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Monday, May 30, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: It's up to blacks to end stigma

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: It's up to blacks to end stigmaIt's up to blacks to end stigma

Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee hitter and the highest-paid player in baseball, has admitted that he is getting therapy. This came as a shock to many but was seen as an advance because, as his wife, Cynthia, said, she was proud of him. She knew his background and where he came from and what it took for him to get the help that led Rodriguez to conclude, "I don't know where I would be" without therapy.

In this month's Essence, publicist, writer and philanthropist Terrie Williams reveals that she has had to battle depression, which blew a hole in the myth of the undaunted black superwoman.

What is made evident by Williams' story is that there are still a number of problems that black Americans can have when it comes to facing up to the burdens of modern life. One of them is admitting to the emotional distress brought on by careers, success and the demands that come either with career prominence or just living right there down on the ground like everyone else. Some still feel embarrassed to admit they need help.

Williams says, "The reason I decided to speak out was because I see too many who are needlessly and silently suffering. I believe that we will not be able to approach healing as a nation until we begin to peel away our masks. That goes for everybody. As far as black people in particular are concerned, depression is at the root of so many things in our community, in the way that we overeat, drink, have diabetes and have irresponsible sex. Much of this, including the violence we see in every age group, is because so many of us are in pain and are not handling it well."

Williams is not talking about a culture of pathology; she is zeroing in on modern human problems. She does not feel that black people suffer from these alone. But they have not been publicly addressed, so that people can free themselves of the guilt that comes from feeling that they have let themselves or others down.

When Williams pointed that out, I recalled a black student whom I taught in college 35 years ago. He suffered from depression, but would never admit it to black students or black staff. If overwhelmed with suicidal impulses, he would call a white colleague of mine and confess his troubles. He did not want the black college community to know that he was not being a strong black man.

Williams sees a version of this that applies to black women. "We are all afraid to show that there is a chink in the armor. We feel that it is a sign of weakness to say that we have challenges, as if everyone in the world doesn't have issues and deep hurts of some sort. Black people will tell you they have a relative in prison or on drugs before they will talk about suffering from depression. Suffering in silence gives your problems greater power over you."

Since she has started speaking out about her own troubles, Williams has gotten a tremendous response. She has been startled by how deeply her troubles were shared by successful men and women, many of whom she thought were simply having it all.

Our problems as modern people, whatever our color, sex or religion, keep coming at us. Perhaps, when the blues drop onus too heavily and refuse to lift, wewould do well to follow the examples of Alex Rodriguez and Terrie Williams, who have both learned how to get assistance in putting up a good fight for emotional well-being.

Originally published on May 26, 2005

Saturday, May 21, 2005

How U.S.-China economic relationship really works

How U.S.-China economic relationship really works OPINION

Sunday, May 22, 2005

How U.S.-China economic relationship really works


Stories about the new U.S. Treasury report condemning China's currency policy probably had most readers going, "Huh?" Frankly, this is an issue that confuses professional economists, too. But let me try to explain what's going on.

Over the past few years China, for its own reasons, has acted as an enabler both of U.S. fiscal irresponsibility and of a return to Nasdaq-style speculative mania, this time in the housing market. Now the U.S. government is finally admitting that there's a problem -- but it's asserting that the problem is China's, not ours.

And there's no sign that anyone in the administration has faced up to an unpleasant reality: The U.S. economy has become dependent on low-interest loans from China and other foreign governments, and it's likely to have major problems when those loans are no longer forthcoming.

Here's how the U.S.-China economic relationship currently works:

Money is pouring into China, both because of its rapidly rising trade surplus and because of investments by Western and Japanese companies. Normally, this inflow of funds would be self-correcting: Both China's trade surplus and the foreign investment pouring in would push up the value of the yuan, China's currency, making China's exports less competitive and shrinking its trade surplus.

But the Chinese government, unwilling to let that happen, has kept the yuan down by shipping the incoming funds right back out again, buying huge quantities of dollar assets -- about $200 billion worth in 2004, and possibly as much as $300 billion worth this year. This is economically perverse: China, a poor country where capital is still scarce by Western standards, is lending vast sums at low interest rates to the United States.

Yet the United States has become dependent on this perverse behavior. Dollar purchases by China and other foreign governments have temporarily insulated the U.S. economy from the effects of huge budget deficits. This money flowing in from abroad has kept U.S. interest rates low despite the enormous government borrowing required to cover the budget deficit.

Low interest rates, in turn, have been crucial to the U.S. housing boom. And soaring house prices don't just create construction jobs; they also support consumer spending, because many homeowners have converted rising house values into cash by refinancing their mortgages.

So why is the U.S. government complaining? The Treasury report says nothing at all about how China's currency policy affects the United States -- all it offers on the domestic side is the usual sycophantic praise for administration policy. Instead, it focuses on the disadvantages of Chinese policy for the Chinese themselves. Since when is that a major U.S. concern?

In reality, of course, the administration doesn't care about the Chinese economy. It's complaining about the yuan because of political pressure from U.S. manufacturers, who are angry about those Chinese trade surpluses. So it's all politics. And that's the problem: When policy decisions are made on purely political grounds, nobody thinks through their real-world consequences.

Here's what I think will happen if and when China changes its currency policy, and those cheap loans are no longer available. U.S. interest rates will rise; the housing bubble will probably burst; construction employment and consumer spending will both fall; falling home prices may lead to a wave of bankruptcies. And we'll suddenly wonder why anyone thought financing the budget deficit was easy.

In other words, we've developed an addiction to Chinese dollar purchases, and will suffer painful withdrawal symptoms when they come to an end.

I'm not saying we should try to maintain the status quo. Addictions must be broken, and the sooner the better. After all, one of these days China will stop buying dollars of its own accord. And the housing bubble will eventually burst whatever we do. Besides, in the long run ending our dependence on foreign dollar purchases will give us a healthier economy. In particular, a rise in the yuan and other Asian currencies will eventually make U.S. manufacturing, which has lost 3 million jobs since 2000, more competitive.

But the negative effects of a change in Chinese currency policy will probably be immediate, while the positive effects may take years to materialize. And as far as I can tell, nobody in a position of power is thinking about how we'll deal with the consequences if China actually gives in to U.S. demands and lets the yuan rise.
Paul Krugman is a columnist for The New York Times. Copyright 2005 New York Times News Service. E-mail:

The Yuan Diversion - New York Times

The Yuan Diversion - New York TimesThe Yuan Diversion

The get-tough-on-China talk got tougher this week when Treasury Secretary John Snow announced that China risks being branded a currency manipulator - and thus subject to sanctions - unless it acts soon to increase the fixed exchange rate between its currency, the yuan, and the United States dollar. Mr. Snow was echoing American manufacturers and some members of Congress who complain that China is undervaluing the yuan to artificially depress its export prices. But his aim is only partly to prod China. By demanding action, he is also trying to defuse growing anti-Chinese sentiment, as evidenced by the Senate's threat last month to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese goods unless the yuan is revalued.

Given America's difficult trade issues with China - patent and copyright violations, barriers to American goods and services - why are Congress and the administration fixating on the yuan? The Chinese currency is undervalued and that situation must be remedied, both in order for China to gain more control over its own economy and to improve international trade relations. But even a sharp upward revaluation wouldn't do much to reduce the United States' immense trade imbalances because China accounts for just a fraction of America's overall trade, and American consumers are unlikely to shun Chinese products even if their prices rise.

One reason for the fuss is that it's easier to exploit the yuan than to remedy the loss of American manufacturing jobs. For years, the United States has pursued global trade without adopting programs to fix its negative side effects, chief among them the lost jobs in generally low-skilled industries, like textiles. Nor are there policies to prepare displaced workers for better employment, like tax credits for companies to provide more training.

Focusing on the yuan also deflects the blame for America's role in promoting global imbalances. Mr. Snow has acknowledged that the United States' federal budget deficit distorts global trade and investment. But, incredibly, he has also said that the United States is "aggressively tackling" its deficit with "appropriate fiscal policy." That statement might be valid if President Bush and his Congressional allies gave up their drive to extend Mr. Bush's first-term tax cuts permanently or if Mr. Bush abandoned his plan to borrow trillions of dollars to privatize Social Security. But there are no such reversals in sight. Contrary to Mr. Snow's assertion, then, the United States is not "doing its part" to address global imbalances.

Washington relies greatly on China for the funds to finance its deficits. Rather than positioning ourselves as China's adversary, it would be wise to cooperate, starting with honest discussion.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Fund fiasco is tarnishing Golden Years

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Fund fiasco is tarnishing Golden YearsFund fiasco is tarnishing
Golden Years

Lawmakers, unions must work to protect nest eggs

A recent federal court ruling allowing United Airlines to terminate its drastically underfunded pension plan and pile $6.6 billion of liabilities onto a small federal agency means retired pilot Ray Brice's monthly check could be cut nearly 80%, to about $2,000. But Brice's situation is not unusual.

The United pension default - the largest in U.S. history - is just one in a long line of bankruptcies and retirement plan meltdowns that have directly affected the retirement security of millions of Americans. And many more are left wondering if they're next.

The ultimate hope for pensioners rests, for now, in Washington, where the GOP is threatening to destroy the checks and balances system. But the GOP always wants votes, and there are millions of lives in the middle of this pension drama, which is not going to get any lighter without new laws that are less vague. This should be the focus of a new movement for our elected officials.

At this moment, we are finding that retirees are being told that their pension agreements do not hold up when the company for which they worked is sold. The worst-case scenarios have retirees being told that they've been overpaid and now owe back money to the company's new owners.

Along with new laws protecting retirement funds, it is obvious that the value of unions also should be reassessed. Unions must now figure out a better way to represent retired workers. Once companies have people in their employ whose job is to figure out ways of reducing costs, one can easily assume that the retiree, whose voice has no power in the collective bargaining process, will feel his neck stretched across the chopping board.

With all the talk about the rights of the unborn, it's time for laws that support the rights of those who were born a while ago, those who labored for decades and who now feel they deserve to be taken care of, especially since the agreements were already made. Retirees cannot remain silent, content to go out as casually as the aged in primitive societies, accepting the fact that they had outlived their usefulness and should expect to be abandoned and ignored. They deserve better.

Originally published on May 19, 2005

N. Korea ambitions may spark Asia arms race - International News -

N. Korea ambitions may spark Asia arms race - International News - MSNBC.comN. Korea ambitions may spark Asia arms race
South Korea, Japan, others could reconsider policies
By Michael Moran
Senior correspondent
Updated: 4:32 p.m. ET May 19, 2005

North Korea’s neighbors, fast losing faith in the Bush administration’s strategy of isolating the communist nation in order to prevent it from becoming a full-blown nuclear power, are beginning to look past the non-proliferation effort to a future where one or more new powers conclude they, too, must field nuclear weapons.

Over the past year, the “six nation talks” conceived by the Bush administration as a way to bring pressure to bear on the unpredictable government in Pyongyang have failed to make progress. In that time, signs have emerged that several nations in the region may be rethinking longstanding commitments on nuclear weapons as they face a world in which the unpredictable Kim Jong Il has proven his ability to stare down the United States.

In a region with Japan and South Korea, both of which have the technology and finances to move into “the nuclear club” if they feel compelled, there is concern that one or more of them may react to a North Korean nuclear test precisely as Pakistan reacted to India’s test in 1998.

Recently, North Korea said it had extracted weapons-grade fuel rods from a nuclear reactor. The White House said that there is some evidence that Pyongyang was preparing for a nuclear test.

“The worry is that if North Korea tests a nuclear weapons, then it is difficult to put the genie back in the bottle and that it triggers a host of other countries to reconsider their own pledges not to pursue nuclear weapons,” says Kurt Campbell, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific in the Clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It could lead other countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to go nuclear.”

China, too, is concerned about such a scenario, though in the long run the Chinese may see a nuclear North Korea — still highly dependent on Beijing for food, fuel and diplomatic support — as a price worth paying in return for the collapse of such a major U.S. commitment to its allies in Asia.

Last-ditch effort
U.S. officials confirmed on Thursday they took the highly unusual step of talking directly with the North Koreans in secret bilateral talks in New York last week, something the administration vowed not to do when it first came to office. Separate talks between North and South Korean officials ended Thursday on a similar down note.

“People are still trying to get the North Koreans to come back to the table, but there is a feeling that a lot of time has passed and that this process can’t go on indefinitely without some progress being made,” said a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I’m sure the consequences of a failure of the talks are being talked about, but we’re not giving up at this point.”

Nonetheless, in Washington, as in Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and other regional capitals, and in the Vienna offices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, attention is beginning to focus on a point beyond the current talks — beyond even a North Korean nuclear test, an event that many intelligence analysts now fear to be imminent. Satellite photos in recent weeks have shown what American intelligence officials say appears to be preparations for such a test in a remote northeastern corner of North Korea.

Early fallout
Since the talks faltered last summer, public statements and investigations by international nuclear monitors indicate that the long dormant nuclear weapons ambitions of U.S. allies in the region may be awakening.

South Korea was investigated late last year by the IAEA, the U.N.’s international nuclear inspection agency, after revelations that forced the U.S. ally to concede it had been hiding experiments in uranium and plutonium that took place as late as 2000.

Like many nations once ruled by military dictatorships, South Korea was known to have attempted to build a nuclear weapon during the late Cold War period, following President Richard Nixon’s decision to reduce the U.S. troop deployment there by a full division.

Today, South Korea has 19 nuclear power plants, a vibrant high-tech and manufacturing economy and a sophisticated, U.S.-backed military on its northern frontier. According to a recent issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, conditions, and especially the large and well-funded South Korean nuclear industry, “enables the South to keep the door to the proliferation path slightly ajar.”

“Much of our thinking for the past two decades, and in Japan, too, I would say, has been based on the idea that we are under the U.S. nuclear umbrella,” says a South Korean diplomat based at the United Nations. “If the U.S. cannot prevent North Korea from testing a nuclear weapon, how can it deter North Korea from using one? That’s the basic question being asked today,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Contributing to the calculus, the Bush administration recently announced plans to reduce U.S. troops stationed in South Korea from 37,000 to 25,000 by next year.

Beyond the taboo
Proliferation experts have long been concerned about Japan's civilian nuclear program, which includes the world's most extensive network of plutonium "breeder reactors," a type of power plant that produces large quantities of weapons-grade byproduct. As a result, Japan is often described as a "paranuclear" state in academic studies of the issue.

It had long been assumed that Japan, the only nation ever to be the victim of nuclear weapons, would never cross the threshold. But the taboo against public discussion of a Japanese nuclear weapon fell by the wayside when North Korea tested a ballistic missile in 1998 on a trajectory that took it over Japanese territory before splashing down in the South China Sea. Since then, Japan's military spending has risen to rank second only to that of the United States, and constitutional restrictions on the deployment of troops abroad and the use of force defensively are being redefined.

In 2003, Shinzo Abe, a senior adviser to the Japanese prime minister, went further, saying Japan’s constitution did not rule out the idea of a nuclear deterrent. Another official, Yasuo Fukada, said more recently that circumstances in the region “could require Japan to possess nuclear weapons.”

Both comments set off a public furor. But unlike previous instances in Japan where senior officials broached the topic, neither Fukada nor Abe was forced to resign or even retract the statements. Indeed, Abe is now the chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and met with Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House on May 6.

On the periphery
Contrary to China's public statements, many believe China has spoken frankly to North Korea about the negative affects that a nuclear test or development of a nuclear arsenal would have on the region. But few expect China to go to the mat on the issue.

"China is saying, 'If you do this there will be horrible consequences'," says Campbell, who handled Asia policy in the mid-1990s at the State Department. "There are a lot more tensions in the China-North Korea relationship than are evident publicly. But China is not going to help the U.S. strangle the North economically, either. They take a longer-term view."

Both in China and South Korea, there is little appetite for tight economic sanctions that would cause a collapse, famine or a desperate political climate in North Korea. The fear of waves of refugees alone is seen as a reason to keep the reclusive North afloat.

Russia, also a member of the "six-nation" talks, believes the current standoff on nuclear testing is the result of the harder line adopted by the Bush administration.

Russia's ambassador to China, Igor Rogachyov, speaking in Beijing with the Interfax news agency, said "pressure is not an appropriate or acceptable method of communication" with North Korea. "There is a need to promote contacts with the North Korean authorities — China understands it very well and will never resort to this method to resolve the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula.''
© 2005 MSNBC Interactive

© 2005


Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan and Hong Kong News and Business.

Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan and Hong Kong News and Business.Taiwan leaders paint poll with broad strokes
By Mac William Bishop

TAIPEI - If the headlines are to be believed, Taiwan's National Assembly elections on Saturday were supposed to be a referendum on "President Chen Shui-bian's China policies", as well as on the recent visits to Beijing by two Taiwanese opposition leaders. In reality, few people in Taiwan appeared interested in the elections, and others were completely oblivious to the poll.

"There's an election tomorrow?" was the response of a 26-year-old office worker in Hsinchu City, Karyn Liu, when asked how she intended to vote. "What's it for?"

When informed about the purpose of the election - to select representatives to the National Assembly - she admitted she had no idea what that meant and added that she had no intention of taking part.

"I voted in the presidential elections last year. And I voted in the legislative elections in December," said Lee Chien-hsin, a 42-year-old restaurant manager in Taipei. "I usually vote green [for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party of President Chen], but I don't see why I should bother going back to Taiwan for this." (In Taiwan, people must return to the city or town in which they maintain a household registration - generally their family's hometown - in order to vote.)

Apparently, most of the people in Taiwan shared Lee's point of view. The election on Saturday had the lowest turnout of any election in Taiwan's history - a mere 23.35% of the electorate showed up to vote, according to the figures supplied by Taiwan's Central Election Commission (CEC). In comparison, the legislative elections in December last year had a turnout of 59.16%, while the previous National Assembly elections - in 1996 - drew 76.21% of the electorate, according to the CEC.

Many analysts said the low turnout marred an otherwise solid victory for the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which walked away with 42.52% of the vote, to earn 127 seats in the 300-member National Assembly - the largest share of any of Taiwan's four main political parties.

Meanwhile, the pro-unification Chinese Nationalist Party, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT), won 38.92% of the votes to garner 117 seats in the assembly - far less than the 130 that it predicted it could gain.

Of the two main smaller parties, the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and the pro-unification People First Party (PFP), the TSU made a surprising gain, achieving third place with 7.05% of the vote to earn 21 seats in the National Assembly. The PFP won 18 seats with 6.11% of the vote. Various independent candidates and alliances won the remaining 5.38% of the available ballots.

Pundits and editorialists were quick to cast the election results as a reflection of public opinion regarding the recent overtures to China made by Taiwan's two main opposition leaders, KMT chairman Lien Chan - the former vice president who was twice defeated by President Chen - and PFP chairman James Soong.

However, the National Assembly election cannot be described in simplistic "unification versus independence" terms, and in fact had little to do with cross-strait relations.

The National Assembly's purpose is to approve or deny a package of amendments to Taiwan's constitution that was passed by the Legislative Yuan in August of last year. When the amendments were passed, they had the support of all four of Taiwan's main political parties, but the TSU and the PFP later changed their positions on the amendments. Taiwan's two largest political parties - the DPP and the KMT - continue to support the amendments, although they are usually at odds over most other issues.

A perfunctory glance at the raft of amendments quickly explains the breakdown in support and opposition.

One of the key issues is the reduction of the number of seats in the Legislative Yuan from 225 to 113 - essentially getting rid of half of the country's legislators - beginning with the 2007 legislative elections. The voting system will also be simplified from its current multi-member district, single-vote system into a single-member district, two-vote system.

These two changes will increase the competitiveness of legislative elections, and therefore, it is hoped, also improve the quality of the nation's elected representatives. The changes will also deal a severe blow to Taiwan's smaller political parties, such as the TSU and the PFP, which will find it more difficult to get a meaningful number of legislators elected.

The newly elected National Assembly is also expected to approve an amendment that will abolish all future National Assemblies, which according to the constitution are required to approve constitutional amendments. In place of the National Assembly, the people will be given the right to decide on amendments through referendum, after they have been passed by the Legislative Yuan.

All of these amendments are now expected to be approved, as the DPP and the KMT together won 81.44% of the assembly vote.
Despite the rather prosaic and undramatic issues at stake, Taiwanese political leaders were quick to paint the election results with broad strokes. "The election has been a victory for democracy, for reform and for Taiwan," Chen declared on Sunday.
Other DPP officials were equally enthusiastic. "I am sure that China has heard the voice of the people of Taiwan," Vice President Annette Lu said.

The KMT, however, backed away from equating the poll to a referendum on its policies. "The support rating for the KMT was not reflected in the election results, especially since many of our supporters avoided the polls due to bad weather," KMT spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen told reporters. There was, in fact, torrential rainfall throughout much of Taiwan on the day of the election.

The PFP took a different approach and said it intends to challenge the legality of the poll through a lawsuit. "We cannot allow the constitutional reforms to be recklessly passed in a situation where 23% of the people are confused," PFP legislative caucus whip Lee Yung-ping told reporters on Sunday.

Whether or not the PFP succeeds in challenging the legitimacy of the election results, there is still at least one hurdle that the KMT and the DPP must overcome on the road to government reform: hashing out a consensus regarding the proposed statute governing the National Assembly's exercise of power.

This bill, currently deadlocked in the Legislative Yuan, is what would determine the mechanics of how the National Assembly will approve or deny constitutional amendments. The sticking point now is whether it will take a simple two-thirds or three-quarters majority in the legislature in the future to approve constitutional amendments, territorial changes or impeachment of the president and vice president.

Considering the Byzantine political minutiae that must be delved into to understand what was at stake in Saturday's election, it seemed clear to most people in Taiwan why the turnout on Saturday was so low: "I wasn't sure what I was voting for, so I just picked my party," said a college student and self-professed KMT supporter, who asked not to be named.

Mac William Bishop is a journalist based in Taipei. Comments or queries may be sent to

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

World news from The Times and the Sunday Times - Times Online

World news from The Times and the Sunday Times - Times Online

May 18, 2005

Galloway v the US Senate: transcript of statement
By Times Online
George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, delivered this statement to US Senators today who have accused him of corruption

George Galloway after arriving in the Senate committee room to give evidence (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

"You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.

"Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.

"Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

"Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realise played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

"You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

"I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

"And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].

"Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.

"Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

"Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?

"Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.

"You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.

"And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.

"But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.

"Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.

"In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.

"The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Haliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: A worthy view of racism's intricacy & weight

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: A worthy view of racism's intricacy & weightA worthy view of racism's intricacy & weight

It is good to see a Hollywood movie remind those who need to know that the world is not all special effects, cartoons and fairy tales. In sometimes contrived ways, the makers of the new film "Crash" mean for us to think about the intricacies of contemporary American life.

They create situations in which we see racial politics of a police department and a district attorney. We see how dangerously a frustrated Iranian man acts when disrespectfully lumped with all Middle Easterners. The shadow world of Asian communities is put on display in surprising and shocking ways. Impositions placed by Negro criminals achieve freshness as we see the plight of a black middle class man.

The point of "Crash" is not about how different we are but that we are, finally, responsible to and for each other. It's a point that shows the sort of nerve we need in our moment.

Sometimes black people are trapped and the only way they can be saved is if white people decide to take risks and save them. Black criminals are a burden to everyone, and the black middle class need no longer allow itself to be pushed around by those knuckleheads who claim it is not "authentically black." The black middle class has to fight back but it also has to take the responsibility of protecting those below it when injustice shows its teeth.

Middle Eastern people embittered by the stereotypes that have come since 9/11 cannot sink down into the violence almost reserved for minorities. Everyone, even knuckleheads, should refuse to support the kind of slavery that goes on in the shadow worlds of some of our Asian communities.

Reviewers are either ecstatic or disturbed by the film's attempts to address cross-racial problems. It does not play to the expected clichés. We should not be surprised to be told that people are people, no group is perfect, apparent monsters can have hearts, the rhetoric of oppression can be used to justify criminality, and that members of a troubled minority will victimize their own kind or, literally, sell them into slavery. None of this should be startling, but it is.

There is bitterness among minorities toward whites whom they assume have power due to the rules of bigotry; and there is bitterness among whites who believe that whatever power or privilege minorities have is the result of bending the rules in their favor, not because of their abilities. We know that there are very few situations in which being white isn't an advantage. Such topics have long been looked into in our more serious television dramas, usually cop shows like "Hill Street Blues," "Homicide" and "NYPD Blue." "Crash" is in that line because pivot points are supplied by the complex nature of crime, violence, and accident.

"Crash" says some things about American life that we need to think about seriously in our ever more muddy vision of what must or must not be done. The problems of race and class are never less than real and they can only be handled if we face the truth that everyone is a participant in this aspect of our national drama.

Originally published on May 16, 2005

Senator Frist Approaches the Brink - New York Times

Senator Frist Approaches the Brink - New York TimesMay 18, 2005
Senator Frist Approaches the Brink

Of all the hollow arguments Senate Republicans have made in their attempt to scrap the opposition's right to have a say on President Bush's judicial nominees, the one that's most hypocritical insists that history is on their side in demanding a "simple up-or-down vote" on the Senate floor. Republicans and Democrats have used a variety of tactics, from filibuster threats to stealthy committee inaction on individual nominations, in blocking hundreds of presidential appointments across history, including about one in five Supreme Court nominees. This is all part of the Senate's time-honored deliberative role and of its protection of minority rights, which Republican leaders would now desecrate in overreaching from their majority perch.

Republican majorities blocked more than 60 judicial candidates during the Clinton administration by denying them committee hearings through the use of anonymous "blue slip" holds by individual lawmakers and a variety of other tactics just as effective, if less visible, than the filibuster. The majority leader, Bill Frist, who is zealously planning to smash the Senate rules, took part himself in a filibuster of a Clinton appeals court nominee.

But the majority leader is ignoring that history. With his eye clearly on a presidential run, he is playing to his party's extremist gallery by orchestrating a hazardous rules change that would block Democrats from following his example on a few of President Bush's most ideologically extreme and least qualified judicial nominees.

Democrats have hardly been obstructionists in their constitutional role of giving advice and consent; they have confirmed more than 200 Bush nominees, while balking at a mere seven who should be blocked on the merits, not for partisan reasons. This is a worthy fight, and the filibuster is a necessary weapon, considering that these are lifetime appointments to the powerful appellate judiciary, just below the Supreme Court. In more than two centuries, only 11 federal judges have been impeached for abusive court behavior. Clearly, uninhibited Senate debate in the deliberative stage, with the minority's voice preserved, is a crucial requirement.

The two nominees Senator Frist is putting forth first are singularly unqualified: The first, Priscilla Owen, has openly favored big business and flouted abortion rights on the Texas Supreme Court. The second, Janice Rogers Brown, has used her California Supreme Court post to belittle minority rights and rail against New Deal programs as a "socialist revolution." Taxpayers can at least be glad that the nominees' records are being publicly aired. Republicans relied on secrecy in bottling up Clinton nominations before they ever saw the light of debate.

Senator Frist, with the help of Vice President Dick Cheney, would sidestep a Senate precedent requiring two-thirds' approval for a rules change and instead have a simple majority strike down the filibuster on judicial nominees. He promises that there would be no effect on other legislation, but the damage would be incalculable. Democrats are already vowing procedural paybacks and gridlock.

A few moderate senators from both parties - realizing that the Senate's prestige is at stake, as much as its history - are seeking a compromise. We hope President Bush will step in to help find a solution. Otherwise, warns his fellow Republican Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the result will be the harmful crimping of minority rights in a proud deliberative body and "a dark, protracted era of divisive partisanship."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Brussels Sprouts - New York Times

Brussels Sprouts - New York TimesMay 11, 2005
Brussels Sprouts

In his book "The Ideas That Conquered the World," Michael Mandelbaum tells a story about a young girl who is eating dinner at a friend's house and her friend's mother asks her if she likes brussels sprouts. "Yes, of course," the girl says. "I like brussels sprouts." After dinner, though, the mother notices that the girl hasn't eaten a single sprout. "I thought you liked brussels sprouts," the mother said. "I do," answered the girl, "but not enough to actually eat them."

Mr. Mandelbaum, who teaches foreign policy at Johns Hopkins, related that story to me during a conversation about the two greatest nuclear proliferation threats we face today: North Korea and Iran. Readers of this column know that I rarely write about nuclear proliferation. It is not because I am not interested. I am. It is not because I think it isn't a grave danger. It is. The reason I don't write about it much is because the solution is so ridiculously obvious there isn't much to say. Here's what I mean:

North Korea's nuclear program could be stopped tomorrow by the country that provides roughly half of North Korea's energy and one-third of its food supplies - and that is China.

All China has to say to Kim Jong Il is: "You will shut down your nuclear weapons program and put all your reactors under international inspection, or we will turn off your lights, cut off your heat and put your whole country on a diet. Have we made ourselves clear?" One thing we know about China - it knows how to play hardball when it wants to, and if China played hardball that way with North Korea, the proliferation threat from Pyongyang would be over.

Ditto Europe vis-à-vis Iran. If the European Union said to the Iranians: "You will shut down your nuclear weapons program and put all your reactors and related facilities under international inspection or you will face a total economic boycott from Europe. Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" Trust me, that is the kind of explicit threat that would get Tehran's attention. Short of that, the Iranians will dicker over their nuclear carpets forever.

So why haven't China and the E.U. said these things? "Like that girl with the brussels sprouts," Mr. Mandelbaum said, "the Chinese and the Europeans are all for combating nuclear proliferation - just not enough actually to do something about it."

At the end of the day, the Chinese would rather live with a nuclear North Korea than risk a collapsed nonnuclear North Korea, and the Europeans would rather live with a nuclear Iran - that Europe can make all kinds of money off of - rather than risk losing Iran's business to prevent it from going nuclear. The Chinese and the Europeans "each assume that in the end, the U.S. will deter both the North Koreans and the Iranians anyway, so why worry," Mr. Mandelbaum said.

Are the Europeans and Chinese behaving cynically? Of course, these are the very countries constantly complaining about U.S. "hegemony," and calling for a "multipolar world." Yet the only thing they are really interested in being a pole for is to oppose the U.S. - not to actually do something hard themselves to stabilize the global system.

The prevailing assumption in Washington is that if something really big is going wrong - like North Korea and Iran going nuclear - it must be because America messed up. Yes, the Bush nonproliferation policy has been pretty dysfunctional, but the real problem is that those parties with the leverage to make a diplomatic difference refuse to use it. (We have already largely isolated Iran and North Korea. There is nothing much more America can threaten, short of using force.)

This is not a joke. If North Korea and Iran both go nuclear, that step may trigger a major realignment of geopolitics - the likes of which has not been seen since the end of the cold war. If North Korea sets off a nuclear test, how long will Japan continue relying on the U.S. for its nuclear shield? And what will South Korea and Taiwan do? And if Japan or South Korea goes nuclear, how may an anxious China react? And if Shiite Iran becomes a nuclear power - in tandem with Iraq's being run by Shiites - the Sunni Arab world will go nuts, not to mention the Israelis. Will Saudi Arabia then feel compelled to acquire a nuclear deterrent? Will Egypt?

We're talking nuclear dominoes.

So there you have it - my annual nonproliferation column. Unless China and Europe get serious about the problem, it's not going to get fixed. And for now, neither one seems to be ready or willing to eat its brussels sprouts.

Tuning in to Jon Stewart, and Britney Schmidt - New York Times

Tuning in to Jon Stewart, and Britney Schmidt - New York TimesMay 6, 2005
Tuning in to Jon Stewart, and Britney Schmidt

Many authors hate to go on grinding book tours. But I've always found it a useful way to be a foreign correspondent in America and take the pulse of the country. Here are the two most important things I learned from a recent book tour:

First, many educated people seem to be getting their news from Comedy Central. Say what? As any author will tell you, the best TV book shows to be on have long been Don Imus, Charlie Rose, C-Span, Tim Russert on CNBC, "Today," Oprah and selected programs on CNN, Fox and MSNBC. They are all still huge. But what was new for me on this tour was the number of people who also mentioned getting their news from Jon Stewart's truly funny news satire, "The Daily Show." And I am not just talking about college kids. I am talking about grandmas. Just how many people are now getting their only TV news from Comedy Central is not clear to me - but it is a lot, lot more than you think.

Second, and this may be related to the first, there's a huge undertow of worry out in the country about how our kids are being educated and whether they'll be able to find jobs in an increasingly flat world, where more Chinese, Indians and Russians than ever can connect, collaborate and compete with us. In three different cities I had parents ask me some version of: "My daughter [or son] is studying Chinese in high school. That's the right thing to do, isn't it?"

Not being an educator, I can't give any such advice. But my own research has taught me that the most important thing you can learn in this era of heightened global competition is how to learn. Being really good at "learning how to learn," as President Bill Brody of Johns Hopkins put it, will be an enormous asset in an era of rapid change and innovation, when new jobs will be phased in and old ones phased out faster than ever.

O.K., one ninth grader in St. Paul asked me, then "what courses should I take?" How do you learn how to learn? Hmm. Maybe, I said, the best way to learn how to learn is to go ask your friends: "Who are the best teachers?" Then - no matter the subject - take their courses. When I think back on my favorite teachers, I don't remember anymore much of what they taught me, but I sure remember being excited about learning it.

What has stayed with me are not the facts they imparted, but the excitement about learning they inspired. To learn how to learn, you have to love learning - while some people are born with that gene, many others can develop it with the right teacher (or parent).

There was a great piece in the April 24 Education Life section of The New York Times that described Britney Schmidt, a student at the University of Arizona who was utterly bored with her courses, mostly because her professors seemed interested only in giving lectures and leaving. "I was getting A's in all my classes, but I wasn't being challenged, and I wasn't thinking about new things," she said.

She had to take a natural science course, though, and it turned out to have a great professor and teaching assistants, who inspired her. "I was lucky," she said. "I took a class from somebody who really cared." The result: a scientist was born. Ms. Schmidt has since been accepted to graduate school at U.C.L.A. in planetary physics and the University of Chicago in cosmo-chemistry.

I just interviewed Craig Barrett, the chief executive of Intel, which has invested millions of dollars in trying to improve the way science is taught in U.S. schools. (The Wall Street Journal noted yesterday that China is graduating four times the number of engineers as the U.S.; Japan, with less than half our population, graduates double the number.)

In today's flat world, Mr. Barrett said, Intel can be a totally successful company without ever hiring another American. That is not its desire or intention, he said, but the fact is that it can now hire the best brain talent "wherever it resides."

If you look at where Intel is making its new engineering investments today, he said, it is in China, India, Russia, Poland and, to a lesser extent, Malaysia and Israel. While cutting-edge talent is still being grown in America, he added, it's not enough for Intel's needs, and not enough is being done in U.S. public schools - not just to leave no child behind, but to make sure that the best students and teachers are nurtured and rewarded.

Look at the attention Congress has focused on steroids in Major League Baseball, Mr. Barrett mused. And then look at the attention it has focused on science education in minor-league American schools.

That's the real news out there, folks. And it's not funny.

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: A new kind of cross-racial dating

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: A new kind of cross-racial datingA new kind of
cross-racial dating

The ethnic provincials among us might be disturbed to see a growing number of black women dating white men. One sees them at sporting events, at museums, at movie houses, restaurants and walking along seemingly swept up in the luminous net of romance.

Lord, Lord, Lord: the black woman and the white man.

Some will bitterly recall that terrorist period in Southern history when white men had all the money, all the power and could join a mob intent on killing a Negro for the forbidden act of "recklessly eyeballing" a white woman.

Now, as the song goes, things ain't what they used to be.

For a number of decades, black men in the urban North have crossed the romantic color line for a variety of reasons. Yet black women have almost always remained inside of the group.

Why are these women now coupling up with white men? Are they rejecting black men? Have they been caught worshiping whiteness out of a feeling of inferiority? Do they think they become white women by proxy if they date white men?

Given the nature of the human species, I assume there are some black women who are with white men for all the "wrong" reasons. But I think what we now see is the inevitable result of a problem that has been growing for years: a man shortage.

There are 2 million more adult black women than black men. Black men live far shorter lives and have greater health problems than black women, and far more black women than men graduate from college.

The numerical gap between black men and black women is the result of murder, AIDS, diseases like high blood pressure, heart failure and poor health care. Part of the medical care burden is imposed by backward attitudes toward doctors.

Illnesses that could be treated are much worse by the time most Negro men show up to find out about their health. I even know a country Negro from Florida who lives in Harlem, is 63 and fears going to the doctor for a checkup.

All this means that, when incarceration is factored in, there are far from enough men to go around. But even if murder, prison and irresponsible attitudes about health did not reduce the pool of men, negative attitudes toward schooling and higher education would mean all these educated black women would still find themselves roving in pursuit of partners equal to them in intellectual development.

That is a big change. In the past, it was not uncommon for black men to explain their white lovers by claiming they could not find black women sufficiently sophisticated to "understand" them. Now the black goose is catching up to the ebony gander.

I am not opposed to interracial relationships or marriages. What bothers me is that we have a tragic set of circumstances imposed by violent environments, poor attitudes toward education and perhaps the worst problem of all: a lack of intellectual engagement and a fear of doctors.

These problems are far from intractable. But the time for new strategies and new attitudes is not tomorrow; it is right now.

Originally published on May 8, 2005

Monday, May 09, 2005

When It Comes to Replacing Oil Imports, Nuclear Is No Easy Option, Experts Say - New York Times

May 9, 2005
When It Comes to Replacing Oil Imports, Nuclear Is No Easy Option, Experts Say

WASHINGTON, May 8 - President Bush has proposed reducing oil imports by increasing the use of nuclear power, which he said in a recent speech was "one of the most promising sources of energy."

There is a problem, though: reactors make electricity, not oil. And oil does not make much electricity.

Nuclear reactors produce about 20 percent of the electricity used in the United States and about 8 percent of the total energy consumed. Oil accounts for 41 percent of energy consumption.

Could a few dozen more reactors, in addition to the 103 running now, cut into oil's share of the energy market?

"Indirectly, but very indirectly," said Lawrence J. Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, a nonprofit group that studies the economics of oil. People who think nuclear power is a way to reduce oil imports are "confusing several issues," he said.

Peter A. Bradford, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, added, "No one knowledgeable about energy policy would link nuclear power and gasoline prices."

In the puzzle of energy consumption and production, however, experts point to three intersections of oil and nuclear power that would offer opportunities to cut demand for oil, pushing down its price and strategic significance. But all are limited, clumsy, expensive or dependent on new technologies whose success is not guaranteed, the experts say.

The first option is to replace the oil used to make electricity with new nuclear reactors. But most of the oil in the electric sector has already been replaced, by coal.

According to the Energy Department, last year the electric utilities used about 207 million barrels of oil, or less than 600,000 barrels a day. (Total American consumption of oil is about 20.5 million barrels a day.)

Even the 600,000-barrel figure is higher than what nuclear reactors could replace, because some of that oil is used in generators that run only a few hundred hours a year. Reactors must run continuously, so they could not replace the oil-fired plants that are used only intermittently.

The electric system consumes another fuel that nuclear power could replace: natural gas. Last year, American utilities burned just under 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, out of total consumption of 22.3 trillion cubic feet.

"You can get a scenario where nuclear would free the gas to go to other things," replacing oil and gasoline, said Thomas Capps, the chairman of Dominion, one of several electric companies that have expressed interest in building new nuclear reactors. "You can run cars on natural gas," he said.

The technology for that is available, but not many people use it. According to the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, a lobbying group, about 130,000 such vehicles are on American roads today, out of more than 200 million. After decades of promoting natural gas, federal and state governments have made some headway in persuading commercial fleets to switch. But they have essentially given up on selling natural gas to ordinary consumers, who have been unwilling to convert their vehicles to use it.

There is also little economic incentive behind using natural gas. Mr. Goldstein noted that the current wholesale price of gas, about $7 per million B.T.U. (the standard unit by which gas is sold), is the equivalent of $42 per barrel for oil. But oil now sells for about $50 a barrel, which means the price difference is not enough to induce a switch.

Gas must also be pressurized for a car to hold enough to travel more than a few miles; pressurizing it and distributing it to service stations would add expense.

But there is another way that nuclear reactors could influence the oil supply, one that bypasses electricity completely. Nuclear engineers are working on designs and materials for a new class of reactors - which could be ready in about 20 years - whose main product would be heat.

The Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, which is owned by the Department of Energy, is working on ways to take very hot steam from a nuclear reactor, then run a small electric current through it to separate the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. If that can be done more cheaply than the current method of producing hydrogen, which uses natural gas, the hydrogen could be used at refineries to make components of gasoline.

Gasoline is made of molecules with a certain ratio of carbon to hydrogen. Part of each barrel of oil consists of molecules with too much carbon to be useful in gasoline; instead, those molecules are used only in low-value products like asphalt and tar.

The technology exists for refineries to break up those molecules and add hydrogen, until the hydrogen-carbon ratio is suitable for making gasoline or diesel.

David Lifschultz, chief executive of Genoil, a company that makes systems for using hydrogen at refineries, says the oil supply being exhausted first is light oil, which has many components that can be used in gasoline. Heavy oil, with components high in carbon, is far more abundant and often sells at a discount of $20 or $25 a barrel, he said.

Available technology could convert 16 million barrels a day of heavy oil, about a sixth of the world supply, into gasoline components, Mr. Lifschultz said, driving down the price of light oil.

J. Stephen Herring, a consulting engineer at the Idaho lab, explained two other ways for reactors to make motor fuel.

Canada has vast reserves of shale oil, now being converted to ingredients of motor fuel by using natural gas. The gas is used to heat the shale to make its oil flow more easily, and hydrogen, also obtained from the natural gas, is incorporated into the oil to make it suitable for use in gasoline. But a nuclear reactor could do those jobs, delivering both hydrogen and steam for cooking the oil out of the rock, Mr. Herring said.

Another strategy, he said, would be to break down coal, shale oil or other hydrogen fuels into a gas comprising hydrogen and carbon monoxide. At high pressure, these materials could form molecules suitable for making gasoline or diesel. A reactor could provide the energy required.

But using a reactor to make the ingredients of gasoline is many years away; the new reactors being considered by utilities are similar to the ones running now. The experts say that only after several of those have been built and have run for a few years is a private company likely to try something more adventurous.

Mr. Herring did not fault that strategy. "If I were responsible for spending the billion dollars," he said, "I'd be conservative, too."

Despite Tension, Bush-Putin Meeting Is Called a Success - New York Times

May 9, 2005
Despite Tension, Bush-Putin Meeting Is Called a Success

MOSCOW, May 8 - President Bush met Sunday night with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in what was widely expected to be a tense encounter after days of recriminations over Russian rollbacks of democracy and the Soviet Union's actions in the World War II era, but the top foreign policy advisers to both men swiftly pronounced the meeting a success.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, appeared in an unusual joint briefing at a guest house on the grounds of Mr. Putin's presidential dacha outside Moscow to say the two leaders had talked extensively about nuclear proliferation and Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza this summer.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin even took a brief spin on the dacha grounds in a gleaming 1956 Volga, with Mr. Bush at the wheel. In a photograph that is likely to become a symbol of the good will that the White House and Kremlin sought to portray here on a damp spring evening, the two presidents waved from the windows as the car, purchased by Mr. Putin last year, emerged from a forest of birches.

"I'm having so much fun, we're going for another lap," Mr. Bush told reporters.

But the two sides announced no formal agreements or breakthroughs, and the meeting seemed more of a place holder until Russia holds a summit meeting of the world's major industrial democracies, the Group of 8, in St. Petersburg next summer.

The session also appeared to be a public relations corrective after the awkward news conference that Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin held in Bratislava, Slovakia, in February, when Mr. Putin was reported to have lectured Mr. Bush for 40 minutes in a meeting beforehand about what he considered America's imperfect democracy.

Before leaving for Moscow, senior Bush administration officials said they expected that Mr. Putin would express his unhappiness about Mr. Bush's five-day itinerary in Europe, which is centered on the celebration planned for Monday in Red Square for the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Mr. Bush has tried to temper the spectacle of his planned attendance at a military parade in the shadow of the Kremlin with stops to promote democracy in Latvia and Georgia, two former Soviet republics that are now independent nations with contentious relationships with Russia.

Mr. Bush - who had said only the day before in a speech in Latvia that the Nazi defeat gave the Soviet Union the opportunity to occupy much of Eastern and Central Europe, including Latvia - struck a new emphasis on Sunday with Mr. Putin at his side.

"I am looking forward to the celebration tomorrow," Mr. Bush said. "It is a moment where the world will recognize the great bravery and sacrifice the Russian people made in the defeat of Nazism."

"I'm glad you invited me and Laura to dinner tonight," he added. "Having had one of your meals before, I'm looking forward to this one a lot."

Mr. Bush's itinerary has angered the Russians, as has his criticism of Mr. Putin's rollbacks of democracy. In the speech in Latvia, Mr. Bush warned Mr. Putin not to interfere with the young democracies on his borders.

Moscow has furiously responded that the Soviet Union was invited to march into Latvia and other Baltic nations and that it is Mr. Bush who is meddling in the affairs of the former Soviet republics. In an interview with the CBS News program "60 Minutes" for broadcast in the United States on Sunday night, Mr. Putin said the United States had no business lecturing him about democracy after the contested American presidential election of 2000.

"Four years ago, your presidential election was decided by the court," Mr. Putin told the correspondent Mike Wallace. "But we're not going to poke our noses into your democratic system, because that's up to the American people."

But Ms. Rice and Mr. Lavrov, as well as Stephen J. Hadley, the United States national security adviser, played down the rancor that appeared to build as Mr. Bush made his way toward Russia. They repeatedly said the meeting between the presidents - 40 minutes with just the two leaders and interpreters, followed by 45 minutes when they were joined by aides - was "open" and "constructive."

"These two men have developed a relationship in which they can talk about any subject, and talk about it in a constructive and friendly manner," Mr. Lavrov said.

Ms. Rice said: "I would characterize the relationship as absolutely straightforward. They say what they think, they say what they mean, and then they act on that."

Ms. Rice, Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Hadley, who briefed reporters after a two-hour dinner with Mr. Bush, Mr. Putin, their wives and aides, said that the most extensive discussions centered on the Middle East and a meeting in Moscow on Monday of representatives from the United States, Europe, the United Nations and Russia to discuss Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza.

On Monday in Moscow, Mr. Bush is to attend the parade in Red Square, have his picture taken with about 50 other world leaders and attend a lunch at the Kremlin before leaving for Georgia to visit President Mikhail Saakashvili, who rose to power in the 2003 "Rose Revolution," a street uprising against Russian domination.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush spoke before the sweeping arcs of white crosses and Stars of David at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, where he said the 8,301 Americans buried there in World War II "underscore the terrible price we pay for that victory."

In a speech on a cold, windy morning, Mr. Bush sought to tie the Allied victory over Hitler six decades ago to his call for the spread of democracy now.

"At the outset of the war, there were those who believed that democracy was too soft to survive, especially against a Nazi Germany that boasted the most professional, well-equipped and highly trained military forces in the world," Mr. Bush said. "Yet, this military would be brought down by a coalition of armies from our democratic allies and freedom fighters from occupied lands and underground resistance leaders. They fought side by side with American G.I.'s, who, only months before, had been farmers and bank clerks and factory hands."

The "world's tyrants" learned a lesson, he said: "There is no power like the power of freedom, and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for that freedom."

The cemetery, the third largest of the American war cemeteries in Europe, lies in the lush farmland of the southeastern Netherlands, where in 1944 and 1945 the Allies liberated the country. Prime Minister Jan Pieter Balkenende, in a speech that preceded Mr. Bush's, told the crowd of 10,000 that "our gratitude is too great to express in words."

Mr. Balkenende opened his speech with a tribute to two Americans: "Sixty years ago today, Jack B. Blackett and Max E. Good died. They came from California and Georgia. They fought for freedom and peace in Europe. And they were laid to rest here, in Margraten."

Mr. Bush in turned thanked the Dutch for bringing flowers to the cemetery's graves every Memorial Day, a tradition of six decades. "Your kindness has brought comfort to thousands of American families separated from their loved ones here by an ocean," the president said. "And on behalf of a grateful America, I thank you for treating our men and women as your sons and daughters."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Japan Times Online

The Japan Times Online: Bush just can't get the hang of diplomacy


YANGPYUNG, South Korea -- "It makes sense to put somebody who's skilled and who is not afraid to speak his mind at the United Nations." So said U.S. President George W. Bush during his spirited defense of his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. With all due respect, Mr. President, I think you missed the point.

The biggest problem with Bolton is that he does just that, he speaks his mind. As an under secretary of state these past four years, Bolton was supposed to be speaking the mind of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and his department's -- not his own. Yet the tales of him openly disagreeing with, and on more than one occasion attempting to undermine, State Department policy are legend. This is the real reason that his nomination should be opposed, not his egregious bedside manner.

As U.N. ambassador, Bolton will again be expected to speak for his boss, in this case Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and, through her, the president. Should Bolton get confirmed, Rice will have her hands full trying to keep him on message.

This having been said, however, I feel I owe Bolton an apology. Several years ago, I described him as "America's most undiplomatic diplomat." I was wrong! That title must go to the diplomat-in-chief, Bush. He earned it, once again, during the same April 28 press conference in which he defended the Bolton nomination.

During this internationally televised event, Bush expressed his commitment to a diplomatic solution to the North Korea nuclear crisis, citing in particular the need for consensus among the other five participants in order to bring Pyongyang to the table. But he could not resist throwing in a gratuitous personal attack against North Korea's leader, calling him "a dangerous person . . . who starves his people" and "a tyrant."

All told, he mentioned the reclusive North Korean leader by name 12 times. While this falls far short of Bolton's record -- he once castigated the "Dear Leader" by name more than 40 times in a speech that many South Koreans still cite as a principle cause for the breakdown in the dialogue process -- it was sufficient for North Korea to call Bush a "hooligan bereft of any personality . . . and a Philistine whom we can never deal with."

Bush no doubt believes all the nasty things he says about Kim Jong Il (and they have the added benefit of being true). But to repeatedly say them publicly does not help the diplomatic process, especially at a time when his chief negotiator, newly appointed Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, was visiting China, Japan and the Republic of Korea to build the consensus that the president himself acknowledged was critical for his diplomatic approach to succeed.

The primary concern here is not what North Korea thinks. At the end of the day, it has more to gain from cooperating than from not cooperating and will likely allow itself to be bribed back to the negotiating table. The real concern is the impact that Bush's statements are having on other six-party participants: China, Japan, Russia and, most importantly, South Korea.

As the president has repeatedly stressed, the other members need to stick together and speak with one voice in pressuring Pyongyang to come back to the table. For this to happen, they have to believe that Washington is seriously committed to achieving a negotiated solution.

I have spent the last week traveling through five South Korean cities, speaking to college students and professors, security specialists, and nongovernmental organization representatives. I have met few people who believe that the Bush administration is serious when it says it is prepared to cut a deal with the current leadership in Pyongyang. I was not surprised.

At a recent Pacific Forum conference on U.S.-ROK relations, I asked how many, in a group of about 40 American, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese regional specialists, believed that the Bush administration was actually pursuing regime change and would not negotiate with Kim under any circumstances. More than 90 percent raised their hands, despite the fact it is the stated position of the Bush administration, as reiterated by Bush, Rice and even Bolton, that it does not seek regime change in North Korea.

The repeated personal attacks lead both the man on the street (especially in Korea) and the seasoned security analyst alike to the same conclusion: Washington's aim is to drive North Korea away from the negotiating table. This makes gaining an international consensus (and building the public support needed in democracies such as South Korea to sustain a bilateral relationship) increasingly difficult to achieve. How this serves America's immediate, much less long-term, national security interest is perplexing.

If the president truly wants a diplomatic solution, he must surround himself with true diplomats . . . and he must speak and act diplomatically. Otherwise he will not only lose the diplomatic standoff with North Korea but will lose the hearts and minds of the South Korean people as well.

P.S.: I was among the 10 percent who did not raise his hand. I still believe that the Bush administration is prepared to "hold its nose and deal with Pyongyang," as many are advising it to do. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to convince even myself, much less anyone else, that this is really true.

Ralph A. Cossa is president of the Pacific Forum CSIS (], a Honolulu-based nonprofit research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The Japan Times: May 8, 2005

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > China Raises Hurdle to Taiwan Negotiations

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > May 4, 2005
China Raises Hurdle to Taiwan Negotiations

BEIJING, May 3 - Chinese officials said Tuesday that Taiwan's governing party must scrap its party platform and stop its "separatist activities" before Beijing would talk with President Chen Shui-bian, dashing hopes that the recent thaw in relations would lead to two-way negotiations soon.

The conditions, spelled out by Wang Zaixi, deputy head of the Communist Party's Taiwan affairs office, may signal that China is content for now to talk with Taiwan's opposition parties, which favor closer ties with the mainland, while isolating the governing party.

If that position sticks, it could come as a blow to Mr. Chen. The Taiwan president has struggled to develop his own strategy to communicate with Beijing after his archrival, Lien Chan, head of the opposition Nationalist Party, generated enormous publicity during his eight-day visit to the mainland, which ended Tuesday.

The United States, Taiwan's sole major ally, has urged Beijing to open direct talks with Mr. Chen. The State Department has argued that government-to-government dialogue is the only way to reduce cross-strait tensions and mitigate the threat of armed conflict, which could involve American forces.

Last week, Hu Jintao, the Chinese Communist Party chief, held talks with Mr. Lien, the first meeting between a Communist and a Nationalist leader in 60 years. Mr. Hu also plans to meet James Soong, who heads the opposition People First Party, in Beijing early next week.

Mr. Lien's visit was the highest-level exchange between Taiwanese and mainland politicians since the Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war. The meeting between Mr. Lien and Mr. Hu on Friday fueled hopes that a broader rapprochement might be in the offing.

In giving the government's first detailed briefing on Taiwan since Mr. Lien's visit, Mr. Wang, the Chinese official, reiterated longstanding demands that Mr. Chen accept the "one China" principle under which Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, as well as the so-called 1992 consensus, under which China and Taiwan held talks in the past.

Then he added a new condition, specifying that Mr. Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party must first rewrite the party's constitution to strip out endorsements of what the party refers to as the island's independent, sovereign status. "For the time being, we have no party-to-party exchanges with the Democratic Progressive Party, for the key reason that its party constitution advocates Taiwan independence," Mr. Wang said. "If the D.P.P. recognizes the 1992 consensus, gives up its party constitution and stops its separatist activities, we would welcome its visit to the mainland, and we can have a dialogue and exchanges."

To meet those conditions, Mr. Chen would need to jettison political positions that formed the basis of his winning campaigns for Taiwan's presidency in 2000 and 2004. If he were to take such a step, his party and its independence-leaning allies in the legislature could be plunged into crisis, analysts said.

"My impression is that Beijing basically has no intention of opening a dialogue with Chen or the D.P.P.," said Andrew Yang, secretary general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a research center in Taipei.

Mr. Yang said that Chinese officials may feel they have some political momentum and are under no pressure to initiate talks with Mr. Chen immediately, perhaps not at all during his three remaining years as president.

Beijing has long viewed Mr. Chen as determined to lead Taiwan toward formal, legal independence from mainland China, which Beijing says it would use force to prevent. Officials have dismissed Mr. Chen's calls to improve relations as empty gestures, a situation that may be worsened by Mr. Chen's frequent shifts in tactics in dealing with Beijing. "They are laying out crystal clear conditions for Chen to meet," Mr. Yang said. "They can just wait and see if he comes around."

Despite the tough conditions, Beijing has carried on with its Taiwan détente. On Tuesday, officials announced that they would give a pair of giant pandas to Taiwan, a gift reminiscent of China's courtship of the United States in the 1970's.

Beijing said it would unilaterally reduce import taxes on Taiwanese fruit, an effort to cultivate good relations with farmers in Taiwan's southern heartland. Officials also said they would ease restrictions on mainland tourists to Taiwan.

Visiting the small Pacific island of Kiribati on Tuesday, Mr. Chen invited Mr. Hu to visit Taiwan and said he hoped to open talks with Beijing under the principle of "peace, democracy and parity."

Mr. Chen also said that he had entrusted Mr. Soong, with whom he has a political alliance despite widely differing views about cross-strait relations, to relay a "secret message" to Beijing leaders during his trip later this week. But Beijing's latest statement may diminish the prospects that it will use Mr. Soong as a conduit for dialogue with Mr. Chen.

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Politicizing Public Broadcasting

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: Politicizing Public Broadcasting:May 4, 2005
Politicizing Public Broadcasting

The last thing Americans need is public broadcasting where the politics of the moment limits the news of the day. Yet that could be where the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is heading if Kenneth Tomlinson, the chairman, keeps pushing for partisan Republicans in the management of public television and radio.

Mr. Tomlinson, a former editor in chief of Reader's Digest, has repeatedly criticized PBS as too liberal over all and has said that his goal is to satisfy a broader constituency. Satisfying more people with public television and radio is a worthy aim, but several recent surveys for public broadcasting have shown that most viewers and listeners admire what's on now. More than half of PBS's viewers say they find its news more "trustworthy" than the commercial stations'. Public television and radio programs like "Frontline," "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and "All Things Considered" have even higher "favorable" ratings.

There was a time when a passionate conservative might have looked at PBS programming and called it too liberal. But those days seem long past. And in any case, as an article in The Times this week showed, Mr. Tomlinson's goal of expanding the audience for PBS does not include bolstering PBS's balance with centrist programming. It involves pushing public broadcasting over the ideological line to the Republican side, with blatantly partisan programming and the hiring of more Republican partisans to control the corporation.

Mr. Tomlinson seems to have aimed primarily at the program "Now With Bill Moyers," which he found too liberal and "populist." As a result, he pushed for a new conservative talk show featuring right-leaning editorialists from The Wall Street Journal as "balance." Many stations now take both shows, even though Mr. Moyers has left "Now," which features investigative journalism, and The Journal's show is not too different from many offerings on cable news.

Mr. Tomlinson has hired a staff member from the Bush White House to set up guidelines for the ombudsmen hired to critique shows on public broadcasting. And he is trying to hire a State Department official, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's president and chief executive.

Although he has insisted that he does not want to politicize PBS or cut any programs, Mr. Tomlinson has managed to spread the word throughout the PBS community that he does not like anything that he considers too anti-corporate, anti-White House or anti-Republican. For journalists whose basic code is to "speak truth to power," this is not good news: those are the main powers in the country.

Their real fear, an understandable one at this stage, is that Mr. Tomlinson and his supporters have a larger agenda - to "hollow out" public broadcasting and fill it with programming that suits their political agenda. And if public broadcasting becomes too political to suit all but the most loyal Republicans or too boring in the name of balance, that could mean the slow death of such broadcasting, which could have been the goal all along.

Unlike such organizations as the Voice of America, where Mr. Tomlinson once worked, public broadcasting is not supposed to be an arm of the government. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was designed to serve as a heat shield protecting the broadcasting wing from Washington's political friction. Instead of shielding PBS, Mr. Tomlinson's corporation is in danger of spreading today's political heat throughout every level of the network.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - English: Experts call for dialogue to resolve Sino-Japanese disputes 2005-05-02 19:29:38

BEIJING, May 2 (Xinhuanet) -- Chinese experts said here Monday that China and Japan should resolve their disputes and narrow their differences through dialogue and consultation.

Dialogue and consultation are part of the five-point proposal Chinese President Hu Jintao made on developing Sino-Japanese relations when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the sideline of the Asian-African summit in Jakarta.

Hu stressed that "differences between the two nations need to be resolved through dialogues and negotiations. The two governments should actively work together to prevent the relationsfrom being hurt again."

Dialogue and consultation on an equal footing is one of the basic stands for China's foreign policy. It is also embodied in the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the United NationsCharter, said Ma Junwei, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, during an interview with Xinhua.

Ma said the history of Sino-Japanese relations proved that confrontation would be detrimental to bilateral ties and to the stability and development in Asia.

The spirit of dialogue and consultation was underlined in the three cornerstone political documents between China and Japan, namely the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement, the Peace and FriendshipTreaty and the Sino-Japanese Joint Declaration, said Ma, who mainly studies China-Japan relations.

The spirit of dialogue and consultation helped China and Japan normalize their diplomatic relations in 1972 and the ensuing development of bilateral ties, said Liu Jiangyong, a professor on international relations with the prestigious Tsinghua University.

Liu stressed that none of the issues between China and Japan should be resolved by the use or threat of force. He said there are good chances for the two nations to resolve the difficult issues through dialogue.

The two sides should start consultation and negotiation in a constructive and creative manner and in long-term perspectives on issues like the oil and gas exploration in the East China Sea as soon as possible, he said.

Liu said Japan's unilateral actions and breach of the principleof dialogue and consultation on an equal footing are mainly responsible for the recent difficulties in China-Japan relations.

The Japanese government began in April granting Japanese firms the right to conduct test drilling for potential gas and oil fields in disputed waters of the East China Sea which Japan unilaterally claimed as its own. China described the move as "a serious provocation."

Liu said China and Japan should pursue bilateral consultation and dialogue to resolve the current crisis.

Wu Jianmin, a senior Chinese diplomat, said dialogue and consultation are the key to resolving the thorny issues.

Wu, president of China Foreign Affairs University, quoted a Chinese saying that "while cooperation benefits both, confrontation will do good to none." He said the saying reflects the biggest wisdom in resolving conflicts and disputes between China and Japan.

"The future world is a world of coexistence," Wu said. "It is by no means abnormal that disagreement and disputes should arise between China and Japan. The two nations should earnestly conduct dialogue and consultation on the basis of the three joint political documents to help bilateral ties return to normal development."