EU legislators call for more modest biofuels goal
PARIS: European legislators said Thursday that ambitious targets for using crop-based biofuels should be pared back dramatically, prompting the fledgling industry to fire back with a campaign warning that alternatives might be no cleaner.
European Union governments pledged last year to increase the use of biofuels in transport to 10 percent by 2020, from a negligible amount currently, amid optimism that energy derived from crops would provide a low-carbon way to power vehicles.
On Thursday, the European Parliament's influential Industry Committee endorsed the general 10 percent target but added a number of modifications meant to move away from traditional biofuels made from grains or other crops toward other, renewable energy sources.
It called for having 5 percent of transport fuels be from renewable sources by 2015, with at least a fifth of that amount from "new alternatives that do not compete with food production." That could include sources like hydrogen or electricity from renewable sources, or biofuels made from waste, algae or nonfood vegetation.
The lawmakers stuck to the 10 percent target for 2020, but said at least 40 percent of that should be made up of such "second-generation" renewables. But that target would have to be reviewed in 2014.
The lawmakers were reacting to waning enthusiasm for biofuels. Over the past year, scientists and environmentalists have warned that some biofuels may be more polluting than fossil fuels and that the diversion of crops to fuel production may be a factor in rising food prices.
The full Parliament and EU governments still must reach an agreement on any targets before they become law.
But biofuels manufacturers, worried that their industry is coming under threat, now are seeking to ensure they have a future.
They are stepping up a publicity campaign, warning that alternatives to biofuels like hydrogen and electricity - while they might help to reduce tailpipe pollution - still would require burning of fossil fuels to manufacture.
"Renewable electric cars do not exist," said Raffaello Garofalo, the secretary general of the European Biodiesel Board. "People are going to charge the batteries of their cars at home with normal electricity that is predominately of a fossil fuel base. So there is no incentive given to renewables that way - instead you are just increasing the use of electricity full stop."
Cars running on hydrogen produced from renewable sources are not yet commercially available, said Garofalo.
Other representatives from the biofuels industry called on lawmakers to maintain a higher target for biofuel use of up to 10 percent by 2020.
"We should be supporting the original target," said Simo Honkanen, vice president at the renewable fuels division of Neste Oil, a Finnish company that sells biodiesel produced from palm oil, rapeseed and animal fat.
"It's important for the European biodiesel industry as a whole to have stability over one or two decades so that the industry can grow," Honkanen said.
Biofuels producers in Europe already feel under threat from subsidized U.S. exports. EU trade officials complained in June about a tax credit that is granted to American exporters, and they launched a formal investigation that could lead to the imposition of punitive tariffs.
Garofalo said the industry already had built substantial capacity based on an earlier, voluntary target of 5.75 percent biofuels by 2010, and he accused legislators of showing bad faith by calling for even weaker targets.
Analysts agree that Europe may have little hope of reducing emissions by using electricity, hydrogen or biofuels in the near term.
"Probably the best option is encouraging fuel efficiency and developing engines that consume less fuel," said Juan Delgado, a research fellow specializing in energy and climate change at Bruegel, a research organization in Brussels. "In fact it may be more efficient to try and reduce more emissions in other sectors of the economy besides transport, like electricity," said Delgado.
But environmentalists praised lawmakers for reducing the target.
"The vote by the European Parliament recognizes the serious problems associated with the large-scale use of biofuels," said Adrian Bebb, the agrofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe.
European legislators started backpedaling on biofuels in July, when the Parliament's Environment Committee called for a slightly lower medium-term target - 4 percent rather than 10 percent - and also said the measures should be reviewed in 2015 before any decision to ratchet further upward.
The legislators also stressed the importance of using transport fuels that come from feedstocks that do not compete with food for cropland.
U.S. meatpacking workers lose jobs in religious dispute
DENVER: Tensions have flared between Somali workers and executives at a Colorado meatpacking plant over when employees can break for prayer during the Muslim observance of Ramadan.
Religious discord between U.S. factories and Muslim workers is nothing new, but a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, said he had never seen a conflict intensify to the point it had at the JBS Swift plant in Greeley.
"Usually in these cases we're able to come to an amicable solution," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the council.
The conflict in Greeley began Sept. 5, when about 220 workers, according to Swift estimates, walked out during the evening shift, blaming the company's refusal to allow their breaks to coincide with sunset so they could pray.
Hooper said the time of the sunset prayer was the only one of the five daily prayers that cannot be changed.
"You can't really say, 'Well, I'll delay it for an hour and do it then.' You have a very narrow window of opportunity," Hooper said. During the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, workers cannot eat or drink until that prayer, he said.
A Swift spokeswoman, Tamara Smid, said 101 workers were fired, but Manny Gonzales, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said the number was as high as 150, based on what workers told union officials.
Gonzales said the union planned to file grievances against the company on behalf of those workers. But some of the workers have already begun looking for jobs at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Fort Morgan, about 55 miles, or 88 kilometers, east of Greeley, according to the Colorado State Refugee Services Program.
Hooper said council attorneys in Chicago were now involved as mediators, and might pursue legal action if religious accommodations were denied. But they hope it does not get to that point.
"Really, you don't need attorneys in these cases," Hooper said. "You just need a spirit of good will and cooperation."
Smid said Swift had changed the timing of workers' lunch schedules by more than an hour to accommodate them. She said the assembly line usually breaks at 9 p.m., and that was changed to 8 p.m.
She said workers who were suspended for walking out of work on Sept. 5 were told that if they did not return to work on Wednesday they would be fired.
One of the workers who was fired, Graen Isse, 27, said the 8 p.m. lunch "would be way too late." He said workers who still have jobs were banding together to help the people who were fired if they needed money to pay rent.
The Greeley plant was where 270 Hispanic employees were detained after a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in 2006. Paul Stein, coordinator for the Colorado State Refugee Services Program, said the raid created a vacuum filled by Somali refugees. Stein said about 400 people from the war-torn country either live or work in Greeley, and 250 more were in Fort Morgan.
Swift, which was purchased by JBS of Brazil in March, has had problems with Muslim workers in the past. At a Swift plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, dozens of workers from Somalia quit their jobs last year because, they said, they were not allowed to pray at sunset. They eventually returned to work.
This month, executives at the Tyson Foods Plant in Shelbyville, Tennessee, reached a compromise with union workers to observe Eid al-Fitr as a paid holiday. The day, which falls on Oct. 1 this year, marks the end of Ramadan.
The firings in Colorado came on the same day as St. Cloud, Minnesota-based Gold'n Plump Poultry agreed to let Muslim workers take short prayer breaks under a settlement mediated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"With any new ethnic or religious groups, there is an adjustment period as the group becomes part of the American social fabric," Hooper said.
ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE
Why we shouldn't fear the collider
Brian Greene, a professor of math and physics at Columbia, is the author, most recently, of "Icarus at the Edge of Time."
Three hundred feet below the outskirts of Geneva lies part of a 17-mile-long tubular track, circling its way across the French border and back again, whose interior is so pristine and whose nearly 10,000 surrounding magnets so frigid, that it's one of the emptiest and coldest regions of space in the solar system.
The track is part of the Large Hadron Collider, a technological marvel built by physicists and engineers, and described alternatively as heralding the next revolution in our understanding of the universe or, less felicitously, as a doomsday machine that may destroy the planet.
After more than a decade of development and construction, involving thousands of scientists from dozens of countries at a cost of some $8 billion, the "on" switch for the collider was thrown this week. So what we can expect?
The collider's workings are straightforward: At full power, trillions of protons will be injected into the otherwise empty track and set racing in opposite directions at speeds exceeding 99.999999 percent of the speed of light - fast enough so that every second the protons will cycle the entire track more than 11,000 times and engage in more than half a billion head-on collisions.
The raison d'être for creating this microscopic maelstrom derives from Einstein's famous formula, E=mc2, which declares that much like euros and dollars, energy ("E") and matter or mass ("m") are convertible currencies, (with "c" - the speed of light - specifying the fixed conversion rate). By accelerating the protons to fantastically high speeds, their collisions provide a momentary reservoir of tremendous energy, which can then quickly convert to a broad spectrum of other particles.
It is through such energy-matter conversion that physicists hope to create particles that would have been commonplace just after the big bang, but that for the most part have long since disintegrated.
Here's a brief roundup of the sort of long-lost particles the collisions might produce and the mysteries they may help unravel.
One of the mysteries that continues to stump physicists is the origin of mass. We can measure with fantastic accuracy the mass of an electron, a quark and most every other particle, but where does mass itself come from?
More than 40 years ago, a number of researchers, including Peter Higgs, an English physicist, suggested an answer: Perhaps space is pervaded by a field, much like the electromagnetic fields generated by cell phones and radio broadcasts, that acts like invisible molasses.
When we push something in the effort to make it move faster, the Higgs molasses would exert a drag force - and it's this resistance, as the Higgs theory goes, that we commonly call the object's mass.
Scientists have incorporated this idea as a centerpiece of the so-called standard model - a refined mathematical edifice, viewed by many as the crowning achievement of particle physics, that since the 1970s has described the behavior of nature's basic constituents with unprecedented accuracy.
The one component of the standard model that remains stubbornly unconfirmed is the very notion of the Higgs "molasses" field. However, collisions at the Large Hadron Collider should be able to chip off little chunks of the ubiquitous Higgs field (if it exists), creating what are known as Higgs bosons or Higgs particles. If these particles are found, the standard model, more than a quarter-century after its articulation, will finally be complete.
In the early 1970s, mathematical studies of string theory revealed a striking step toward Einstein's unfulfilled dream of a unified theory - a single theory embracing all forces and all matter. Supersymmetry, as the insight is called, is mathematically complex but has a physical implication of central relevance to the Large Hadron Collider.
For every known species of particle (electrons, quarks, neutrinos, etc.), supersymmetry implies the existence of a partner species (called, with physicists' inimitable linguistic flair, selectrons, squarks, sneutrinos, etc.) that to date has never been observed.
Physicists believe these "sparticles" have so far evaded detection because they're a good deal more massive than their known counterparts, thus requiring more powerful collisions for their copious production.
A wealth of calculations strongly suggests that the collider will have that power.
The discovery of sparticles would be a monumental achievement, taking us far beyond Einstein by establishing a deep link between nature's forces and the particles of matter. Such a discovery also has the potential to advance our understanding of dark matter - the abundant matter that permeates space but does not give off light and hence is known only through its gravitational influence. Many researchers suspect that dark matter is composed of sparticles.
A tantalizing idea considered since the early part of the last century is that the universe might have more than the three spatial dimensions of common experience.
In addition to the familiar left/right, back/forth and up/down, physicists have contemplated additional directions that are curled up to such a small size that they've so far eluded discovery.
For many years Einstein was a strong proponent of this idea. He had already shown that gravity was nothing but warps and curves in the familiar dimensions of space (and time); the new idea posited that nature's other forces (for example, the electromagnetic force) amounted to warps and curves in additional, as yet unknown, spatial dimensions. Difficulties in applying the idea mathematically resulted in Einstein ultimately losing interest. But decades later, string theory revived it: The mathematics of string theory not only requires extra dimensions but has shown how to resolve the issues that flummoxed Einstein.
And now, remarkably, there's a chance - albeit a small one - that the collider may find evidence for the extra dimensions. Calculations show that some of the debris produced by the proton collisions may be ejected out of our familiar spatial dimensions and crammed into the others, a process we'd detect by an apparent loss of the energy the debris would carry.
The unknown is just how powerful the collisions need to be for this process to happen, a number itself determined by another unknown: just how small the extra dimensions, if they exist, actually are. The more tightly they're curled, the harder it would be to cram anything in them and so the more energetic the required collisions.
Should the Large Hadron Collider have the power necessary to reveal extra dimensions of space - to overturn our belief that length, width and height are all there is - that would rank as one of the greatest upheavals in our understanding of the universe.
Now for the possibility that's generated the fuss.
Recent work in string theory has suggested that the collider might produce black holes, providing physicists with a spectacular opportunity to study them in a laboratory.
The common conception is that black holes are fantastically massive astrophysical bodies with enormous gravitational fields. But in reality, a black hole can have any mass. Take an orange and squeeze it to a sufficiently small size (about a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a meter across) and you'd have a black hole - with the mass of an orange.
Physicists have realized that the collider's proton-proton collisions might momentarily pack so much energy into such a small volume that exceedingly tiny black holes may form - black holes even lighter than the one theoretically created by the orange, but black holes nevertheless.
Why might one worry that this would be a problem? Because black holes have a reputation for rapacity. If a black hole is produced under Geneva, might it swallow Switzerland and continue on a ravenous rampage until the earth is devoured?
It's a reasonable question with a definite answer: no. Work that made Stephen Hawking famous establishes that tiny black holes would disintegrate in a minuscule fraction of a second, long enough for physicists to reap the benefits of having produced them, but short enough to avoid their wreaking any havoc.
Even so, some have worried further that maybe Hawking was wrong and such black holes don't disintegrate. Are we willing to bet the fate of the planet on an untested insight? And that question takes us to the crux of the matter: The collisions at the Large Hadron Collider have never before occurred under laboratory settings, but they've been taking place throughout the universe - even here on earth - for billions of years.
Cosmic rays - particles wafting through space - constantly rain down on the earth, the other planets and the wealth of stars scattered throughout the galaxy, with energies far in excess of those attainable by the Large Hadron Collider. And since these more powerful collisions haven't resulted in astrophysical calamities, the collider's comparatively tame collisions most assuredly won't either.
Should any of the particles described above be produced at the Large Hadron Collider, from Higgs particles to black holes, corks will rightly pop in physics departments worldwide. But the most exciting prospect of all is that the experiments will reveal something completely unanticipated, something that forces us to rethink our most cherished explanations.
Confirming an idea is always gratifying. But finding what you don't expect opens new vistas on the nature of reality. And that's what humans, including those of us who happen to be physicists, live for.
Oil prices take a toll on Japanese economy
TOKYO: The Japanese economy shrank more than initially estimated in the second quarter to log its worst performance in seven years, as it struggled with high raw material costs, slowing exports and weak capital spending, figures showed Friday.
The economy is widely expected to expand in the third quarter, but any recovery looks set to be feeble, and some analysts say a further contraction cannot be ruled out.
"The spike in oil prices dealt the main blow in the April-June quarter," said Masayuki Kichikawa, chief economist for Japan at Merrill Lynch. "The shock will gradually ease."
The economy contracted 0.7 percent in the second quarter from the previous quarter, and represented an annualized decline of 3 percent. Economists had expected a decline of 0.8 percent from the previous quarter.
The government had previously estimated that the economy shrank 0.6 percent from the previous quarter. The revision was mainly due to a sharper than expected drop in capital spending, which decreased 0.5 percent compared with an initial estimate of a 0.2 percent decline.
In Paris, pope reminds Europe of its religious roots
PARIS: Starting his first visit to France as pope, Benedict XVI touched Friday on central themes of his papacy - including the tensions between faith and reason and church and state as well as his efforts to reach out to Muslims and Jews - and he urged an increasingly irreligious Europe to look back to its intellectual roots in Christian monastic culture.
"What gave Europe's culture its foundation - the search for God and the readiness to listen to him - remains today the basis of any genuine culture," the pope said.
The pope spoke before 700 academics, cultural figures and Muslim leaders at the Collège des Bernardins, a new cultural center in a 13th-century monastery, a location he called "emblematic" for his remarks.
"Amid the great cultural upheaval resulting from migrations of peoples and the emerging new political configurations, the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived," he said.
He continued: "It is through the search for God that the secular sciences take on their importance."
His message sought to counter a deep vein of anti-clericalism in France, which has long drawn sharp distinctions between issues of faith and matters of temporal power.
"At this moment in history, when cultures continue to cross paths more frequently, I am firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance of secularism is now necessary," the pope said earlier at a ceremony with President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Élysée Palace.
But, in contrast with history's long chronicles of confrontation between the poles of divine and earthly power, the pope proposed a "distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the state toward them."
The pope distinguished between the state's legislative and social responsibilities and religion's role "for the formation of conscience" and the "creation of a basic ethical consensus in society."
The pope's four-day stay in France had been planned to mark the 150th anniversary of what the Vatican recognizes as the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to a 14-year-old peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, at Lourdes in 1858. But he broadened his journey at the invitation of Sarkozy, who spoke during a visit to Rome and the Vatican last year of a "positive secularism," saying religion "should not be considered a danger but an asset."
Roman Catholics make up about 60 percent of the French population of 65 million. But only 11 percent of people said they regarded religion as "very important," according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. France also has a growing Muslim minority of six million and smaller groups of other faiths.
In an interview in fluent French with reporters traveling with him on an Alitalia airplane from Rome, the pope was asked what his message was and replied that it "seemed evident to me that secularism in itself is not in contradiction with faith."
Religion and politics, he said, "should be open to each other."
The pope's visit to France came almost exactly two years after he stirred Muslim ire with a speech about Islam in Regensburg, in his native Germany, quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as saying that the Prophet Muhammad brought "things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Mosque, described that controversy as "ancient history," The Associated Press reported. "Through his speeches we know that he is a man of peace and dialogue," Boubakeur said.
Paris Muslims break Ramadan fast in soup kitchen
PARIS: It's sunset in the French capital, and hundreds of hungry people are poised to begin their meals at the sounding of a Muslim call to prayer.
Elsewhere in the world, the call rings forth from the minarets of mosques, but inside a tent in a gritty part of north Paris, it comes from a tinny radio speaker.
For the holy month of Ramadan, a soup kitchen has opened outside Cite Edmond Michelet, a tough public housing project in Paris' notorious 19th arrondissement. On the menu is a traditional dinner, starting with yoghurt and dates.
"A lot of people can't make ends meet nowadays, but they'd never tell you," said Ali Hasni, 45, a volunteer for the non-profit group "Une Chorba Pour Tous" (Soup for Everyone).
France is home to Europe's largest Muslim minority and debate about the integration of these 5 million people into an avowedly secular society is a recurring theme in a political arena where only a handful of Muslims hold government posts.
The tower blocks surrounding the tent are a common sight in the French urban landscape.
Often run down, the forbidding high-rises are home to many Muslim immigrants who came here to work in the construction boom of the 1960s and 70s, as well as immigrants from other faiths.
Many tower blocks were on the frontline in 2005 when mainly immigrant youths rioted across France after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted in a power sub-station after a run-in with police. Violence has flared sporadically in many such neighbourhoods since then.
The 19th arrondissement tops Paris' violent crime statistics, and unemployment is rife. But the soup kitchen's organisers are unfazed by its reputation.
"We adapt to wherever the mayor lets us set up shop, tough neighbourhood or not. But we'd really like a more permanent address since demand rises every year," said Farid Adjadj, a 34-year-old postal worker who's been a volunteer since 1994.
While fights between groups of Arab Muslims and young Orthodox Jews make the local papers in the 19th every few months, some residents say tensions are under control.
"This is one of the most populous parts of Paris, and we get along very well -- I just wish that were the same in the Middle East," said David Siksik, a Jewish volunteer.
The tent, known as "the big top", stretches across several basketball courts. Most of those shuffling in are men on their own. Many speak in Arabic as they settle in at long tables set with plastic tableware.
The main dish is a spicy stew that is eaten -- in dozens of variations -- across North Africa, the Middle East, Southern Europe, Turkey and India. Here it's called "chorba" -- a French transliteration of the Arabic word for soup.
Une Chorba Pour Tous, which mostly targets poor Muslims, has been operating since 1992. Its 150,000 euro (119,000) annual budget from private donations and public grants allows it to provide some 700 meals a day year-round.
But it is busiest at Ramadan when it serves an average of 2,000 meals per night. Charity is a religious duty in Islam.
"Charity is all the more important during Ramadan, and most of our volunteers are Muslim. But we don't exclude anyone who needs help or wants to help," said Fanny Ait-Kaci, 56, one of the group's founding members.
Food prices in France rose by 6.4 percent annually in July -- although overall consumer inflation eased 0.3 percent from the previous month -- and charities say many, especially the poorest, have been struggling to make ends meet.
Soup kitchen volunteers say most people who come to the tent are not homeless, but poor immigrant workers or solitary unemployed who, above all, miss living in a community.
"Many people come but wouldn't want their families to know they're here, especially since they might think they're living the high life in a rich country," Hasni said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has angered many immigrant groups by cracking down on illegal immigration, but he has also championed labour reform as a way to fight poverty.
Unemployment has fallen almost a full point since he took office last year, but has since levelled off at 7.6 percent.
France does not keep official statistics on religion or ethnic background, so it's hard to see who is most affected by joblessness.
In the meantime, the soup tent fills.
"I live in a hotel and can't cook, so I came here -- if it weren't for this association I wouldn't be able to break the fast properly," said Karim, 32, an unemployed waiter who declined to give his last name.
"There's no real Ramadan spirit in my neighbourhood in (more upscale) western Paris, but here, there's all we need," said Salima Hajjaj, a hairdresser who had come with her unemployed husband and three children.
LETTER FROM EUROPE
A pioneering photographer who chronicled and survived war reaches final rest
AJOU, France: It is a long and tangled way from Saigon or Beirut to this verdant corner of Normandy, a trajectory measured not just in distance but as well in the life of a woman laid to rest here the other day, the final halt on a journey from the breathless theaters of 20th-century warfare to the bathos of death by accident.
Françoise Demulder was 61 years old when she died, not in the battles whose imagery she recorded as a war photographer, but of a heart attack following what her friends called a medical error in a cancer treatment that left her paralyzed in her final years.
With a wellspring of parting sorrow, an assembly of photographers, writers and others who knew her traveled here to fete her in a manner that seemed to weave her memory into a longer time-scale than news is heir to.
The funeral, in a hamlet among the apple groves and chalk streams of the Eure region, was the kind of occasion that conjured sentiment from souls the outside world often condemns as callous: the chroniclers of the events that define our times, so often accused of being no more than war junkies, a gilded elite feeding on the suffering of their subjects - the civilians caught in cross-fire, the blank-eyed soldiers turned to husks by their merciless calling.
True, there may be some who find their fix in the staccato rattle of gunfire, the boom and whistle of artillery, the abandon of the fallen, left on the battlefield like so many discarded dolls. But none of the practitioners of Demulder's craft or art achieved their purpose without a special courage, and their work formed insights that might otherwise have escape public attention.
Demulder was associated especially with one image - made in 1976 and showing a Palestinian woman, a white scarf on her head, the palms of her hands upturned, pleading with a masked Phalangist gunman in Lebanon. The photograph won her the World Press Photo of the Year Award, the first time it had been presented to a woman.
The image was a striking tableau that contained all the elements of Lebanon's serial wars - an anonymous desperado with an outdated carbine, seizing impunity through the exclusive possession of firearms; the supplicant mother; the flames and the fire and the fugitive civilians; the clear intimation of looming catastrophe.
It was an image that rewrote the world's perception of Lebanon's Christian fighters and, by association, of the Palestinians they sought to drive from Lebanon. "Afterwards, there were never again the good Christians and the wicked Palestinians," Demulder said. "The Phalangists never forgave me."
The image endeared her to Palestinians, including Yasser Arafat. And, in death, her sympathies were just as public: In the wood-vaulted church in the hamlet that houses the family tomb, under the representations of Jesus and Mary, her coffin was draped with red and black kaffiyeh headdresses, encircled by roses.
The photograph taken in 1976 was propped against the altar, too, and it said something else about the person who pressed a shutter at precisely that moment.
It was in black and white, shot on film. It took two weeks with a courier to ship the film out of Lebanon to France. It belonged in the days before warp-speed digital technology and the hunger for Internet "content" overtook airline schedules and shipping bags and human handling. History's first draft, that is, came with a measure of delay and reflection and was perhaps the more telling for that.
I knew Demulder only slightly in Beirut in the 1970s but the impression she made lingered more than I imagined. Many years later, in a novel, I wrote about a female photographer who, like Demulder, had once been a fashion model, who was tall, skinny and striking in appearance, and who captured the world's transgressions with a worn Leica and did not show fear. Her initials were F.D.
By the time of the Lebanese civil war, Demulder, known to her friends as Fifi, was already a veteran of Indochina. She had bypassed a photographer's conventional apprenticeship to go to Saigon with a companion and had been one of the few Western witnesses to its fall in 1975.
Even now, that template of the tyro journalist heading out to the war zones replicates itself, a triumphant virus in our midst, shrugging off the military controls of "embeds" and the inherent risks of conflict to do what the best of them have always done. For every critic denigrating "the press" or "the media" as venal , there are those who defy the labelings with their words and pictures, fighting a war against spin and official falsehood that is almost as corrosive as war on the ground.
When she won the award in 1976, the World Press Photo organizers reported on their Web site, Demulder said that "she hated war, but felt compelled to document how it's always the innocent who suffer, while the powerful get richer and richer."
In the 1970s, it was rare for women to make their way in the male-dominated world of war photographers. Along with other French photographers such as Christine Spengler, who attended the funeral here, and the late Catherine Leroy, Demulder was one of a handful of pioneers who broke a glass ceiling fissured by gunfire. She died, though, in straitened times, supported by friends and colleagues.
Funerals, of course, are times of unbridled, uncritical sentimentality, celebrations of selfish motives and contradictory impulses. Those who mourn secretly celebrate a brief triumph over their own mortality. They meet to re-form the bonds that held them in orbit around the deceased, to spread a seamless skein over the sharp edges of ambiguous memory: the dead are all heroes, leonine in valor and charming in repose, just as the grieving would like to be.
In this small village, among the mourners, there were many gray hairs, many long memories of times when war's adrenalin fueled private dramas and outlandish adventures among the select few, like Demulder, who congregated in the Hotel Royal in Phnom Penh or the Commodore in Beirut to live on the edge,
"The phrase larger-than-life is often used but doesn't fit very many people," Bernd Debusmann, a Reuters war correspondent and Beirut veteran told me in an e-mail from his home in Washington. "It did fit Françoise."
For Lehman employees, the collapse takes double toll
NEW YORK: In the past few days, employees of Lehman Brothers have wrung their hands as the value of their stock evaporated before their eyes. Now, many fear losing their jobs, too.
In scenes eerily reminiscent of the final days of Bear Stearns, the megawatt energy within Lehman Brothers has dimmed to a hum as employees focus on the fate of the company and what it might mean for them.
To make matters worse, pink slips for previously announced layoffs were being handed out this week.
"Everyone is walking around like they have just been Tasered," said one Lehman employee, who, like many interviewed for this article, declined to be identified because he was not authorized to talk publicly. "Everyone was always hoping we would pull through. Now, that is not really an option."
On Lehman's third- and fourth-floor trading floors overlooking Broadway's lights in Manhattan, traders continued working at their terminals, or at least were giving the appearance of doing so. At the same time, many polished their résumés and contacted recruiters.
If Lehman is sold - as now appears likely - the buyer will fire many of them.
And they know that tens of thousands of other Wall Streeters laid off in the tsunami sweeping the financial industry - including many recently let go from Bear Stearns - are already chasing after too few jobs.
Wall Street is used to ups and downs, but this latest round of cuts brought about by the credit crisis is turning out to be one of the worst in recent memory - a fate compounded by a shrinking economy. As of June, many of the more than 83,000 employees dismissed from banks and brokerage firms worldwide have come from firms based in the New York area.
Everyone at Lehman knows what happened at Bear Stearns: Star employees did not have a hard time finding work when Bear was sold in a fire sale earlier this year, but JPMorgan initially kept only about 6,500 of 13,500 employees. Many are still looking for work.
As at Bear Stearns, many at Lehman have taken a hit from a plummeting stock price. From an all-time high of $86.18 a share in early 2007, the stock has plunged, closing at $4.22 on Thursday.
In an arrangement that is typical of Wall Street, Lehman employees have gotten much of their pay in stock and stock options in recent years.
That figure could range from 10 percent to 60 percent in Lehman stock, according to a person close to the company.
"Over the past decade, an increasing amount of the compensation had been given in stock and stock options," said Robert Willens, a tax expert who worked at Lehman from 1987 to this year. "Employees were paid in restricted stock that took several years to vest. Stock was granted at the current price."
As recently as last week, Lehman's shares were selling for $16 each, and many Lehman employees were still betting that their chairman and chief executive, Richard Fuld Jr., would figure out a way to salvage the bank - and their future - a hope he reinforced Wednesday with assurances to Wall Street that the company could remain standing alone.
On Thursday, those hopes ran dry as the share price plunged so low and so fast that potential buyers came out of the woodwork to see if they could snap up the 158-year-old institution for a bargain-basement price.
As employees left the company's Seventh Avenue headquarters Thursday, a Lehman trader said people were trying to keep a stoic face. "They are not showing anything," he said.
As widely respected and liked as Fuld has been at the company, now that the cold prospect of losing a life's savings in Lehman stock has become more of a reality, many employees have grown resentful.
"We feel like we have been controlled by events and haven't controlled them," said one rank-and-file employee. "And it has just been the most punitive market. Is there frustration with the management team? Of course."
Another employee who left Lehman earlier this year lamented that he had put enough faith in the company to retain shares - a decision he is paying for. "My children's education fund is wiped out," said this person.
He continued, with a reference to Fuld: "I'm not a millionaire, like a lot of these guys. Of course, this is on Dick's hands. It all happened on his watch."
The investment bank said that Fuld was not available for comment.
A number of Lehman employees said the widespread support at the company for Fuld was not as strong as it had been, largely because his strategy to save Lehman, including the partial sale of Neuberger Berman, the asset management division of Lehman, would not be enough.
A Lehman escapee sails above the firm's woes
"I can tell you the view from here is much better than from Wall Street," said the Caldera's owner, Nicholas Lazares, 57, who retired this year from his position as a managing director of Lehman Brothers Holdings and started a company in Milton, Massachusetts, that specializes in purchasing distressed financial institutions. With family, friends and four crew members, he then boarded his pilot house cutter for a five-week cruise of the Greek islands and the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.
"Caldera is named after the volcanic explosion that Plato figured sank the lost continent of Atlantis," Lazares said with an uneasy laugh as lunch was served. "But I've never done my best business by making house calls on investment banks. I do it through sailing. It's an attractive venue."
"There's a dislocation in the banking market," Lazares said before serving as host to a sunset huddle with Tsoukalas. "Greed trumped everything at Lehman and I left in the nick of time. They were willing to make a loan to an orangutan. My plan now is to begin in California and start acquiring some of these distressed banks."
A spokesman for the bank, who declined to be identified, said, "Lehman wishes all former employees the best of luck in any future endeavors."
Bomb attack kills dozens in city north of Baghdad
BAGHDAD: A car bomb ripped through a crowded commercial district in a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 32 people and wounding 43, Iraqi officials said.
The explosion apparently was aimed at a police station but it also severely damaged a nearby medical clinic in a crowded area in Dujail, according to the police.
The blast was the latest in a series of attacks in areas north of Baghdad, where violence has been slower to decline than elsewhere in the country.
Earlier Friday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a Shiite mosque farther north, in Sinjar, as worshipers left prayers at midday, killing 2 civilians and wounding 15, Colonel Awad Kahlil of the Iraqi police said. Sinjar is near Mosul, which is the target of an ongoing U.S.-Iraqi operation against Sunni insurgents.
In political developments, Shiite followers of the cleric Moktada al-Sadr demonstrated in Baghdad and in the southern city of Kufa against plans for a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that will determine the status of the U.S. military in Iraq after the current UN mandate expires at the end of the year.
Generous loan for Georgia displays Asian dissatisfaction with Russia
HONG KONG: The executive board of the Asian Development Bank, representing countries from Japan and China to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, unanimously approved a $40 million loan to Georgia at the lowest possible interest rate Friday, the latest sign of Asian dissatisfaction with Russian military action there.
Juan Miranda, director general of the bank's Central and West Asia Department, said Friday that the loan had been scheduled for board consideration before Russian troops moved into Georgia a month ago. But the Russian military action strengthened support at the bank for helping Georgia, he said.
The 32-year loan carries an interest rate of just 1 percent for the first eight years and 1.5 percent for the remainder of the loan, making it a soft loan on preferential terms.
The loan was so popular with the 12-member board that if the loan had not already been on the most generous terms available from the bank, "we would have softened it," Miranda said.
The bank is also studying the possibility of making an emergency loan to Georgia to help it cope with budget problems after the brief war with Russia. "The month of August was not a very good month for tax collection," in Georgia, Miranda said.
In first interview, Palin says 'I'm ready'
For the past two weeks, Democrats and even some Republicans have asked: Does Sarah Palin have enough experience to hold the second-highest office in the United States, or the presidency if the need arises?
"I'm ready," Palin answered without any hesitation in an interview with ABC News on Thursday, saying that she had accepted John McCain's offer to run as his vice-presidential nominee without hesitation or doubt.
"I answered him yes, because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink," Palin told her interviewer, Charles Gibson. "You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war."
It was perhaps the most confident answer she supplied in a sometimes tense and generally probing interview. It was her first session with a major news organization since she joined the Republican ticket two weeks ago.
At times visibly nervous, at others appearing to hew so closely to prepared answers that she used the same phrases repeatedly, Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine. Palin did not seem to know what Gibson was talking about. Gibson, sounding like an impatient teacher, told her that it meant making war as "anticipatory self-defense."
At a separate event on Thursday, a deployment ceremony for her son Track and thousands of other soldiers heading to Iraq from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Palin told them they would be fighting "the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans." The comments harked back to debunked connections the Bush administration once made between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. The interview took place on the seventh anniversary of the attacks.
In choosing Gibson, the campaign was going with a journalist known for having a mild manner but the gravitas to be taken seriously. But the interview was hardly gentle, as Gibson pressed Palin for direct answers to some of the complicated foreign policy and national security issues facing the next administration.
Palin said the United States could not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. As Americans, she said, "we do not have to stand for that." She advocated a new round of sanctions.
But Gibson noted that threats of new sanctions had failed to stem Iran's nuclear program and asked Palin whether she would back Israel if it were to seek to eliminate Iran's facilities militarily.
"We are friends with Israel," Palin said, "and I don't think that we should second-guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security." When pressed, she said twice more that she would not "second guess" Israel.
Palin was clearly caught off guard when Gibson asked, "Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?" Seeking direction, and perhaps time to formulate answer, Palin said, "In what respect, Charlie?"
Initially unwilling to define the doctrine, Gibson said, "What do you interpret it to be?"
Palin asked, "His world view?"
Gibson said, "No, the Bush Doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war."
Palin responded, "I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation."
Gibson, finally offering a definition, still struggled for a direct answer, asking twice more if she agreed with the doctrine before Palin answered, "If there is a legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country."
The Bush Doctrine, however, goes beyond the traditional policy of defending against an "imminent" threat, adopting instead a policy of making war "even if uncertainty remains."
Gibson expressed exasperation with Palin toward the end, complaining that she had buried him in "a blizzard of words" as he sought a direct response to his question of whether the United States had the right to attack terrorists in remote areas of Pakistan without the Pakistani government's approval.
McCain has criticized Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, for saying that he would consider such strikes, calling such a move naïve and asking, "Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan?"
Palin answered Gibson with, "We're going to work with these countries."
Becoming impatient during a prolonged exchange, Gibson finally asked, "Is that a yes?" to which Palin responded, "I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying America and our allies."
Palin was particularly forceful in discussing Russia, asserting that its incursion into Georgia earlier this summer was "unprovoked" despite Georgia's attack on South Ossetia. But, pronouncing the name of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, with perfect pitch, she did not directly answer a question that has bedeviled experts on Eastern European affairs: what the United States can or should do to "restore Georgian sovereignty" over its separatist regions.
"We've got to keep an eye on Russia," she said, then repeated the phrase.
She expressed full support for the induction of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, a position shared by McCain, Obama and his running mate, Joseph Biden Jr.
The Forever War
By Dexter Filkins
Illustrated. 368 pages.
$25. Alfred A. Knopf.
Robert Stone is the author of the novel "Dog Soldiers," set during the Vietnam War. His most recent book is "Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties."
Every war has its own culture. Obviously, part of a war's cultural milieu reflects contemporary modes in the countries involved. However, historians like Paul Fussell and Modris Eksteins have demonstrated how engagement in an ongoing military struggle affects the collective consciousness and self-regard of a nation, creating a transactional process between the front lines and the civilian street. Somebody seems to be winning, someone else losing, but often the important consequences of a wartime situation are not the direct results of decisions in the theater of operations. Many people die; families, marriages and cities are destroyed.
Things that seem manifest at the time leave people within the next half-century wondering about the delusions and miscalculations that set hordes of men and machines into action, that send so many ardent young people to the grave, along with innocent civilian populations. How necessary it seemed to many to defend what was claimed to be "democracy" in Asia against "totalitarianism." So American tourists in backcountry Vietnam happen on rusting tanks and mortars and buy Zippo lighters with forged inscriptions in the Ho Chi Minh City war museum in a town where socialism is a joke, and which plenty of people don't even call Ho Chi Minh City.
Tendencies and elements in certain societies that seemed marginal before a war turn out to be much more significant. Sometimes causes, strategies and motivations fervently embraced in the heat of battle are seen to be entirely different from what they were declared to be, or even believed to be, by the individuals responsible for them.
The cultural perspective of a war is changed in perception by the passage of time and generations. As Fussell observes in "The Great War and Modern Memory," military slang and usages pass into currency in the vernacular of the home front. Even the formal diction is militarized, literary tropes and all. The war's frustrations and dislocations experienced on the civilian street reveal themselves in the daily speech of men and women on the line. Ironizing was muted, even covert, in the Great War, less so in the Second, rampant during Vietnam as progressively the people of the century lost their innocence, learned more about the realities, believed and did less and less of what they were told. Bitter jokes appeared, flourished, were finally drained of meaning. Today if you want to evoke a wartime ambience from the last hundred years, you turn to the popular music and songs of the time. The cadences, literally, the rhythms of life and death in combat, the fears and concerns in the world at home are reflected so intensely in those songs.
One of the oldest constant contributing elements of a conflict's cultural ambience has been the interpretive prose of correspondents. During World War II, Ernie Pyle seemed to convey the perspective of "the little guy," the "common man" in arms, a character much idealized in that struggle of basically nonprofessional soldiers against the hyper-conditioned heroes of two continents. In Vietnam, remembering the Ernie Pyles of the Great Patriotic War, and the loyally supportive reticence of reporters who witnessed the disastrous events of Korea, the upper echelons of the U.S. military expected to receive correspondents who would be aboard and with the program.
But by the 1960s America was changing and with it the values of college-trained journalists. The brass encountered a new generation of newspapermen touched by what some among the educated youth saw as a kind of reformed consciousness taking hold on American campuses. The journalist had become a more glamorous figure, driven by idealism, legitimized personal ambition and a new level of skepticism toward the official story. Youthful journalists no longer deferred to military authority.
These journalists often saw themselves as serving a higher truth than patriotism but also as performing a greater service to the public and the country than any number of generals.
Reporters had been shocked to discover that one important weapon of military public relations is the lie. Some officers are good at it, others aren't. In the climate of the '60s dedicated journalists found collaborators within the military moved by the same impulses and ready to provide information that fueled their criticism.
But at the outset, the American command, bless its homicidal innocence, believed it had nothing to hide. Then, after two years of covering the most savage fighting of the war, Michael Herr assembled his reportage for Esquire in the book "Dispatches," published in 1977. "Dispatches" was what had come to be called "new journalism," but it transcended that form to become both a profound personal journal and the most brilliant exposition of the cultural dimension of an American war ever compiled. "Dispatches" set a high standard for reporters, but it set them free.
Now, in the tradition of "Dispatches," with the publication of Dexter Filkins's stunning book, "The Forever War," it seems the journals of the brave correspondents assigned to the Middle East will take their place as the pre-eminent record of America's late-imperial adventures, the heart of these heartless exercises in disaster, maybe some consolation to those maimed and bereaved in them.
It is not facetious to speak of work like that of Filkins as defining the "culture" of a war. The contrast of his eloquence and humanity with the shameless snake-oil salesmanship employed by the U.S. government to get the thing started serves us well. You might call the work of enlightening and guiding a deliberately misguided public during its time of need a cultural necessity. The work Filkins accomplishes in "The Forever War" is one of the most effective antitoxins that the writing profession has produced to counter the administration's fascinating contemporary public relations tactic.
The political leadership's method has been the dissemination of facts reversed 180 degrees toward the quadrant of lies, hitherto a magic bullet in their never-ending crusade to accomplish everything from stealing elections to starting ideological wars. Filkins uses the truth as observed firsthand to detail an arid, hopeless policy in an unpromising part of the world. His writing is one of the scant good things to come out of the war.
The old adage holds that every army fights the previous war, learning nothing and forgetting nothing, as someone said of the restored Bourbon dynasty in France. The U.S. military did learn one strategy for preventing the public relations disasters of Vietnam, and this was the embedding of correspondents with military units engaged. Michael Herr in Vietnam could not have been more alienated from the U.S. government's PR handouts, but his sharing the fortunes of American troops made his compassion for them available to thoughtful Americans. It's hard to imagine that Donald Rumsfeld's politically intimidated brass had "Dispatches" in mind when they decided to embed correspondents with American units, but it started out as an effective policy.
Filkins opens "The Forever War" with a prologue describing the attack on the Sunni fortress of Falluja by the First Battalion, Eighth Marines. Embedded with Bravo Company, Filkins shares the deadly risks of street fighting in a hostile city in which the company, commanded by an outstanding officer, takes its objective and also a harrowing number of casualties. The description makes us understand quite vividly how we didn't want to be there and also makes ever so comprehensible the decision by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to give our last excursion into Asia a pass.
Filkins had been covering the Muslim world for years before the invasion of Iraq, and his book proper opens with a scene beyond the grimmest fiction, a display of Shariah religious justice staged in a soccer stadium in Kabul during the late '90s. Miscreants are variously mutilated and killed before a traumatized audience that includes a hysterical crowd of starveling war orphans whose brutalized, maimed futures in an endlessly war-ravaged country can be imagined.
For the reviewer - perhaps for the selfish reason that it takes place closer to home - the most dreadfully memorable witness that Filkins bears takes place not half a world away but in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11. Filkins is making his way past Battery Park. "My eyes went to a gray-green thing spread across the puddles and rocks. Elongated, unrolled, sitting there, unnoticed. An intestine. It kind of jumped out at me, presented itself. It's amazing how the eyes do that, go right to the human flesh, spot it amid the heaviest camouflage of rubble and dirt and glass." In Tel Aviv, Filkins recalls, he watched Orthodox Jewish volunteers seeking out the same sort of item in the aftermath of a suicide bomb.
Filkins takes shelter in the Brooks Brothers store in One Liberty Plaza. "Later that night," he writes, "I was awoken many times, usually by the police. Once when I came to, a group of police officers were trying on cashmere topcoats and turning as they looked in the mirror. There was lots of laughter. 'Nice,' one of them said, looking at his reflection, big smile on his face. 'Look at that."'
Filkins, one of The New York Times's most talented reporters, employs a fine journalistic restraint, by which I mean he does not force irony or paradox but leaves that process to the reader. Nor does he speculate on what he does not see. These are worthy attributes, and whether their roots are in journalistic discipline or not they serve this unforgettable narrative superbly.
Someone, Chesterton it may have been, identified the sense of paradox with spirituality. Though Filkins does not rejoice in paradoxes, he never seems to miss one either, and the result is a haunting spiritual witness that will make this volume a part of this awful war's history. He entitles his section on Manhattan "Third World," and he leaves us feeling that the history he has set down here will not necessarily feature in our distant cultural recollections but may rather be history - the thing itself - come for us at last.
12 killed in U.S. attack on compound in Pakistan village
ISLAMABAD: As the U.S. campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal areas seemed to intensify Friday, two missiles fired from remotely piloted U.S. aircraft killed 12 people Friday in an attack on a village compound in North Waziristan, according to a local journalist and to television reports.
At the same time, fighting between Pakistani security forces and militants elsewhere in the wild lands bordering Afghanistan killed 32 militants and 2 soldiers, The Associated Press reported, citing a Pakistani Army spokesman, Major Murad Khan.
The missile strike was said to have taken place near Miran Shah, the main settlement in North Waziristan, before first light Friday and was aimed at the home of a local tribesman, Yousaf Khan Wazir, among the dead, a local journalist said on condition of anonymity.
A Pakistani intelligence official said most of the dead in the attack were "Punjabi Taliban," meaning militants from the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The target was said to be a militant training camp, the official said, asking not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The missiles were fired at the village Tole Khel, just east of Miran Shah, and the dead included women and children, according to residents speaking to Pakistani reporters. There was no immediate word on the reported attack from the U.S. or Pakistani military authorities.
Pakistan to protest new U.S. missile strike
ISLAMABAD: Missiles fired by a U.S. drone aircraft killed 14 people in northwest Pakistan on Friday, security officials said, in a strike against suspected militants that drew condemnation from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
A U.S. commando operation inside Pakistan last week, followed by several attacks from drones, has sent tensions soaring between Islamabad and Washington over how to tackle the Taliban and al Qaeda on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.
Gilani said Pakistan would raise the issue with the United States at diplomatic level.
"We will try to convince the United States ... to respect (the) sovereignty of Pakistan -- and God willing, we will convince," he told reporters.
Security officials said about 12 people were wounded in the attack near the town of Miranshah in North Waziristan. Residents said the pilotless aircraft fired two missiles at a former government school where militants and their families were living.
"We confirm a missile attack at around 5.30 in the morning (12:30 a.m. British time) ... We have informed the government," said military spokesman Major Murad Khan.
The military, apparently reluctant to highlight infringements of sovereignty, has rarely confirmed such attacks.
THE TV WATCH
Showing a confidence, in prepared answers
"I got lost in a blizzard of words there," Charles Gibson of ABC said to Governor Sarah Palin, with a trace of irritation in his voice. "Is that a yes?"
Palin didn't look rattled or lose her cool in her first interview with Gibson, the network anchor, on Thursday night, but sailed through with general answers, sticking to talking points that flowed out quickly and spiritedly — but a little too much by rote to satisfy her interviewer that she was giving his questions serious consideration. When Palin seemed not to know exactly what the Bush Doctrine is, Gibson made a point of explaining exactly what it means — pre-emptive self-defense — and demanded that she tell him whether she agreed with it.
ABC News delivered the first glimpse of Palin without a script or a cheering audience, and it was a strained and illuminating conversation. Palin, who kept inserting Gibson's nickname, "Charlie," into her answers, as if to convey an old hand's conviviality, tried to project self-confidence, poise and even expertise: She let Gibson know that she had personally reassured the Georgian prime minister and correctly pronounced his last name, Saakashvili. At times, her voice hesitated, and she looked like a student trying to bend prepared answers to fit unexpected questions.
Gibson, who sat back in his chair and wriggled his foot impatiently, had the skeptical, annoyed tone of a university president who agrees to interview the daughter of a trustee, but doesn't believe she merits admission.
When he asked her, slowly and solemnly to "look the country in the eye" and say whether she truly felt qualified to be vice president and possibly commander in chief, Gibson seemed to expect Palin to express at least a moment of humility and self-doubt. Palin said she had no doubts whatsoever when asked to be Senator John McCain's running mate. ("I answered him yes because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink. You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink.") Gibson suggested that her brash, unwavering confidence sounded like "hubris."
That first portion of ABC's three-part interview, broadcast on "World News," was meaty, touching on Israel, Iraq and Russia and aspects of her Christian faith, but it is unlikely to end the debate about her qualifications or the Republican complaints about news media bias and sexism. Mostly, it supplied all sides with lots of fresh material.
It was the first real test of Palin's ability to handle questions about foreign and domestic policy, but almost as much of a challenge for Gibson. He was chosen by the McCain campaign for the first interview partly because he is seen as courteous, mild-mannered and unlikely to play "gotcha" with such an important "get."
His was a tough road to navigate. If Gibson were too soft, Democrats would accuse him of being afraid of the Republican news-media-bashing machine, which has been scouring the press and Senator Barack Obama's speeches for any hint of sexism or elitism. If his questions were too tough, he would very likely stir up charges of sexism or elitism. His questions were tough but he was careful in the first part of the interview not to ask anything too frivolous (viewers of "World News" didn't hear questions about lipstick, pigs or juggling family and career). But his attitude was at times supercilious: He asked if a nuclear Iran posed an "existential threat" to Israel, as if it were the land of Sartre, not Sabras.
It was a tough first interview for Palin, but it was also a cautionary dress-rehearsal for Obama's running mate, Senator Joseph Biden Jr., in his debate with Palin next month: On television, tone matters as much as content.
Paul Krugman: A blizzard of lies on the right
Did you hear about how Barack Obama wants to have sex education in kindergarten, and called Sarah Palin a pig? Did you hear about how Palin told Congress, "Thanks, but no thanks" when it wanted to buy Alaska a Bridge to Nowhere?
These stories have two things in common: They're all claims recently made by the McCain campaign - and they're all out-and-out lies.
Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 - my first year at The New York Times - trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign's claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.
But I can't think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign's lies in 2000 were artful - you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.
Take the case of the Bridge to Nowhere, which supposedly gives Palin credentials as a reformer. When campaigning for governor, Palin didn't say "no thanks" - she was all for the bridge, even though it had already become a national scandal, insisting that she would "not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative."
Oh, and when she finally did decide to cancel the project, she didn't righteously reject a handout from Washington: She accepted the handout, but spent it on something else. You see, long before she decided to cancel the bridge, Congress had told Alaska that it could keep the federal money originally earmarked for that project and use it elsewhere.
So the whole story of Palin's alleged heroic stand against wasteful spending is fiction.
Or take the story of Obama's alleged advocacy of kindergarten sex-ed. In reality, he supported legislation calling for "age and developmentally appropriate education." In the case of young children, that would have meant guidance to help them avoid sexual predators.
And then there's the claim that Obama's use of the ordinary metaphor "putting lipstick on a pig" was a sexist smear, and on and on.
Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff?
They're probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being "balanced" at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn't say that he's wrong, it reports that "some Democrats say" that he's wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty. They're probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being "McCain campaign lies," it becomes "Obama on defensive in face of attacks."
Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign's lies? I mean, politics ain't beanbag, and all that.
One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues - on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.
But there's another answer, which may be even more important: How a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern.
I'm not talking about the theory - often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting - that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team's ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling proof to the contrary.
I'm talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. Thus, the deceptive and dishonest 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign provided an all-too-revealing preview of things to come. In fact, my early suspicion that we were being misled about the threat from Iraq came from the way the political tactics being used to sell the war resembled the tactics that had earlier been used to sell the Bush tax cuts.
And now the team that hopes to form the next administration is running a campaign that makes Bush-Cheney 2000 look like something out of a civics class. What does that say about how that team would run the country?
What it says, I'd argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.
Would-be protesters find the Olympics failed to expand free speech in Beijing
BEIJING: Eleven people came here to the capital on Monday, bent on protesting property losses. They were experienced, having been to Beijing before to petition the central government. They were familiar, all coming from the same town and having been locked up in the same jails. They were crafty, flying up on two planes from a third city, rather than taking the train from their own, and lying low for two days before trying anything.
But they never had a chance.
Some of the group left their hide-out, an apartment in a northern neighborhood, on Wednesday to carry out a protest outside the main Olympic stadium, called the Bird's Nest. But there was no protest, and they have not been heard from. Later, another protester, Huang Liuhong, stepped outside with her supporters, only to find some 50 police officers from her hometown. They told her they had been watching her and the others ever since they arrived.
That night, Huang, 36, speaking by cellphone, said that she and her older sister were being driven back south to their city, Liuzhou, and that a policewoman had just stripped them naked so they would not try to run away.
"We're surrounded by police, and there are more coming to meet us," she said
The case of Huang and the other disgruntled residents of Liuzhou, who came here to hold demonstrations over four cases of property seizure or destruction, shows that when it comes to freedom of protest, the Olympics changed little in the Chinese capital. The Chinese government still requires citizens to register to protest, and it has yet to grant any permits for people to hold lawful protests in three designated parks in Beijing.Before the Olympics, the central government ordered local governments to keep protesters or troublemakers from coming to Beijing, and the vigilance of the police officers from Liuzhou shows that that order still stands.
The Paralympics run through Wednesday, and perhaps some restrictions will ease afterward. But citizens like Huang remain skeptical that there has been any real increase in freedom of speech, despite the hopes of the International Olympic Committee that awarding the Games to China would encourage the government to improve its free speech and human rights record."Our government is one of all cheaters," Huang said in an interview in an apartment in northern Beijing hours before being detained. "This society isn't ruled by law, but by people's whims."
Poverty pushes Chinese into risky mining jobs
TASHAN, China: Why anyone would choose to work in China's often deadly mining industry appears to be a mystery, until you talk to people like Lu Renyan. For him, the motivating factor is poverty.
Lu lives and works in the gritty northern province of Shanxi, just a few hundred meters from the site of a mudslide Wednesday caused by the collapse of a heap of mining refuse. The death toll, last reported at 151, was expected to rise.
The China Daily newspaper quoted the country's work safety chief, Wang Jun, on Thursday as saying there was little hope for hundreds of people who were feared buried under the mud. The report also cited witnesses as saying the village that had been buried was home to about 1,000 people.
"I can earn 1,000 yuan, 3,000 yuan or up to 5,000 yuan a month working here," Lu said, pointing at the entrance to an iron ore mine.
Those monthly wages are the equivalent of $150 to $730 - not a bad sum in a county where the annual net income in rural areas was only a little more than 4,000 yuan last year.
"The work is hard, but it's worth it," added Lu, who is from Chongqing, hundreds of kilometers away.
Stagnating rural incomes have fueled a massive exodus from the countryside to wealthy coastal regions in recent years, as poorly educated farmers flocked to work on building sites in major cities.
But others have gone to work in the coal, iron ore and other mines that dot the country, which provide the raw materials needed to feed China's economic boom. They are undaunted by the almost constant reports of disasters at these sites.
"This is a lot safer than working in a coal mine," Pang Wenxu, an iron ore miner, said. "There are no gas explosions there. I'm not worried, despite this accident."
This year, officials announced plans to crack down on reckless mining in this polluted region, which is scattered with small mines and smelters. Yet local governments often lack the power or the will to police companies that provide jobs and revenue to their economies.
Beijing has now ordered urgent checks on mines throughout the country to stem a recent surge in accidents, The People's Daily newspaper reported Thursday. The Chinese president and prime minister have also promised legal action against those found responsible for the Tashan disaster, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The mines in China are the most dangerous in the world, killing nearly 3,800 people last year, as strong demand for raw materials has pushed many managers to cut corners on safety. The demand for iron ore has encouraged miners to dig up even low-grade ore, often with little regard for safety or the environment.
Soaring commodity prices have drawn workers, and make it worthwhile for unscrupulous people to take the risk of continuing to operate mines that the government has refused to license.
Many of the dead at Tashan were migrant workers whose identities might never be known, since they worked in a shady industry not known for keeping accurate records of workers or their next of kin.
Zhang Hexiang, who is from Sichuan Province and who witnessed the disaster, said he saw several of friends being swept away by the wall of thick mud, which snapped electricity poles and mangled cars. Despite this, he said, he would probably stay in mining.
"I can earn much more here than being on a farm," he said. "It's dangerous, but you know the risks. Eighty yuan a day is not bad."
Death toll rises from mud flow in Chinese village
HONG KONG: Three days after the rain-soaked reservoir of an unlicensed mine in central China collapsed, unleashing a cascade of iron-ore waste and mud on a village, the death toll has risen to 151.
The China Daily newspaper warned that several hundred more people might be missing under the dense sludge, but the official Xinhua news agency was more cautious and said that the number of missing could not yet be determined.
The Chinese government assembled 1,550 rescuers equipped with 160 bulldozers, excavators and other machines to comb through the sludge for survivors.
The unlicensed mine is in Xiangfen County, in Shanxi Province. After torrential rains, the retaining wall of the holding pond, on a hillside, collapsed around 8 a.m. on Monday, the news report said, sending a wall of sludge and mud hurtling down into the village of Yunhe. China Daily said the entire village was inundated, along with an outdoor market crowded with customers, news agencies reported.
Workers at the mine were mostly farmers from the area and migrants, and estimates ranged widely on how many people might have been swept under the sea of sludge.
Lucian Pye, 86, political scientist who studied Asia, dies
Lucian Pye, a political scientist who marshaled a piercing intellect, psychoanalytic insights and plain intuition to take startling new perspectives on area studies, particularly concerning China and other Asian nations, died Sept. 5 in Boston. He was 86.
The immediate cause was pneumonia, said his daughter Virginia Pye, who added that his health had deteriorated after a fall in July.
As a Sinologist, Pye advised the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council and was considered a peer of the great China experts of his generation. Pye was a leader of the National Committee on United States-China Relations when it laid the groundwork for the U.S. table tennis team to visit China in 1971, and he later served as acting chairman.
He advised Democratic presidential candidates, including John F. Kennedy, urging a muscular foreign policy.
But Pye was first and foremost an intellectual who wrote or edited 25 books and led his profession as president of the American Political Science Association in 1988-89. He was among the pioneers in the 1950s and '60s in developing theories about how poor nations develop politically. In contrast to political scientists who seek universal, overarching explanations, he delved into the vagaries of cultures, countries and peoples in search of more individualized interpretations.
"He redirected political science away from rational models of political behavior and toward things that are harder to measure and understand," said Richard Samuels, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Pye taught for 35 years.
So novel were Pye's intellectual forays that opposite reactions to them were not unusual. This was particularly true of "Asian Power and Politics: The Cultural Dimensions of Authority," which he wrote with his wife, Mary, and published in 1985. The book found commonalities - or, critics railed, flagrant stereotypes - in Asia's disparate political cultures.
Howard Wriggins, writing in Political Science Quarterly, asked, "Who but Lucian Pye would be bold enough" to undertake such a mission?
Pye was born in Fenzhou, in Shanxi Province in northwestern China, to Congregational missionaries. He became bilingual, although he lost much of his Chinese when he moved to Oberlin, Ohio, for his primary education, only to relearn it later. During World War II, he served as an intelligence officer in Asia for the U.S. Marine Corps.
His doctoral dissertation at Yale University was on the attitudes underlying the warlord system of politics in China in the 1920s.
Along with other social scientists trying to find better explanations for change than those offered by Marxism, he helped found the Committee on Comparative Politics of the Social Science Research Council. He used his research in Malaysia to suggest that communism's appeal there came from insecurity over the pace of change.
His next project was Burma, now Myanmar, where he concluded that psychology was more important than economics in explaining development. In 1976, he extended this psychological approach to Mao Zedong, imagined in his crib, in a biography that argued that Mao became a rebel to recapture a sense of "infantile omnipotence."
Pye set up a scholarly center in Hong Kong and took leadership roles at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society and the Asia Foundation. Early in his career, he worked with other American political scientists to free their field of academic constraints they perceived in the McCarthy period of anti-Communist investigations.
Pye was an early proponent of the Vietnam War. As it ended in 1975 with the U.S. retreat, he was asked by about plans to airlift children from South Vietnam. He spoke of both hawks and doves feeling profound guilt.
"Who is the orphan?" Pye asked. "The children, or Vietnam?"
Child soldiers and the China factor
Jo Becker is the Children's Rights Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch and co-author of "Sold to be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma."
UNITED NATIONS, New York:
Myin Win was 11 years old when he was first recruited into Burma's national army. He was picked up by soldiers while selling vegetables at a railway station and sent to a military training camp. He weighed only 70 pounds, or about 32 kilograms, and said that the guns were so heavy he could hardly lift them.
He was able to escape, but was recruited a second time at the age of 14. This time he tried to negotiate. "I'll give you money," he said to the lance corporal. The recruiter replied, "I don't want your money." Myin Win said, "I'll call my mother and she can vouch for me." The soldier told him, "I don't want to see your mother or father and I don't want money. I want you to join the army."
Myin Win was sent to training again and, while still only 14, deployed into ethnic minority areas where he was ordered to burn down houses and capture civilians. "We were ordered that if we see anyone, including women and children, then we must approach and catch them and take them to our officers for interrogation," he said. "If they try to run, shoot them."
Burma's military regime may have the largest number of child soldiers in the world. Thousands of children serve in Burma's national army, swept up in massive recruitment drives to offset high rates of desertion and a lack of willing volunteers. The United Nations Secretary General has identified the regime as one of the world's worst perpetrators of child recruitment, citing it in six separate reports to the UN Security Council since 2002.
Two years ago, the Security Council created a special working group specifically to address abuses against children in armed conflict. The group is empowered to recommend arms embargoes and other targeted sanctions against violators, like Burma, that repeatedly recruit and use child soldiers.
But in Burma's case, the Security Council has shamefully squandered its responsibility. After a formal review of Burma's violations, the working group's recent report fails even to acknowledge that Burma's army recruits children. Far from considering well-justified sanctions, the working group repeatedly welcomed the regime's "cooperation" with the UN.
The approach to Burma is in stark contrast to the Security Council working group's tough - and effective - approach to other perpetrators like Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Last year the Security Council threatened sanctions against the Tamil Tigers for the group's use of child soldiers during Sri Lanka's two-decade-long civil war, and gave a six-month deadline for action. It worked. Reports of child recruitment by the Tamil Tigers dropped from 1,090 in 2004 to 26 in the first six months of this year.
In other cases, the Security Council has also obtained results. In Ivory Coast, it pushed government and rebel forces to adopt action plans to end child recruitment; the practice has now been abandoned in that country. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it referred information on violations to sanctions committees and urged the arrest and prosecution of commanders responsible for child recruitment. Although some child recruitment continues in the country, an estimated 30,000 child soldiers have been released or demobilized since 2003.
So why is the Security Council giving Burma a free pass? In a word, China. A stalwart ally of Burma's military regime, China tried to prevent the Security Council from discussing Burma's record of violations against children. According to diplomats, China's representatives (often backed by Russia and Indonesia) have consistently rejected all efforts to pressure Burma to address its use of child soldiers - including proposals for a more detailed action plan on the issue from Burma's government, access by UN personnel to Burma's territory to verify Burma's claims that it has no child soldiers, or even a follow-up report on progress.
Despite all eyes being on China during the recent Olympic Games, this obstructionist behavior provides another sad illustration of China's failure to uphold basic human rights standards, including protections for some of the world's most vulnerable children.
One diplomat said, "China's position was that we must build a relationship of trust with Burma, and to do that, we must accept whatever they say." Including, apparently, the fiction that Burma has no child soldiers.
Without credible pressure from the Security Council, UN officials in Burma - already doing little to engage the military regime on its use of child soldiers - are unlikely to demand concrete action. And unfortunately for Myin Win and thousands like him, the regime has even less incentive to end the routine recruitment of children into its military ranks.
It's hard to decide whose actions are more shameful - Burma's exploitation of children as soldiers or the Security Council's failure to condemn the practice.
Investors skittish about further losses in the financial industry have pounced on the American International Group, the beleaguered insurance company that has reported some of the biggest losses in the spreading credit crisis.
With Lehman Brothers running out of options this week, investors fear that AIG will face billions in additional losses because it has effectively guaranteed complex financial instruments tied to home loans whose values have plummeted. If so, it too could need to raise capital, which Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Lehman have demonstrated can be a vexing problem in the current market environment.
The company's chief executive, Robert Willumstad, is expected to unveil a master plan Sept. 25 to turn the company around, but investors are increasingly impatient. Lehman also had promised to deliver a plan in a couple of weeks, but was forced to make an announcement this week in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to reassure investors.
South Korea cancels $1 billion debt sale as investors avoid risk
SEOUL: South Korea on Friday shelved a $1 billion sovereign debt sale as governments across Asia grapple with the prospect of borrowing at higher costs or waiting until investors become more willing to take on risk.
Malaysia, for example, decided against waiting and sold about 2 billion ringgit, or $579 million, in 20-year government bonds, but only after it agreed to pay investors a full percentage point more than it did last year.
The Philippines, one of the most active debt issuers in Asia, said last month that it would sell a $750 million bond this year and that the timing would depend on market conditions.
And as credit conditions worsened, the treasurer of the Philippines said this month that the country was unlikely to return to the foreign market this year, citing sufficient cash balances.
Indonesia also chose not to sell bonds at an auction this week, saying that investors, spooked by the global credit crisis and financing trouble at the U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, were demanding premiums that were too high.
Hedge fund glory days fading fast
Making millions — or even a few billion — by managing a hedge fund has been a running dream on Wall Street in recent years. But suddenly even the masters of this $2 trillion universe are falling on hard times, at least by their own gilded standards.
Hedge funds, those secretive investment vehicles for the rich and, increasingly, the not-so-rich, are supposed to make money whether markets go up or down. But many of them are being swept up in the turmoil in the financial world.
The funds' investment returns are sinking, and so are those big paydays for their managers, whose riches have helped redefine modern notions of wealth and helped drive up the price of everything from Picassos to Manhattan penthouses.
Several big funds have faltered in recent weeks, some of them spectacularly so. While many funds are still flying high, the average hedge fund has lost more than 4 percent this year, according to Hedge Fund Research, putting the industry on course for its worst year on record.
The dimming fortunes of the industry have implications far beyond the rarefied world of hedge funds. Over the last decade, the size of this industry grew fivefold, as public pension funds, corporate pension funds and university endowments poured billions of dollars into these vehicles, in hopes of market-beating returns.
A prolonged downturn might prompt some investors to rethink these investments or demand lower fees from managers, who typically collect annual management fees of 2 percent and then take a 20 percent cut of any profits. Trouble at hedge funds also might draw government scrutiny, given the amount of pension money sitting within these unregulated firms.
"Everyone is looking for a panacea, everyone is looking for a quick way to make money fast, and everyone is pinning their dreams on the backs of these hedge funds," said Dan McAllister, the treasurer and tax collector of San Diego County, whose pension fund lost money when a hedge fund called Amaranth collapsed two years ago. "But maybe it's time to be a little cautious, and it's time to look at things with a more discreet eye."
While big hedge funds have blown up in the past, and many small ones fail every year, the current problems are more far-reaching than in the past.
Fund after fund is warning investors that the markets have become increasingly difficult to predict. They are having a tougher time making money now that Wall Street banks like Lehman Brothers, which is in an all-out fight for survival, have reduced the amount of money they are willing to lend to the funds in order to safeguard themselves.
It is now 5 to 10 percent more expensive for hedge funds to borrow from banks than it was a year ago, and banks are increasingly hesitant to lend to hedge funds for long periods.
In recent weeks, several funds have closed, most notably a fund run by Ospraie Management. Rumors about troubled hedge funds like Atticus Capital have unsettled the broader markets.
"I think we're seeing what these hedge fund managers really, truly are," said Robert Discolo, head of hedge fund strategies for AIG Investments, an asset manager within the insurance giant AIG. "And some of them really can't make money in a difficult environment."
Already, hedge funds are planning for harder times ahead. Fund managers are planning to slash employee bonuses in December, according to study to be released this week by Glocap, a hedge fund recruiting firm.
"This is probably one of the worst years for performance of hedge funds — it's been a bloodbath," said Adam Zoia, chief executive of Glocap, which began tracking hedge fund compensation in 2001 and has never recorded a down year until now.
The worst hit are funds that bet on events like mergers, companies' stock prices, bonds and those that missed the turn in the price of oil. Only a few strategies are up, like macroeconomic funds and funds that short — or bet against — stocks, according to Hedge Fund Research.
Granted, hedge fund managers are still making a lot of money compared with average Americans. People who have worked at hedge funds for two to four years are expected to receive bonuses of $174,583, Glocap's study found. Employees with a few more years of experience are likely to receive $393,333.
Those figures are down 16 percent and 19 percent, respectively, from last year.
Things could get worse. Some recruiters are keeping watch lists of troubled hedge funds. Heidrick & Struggle, a recruiting firm, has 100 hedge funds on its watch list and expects 50 to 80 to fail in the coming months, said Tim Holt, the partner who oversees the firm's Wall Street recruiting.
Tribal lands become factory for Hindu foot soldiers
JALESPETA, India: Deep inside the thickly forested hills of eastern India, where ancient tribes live in huts of grass-and-mud cut off from modernity, a stealth electoral weapon is at work for India's Hindu nationalists.
It is a sprawling residential school founded by a Hindu proselytiser, where girls from animistic tribes learn Sanskrit prayers and Hindu philosophy in between gardening and cooking.
Across India's remote tribal belt, a zone of Christian missionary activity for decades, such tutelage is aimed at converting tribes to Hinduism and creating foot soldiers for Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, the political standard-bearer of India's Hindu nationalist groups.
"The BJP is performing well in tribal-belt because of the good work done by the Sangh Parivar," Jual Oram, BJP's vice-president and a tribal MP, told Reuters, referring to the Hindu revivalist movement set up partly to counter Christian missionaries.
As the party prepares for national elections due by May, the foot soldiers of Hinduism recruited in thousands of places such as the Kanya Ashram school for girls in Jalespeta will help in campaigning. They are among the party's grassroots network across India.
In most states, the recruitment of followers for the BJP sparks little controversy.
But in this region, it has often led to conflict. Since last month, at least 16 people, mostly Christians, have been killed in reprisal attacks in Orissa state after the murder of the founder of the Kanya Ashram girls' school.
More than three percent of Orissa's 40.5 million people are Christians, many of them devout converts from Hinduism, according to the World Christian Database. They are prime targets of these new Hindu nationalist campaigners eager to swell their ranks.
To counter the missionaries, Sangh Parivar, an affiliated group of Hindu organisations has replicated their work.
It has opened thousands of schools and medical facilities to increase its influence among poor tribes, traditional worshippers of nature who Hindu radicals say are weaned into Christianity by coercion or inducements such as free education and healthcare.
"We have reconverted about 50,000 people in the past 40 years," said Hansraj Maharaj, who looks after the Kanya Ashram in Jalespeta in the eastern state of Orissa.
He says the number of reconversions, as an ancillary benefit, directly amplifies the number of votes for the BJP.
In 25 years, the BJP has gone from a bit player to the main national opposition party, a success many credit to the diligence of groups such as Kanya Ashram through its focus on Hindutva or Hinduness, a concept defined in sometimes strident, even fatal opposition to Muslims and Christians.
The BJP led a central coalition from 1998-2004 after a brief stint in power in 1996. It now governs or shares power in 12 Indian states, in many of which it enacted laws making converting difficult or even impossible.
Although the Kanya Ashram and another residential school for boys in nearby Chakapada village say they are a social service organisation, the links to the party are hard to ignore -- the work of Hindu nationalist groups has been a political project as much as a religious and cultural one.
Full-time workers from these ashrams help in election canvassing, touring tribal villages and telling people to vote for the lotus flower that is the BJP's symbol.
The long-term aim of the ashrams is to have students always think of Hindutva and become automatic supporters of the BJP.
But the battle for votes is only a convenient by-product of the battle for souls which Hindu groups have fought with Christian missionaries engaged in converting tribesmen.
Christians form less than three percent of officially secular but mainly Hindu India's 1.1-billion population. But Hindu say conversion rates are high in tribal belts where missionaries either coax or coerce the poor into changing their faith.
Christians say the Sangh Parivar uses the spectre of conversion to unite Hindus for votes.
In this tranquil village nestled in the teak forests, religious conflict seems particularly unlikely. Yet the calm is eerie following days of religious rioting last week.
Away from modernity, it is a place from another time, without electricity or tap water. Barefoot children play with cows. Women walk to a nearby market, balancing bundles of firewood on their heads, while bare-chested, sinewy men plough patches of fields.
"It's a deceptive lull before more violence," said Lambodara Kanhar, a leader of the Kondh tribe of Orissa's remote Kandhamal.
Local media reports said fear of attacks was prompting many Christians among the tribes and ethnic groups to convert to Hinduism, with a ceremony involving the washing of the feet, sprinkling of holy water from the Ganges and chanting of mantras.
Laxman Digal reconverted about two weeks ago.
"Christianity couldn't give us peace or security, so I am becoming a Hindu," he said before a village gathering.
But at his home symbols of the faith he renounced remains -- a Christian calendar, several small, metal crosses and a rosary.
"There is no need for them now," he said, putting the religious items in a steel box as neighbours peered through windows.
Whether or not Digal becomes an automatic BJP voter may never be known, but the Sangh Parivar attributes the BJP's success among indigenous communities to "the home coming" of converts like him.
Fifteen dead as bus plunges off bridge in Iran
TEHRAN: Fifteen people were killed on Friday when a passenger bus drove off a bridge into a river, apparently after the driver fell asleep, state television reported.
The incident took place some 35 km (20 miles) west of the capital Tehran on a highway to the city of Karaj, it said, adding that seven other people were injured.
"Police believes the driver fell asleep and lost control of the bus. Investigations continues," state television reported.
Iran has one of the highest road accident rates in the world, blamed on poor quality roads and reckless driving.
NEW YORK: In 1951, Morton Sobell was tried and convicted with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on espionage charges. He served more than 18 years in Alcatraz and other federal prisons, traveled to Cuba and Vietnam after his release in 1969 and became an advocate for progressive causes.
Through it all, he maintained his innocence.
But on Thursday, Sobell, 91, dramatically reversed himself, shedding new light on a case that still fans smoldering political passions. In an interview, he admitted for the first time that he had been a Soviet spy.
And he implicated his fellow defendant Julius Rosenberg in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information and what the U.S. government described as the secret to the atomic bomb.
In the interview with The New York Times, whose global edition is the International Herald Tribune, Sobell, who lives in New York, was asked whether as an electrical engineer he turned over military secrets to the Soviets during World War II when they were considered allies of the United States and were bearing the brunt of Nazi brutality. Was he, in fact, a spy?
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, call it that," he replied. "I never thought of it as that in those terms."
Sobell also concurred in what has become a consensus among historians: that Ethel Rosenberg was aware of her husband's espionage but did not actively participate. "She knew what he was doing," he said, "but what was she guilty of? Of being Julius's wife."
Sobell made his disclosures on Thursday as the National Archives, in response to a lawsuit filed by historians, journalists and a private group, the National Security Archive, released most of the grand jury testimony in the espionage conspiracy case against him and the Rosenbergs.
Coupled with some of that grand jury testimony, Sobell's admission bolsters what has become a widely held view among historians: that Julius Rosenberg was, indeed, a spy, but that his wife was at most a bit player in the conspiracy and may have been framed by prosecutors.
The disclosures on Thursday "teach us what people will do to get a conviction," said Bruce Craig, a historian and the former director of the National Coalition for History, a private educational organization. "They took somebody who they basically felt was guilty and by hook or crook they were going to get a jury to find him guilty."
The Rosenbergs' younger son, Robert Meeropol, described Sobell's confession on Thursday as "powerful" but said he wanted to hear it first hand.
"I've always said that was a possibility," Meeropol said, referring to whether his father was actually a spy. "This is certainly evidence that would corroborate that possibility as a reality."
In the interview, Sobell drew a distinction between atomic espionage and the details of radar and artillery devices he said he stole for the Russians.
"What I did was simply defensive, an aircraft gun," he said. "This was defensive. You cannot plead that what you did was only defensive stuff, but there's a big difference between giving that and stuff that could be used to attack our country."
(One device mentioned specifically by Sobell, the SCR 584 radar, is believed by military experts to have been used against U.S. aircraft in Korea and Vietnam.)
Echoing a consensus among scientists, Sobell also maintained that the sketches and other atomic bomb details that the government said were passed along to Julius Rosenberg by Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, were of little value to the Soviets, except to corroborate what they had already gleaned from other moles. Greenglass was an army machinist at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the weapon was being built.
"What he gave them was junk," Sobell said of Julius Rosenberg, his classmate at City College of New York in the 1930s.
The charge was conspiracy though, which meant that the government had to prove only that the Rosenbergs were intent on delivering military secrets to a foreign power. "His intentions might have been to be a spy," Sobell added.
After Julius Rosenberg was arrested, Sobell fled to Mexico and lived under false names until he was captured - kidnapped, he maintained - and returned to the United States in August 1950. He said he was innocent, but his lawyer advised him not to testify at his trial. He was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment and was released in 1969. The Rosenbergs were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing in 1953.
Greenglass, in an interview for a 2001 book by this reporter, "The Brother," acknowledged that he had lied when he testified that Ethel Rosenberg had typed his notes about the bomb - the single most incriminating evidence against his sister. His allegation emerged months after Greenglass and his wife testified before the grand jury and only weeks before the trial was to begin in 1951.
Government prosecutors later acknowledged that they had hoped that a conviction and the possibility of a death sentence against Ethel Rosenberg would persuade her husband to confess and implicate others, including some agents known to investigators through secretly intercepted Soviet cables.
That strategy failed, said William Rogers, who was the deputy attorney general at the time. "She called our bluff," he said in "The Brother."
The grand jury testimony released Thursday by the National Archives appeared to poke even more holes in the case against Ethel Rosenberg, who was 34 and the mother of two young sons when she appeared before the grand jury and was arrested on the courthouse steps after her testimony.
Bowing to David Greenglass's objections, a federal judge declined to release his testimony. But the transcripts released Thursday show that his wife, Ruth, who in her grand jury appearance never mentioned typing by Ethel Rosenberg, said she had transcribed Greenglass's notes in longhand on at least one occasion herself and had placed Ethel Rosenberg out of earshot during several important conversations.
"It means the grand jury testimony by Ruth Greenglass directly contradicts the charge against Ethel Rosenberg that put her in the electric chair," said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private group that challenges government secrecy and is based at George Washington University.
The Wallabies have not won the Tri-Nations since 2001 and the odds are heavily stacked against them this time after their record 53-8 loss to South Africa less than two weeks ago.
New Zealand have won five of the past six editions and hold a one-point lead in the standings after victories in their last two matches against Australia and the Springboks.
Yet, the involvement of New Zealand-born coach Robbie Deans, who joined Australia this season after being overlooked for the All Blacks job, has added an intriguing twist to the match.
Deans knows the New Zealand players well after coaching most of them at the Canterbury Crusaders and is recognised as one the great tacticians and motivators of the game.
The five recalled players, centre Ryan Cross, hooker Stephen Moore, flanker George Smith, lock Nathan Sharpe and prop Al Baxter, are determined to make the most of their chance while the survivors are keen to repay Deans for showing faith in them.
"I think everyone was pretty worried about that performance in South Africa, I certainly was," fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper said. "(Being selected by Deans) was a great boost and now I'm really, really excited about it.
"The silverware's on the line, playing the Kiwis in front of a full house, it doesn't get any better than this."
The quietly spoken Deans played down the significance of the changes but said he expected an immediate improvement from his team this weekend.
"It's not a matter of reinventing the wheel or tipping everything on its head," Deans said.
"It's a matter of sticking to what serves you and trying to win more of those little contests so that the outcome deals with itself."
All Blacks coach Graham Henry retained the same winning combination that started in New Zealand's last two Tri-Nations victories.
Henry, who came under intense criticism in New Zealand after his team's failure to win last year's World Cup, fears Australia's thrashing by South Africa could work against his side because of Deans' ability to inspire his players.
Even the New Zealand players admit they are concerned by the Deans factor with Crusaders fly half Dan Carter wary of his ability to quickly turn things around.
"He brings out the best in players and I'm sure he'll do that this week so they're primed and ready to play the biggest game of the season," Carter said.
Australia: 15-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14-Peter Hynes, 13-Ryan Cross, 12-Stirling Mortlock (captain), 11-Lote Tuqiri, 10-Matt Giteau, 9-Sam Cordingley, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-George Smith, 6-Rocky Elsom, 5-Nathan Sharpe, 4-James Horwill, 3-Al Baxter, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16-Adam Freier, 17-Matt Dunning, 18-Hugh McMeniman, 19-Phil Waugh, 20-Richard Brown, 21-Brett Sheehan, 22-Drew Mitchell.
New Zealand: 15-Mils Muliaina, 14-Richard Kahui, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Jimmy Cowan, 8-Rodney So'oialo, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Ali Williams, 4-Brad Thorn, 3-Greg Somerville, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-John Afoa/Neemia Tialata, 18-Anthony Boric, 19-Adam Thomson, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Stephen Donald, 22-Isaia Toeava.
Paris / Montmartre/ Abbesses holiday / Vacation apartment