Bush Vows US Will Remain in Iraq, Dismisses Report on War Deaths
By VOA News
11 October 2006
George W. Bush
President Bush has vowed that the United States will remain in Iraq, saying a premature withdrawal would embolden the terrorists.
At a news conference at the White House Wednesday, Mr. Bush acknowledged recent violence in Iraq, including the killing of the brother of Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president, who was shot dead in his home earlier in the week.
The president also dismissed a study published Wednesday that estimated some 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war.
He said he does not consider the report credible, and that the methodology used is "pretty well discredited."
The study in the British journal, The Lancet, says about 600,000 of the 655,000 Iraqis died from violence, mostly gunfire. Researchers also found a small increase in deaths from disease and other causes.
The figure is far higher than other estimates. President Bush estimated in December that about 30,000 people have died as a result of the war.
When asked if he still stood by his estimate, Mr. Bush said he stands by the figure that "a lot" of innocent people have died in the conflict.
Wednesday in Geneva, the top United Nations humanitarian aid official, Jan Egeland, said the violence in Iraq is going unchecked, claiming about 100 lives per day.
The study in The Lancet was conducted by Iraqi and U.S. researchers who interviewed residents of more than 1,800 randomly selected households at 47 sites in Iraq. They compared the mortality rates to pre-war estimates.
In 2004, the same group published an estimate of 100,000 deaths in the first 18 months after the U.S-led invasion of Iraq.
Ed. If the US wasn't there, they'd have no one to fight but each other, Dumbass! And watch who you call terrorists in your continuing endevours to keep The World pulled over the eyes of US voters! Murdering them isn't enough for you, you've got to insult them, too! You, who are playing to the hilt exactly why they hate us in the first place...(Dumbass)! I recognize you from the playground. You were the worthless shit who got others to like you because you had no esteem or confirmation coming from your Father at home, so you dare to become a load on the universe to compensate yourself! Like it's our fault...(Dumbass)! Find a competent therapist who can stomach you for fifteen years, twice a week.
Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006 3:34 AM CDT
Police hunt farting dissident
Police in Poland have launched a nationwide hunt for a man who farted loudly when asked what he thought of the president.
Hubert Hoffman, 45, was charged with "contempt for the office of the head of state" for his actions after he was stopped by police in a routine check at a Warsaw railway station.
He complained that under President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw, the country was returning to a Communist style dictatorship.
When told to show more respect for the country's rulers, he farted loudly and was promptly arrested.
Hoffmann was arrested and released on bail but failed to turn up at a Warsaw court early this week to be tried, and the judge in the case rejected an appeal by defence lawyers to throw the charges out.
A court spokesman said: "Such a case of disrespect is taken very seriously."
Instead the court ordered the police to start a nationwide hunt for the man, and interpol have been alerted.
Copyright ? 2006 Ananova Ltd
Updated: Sunday, 15 October 2006 6:15 AM CDT
Fox uses Treo to break N.Y. plane crash news
By Paul J. Gough Fri Oct 13, 3:27 AM ET
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - When a single-engine plane crashed into an Upper East Side apartment building on Wednesday, Fox News Channel delivered early live video to its viewers from the crash site using a hand-held mobile phone souped up with streaming video.
Scott Wilder, a cameraman for the network, had been about 20 blocks away on another assignment when the crash occurred. Wilder ran uptown and reported live from the scene using a hand-held Palm Treo smartphone that uses the existing mobile network to transmit video to the Fox News control room. From there, Fox News sent it out live on TV to supplement other video being shot by local traffic helicopters.
Wilder's work represents one of the first instances of a network using video captured via mobile phone camera live on the air. Fox News has experimented with the practice several times in recent weeks with CometVision, software designed by Ohio-based Comet Video Technologies.
"We've been waiting for the opportunity to get live pictures on the air from inside a cellular network, and we wanted to take it to the next level, make it easy for people and make it portable," said Ben Ramos, director of field operations for Fox News.
TV journalism already has deployed a digital-video camera attached to a mobile phone to transmit a live picture. In addition, most if not all of the networks have used mobile phone video, but not live. Ordinary citizens have made use of them at incidents including the London transit bombings and the South Asia tsunami, capturing footage for later use before any news cameras arrive.
The live picture quality from the crash site wasn't spectacular, with scattered shots of the scene and little movement. Wilder talked to "Studio B" anchor Shepard Smith as he held the camera; the control room fed live pictures over the network to accompany Wilder's commentary.
But Wednesday's phone-borne report provided a different perspective in the early moments after the crash, when satellite trucks hadn't reached the scene and the coverage was dominated by overhead shots. The video quality provides illustration for phone interviews that didn't exist before without much more equipment.
CometVision runs on a Palm Treo 700-series PDA via the Windows Mobile operating system. The technology is able to transmit video over non-3G networks, using much less bandwidth than would normally be needed, Comet CEO Howard Becker said.
"We have it set up so you can push one button" and then it starts to work, Becker said. That includes automatically connecting to a computer at the Fox News studio, and sending an e-mail to a producer or anyone else at the network who has a link to the live stream.
No one at Fox News is suggesting that CometVision will ever replace video cameras; the technology is just another choice and it might, at some point, be used more often.
"The best use of it is still playing out, and that's the beauty of 24-hour cable news," Fox News vp newsgathering John Stack said. "You're playing without a net, so to speak. Ideally, you'd like to have a state-of-the-art live shot, but you don't always have that luxury."
Fox News stumbled upon CometVision when a Los Angeles-based engineer stopped by Comet's booth at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Comet wasn't marketing the application for TV news, but Ramos said that Comet and Fox News began working together toward that goal.
Now every Fox News bureau has at least one or two of the Treos for photographers and other staff members to bring with them in breaking news or where it isn't possible to bring a full-fledged camera for live coverage.
The first usage of CometVision was October 2, when correspondent Rick Leventhal drove from New York to Nickel Mines, Pa., to cover the Amish school shooting. "Studio B" anchor Smith introduced the video, shot out of the front window of Leventhal's vehicle.
A Fox News staffer also used it recently in covering a story from an Atlanta courthouse. Both videos looked better than what was shot at the site of the plane crash, in part because cell phone network congestion seems to affect the picture quality, Becker said.
It was perfect for use in Wednesday's early coverage because, even in media-heavy Manhattan, it's not always possible to televise live pictures immediately from the scene of a breaking news event. That usually takes satellite trucks, which are slower to get into position than a reporter or photographer carrying a Treo.
There are still drawbacks, which should be eliminated as cell phone networks move to third-generation platforms and as a WiFi backup is developed.
"It'll be used more when the picture itself is of higher quality," Stack said. "It's OK now but it could get better. It depends on the nature of the story. If it's an important enough story, we are more forgiving of picture quality and hopefully the audience is more forgiving."
For Gays, a Loud New Foe
Sacramento's large enclave of immigrant Slavic evangelicals is becoming a force on social issues. Their actions shock many.
By Rone Tempest, Times Staff Writer
October 13, 2006
SACRAMENTO — Organizers of the annual Rainbow Festival were prepared for trouble.
The Q Crew, a local "queer/straight alliance," distributed cards telling people what to do if approached by hostile demonstrators. Sympathetic local church groups formed a protective buffer along the festival ground's cyclone fence. Mounted police were on patrol.
Jerry Sloan manned a table for Stand Up for Sacramento, a recently formed gay self-defense organization.
"So far, so good," he said. "No Russians."
The festival, held last month amid the gay bars, restaurants and shops of midtown's "Lavender Heights" neighborhood, went off without conflict. But the elaborate security preparations reflected growing tensions between Sacramento gays and the city's large and vociferous community of fundamentalist Christians from the former Soviet Union.
Over the last 18 months, Sacramento Russian-language church members have picketed gay pride events, jammed into legislative committee meetings when gay issues were on the agenda and demonstrated at school board meetings.
Incited by firebrand Russian Pentacostal pastors and polemical Russian-language newspapers, the fundamentalists turn out en masse for state Capitol protest rallies.
Last June, urging readers to attend a massive rally, the Russian newspaper the Speaker told them:
"Make a choice. It's your decision. Homosexuality is knocking on your doors and asking: 'Can I make your son gay and your daughter lesbian?' "
In most instances, the Russian-speaking demonstrators far outnumber representatives from all other anti-gay groups combined. Anti-homosexual rallies that a few years ago attracted a few dozen participants now regularly draw hundreds and sometimes thousands, many with a heavy Russian accent.
Even in a state capital where impassioned public demonstrations are a daily event, the Slavic fundamentalists stand out. Elderly women in babushkas stand next to small children carrying signs stating: "Perversion is Never Safe" and "I Am Not Learning About Gay People."
Speakers address the crowds fervently in Russian and Ukrainian.
After a wave of religious refugees that began coming here in the late 1980s, Sacramento now has one of the largest Russian-speaking populations in North America: an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Slavic immigrants, community members say. They came primarily from the Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and the other southern Soviet republics, and settled mostly in Sacramento's northern and western suburbs.
These immigrants are different from their Russian-speaking counterparts in New York's Brighton Beach, San Francisco's Richmond district or West Hollywood, all established Russian-immigrant enclaves that are mostly Jewish or Russian Orthodox and generally coexist with large gay populations.
West Hollywood's 11-member Russian Advisory Board recently voted 8 to 3 to send a letter to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov, asking him to reconsider his decision banning gay pride events in the Russian capital.
"We want you to consider the unique partnership that has developed here in West Hollywood between the large population of Russian-speaking immigrants and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," the letter said.
The Sacramento community, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly evangelical — Baptist and Pentecostalist. The charismatic Pentacostal church, introduced in the Ukraine in the 1920s by missionary and martyr Ivan Efimovich Vornaev, includes speaking in tongues and washing of feet. The churches' social views are based on a literal interpretation of the Bible.
"The main issues in the Russian community here," said Vitaly Prokopchuk, a Sacramento County sheriff's deputy, "are gay issues, abortion issues and family-definition issues. To these people, these issues are very cut-and-dry in the Bible."
Sacramento has more than 70 Russian fundamentalist congregations. One of them, Bethany Missionary Slavic Church, has 3,200 members and claims to be the largest Russian-language church outside of Europe.
"Sacramento is the No. 1 gathering place for non-Jewish, non-Russian Orthodox, fundamentalist Russian and Ukrainian immigrants," said University of Oregon geographer Susan W. Hardwick, an expert on the Russian immigrant community. Similar but smaller communities, Hardwick said, have established themselves in Portland and Seattle, where they also are beginning to flex their political muscle.
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Lost in the Dust of 9/11
From society's margins, janitors were drafted for an epic cleanup around ground zero. Then 'the cough' racked their lives.
By Ellen Barry, Times Staff Writer
October 14, 2006
NEW YORK — There is no voice left in Manuel Checo's voice. He speaks in a granular rasp that fades, occasionally, to whispery puffs of air. Sometimes, for periods as long as two days, he is unable to speak at all.
When that happens, Checo carries a pad of paper with him so he can scribble down notes if he needs something. But for the most part, he will simply disappear into his rented room, ignoring his cellphone when it rings.
Checo, a janitor, spent six months cleaning dust from office buildings around ground zero after the World Trade Center attack. Five years later, the lining of his lungs is pocked with scars and densities that do not belong there — possibly a sign of a disease that can cause lung tissue to become so stiff that it can no longer carry oxygen, wrote a radiologist who examined a scan of his lungs last year.
The son of a general in the Dominican Republic, Checo, 54, irons his shirts with military precision. When he meets a woman on the street, he kisses her hand. But the truth is that when he discovered that he was too weak to work again, his life veered terribly off course. He was evicted from his apartment and slept in his car for six months. Acquaintances didn't understand his racking cough and thought he had tuberculosis or AIDS.
Whoever he was before Sept. 12, 2001 — when a supervisor from his company called to tell him there was work near ground zero — he is a different man now. Sometimes he is overwhelmed by the feeling that he has lost his way.
"I get up, I get dressed," he said, in Spanish, through a translator. "And then I say to myself, 'Where am I going?' "
The dust around ground zero, we now know, contained caustic, finely pulverized concrete, trillions of microscopic fibers of glass, and particles of lead, mercury and arsenic, as well as carcinogens like asbestos and dioxin. Five years out, the "World Trade Center cough" has started to look like a persistent — and in some cases disabling — respiratory condition.
An ever-growing number of New Yorkers is coming forward to describe symptoms: the first responders who plunged into the tangled wreckage to find survivors; the volunteers who hauled diesel fuel and doled out cigarettes; the students at Stuyvesant High School who returned to classes while acrid fires burned nearby.
Less visible is the army of cleaning workers who were sent to the area to clean office buildings. Those were the cases that were shocking to Scottie Hill, a social worker, when the Mount Sinai Medical Center opened its WTC health clinic in 2002. The cleaners, mostly Polish and Latino immigrants, were already living close to the edge when the job began; by the following year, many were in crisis because of lost wages and poor health.
Three out of four lacked health insurance. Forget workers' compensation — many of them could not even contact their employers by phone. Hill frequently saw clients who were facing eviction or had lost their homes. Some couldn't afford the $4 it cost to ride the subway to the clinic and back.
A few of the immigrant workers, too sick to support themselves in the U.S. anymore, have returned to their home countries. But that decision is fraught, too, because relatives back home — or doctors, for that matter — may not know what is wrong with them. Jaime Carcamo, a psychologist who treats 50 Latino workers who cleaned around ground zero, said some of them, finding that they were unable to work, simply withdrew from society.
"They just remain like nomads," he said. "Some of these people just fell into the cracks. People don't know about them, but they're out there still."
It is ironic, then, that Checo remembers the job so fondly. He had been a U.S. citizen for almost a decade by then, and working around ground zero gave him "so much sense of brotherhood," as if he were descending into the pit every day with police and firefighters. It was an environment stripped of class, of racism. What he says about the experience is this: "Something so bad created something so beautiful."
He worked a night shift as part of a two-man team with Alex Sanchez, a fellow Dominican 15 years his junior. Using a handsaw, they would cut two holes, each large enough for a man's torso, in a building's air vents. Peering into the dark passageway with a flashlight, all they could see was dust, glittering in the dark. Then one of them would hold up a hand vacuum, and the other would switch on an air hose, and both would disappear in a cloud of dust.
Tons of material had settled in the buildings. When terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, its two towers collapsed with such force that dust and debris poured in and upward through the ventilation systems of the buildings around them. It was up to landlords to decide who would clear the buildings, and many chose cheaper labor: men and women who days before had been emptying trash cans and dusting computers.
The city's Department of Environmental Protection generally oversees the removal of debris containing asbestos, but that system was informally abandoned after Sept. 11, according to David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a coalition of union leaders and safety activists. Landlords got no guidance from state or federal agencies, leaving them "free, if you will, to do whatever they wanted, or to do nothing," Newman said. "It was kind of a Wild West."
Checo and Sanchez wore paper masks that covered their noses and mouths when they were available — about 30% of the time, Sanchez said. But the dust permeated everything; a T-shirt that was white at the beginning of a shift would be mousy-gray by its end. Anyway, health was the last thing on their minds. They were making $18 an hour, plus time and a half for overtime, instead of the $12.75 an hour they earned cleaning university buildings. It was good money. It was a good cause.
What was painful, oddly, was leaving at the end of a shift; that's when the hopeless, leaden feeling sank in. Sanchez, 39, who was born in the U.S. and wears hip, Woody Allen-ish glasses, recalls making a conscious effort to tune out at the end of the day. Back in his apartment in Washington Heights, he would watch silly, diverting television shows. Then he would collapse in bed. He had no idea whether the air was safe to breathe because he didn't ask.
"If we all used common sense, we would say, 'This is not a healthy environment,' " Sanchez said. "But the whole 9/11 situation itself kept you from thinking."
Sanchez figured he deserved to be exhausted at the end of the job. But this exhaustion was depthless, unfathomable. In May, when he tried to return to his ordinary job — buffing floors at New York University — he got dizzy and his chest closed up. He lasted six days, then went back to bed. He, his mother and his son had moved in with an aunt to save money, and both women were pressuring him, angrily, to go back to work. At one point, the fighting grew so stormy that his mother called the police.
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2 moderate quakes strike off Japan coast
Fri Oct 13, 7:52 PM ET
TOKYO - Two moderate quakes struck off the coast of Japan early Saturday, including one that shook the Japanese capital, the
U.S. Geological Survey said.
A 5.3-magnitude quake struck off the east coast of Honshu island, about 65 miles southeast of Tokyo, the USGS said on its Web site.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake. There was also no threat of a tsunami, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said.
Earlier Saturday, a larger, 6.3-magnitude quake struck off the disputed Kuril islands, located northeast of Hokkaido island. The islands are administered by Russia but claimed by Japan.
That quake was centered about 1020 miles northeast of Tokyo.
Japan sits atop four tectonic plates and is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
Updated: Saturday, 14 October 2006 12:25 PM CDT
Evans divorce papers cite adultery, porn
By JOHN GEROME, Associated Press Writer Sat Oct 14, 7:27 AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Country singer
Sara Evans alleges in divorce papers that her husband committed adultery, was verbally and emotionally abusive, drank excessively and frequently watched pornography in their home.
Evans, 35, filed for divorce Thursday from Craig Schelske and announced through a spokesman that she was quitting ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" "to give her family full attention at this difficult time."
The couple married in 1993 and have three children ages 7, 3 and 2.
Schelske, 43 and currently unemployed, ran for Congress as a Republican from Oregon's 5th District in 2002. He is a native of Salem, Ore.
Schelske denied all of the allegations in statement issued Friday night.
"I have made the decision to forgive Sara for the unfortunate campaign that she and her publicity advisors are currently waging," he said in the statement. "Sara has unfortunately become a dramatically different person over the last year and it is something we have struggled to deal with. Sadly, it appears we have failed."
In the filing in state court in suburban Franklin, where the couple has a home, Evans alleges that Schelske watched pornography on the couples' computers and has at least 100 nude photographs of himself in a state of arousal.
She also alleges that several photographs show Schelske having sex with other women.
According to the court documents, the oldest of the couple's children confronted Schelske when he was watching pornographic material on the television in their home.
Evans further alleges that Schelske frequently threatened her and "told her that she is crazy," threatened to take the children to Oregon and "continually interferes with (Evans') possession of and parenting time" with their children.
Evans requests child custody, possession of Franklin home and child support.
Evans was among 11 celebrities who paired with professional dancers to compete on the third season of the popular ABC reality series.
"Ms. Evans hopes that her fans and TV viewers who've supported her in recent weeks and throughout her music career will respect and understand her need for privacy in the face of these recent events," Allen Brown, her representative at Sony BMG Music Entertainment, said in a statement Thursday.
The Missouri native was recently nominated for female vocalist of the year honors by the Country Music Association. She made her recording debut in 1997 and her 2000 album "Born to Fly" went double-platinum. Her hits include "Perfect," "Suds in the Bucket," and "Real Fine Place to Start."
On the Net:
Afghan Women Demand Protection in Wake of Official's Death
Aaron Glantz, OneWorld US Mon Oct 9, 8:46 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 9 (OneWorld) - Afghan women's groups are calling for major changes from their government after the murder of a well-known female official in the southern province of Kandahar.
Safia Amajan, a 65-year-old grandmother who headed the provincial women's affairs department, was gunned down outside her home on September 25.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but advocates say Amajan's crusade for women's rights may have made her a target for reactionary terrorists. As with most political killings since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban, no one has been arrested.
''Our government and the many international actors working in
Afghanistan have made many promises yet we still live in constant fear,'' a coalition of Afghan women's groups said in a statement issued in Kabul. ''Our police, our military, our legal system, and our government offer no protection from our enemies.''
The groups--the Afghan Women's Network, Agency Coordination Body for Afghan Relief, Afghan Civil Society Forum, and the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society--demanded drivers, bodyguards, and technology for community leaders to keep them safe from terrorists; financial support for the families of terror victims; and international aid to address what they called the root causes of social insecurity.
They also demanded military intelligence training for Afghan police and security officials, better pay for Afghan police, and more effective policing of borders with ''neighboring countries that support, harbor, and encourage terrorism.''
Afghanistan is going through some of the worst violence since the US-led invasion removed the Taliban from power five years ago.
Sonali Kolhatkar, co-chair of the Los Angeles-based Afghan Women's Mission, told OneWorld the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (
NATO) are at least partly to blame for the violence.
''No amount of security is going to address the main issue,'' she said. ''Violence in general is increasing because the house-to-house raids, bombings, and other tactics of the U.S. and NATO are deeply unpopular. Most of the people who are fighting and attacking are not even the original Taliban but people who are reacting to harsh U.S. tactics.''
Kolhatkar said she believes that has led to an increase in attacks against women because it is ''always the case that the same forces fighting the U.S. are the ones attacking women. The problem is that the U.S. tactics are giving credibility to certain groups. The attacks on women are a message to the U.S. and NATO that they want them to stop.''
NATO has acknowledged that the Taliban have made a major comeback in the south and east of the country.
On Sunday, General David Richards, the British officer commanding all 32,000-plus NATO troops in Afghanistan, warned of a ''tipping point'' and told the Associated Press that if life does not improve this winter, most Afghans could switch sides.
''They will say 'We do not want the Taliban but then we would rather have that austere and unpleasant life that that might involve than another five years of fighting','' Richards said.
Kolhatkar agreed but said improvement cannot take place as long as the United States and NATO continue to work with warlords who, while not being Taliban members, retain reactionary religious and political positions.
During the 1980s, the
Ronald Reagan administration backed Islamic fundamentalists to dislodge the Soviets from Afghanistan. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration turned to many of these same warlords for help in ousting the Taliban.
These warlords--often referred to as the Northern Alliance--had enforced repressive measures in the past and it should come as no surprise that they should do so again now, Kolhatkar said.
''The Taliban did not invent any of these measures, they merely enforced them with more rigor,'' she added.
As an example of resurgent repression, Kolhatkar highlighted Fazl al-Shinwari, chief justice of the country's supreme court. She said he has appointed judges to lower courts who share his fundamentalist beliefs, refused to appoint women to high court positions, banned cable television in Afghanistan, and arrested journalists for alleged blasphemy.
The power of fundamentalists permeates the country, according to a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).
''If you go to the rural areas of Afghanistan,'' said Zowa, who, like other RAWA members, cited security considerations in using an assumed name. ''Each fundamentalist leader has power, money, and Kalashnikovs.''
They would crumble, she told OneWorld, if the United States and
United Nations pulled their support from the Taliban's fundamentalist rivals and instead support ''democratic forces.''
''Democratic forces are so weak and nobody knows them, but if they received support from the U.N. and other governments they would be an alternative to choose,'' Zowa added. ''Unfortunately there's no choice for the people now.''
Russian court shuts down rights group
By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 13, 11:04 PM ET
MOSCOW - A Russian court on Friday shut down a human rights group that has exposed abuses against civilians in
Chechnya, its leader said, denouncing the ruling as part of an effort to silence critics of the government's conduct in the violence-torn region.
Other rights groups said the decision showed the government's ability to use new laws targeting extremism and non-governmental organizations, which were approved this year by President
Vladimir Putin despite opposition at home and abroad. Rights groups have called the laws an attempt to rein in civil rights.
Putin has been accused of stifling media freedoms and rolling back post-Soviet democratic freedoms since coming to power in 2000.
The highest court in central Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region granted a request from prosecutors seeking to close down the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, its director, Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, told The Associated Press by telephone.
Dmitriyevsky said the organization would appeal to the Supreme Court, calling the order a politically motivated decision and part of "a campaign to prohibit people to talk about what is happening in Chechnya."
His non-governmental organization has campaigned vigorously against the government's crackdown on separatists in Chechnya and published reports alleging torture, abductions and killings of civilians by Russian forces and their pro-Moscow Chechen allies.
The verdict "appears to be the latest move in a carefully calculated strategy to get rid of an organization that has been outspoken on behalf of the victims of human rights violations in Chechnya," said Amnesty International's regional director, Nicola Duckworth.
The court order came less than a week after the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist known for her reporting on abuses in Chechnya. Earlier in the week, Dmitriyevsky linked the prosecutors' efforts to close the organization with her slaying.
His rights group successfully fought off an attempt to close it last year and has faced increasing pressure from the authorities in recent months. In February, a court convicted Dmitriyevsky of inciting ethnic hatred and gave him a two-year suspended sentence.
Prosecutors justified the demand for the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society's closure under a new law that makes it illegal for an NGO to be headed by a person with a criminal record, the group said in a statement.
According to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, prosecutors also argued that the society qualified as an extremist organization because it failed to publicly denounce Dmitriyevsky following his conviction.
The court ruling showed "how easily Russia's anti-extremism legislation and the NGO legislation ... can be used for the disproportionate and illegitimate curtailment of human rights," the Vienna-based group said.
The NGO law gives the authorities the right to close down groups whose activities are perceived to contradict their stated goals or harm state interests. It provoked a tide of criticism from Western governments amid concerns that it could herald a tightening of state control over NGOs.
SEAL falls on grenade to save comrades
By THOMAS WATKINS, Associated Press Writer Sat Oct 14, 4:45 AM ET
CORONADO, Calif. - A Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into their sniper hideout, fellow members of the elite force said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure Sept. 29 when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to The Associated Press this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret.
"He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."
Monsoor, a 25-year-old gunner, was killed in the explosion in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. He was only the second SEAL to die in
Iraq since the war began.
Two SEALs next to Monsoor were injured; another who was 10 to 15 feet from the blast was unhurt. The four had been working with Iraqi soldiers providing sniper security while U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted missions in the area.
In an interview at the SEALs' West Coast headquarters in Coronado, four members of the special force remembered "Mikey" as a loyal friend and a quiet, dedicated professional.
"He was just a fun-loving guy," said a 26-year-old petty officer 2nd class who went through the grueling 29-week SEAL training with Monsoor. "Always got something funny to say, always got a little mischievous look on his face."
Other SEALS described the Garden Grove, Calif., native as a modest and humble man who drew strength from his family and his faith. His father and brother are former Marines, said a 31-year-old petty officer 2nd class.
Prior to his death, Monsoor had already demonstrated courage under fire. He has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9 in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while bullets pinged off the ground around them.
Monsoor's funeral was held Thursday at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. He has also been submitted for an award for his actions the day he died.
The first Navy SEAL to die in Iraq was Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc A. Lee, 28, who was killed Aug. 2 in a firefight while on patrol against insurgents in Ramadi. Navy spokesman Lt. Taylor Clark said the low number of deaths among SEALs in Iraq is a testament to their training.
Sixteen SEALs have been killed in
Afghanistan. Eleven of them died in June 2005 when a helicopter was shot down near the Pakistan border while ferrying reinforcements for troops pursuing al-Qaida militants.
There are about 2,300 of the elite fighters, based in Coronado and Little Creek, Va.
The Navy is trying to boost that number by 500 — a challenge considering more than 75 percent of candidates drop out of training, notorious for "Hell Week," a five-day stint of continual drills by the ocean broken by only four hours sleep total. Monsoor made it through training on his second attempt.
George Clooney says no to politics
Sat Oct 14, 4:28 AM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Attention Republicans: actor George Clooney is one liberal you don't have to worry about.
Clooney told reporters at a dinner honoring him on Friday night that he had no intention of entering the political arena. "I'm not running for office. I like my life," Clooney said.
And why not.
The Oscar-winning actor, director and social activist was feted by a who's who of Hollywood from studio executives to stars like Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman, Salma Hayek and Ellen Barkin as he became the recipient of the 21st annual American Cinematheque award. Former President
Bill Clinton, California Republican Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) taped messages of congratulations.
The award was given to Clooney by Julia Roberts, who declared that before she met her husband he was the best man she knew. "You can't imagine the things he can do with shaving cream and Neosporin (an antiseptic)," she said mysteriously.
Earlier Clooney had told reporters that he expected his celebrity friends to make fun of him and was prepared. As for Roberts, he joked, "I never liked her. I once caught her stealing."
The American Cinematheque is a group dedicated to film history and preservation.
Muslims find errors in Pope's presentation of Islam
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor 28 minutes ago
PARIS (Reuters) - Senior Muslim scholars, taking up
Pope Benedict's call for a frank dialogue, have written him an open letter listing factual errors in his recent speech on Islam that sparked protest across the Muslim world.
The 38 experts, including grand muftis from the Muslim world and scholars based in Britain and the United States, said they accepted the Pope's stated regrets over the uproar and his expressions of respect for all Muslims.
The politely worded letter challenged the former theology professor on his own area of expertise and gave him poor marks for misreading the Koran, failing to use terms correctly and citing obscure and possibly biased sources.
"The letter represents an attempt to engage with the papacy on theological grounds in order to tackle wide-ranging misconceptions about Islam in the Western world," said Islamica Magazine, an international quarterly on Muslim affairs that posted the open letter on its website on Saturday.
Managing editor Mohammad Khan told Reuters a copy of the letter would be handed to the
Vatican nuncio (ambassador) on Sunday in Amman, where Islamica has an editorial office.
MISREADING THE KORAN
Speaking in Regensburg in early September, Benedict quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam was evil and irrational and had been spread by the sword.
The speech sparked protests across the Muslim world, several churches were attacked in the Middle East and an Italian nun was murdered in Somalia. Benedict has said he did not agree with the emperor he quoted.
The scholars included grand muftis of Egypt, Oman, Uzbekistan, Istanbul, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia and
Kosovo as well as a Shi'ite ayatollah, Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad bin Talal and Western-based academics.
They faulted Benedict for arguing that a Koran verse advocating religious freedom was written while the Prophet Mohammad was politically weak and "instructions ... concerning holy war" written when he was strong.
The verse was written when Mohammad ruled in Medina and wanted to keep converts from forcing their children to abandon their Christian or Jewish faith for Islam, they wrote.
The letter also faulted him for translating "jihad" as "holy war," saying "jihad" means a "struggle in the way of God" and did not necessarily have to include force.
Benedict used a "very marginal source," the scholars wrote, when he quoted an obscure 11th century thinker, Ibn Hazm, to say Muslims thought God was so transcendent that he was not even bound by his own word.
They also disputed passages where he said or implied that Islam was irrational, violent and based on forced conversion.
"Had Muslims desired to convert all others by force, there would not be a single church or synagogue left anywhere in the Islamic world," they wrote.
They asked how Benedict could argue that violence was against God's nature when Jesus Christ used it to drive the money-changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem.
It would be better to say cruelty, brutality and aggression were against God's will, they argued, adding that the Islamic concept of jihad also condemned these scourges.
The letter acknowledged that some Muslims used violence "in favor of utopian dreams," but said this went against Islamic teaching and specifically condemned the murder of the Italian nun in Somalia.
The scholars also chided Benedict for basing his view of Islam on books by two Catholic writers, saying Christians and Muslims should "consider the actual voices of those we are dialoguing with, and not merely those of our own persuasion."
World's Governments Pressed on Native Peoples' Rights
Haider Rizvi, OneWorld US Fri Oct 6, 4:07 PM ET
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 6 (OneWorld) - Global civil society organizations are pressing the 192-nation U.N. General Assembly to recognize indigenous peoples' rights to their land and resources.
''This is an opportunity that must not be lost,'' said Nicholas Howen, secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
He referred to a proposed Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues drafted the document over years of intense diplomacy involving governments, indigenous peoples' representatives, and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The General Assembly is expected to discuss the declaration in coming days. Adopted by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council in June, the document recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources and to live as they wish. It states that indigenous people must be protected from forced assimilation and the destruction of their cultures.
Even if approved, the document would not be legally binding. Nevertheless, its supporters say the declaration would serve to increase pressure on governments to observe universal principles such as justice, democracy, and nondiscrimination.
''Today's indigenous peoples are still threatened with extinction,'' said Stephen Corry, director of UK-based Survival International. ''They need this declaration.''
At issue is the treatment of disparate indigenous populations that, according to U.N. estimates, add up to more than 370 million people worldwide.
Many U.N. member states appear willing to adopt the declaration in its current form. Observers note, however, that some countries are pushing for changes in wording that could weaken the document's guarantees and protections.
Indigenous leaders said efforts to water down the wording are likely to fail.
''I feel very positive about the outcome from the General Assembly,'' Tonya Frichner, founder of the New York-based American Indian Law Alliance, told OneWorld.
''We have been assured of support from many regions of the world,'' she said.
The United States, Australia, and New Zealand have consistently opposed the text's embrace of indigenous peoples' demand for ''self-determination.''
''No government can accept the notion of creating different classes of citizens,'' delegations from the three countries said in a joint statement that also described indigenous communities' demand to determine their own affairs as ''inconsistent'' with international law.
Delegates also said indigenous land claims ignore current reality ''by appearing to require the recognition of rights to lands now lawfully owned by other citizens.''
Similar controversy has flared over the declaration's recognition of indigenous peoples' demand that the principle that the holders or seekers of commercial patents on seeds, plants, and other forms of traditional knowledge must first obtain consent from the communities that discovered or developed the assets in the first place.
U.S. and other delegates have countered that free and informed prior consent would run counter to the current intellectual property rights regime, which favors commercial development.
To indigenous representatives and advocates, however, such opposition to the declaration is the product of colonizers who have yet to face up to centuries of abuse and exploitation.
''Their view is fundamentally flawed because they don't recognize the fundamental freedom of the indigenous people,'' said Joshua Cooper, executive director of the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights.
Adopting the declaration remains a historical necessity, said Survival International's Corry.
''The imperial era was largely based on the dispossession of most of the world's indigenous people,'' he added. ''It cannot be considered over until the world accepts these peoples' rights.''
Legion high command stop at Lebanon
American Legion national leader stops in Lebanon
By George Piper/The Lebanon Reporter
Lebanon — Massachusetts native and New England Patriots fan Paul A. Morin may not be fond of the Indianapolis Colts cap presented to him Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer (R-4th), but at least Morin knows where the Indiana congressman stands.
Buyer’s willingness to put on his “true face” in dealing with issues is something Morin, the American Legion’s new national commander, can respect.
“He and I will agree to disagree and that’s fine,” he told a gathering at the American Legion Post 113 in Lebanon. “His true heart is to serve veterans, as ours is.”
Buyer, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Morin toured part of Indiana’s 4th Congressional District on Tuesday, meeting with veterans at Legion posts.
Bill Clark, commander of the Lebanon Legion, said it means a great deal to the local Legion to provide a spot for the organization’s top person to visit and have lunch. A Vietnam veteran, Clark appreciates the job that Morin and the national staff do on behalf of all veterans.
“These fellas are working for all the guys’ benefits,” he said.
Morin, who has testified before congressional committees and met with the president and Joint Chiefs of Staff on a wide array of military issues, enjoys getting out to visit local Legions and being the voice of veterans. He takes time to tell others about the good things resulting from the United States’ involvement in Iraq, such as the educational and infrastructure improvements being made on behalf of everyday Iraqi citizens.
“That’s not being told out there (in the media),” he said.
Buyer said he is looking forward to working with Morin. Though they may have differences, Buyer said they are committed to focusing on issues that bring them together. Politics should not be in the mix when discussing veterans’ funding, said Buyer, adding that the country is responsible for taking care of those who fight for us.
“Veterans who are disabled, injured or indigent are being taken care of in this war and in past wars,” said Buyer.
Between lunch orders and visiting with local veterans, Morin, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam, discussed some veterans issues he’d like to see addressed, including:
n Permanent funding for veterans’ health care: Right now, the health benefits are part of discretionary spending, although Morin is pleased with annual increases around 10 percent.
In the 109th Congress, Buyer noted the total Veterans Affairs budget passed for fiscal year 2007 is $78 billion - an 18 percent, or $12 billion, increase over the previous year. This includes an 11.6 percent increase ($2.6 billion) in Veterans Health Administration funding.
What Buyer doesn’t want to see is an “entitlement” health care program. Some advocate for lifetime health care for veterans and their dependents, even if the person signed on for one tour of duty and received no permanent injuries. The cost of the veterans’ portion alone - figures were not compiled to include dependents - would be an estimated $80 to $90 billion annually on top of what is spent now.
n Speeding up claims processing: Morin said the six-month backlog on processing claims is too long. The delay is affecting both active military personnel and those who are no longer serving.
n Stopping the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations from filing lawsuits that challenge military monuments with religious symbols. Some monuments have been around since the U.S. Civil War, Morin noted, and have not bothered anyone until recently.
“You and I - the taxpayers - are paying for those (legal) judgments,” he said.
Want more information on this and other veterans' topics?
Try the VA Watchdog dot Org Search Engine.
Updated: Saturday, 14 October 2006 9:36 AM CDT
Plane explodes into home of woman knocked out in Macy's parade
October 13, 2006, 4:32 PM EDT
NEW YORK (AP) _ A Manhattan woman who was knocked into a coma by a lamppost during a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade years ago was thrust into the limelight again, when the plane of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle crashed into her bedroom.
At least Kathleen Caronna was unhurt this time. But she, her husband and 9-year-old son _ who was a baby at the time of the parade mishap _ can't go home for awhile.
The plane's engine landed only feet away from where Caronna sleeps, in the bedroom that went up in flames, her relatives told the Daily News in Friday's editions.
The phone rang busy Friday at the apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side that she shares with her husband, Ignazio Massimo, and their son, Alessandro.
Caronna barely escaped injury. She was on her way home Wednesday when Lidle's Cirrus SR20 crashed into the Belaire high-rise apartment building at 2:42 p.m., killing him and his flight instructor.
She reportedly was shaken, saying she would have been home if the plane had hit a few minutes later. But Caronna did visit her scorched apartment to see the damage, the Daily News said.
In 1997, Caronna lay in a coma for almost a month after being critically injured when a balloon knocked part of a lamppost onto her head during the Thanksgiving parade. The then 33-year-old investment analyst was watching the parade with her husband and son at 72nd Street and Central Park West when the mammoth Cat in the Hat balloon went out of control.
The crash site was located at 72nd and York Avenue _ just east of where she was injured before.
By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 12 October 2006
This has to be the non-surprise of the week: Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, the Navy lawyer who led the recent successful Supreme Court challenge of the Bush administration's military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees, has been passed over for promotion to full commander and will have to leave the military.
The military claims there is no connection between its decision and Swift's defense of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni and alleged al-Qaeda member who was accused of being Osama bin Laden's driver. Yet the Navy lost no time in exacting retribution. Its decision on Swift came about two weeks after the Supreme Court sided with him and against the White House.
And the decision was made despite a report from his supervisor saying he served with distinction. "Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for military commissions. Sullivan added that it was "quite a coincidence" that Swift was passed over for a promotion "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."
A coincidence indeed!
The 44-year-old lawyer will be forced to retire from the armed services in March or April under the military's "up or out" promotion system. Swift said he would have defended Hamdan even if he had known it would cut short his Navy career. He added that he plans to continue defending Hamdan as a civilian.
The 36-year-old Hamdan was captured along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan while fleeing the US invasion that was a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Hamdan has acknowledged that bin Laden paid him $200 a month as his driver on a Kandahar farm, but he says he never joined al-Qaeda or engaged in military fighting.
With Swift's help, Hamdan turned to civilian courts to challenge the constitutionality of his war-crimes trial, a case that eventually led the Supreme Court to rule that President Bush had outstripped his authority when he created ad hoc military tribunals for Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
The Pentagon sought to redesign the format of the trials, but substituted a system similar to the one the Supreme Court struck down. Thus, a new court challenge is likely.
Legislation passed by Congress last month has meanwhile taken away the right of Guantanamo detainees to file traditional habeas corpus petitions, meaning that Swift's first hurdle as a civilian will be to argue that he has the right to represent Hamdan in federal court. Swift says the legislation's rules for the commission trials are "better by a degree" than the previous guidelines, but still leave open the possibility that a defendant could be convicted by unreliable evidence obtained by coercion.
He believes that military judges would have too much discretion to permit tainted evidence. "It's absolutely dependent on individuals rather than on clear rules of law," he says.
Washington DC attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said Swift was "a no-brainer for promotion."
He added that "Swift joins many other distinguished Navy officers over the years who have seen their careers end prematurely ... He brought real credit to the Navy. It's too bad that it's unrequited love."
Swift never had a choice in representing Hamdan. He was ordered to represent him, but says that was only "for purposes of obtaining a guilty plea." Instead, he took the case to a US Federal Court, which ruled that Hamdan had not received a fair hearing.
But Swift became a clear target for the Pentagon by testifying before Congressional committees and speaking out in many other public settings about the Hamdan case.
That case has been bouncing around the US justice system for several years, beginning in 2004, when the DOD formally referred charges against the Yemeni national, one of six Guantanamo detainees who were designated by President Bush in July 2003 as subject to trial by military commission under the President's Order of November 13, 2001. He is formally charged with conspiracy to attack civilians and civilian objects, murder, destruction of property, and terrorism.
Documents unsealed two years ago revealed allegations that Hamdan was beaten, threatened, and kept in isolation for upward of eight months. A military commission preliminary hearing began the week of August 23, 2004.
In September 2004, the petition was re-filed in the federal district court for the District of Columbia, and, in November 2004, that court found the military commission unlawful because the process violated the laws of war and military law, and stayed the commission.
In July 2005, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the district court and upheld the commission as lawful. Concurring with that decision was Judge John Roberts, who was later confirmed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Hamdan's lawyers appealed the ruling, and in November 2005 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
In January 2006, the government filed a motion for the Supreme Court to dismiss the case on grounds that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (the Graham/Levin amendment) divested Hamdan of the right to seek habeas corpus in a federal court.
The Supreme Court - with Chief Justice Roberts not participating - found otherwise. It ruled 5-3 that the president had no inherent authority to establish military commissions without Congressional authorization. The key issue was separation of powers as mandated by the US Constitution.
That sparked a huge battle between Congress and the White House, as well as among Senate Republicans. Most of these, joined by some Democrats who face tight re-election races in November, would have been content to rubber-stamp the "substitute" legislation proposed by the White House. But three so-called "maverick" senators refused to go along. The "compromise" reached by the three - Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner - was hailed by some as a significant Congressional victory over the Executive Branch. But the compromise gave the president virtually everything he asked for.
Which means we aren't anywhere close to having heard the last of Mr. Hamdan - or Lt. Commander Swift.
During the Senate's debate over its new military commission legislation, as well as its deliberations on last year's Detainee Treatment Act, we have been treated to endless tributes to the military's JAG Corps and its competence and fairness.
Many of these paeans of praise have come from Senator Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina conservative who has been a military lawyer and judge for many years and who holds the rank of colonel in the Air Force Reserve.
Well, it would be gratifying if Senator Graham now put his clout where his mouth is and pressured the Pentagon to reverse the Swift decision. From all Graham has said over the past several years, the Swift-Boating of this courageous young lawyer compromises the very soul of the JAG Corps of which Graham is so proud.
He should be seriously concerned about the chilling effect that the booting of Lt. Commander Swift will have on military lawyers who are ordered to mount a vigorous defense of their clients - and who get dumped as their reward.
Until that happens, the moral of the Swift story has to be that no good deed will go unpunished.
William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world for the US State Department and USAID for the past thirty years. He began his work life as a journalist for newspapers and for the Associated Press in Florida. Go to The World According to Bill Fisher for more.
Study Links Extinction Cycles to Changes in Earth’s Orbit and Tilt
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By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: October 12, 2006
If rodents in Spain are any guide, periodic changes in Earth’s orbit may account for the apparent regularity with which new species of mammals emerge and then go extinct, scientists are reporting today.
Long-Period Astronomical Forcing of Mammal Turnover (Nature)
It so happens, the paleontologists say, that variations in the course Earth travels around the Sun and in the tilt of its axis are associated with episodes of global cooling. Their new research on the fossil record shows that the cyclical pattern of these phenomena corresponds to species turnover in rodents and probably other mammal groups as well.
In a report appearing today in the journal Nature, Dutch and Spanish scientists led by Jan A. van Dam of Utrecht University in the Netherlands say the “astronomical hypothesis for species turnover provides a crucial missing piece in the puzzle of mammal species- and genus-level evolution.”
In addition, the researchers write, the hypothesis “offers a plausible explanation for the characteristic duration of more or less 2.5 million years of the mean species life span in mammals.”
Dr. van Dam and his colleagues studied the fossil record of rats, mice and other rodents over the last 22 million years in central Spain. The fossils are numerous and show a largely uninterrupted record of the rise and fall of individual species. Other scientists say rodents, thanks to their large numbers, are commonly used in studies of such evolutionary transitions.
As the scientists pored over some 80,000 isolated molars, the most distinct markers of different species, the patterns of turnovers emerged. They seemed often to occur in clusters, which seemed unrelated to biology. And they occurred in cycles of about 2.5 million and 1 million years.
The longer-term cycle, the scientists determined, peaks when Earth’s orbit is closer to being a perfect circle. The short cycle corresponds to shifts in the tilt of Earth’s axis. The “pulses of turnover,” the scientists determined, occurred mainly at times when the different cycles left Earth a colder world.
Previous studies have invoked climate change to explain mammalian species turnover, but they have been challenged or only partly supported by other research.
Paleontologists and mammal experts not involved in the research said the findings and interpretations were provocative and likely to inspire other investigations. One objective, they said, was to extend the study to small mammals beyond Spain, preferably to other continents.
“It’s very intriguing,” said John J. Flynn, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. “But this will be controversial. Any time you invoke periodic and external forces to explain patterns in biology and climate, it stirs up controversy.”
Dr. Flynn said some recent research had led other scientists to conclude that there was no strong correlation between climate changes and species turnover.
While scientists go off looking for fossil rodents outside Spain, there is no apparent cause for concern that another species turnover is nigh.
Dr. van Dam said the 2.5-million-year cycle “has entered the critical stage corresponding to a relatively circular orbit.” But any period of high turnover may be tens of thousands of years away, he said. And it may be good news for both mice and men that the climate system has changed significantly in the last three million years.
Ever since the establishment of the northern ice cap, Dr. van Dam said, the climate system has been reacting differently, as reflected in the succession of ice ages. “So it is not easy to predict what the 2.5-million-year cycle will do,” he said.
Kim Has Case of 'Malign Narcissism,' Expert Says
Far from being a fool, Kim Jong Il carefully plotted his country's path to nuclear power.
By Barbara Demick, Times Staff Writer
October 11, 2006
Kim Jong Il is neither insane nor stupid.
From the CIA's psychological profilers to his many biographers, experts who have studied the North Korean leader believe that beneath the glaring eccentricities — the bouffant hairdo and the oddball Mao suits — there is a shrewd operator at work.
Despite an image as a "nut with a nuke," as some bloggers have disparaged him, the 64-year-old Kim appears to have carefully orchestrated his country's path to nuclear sovereignty.
If the announced test is confirmed, one of the world's poorest and most dysfunctional countries will have become an unlikely gate crasher in the exclusive club of nuclear powers.
That is an achievement Kim apparently believes will ensure the top item on his agenda: maintaining power.
In Kim's eyes, a nuclear weapon should prevent the United States from attempting to topple him from his post in the manner of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. And the indomitable mystique of nuclear capability could in part substitute for the charisma that Kim, unlike his late father, Kim Il Sung, is lacking.
"In the eyes of the North Korean leaders, this was very calculated and rational behavior," said Paik Hak-soon, a political scientist at South Korea's Sejong Institute. "Nobody invades a nuclear power. People respect nuclear power."
Biographers over the years have frequently made the point that Kim Jong Il did not merely inherit power, he fought for it. Short, dumpy and lacking in charm, the younger Kim had to contend with other possible successors before taking over in 1994 upon the death of his father.
Far less popular domestically than Kim Il Sung, he also has had his hands full staying in control — especially given the economic basket case that North Korea became on his watch. It is unclear as well whether he will be able to pass on power to any of his three sons.
Jerrold M. Post, founder of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior who now teaches at George Washington University, says Kim has had a tough act to follow because of a North Korean propaganda machine that extolled his father as a god.
"You have other world leaders whose fathers led before them — King Abdullah of Jordan, Bashar Assad of Syria — but their job pales in comparison to Kim Jong Il…. He had to be the son of God and to sustain the charismatic cult of personality," Post said.
A psychiatrist by training, Post does not believe that Kim is psychotic but that he has a dangerous personality disorder that Post diagnoses as "malign narcissism." As such, Kim has loyalty only to himself and lacks the ability to consider other people's feelings.
Kim's blatant disregard for his own people allowed him to become one of the Asia's top gourmets at a time when up to 20% of North Korea's population was dying of starvation. To indulge his private whims, he is said to have imported a sushi chef from Japan and a pizza maker from Italy, both of whom later wrote "cook-and-tell" accounts of their experiences. He dispatched couriers to Europe to pick up epicurean treats and ordered each grain of his rice inspected, according to the chefs' accounts.
North Korea's leader apparently saw no hypocrisy in exiling people to prison camps for watching foreign media, while he personally amassed a collection of 20,000 foreign film titles. From the time that President Carter visited Pyongyang in 1994 with copies of "Gone With the Wind" and "The Godfather," foreign dignitaries have been bearing such gifts. The ABC television network, granted a visa to North Korea last year, is said to have brought in, on special request, the complete "Desperate Housewives" series.
Kim is known to love cinema. He once ordered the kidnapping of a South Korean actress and her director husband to run North Korea's film studio. He wrote a book, "On the Art of Cinema," on using film to instill socialist values in the masses. His first serious job, at 30, was with the Department of Propaganda and Agitation for the ruling Workers' Party.
He oversaw a propaganda machine that maintained the elaborate mythology about the ruling family, including the claim that his own birth (like that of Christ) was heralded by the appearance of a bright star.
But Kim was not so delusional to be fooled by his own propaganda, and he knew he would need more to keep himself in power. After 1980, he turned his attention from cinema to weapons of mass destruction.
"Big toys for big boys" is how his psychological profiler, Post, puts it.
Kim steered a nuclear energy program that had been launched in the 1960s more in the direction of weapons development. According to numerous accounts by defectors, he ordered nuclear research and missile development projects moved from the purview of the military to the Workers' Party Central Committee so he could be more intimately involved.
During the famine of the mid-1990s, rank-and-file soldiers were allowed to starve to death, while the regime poured millions into the development of weapons of mass destruction. He made personal visits to the research facilities and lavished scientists with gifts.
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Israel's Olmert faces defeat in any election: poll
By Corinne Heller Thu Oct 12, 3:22 AM ET
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's centrist Kadima party would plummet into third place behind
Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and another right wing faction if elections were held now, a poll showed on Thursday.
Olmert's popularity has collapsed in the aftermath of a 34-day war between
Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, amid widespread criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.
The survey in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily showed Likud would get 22 seats -- up from 12 now -- in Israel's 120-member parliament, with Kadima beaten into third place with only 15 seats compared to the 29 it won in March elections.
Kadima would slip behind the rightist immigrant party Yisrael Beitenu, whose share would rise to 20 seats from 11 now. Kadima's centre-left coalition partner, Labor, would also drop to 15 seats from 19 now.
Kadima was founded by former premier
Ariel Sharon less than a year ago to reshape Israel's presence in the occupied
West Bank and try to impose a final border with the Palestinians as a way to break from decades of conflict.
Under Olmert, Kadima swept aside the long dominant Likud, drawing talk of a seismic shift in Israeli politics.
But polls indicate a big move back to the right since the Lebanon war and particularly toward Netanyahu, a former prime minister seen as having stronger military credentials than Olmert.
A poll last month showed Olmert's approval ratings had sunk to 22 percent from 48 percent six months earlier. Support for Netanyahu rose to 59 percent.
Olmert has rebuffed calls for a state inquiry into the war, which claimed the lives of 1,200 Lebanese and 157 Israelis and ended with an August 14 ceasefire.
To avoid a possible early election, Olmert has begun moves to broaden his government. The prime minister is negotiating with Yisrael Beitenu's leader Avigdor Lieberman to try to get the faction to join his coalition.
Labor party chief and Defense Minister Amir Peretz opposes bringing in Lieberman's faction, which takes a very hard line on the conflict with the Palestinians, but the drop in support for Labor puts it in a weak position too.
The survey published on Thursday in Yedioth Ahronoth polled 501 Israelis and had a 4.5 percent margin of error.
Manhattan Plane Crash Kills Yankee Pitcher
By JAMES BARRON, The New York Times
(Oct. 12) - A single-engine plane carrying the Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle smashed into a 42-story building on the Upper East Side yesterday, killing Mr. Lidle and his flight instructor, the authorities said.
The afternoon crash beneath overcast skies sent debris clattering hundreds of feet to the sidewalk and started a fire that destroyed several apartments and left a charred smudge on the face of the building.
Fourteen firefighters and four people in the building were injured, officials said, including a woman who had been in an apartment hit squarely by the plane and escaped the inferno, suffering burns.
The plane, owned by Mr. Lidle, was a Cirrus SR20, a four-seat propeller plane that is popular for its performance and sleek looks. It has a fixed landing gear reminiscent of a stunt plane. With two sets of controls, officials said, either Mr. Lidle or his instructor could have been flying it.
It slammed into the center of a 501-foot building on East 72nd Street several hundred yards from the East River. New Yorkers with memories of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center watched smoke drifting toward the sky as firefighters clambered into another high-rise, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command scrambled military jets. Some worried that they had witnessed another terrorist attack, but officials quickly dismissed that notion.
Mr. Lidle, 34, a pilot for less than a year who was traded to the Yankees in the summer, had talked enthusiastically about flying to his home in California this week.
As he cleaned out his locker at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, the day after the Yankees’ playoff hopes fizzled in a series loss in Detroit against the Tigers, he said that he planned to work on instrument training exercises yesterday before he left for California, and that his regular instructor, whom he identified as Tyler Stanger, was coming in to work with him. Officials said they believed that Mr. Stanger was the second victim.
The plane took off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey about 2:30 p.m., according to a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said it circled the Statue of Liberty before heading north by the East River. Radar contact was lost around the Queensboro Bridge. He said it was not clear why the plane veered toward Manhattan, apparently after traveling farther north, and hit the building on the north side about 12 minutes after takeoff. The plane never got higher than 800 feet, according to Passur, a flight-tracking service.
Pilots describe that area of the East River as a particularly treacherous corridor that tends to be crowded with helicopters. Several witnesses said the plane appeared to be in trouble moments before it crashed. One investigator said initial reports indicated that the aircraft had radioed La Guardia Airport to say that it was running low on fuel.
The plane disintegrated as it hit the building, shaking bricks loose from the facade, and ended up as a smoking wreckage on the street. “The engine with the propeller was two feet inside the window,” another investigator said, adding that much of the rest of the plane had fallen to the street outside the building, at 524 East 72nd Street.
The plane bore into an apartment on the 30th floor, which under the building’s numbering system is Apt. 40ABG. Dr. Parviz Benhuri, who owns the apartment with his wife, Ilana, said she was at home when the plane blasted through the window and the apartment went up in flames.
“She told me she saw the window come out and the fire comes,” he said. “She told me she saw the window coming out and she ran. She’s in shock. She’s lucky she made it. It’s a miracle.”
Athletes in Air Tragedies
? Lidle Had Passion for Pitching, Flying
? Other Athletes Who Died in Plane Crashes
She ran down the stairs and went to the emergency room at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center a couple of blocks away.
Three other people walked down from lower floors and were treated for exhaustion, one city official said.
Other witnesses said that the sequence of events leading to the crash unfolded so quickly that they realized only later that noises they had heard must have come from Mr. Lidle’s plane.
“It sounded like a truck gearing down,” said Kim Quarterman, a doorman at a nearby building. “Then I saw a cloud of smoke.”
Jeremy Chassen, a real estate developer who was in an apartment across the street, recognized the droning of an airplane engine — he has taken flight lessons himself.
Joanne Hartlaub, an actress and filmmaker who was working out in a gym across the street, heard explosions and a “loud whooshing noise, like something falling, very loud.”
She said she saw “this large object falling from the sky; it was aluminum and it was smoking.”
Inside the building that was struck, five construction workers going over renovation plans for an apartment on the 42nd floor looked out the window and the plane bearing down on them. One of the workers, Luis Gonzalez, 23, said it was so close that he could see the pilot’s face.
“It was coming right at us,” he said. “The whole building shook. Then we ran for the elevator.”
Fuel burned on the sidewalk as black smoke rose from the apartments above.
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In the penthouse, a housekeeper, Ann Robert, was ironing clothes. “I heard a boom and saw smoke and ashes outside the kitchen window,” she said, “and then the painter came running in frantically from working in the baby’s room,” Ms. Robert said.
Her 21-year-old daughter was also in the apartment, watching television and talking on the telephone. Within seconds, Ms. Robert had grabbed her purse and was hurrying her to get out. “Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go,” she shouted.
“Death was going through my mind,” Ms. Robert said. “When I saw the smoke, I did not know if we would make it out alive.” She added, “As I was coming down the stairs I thought that the whole building might come down and that me and my daughter might go at the same time. But once we got past the 30th floor, I said in my mind that maybe we were safe.”
The building is a condominium with residents like Marvin R. Shanken, the publisher of Cigar Aficionado and other specialty magazines; Marvin S. Traub, the former head of Bloomingdale’s; and Carol Higgins Clark, a mystery writer who is the daughter of Mary Higgins Clark. A dozen lower floors are used by the Hospital for Special Surgery for offices and guest rooms for patients’ families.
The building remained closed to residents last night. While structurally sound, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings said that there had been extensive damage and, with only one elevator working, it was not suitable for people to return.
For the Yankees, Mr. Lidle’s death stirred memories of another player who perished at the controls of his own plane, the catcher Thurman Munson, in 1979. But where Mr. Munson was the team captain, Mr. Lidle was still something of a newcomer.
A 5-foot-11 right-hander who rarely threw his fastball above 90 miles an hour, he was not drafted out of high school and played for three organizations in the minor leagues, including an independent team, before joining the Mets in 1997. He had also played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Oakland Athletics, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies before joining the Yankees.
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“He was a good guy, a real competitor,” said Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager. “He wasn’t here long, but I saw him compete for years with different teams, and he had a lot of success. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted him.”
Mr. Lidle made one memorable start, a victory on Aug. 21 that concluded the Yankees’ five-game sweep of the Red Sox in Boston’s Fenway Park. He had a 4-3 record with a 5.16 earned run average for the Yankees and made a brief relief appearance in the team’s final playoff game on Saturday.
For his career, Lidle was 82-72 with a 4.57 earned run average, pitching in 277 games. He was a free agent and was not expected to return to the Yankees, though he said on Sunday that he hoped to sign a two-year contract this winter.
Mr. Lidle, who was married with a 6-year-old son, lived in Glendora, Calif. He had earned his pilot’s license during the last off-season. He said last month that the four-year-old plane had cost $187,000 and had “cool safety features.”
“The whole plane has a parachute on it,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of pilots that go up never have engine failure, and the 1 percent that do usually land it. But if you’re up in the air and something goes wrong, you pull that parachute, and the whole plane goes down slowly.”
Shortly after his trade to New York from Philadelphia, he flew his plane from a small airport in southern New Jersey to Teterboro. Describing his itinerary in a September interview, he said: “I didn’t fly around New York, but I flew straight up north. I don’t like to go in the big boys’ airspace.”
But yesterday, he did. The plane left Teterboro, in Bergen County, at 2:29 p.m., officials said.
Police and fire officials applauded what they said was a fast and efficient response, noting that there were no fatalities beyond the two men in the plane. They said that they too had worried at first that the crash was a terrorist attack.
“We are concerned about the possibility of things being something more than an accident,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. “But it seemed clear fairly early it was a small plane.”
Gov. George E. Pataki issued a statement saying that the Federal Aviation Administration had issued a temporary flight restriction requiring all planes flying below 1,500 feet to be in communication with air traffic controllers. He said he was asking F.A.A. officials to leave the restrictions in effect while they and officials of the Department of Homeland Security review the rules that apply to private airplanes flying in the New York City area. “New York’s airspace should enjoy the same kind of protections as our nation’s capital,” Mr. Pataki said.
Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Cara Buckley, Rebecca Cathcart, Damien Cave, Sewell Chan, Joe Drape, Kate Hammer, Tyler Kepner, Thomas J. Lueck, Jo Craven McGinty, Patrick McGeehan, William Neuman, Anthony Ramirez, William K. Rashbaum, Matthew Sweeney, Matthew Wald and Margot Williams.
10-12-06 05:25 EDT
Copyright ? 2006 The New York Times Company