

A senior military official said each of the prisoners who escaped was moved into the cell in the days before his escape after causing problems with other detainees. The main cells at Bagram are large wire cages that can be easily surveyed by guards patrolling the catwalks above them. Cell 119, by contrast, was somewhat apart and out of the way, officials said. Asked whether the prisoners might have fabricated the disturbances to be moved together into Cell 119, the senior official said, "The investigation revealed credible factors that support this theory."

After a head count of prisoners at 1:50 a.m. on July 11, the military report states, the sergeant of the guard on duty at the detention center, now called the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, reported all of them accounted for, the report states.

About two hours later, at 3:45 a.m., as the detainees were being roused for the morning prayer, the four detainees were discovered missing from their cell. The military police battalion on duty at the prison, Task Force Cerberus, immediately locked down the prison and began a search, the report said.

How the men got out of their cell remains a mystery, officials said. Two senior military officials said some equipment was temporarily moved beside the cell, partly obstructing the guards' view. One senior military official said investigators believe the prisoners managed to pick the lock with implements they had fashioned while detained.

There were also suspicions that one of the American military guards, who had had disciplinary problems, might have deliberately left the door open, two senior officials said. But those suspicions were eventually discounted and the guard was never charged, they said.

The four men escaped out the southeast door of the main prison building, the report said. Military and intelligence officials said the detainees left behind their bright orange prison uniforms, apparently changing into less conspicuous blue prison garb that they might have somehow hidden in their cells or knew where to find elsewhere.

At the time, several officials said, construction crews had been working to expand and reinforce the prison, a cavernous aircraft machine-shop built by the Soviet military during its occupation of Afghanistan and converted by the American military into its primary screening center for terror suspects captured overseas. The breakout took place only days before a series of tougher security measures, including surveillance cameras and brighter lighting, were to be put in place.

The American forces have released more than 250 Taliban and other prisoners from Bagram this year as part of an Afghan national reconciliation program. Still, they have had to refurbish the prison to hold the roughly 500 detainees who remain.

The escapees also appear to have taken advantage of the construction work to move through an exercise yard and out of the prison compound. Another indication that the four men might have received help in their escape, officials said, was the apparent speed with which they found their way through a maze of buildings and roads to a small, damaged section of the perimeter wall surrounding the vast Bagram Air Base.

Once they found the faulty section of the packed-dirt wall, officials said, the detainees were able to crawl beneath the concertina wire that topped the barrier and drop down on the other side in an area of agricultural fields and abandoned homes.

"There were three or four points where they could have been caught," one American intelligence official said. "The escapees got very lucky." Within minutes of the escape, American forces began fanning out across and outside the prison, concentrating on the area near the faulty section of the wall. As the base sirens blared an alert and Cobra and Black Hawk helicopters hovered overhead, American soldiers and Afghan policemen scoured fields and homes in the area.

The district police chief, Colonel Assadullah, said in an interview in Bagram that he was asked to have his men search for a yellow pickup truck, which was apparently seen leaving the area. The district governor, Kabir Ahmad, said the Afghan authorities set up checkpoints on the highway leading to Kabul and other roads in the area, but turned up nothing suspicious.

Military officials said American soldiers questioned laborers who had been working at the prison, as well as local Afghan officials. But no arrests were made, and neither Afghans working at the base nor American officials said they knew of any laborers fired as a result of the inquiry.

In a recent interview, a former Bagram prisoner, Moazzam Begg, said he had heard during his detention there that American intelligence officers had once proposed staging an escape to release a detainee whom they wanted to act as a double agent against Al Qaeda. He said he had no knowledge that any such scheme had been carried out, and several American officials strongly dismissed the idea that that had happened with Mr. Faruq and the others.

In a videotape delivered to the Pakistan bureau of the Arab-language satellite television station Al Arabiya, Mr. Kahtani boasted about the preparations for the escape, suggesting that they had been painstaking.

"We decided to escape on Sunday because that is the day off for the nonbelievers," he said on the tape, which was broadcast Oct. 18. "To escape we studied the plan very carefully."

Sultan M. Munadi and Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting from Bagram, Afghanistan for this article.