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Saturday, December 17, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | Clear leader in Tanzania election

BBC NEWS | Africa | Clear leader in Tanzania election Clear leader in Tanzania election
Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania's governing party has a huge lead in the race to be the country's next president, the electoral panel said on Saturday.

It also said his Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM) was well on course to extend its 44-year grip on parliament.

With nearly 6.7 million votes counted, Mr Kikwete had more than 78%, official figures revealed.

Despite violence on Zanzibar, Africa Union observers say the poll was mostly peaceful and should be respected.

Mr Kikwete, 55, presently Tanzania's foreign minister, looks set to take over from President Benjamin Mkapa, who is stepping down after two terms, as stipulated in the constitution.

Mr Kikwete collapsed during campaigning on Tuesday, with his party saying he had succumbed to exhaustion.

'Disappointing'

The CCM had taken 92 parliamentary seats, against 13 for the opposition CUF party and four for Chadema, with more than half the results still to come in, electoral officials said on Saturday afternoon.

Correspondents said the 17 poorly-funded opposition parties had struggled to compete with the well-financed campaign run by the CCM.

Chadema presidential candidate Freeman Mbowe, in third place so far, said the initial results were "surprising and disappointing".

"And it's definitely not good for the whole democratic process of the country," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Fraud claims

The BBC's Vicky Ntetema in Dar-es-Salaam says opposition leaders and supporters have already started accusing the ruling party of fraud.

However preliminary reports from local and international observers indicate that although there were some logistic irregularities, the elections were free and fair and that they were conducted in a peaceful manner free from intimidation, she says.

The head of the African Union observer mission, Baleta Mrete, has urged the opposition parties and all peace-loving Tanzanians to accept and respect the results of the elections.

The exception to the rule was the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar, where opposition protesters were hurt in clashes with police.

Zanzibar is a stronghold of the opposition, and most of the declared seats have gone to the CUF, our correspondent says.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Jack Anderson, Investigative Journalist Who Angered the Powerful, Dies at 83 - New York Times

Jack Anderson, Investigative Journalist Who Angered the Powerful, Dies at 83 - New York TimesDecember 18, 2005
Jack Anderson, Investigative Journalist Who Angered the Powerful, Dies at 83
By DOUGLAS MARTIN

Jack Anderson, whose investigative column once appeared in more than 1,000 newspapers with 40 million readers, won a Pulitzer Prize and prompted J. Edgar Hoover to call him "lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures," died yesterday. He was 83.

The cause was Parkinson's disease, Mr. Anderson's daughter Laurie Anderson-Bruch told The Associated Press.

Mr. Anderson was a flamboyant bridge between the muckrakers of the early decades of the 20th century and the battalions of investigative reporters unleashed by news organizations after Watergate. He relished being called "the Paul Revere of journalism" for his knack for uncovering major stories first almost as much as he enjoyed being at the top of President Richard M. Nixon's enemies list.

His journalistic reach extended to radio, television and magazines, and his scoops were legion. They included the United States' tilt away from India toward Pakistan during Bangladesh's war for independence, which won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972.

Another was his linking of the settlement of an antitrust suit against ITT by the Justice Department to a $400,000 pledge to underwrite the 1972 Republican convention. Still another was revealing the Reagan administration's efforts to sell arms illegally to Iran and funnel the proceeds to anti-Communist forces in Central America.

In what was the nation's most widely read, longest-running political column, Mr. Anderson broke stories that included the Central Intelligence Agency's enlisting of the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro, the savings and loan scandal, Senator Thomas J. Dodd's loose ethics, and the mystery surrounding Howard Hughes's death.

He liked to say that he and his staff of eager investigators did daily what Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did just once when they dug out the truth of the Watergate scandal.

But his bombastic, self-congratulating style, abbreviated exegeses and a blistering moral outrage fueled both by his Mormon upbringing and unabashed theatrical flair caused some to question his gravity.

When he made a mistake on a big story, it could reverberate mightily. In 1972, he had to apologize to Senator Thomas Eagleton for reporting on the radio about drunken-driving arrests that he could not later authenticate. Mr. Eagleton had to withdraw as the Democratic Party nominee for vice president in the face of disclosures that he had received psychiatric treatment.

Mr. Anderson's decidedly roguish techniques included eavesdropping, spiriting off classified documents, rifling through garbage (Mr. Hoover's, in particular) and sometimes blatant threats - methods he defended as justified in his lifetime campaign to keep government honest. His illegal printing of verbatim transcripts of the secret Watergate grand jury thwarted Mr. Nixon's efforts to stonewall the scandal by hiding behind grand jury secrecy.

Not only was Mr. Anderson on Nixon's notorious list, but G. Gordon Liddy, a Watergate burglar, plotted his murder.

Mr. Anderson marked a departure from traditional Washington columnists like Walter Lippmann who reported on politics as insiders with high-level contacts. His approach also veered sharply from that of Drew Pearson, who began the "Merry-Go-Round" column in 1932.

Mr. Pearson basked in his own celebrity, confiding with the powerful and playing them for large scoops. Mr. Anderson, by contrast, kept his distance from politicians. He would rather go to a movie than a state dinner, which was fortunate because he was never invited to any.

He quietly cultivated dissatisfied and idealistic lower-level government workers, convincing them that the public's right to information trumped their bosses' personal interests. His stock in trade were the secret documents he persuaded sources to leak.

Mr. Anderson's prominence gradually faded, as the sort of investigative journalism he pioneered became more standard fare. As this competition for stories stiffened, Mr. Anderson was also spreading himself thinner and thinner as his television and radio enterprises demanded nearly constant news.

The number of papers subscribing to "Washington Merry-Go-Round" finally dwindled to around 150. In 2002, Slate, the online magazine, noted that nobody had picked up Mr. Anderson's report that Senator John McCain was poised to switch parties. Mickey Kaus, the Slate writer, wrote that this demonstrated "how unseriously Jack Anderson is taken these days."

What many of his readers did not realize was that Mr. Anderson himself added up to a fascinating story. He was a close personal friend of Senator Joseph McCarthy before becoming one of his most fervent and earliest pursuers. He invited Adolph Eichmann's son to live in his home to learn about his upbringing.

When Mr. Hoover sent F.B.I. agents to stake out his house, Mr. Anderson sent several of his nine children out to take their picture. For good measure, they let the air out of the agents' tires.

Jackson Northman Anderson was born in Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 19, 1922. When Jack was 2, his family moved to Utah, the stronghold of the Mormon Church.

At 12, Jack began editing the Boy Scout page of The Deseret News, a church-owned newspaper. He soon progressed to a $7-a-week job with a small local paper, The Murray Eagle, where he rode his bicycle to cover fires and traffic accidents.

At 18, he landed a reporting job at The Salt Lake City Tribune. After briefly attending the University of Utah, he was a Mormon missionary for two years. He then joined the merchant marine.

He soon persuaded The Deseret News to hire him as a foreign correspondent in China. His draft board caught up with him in 1945, and he was inducted into the Army in Chunking. He first served in the Quartermaster Corps and then wrote for Stars and Stripes, where more experienced journalists suggested that he try to get a job with Mr. Pearson.

Mr. Pearson hired Mr. Anderson in 1947. The columnist agreed to pay him $50 a week and give him Sundays off so he could attend church.

Mr. Pearson gave his new hire no byline. Mr. Anderson initially liked the anonymity because it diminished his visibility as he prowled for scandal.

Mr. Anderson wrote that in 1954 he learned Mr. Pearson had promised the column to another employee after his own retirement. In anger, Mr. Anderson got a job as Washington bureau chief of Parade magazine.

The denouement was that Mr. Pearson promised Mr. Anderson he would eventually be his partner as well as inherit the column. In 1965, Mr. Pearson, who died four years later, finally made good on making him a full partner. Pay, however, remained another matter.

"Why, just before he died he was paying me $14,000 or $15,000, and here I was a partner in the biggest column in America," Mr. Anderson said in an interview with The New York Post in 1972.

From the Truman to George W. Bush presidencies, Mr. Anderson gave his own stamp to Washington journalism, beginning with using language he thought a Kansas City milkman would understand.

One employee, Les Whitten, told Washingtonian magazine in 1997 how Mr. Anderson showed scant favoritism toward friends. Mr. Whitten recalled his boss glancing at a draft of a critical column he had written about Senator Wallace Bennett of Utah, a friend of Mr. Anderson's.

"He took one look, sighed, shook his head and said, 'Poor Wally,' " Mr. Whitten said. "And that's the last I heard from him about it."

Mr. Anderson met Olivia Farley in church, and they were married in 1949. She survives him, as do their nine children, The A.P. reported.

Mr. Anderson once suggested in an autobiography that his big family might have saved his life. When Mr. Liddy and others were kicking around ways to kill him, one came up with poisoning the aspirin in his medicine cabinet, according to The Washington Post in 1975.

"I had a wife and nine children, and nobody wanted to risk the chance one of them might get a headache," Mr. Anderson wrote.

Japan Today - News - Bush says he authorized use of wiretaps because it saves lives - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Bush says he authorized use of wiretaps because it saves lives - Japan's Leading International News NetworkBush says he authorized use of wiretaps because it saves lives

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Sunday, December 18, 2005 at 06:56 JST
WASHINGTON — U.S. President George W Bush said Saturday that he had authorized the use of wiretaps by the National Security Agency, calling the practice "crucial to our national security" in the U.S. "war on terror" and "critical to saving American lives."

"In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaida and related terrorist organizations," Bush said in a televised address.


At the same time, Bush castigated senators for blocking the renewal of the USA Patriot Act, a sweeping law designed to fight terrorist activities, calling the senators' move an "irresponsible" tactic that "endangers the lives of our citizens."

In the speech, an unusual live broadcast of his weekly radio address, Bush confirmed media reports that he had authorized the NSA, the government's top-secret electronic and satellite spy agency, to intercept communications by people living in the United States who are suspected of terrorist activities.

"As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad," he said.

"This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security," Bush said of the controversial program, launched in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks.

The media reports suggested that the authorization was a significant shift in the activities of the NSA, which is normally tasked with spying on international communications.

The New York Times said the president authorized the NSA in 2002 to monitor the international telephone calls and email messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without getting the warrants previously required for internal spying.

The reports provoked objections from several senior lawmakers, including those in Bush's Republican Party.

"What he's doing, I believe, is illegal," Democratic Senator Russ Feingold said Saturday on CNN television.

"Eavesdropping on conversations of U.S. citizens and others in the United States without a court order and without complying with the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is both illegal and unconstitutional," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office, said.

However, Bush insisted that his authorizations of the NSA's domestic surveillance were legal, noting that he had personally reauthorized the program more than 30 times since Sept 11 after consulting with top government legal officials, including the attorney general.

"This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives," he said.

The president blasted the media for "improperly" revealing the program, based on what he suggested were illegal leaks of classified information.

"As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."

Bush, meanwhile, strongly criticized the senators who blocked the Patriot Act's renewal Friday on the grounds that it gives authorities too much power to intrude into U.S. citizens' private lives.

Without renewal, the act will expire in two weeks, Bush noted, saying the law has "protected American liberty and saved American lives."

"The terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks. The terrorists want to attack America again and inflict even greater damage than they did on September the 11th," Bush said. "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment." (Wire reports)

Japan Today - News - Thousands of police guard Sydney beaches - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Thousands of police guard Sydney beaches - Japan's Leading International News NetworkThousands of police guard Sydney beaches

Sunday, December 18, 2005 at 06:59 JST
SYDNEY — Despite warnings of further race riots, surfers, swimmers and sunbathers were outnumbered by police at Sydney beaches Saturday as road blocks were set up and people heeded advice to stay away.

Up to 2,000 police, including riot and dog squads backed by helicopters and boats, were deployed over the weekend to patrol troubled beaches in Australia's largest city and to the north and south.


The popular Cronulla beach in south Sydney, where racial violence first erupted 1ast Sunday, was nearly deserted as police staged random vehicle searches on approach roads, national radio said.

There were no reports of violence by nighfall but police were maintaining patrols in troubled areas throughout the night and said they would turn out in force at the beaches again on Sunday.

A special task force set up to crack down on the violence made 19 arrests on Friday night, including one in which a car was found to be carrying swords and a dagger. But most were for drunk driving, traffic and drug offenses, police said.

Dozens of people were injured and arrested in riots after white mobs set out to "reclaim the beach" from groups of Arab-Australians, mainly ethnic Lebanese, at Cronulla last Sunday, sparking days of revenge attacks.

The New South Wales parliament was recalled from its summer recess to pass legislation giving police extra powers to combat unrest, and police said intelligence indicated gangs would target the beaches again this weekend.

"I would urge people who do not live in these areas to stay away unless they have a good reason to be there," police chief Ken Moroney said.

It was a surprising call in a country that thrives on Australia's combination of sun, sea and sand, but early indications were that it was being taken seriously.

The mayor of Sutherland Shire, which includes Cronulla, had called on beachgoers to defy requests not to visit the beach, saying local businesses had been hard hit as people stayed away over the past week.

"I urge honest law-abiding people who want to spend a non-violent day of fun in the sun to make their way to Cronulla and help support those innocent business operators," he said.

However, media have reported throughout the week on email, mobile phone and website messages calling for more "protests."

Visitors to one newly established website were asked to meet near Cronulla on Saturday for a rally against "home-grown terrorist gangs" — a reference to the mainly-Muslim people of Middle Eastern appearance targeted last weekend.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that one neo-Nazi website called for fresh shows of strength in Sydney and the western city of Perth, while "on the usually laid-back surfing website realsurf.com there is a post urging protesters to set fire to a Sydney mosque."

Meanwhile, the government announced a new program to promote respect and understanding between ethnic groups, including encouraging non-Anglo Australians to become lifesavers.

"We want to have a program which basically educates everybody on how to behave on the beach," said Minister for Multicultural Affairs John Cobb.

Many residents of the middle-class Cronulla suburb had complained that groups of ethnic Lebanese from poorer inner-city suburbs descend on the beach at weekends and disrupt the easygoing atmosphere with aggressive behavior. (Wire reports)

Chinese Pressing to Keep Village Silent on Clash - New York Times

Chinese Pressing to Keep Village Silent on Clash - New York TimesDecember 17, 2005
Chinese Pressing to Keep Village Silent on Clash
By HOWARD W. FRENCH

SHANGHAI, Dec. 16 - Ten days ago, the sleepy fishing village of Dongzhou was the scene of a deadly face-off, with protesters hurling homemade bombs and the police gunning them down in the streets.

Now, a stilted calm prevails, a cover-up so carefully planned that the small town looks like a relic from the Cultural Revolution, as if the government had decided to re-educate the entire population. Banners hang everywhere, with slogans in big red characters proclaiming things like, "Stability is paramount" and "Don't trust instigators."

Many facts remain unclear about the police crackdown on a Dongzhou demonstration on Dec. 6, which residents say ended in the deaths of 20 or more people, but one thing is certain: The government is doing everything possible to prevent witnesses' accounts of what happened from emerging.

Residents of Dongzhou, a small town now cordoned off by heavy police roadblocks and patrols, said in scores of interviews on the telephone and with visitors that they had endured beatings, bribes and threats at the hands of security forces in the week and a half after their protest against the construction of a power plant was violently put down. Others said that the corpses of the dead had been withheld, apparently because they were so riddled with bullets that they would contradict the government's version of events. And residents have been warned that if they must explain the deaths of loved ones - many of whom were shot dead during a tense standoff with the police in which fireworks, blasting caps and crude gasoline bombs were thrown by the villagers - they should simply say their relatives were blown up by their own explosives.

"Local officials are talking to families that had relatives killed in the incident, telling them that if they tell higher officials and outsiders that they died by accident, by explosives, while confronting the police, they must make it sound convincing," said one resident of the besieged town in an interview. "If the family members speak this way they are being promised 50,000 yuan ($6,193), and if not, they will be beaten and get nothing out of it."

Another villager, who, like other residents, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear or reprisals, said families of the dead who agreed to invoke accidental explosion as the cause of death had been offered $15,000 each.

"The story is being spread around the village that people were not killed by bullets, but by bombs," said one man interviewed Friday by telephone. "That's rubbish. Everybody knows they were killed by gunfire."

The bomb story was also being spread at a hospital in the nearby city of Shanwei, where villagers injured in the protest are being treated. Plainclothes police surrounded a Chinese man who entered the hospital seeking to see the wounded, denying him access to a tightly guarded ward even when he said his relative was among the injured. Later, hospital staff members told the man that the injured had all been warned to stick to the same story, of being injured by their own explosives.

The attempt to enforce a concocted story may help explain why residents have reported difficulty in recovering the bodies of their loved ones.

The official New China News Agency has said that only three people were killed and eight others injured when security forces shot at protesters, so the existence of more bodies riddled with bullets could destroy the official version of events and provide proof of tremendous force against a lightly armed, if restive, crowd.

"The relatives went in tears to the county offices to search for the dead and missing, and they were beaten by electric truncheon, wounded and dispersed," one resident said.

"They offered 50,000 yuan, and told us we could only get back the body at night and bury it on the mountain immediately, without any mourning ceremony or fireworks, without anyone knowing about this," a relative of Wei Jin, a man killed during the demonstration, said in an account of an attempted bribe involving his relative's corpse.

"And if someone from outside asks about the issue, we must say he died by his own bomb. We turned down the offer, and they doubled the money, but we still would not accept it." The man said his relative had been shot twice, once from afar and again from close range.

Other residents of Dongzhou took the precaution of burying their relatives in secret so that the government would not confiscate the bodies. "We buried the body on the seventh by ourselves, and would not let them know where it is," said a relative of Lin Yidui, one of the dead. "You should let the dead lie in peace."

The man said the authorities dared not try the bomb story on him, saying, "We have the evidence." When authorities have come to comfort his family, saying it was an accidental shooting, the man said he replied, "How could my brother be shot in the heart if you were firing a warning?" Interviews with villagers, both in person and by telephone, made clear that security forces had already imposed a high price on others deemed uncooperative. "They arrested one ordinary villager and beat him very brutally," said one resident in the town. "His hands were twisted this way, and his whole body is full of wounds. They said he assisted one of the three leaders to escape the village, so they tried to force him to tell them their hiding place."

Another man told of a woman who had been overheard by the police complaining about harsh repression meted out in the village. "She had said something a bit angry and was beaten by the police," the man said. "She had just scolded them for being so cruel as to shoot villagers, and she was beaten right there, kneeling and crying in front of many people."

More than half of the scores of people reached by telephone in recent days said they were too frightened to share their experiences, and many of them hung up hastily. "I'm afraid of their threats, of being caught and beaten," one man said. "It has happened. The police and the army are here, and if our conversation is known to them, I will suffer a lot."

Another resident reported that telephones in the area had been blocked from making calls to Hong Kong, which is less than 125 miles to the south, shares a similar dialect and has news media that can freely report on the incident, unlike the mainland Chinese media, which have been all but silent about it.

The Chinese government has also said little about the violence in Dongzhou. After publishing its report in the official New China New Agency, which saw very limited circulation in the country, the government also announced the arrest of an unnamed commander the following day, saying he had mishandled the incident and caused "mistaken deaths and accidental injuries."

The government has rejected comparisons with the massacre of hundreds of protesters in 1989 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a comparison drawn both by foreign journalists and by a prominent group of dissenting Chinese intellectuals who condemned the killings at Dongzhou in an Internet petition this week.

"Conclusions have been reached on the 1989 incident already," said the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang. "No conclusion yet has been drawn on this event. How can we know yet if they are the same type of incident?"

So far, however, the official account of last week's violence widely diverges from the account of almost every villager interviewed. Although the villagers' own estimates of the number of dead and missing vary, most still speak of 20 or more people dead and large numbers of missing.

Even by the villagers' death toll in Dongzhou, the Tiananmen Square massacre involved killing on a far greater scale. It also involved national politics, with young demonstrators streaming into the center of Beijing, often from far away, to support calls for democracy.

The Dongzhou episode, by comparison, is part of a much more diffuse crisis, though not necessarily a less political one. Chinese villages and townships have been the scene of increasing turmoil in the last year, as rural dwellers have demonstrated against local governments, sometimes rioting, over issues like corruption, land use and rampant industrial pollution.

The Dongzhou episode is something of a watershed because it is the first time that villagers are known to have used explosives, albeit crude and ineffective ones, against security forces. Beijing faces a quandary in that it must rein in abusive local governments without sending the signal that unrest is the best way to obtain concessions.

It also fears the emergence of any solidarity movement between peasants and township dwellers, whose protests have so far been largely unconnected.

Just as worrisome for the central government are the alliances being forged between lawyers, social workers and advocates of change in China's big cities and rural demonstrators. When Dongzhou's residents were first confronted with the local government's plans to build a coal-fired power plant in their midst, few villagers imagined they had any legal rights in the matter.

"Villagers had no knowledge of law," said one woman by telephone. "The government will do whatever its wants. But later some of us who knew something about law learned the power plant wasn't approved by the central government, and told other villagers."

Although difficult to confirm, there are indications that the villagers were emboldened to challenge the plant's construction through contacts with lawyers elsewhere in China.

After numerous discussions, the power company made an offer of less than $25 per family as compensation for land use and pollution caused by the planned coal-fired generator.

By that time, though, the villagers had already been energized, uncovering what they said were misrepresentations by the company about the amount of land it would use, and opposing the plant on other issues as well.

"Villagers didn't accept the deal anyway," said the telephone interviewee, describing how the movement gained momentum. "Initially nobody organized. Then little by little they did. The organizers had all served in the army. They had some basic knowledge of the law."

27 Tried in Attack on Protesters

BEIJING, Dec. 16 (AP) - A former local Communist Party official and 26 others were being tried on charges of organizing a bloody attack on protesting villagers that killed six people in June, the government said Friday. The announcement came as the government tried to defuse public anger over a separate clash last week in which the police opened fire on protesters in a village northeast of Hong Kong, killing at least three. Villagers said as many as 20 were killed.

In the June conflict in Hebei Province, near Beijing, up to 300 men with knives and guns attacked villagers protesting the seizure of land for construction of a power plant.

He Feng, a former local Communist Party secretary, was among the 27 who went on trial on Thursday on charges of causing "intentional injuries," the official New China News Agency said.

Rural confrontations are increasing in China as local authorities confiscate land for construction of factories, power plants and other projects.

Behind Power, One Principle as Bush Pushes Prerogatives - New York Times

Behind Power, One Principle as Bush Pushes Prerogatives - New York TimesDecember 17, 2005
News Analysis
Behind Power, One Principle as Bush Pushes Prerogatives
By SCOTT SHANE

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 - A single, fiercely debated legal principle lies behind nearly every major initiative in the Bush administration's war on terror, scholars say: the sweeping assertion of the powers of the presidency.

From the government's detention of Americans as "enemy combatants" to the just-disclosed eavesdropping in the United States without court warrants, the administration has relied on an unusually expansive interpretation of the president's authority. That stance has given the administration leeway for decisive action, but it has come under severe criticism from some scholars and the courts.

With the strong support of Vice President Dick Cheney, legal theorists in the White House and Justice Department have argued that previous presidents unjustifiably gave up some of the legitimate power of their office. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made it especially critical that the full power of the executive be restored and exercised, they said.

The administration's legal experts, including David S. Addington, the vice president's former counsel and now his chief of staff, and John C. Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Justice Department from 2001 to 2003, have pointed to several sources of presidential authority.

The bedrock source is Article 2 of the Constitution, which describes the "executive power" of the president, including his authority as commander in chief of the armed forces. Several landmark court decisions have elaborated the extent of the powers.

Another key recent document cited by the administration is the joint resolution passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, authorizing the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against those responsible for Sept. 11 in order to prevent further attacks.

Mr. Yoo, who is believed to have helped write a legal justification for the National Security Agency's secret domestic eavesdropping, first laid out the basis for the war on terror in a Sept. 25, 2001, memorandum that said no statute passed by Congress "can place any limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing and nature of the response."

That became the underlying justification for numerous actions apart from the eavesdropping program, disclosed by The New York Times on Thursday night. Those include the order to try accused terrorists before military tribunals; the detention of so-called enemy combatants at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret overseas jails operated by the Central Intelligence Agency; the holding of two Americans, Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, as enemy combatants; and the use of severe interrogation techniques, including some banned by international agreements, on Al Qaeda figures.

Mr. Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, declined to comment for this article. But Bradford A. Berenson, who served as associate counsel to President Bush from 2001 to 2003, explained the logic behind the assertion of executive power.

"After 9/11 the president felt it was incumbent on him to use every ounce of authority available to him to protect the American people," Mr. Berenson said.

He said he was not familiar with the N.S.A. program, in which the intelligence agency, without warrants, has monitored international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of people inside the United States. He said that he could not comment on whether the program was justified, but that he believed intelligence gathering on an enemy was clearly part of the president's constitutional war powers.

"Any program like this would have been very carefully analyzed by administration lawyers," Mr. Berenson said. "It's easy, now that four years have passed without another attack, to forget the sense of urgency that pervaded the country when the ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoking."

But some legal experts outside the administration, including some who served previously in the intelligence agencies, said the administration had pushed the presidential-powers argument beyond what was legally justified or prudent. They say the N.S.A. domestic eavesdropping illustrates the flaws in Mr. Bush's assertion of his powers.

"Obviously we have to do things differently because of the terrorist threat," said Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, former general counsel of both N.S.A. and the Central Intelligence Agency, who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. "But to do it without the participation of the Congress and the courts is unwise in the extreme."

Even if the administration believes the president has the authority to direct warrantless eavesdropping, she said, ordering it without seeking Congressional approval was politically wrongheaded. "We're just relearning the lessons of Vietnam and Watergate," said Ms. Parker, now dean of the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

Jeffrey H. Smith, who served as C.I.A. general counsel in 1995 and 1996, said he was dismayed by the N.S.A. program, which he said was the latest instance of legal overreach by the administration.

"Clearly the president felt after 9/11 that he needed more powers than his predecessors had exercised," Mr. Smith said. "He chose to assert as much power as he thought he needed. Now the question is whether that was wise and consistent with our values."

William C. Banks, a widely respected authority on national security law at Syracuse University, said the N.S.A. revelation came as a shock, even given the administration's past assertions of presidential powers.

"I was frankly astonished by the story," he said. "My head is spinning."

Professor Banks said the president's power as commander in chief "is really limited to situations involving military force - anything needed to repel an attack. I don't think the commander in chief power allows" the warrantless eavesdropping, he said.

Mr. Berenson, the former White House associate counsel, said that in rare cases, the presidents' advisers may decide that an existing law violates the Constitution "by invading the president's executive powers as commander in chief."

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 typically requires warrants for the kind of eavesdropping carried out under the special N.S.A. program. Whether administration lawyers argued that that statute unconstitutionally infringed the president's powers is not known.

But Mr. Smith, formerly of the C.I.A., noted that when President Carter signed the act into law in 1978, he seemed to rule out any domestic eavesdropping without court approval.

"The bill requires, for the first time, a prior judicial warrant for all electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purposes in the United States" if an American's communications might be intercepted, President Carter said when he signed the act.

By asserting excessive powers, Mr. Smith said, President Bush may provoke a reaction from Congress and the courts that ultimately thwarts executive power.

"The president may wind up eroding the very powers he was seeking to exert," Mr. Smith said.

Friday, December 16, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush 'backed spying on Americans'

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush 'backed spying on Americans' Bush 'backed spying on Americans'
President Bush allowed security agents to eavesdrop on people inside the US without court approval after 9/11, the New York Times has reported.

Under a 2002 presidential order, the National Security Agency has been monitoring international communications of hundreds in the US, the paper says.

Before, the NSA had typically limited US surveillance to foreign embassies.

Questioned about the report, Condoleezza Rice said Mr Bush had never ordered anyone to do anything illegal.

But some NSA officials familiar with the operation have questioned whether the surveillance of calls and e-mails has crossed constitutional limits on legal searches, according to the Times.

American law usually requires a secret court, known as a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to give permission before intelligence officers can conduct surveillance on US soil.

When asked about the programme on US TV, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said: "The president acted lawfully in every step that he has taken".

"He takes absolutely seriously his constitutional responsibility both to defend Americans and to do it within the law," she said.

She declined to discuss details the New York Times report.

'Sea change'

The newspaper said nearly a dozen current and former administration officials discussed the programme with reporters.

It's almost a mainstay of this country that the NSA only does foreign searches
Unnamed ex-senior official

They were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the scheme.

Under the programme, the NSA has eavesdropped on as many as 500 people inside the US at any given time in its search for evidence of terrorist activity, the paper said.

Overseas, 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time.

"This is really a sea change," a former senior official who specialises in national security law told the paper.

"It's almost a mainstay of this country that the NSA only does foreign searches."

The New York Times said it delayed publishing the information on the move for a year, in response to White House concerns it could jeopardise investigations.

Some officials said the programme had helped to uncover several terror plots, including one by a Ohio lorry driver who was jailed in 2003 for supporting al-Qaeda and targeting a New York bridge for sabotage.

'Above the law'

Officials cited by the paper said the Bush administration saw the scheme as necessary to disclose terror threats.

However, the paper reported that questions about the legality of the scheme led the Bush administration to suspend it temporarily last year and impose new restrictions.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said eavesdropping in the US without a court order and without complying with the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was "both illegal and unconstitutional".

"The administration is claiming extraordinary presidential powers at the expense of civil liberties and is putting the president above the law," director Caroline Fredrickson said.

The group called on Congress to investigate the report.

The Bush administration has faced opposition over some antiterrorism initiatives in the past, such as the Patriot Act, which is up for renewal by Congress.

The law grants government agencies extraordinary powers to spy on and prosecute those suspected of terrorism.

Opponents say many of its provisions infringe civil liberties.
Story from BBC NEWS:

2005 has been the year for extreme weather events - The Boston Globe

2005 has been the year for extreme weather events - The Boston Globe2005 has been the year for extreme weather events
Records set for hurricanes, storms, wildfires

By Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press | December 16, 2005

WASHINGTON -- It has been a record year for tropical storms, hurricanes, wildfires, and almost one for heat, too.

The year's 26 tropical storms bested the 21 in 1933, and 14 of them became hurricanes, surpassing the total of 12 in 1969, the government reports.

The hurricanes included Katrina, which claimed more than 1,300 lives along the Gulf Coast and inundated New Orleans during the costliest storm season in US history.

Tropical cyclone activity, however, was below average in the Eastern Pacific and near average in the Western North Pacific. In the Australian region there were six tropical cyclones during the 2004-2005 season, compared with an average of 10.

The information comes from the year-end weather roundup by the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Jay Lawrimore, a scientist at the center, said the United States is expected to finish the year with an average temperature about 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 52.8 degree average, making it one of the 20 warmest years on record.

Temperatures were above normal over most of the globe, Lawrimore said, because of a combination of factors. He said there has been a trend toward warmer readings in recent years. But it could not be determined yet how much of the increase is natural variability and how much might be a result of climate change.

In the United States, the temperatures during a heat wave in July soared above 100 degrees, and broke more than 200 daily records. A record seven consecutive days at or above 125 degrees was established at Death Valley, Calif.

The heat wave spread across the country during late July, scorching the East, and leading to record electricity usage in New England and New York.

In Geneva, the head of the World Meteorological Organization, Michel Jarraud, said it will be one of the four warmest years on record. Asked what effect climate change might have had in the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes, Jarraud said the scientific evidence was unclear.

''For any single weather event, any single tropical cyclone, it is never due to one cause," Jarraud said. He said it was likely that global warming played a part in this year's extreme weather events, but that ''the honest scientific answer for hurricanes is that we don't know."

The effect of global warming is more easily seen in Arctic ice caps, Jarraud said. According to his group's data, the extent of ice receded this year to the lowest levels ever observed, down about 20 percent from averages compiled between 1979 and 2004.

The report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said end-of-summer sea ice in the Arctic has been declining about 8 percent per decade, reaching a record low of 5.32-million-square-kilometers in September.

The report also found that during the fall, there was record precipitation in the Northeast from a series of storms. The October snowfall record on Mount Washington in New Hampshire was shattered when 78.9 inches of snow fell during the month. The old record was 39.8 inches in October in 2000.

International- Independent-Bangladesh.com

InternationalUS warned not to ignore China's military might

AFP, WASHINGTON

Dec 14: The United States must prepare an effective strategy to face China's rising military power and not freeze at the Asian giant "like a deer in the proverbial headlights," a new study warned Wednesday.

Beijing's rapid technological advances mean that the United States "must

plan seriously" for its development of weapons of greater complexity and power, said the study by the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank.

The report, entitled "China's New Great Leap Forward: High Technology and Military Power in the Next Half-Century," warned that the US government is too preoccupied with its "war on terror" and democratization of the Middle East and Central Asia.

Meanwhile, Washington is ignoring China's emergence as a top competitor to US technological leadership.

Since the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks, the United States has largely focused on the "cunning, soul-less but essentially low-tech predator: the terrorist," the study said.

"Yet those other realms of warfare that occupied us prior to 9/11 -- information, naval, and above all aerospace-still constitute the nucleus of the new RMA (revolution in military affairs)," it said.

"If we neglect the timely development of weaponry in these arenas, then China could catch America like a deer in the proverbial headlights-precisely where we caught them after the 1991 victory in Desert Storm."

The American use of surgical bombing and electromagnetic warfare in the Gulf War in 1991 "dramatically demonstrated" the huge chasm between China and the United States in modern weapons systems, the report said. The gap was further displayed in 1996 when two US aircraft carrier battle groups off the coast of Taiwan upstaged Chinese missile exercises with flight combat maneuvers and the monitoring of Chinese military activities on the ground, it said.

The first Iraq War sparked a revamp of the Chinese military, which at that time was "at least 20 years out of date across the board," noted the study. But the ensuing changes comprised the "greatest, deepest and broadest global military transformation that has ever occurred in mankind's history," said the 95-page report.

The report was unveiled at the US Congress Wednesday, with a legislator from President George W. Bush's Republican party warning that Washington could not afford to shrug off the Chinese military threat.

Senator Norm Coleman said China's "proliferation of massive numbers of scientists, mathematicians and engineers will have major impact on lessening America's edge in high technology, telecommunications, computing and weaponry, and this challenge cannot be ignored."

After reading the report, the Senator said the biggest perceived military threat posed by China was on the naval front.

"America has the responsibility for ensuring the openness of shipping lanes. And so I think that's the one area where there is probably most vulnerability as one looks into the not-too-distant future," he said.

The report said the United States must be prepared to fight the "war of complex technologies-information warfare, space warfare, deep-sea warfare, and the less exotic but still vital arena of air superiority-that China may very well decide to fight against us."

Otherwise, it warned, the United States "may face the real prospect" of being unable to execute military operations in Asia with relative ease.



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N.Y. Transit Union Rejects Offer and Will Begin Limited Strike - New York Times

N.Y. Transit Union Rejects Offer and Will Begin Limited Strike - New York TimesDecember 16, 2005
N.Y. Transit Union Rejects Offer and Will Begin Limited Strike
By SEWELL CHAN
and STEVEN GREENHOUSE

After five hours of intense negotiations with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the transit workers' union decided this morning to delay for four days a decision on whether to strike the New York City subway and bus system, but to start an immediate strike against two private bus companies in Queens that are being transferred to the authority's control.

The authority, which had offered two 3 percent raises over 27 months, raised its offer today to 3 percent in each of the next 3 years. It also agreed to lower its demand, to 1 percent from 2 percent, for the proportion of earnings that it wants new employees to pay toward health-care premiums. But it refused to budge on its insistence that new workers reach age 62 before being able to collect full pensions, compared with age 55 for most current workers.

At 6:30 a.m. today, the union's executive board rejected that offer and agreed to set a new strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. For millions of riders, the decision prolonged uncertainty about whether the nation's largest transit system will be shut down by a labor strike for the first time since 1980.

The union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, immediately began a strike at Jamaica Buses, which operates 6 local routes and 1 express route, and at the Triboro Coach Corporation, which operates 13 local routes and 6 express routes. The union represents 217 workers at Jamaica Buses, based in Jamaica, Queens, and 490 workers at Triboro, based in Flushing, Queens.

Jamaica Buses has about 15,000 riders each weekday, while Triboro has about 42,000. If there is no bus service on the lines, city-licensed commuter vans along those routes will be permitted to charge up to $5 a person and taxis will be allowed to charged up to $10 a person.

Roger Toussaint, the union's president, and Peter S. Kalikow, the authority's chairman, met at 11 p.m. last night for the first time in the labor talks, just one hour before the union's three-year contract expired at 12:01 this morning.

The key sticking point, according to several union officials, is the authority's proposal that new employees reach age 62 before being able to collect a full pension. Since 1994, the vast majority of transit employees have been able to collect a regular pension at age 55 if they have 25 years of experience.

Mr. Toussaint presented the authority's new proposal at 6 a.m. to the 46-member executive board, which is the union's governing body. The board approved, by a vote of 25 to 14, a resolution authorizing the strike at Jamaica and Triboro and postponing a broader strike until Tuesday. Two members abstained.

At a news conference, Mr. Toussaint said that the union had been repeatedly "provoked" and that "we have been left with no choice" but to strike.

Mr. Toussaint criticized Mr. Kalikow for coming to the negotiating table so late in the talks, which formally began on Oct. 14. "One hour for 34,000 workers - that was the M.T.A.'s idea of good-faith bargaining," Mr. Toussaint said.

The M.T.A. has issued no comments since the talks were suspended today.

As talks have faltered over the past few days, the union has repeatedly portrayed the authority as forcing its back to the wall.

"We tried to bargain with the M.T.A.," Mr. Toussaint said this morning. "We negotiated well past our contractual deadline, because we wanted to get a deal done, and we still do. However, the M.T.A. is insisting on a contract that would leave the next generation of transit workers way behind - a contract that would put a lock and key on transit workers' access to the middle class."

The decision to begin a strike at the two Queens bus companies may be part of a legal strategy.

Jamaica and Triboro are among seven private bus companies that have received city subsidies since 1974. In 2002, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced his intention to end the subsidies and transfer the companies to the authority's direct control.

So far, four of the seven companies have been transferred. Jamaica Buses is to be transferred on Jan. 30, and Triboro on Feb. 20. A third company, Green Bus Lines, is to be transferred on Jan. 9, but its members are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Because the transfers of Jamaica and Triboro have yet to take effect, union lawyers believe the state's Taylor Law, a 1967 statute prohibiting strikes by public employees, does not apply. The state has received an injunction barring the union from striking the city's subways and buses, but whether that injunction applies to private bus lines that are soon to be public is not clear.

Local 100 represents 1,800 workers at five of the seven private bus companies, and the workers' last contract expired on March 31, 2003.

The union has insisted that those workers have a new contract at the same time as the 33,700 subway and bus workers have theirs.

Riders expressed relief that trains and buses were operating this morning, but braced themselves for the possibility of a strike next week.

Calvin Marte, 17, who was on his way to Norman Thomas High School on 33rd Street said that if the workers went on strike, he would be forced to walk to school because he could not afford the cab fare from Washington Heights to midtown.

"I'm sort of mad and sort of glad about the strike," he said. "I'm mad because I have to worry about how I'm going to get to school and I'm glad because at least the people who work for the subways might be able to get more money, because they have families, too."

Ati Lagos, 20, a recruiter for a political nonprofit group, said she rides the subway every day to recruit college students at Columbia University and New York University.

If there is a strike, she said, she will ride her bike to get around. "I was expecting it to happen today, and it didn't," she said. "I think it might not happen at all in the city because there's always threats and then nothing happens."

Dan Kinckiner, 42, who lives in Long Island, rides the Long Island Rail Road each day, then uses the subways to visit clients in the city. He said a strike would prove a hardship for him and for the other employees in his company, which provides security and investigative services.

"I'll be walking a lot more," he said. "I think it's a shame. I think both parties are wrong."

Michael Stoner, 42, said he made a special effort to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to watch the news. "I heard three words: `No strike yet' and said, `Oh good, I'll go back to sleep.' " The Westchester County resident, on the 8:46 a.m. train to Grand Central, said he was "dreading" a strike, and planned to work at a client office in midtown Manhattan rather than make his usual trek to Chelsea.

After spending the night in the city's Emergency Management Center in Brooklyn, Mayor Bloomberg returned to his home on the Upper East Side then took the subway to City Hall this morning. He said: "The trains were running fine this morning when I took them down. I took the train today. I take the train every day."

The intense overnight negotiations stood in contrast to much of the day on Thursday, when the mood at the talks at the Grand Hyatt hotel seemed bleak, with each side issuing harsh public statements and clinging vigorously to long-held positions.

The fissure seemed especially deep around 11 p.m. when a series of news conferences added a new level of tension to the already strained negotiations. Mr. Toussaint said union leaders had been called to an executive session with the transportation authority's top officials.

"As of this moment, we have no progress to report, and that's not good, because we have precious little time left before the deadline approaches," he said. "While we have precious little time, there still is time, and T.W.U. Local 100 is prepared in good faith to work with all our heart and soul to come to a resolution."

He was joined by the heads of several other major city unions, who criticized the transportation authority's efforts to give future transit workers a less generous pension and health benefits. Their appearance prompted an angry retort by the authority's top negotiator, Gary Dellaverson, who left the negotiating session to respond.

"To begin to characterize these negotiations as some broad-based attack on the labor movement or on working people in this city is simply wrong," Mr. Dellaverson said.

Chafing at the authority's demands for concessions on pensions and health insurance, officials with Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union talked seriously about calling a strike.

Mr. Toussaint sounded pessimistic in a brief news conference earlier, saying that there was no progress in the talks. "There's always time, but things look less than 50-50 at this point," he said.

Tom Kelly, the authority's spokesman, sounded more optimistic on Thursday, saying some progress was being made.

Mayor Bloomberg issued an executive order last night, declaring a state of emergency in the event of a transit strike. He has announced a far-reaching emergency plan to increase ferry service, allow taxis to pick up multiple fares, and close much of Manhattan to cars during the morning rush unless they have at least four passengers.

As the two sides held high-level talks and a dozen related talks on subsidiary issues, millions of transit riders remained in suspense about whether the nation's largest transit system would be shut down for the first time in 25 years.

Each side repeatedly made public statements, aimed seemingly as much for the television cameras as for the other side.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Kalikow said that if the union was unhappy with its offer, it should make its case to an impartial arbitrator. Mr. Toussaint shot down that idea because it would deny the union's rank and file the opportunity to vote on a contract.

Later in the day, Mr. Toussaint expressed disappointment that Mr. Kalikow had not yet joined the bargaining. In the last contract talks, three years ago, Mr. Kalikow joined the negotiations hours before the contract deadline and helped make pivotal decisions, including sweetening the authority's offer, to avoid a strike.

Also in the afternoon, Gov. George E. Pataki strongly warned the transit workers not to strike.

Speaking at 7 World Trade Center, Mr. Pataki said: "If they break the law, they will suffer the consequences of breaking the law. I have three simple words: Don't do it. It is illegal. There's a reason it's illegal, because it not just causes inconvenience or economic loss; it poses a serious threat to the health and safety of people who need to get somewhere for emergency services or for medical treatment."

The last time the transit workers walked out was in April 1980, with an 11-day strike. Few current workers remember the pain that the strike caused the city or the sting of the fines the strikers paid.

"The M.T.A.'s long-term financial outlook, like every business and government in this country, is seriously clouded by the extraordinary growth in pensions and health-care costs," Mr. Kalikow said. "It might be easy to ignore this fact, but that would be a disservice to both our riders and the city, now and still unborn."

Mr. Toussaint portrayed the authority's proposals as repugnant because they would make life worse for future generations of workers.

"They have to get away from the notion that in this round of bargaining the T.W.U. will give up its young, will give up its unborn," he said.

Accusing the transportation authority of mismanaging its pension funds and not putting enough money into them, Mr. Toussaint said the agency, despite having a $1 billion surplus, was trying to put the burden of fixing its pension problems on the shoulders of newly hired workers.

But the authority warned that it faced an $800 million deficit in 2008, caused in large part by fast-rising pension and health costs.

"I sincerely hope that the T.W.U. soon comes to appreciate that we are trying to address these critical issues in the least disruptive way," Mr. Kalikow said.

Timothy Williams, Maria Newman, Maria Aspan, Shadi Rahimi, Ann Farmer, Marek Fuchs and Colin Moynihan contributed reporting for this article.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bush Relents on Detainee Policy, Backing McCain's Proposal - New York Times

Bush Relents on Detainee Policy, Backing McCain's Proposal - New York TimesDecember 15, 2005
Bush Relents on Detainee Policy, Backing McCain's Proposal
By BRIAN KNOWLTON

International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - The White House, after weeks of resistance, agreed today to Senator John McCain's call for a law specifically banning cruel or inhuman treatment of terror suspects anywhere in the world.

Mr. McCain met with President Bush at the White House this afternoon, and an announcement of a deal followed.

Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that White House and Congressional negotiators were poised to reconcile two goals, "treating people humanely and at same time maintaining an effective intelligence-gathering system."

"We think we're going to be successful," he said in remarks broadcast on CNN. "We think we're about ready to do something that's good for the country." Mr. Hunter's comments appeared particularly significant because he had reportedly opposed earlier language under discussion.

It was the second time in less than 24 hours that Congressional concerns about torture - and the damage to America's image wrought by allegations of secret C.I.A. detentions and interrogations - had overwhelmed an administration intent on keeping an array of tools to wage a difficult, high-stakes battle against terrorism.

Late Wednesday, in a rare bipartisan rebuke to the administration, the House of Representatives voted, 308 to 122, to endorse a measure by Mr. McCain to bar cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world.

That vote was nonbinding. But with 107 Republican legislators joining Democrats in support of the measure - introduced by Representative John Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who recently made a high-profile call for an early withdrawal from Iraq - it doubtless added to the pressure on the White House.

The Arizona senator's political clout - he was a presidential candidate in 2000 - and his past as a former naval aviator who was tortured in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, have given his determined stance against torture particular resonance in Congress.

While details of the agreement remained uncertain, it appeared that the tremendous global outcry over allegations of secret prisoner transfers and interrogations, and its increasingly powerful echoes in Congress, had succeeded in bending the administration to compromise.

The agreement also appeared likely to give greater legal foundation to remarks made earlier this month in Europe by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who faced enormous pressure over allegations of secret C.I.A. detention camps and transfers.

She said that the United States would not take part in torture on its own territory or overseas. But her seemingly carefully crafted comments during that trip gave rise to sharp debate over whether they left any loopholes.

Mr. McCain has met repeatedly in recent weeks with the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, to negotiate a solution to the tensions over torture.

A key sticking point has been whether an agreement would equally cover all branches of government - including the military, the C.I.A., and also government contractors.

Vice President Dick Cheney had made an unusual appeal to Republican senators to provide an exemption for the C.I.A. The White House even threatened to veto the sweeping military-spending bill to which the Senate version of Mr. McCain's amendment was attached. The House version omitted those provisions from its version of the $453 billion spending bill.

Mr. McCain's language proved difficult for lawmakers to oppose, particularly at a time when opinion polls show that torture and detainee issues have seriously eroded the United States image abroad.

Reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, and allegations of misconduct by troops at the United States detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had fueled the push for more precise ban on torture.

Throughout the debate, the White House has insisted that the United States does not engage in torture.

Heavy Sunni Turnout Is Seen; Attacks Are Scattered and Light - New York Times

Heavy Sunni Turnout Is Seen; Attacks Are Scattered and Light - New York TimesDecember 15, 2005
Heavy Sunni Turnout Is Seen; Attacks Are Scattered and Light
By DEXTER FILKINS

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 15 - In a day remarkable for the absence of large-scale violence, millions of Iraqi voters, many of them dressed in their best and traveling with other family members, streamed to the polls today to cast ballots in a nationwide election as Iraqi leaders predicted that the vote would split almost evenly between secular and Islamist parties.

After the polls closed this evening, electoral commission officials said that turnout could have been as high as 11 million out of 15.5 million eligible voters, more than in October's referendum, when many Sunnis boycotted the election.

"There has been a wider participation by Sunni Arabs, so we expect the turnout to be higher," Mr. Ayar said.

The higher participation came in spite of some explosions in Baghdad and Ramadi, and sporadic reports of election irregularities, which Mr. Ayar said were being investigated.

In Washington, President Bush, along with his top aides, carefully monitored the election, which Mr. Bush has called a significant step on the road to Iraqi stability and democracy.

"This is a historic day for the Iraqi people, for the Middle East and for the world, and it's a historic day for the advance of freedom," Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said. "We are encouraged by what appears to be a large turnout."

Mr. Ayar, a spokesman for the electoral commission, said that counting would begin this evening at the polling places, but that complete, official tallies might not be known for at least two weeks because they wanted to be able to present "transparent and honest results."

Voters in the 18 Iraqi provinces were choosing among 231 parties, coalitions and candidates in selecting members for a 275-seat Parliament. The legislators will serve a four-year term, and they will approve a president and a prime minister.

As the polls opened at 7 a.m., a mortar struck the middle of the Green Zone compound in central Baghdad, the site of the American Embassy and the offices of top Iraqi officials. About the same time, a roadside bomb exploded in Ramadi. There were no immediate reports of casualties in either blast.

In Mosul, the American military said a bomb killed a hospital guard near a polling station, while a mortar round landed near another polling station in the city without causing any injuries.

But by the time the polling places closed this evening, it was clear that this had been a relatively quiet day for this war-weary nation. The voting took place calmly and vigorously in most places, aided perhaps by the fact that this was the third time in less than a year that some Iraqis were casting ballots to form a new government.

In Baghdad, families reclaimed streets that had been off-limits to them in recent months because of the frequent bombings and other violence. Several generations made their way down the middle of quiet boulevards, and children played soccer in the streets, using stones to mark their boundaries and goals.

"This election is the one we've been waiting for - it's going to determine our destiny," said Ali al-Nuaimy, 49, a physical fitness trainer, who voted in Baghdad.

In Yarmouk, a predominately Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, Zuhiar al-Zahawi, a retired airline mechanic, was one of many Sunnis who sat out the elections in January but voted today. He said he was hopeful that Iraq's three main communities could reach an understanding. "We will talk to each other, and we will connect with each other, and we will weave the country together like a piece of cloth."

In the Adhamiya district, a stronghold of support for Iraq's ousted ruler, Saddam Hussein, voters streamed to the polls. By noontime, more than 50 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots at some polling places in this neighborhood, where Mr. Hussein made his last public appearance in 2003, standing atop a car in front of a mosque surrounded by cheering supporters just before American troops bombed the area.

In Ramadi, a violent Sunni Arab city, turnout was dramatic compared to October's referendum, when only about 2,000 people cast votes and most of those were Iraqi Army soldiers and poll workers from out of town.

"I'm so happy," said Mahmood Mohammad Hussein, 25, a student at the local agricultural college, who said he was voting for the first time in his life.

In Kirkuk, turnout in Kurdish neighborhoods also appeared to be high. The Kurds want to have as little as possible to do with the Arab part of Iraq and are struggling to maintain the state of semi-independence in the north that they have enjoyed since 1991, when the Americans established a protective no-flight zone over that region in the aftermath of the first gulf war.

Kurds want the oil-rich city included in their autonomous region of Kurdistan, a demand fiercely opposed by Arabs, many of whom were settled there by Saddam Hussein to replace Kurds and Turkmen he had expelled under a deliberate Arabization policy.

Today's election will be the last formal milestone in the American-backed political process that was devised to foster a democratic government.

They are being seen by Iraqi and American leaders as the definitive test of the Bush administration's assumption that a free vote is the best means for reconciling Iraq's vastly polarized ethnic and sectarian groups and defeating the Sunni Arab insurgency that is threatening to break the country apart.

The vote is expected to reveal a fissure of another sort, between a Shiite coalition of religious parties on one side and a mostly secular array of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties on the other.

Between them are profound differences over the direction of the country and the nature of the Iraqi state, not just over how heavily it should influenced by Islam but also over the powers of the central government and the autonomy granted to local regions. Implicit in those questions, for many Iraqis, is whether the country can survive at all.

The results of the elections are likely to determine whether and to what extent the Bush administration can begin significant withdrawals of American troops next year. American officials, including Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States ambassador here, are expected to take an assertive role helping the Iraqis put together what is likely to be a coalition government.

American commanders here have been under growing pressure to push the Iraqis into a more independent role in the governing and securing of Iraq, but they have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the critical decisions on American troop strength will be largely determined by whether the country begins to stabilize.

"This election is the one we've been waiting for - it's going to determine our destiny," said Ali al-Nuaimy, 49, a physical fitness trainer, who voted in Baghdad.

In January, elections for an interim Parliament were largely boycotted by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, when turnout was 58 percent.

The cleric-led Shiite coalition is expected to get the largest number of votes but to fall short of capturing enough seats to enable Adel Abdul Mahdi, the group's probable nominee for prime minister, to form a government. The Shiite coalition won a slim majority in the January elections, choosing Ibrahim Jafaari as prime minister, but the expected participation of the Sunni Arabs makes it unlikely that the Shiite bloc will capture a majority this time.

The Shiite coalition, if it comes to power, is dedicated to giving the Iraqi state a decidedly Islamic cast; in southern Iraq, parties in the Shiite coalition in control of local governments have imposed strict limits on personal behavior, including those governing women's dress and the sale of alcohol.

A Shiite-dominated government is viewed with some alarm by American officials here, in part because of the Shiite leaders' close ties to the theocratic government in Iran and also for the anger it would be likely to incite among Iraq's Sunni Arabs.

Sunni Arab leaders have complained bitterly that the Shiite-led government of Mr. Jafaari has waged a campaign of persecution against them. Indeed, there is mounting evidence that the Shiite-dominated security services have engaged in widespread abductions, killings and torture of Sunni civilians.

Arrayed against the Shiite bloc is likely to be a largely secular group of parties led by Ayad Allawi, the former Baathist and secular Shiite who has attracted a large following of Sunni Arabs. Along with the Sunni Arabs, Mr. Allawi is hoping to bring in the two major Kurdish parties.

A government under the leadership of Mr. Allawi, who is regarded as the American favorite, would steer a markedly different course from one led by the Shiite coalition. The Iraqis gathered around Mr. Allawi, including the Sunni and Kurdish leaders, are largely secular, and they view Iran with great suspicion.

Yet even Mr. Allawi's coalition, if it comes together at all, is not expected to gain an absolute majority, at least not initially.

The deadlock sets the stage for a lengthy period of intense political bargaining, as the two major blocs try to secure the necessary allies to form a government. Some Iraqi political leaders predict it will take weeks, or even months, for such a government to emerge. After the January elections, under a similar system, when the Shiite coalition captured a slim majority in the interim parliament, the new government did not take power until April.

"We will need much more time to negotiate things," said Mr. Mahdi, the Shiite coalition's likely nominee as prime minister. "Instead of negotiating between two slates, as we did in January, there will be negotiations between three and even more."

Reporting for this article was contributed by John Burns from Baghdad; Ed Wong from Kirkuk;Kirk Semple, Qais Mizher and Scott Nelson from Ramadi, and Maria Newman from New York.

Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About Korea

Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About KoreaSeoul Tells U.S. of Concern Over Envoy’s Remarks
South Korea has told the U.S. of its concern at recent remarks by the U.S. ambassador to Seoul in which he labeled North Korea a “criminal regime,” Japan’s Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday. The daily said Wie Sung-rak, the minister for political affairs at the South Korean Embassy in Washington, met Joseph DeTrani, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, on Monday and warned Ambassador Alexander Vershbow’s rhetoric was not helpful for the progress of six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The paper said Vershbow’s remarks came in the midst of a growing conflict between the U.S. and North Korea and caused Washington to worry that things are progressing in the way they believe North Korea wants by turning Washington and Seoul against one another. Wie neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying, “It is true that I met with DeTrani, but I am not at liberty to reveal the specifics.”

The Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday quoted a State Department official as saying Vershbow’s remarks reflected U.S. policy toward North Korea. The official declined to comment on a call from Uri Part lawmaker Kim Won-ung to recall the U.S. ambassador.

(englishnews@chosun.com )

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Fatah splits before key election

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Fatah splits before key election Fatah splits before key election
A dispute within the ruling Palestinian party, Fatah, has led to a rival faction submitting its own list of candidates for a parliamentary poll.

The rebel list is headed by a jailed activist, Marwan Barghouti, under the new name al-Mustaqbal (the Future).

The split is seen as a blow for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the so-called Fatah "old guard".

The 25 January poll will be only the second since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1995.

The rebel list of Fatah was filed before the midnight deadline (2200 GMT) by the wife of Barghouti at the election headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Barghouti's campaign manager, Saeb Nimr, later told reporters: "We have registered an independent party under the name 'The Future', headed by Marwan Barghouti."

Barghouti is serving five life terms in an Israeli prison over militant attacks.

'New dawn'

He is joined in al-Mustaqbal by the powerful minister of civil affairs, Mohammed Dahlan, and the former security chief in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub.

"This is a new dawn," Dahlan told reporters.

"We will remain loyal to this movement, and Fatah will come out victorious."

The Abbas-approved Fatah list was submitted later by Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa.

Surprisingly, Barghouti's name was at the top of the official list too.

"We hope that there will be only one list," Mr Nasser said.

Divisions

Tensions within Fatah turned to violence on Wednesday when three people were injured in clashes at the party headquarters in Gaza.

The clashes began after gunmen from Fatah's new guard stormed the building and demanded the party's primary results be respected.

President Abbas had decided to appoint candidates for the 25 January parliamentary election after the primaries were marred by violence and electoral fraud.

Ever since the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, divisions have been growing within the Fatah, the BBC's Matthew Price in Jerusalem reports.

The so-called old and new guard have disagreed for some time over the direction the party should take, our correspondent says.

There are fears that the in-fighting could throw Palestinian politics into chaos and could even threaten the election process itself, he says.

Hamas 'optimistic'

Fatah is expected to face a strong challenge in January's poll from the militant Islamist group, Hamas.

Hamas - which has issued a list of its 62 candidates on Wednesday - boycotted the first parliament.

Its electoral list includes its top two leaders in its Gaza Strip stronghold, Mahmud Zahar and Ismail Haniya.

"We are optimistic that our people will go to vote in this historical event," said Mr Haniya after the Hamas delegation he was leading presented its list at Gaza's central election commission office.

Local elections

Hamas is also expected to perform well in Thursday's local elections in the West Bank, having been successful in the three previous rounds.

The Islamists have attacked Fatah for corruption and incompetence while leading the Palestinian Authority.

Around 148,000 Palestinians are entitled to vote for 414 local councillors in the West Bank.

The first few hours of voting passed peacefully.

But in the Gaza Strip, Israel launched further air strikes on Palestinian militant groups.

One person was wounded in an attack on the house of the Popular Resistance Committees in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

A second strike hit the offices of a charity associated with the militant group, Islamic Jihad, in the southern city of Rafah. No casualties were reported.

The air strikes came just hours after four members of the Popular Resistance Committees were killed when their car was hit by an Israeli missile near Gaza City.

An Islamic Jihad official was wounded in a similar attack.

Israel has stepped up targeted strikes on members of Palestinian militant groups following a suicide bombing in the town of Netanya earlier this month.
Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Africa | Tanzania awaits outcome of poll

BBC NEWS | Africa | Tanzania awaits outcome of poll Tanzania awaits outcome of poll
Initial results in Tanzania's parliamentary and presidential elections are expected to be announced shortly following Wednesday's poll.

Turnout was high and the only reports of violence came from Zanzibar, where opposition protesters were hurt in clashes with police.

The governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi party is expected to retain its majority.

The election had been delayed for several weeks following the death of a vice-presidential candidate.

Campaigning ended on a dramatic note on Tuesday, when presidential frontrunner Jakaya Kikwete collapsed at a rally.

The ruling party candidate later blamed his collapse on exhaustion. He is expected to win the vote and become the next president.

Ten candidates are in the running to replace Benjamin Mkapa, who is standing down after serving the maximum two terms.

The winner of the presidential vote will not be known for another three days, the National Election Commission said.

Eighteen political parties are contesting parliamentary seats.

'Well but tired'

Long queues formed outside polling stations on Wednesday. Problems reported with names not appearing on registration lists, were not serious and primarily voters being impatient, an election commission official told the BBC.

Earlier in the day, several opposition supporters in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago were injured in clashes with police.

The activists claim police opened fire on them as they attempted to prevent bogus voters from casting their ballot.

On Tuesday, Mr Kikwete - the foreign minister in the current government - collapsed during a final speech at a CCM rally near Dar es Salaam.

The BBC's Noel Mwakugu said the politician fell from the podium. Mr Kikwete's wife began screaming and pandemonium broke out.

Amid the confusion, President Mkapa assured the crowd that Mr Kikwete was "well" but tired and wanted water.

Story from BBC NEWS:

House Renews Antiterror Law, but Opposition Builds in Senate - New York Times

House Renews Antiterror Law, but Opposition Builds in Senate - New York TimesDecember 15, 2005
House Renews Antiterror Law, but Opposition Builds in Senate
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 - The House voted Wednesday to renew the broad antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, but opposition was growing in the Senate, where members of a bipartisan coalition predicted they would block the measure by filibuster when it comes up for consideration on Friday.

Faced with the filibuster threat, the White House sent Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to the Republicans' weekly policy luncheon to assuage concerns that the law does not strike the correct balance between safeguarding civil liberties and protecting national security.

Three Republican senators were already on record as opposing the reauthorization in its current form, and by the time Mr. Gonzales arrived in the Capitol, a fourth - Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska - had joined them, saying he had "many concerns" about the bill.

Mr. Hagel signed a letter Wednesday in which opponents say they are concerned about "government fishing expeditions targeting innocent Americans" and demand further restrictions on provisions allowing government searches and access to private and personal information including medical and library records.

The White House has made renewing the antiterrorism law a priority, but time is running short.

The current law, which greatly expanded the government's investigative and surveillance powers in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, is set to expire, and Congress is hoping to adjourn for the year this weekend at the latest.

"The Patriot Act is scheduled to expire at the end of the month, but the terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule," President Bush said Wednesday, in a statement urging the Senate to follow the House's lead. "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment."

The House passed the bill by a vote of 251 to 174. Forty-four Democrats voted for the bill, and 18 Republicans voted against it. Those Republicans included some of the most conservative members of the House - a sign, critics said, that members of both parties are uneasy about the bill. The critics are calling for a three-month extension of the current law to give both sides time to make changes.

"I think it sends a message that there are people across the political spectrum that think this bill doesn't do what it should, that it doesn't do enough to protect civil liberties," said Senator John E. Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, referring to the House vote.

Mr. Sununu said he did not believe that the Republican leadership could muster the 60 votes required to break a filibuster. The senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, agreed.

"I don't think they have the votes," Mr. Leahy said in an interview on Wednesday, adding: "The recommendation I made to both Republicans and Democrats is just fix the bill. We can do that this week if the White House would cooperate."

But Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, rejected a short-term extension and called for his colleagues to approve the reauthorization, a conference report that was the product of weeks of House-Senate negotiations.

"Today's overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House for the Patriot Act - with the support of 44 Democrats, including members of the House Democratic leadership - shows that we can all unite to make America safer from terrorism while safeguarding our civil rights and civil liberties," Mr. Frist said. "Senate Democrats should follow the lead of their House counterparts."

In setting the vote for Friday, Mr. Frist may be betting that although critics dislike the extension, they dislike the idea of letting the law expire even more.

The vote is also laden with political implications for Democrats, who suffered at the polls in 2002 after defeating legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security. Republican backers of the bill are taking pains to remind Democrats of that, as did Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee.

"Voters will react the same way in 2006 if Democrats block the reauthorization of the Patriot Act to appease the hard left," Mr. Mehlman said Wednesday in a statement.

Ever since its adoption in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act has drawn vigorous complaints from advocates for civil liberties, who contend that provisions like those allowing the government to obtain a person's library and medical records infringe on basic constitutional rights.

The measure passed by the House makes permanent 14 of 16 provisions that were set to expire, while putting in place additional judicial oversight and safeguards against abuse. The House Republican leadership praised the vote, saying the bill is essential to national security.

"We need to stay tough on terrorism," Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois said in a statement. "This bill ensures that our law enforcement keep the tools they already have in place to root out and prosecute terrorists."

But critics, including the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, argue that the safeguards do not go nearly far enough. "The criticism we had about this legislation previously was because of 9/11, we rushed to judgment on a number of provisions in that bill," Mr. Reid told reporters Wednesday. "We certainly shouldn't do that this time."

Democratic aides say a majority of their caucus supports a filibuster. In addition to Mr. Hagel and Mr. Sununu, two other Republicans, Senators Larry Craig of Idaho and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they will vote to block the measure. The four signed on to a letter circulated to senators Wednesday by Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin.

"We still have the opportunity to pass a good reauthorization bill this year," the letter says. "But to do that, we must stop this conference report."

Anti-WTO Protesters March Against WTO

Anti-WTO Protesters March Against WTOAnti-WTO Protesters March Against WTO

Bank Rate Monitor
By MIN LEE
Associated Press Writer

December 15, 2005, 6:35 AM EST

HONG KONG -- Anti-WTO protesters launched a consulate-hopping street march Thursday in Hong Kong, stopping at several foreign offices to tell officials that free trade is hurting workers in developing countries.

The peaceful demonstration included dozens of people -- mostly garment workers and maids -- from the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. They beat drums and chanted, "Long live international solidarity," as officials gathered for a third day of talks at the World Trade Organization meeting a few blocks away.

The protest route included the consulates of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and the U.S.

Norman Uy Carnay, a Filipino labor activist, said that the WTO's free-trade policies allow the dumping of agricultural products in developing nations' markets. This bankrupts farmers and forces them to move to cities, where there's not enough work, he said. Eventually they have to leave their families and find work overseas, he said.

"Our governments' involvement in the WTO has brought a lot of displacement to our people and it's forcing us to migrate abroad," said Carnay, a program coordinator for the Mission for the Filipino Migrant Workers Society.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy has acknowledged that free trade hurts some, but he has argued that the majority benefit. He has also said that no poor nation has become wealthy without trading.

In another protest, about 60 fishermen from the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia marched through Hong Kong's streets. Some opposed the reduction of subsidies. One of them had "Stop WTO" painted on his chest in big white letters.

Protesters have been holding street marches each day since the WTO began its six-day meeting on Tuesday. South Korean farmers have been dominating the events by battling with riot police. So far, no arrests or serious injuries have been reported.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Iraq's Most Important Election - New York Times

Iraq's Most Important Election - New York TimesDecember 14, 2005
Editorial
Iraq's Most Important Election

Tomorrow, Iraqis, who never had a chance to cast a meaningful vote until recently, will be participating in this year's third nationwide election. This vote, for the first full-term Parliament since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is the most important one yet. The outcome will not only determine how governmental power will be apportioned over the next four years, but will also decide the makeup of the special committee that is supposed to rewrite the flawed Constitution. This is perhaps the only chance Iraqis will get to organize a unified, democratic country that can ultimately stand on its own.

That means America's stake in the vote is huge. No matter how much time and money Washington pours into training Iraqi security forces and rebuilding the infrastructure, there can be no hope for lasting success without one essential element that Iraqis alone can supply: a national commitment to build a government based not on force or demographic arithmetic, but on mutual consent. That will require more inclusiveness, cooperation and compromise than have yet been evident.

The biggest challenge, of course, concerns the Sunni Arab minority. The Sunnis, amounting to somewhere between a fifth and a fourth of the overall population, were the chief beneficiaries of Mr. Hussein's Baathist dictatorship and of most of the governments that preceded him. Like it or not, the Sunnis will now have to resign themselves to significantly reduced power and privileges. But they cannot be expected to agree willingly to the permanent pariah status that could befall them unless the current Constitution is drastically revised.

If the Sunnis are willing to turn away from insurgency to peaceful politics, they are entitled to expect guarantees of a fair share of national oil revenues and full political and professional rights, regardless of past membership or office-holding in the once-dominant Baath Party. Those who murdered or tortured fellow Iraqis in the name of Saddam Hussein should, of course, be proscribed and prosecuted. Those who merely joined the party to advance their careers should be left alone.

The Sunnis made a disastrous mistake by boycotting last January's election for the constitutional assembly. They can undo the worst consequences of that mistake by voting tomorrow. We hope that they will defy the suicide bombs of the jihadists and cast their votes in impressive numbers.

The Sunnis aren't the only group to watch. The unified front of mostly religious Shiite parties that formed such a powerful bloc earlier this year is now beginning to fracture in potentially interesting ways. A majority of Iraqis are Shiite Arabs. But unlike the leaders of the two most powerful Shiite parties, a majority of Iraqis are not Shiite fundamentalists politically indebted to Iran. A more diverse representation of Shiite political views and a smaller role for the sinister party militias, which are now an important element of the Iraqi Army and police forces, would be welcome developments. That could also make Sunni Arab neighborhoods feel less threatened. Democracy entitles the majority to rule, but not at the expense of everyone else.

Beijing Casts Net of Silence Over Protest - New York Times

Beijing Casts Net of Silence Over Protest - New York TimesDecember 14, 2005
Beijing Casts Net of Silence Over Protest
By HOWARD W. FRENCH

SHANGHAI, Dec. 13 - One week after the police violently suppressed a demonstration against the construction of a power plant in China, leaving as many as 20 people dead, an overwhelming majority of the Chinese public still knows nothing of the event.

In the wake of the biggest use of armed force against civilians since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, Chinese officials have used a variety of techniques - from barring reports in most newspapers outside the immediate region to banning place names and other keywords associated with the event from major Internet search engines, like Google - to prevent news of the deaths from spreading.

Beijing's handling of news about the incident, which was widely reported internationally, provides a revealing picture of the government's ambitions to control the flow of information to its citizens, and of the increasingly sophisticated techniques - a combination of old-fashioned authoritarian methods and the latest Internet technologies - that it uses to keep people in the dark.

The government's first response was to impose a news blackout, apparently banning all Chinese news media from reporting the Dec. 6 confrontation. It was not until Saturday, four days later, with foreign news reports proliferating, that the official New China News Agency released the first Chinese account.

According to that report, more than 300 armed villagers in the southern town of Dongzhou "assaulted the police." Only two-thirds of the way into the article did it say that three villagers had been killed and eight others injured when "the police were forced to open fire in alarm."

But even that account was not widely circulated, and it was highly at odds with the stories told by villagers, who in several days of often detailed interviews insisted that 20 or more people had been killed by automatic weapons fire and that at least 40 were still missing.

The government's version, like a report the next day in which authorities announced the arrest of a commander who had been in charge of the police crackdown, was largely restricted to newspapers in Guangdong Province.

"The Central Propaganda Department must have instructed the media who can report this news and who cannot," said Yu Guoming, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University in Beijing.

The government's handling of information about the violence has drawn sharp criticism from a group of prominent intellectuals, more than 50 of whom have signed a statement condemning what they called the "crude censorship by the mainland media of any reporting of the Dongzhou incident." Word of the petition has circulated online, but it has not been published in China.

Not one among several of China's leading editors interviewed acknowledged receiving instructions from the government on how or whether to report on the death of protesters, but in each case their answers hinted at constraints and unease.

"We don't have this news on our Web site," said Fang Sanwen, the news director of Netease.com, one of China's three major Internet portals and news providers. "I can't speak. I hope you can understand."

Li Shanyou, editor in chief of Sohu.com, another of the leading portals, said: "I'm not the right person to answer this question. It's not very convenient to comment on this."

A link on Sina.com - the third of the leading portals and the only one to carry even a headline about the incident - to news from Dongzhou was a dead end, leading to a story about employment among college graduates.

Even Caijing, a magazine with a strong reputation for enterprising reporting on delicate topics, demurred. "We just had an annual meeting, and I haven't considered this subject yet," said Hu Shuli, the magazine's editor, speaking through an assistant.

Further obscuring news of the events at Dongzhou, online reports about the village incident carried by the New China News Agency were confined to its Guangdong provincial news page, with the result that few who did not already know of the news or were not searching determinedly would have been likely to stumble across it on China's leading official news Web site.

The government also arranged more technologically impressive measures to frustrate those who sought out news of the confrontation.

Until Tuesday, Web users who turned to search engines like Google and typed in the word Shanwei, the city with jurisdiction over the village where the demonstration was put down, would find nothing about the protests against power plant construction there, or about the crackdown. Users who continued to search found their browsers freezing. By Tuesday, links to foreign news sources appeared but were invariably inoperative.

But controls like these have spurred a lively commentary among China's fast-growing blogging community.

"The domestic news blocking system is really interesting," wrote one blogger. "I heard something happened in Shanwei and wanted to find out whether it was true or just the invention of a few people. So I started searching with Baidu, and Baidu went out of service at once. I could open their site, but couldn't do any searches." Baidu is one of the country's leading search engines.

"I don't dare to talk," another blogger wrote. "There are sensitive words everywhere - our motherland is so sensitive. China's body is covered with sensitive zones."

While numerous bloggers took the chance of discussing the incident on their Web sites, they found that their remarks were blocked or rapidly expunged, as the government knocked out comments it found offensive or above its low threshold. Some Internet users had trouble calling up major Western news sites, although those were not universally blocked.