Saturday, July 07, 2007

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Warming and your wallet

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Warming and your wallet
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: July 6, 2007

At long last, Congress is showing a willingness to confront global warming. The Senate's recent approval of higher fuel economy standards is a constructive step and key lawmakers are promising legislation this year that will, for the first time, limit the emission of greenhouse gases.

But for all the talk about warming, politicians have yet to educate their constituents about an unpleasant truth: Any serious effort to fight warming will require everyone to pay more for energy. Unless Americans understand and accept the trade-off - higher prices today to avoid calamity later - public support for real change is unlikely to build.

New taxes remain a political nonstarter, at least for now. The approach preferred by many lawmakers, businesses and environmental groups is to develop a cap-and-trade system. The government would impose a cap on the overall amount of carbon that could be emitted and at the same time allow regulated firms, like utilities and oil refiners, to buy and sell the right to those limited emissions. The big plus is that the nation would set an enforceable ceiling on carbon emissions, which would be lowered over time.

As Congress entertains several cap-and-trade bills, one fundamental point must be kept in mind. We are now using the atmosphere as a free dumping ground for carbon emissions. Unless we - industry and consumers - are made to pay a significant price for doing so, we will never get anywhere.

Doctors who kill

Doctors who kill
By Regina Dwyer
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: July 6, 2007


'Until yesterday," London surgeon Abhay Chopada told the International Herald Tribune last week, "if anyone had said that doctors were involved in terrorism, I would have said that was completely impossible."

Actually, it's not only possible but more common than Dr. Chopada realizes. And, as a physician myself, while I find it repulsive, it's not all that surprising.

Within the Arab terror world alone, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's No. 2, trained as pediatrician. George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, also trained as medical doctors. So of course did the Nazi "angel of death," Josef Mengele.

In addition, there have been dozens of doctors convicted of murder and mass murder in famous public trials, including classic crimes of passion (Harvey Crippen in Britain and Jeffrey MacDonald in the United States) as well as various questionable "mercy" killings (Harold Shipman in Britain and America's "Dr. Death," Jack Kevorkian).

It's hard to find statistics on the occupations of murderers, so it's difficult to know exactly where doctors rank. The U.S. Department of Justice, for example, keeps tabs on thousands of aspects of the prison population and their victims, but they do not break out killers by occupation.

Doctors are no doubt far outnumbered as murderers by career criminals. But the wonder for most people is that a profession dedicated to life saving produces any killers at all.

Why do they do it? How can they do it? After all, the Hippocratic Oath - which most every physician is taught, if no longer sworn to - commands "first do no harm."

Can there be any greater harm than murder? Well, yes, some doctors would say. Endless, torturous suffering is worse than death. And the deaths of many are worse than the death of one. And the death of a culture or a country is worse than the death of a crowd at a nightclub.

In truth, doctors are taught that while death is the enemy, it is also natural and inevitable, and not necessarily evil per se. Death quite literally can't be stopped, so the goal instead is to minimize suffering and the amount of "needless" or "premature" death.

For the overwhelming majority of nurses and physicians, death remains a nasty adversary. But for the handful of practitioners who are inclined to turn homicidal, this familiarity with the Reaper, plus their training and practice, may make it easier, not harder, to kill.

Consider our training. On the first day of class at almost every medical school in the world, new students are presented a reeking cadaver to dissect.

Part of it is their first lesson in anatomy; most of it is their first lesson in getting used to death. Vomiting and fainting are not unusual first day reactions. But three months later they will be quite used to the sights and smells of death.

Consider our practice experience. Like the first day at medical school, a doctor's daily dealing with disease and death compels us to learn how to disregard death for our mental survival, and in part, at least, inures us to the suffering that comes with any illness, injury or surgery. We literally get used to it. If we don't, we quit or go mad.

Similarly, because experimentation is an essential element of medical science and progress, the regular killing of animals and the testing of potentially lethal drugs and procedures on humans is common practice. You get accustomed to seeing some very bad stuff.

Consider our ethics. They're quite real, but they are also very situational. We quite properly don't employ the same extreme measures to prolong the life of a terminal 95-year-old as we do when faced with a gravely ill child. When resources are limited, we try to get the most bang for the buck by focusing first on those who can be saved.

This is the philosophical basis for triage, the standard emergency room and battlefield crisis practice of separating patients who can be saved from those who, to save the salvageable, must be "sacrificed" by neglect. Triage has saved countless lives over the centuries, but it's a relatively small leap from sacrifice by neglect to just sacrifice.

For the homicidally inclined, "triage ethics" provide a handy rationalization for mere murder. Pretty soon, people who are suffering or merely inconvenient become unsalvageable.

Finally, consider our personalities. Most of us are grounded, normal people. But messianic and visionary delusions come naturally with the medical territory.

The everyday business of medicine creates a god complex in some practitioners that first blinds them, and then seduces them to view their deviltry as noble work toward higher purposes.

My guess is that at least some of the current doctor terrorists, when interviewed, will gamely defend the higher purpose of their attempted carnage.

In the end, we doctors are no different than the rest of you. We probably turn killer less often than most other occupations. But our ranks have and will always include the deeply flawed, the greedy, the delusional, bunglers, rationalizers and just plain sociopaths - like every other population.

Dr. Regina Dwyer is a retired physician living in Seattle.

Let a thousand democracies bloom

Let a thousand democracies bloom
By David Shambaugh
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: July 6, 2007


As the 17th Congress of China's Communist Party approaches this autumn, party organizations in Beijing are abuzz with talk of democracy. Expect lots of "democracy" initiatives at the Congress. Some of these were signaled in an important speech by the party general secretary, Hu Jintao, to Politburo members and others at the Central Party School on June 25th.

While these initiatives do not constitute democratic institutions and procedures as recognized in real democracies, they nonetheless represent serious efforts to broaden what the Chinese describe as "inner-party democracy," "electoral democracy," and extra-party "consultative democracy." All of these forms go under the broad rubric of "socialist democracy" or "democracy with Chinese characteristics," as described in Hu's speech.

What do these terms mean in the Chinese political context? Recent discussions with high-level party organizations in Beijing offer some clues.

For the last several years, Hu Jintao has promoted "inner-party democracy" as a key to avoiding a similar sclerosis that beset the former Soviet Communist Party, the CPSU. The Chinese analysis of the Soviet Union's collapse pointed to many causes, but a central one was the top-down, inflexible nature of the CPSU.;

Hu's idea is to enliven the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, from the bottom up, giving fuller scope to cadres to exchange views and provide input to policy deliberations - rather than just implementing and rubber-stamping decisions made at high levels. This parallels a serious effort to rebuild atrophied party committees and cells at the local level. The goal is to create a dynamic party apparatus, rather than an ossified and inflexible one.

What the CCP refers to as "electoral democracy" basically means that electoral slates of candidates for provincial and national party congresses include between 15 to 30 percent more candidates than can be elected. This is almost triple the quota from the past. The party is also experimenting with multiple candidates and contested election campaigns for local party committees at the village level. Eighty percent of village-level governments in China already have this practice, and party committees are now moving in the same direction.

Extra-party "consultative democracy" is the brainchild of the vice president of the Central Party School, Li Junru, and likely will find a central place in Hu Jintao's keynote address to the 17th Congress.

Consultative democracy is being practiced in three principle ways.

First, prior to party cadre appointments - at all levels of the system - there is now a six-week period in which other party members and the public can comment on the candidate's qualifications for appointment. There have apparently been a number of instances where the party's Organization Department has withdrawn projected appointments after negative reaction was received on certain candidates.

More generally, the Organization Department has been strengthening procedures for evaluation, training, and promotion of China's 45 million party and state cadres - in an attempt to increase competence, reduce corruption and improve governance.

The second mechanism is that local party committees are now to solicit feedback from their city and village constituencies prior to the adoption of significant decisions on public works projects and other issues. In some cases, local governments are required to open their budgets for public scrutiny.

The third mode of consultative democracy is called "multiparty cooperation." In addition to the ruling CCP, China has eight other so-called "democratic parties" - which are represented in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress, or CPPCC. Significant efforts are being made by CCP leaders to meet with these non-Communist politicians. China's new Health and Science & Technology ministers both come from the CPPCC and are not CCP members. Expect more such non-party appointments to State Council ministries.

China's National People's Congress also is expanding mechanisms for public comment on draft laws and regulations. For example, its Standing Committee held six separate sessions and received more than 10,000 public comments before finally adopting the controversial Property Law at its annual session in March.

These are all examples of the "democracy wave" sweeping China. The inner-party discourse and discussions among intellectuals has been extremely animated. Many are advocating adoption of far more sweeping democratic reforms, but for the time being do not expect China's Communist Party to go beyond those initiatives outlined above. Like other policy areas, the CCP believes in "incremental democracy." The party will proceed carefully and step-by-step. But at least they are taking some steps - and this deserves more recognition abroad than has been given to date.

David Shambaugh directs the China Policy Program at George Washington University, and is the author of "China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation."

How much pot can a sick person have? - Washington state deals with medical marijuana issues

How much pot can a sick person have? - Washington state deals with medical marijuana issues
By Curt Woodward
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune anfd The Associated Press
Published July 8, 2007

SEATTLE — This fall, public servants will convene meetings across Washington state to answer a pressing question: How much marijuana constitutes a two-month supply?

What may seem like an odd question for straight-laced government types to tackle is a serious attempt to shore up the state's medical marijuana law, which has been around for nearly a decade without defining the 60-day supply patients are allowed to have on hand.

Now, after years of attempts to amend the law, the state Health Department has been ordered to spell out how much marijuana makes up that theoretical two-month cache.

Prosecutors and police generally support the change, saying it should help officers determine whom to arrest.

The American Civil Liberties Union and some state lawmakers think it could be the beginning of even broader reforms by the state's Democratic-controlled Legislature.

But some patients wish the state wouldn't bother, spooked that the government will make the limits too restrictive and cause more arrests for people in frail health.

If the law is going to be changed, dissenters would rather see stronger protection from arrest or an allowance for group growing operations. Defining the 60-day supply, they say, is a do-nothing compromise aimed mostly at pleasing law enforcement.

"Once again, politics have trumped patients' rights. Once again, politics have trumped science," said Dale Rogers, head of Seattle's Compassion in Action Patient Network, which distributes medical marijuana.

Law OKd in 1998
Washington's medical marijuana law was approved by nearly 60 percent of voters in 1998, following closely behind California in the first wave of such measures nationwide.

Under the law, doctors are allowed to recommend marijuana for people who have "intractable pain" and several serious diseases, including cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

Marijuana patients can be prosecuted but may avoid conviction by proving a legitimate medical need. But nothing in state statutes shields a patient from prosecution under federal law, which does not recognize medical uses for marijuana.

Unlike the 11 other laws that protect medical marijuana users from a state criminal conviction, Washington has never set a limit for the amount of pot each patient is allowed to have.

In Oregon, patients are allowed up to 24 ounces of pot and two dozen plants at different stages of growth. New Mexico, the latest state to pass a medical marijuana law, plans to allow up to 6 ounces of marijuana, four mature plants and three immature seedlings.

"Law-enforcement officers in the field were put in the position of throwing their hands up in the air and saying, 'We'll let the judge and the jury sort that out,' " said Alison Holcomb, director of Washington ACLU's Marijuana Education Project.

An activist group highlighted the confusion around Washington's law last year when it asked county officials how many plants medical marijuana patients were allowed.

One county said the answer was easy: zero. Others had formulas that accounted for the different stages of plant growth.

"The truth is, nobody's number had any legal precedence or greater validity than your number or my number," said Tom McBride, executive secretary of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

In some cases, the gray area has been a legal shield, allowing patients and their doctors to argue in court over how much marijuana they need, said Douglas Hiatt, a defense lawyer.

"We can't have an outside health authority dictate to our doctors," Rogers said.

Amounts vary
Adding to the debate, marijuana varies in potency, and people use different amounts.

Ric Smith, a longtime medical marijuana user from Seattle, typically lights up before meals to treat the nausea that comes with his HIV medication.

Smith burns through anywhere from 7 grams to about an ounce a week. Without it, even the smallest disturbance can be too much to handle, he said.

"When you're at the top of the roller coaster and you just start over the other edge? It's that feeling, 24 hours a day," Smith said. "A pin drop, a bird flying by, ... anything will make you throw up."

Hiatt and others who will lobby health regulators will cite a marijuana dosing study led by Dr. Gregory Carter, a University of Washington rehabilitation-medicine specialist.

Following the study's guidelines, Hiatt said, patients should be allowed anywhere from a half-pound to 2.75 pounds of marijuana in two months. If the Health Department goes drastically lower, Hiatt said a lawsuit could follow.

"I know the people of Washington state didn't want lawyers and judges and prosecutors arguing about little piddly details like this," Hiatt said. "Is the person sick? Yes. Are they using it with a doctor's permission? Yes. Then leave them alone."

Man sues over gay marriage on bar exam

Man sues over gay marriage on bar exam
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published July 7, 2007

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- A man said he failed the Massachusetts bar exam because he refused to answer a question about gay marriage, and claims in a federal lawsuit that the test violated his rights and targeted his religious beliefs.

The suit also challenges the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, which was legalized in Massachusetts in 2003.

Stephen Dunne, who is representing himself in the case and seeks $9.75 million, said the bar exam was not the place for a "morally repugnant and patently offensive" question addressing the rights of two married lesbians, their children and their property. He said he refused to answer the question because he believed it legitimized same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting, which is contrary to his moral beliefs.

Dunne, 30, was denied a license to practice law in May after scoring 268.866 on the exam, just shy of the 270 passing grade.


Items compiled from Tribune news services.

Latinos' growing clout has seized candidates' notice

Latinos' growing clout has seized candidates' notice
By Christi Parsons
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published July 8, 2007

WASHINGTON—Until this summer, the cooks, waiters and housekeepers of Las Vegas usually didn't see many contenders for the White House until well into an election season.

These days, though, members of the Culinary Workers Union are entertaining repeat visits from Democratic candidates. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) lyrically praised the role of service workers at the group's recent rally. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) promised to walk a picket line with them.

The scrupulous attention is testament to the rising influence of Latino voters, who make up almost half of the union's membership of 60,000, as well as almost 9 percent of Nevada's electorate.

That means the local's members could help choose the party's nominee in Nevada in its new role as an early-caucus state, and activists are trying to make the most of the opportunity.

"Our bread-and-butter working-class issues are going to get a good hearing in this election cycle," said Pilar Weiss, the Local 226 political director in Las Vegas helping organize the endorsement process.

The culinary workers aren't the only ones getting extra attention this summer, as candidates of both parties jockey for position in their runs for the White House. The increased foot traffic at the union events comes at a time when Latino voters around the country are poised to exercise unprecedented influence in the selection of the party nominees.

Latino voters increased their numbers by more than a third in the past decade and constituted more than 8 percent of the nation's eligible voters in 2006. Recent changes in the election calendar could give even greater voice to Hispanic voters in the 2008 presidential contest.

Several states with heavy Latino populations—Illinois, New York and California included—are moving their primaries and caucuses from later in the year to February. That means the vast majority of the country's Hispanic voters, galvanized by the recent national debate over immigration reform, will likely get to cast a primary vote while the contest for the nomination is still in play.

'An incredible difference'
"The Latino community is poised to make the most significant impact it has ever made in the history of this country," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). "If people use the power they have, it will make an incredible difference not just in the election but in the lives of people."

Latino leaders aren't the only ones who recognize the potential. Presidential candidates from both parties are reaching out to the community for endorsements, contributions and volunteers.

Clinton has hired several staffers to work on Latino outreach. Leading her team is campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a native of Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

Democrat John Edwards, the former senator form North Carolina, is one of several candidates whose Web sites offer visitors the opportunity to read in Spanish. Also concentrating heavily on Latino audiences is Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a fluent Spanish speaker whose mother is Mexican.

In the Obama camp, a group of staffers from several departments meets weekly to talk about outreach to the Hispanic community. Obama has been conducting interviews with Spanish-language radio and TV stations, as well as with the newspapers El Mundo and El Tiempo, and his supporters in heavily Latino communities distribute bilingual literature. He has been heavily courting unions like the Culinary Workers in Nevada.

Republicans also are reaching out to Hispanic voters. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has run Spanish-language radio ads in Florida, where former state GOP Chairman Al Cardenas, a Cuban-American, is a high-profile supporter.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been speaking to Latino audiences and called on some of his Spanish-speaking Republican colleagues to act as surrogates for him at campaign events. Among the Republican candidates, McCain was the only open champion of the Senate's recently failed immigration reform bill, which would have created a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants now living in the country illegally.

Potential backlash
Many Latino activists were infuriated by the failure of that measure and, days later, only one of the Republican presidential candidates accepted a recent invitation to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) gave a solo address to the group, challenging the idea that all Latino voters are angry about the immigration bill's failure. Although group leaders gave him credit for showing up, many audience members said afterward that they disagreed with his advocacy for tougher border security.

Still, many Republican strategists insist that segments of the Latino community will vote Republican. By some accounts, roughly 40 percent of Latino voters supported President Bush for re-election in 2004, reflecting what GOP partisans say is a social and religious conservatism that runs deep within some parts of the community.

"The analysis on this question has really been oversimplified," said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Romney. "Latino voters are not single-issue voters. They care about the economy, about the future of education in this country, about traditional marriage and a respect for the sanctity of life. We think these things resonate with those voters."

But Democrats believe the immigration debate is attracting Latino citizens to the Democratic camp, partly because, they believe, the rhetoric of the recent debate had an anti-Latino overtone.

"Immigrants are our neighbors, and they're part of our communities whether they're here legally or not," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat. "The tone of the debate made Latinos feel like this was about them personally."

Illinois impact?
He said he believes that message struck home in Chicago, where the metropolitan area is home to the country's third-largest Hispanic population. Latino voters make up more than 5 percent of the electorate in Illinois, and they wield considerable influence in Democratic primaries.

But Gutierrez also thinks that message resonated across the country and is energizing Latino voters to organize and get involved in the selection of their leaders all the way down the ballot.

At the recent Latino elected officials' conference in Florida, Democratic officials from throughout the country echoed the sentiment.

"The immigration issue has caught the imagination of Latino voters," said Rafael Anchia, chairman of the group's educational fund and a Democrat in the Texas Legislature. "They are focused on it, and it is serving as a rally cry for the next election cycle."

Afghan civilians caught in crossfire - Casualties could undermine allies

Afghan civilians caught in crossfire - Casualties could undermine allies
By Kim Barker
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published July 8, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan — The men told the same story, of how foreign troops bombed their villages long after the Taliban fighters had left, how the bombs killed women and children, goats and sheep, and how if they had one wish, it would be for the foreigners to leave.

One man said 60 civilians had been killed in the air strike June 29 in a village in southern Helmand province, one of the most remote and dangerous areas of Afghanistan. Another villager, likely a Taliban sympathizer, exaggerated that as many as 500 innocent people had died, according to video of the bomb's aftermath provided by Ariana TV station, one of the few media outlets to visit the insurgent stronghold.

"Our children are being killed," said Abdul Qader, who said he lost at least seven family members. "Our homes are being destroyed. We are bombed. They destroy us and they kill us. What should we do?"

The air strike, near the village of Hyderabad, came after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan soldiers supported by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The video showed shrapnel-riddled tractors and mangled cars and homes that looked like piles of crushed crackers.

Such bombings and the allegations of civilian casualties, exaggerated or not, are now the biggest challenge facing foreign forces trying to prop up Afghanistan's government. More than any suicide bombing or insurgent offensive, this issue has the potential to undermine foreign troops and ultimately hurt the NATO mission in Afghanistan, Western diplomats and Afghan officials say.

In interview after interview, ordinary Afghans say they increasingly distrust NATO's motives and increasingly blame their government for failing to stem civilian casualties.

A recent United Nations report said 593 Afghan civilians have been killed by violence linked to insurgents this year. But more of those deaths—314—were caused by international or Afghan security forces than by insurgents, who caused 279 deaths. The number does not include the civilians who may have died in the Hyderabad fighting.

Most of the insurgents' victims were bystanders of suicide bombings, while most civilian deaths from Afghan and Western troops were casualties from combat operations

NATO officials say they always try to protect civilians and are increasing their efforts. They caution that any numbers are not necessarily accurate. Determining whether a corpse is a Taliban fighter or a farmer is not an exact science—there are no Taliban uniforms, no roster. Often, only children or women are certain to be civilians. And some of these areas are simply too dangerous to do a thorough investigation.

Officials also say any civilian deaths are not intentional and are always regretted.

"What we've all been saying in recent days—every ISAF soldier, every service person—is that we have to understand we are guests, and that's a status that's hard won in a country like Afghanistan and it's a status we'd like to keep," said Nicholas Lunt, the chief NATO civilian spokesman in Afghanistan. "And clearly, civilian casualties is an issue that could put that status at risk."

ISAF troops have made mistakes — shooting civilians after roadside bombings or when cars get too close to military convoys. But Taliban-led insurgents are targeting civilians to try to drive a wedge between average Afghans and international troops, military and Afghan officials said. Insurgents now deliberately attack from civilian areas, even hoping to draw fire, officials said.

A recent memo from the NATO commander in Afghanistan to lower-level military commanders reminded them of the need to protect civilians at all times and to use force with discretion, two NATO officials said. Another recent directive established a new policy in searching Afghan homes, long a sore spot with Afghans, according to a UN official and a military official. In the future, searches will need to be justified by more than just one piece of intelligence, the officials said.

In terms of winning hearts and minds, the NATO mission has a lot of ground to make up.

In the past few months, reports of civilian casualties have emerged every few days. At least 19 civilians were killed March 4 when U.S. Marines, fleeing a bombing near the eastern city of Jalalabad, opened fire. On June 17, seven children were killed by a U.S.-led coalition air strike in southeastern Paktika province.

Ghulam Reza and Ashuqullah Wafa, workers at a Kabul salt factory, were shot June 16 on the street in front of their factory, near NATO troops investigating an earlier suicide bombing. Their friend, Azizullah Mawlawizada, was killed. Reza, Wafa, witnesses and police blamed Western troops.

"Sometimes we think they are trying to invade our country, that they just don't like us," said Reza, 28, who has 5 inches of stitches on his back and X-rays showing the bullet in his right side. "I saw them. They didn't care. Sometimes, it comes to my mind that I am Muslim and they are not. And that is why they shot me and that is why they don't care."

NATO spokesman Maj. John Thomas said there was no evidence of any shots being fired at the scene, especially by ISAF troops. But Col. Mangal Zalmai, the commander of the police district, blamed foreign forces for shooting the three men.

The anger against foreign troops has grown to the point that any report of civilian casualties, even by the notoriously unreliable Taliban, is treated as fact. In a speech June 23, after more than 100 civilians had allegedly been killed by Western forces in a week, President Hamid Karzai tapped into the emotions of Afghans and lashed out at NATO. "Afghan life is not cheap, and it should not be treated as such," Karzai said.

"There is a big hatred in the heart of our people against NATO already," said Haji Abdul Khaleq Mojahed, a parliament member from southern Uruzgan province, near the site of several bombings that allegedly killed civilians. "If it grows bigger and bigger, I don't know what will happen."

Last week, a government team including Mojahed visited Qaleragh and nearby villages to investigate claims of civilian casualties. In total, 78 civilians were killed in fighting between insurgents and Afghan and foreign troops, he said. Only 10 were killed by the Taliban, he said.

While Afghan and NATO officials take time to investigate claims of civilian casualties, Taliban representatives quickly get in touch with reporters to push their own, often inflated claims, officials said.

"The first reports grab the headlines, and there isn't a lot of interest in further investigation," Thomas said.

There's also a reluctance to publicly defend NATO. In May, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission spent a week investigating allegations that Afghan army and foreign troops had killed more than 55 civilians near the western town of Shindand. The commission found that fewer than half the victims were definitely civilians and that the force used was not indiscriminate. But that report has not yet been released in Afghanistan, primarily because of fears that Afghans won't like it and could retaliate.

A team of Afghan officials is now in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, investigating the recent bombing near Hyderabad, a Taliban hotbed where insurgents often are sheltered by villagers, officials said.

Right after the bombing, NATO officials said that fewer than a dozen people died, though they later acknowledged that could be low. The Taliban said 105 civilians had been killed. The government investigation results will not be released for days or even weeks.

By that point, the truth may not matter very much to Afghans. They have been conditioned to believe the worst.

Thompson denies he lobbied for group

Thompson denies he lobbied for group
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times
Published July 7, 2007

Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who has campaigned as an anti-abortion Republican, accepted a lobbying assignment from a family-planning group to persuade the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and five people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the former senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association show that the group hired Thompson that year.

His task was to urge the administration of President George H.W. Bush to withdraw or relax a rule that barred abortion counseling at clinics that receive federal money, according to the records and five people who worked on the matter.

The abortion "gag rule" was a major political flash point at the time. Thompson's lobbying would clash directly with the anti-abortion movement that he is now trying to rally behind his expected campaign for president. Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo denied that Thompson worked for the group.

In a telephone interview, he said: "There's no documents to prove it, there's no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn't happen."

But Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family-planning association in 1991, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months.

Contenders tap ring tones, texting to sell themselves

Contenders tap ring tones, texting to sell themselves
By Leora Falk
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published July 7, 2007

WASHINGTON -- When former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina speaks at a presidential campaign event, he often pulls out his cell phone and asks his supporters in the audience to do the same. When hands holding phones shoot up, Edwards urges his listeners to send his campaign a text message.

When supporters of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) want a new way to express their enthusiasm for him, they can go to his Web site and download ring tones for their phones. Then, whenever someone calls them, their phone will play a clip from one of Obama's speeches, or it will emit a cheer: "Go! Go! Go! Obama! Obama!"

With cell phones increasingly an all-in-one tool, campaigns are looking for ways to turn text messages into votes and the sometimes-annoying interruption of a cell phone ring into a campaign message. But political analysts conceded that with a medium so new, it is unclear how effective these mobile campaigns will be.

Not that that stops candidates from trying. Obama, Edwards and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) all have text-messaging efforts, and several Republican campaigns are considering it.

A race to innovate

"That's the game here -- to innovate on all fronts," said Joe Rospars, new media director for Obama's campaign. The campaign offers text messaging, seven free ring tones and four versions of cell phone wallpaper with Obama's face or logo on it -- in addition to the campaign's Web site that allows users to create profiles, blogs and event invitations.

Joe Trippi, a senior adviser to the Edwards campaign, said cell phones will be increasingly important in the 2008 campaign. Trippi headed Howard Dean's campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2004, which was notable for its innovative reliance on the Internet for organizing volunteers and donors.

Dean alumni are "scattered across a whole host of campaigns that are determined to outwit each other on the Internet or mobile or whatever the platform is," Trippi said. He suggested that the presence of former Dean staffers in the Democratic campaigns is one of the reasons that the GOP front-runners lag the Democrats in use of technology.

Mindy Finn, the director of e-strategy for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, agreed that Republicans "are somewhat behind" in Web and technology campaigning. But she said the Romney campaign would launch text messaging "very soon, at a time that makes sense. ... It's a long campaign."

Trippi said the lag might hurt the Republicans come 2008. "Really aggressive competition is creating a much bigger grass-roots movement on the Democratic side," he said.

Trippi said the strongest impact of cell phones will come not from the campaigns but from that grass-roots movement.

"It's not really what comes from the campaign that matters anymore," he said, citing YouTube videos that are passed among friends, or the possible power of receiving multiple messages from friends urging attendance at a political rally.

That doesn't mean that the campaigns are not producing their own content. The Edwards campaign recently used cell phone messages to urge people to contribute money, allowing users to press one button to hear Edwards' recorded voice asking for a donation or another that connected them to a volunteer who facilitated over-the-phone donations. Clinton's campaign used text messaging to announce her campaign song.

Entree to youth vote

Polling suggests that younger people are most likely to use cell phones in innovative ways.

An April 2006 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that while 65 percent of cell phone users ages 18 to 25 used text messaging, that number dropped to 37 percent for ages 30 to 49. The same study found that 54 percent of English-speaking Hispanics used text messaging, while 42 percent of black and 31 percent of white cell phone users did. Those in the youngest age group also were the most likely -- at 85 percent -- to change their ring tones or cell phone background.

Germani Hardeman, 20, a junior at Spelman College in Atlanta, said she would "definitely" download the Obama ring tone. But Brianna Eaton, who just graduated from Rocklin High School in Rocklin, Calif., and is part of groups supporting Obama on the social networking site, said she thought the ring tones were "rather stupid" and would rather see the campaign focus on substance.

The campaigns stressed that they recognize that, when it comes time to vote, technology is not going to win elections. Peter Daou, the Internet director at the Clinton campaign, said technology is merely one more tool to allow supporters to organize and communicate.

"It's not about the bells and whistles," he said.


Domestic wiretaps ruled OK - Appeals court reverses '06 ruling, says plaintiffs lack legal standing

Domestic wiretaps ruled OK - Appeals court reverses '06 ruling, says plaintiffs lack legal standing
By Henry Weinstein
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times
Published July 7, 2007

A sharply divided federal appeals court in Cincinnati handed the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program a major legal victory Friday, ruling that the American Civil Liberties Union and several other plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the program.

The 2-1 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to a federal trial judge in Detroit and ordered her to dismiss the case, reversing a ruling the judge had issued last year that the program was unconstitutional.

Justice Department lawyers had urged the panel to throw out the case, saying that a full-fledged review of the government initiative launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks would violate the "state secrets" doctrine. Established in 1953, it bars the discovery or admission of evidence that would expose information that the government maintains would harm national security.

At oral arguments in late January, Justice Department lawyer Gregory Garre argued that without such privileged information, none of the plaintiffs could establish standing to sue.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor had rejected the argument, saying that three publicly acknowledged facts about the government's surveillance program were sufficient to establish standing.

Taylor noted that the government had acknowledged, after the program was disclosed in a New York Times article in 2005, that it was eavesdropping on international telephone and e-mail communications in which at least one of the parties was suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda and that the surveillance was being conducted without warrants.

Taylor also ruled that the 4th Amendment prohibition against illegal searches and seizures was an absolute rule that required the government to obtain a warrant before conducting such surveillance.

But the 6th Circuit Court ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had been individually injured by the program, and therefore did not have standing to challenge the program in court.

Judge Alice Batchelder said the plaintiffs, who also included several lawyers and writers, could not "produce any evidence that any of their own communications have ever been intercepted" by the National Security Agency under the surveillance program.

Rather, Batchelder said, the plaintiffs had asserted "a mere belief" that their overseas contacts were the types of people being targeted by the NSA and consequently they had been subjected to illegal eavesdropping, and that the surveillance had led the NSA to discover and possibly disclose privileged information.

Justice Department lawyers also argued that the program was legal. They contended that when Congress authorized the use of military force after Sept. 11, it clearly contemplated that the president could conduct counterintelligence surveillance of the type used in the NSA program.

Garre asserted at the Jan. 31 oral argument in the 6th Circuit Court that it would be unprecedented for a U.S. court to say that a president did not have such power.

The plaintiffs said they had been injured by the surveillance program in three ways. They said it had hampered their ability to communicate with their overseas contacts because of their fear that the illegal surveillance might harm such contacts. The plaintiffs, particularly lawyers, said that made communicating with clients overseas more burdensome and costly, requiring them to travel overseas to meet with their contacts or to refrain from talking to them at all.

The plaintiffs also said the program had a "chilling effect" on their overseas contacts' willingness to talk to them.

And the plaintiffs asserted that the NSA had directly invaded their privacy.

But Batchelder, joined by Judge Julia Gibbons, said the plaintiffs conceded that "no single plaintiff can show [that he or she had been wiretapped]."

"Moreover, due to the State Secrets Doctrine, the proof needed ... to make such a showing is privileged," and therefore unavailable to the plaintiffs, Batchelder wrote.

The majority also rejected the plaintiffs' claims that their 1st Amendment rights had been violated. Judge Ronald Gilman dissented.

In a concurring opinion, Gibbons said the plaintiffs "can show nothing more than a fear [of] being subject to a government policy of surveillance." But Gilman's dissent said that the attorney plaintiffs in the case had "articulated an actual or imminent harm" flowing from the surveillance program. The program, Gilman wrote, "forces them to decide between breaching their duty of confidentiality to their clients and breaching their duty to provide zealous representation. Neither position is tenable."

ACLU legal director Steven Shapiro said the organization was "deeply disappointed by [Friday's] decision that insulates the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance activities from judicial review and deprives Americans of any ability to challenge the illegal surveillance of their telephone calls and e-mails. ... The Bush administration has been left free to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress adopted almost 30 years ago to prevent the executive branch from engaging in precisely this kind of unchecked surveillance."

Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, said the department was pleased with the ruling, "which confirms that plaintiffs in this case cannot seek to expose sensitive details about the classified and important" surveillance program.

The White House also applauded the ruling, saying the administration had believed all along that Judge Taylor in Detroit had "wrongly decided the case."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he was troubled by the ruling.

"The court's decision is a disappointing one that was not made on the merits of the case, yet closed the courthouse doors to resolving it," he said. "I hope the Bush administration will finally provide the information requested by Congress regarding the constitutional and legal questions about this program so that those of us who represent the American people can get to the bottom of what happened and why."

Several other cases challenging the program are pending in federal court in San Francisco.

Flying the angry skies

Flying the angry skies
Flights are packed. Delays are rampant. Cancellations are all too common. Passengers are just furious during this summer of air travel discontent.'This is the new reality for travelers'
By Jon Hilkevitch
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published July 8, 2007

The evidence is quickly adding up: After more than a decade of troubled air travel, the summer of 2007 may be the most tortured yet, with congestion growing daily, and more frequent meltdowns that ripple across the nation, stranding passengers for days.

The airlines' on-time arrival performance in the first five months of this year was the worst in 13 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Tuesday. Only three of every five flights departing O'Hare International Airport were on time over those months, ranking O'Hare last among the busiest U.S. airports. And that was before the weather got really bad.

Nor do the statistics capture the most distinctive dynamic of this summer's air woes—the moments when the nation's hub-and-spoke network of airports seem to seize up altogether, causing passengers to miss not just one flight, but the next and next and many more, because planes are full, or grounded, or both.

Some of the ingredients in this stew of frustration are familiar, such as a burst of bad weather in June that shut down hub after hub, and the labor troubles dogging some airlines.

Some are quirky, such as unrelated computer outages at the Federal Aviation Administration on June 8 and at United Airlines 12 days later.

But some result from attempts by the airlines to scratch out profits after years of losses, conditions that may not improve any time soon.

With a record 209 million passengers projected to pass through the nation's airports this summer, airlines are trying to keep airplanes as full as possible. When it works, the airlines make a modest profit and passengers get low-priced fares. But when things go wrong, airlines have little room to maneuver, and delays and cancellations multiply quickly.

As they keep a lid on costs, airlines have also postponed buying new planes, while keeping flight and ground crews to a minimum. When a plane breaks down, or a pilot calls in sick, flights are often scrubbed and the dominoes start falling again.

The FAA, too, is operating close to capacity, using aging technology that can barely handle the growing volume of traffic. Even on a blue-sky day, air-traffic controllers must sometimes create intentional delays to avoid being overwhelmed.

"It has been a horrendous summer, with flight delays rippling nationwide like never before and fears of having entire airline networks unravel," said Joseph Schwieterman, an airline expert at DePaul University.

"A canceled flight could mean a two-day wait instead of waiting for the next flight because so many flights leave full and there is no extra capacity," added Schwieterman, a former airline pricing analyst. "This is the new reality for travelers."

Flight delays are costing the struggling airlines $16 billion annually because of excess fuel consumption, inefficient use of aircraft and crews and other factors, according to the Air Transport Association, the trade group representing the major U.S. airlines. The vicious cycle of growing delays and higher operating costs will only increase the strain, according to the association, which sees no near-term improvements.

Tailspin in 2001
A busy, stormy summer in 2000 led to similar spasms of gridlock, threatening to suffocate the commercial aviation system. But the 2001 terrorist attacks drove passengers away, alleviating the crowding while sending the airlines' business into a tailspin.

Since then, the airlines have cut back and customers have returned. The number of individual trips by passengers has increased 12 percent since 2000, to 744 million, while the ranks of full-time airline employees have shrunk 36 percent.

And some airlines seemed unprepared for the speed at which a moderate disruption can now cascade into a full-blown crisis.

JetBlue Airways was caught flat-footed in February when an ice storm in the Northeast paralyzed the airline for almost a week, forcing more than 1,100 flight cancellations. JetBlue chief executive officer David Neeleman apologized profusely for poor customer service and offered travel vouchers to delayed passengers. But many stranded fliers vowed to never fly the low-cost airline again.

Northwest Airlines canceled about 1,000 flights in late June—inconveniencing tens of thousands of travelers—due in large part to pilot absenteeism, which was 80 percent higher than it was in June 2006, the airline said. Northwest emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 31 and its pilots are still angry over wage cuts.

Northwest said it would reduce its schedule starting in August and take other actions to increase its reserve of pilot flying hours.

Plan for problems
While land-based businesses often tout the strategy of keeping inventories at a minimum, the just-in-time principle does not always translate well for airlines. Still, industry officials say they have no choice, and warn passengers to get used to full planes and little margin for error. A last-minute passenger buying a full-fare ticket can be the difference between a flight operating in the red or the black.

"The carriers are doing what is right from the business perspective," insisted David Castelveter, spokesman for the airline association. "We don't have the luxury of having airplanes or employees sitting around waiting to deal with a disruption."

"Customers are going to have to make some adjustments. It's just no longer prudent for a passenger to take a morning flight to meet a cruise ship in the afternoon," Castelveter said.

About 85 percent of available airline seats will be sold this year between June 1 through Aug. 31, according to the Air Transport Association. Some flights may have more space than that, but on popular routes, every seat will be filled, with 2 million more people flying than last summer.

Bad weather causes about 75 percent of flight delays, according to the FAA.

"June was a very tough weather month for Chicago, New York, Dallas and cities in Florida. There was severe weather on most days," said Bob Everson, the FAA's tactical operations director for the Midwest. "We've reduced air-traffic delays about 6 percent using a combination of new tools this year allowing planes to fly around thunderstorms."

The FAA improvements in the Chicago region include expanding eastbound flight departure tracks out of O'Hare to four from two, resulting in more reliable options to the East Coast. But major gains won't arrive until the FAA and the airlines make the switch to satellite-based navigation, which will eventually replace many ground-based radars used in air-traffic control.

"Today, there's only so much that can be done when a big storm sits right over the top of the airport," Everson said.

Triathlon of woes
And when the computers go down, it can turn a simple flight to New York into a triathlon of cancellations, delays and rebooking for passengers, as Chicago teacher Michael McCarthy discovered on June 21, the day after United's main flight operations computer crashed.

The airline had assured the public that the schedule would be back close to normal that day. Their Web site showed McCarthy, 39, that his 2 p.m. flight to LaGuardia Airport was on time just before he jumped into a taxi outside his West Loop home to go to O'Hare.

Customers in bind
McCarthy's first hint of trouble was his discovery that a woman's name had been printed on his boarding pass. But he had plenty of time to fix that—by that time, his flight had been canceled because of mechanical problems, United said.

He was rebooked on a 4 p.m. flight, which actually boarded passengers at 5 p.m., pulled back from the gate and sat on the airfield until shortly before 9 p.m., when the flight was canceled.

He couldn't get his bag back, so McCarthy took a cab home empty-handed, and returned to O'Hare early the next morning. He finally departed on an 8 a.m. flight to spend a shortened weekend out of town with his wife.

"The airline industry is screwed up," he said. "You have no really good choices."

A sorceress for our time

A sorceress for our time
By Peter Aspden
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 7 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 7 2007 03:00

An unlikely air of solemnity surrounds the release, in two weeks' time, of the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's series of stories about a bespectacled English schoolboy that has entranced the children of the world for the past decade.

Even the book's morbid title, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, seems to confirm rumours that the series will end in the deaths of one, or possibly more, of the leading characters. Ms Rowling has confessed that there are two deaths (and one reprieve) that she had not intended, as if the very plot-line of the Harry Potter saga had taken on a supernatural life of its own.

She will spend the evening of the book's publication signing copies in the studious surrounds of the Natural History Museum, where even the dinosaur skeleton must for once take second place in wonderment value to the unravelling of the final instalment of the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Ms Rowling is in understandably bitter-sweet mood over the ending of her opus, claiming to feel simultaneously "heartbroken and euphoric". Those feelings are bound to be magnified worldwide, where more than 325m books in the series have been sold, making their quietly spoken author a dollar billionaire at the age of 41.

As bookshops open their doors at one minute past midnight on July 21, expecting to sell 3m copies of Deathly Hallows in the first 24 hours alone, the plaudits for Ms Rowling will be heard all over again, praising the woman who has single-handedly revived children's reading and created one of the strongest brands in the history of entertainment.

Yet there has always been a churlish undercurrent of criticism beneath the adulation. In quantitative terms, no book has ever captured children's imaginations like Harry Potter. But critics say that, compared with the great children's books of the past, the Harry Potter stories fare badly, appearing derivative, modestly written and superficial.

"Ms Rowling's magic world has no place for the numinous," thundered novelist A.S. Byatt. "It is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons and the exaggerated mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip."

Some cultural pessimists have gone further still, lamenting the strange tendency of adults to become as obsessed with the Harry Potter books as their children. Here, they argue, was a perfect metaphor for dumbed-down, Blairite Britain: a nation choosing to escape into facile fantasy and revel in the hype, rather than knuckling down to issues of substance and gravitas.

The successes of Ms Rowling and Tony Blair dovetail with eerie coincidence. The first Harry Potter book was published in June 1997, a matter of weeks after a fresh-faced, new prime minister promised that things could only get better. That was certainly true of Ms Rowling, who had spent the previous years recovering from the sudden death of her multiple sclerosis-stricken mother and an unhappy marriage, and trying simultaneously to bring up a child and write her fledgling children's novel in the cafés of Edinburgh.

Mr Blair and Ms Rowling won instant acclaim for their novelty and charm. Although she had received only a modest advance from her publisher, Bloomsbury, for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Ms Rowling was buoyed by encouraging reviews and word-of-mouth-based sales figures.

But as the Harry Potter books became increasingly successful, it was clear we were in a new era: an age in which business and politics could build elaborate machines to promote their interests. Although Ms Rowling kept herself largely out of the limelight, the Harry Potter machine, which had now spawned a movie franchise, rolled on with consummate expertise in the art of self-aggrandisement.

The midnight store openings were part of the pattern, creating scenes not seen in Britain since the early days of Beatlemania. The young wizard embraced the globalised economy with equal gusto: the books were translated into more than 60 languages (including, with a touch of retro irony, ancient Greek and Latin). Harry and Tony became established global figures, seeming to sprinkle magic wherever they went, but supported by stolid armies of zealous propagandists.

One can take the analogy too far. In truth, Mr Blair was never a Harry Potter fan. Tellingly, however, two other members of the cabinet admitted to including Ms Rowling's books on their bedside tables: David Blunkett and Gordon Brown, who succeeded Mr Blair last month. Mr Brown's interest came as something of a surprise: did he really leaven his literary diet of Enlightenment philosophers and political scientists with bozos on broomsticks?

But Mr Brown had become good friends with Ms Rowling, largely through his wife, Sarah, and their families have spent much time together. That should not come as a great surprise. Quite apart from her obvious appeal as an outstanding British symbol of wealth, success and creativity, Ms Rowling's quietude, lack of ostentation and devotion to charitable causes (particularly towards one-parent families and multiple sclerosis sufferers) strikes a temperamental chord with the new prime minister.

Is it too fanciful to see, in the evolution of the Harry Potter books, that gradual darkening of tone that has matched the nation's impatience with the politics of flash and spin? Ms Rowling has always insisted that one of the most important characteristics of the Harry Potter books is their refusal to avoid difficult subjects such as death. The darkness was there from the start, she would say, with the death of Harry's parents. It is just that we were temporarily dazzled.

The fact is, notwithstanding the timing of her rise to prominence, Ms Rowling never did really fit into the feelgood Blairite story. She was never part of Cool Britannia, having nothing in common with the cocky strutters of Britpop or the irreverent heart-on-the-sleeve antics of the Young British Artists.

Harry Potter may have been a Blairite phenomenon, conquering the world with sleight of hand and boyish allure. But he has served his purpose, and that was only half the story anyway. Ms Rowling, dedicated, spotlight-shunning, modest and morally serious, is now poised to be the first cultural ambassador of the Brown administration. She is in many ways as impressive a phenomenon as her young hero. What she does next could tell us more than we might think about Britain's political future.

Healthcare as horror movie

Healthcare as horror movie
By Christopher Caldwell
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 7 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 7 2007 03:00

Americans are of two minds about their healthcare system. Only 38 per cent are satisfied with it, according to a New York Times poll taken earlier this year. A main source of worry is the uncertainty that besets the uninsured, whose numbers reach into the tens of millions. But when the same poll asked about the more concrete matter of how people's own healthcare works, respondents professed themselves delighted. Fully77 per cent were satisfied, a tally that compares favourably with other western countries.

One of the ways in which Michael Moore's latest documentary, Sicko, is disturbing is that it tries to show how the system fails even those who think they have a comfortable place within it. We meet a 79-year-old man who works loading a trash-compacter to pay for his wife's prescription drugs; a whistleblower from Humana, the health insurer, who 10 years ago told Congress that employees were promoted for their resistance to approving necessary procedures; and several workers who volunteered to work at Ground Zero after the attacks of September 11 2001 and who now suffer ailments ranging from teeth-grinding to what looks like emphysema. Mr Moore believes the rescue workers would be better off in Canada, Britain or France. He ends the movie with a stunt: taking them by boat for treatment in a hospital in Cuba.

Sicko is disturbing in another way. The movie is not communist propaganda. But in a playful, postmodern way, it is a homage to communist propaganda. Lengthy clips are spliced in from old Soviet socialist-realist films full of peasants harvesting grain - for parodic purposes, one assumes. Somewhat less parodically, Mr Moore makes dewy-eyed pronouncements from Cuba, ("They live in a world of we, not me," he says.) There is nothing wrong with making a movie that uses this style of argument. What is unsettling is how much people seem to like it. The warmth with which the movie has been received (certainly in the theatre where I saw it) shows that there is a steady, even growing taste for what propaganda does - inciting outrage rather than provoking reflection.

The US healthcare system is indeed suboptimal even for those it treats best. It is illogical. Corporations get a big tax deduction for insuring their employees, but the self-insured are not entitled to it. The principles for pricing hospital services are opaque. The indigent get charged more for hospital stays than the insured do. Pharmaceutical companies can pay doctors for drug endorsements and testimonials. Since all these problems are the result of market abuses within a system of over-regulation, there is no consensus on whether it is the market or the regulation that is to blame, as a look at recent policy books shows. There are plausible free-market solutions, such as those from David Gratzer, a Canadian physician, in The Cure. Jonathan Cohn, an editor at The New Republic, has written a plea for universal healthcare, Sick. Regina Herzlinger of Harvard Business School has summarised the problems sector-by-sector in a probing book called Who Killed Health Care? Whether one chooses a market or government solution, the challenges of paying for it grow steadily more complex as baby boomers age.

Mr Moore makes some constructive points. At least a dozen congressional staffers, he notes, have passed from legislating on healthcare into jobs at pharmaceutical companies, which usually involve lobbying their former colleagues. But it is difficult to isolate these gems amid the omissions, inconsistencies and preaching.

Mr Moore implies, for example, that Richard Nixon began the ruination of the healthcare system in February 1971 by supporting insurance plans on the cost-containing model developed by the entrepreneur Henry Kaiser, after the 1930s. However, he lauds Hillary Clinton's proposed 1993 healthcare reform, which used the same model. Average waiting lists in the Canadian medical system have stretched to months for certain procedures and have become the subject of Supreme Court cases there. But Mr Moore uses his own experience in one hospital waiting room to dismiss the talk of waiting lists as a canard. The US offers free healthcare to the inmates at Guantánamo because it is bound by conventions and civilised norms regarding custody of wards, not because it esteems al-Qaeda terrorists more highly than its own citizens.

What makes propaganda is never the argument so much as the spirit in which it is presented. It is not the US healthcare problem that is

Mr Moore's enemy, it is the complexity of it. He rejects subtleties. His goal is not to break through to those who do not agree with him but to drown out the doubts of those who do. Those who sit down to watch Sicko without a broad knowledge of the US healthcare system will leave the theatre with a shallower understanding of the crisis than the one they arrived with.

One should face up to the fact that this is the way Americans increasingly choose to get their information on all sorts of issues, not just healthcare policy. The appetite for slanted ideological dramas grows. Mr Moore is not alone in satisfying it. His anti-Bush documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, was met with the anti-Kerry adverts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Perhaps the internet has made this kind of journalism easier. Mr Moore has been described as a "tireless researcher", but you do not have to be, nowadays. He notes in his film that an online appeal for healthcare horror stories yielded 25,000 of them within a week. In a country of 300m people, any such appeal will provide enough anecdotal evidence to edit into a plausible and even rollicking case for pretty much anything - and to liberate a grateful populace from the heavy burden of level-headedness.

The writer is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard

We have much to gain from the 'great Arab doctor'

We have much to gain from the 'great Arab doctor'
By Clive Cookson
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 7 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 7 2007 03:00

All week, commentators in Britain have been expressing outraged surprise that doctors, of all people, should have tried to commit mass murder in the cause of jihad.

Of course it is shocking for those in the National Health Service to hear of terrorist allegations about colleagues they thought were dedicated to healing. But it is naive for the world in general to imagine that the medical profession somehow contains "better" people who are less likely to kill for a cause than those in other walks of life.

Once one accepts that violent revolutionaries may come from relatively prosperous backgrounds, then doctors are an obvious recruiting ground for extremism - particularly in the Middle East, where medicine has long been one of the largest and most prestigious professions.

The great tradition of Islamic medicine, established during the Middle Ages, still resonates today in the Arab world.

At the same time, medicine is a geographically mobile profession, because people and their health problems are essentially the same around the world. A doctor who trains in Iraq or Jordan can transfer to the UK more easily than a lawyer or many types of academic. Several thousand foreign-trained Muslim doctors are working in the NHS, including many distinguished hospital consultants.

Medicine has a long history of involvement in revolutionary violence. Physicians who took part in the French revolution included Joseph Guillotin, eponymous promoter of the device that sliced the heads off an estimated 20,000 aristocrats and counter-revolutionaries, and Jean Paul Marat, a leader of the extreme Jacobin faction responsible for the reign of terror in 1793. A more recent advocate of "revolutionary medicine" wasDr Che Guevara, the Cuban guerrilla organiser.

Even more relevant to the events of the past week is the leadership provided by physicians in the Arab world's revolutionary movements of the late 20th century. George Habash, a paediatrician from a Christian Palestinian background, founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which became notorious for hijacking aircraft in the early 1970s. Several senior figures in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including Mahmoud Zahar, Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Mohammed al-Hindi, trained in medicine.

The most obvious role model for medical involvement in al-Qaeda terrorism is Ayman al-Zawahiri, often described as deputy to Osama bin Laden. Mr Zawahiri came from a prominent medical family and trained as a surgeon in Egypt.

With hindsight, what is more surprising than the involvement of doctors in a terrorist plot is their incompetence in carrying it out. Doctors are practical people, with a scientific training, who might have been expected to explode a car bomb successfully, particularly if they were willing to blow themselves up in the process. The young men from humble backgrounds who carried out theJuly 7 attacks in 2005 were more effective suicide bombers than the two professionals who drove a vehicle laden with petrol and gas cylinders into the Glasgow airport terminal.

Also surprising - and obviously a great relief - is that the would-be bombers did not use their medical connections to include biological or radioactive materials in their car bombs. Although neither is a microbiologist or radiologist, one might have expected the bombers to have got hold of some bacterial or viral cultures or radio-isotopes from their hospitals. These would not have had to be lethal to spread alarm and magnify the psychological impact of the bombs, because people are so frightened of germs and radiation.

Doctors who are prepared to kill and injure in pursuit of what they see as a grand cause may feel that the Hippocratic oath - and the associated injunction to "do no harm" - applies to the way they treat their individual patients, rather than to actions outside their professional sphere. They are not contravening medical ethics in the same way as Harold Shipman and Josef Mengele, to take two extreme examples of doctors guilty of mass murder and torture of patients.

There is no reason to believe that those who combine medicine and militancy behave badly while they are on duty (though they may not be particularly good doctors - it emerged yesterday that two brothers arrested last weekend, Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed, had applied on more than one occasion to work in Western Australia but were rejected because of concerns over their medical qualifications and references).

Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that some patients are cancelling medical appointments with doctors who have Arab or Islamic-sounding names. Certainly there are poisonous postings on websites warning people to avoid Arab doctors. "Now your once great Arab doctors can no longer be trusted," is a mild example.

The secondary effects of terrorism, both the disruption caused by additional security measures and the loss of social cohesion when certain sections of the population come under suspicion, are always more far-reaching than the original incidents. Any loss of public confidence in Arab or Muslim doctors - and discriminatory measures that would make it harder for physicians to come to work in Britain from the Middle East than from other parts of the world - would be a tragedy for the NHS. There are still "great Arab doctors" working in Britain today and, if we encourage them, there will be more in future generations.

The writer is the FT's science editor

From alienation to annihilation

From alienation to annihilation
By Stephen Fidler in London
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 6 2007 18:28 | Last updated: July 6 2007 18:28

Why do they do it? What is it that turns young men, some with good life prospects, into suicide bombers?

Scott Atran, a US academic who has conducted scores of interviews with families, friends and neighbours of suicide bombers, points to one common factor: publicity. “The difference between terror and other forms of violence . . . is publicity,” he says.

Publicity helps to provoke governments into overreaction and turns terrorists into media stars, and heroes in their own milieux, he says. Mr Atran’s conversations with children in the poor neighbourhood of Mezuak in the Moroccan city of Tetuan, show they dream of becoming either Ronaldinho, the Brazilian footballer, or Osama bin Laden.

The Moroccan authorities believe at least 30 suicide bombers in Iraq have come from Mezuak, home to just 19,000 people, 11 of whom have been confirmed through DNA sent to the authorities by the US. Five of the seven 2004 Madrid train bombers who blew themselves up when cornered by Spanish police also came from Mezuak.

The Madrid gang and other suicide bombers had another attribute so obvious it is almost always overlooked: they belonged to groups. According to some academics, terrorist cells are best understood by thinking of “bands of brothers” or “groups of guys” and examining the interaction among them.

According to the synopsis of a report by Mr Atran and two colleagues delivered to staff in the White House National Security Council in March: “Small group dynamics – rather than personality, ideology, education or income – is the prime factor in deciding which few, among millions of potential jihadis will actually go on to commit violence.”

evidence of top-down recruitment or brainwashing of plotters.

About 70 per cent of terrorists enlist in groups through friendship and about 20 per cent through kinship. The preferred cell size is eight members and consists of friends made between the ages of 15 and 30.

Neither is social deprivation a factor. A 2004 survey by Mr Sageman showed more than 70 per cent of jihadis were from middle or upper class backgrounds. More than 40 per cent were, like the group allegedly behind last week’s attacks in the UK, in the professions: teachers, lawyers and doctors.

Often within groups, there is a leader or hands-on figure, often not the most devout, who converts radical words to actions. In the Madrid group, this appeared to have been Jamal Ahmidan, who married a Christian and was a notorious drug smuggler.

Once in the group, what leads them to resort to terrorism and suicide? Christopher Heffelfinger, a senior analyst at the West Point military academy, has identified four steps on the road: introduction to the group; immersion in extremist doctrine; an initial effort to effect peaceful change; and, lastly, the step from non violence to violence.

Mr Sageman has described three generations of jihadis: the first the foreign mujahideen in Afghanistan and the second a younger generation of educated youths, such as those that hatched the September 11 plot in Hamburg. The third wave consists mostly of semi-skilled or marginalised people, such as those behind the Madrid bombings or the London attacks of July 7 2005.

On this nomenclature, the “medical cell” allegedly behind the attacks in London and Glasgow look like a late example of the second wave. Early reports suggest one of the suspects was radicalised before he came to Britain in 2004. It is thought he might have met four of the other suspects while living in Cambridge. Some were already, apparently, hardliners: two of the suspects were brothers, and one their cousin.

A former friend of one of the members of the group in Cambridge described it as being “small and selective”, containing only like-minded people associated with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the radical group seeking to establish a Muslim caliphate. Hizb-ut-Tahrir denies it supports terrorism.

That picture of isolation from society has been noticed in other groups. Mr Atran describes the Hamburg plotters as “a group of intense and intimate friends who created a parallel universe of jihad by isolating their behaviour from the surrounding society”.

The 7/7 bombers had a ringleader – Mohammad Sidique Khan, a youth worker – but the other three all seem to have become extremists before falling under his influence. Khan and Shehzad Tanweer are thought to have received training in bomb-making in Pakistan – but Pakistan had nothing to do with their radicalisation.

Three of the four came from the same district of south Leeds in West Yorkshire in the north of England. An investigation of the group by Shiv Malik, described in an article in Prospect magazine last month, suggests the youths suffered a double identity problem. They were alienated from society at large but – much less understood – estranged too from their parents’ generation, whose attitudes derived largely from the tribal customs of a district in Kashmir from which they hailed. This clash was epitomised in their different views on marriage: the parents insisting on arranged marriages and their sons believing they should be able to marry any good Muslim girl.

But becoming an Islamist is not the same as turning to terrorism. Apart from any other factor, one determinant is opportunity.

Mr Heffelfinger, who has carried out a study of six suspects arrested in May for allegedly plotting to attack the Fort Dix army base in New Jersey, says they appear to have chosen their target capriciously: because one of their number had delivered pizzas there and was familiar with the base. “It was opportunity over any other motivation,” he says.

All these studies suggest that resorting to terrorism has multiple causes, responding to specific personal and cultural dislocations experienced by young men for which a violent, global movement seems to offer an answer.

Unfortunately, they do not suggest a typology in which those at risk of turning to terrorism can be picked out. “There is no predictive model,” says one British counter-terrorism official.

Gore deflects US election pleas

Gore deflects US election pleas
By Andrew Ward in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 6 2007 19:12 | Last updated: July 6 2007 19:12

With 16 months before the US elects a new president, the race for the White House has developed a strongly New York flavour.

The leading Republican hopeful is Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, the Democratic frontrunner is New York Senator Hillary Clinton, and the current New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is considered a potential independent candidate.

But there is another place in the US that could yet steal centre-stage before next year’s poll.

For months, political enthusiasts in Tennessee have been fantasising about a match-up between two of the state’s best-known political sons: Al Gore and Fred Thompson.

One half of Tennessee’s dream ticket has edged closer to reality over recent weeks as Mr Thompson has emerged as an increasingly serious contender for the Republican nomination.

The senator-turned-actor, best known for his role as a gruff district attorney in the series Law and Order has become the focus of grassroots dissatisfaction with the party’s candidates, promoting himself as a straight-talking conservative in the mould of Ronald Reagan.

One poll this week showed him leading the Republican field even before he has declared his candidacy, while others put him in a strong second place behind Mr Giuliani. Formal announcement of his entry into the race is expected soon.

Mr Gore, by contrast, is proving much more resistant to calls to join the contest.

Polls show the former vice-president and former Tennessee senator in third place – behind Ms Clinton and Barack Obama but ahead of John Edwards – in spite of his repeated insistence that he will not make a second bid for the White House.

Mr Gore, who lost the disputed 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, has been the focus of fresh speculation this week as he prepared for Live Earth, a series of concerts to be held around the world on July 7 to highlight climate change.

Some have seen his high-profile involvement in the concerts as a sign of a search for headlines in preparation for entering the race. But speaking during a round of television interviews to promote Live Earth, he offered no encouragement to those who would like him to run. “I don’t expect to be a candidate again ever,” he said. “I’ve kind of fallen out of love with politics.”

Mr Gore said he had not yet decided which Democratic candidate to endorse and would make his choice based on their policies for tackling climate change.

Larry Sabato, politics professor at the University of Virginia, says the continued speculation about Mr Gore reflects concern among some Democrats about the political risk of nominating the first woman or African-American presidential candidate. As a white, southern, male, Mr Gore would be a safer choice.

“Some Democrats are looking for an alternative to Clinton and Obama and they see Gore as the best option,” he says. “But they are going to be disappointed because there is zero possibility of Gore running.”

June jobs growth higher than expected

June jobs growth higher than expected
By Eoin Callan in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 6 2007 14:30 | Last updated: July 6 2007 16:27

US employers created more jobs than anticipated over the last three months, according to fresh government figures which suggest a turnround in the American economy.

The department of labour said on Friday that payrolls swelled by 132,000 in June and that 75,000 more jobs were created in the previous two months than initially thought. The unemployment rate held steady close to a six-year low at 4.5 per cent.

The surprisingly strong job creation over the last three months suggests US economic growth has recovered after a slowdown in the first quarter, when the economy expanded by 0.7 per cent - the weakest pace in more than four years.

Nigel Gault, an economist at Global Insight, said the pace of hiring ”adds to the evidence that the economy bounced back in the second quarter”.

The signs of renewed economic activity prompted investors to price in a lower likelihood of an interest rate cut, as they pushed the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to its biggest weekly decline in a year.

Interest rate futures suggested traders saw only a 9 per cent chance of a reduction in rates, a dramatic reversal from only seven weeks ago when market prices suggested a near-100 per cent chance of a cut.

The Federal Reserve – which held interest rates at 5.25 per cent last week – has differed from many market participants in recent months by consistently indicating it is less concerned about growth and more worried that a tight labour market could stoke inflation.

The figures released by the labour department on Friday showed average hourly earnings rose 6 cents or 0.3 per cent last month, indicating modest upward pressure on wages.

Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in a speech that keeping rates on hold was the best route to faster growth and slower inflation.

”The virtues of this path are that it avoids exposing the economy to unnecessary risk of a downturn while, at the same time, it is likely to produce enough slack in goods and labor markets to relieve inflationary pressures,’’ she said.

Ms Yellen said recent market movements meant investors and the Fed ”have become more closely aligned, sharing the view that growth in the US is, and is likely to remain, healthy.’’

Ms Yellen indicated that policymakers’ concerns about business investment had receded but added that increased premiums on riskier assets ”could pose a downside threat to the global economy”.

Wall Street economists, meanwhile, were surprised by continued hiring in the construction sector seen in Friday’s figures as housebuilders added 12,000 workers despite a prolonged housing market slump.

But they also pointed to signs of potential economic weakness, as the retail sector cut 24,000 positions.

Economists at Capital Economics said the decline in retail jobs ”suggests that higher gasoline prices are now beginning to have a more marked negative impact on consumer spending”.

Fears about the impact of gas prices on consumer sentiment were underlined as crude prices hit an 11-month high of $75 a barrel.

Economists also said an unwelcome percentage of last month’s hiring was attributable to state and local governments, which added 40,000 staff and are not viewed as good indicators of economic activity.

The bulk of the hiring was in the service industries, as employers such as banks, hospitals, restaurants, added 135,000 workers last month after hiring 199,000 workers in May.

US concerns over China weapons in Iraq

US concerns over China weapons in Iraq
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: July 6 2007 22:01 | Last updated: July 6 2007 22:01

The US has raised concerns with the Chinese government about the discovery of Chinese-made weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Richard Lawless, departing senior Pentagon official for Asia, on Friday said Washington had flagged the issue with Beijing. In recent months, the US has become increasingly alarmed that Chinese armour-piercing ammunition has been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and insurgents in Iraq.

A senior US official recently told the FT that Iran appeared to be providing the Chinese-made weapons. He said Washington had no evidence that Beijing was complicit, but stressed that the US would like China to “do a better job of policing these sales”. Mr Lawless said the question of origin was less important than who was facilitating the transfer.

The concerns about Chinese weapons follow months of allegations from US officials that Iran is helping attack US troops in Iraq, and more recently Afghanistan, by providing technology for bombs that can destroy Humvees and other heavily armoured US vehicles.

Mr Lawless also expressed concern about North Korea’s missile programme. Last week, Pyongyang tested a new short-range missile that could target not only the US military base at Pyeongtaek but also Seoul. He said North Korea was close to being able to field the solid-fuel, highly mobile rocket.

Mr Lawless said the US military relationship with China was “overall, not bad”, but there was a need for more engagement between the militaries, particularly at the senior levels. “They have been more willing to engage, but it is in millimetres and increments,” he said.

He said the Pentagon was disappointed that China had not given Admiral Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations, the same kind of access that his Chinese counterpart received during a visit to the US. Adm Mullen, who has since been nominated as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ended up not visiting China.

Mr Lawless also said it was important for China to hold talks with the US about its nuclear forces. A recent Pentagon report concluded Beijing was developing a more survivable nuclear force, including submarine-launched missiles, and mobile land-based missiles.

Since Presidents Hu Jintao and George W. Bush last year discussed increasing military exchanges, China has not responded to an offer for the commander of its strategic nuclear forces to visit US Strategic Command.

“There is a great shortfall in our understanding of China’s intentions,” said Mr Lawless, referring to the overall Chinese military build-up. “When you don’t know why they are doing it, it is pretty damn threatening . . . they leave us no choice but to assume the worst.”

Mr Lawless also suggested that the Pentagon had refused a request from Japan for extensive data on the F-22 fighter jet. Japan wants the data to consider whether the advanced fighter – which under current law cannot be exported – would meet its defence needs.

Mr Lawless said the Pentagon had offered Japan only basic data, which would not require a change in US law.

Friday, July 06, 2007

International Herald Tribune Editorial - American justice denied

International Herald Tribune Editorial - American justice denied
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: July 5, 2007

In the 1960s, Chief Justice Earl Warren presided over a U.S. Supreme Court that interpreted the Constitution in ways that protected the powerless - racial and religious minorities, consumers, students and criminal defendants. At the end of its first full term, Chief Justice John Roberts's court is emerging as the Warren court's mirror image.

Time and again the court has ruled, almost always 5-4, in favor of corporations and powerful interests while slamming the courthouse door on individuals and ideals that truly need the court's shelter.

President George W. Bush created this radical new court with two appointments in quick succession: Roberts to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Samuel Alito to replace the far less conservative Sandra Day O'Connor.

The Roberts court's resulting sharp shift to the right began to be strongly felt in this term. It was on display, most prominently, in the school desegregation ruling last week. The Warren court, and even the Rehnquist court of two years ago, would have upheld the integration plans that Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky, voluntarily adopted. But the Roberts court, on a 5-4 vote, struck them down, choosing to see the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause - which was adopted for the express purpose of integrating blacks more fully into society - as a tool for protecting white students from integration.

On campaign finance, the court handed a major victory to corporations and wealthy individuals - again by a 5-4 vote - striking down portions of the law that reined in the use of phony issue ads. The ruling will make it easier for corporations and lobbyists to buy the policies they want from Congress.t;

The flip side of the court's boundless solicitude for the powerful was its often contemptuous attitude toward common folks looking for justice. It ruled that an inmate who filed his appeal within the deadline set by a federal judge was out of luck, because the judge had given the wrong date - a shockingly unjust decision that overturned two court precedents on missed deadlines.

When Roberts was nominated, his supporters insisted that he believed in "judicial modesty," and that he could not be put into an ideological box. But Alito and he, who voted together in a remarkable 92 percent of non-unanimous decisions, have charted a thoroughly predictable archconservative approach to the law. Roberts said that he wanted to promote greater consensus, but he is presiding over a court that is deeply riven.

In the term's major abortion case, the court upheld - again by a 5-4 vote - the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, even though the court struck down a nearly identical law in 2000. In the term's major church-state case, the court ruled 5-4 that taxpayers challenging the Bush administration's faith-based initiatives lacked standing to sue, again reversing well-established precedents. In a few cases, notably ones challenging the Bush administration's hands-off approach to global warming and executions of the mentally ill, Justice Anthony Kennedy broke with the conservative bloc. But that did not happen often enough.

It has been decades since the most privileged members of society - corporations, the wealthy, white people who want to attend school with other whites - have had such a successful Supreme Court term. Society's have-nots were not the only losers. The basic ideals of American justice lost as well.

Boston Globe Editorial - Bush's white lie about Putin

Boston Globe Editorial - Bush's white lie about Putin
Copyright by The Boston Globe
Published: July 5, 2007

After fishing off Kennebunkport, dining on Maine lobster, and discussing a wide range of issues, President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia came out to meet the press on Monday. Asked whether he trusts the erstwhile KGB officer at his side, Bush gave an answer that was bound to dismay Russian democrats and independent journalists, human rights advocates, Georgians, Chechens and anyone else who has been caught on the wrong side of Putin's power.

"When you're dealing with a world leader, you wonder whether or not he's telling the truth," Bush said. "I've never had to worry about that with Vladimir Putin. Sometimes he says things I don't want to hear, but I know he's always telling me the truth. And so you ask, do I trust him? Yes, I trust him." In the realm of big-power diplomacy - where talk about truthfulness is usually a non sequitur - Bush's praise for Putin's sincerity amounts to a little white lie. This fib is defensible only insofar as Bush did not mean what he said about his Russian guest.

One justification for Bush's falsehood is that he had more important fish to fry. The most obvious source of discord was Bush's scheme to place components of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. This project is a fantasy, but it frightens the Kremlin because of the possibility that one day it could become part of an upgraded missile defense aimed at Russia. Or at least that is the fear Russian officials profess to have.

Russian specialists know that the current American missile defense system offers no protection against intercontinental ballistic missiles; its sensors cannot distinguish between live warheads and decoys outside the earth's atmosphere. Whether or not Bush understands this fatal flaw, his attachment to the missile defense illusion has ceded a valuable advantage to Putin on the chessboard of U.S.-Russian relations.

In return for accepting a compromise on missile defense in Europe - something like the siting of a radar station in southern Russia that Putin proposed at Kennebunkport - the Kremlin's chess master may demand suitable recompense. This could entail American receptivity to Russian influence in the old Soviet spheres of interest; accepting Russian preferences for routing oil and natural gas pipelines; allowing Russia to absorb secessionist provinces in Georgia and Moldova; or turning a blind eye to the Mafia-like, authoritarian state Putin has imposed on Russia.

There is a genuine need for Putin's cooperation, for example in international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. But there is no need to bribe Putin to acquiesce to a missile defense system that doesn't work. Instead of assuring the world about Putin's truthfulness, Bush should be driving sound bargains that accommodate the vital interests of Russia and the

A crisis of identity and the appeal of jihad

A crisis of identity and the appeal of jihad
By Peter R. Neumann
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: July 5, 2007


Following the recent wave of arrests in England and even Australia, everyone seemed surprised that most of the terrorist suspects were highly educated, some apparently from middle-class or privileged backgrounds. At least two of them had completed their medical training, with one about to become a neurosurgeon.

Why would such accomplished people want to become terrorists? Clearly, the profiles of the suspects do not fit the stereotype of the deprived, uneducated loner.

In the case of the IRA, the cliché turned out to be largely true. Many Irish Republican terrorists came from poor, working class neighborhoods, and few had any great prospects. Becoming involved in the "armed struggle" was the only way to achieve any degree of social status within their communities.

With Islamist militants, however, the sociological dynamics seem to be different. No researcher has yet been able to construct a single profile based on simple socioeconomic indicators that would accurately describe the "typical" jihadist. A senior British intelligence officer summed it up as follows: "The pattern is that there is no pattern."

Indeed, social scientists are overwhelmed by the diversity of backgrounds and attributes that can be found among known Islamist terrorists.

In fact, a fair number of them are highly educated, often holding advanced university degrees. Many seem to have trained in the sciences, with chemists, engineers and medical doctors playing a prominent role in jihadist movements across the world.

Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the Hamburg cell that was responsible for the Sept. 11th attacks in the United States, had just completed his post-graduate degree in urban planning and was set to join the professional elite in his home country. And let's not forget Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, who trained as a medical doctor and whose family is among the most influential in Egypt.

So, if it's not the social and economic background, what connects the people who have become involved in jihadist terrorism? The Dutch domestic intelligence service recently published a study of jihadist recruitment in the Netherlands, which identifies three types of personalities that can be found in extremist cells.

First are the so-called new immigrants, who grew up in Middle Eastern and North African countries, came to Europe as students or refugees and had no previous involvement with jihadism before they arrived in the West. This applied to Mohammed Atta, but it could also be true for the suspects who have been arrested in recent days.

The second group are second or third generation "immigrants" whose parents or grandparents settled in European countries as "guest workers." Most are citizens of European countries and speak the language of their home country fluently.

Finally, there is a small but growing number of converts who have embraced militant Islamism shortly after they became Muslims.

Marc Sageman, an American psychologist who carried out an extensive study of the profiles of Al Qaeda members, found that, indeed, there is very little that would connect these groups in terms of quantifiable socioeconomic indicators.

What they share, however, is that they have all experienced tensions in their personal lives, or were faced with deep and sustained crises of identity that they resolved by embracing jihadism.

The "new immigrants" felt alienated and isolated when they left their home countries, and extremist Islam not only provided them with new friends but also with a new identity and a place in the world.

The children and grandchildren of immigrants frequently experience a tension between the traditional, cultural Islam of their parents and an unaccepting Western society. Extremism gives them an identity that allows them to rebel against both.

And the converts, by definition, have gone through a personal crisis that led them to adopt a new identity.

None of this will be of much help to the security service in constructing a profile of the "typical" terrorist suspect. But it provides a glimpse into the internal tensions through which some of these people have gone before committing themselves to jihad.

And it also explains why doctors and engineers are as vulnerable to jihadism as petty thieves and the unemployed. After all, personal crisis - a sense of being isolated and the search for identity - is not a privilege of the poor and uneducated.

Peter R. Neumann is director of the Center for Defense Studies at King's College London.