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Saturday, February 04, 2006

CBS 46 Atlanta - Long Weekend for Campbell Jury

CBS 46 Atlanta - Long Weekend for Campbell JuryLong Weekend for Campbell Jury
Feb 3, 2006, 04:35 PM

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jurors in the federal corruption trial of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell are getting a three-day weekend with the trial set to resume Monday.

The head of an engineering firm has testified that his company paid 400-thousand dollars to a close friend of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell to win a four-point-four million dollar contract.

Bert Timmerman of Eco-Tech testified that Fred Prewitt told him he needed funds to keep his relationship with the mayor and the mayor's office. Timmerman testified yesterday that he channeled money from his contracts to Prewitt, who then passed it to the mayor.

The prosecution played an FBI tape recording of a December 20th, 1999, telephone phone conversation between Timmerman and Prewitt about a contract to provide filtration equipment for a city water plant.

Timmerman testified that he was prompted by the FBI to lure Prewitt into linking Campbell to the 400-thousand dollars.

Campbell's defense attorneys successfully kept the prosecution from giving a more thorough explanation of what was happening in the phone call, including veiled references to what may have happened to the money.

CBS 46 Atlanta - Atlantans Pay Their Respects to Coretta Scott King

CBS 46 Atlanta - Atlantans Pay Their Respects to Coretta Scott KingAtlantans Pay Their Respects to Coretta Scott King
Feb 4, 2006, 05:40 PM
Dexter King, Martin Luther King III, Yolanda King, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Georgia first lady Mary Perdue and Gov. Sonny Perdue look on as the casket of Coretta Scott King is carried up the steps of the Capitol. (AP photo)
Dexter King, Martin Luther King III, Yolanda King, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Georgia first lady Mary Perdue and Gov. Sonny Perdue look on as the casket of Coretta Scott King is carried up the steps of the Capitol. (AP photo)

ATLANTA (AP) -- 14-hundred people lined up outside the state Capitol to pay their respects to Coretta Scott King.

Jeenie Coston, a 48-year-old from Marietta, says she waited for more than five hours for her chance to pay tribute to the first woman and the first black person to lie in honor at the Capitol's Rotunda.

Coston says she was six years old when Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated and still remembers it.

She says if the Kings had not done what they did, she does not know where the civil rights movement would be today.

Some people threw roses at King's casket as it made its way through Atlanta's streets this morning in a horse-drawn carriage. Others shared tissue to blot their tears. One man held a portrait of Martin Luther King.

Fifty-year-old Chris Thomas flew down from Connecticut with a friend to pay his respects.

Thomas says he want to show his gratitude to a woman who was so important for the peace movement.

Egyptian Ferry Sinks in Red Sea; 1,000 May Be Lost - New York Times

Egyptian Ferry Sinks in Red Sea; 1,000 May Be Lost - New York TimesFebruary 4, 2006
Egyptian Ferry Sinks in Red Sea; 1,000 May Be Lost
By HASSAN M. FATTAH

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Feb. 4 — A ferry carrying more than 1,400 passengers and crew, most of them Egyptian laborers returning from Saudi Arabia, sank Friday about 40 miles off the coast of Egypt, and by late evening, only 324 people had been rescued.

Egyptian officials said most of the survivors had escaped on lifeboats, with a few plucked directly from the waters of the Red Sea. But as rescuers working late into Friday recovered more and more bodies, hopes of finding additional survivors faded.

Egyptian coast guard vessels, assisted by the Saudi coast guard, were engaged in a large search effort where the ship went down. The cause is under investigation.

A spokesman for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt raised questions about the ferry's safety measures, including whether it had enough lifeboats.

The 35-year-old Egyptian ship, Al Salam Boccaccio 98, sailing under a Panamanian flag, was traveling a regular route between Duba, Saudi Arabia, and Safaga, Egypt, and was carrying Egyptians returning home for vacation. Also among the passengers, an Egyptian security official said, were 100 Saudis and one Canadian; at least 20 were children.

Hundreds of relatives gathered in Safaga on Friday begging for information about their family members, and expressing anger at the authorities. More than 130 of the survivors had been transferred to Safaga Hospital by nightfall, and the rest were expected there before dawn.

But for most of those who huddled outside the police line at the port, time was not on their side. The Associated Press said late Friday that only 324 people had been rescued.

Muhammad Abdel Al, 42, speaking by cellphone from Safaga, said he had traveled from the Upper Egyptian village of Abu Tisht in Qena Province, to meet his brother, Yemeni Abdel Al, who was returning from work in Kuwait.

"No one knows anything about anything, nothing about the survivors," Mr. Abdel Al said. "We're lost, and there are a million of us here."

Al Salam Boccaccio left the port of Duba about 7 p.m. Thursday, destined for Safaga, about 120 miles across the Red Sea, and was scheduled to arrive at 3 a.m. local time. It did not issue a distress signal, but officials said it dropped off radar screens around 2 a.m.

It was not clear what caused the ship to go down, but government officials and the ferry's owners, Al Salaam Maritime Transport, said high winds and a sandstorm on the Saudi side of the Red Sea might have played a role.

Mamdouh al-Orabi, manager of Salaam Maritime Transport, said that 65-mile-per-hour winds kicked up heavy waves on Thursday night and that the ship was "especially susceptible" under such conditions.

According to The Associated Press, Mr. Orabi said shipping agents had become concerned about the boat and had informed another of their ships, headed eastward from Safaga to Duba, to be on the lookout. The ship reported back that it had sighted people on a lifeboat, and the company alerted the Egyptian authorities, Mr. Orabi said.

The ship, a so-called roll-on, roll-off vessel, carried 22 cars and several trucks when it set sail, below its capacity. It had 539 first-class and 422 second-class berths, and could accommodate 226 deck passengers and 300 Pullman seats, according to Al Salaam Maritime.

In a statement on Egyptian television, Suleiman Awad, a spokesman for Mr. Mubarak, questioned the safety measures on the boat, but the transport minister, Muhammad Lutfy Mansour, told the Egyptian Middle East News Agency that the ship had complied with all requirements.

Mr. Awad said, "The speed at which the ship sank and the fact there were not enough life rafts on board seem to confirm there was a problem, but we cannot speak before the results of an investigation."

Mr. Mubarak had ordered military planes and the navy to expand the search-and-rescue operation on Friday morning, he said.

The United States Navy provided a P3-Orion patrol plane to help in the search, but offers to divert warships operating in the area, including the Bulwark, a British ship, were turned down, said Cmdr. Jeff Breslau, a spokesman for the United States Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain.

Roll-on, roll-off ferries have proved to be among the more dangerous in recent decades. In 1987, a British roll-on, roll-off ferry capsized off the Belgian coast when water poured into the car deck, killing more than 190 people on board. In 1994, more than 800 were killed after a similar ship traveling between Estonia and Sweden began to take on water when fierce waves smashed open its bow doors.

Last October, another ship owned by Al Salaam Maritime collided with a cargo ship at the southern entrance to the Suez Canal, The A.P. reported, causing a stampede of passengers that left 2 dead and 40 injured.

Some of the survivors of Friday's accident were found in the ferry's lifeboats, while others piled onto inflatable rescue skiffs dropped by helicopters and still others were pulled from the water wearing life jackets, the governor of Red Sea Province, Bakr al-Rashidi, told The A.P.

For the millions of Egyptian workers who leave home with hopes of finding prosperity in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea crossing is a lifeline to better jobs and better pay, and far cheaper than an airplane ticket. They work in the gulf, leaving families behind for years with the goal of one day returning wealthy men.

Ayman Gaber, 28, went to Safaga on Friday night when he heard about the ferry. His cousin Sabri el-Saman, 36, left only six months ago to work in a Saudi hotel. He was returning home to see his family after his father had died. But he called to tell Mr. Gaber that he would be arriving late.

"He said, Don't worry if I'm late because the ship is late," Mr. Gaber said. "I found out at 1 p.m. on TV, and there's absolutely no information."

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo for this article.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on U.S. Spying - New York Times

Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on U.S. Spying - New York TimesFebruary 2, 2006
Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on U.S. Spying
By ERIC LICHTBLAU

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — The Bush administration is rebuffing requests from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for its classified legal opinions on President Bush's domestic spying program, setting up a confrontation in advance of a hearing scheduled for next week, administration and Congressional officials said Wednesday.

The Justice Department is balking at the request so far, administration officials said, arguing that the legal opinions would add little to the public debate because the administration has already laid out its legal defense at length in several public settings.

But the legality of the program is known to have produced serious concerns within the Justice Department in 2004, at a time when one of the legal opinions was drafted. Democrats say they want to review the internal opinions to assess how legal thinking on the program evolved and whether lawyers in the department saw any concrete limits to the president's powers in fighting terrorism.

With the committee scheduled to hold the first public hearing on the eavesdropping program on Monday, the Justice Department's stance could provoke another clash between Congress and the executive branch over access to classified internal documents. The administration has already drawn fire from Democrats in the last week for refusing to release internal documents on Hurricane Katrina as well as material related to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Several Democrats and at least one Republican have pressed the Justice Department in recent days to give them access, even in a closed setting, to the internal documents that formed the legal foundation of the surveillance program. But when asked whether the classified legal opinions would be made available to Congress, a senior Justice Department official said Wednesday, "I don't think they're coming out."

The official said the administration's legal arguments had already been aired, most prominently in a 42-page "white paper" issued last month. "Everything that's in those memos was in the white paper," said the official, who, like other administration and Congressional officials, was granted anonymity because classified material was involved.

While the administration has spent much of the last two weeks defending the legality and necessity of the surveillance program, the Judiciary Committee session will be the first Congressional hearing on it. Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who leads the panel, said Wednesday that he had "a lot of questions" the administration had not yet adequately answered about the program's legal rationale.

Mr. Specter would not address the committee's request for the classified legal opinions, except to say, "that's not a closed matter — we're still working on that."

Several Democrats on the panel have made formal requests for the legal opinions, including Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

In the interview, Mr. Specter said that he wanted a fuller explanation as to how the Justice Department asserts that the eavesdropping operation does not conflict with the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set strict and "exclusive" guidelines for intelligence wiretaps.

The operation was approved by President Bush, to allow the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps on Americans' international communications without a court warrant. Mr. Specter said his view was that the operation "violates FISA — there's no doubt about that."

He also questioned why the administration did not go to Congress or the intelligence court to seek changes in the process before moving ahead on its own with the classified program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Representative Jane Harman, the California Democrat who was one of the few members of the Congress briefed on the operation, echoed that same theme in a letter sent Wednesday to President Bush.

She said in the letter that with changes made to the foreign intelligence law after the Sept. 11 attacks, the eavesdropping operations of the N.S.A. "can and should" be covered by court-approved warrants, "without circumventing" the process.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales will be the lone witness at next week's hearing, and his aides said he was entering it with confidence about the program's legal footing, based on both the president's inherent constitutional authority and a Congressional authorization after the Sept. 11 attacks to use military force against terrorists. But both Republicans and Democrats said Wednesday that they planned to question Mr. Gonzales about those assertions.

While the administration has laid out its legal defense repeatedly in the last two weeks, the formal legal opinions developed at the Justice Department to justify the program remain classified. The administration has refused even to publicly acknowledge the existence of the memorandums, but The New York Times has reported that two sets of legal opinions by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel asserted the president's broad power to order wiretaps without warrants in protecting national security.

The first Justice Department opinion is thought to have been written in late 2001 or early 2002 by John Yoo, a strong proponent of expanded presidential powers in wartime. The second opinion, officials said, was drafted by Jack Goldsmith, another senior department official who later left to teach at Harvard. It came in 2004 at a time some senior officials at the Justice Department were voicing concerns about the program's legal foundation and refusing to sign off on its reauthorization.

Those concerns led in part to the suspension of the surveillance program for several months and also appear to have led Mr. Goldsmith and other Justice Department lawyers to revisit the question of its legal underpinnings in order to satisfy those concerns.

Members of the Judiciary Committee have sought access to the memorandums, officials said. Some Democrats speculate that the classified memos may contain far-reaching and potentially explosive legal theories similar to those advocated by Mr. Yoo and others, and later disavowed by the Justice Department, regarding policies on torture.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Mr. Gonzales, Mrs. Feinstein said the legal opinions and other internal documents were needed for Congress to assess whether the president "has the inherent authority to authorize this surveillance."

With two additional hearings scheduled on the program after Mr. Gonzales's appearance, Mr. Specter said he was also considering seeking testimony from former Justice Department officials, and perhaps even input from the FISA court itself.

But Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, said the panel should consider issuing subpoenas if the administration is not more forthcoming in providing documents and witnesses.

"Without the Justice Department memos and without more witnesses, it's hard to se how anything other than a rehashing of the administration line is going to happen," Mr. Schumer said Wednesday. "I am worried that these hearings could end up telling us very little when the American people are thirsty to find out what happened here."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NPR : Senate Confirms Alito as Supreme Court Justice

NPR : Senate Confirms Alito as Supreme Court JusticeSenate Confirms Alito as Supreme Court Justice

NPR.org, January 31, 2006 · WASHINGTON (AP) -- Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. became the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, confirmed with the most partisan victory in modern history after a fierce battle over the future direction of the high court.

The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito -- a former federal appellate judge, U.S. attorney, and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration from New Jersey -- as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a moderate swing vote on the court.

All but one of the Senate's majority Republicans voted for his confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito.

That is the smallest number of senators in the president's opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history. Chief Justice John Roberts got 22 Democratic votes last year, and Justice Clarence Thomas -- who was confirmed in 1991 on a 52-48 vote -- got 11 Democratic votes.

Alito watched the final vote from the White House's Roosevelt Room with his family. He was to be sworn in by Roberts at the Supreme Court in a private ceremony later in the day, in plenty of time for him to appear with President Bush at the State of the Union speech Tuesday evening.

Alito will be ceremonially sworn in a second time at a White House East Room appearance on Wednesday.

With the confirmation vote, O'Connor's resignation became official. She resigned in July but agreed to remain until her successor was confirmed. She was in Arizona Tuesday teaching a class at the University of Arizona law school.

Underscoring the rarity of a Supreme Court justice confirmation, senators answered the roll by standing one by one at their desks as their names were called, instead of voting and leaving the chamber.

Alito and Roberts are the first two new members of the Supreme Court since 1994.

Alito is a longtime federal appeals judge, having been confirmed by the Senate by unanimous consent on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on April 27, 1990. Before that, he worked as New Jersey's U.S. attorney and as a lawyer in the Justice Department for the conservative Reagan administration.

It was his Reagan-era work that caused the most controversy during his three-month candidacy for the high court.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him - New York Times

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him - New York TimesJanuary 29, 2006
Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him
By ANDREW C. REVKIN

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."

He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.

Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about coordination."

Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.

"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

Since 1988, he has been issuing public warnings about the long-term threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that are an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels. He has had run-ins with politicians or their appointees in various administrations, including budget watchers in the first Bush administration and Vice President Al Gore.

In 2001, Dr. Hansen was invited twice to brief Vice President Dick Cheney and other cabinet members on climate change. White House officials were interested in his findings showing that cleaning up soot, which also warms the atmosphere, was an effective and far easier first step than curbing carbon dioxide.

He fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in which he complained that government climate scientists were being muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.

But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews.

Mr. Acosta said the calls and meetings with Goddard press officers were not to introduce restrictions, but to review existing rules. He said Dr. Hansen had continued to speak frequently with the news media.

But Dr. Hansen and some of his colleagues said interviews were canceled as a result.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

But she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal."

Normally, Ms. McCarthy would not be free to describe such conversations to the news media, but she agreed to an interview after Mr. Acosta, at NASA headquarters, told The Times that she would not face any retribution for doing so.

Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch's supervisor, said that when Mr. Deutsch was asked about the conversations, he flatly denied saying anything of the sort. Mr. Deutsch referred all interview requests to Mr. Acosta.

Ms. McCarthy, when told of the response, said: "Why am I going to go out of my way to make this up and back up Jim Hansen? I don't have a dog in this race. And what does Hansen have to gain?"

Mr. Acosta said that for the moment he had no way of judging who was telling the truth. Several colleagues of both Ms. McCarthy and Dr. Hansen said Ms. McCarthy's statements were consistent with what she told them when the conversations occurred.

"He's not trying to create a war over this," said Larry D. Travis, an astronomer who is Dr. Hansen's deputy at Goddard, "but really feels very strongly that this is an obligation we have as federal scientists, to inform the public."

Dr. Travis said he walked into Ms. McCarthy's office in mid-December at the end of one of the calls from Mr. Deutsch demanding that Dr. Hansen be better controlled.

In an interview on Friday, Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading independent scientific body, praised Dr. Hansen's scientific contributions and said he had always seemed to describe his public statements clearly as his personal views.

"He really is one of the most productive and creative scientists in the world," Dr. Cicerone said. "I've heard Hansen speak many times and I've read many of his papers, starting in the late 70's. Every single time, in writing or when I've heard him speak, he's always clear that he's speaking for himself, not for NASA or the administration, whichever administration it's been."

The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.

Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing.

One example is Indur M. Goklany, assistant director of science and technology policy in the policy office of the Interior Department. For years, Dr. Goklany, an electrical engineer by training, has written in papers and books that it may be better not to force cuts in greenhouse gases because the added prosperity from unfettered economic activity would allow countries to exploit benefits of warming and adapt to problems.

In an e-mail exchange on Friday, Dr. Goklany said that in the Clinton administration he was shifted to nonclimate-related work, but added that he had never had to stop his outside writing, as long as he identified the views as his own.

"One reason why I still continue to do the extracurricular stuff," he wrote, "is because one doesn't have to get clearance for what I plan on saying or writing."