Saturday, June 24, 2006

Iraqis frustrated with new prime minister

Iraqis frustrated with new prime minister
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
June 24, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq--Iraqis expressed frustration with their new prime minister on Saturday, complaining he caused confusion in the capital when he ordered them off the streets in response to fighting between heavily armed insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of three more American soldiers, two in roadside bombings and one in what it said was a "non-combat incident."

Shiites held a funeral procession for two men killed while protesting a recent suicide attack that targeted a Shiite shrine in Baghdad. Insurgents fired at the Shiite marchers, then attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces as they headed to the site, an Interior Ministry official said.

Friday's fierce fighting in the heart of Baghdad came despite a 10-day-old crackdown that put tens of thousands of U.S.-backed Iraqi troops on the streets as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sought to restore a modicum of safety for the capital's 6 million people. The prime minister responded by slapping a curfew on the capital with only two hours notice.

"Te sudden decision to impose the curfew caused troubles for the citizens," said 45-year-old engineer Khalid Abdel-Rahman. "The people were informed about the new time of the curfew with very short notice and many people were trapped in the streets or their shops."

The Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said three worshippers participating in the march were wounded and members of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi army, returned fire.

U.S. and Iraqi forces headed to the site to help control the melee, but they were attacked by Sunni insurgents on nearby Haifa Street and fierce fighting ensued in the alleys and doorways of the thoroughfare, according to the official.

Police Col. Ali Rashid also said that heated exchanges broke out when Iraqi security forces demanded that al-Sadr's militiamen withdraw from the area and let them handle the situation, but the situation was defused.

There were conflicting reports about how many people were killed or injured.

The interior ministry official said a member of the Mahdi army was killed and three were wounded in the initial fighting, five Iraqi soldiers and three police died during the clashes on Haifa Street and eight suspected insurgents were arrested.

But Ibrahim al-Jabri, an official in al-Sadr's office in eastern Baghdad, said six worshippers were killed and 10 wounded when the insurgents attacked the protest.

Police Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq said Friday that four Iraqi soldiers and three policemen were wounded before the area was sealed and searched house-to-house for insurgent attackers. U.S. and Iraqi forces also engaged in firefights with insurgents Friday in the dangerous Dora neighborhood in south Baghdad.

Osama Ahmed, 50, who works for the ministry of higher education, said he was annoyed that the curfew kept him from doing errands on Friday, the start of the Islamic weekend.

"I expected an ordinary Friday that in which I can shop and visit some friends, but instead I found my self kept in my house," he said. "What happened yesterday shows that the country is at an impasse."

Deadly clashes are not new to Haifa Street, a thoroughfare so dangerous that a sign at one Green Zone exit checkpoint warns drivers against using the street, which was the scene of some of the heaviest resistance when U.S. forces swept into Baghdad in March 2003. The area has remained difficult to control because many residents have natural links to the Sunni-led insurgency, but Friday's fighting was unusual in its scope and intensity.

The curfew was imposed even as the main weekly Islamic religious services were being held in mosques throughout the city.

Clusters of women shrouded in black head-to-toe robes scurried along to beat the ban, and U.S. soldiers frisked men also dashing home against a backdrop of thick, black smoke rising above the white high-rise buildings of Haifa Street.

Helicopters flitted back and forth overhead.

Defense Ministry official Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohamed Jassim initially said all Baghdad residents must be off the streets from 2 p.m. until 6 a.m. Saturday, but al-Maliki later declared the ban would end just three hours after it began.

Jassim also said the city was under a state of emergency that included a renewed prohibition on carrying weapons and gave Iraqi security forces broader arrest powers to prevent civilian casualties. He did not give a timeframe for those measures, and the prime minister's office said Saturday that no state of emergency was in place.

Violence continued Saturday in Baghdad and elsewhere.

A roadside bomb struck a police patrol near the al-Sadiq University for Islamic Studies in a predominantly Shiite area in northern Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding three others, police said.

Police also found an unidentified body of a man who had been handcuffed, bound by the legs and shot to death in the capital.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed the local chief of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Mussa Hatam, along with two of his guards, Brig. Sarhat Qadir said.

The U.S. military also reported Saturday that a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier in central Baghdad on Friday in addition to two other Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldiers who died the same day were when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb southeast of the capital.

At least 10 other U.S. troops were killed or found dead in Iraq this week, including the discovery of the bodie s of two American soldiers who went missing after an attack on their checkpoint.

At least 2,518 members of the U.S. military have died since the war started more than three years ago, according to an Associated Press count.

On the political front, the prime minister's office confirmed the government will present a 28-point national reconciliation plan to parliament Sunday that would grant some insurgents amnesty and ask for approval of a series of steps for Iraqis to take over security from U.S. troops.

Contributing: AP writers Kim Gamel and Qais al-Bashir.

Candidate's reform talk may be adding insult to injury

Candidate's reform talk may be adding insult to injury
By Eric Zorn
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published June 22, 2006

You'd think that Republican U.S. congressional candidate Peter Roskam would have the common sense to keep his yap shut about the issue of lawsuit reform.

Roskam, a state senator from Wheaton who is running for the west suburban 6th District seat being vacated by retiring GOP lion Henry Hyde of Bensenville, sent out a news release this week boasting that "more than two dozen doctors joined [him Monday] in a door-to-door effort in support of his position on lawsuit reform. ... Roskam has named lawsuit reform as a top priority."

Trial attorneys as bogeymen is a solid, familiar, business-friendly, conservative position, for sure.

Republicans frequently invoke the scary image of predatory lawyers who take out full-page "We get results!" ads in the Yellow Pages; lawyers who beckon victims of "slip and fall injuries, medical negligence ... dog-bite injuries, wrongful death [and] defective products" to "put our experience to work for you. ... No fee unless you collect."

Lawyers like--boo!--Peter Roskam.

I borrowed the above verbiage from an ad for Salvi, Roskam & Maher, a Wheaton personal-injury firm and proud member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a national organization of attorneys "who have won million and multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements."

Roskam earned $615,000 last year from his work as a PI lawyer, according to campaign disclosure statements. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Our civil justice system gives the little guy a fighting chance when big guys with deep pockets do him wrong.

Occasional outrageous verdicts notwithstanding, the civil courts have a long-term remedial effect that makes us all healthier and safer.

It's just that Roskam carrying the banner for lawsuit reform is like a Hummer owner driving around with a Greenpeace sticker on his bumper.

Given that limiting the pain and suffering component of awards, as Roskam supports, isn't exactly an issue of raging concern these days, you'd think Roskam would have avoided giving his Democratic opponent, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, such an easy opportunity to raise her eyebrows.

"We believe the real problem in the system is frivolous lawsuits like those that Peter Roskam solicits in his Yellow Pages ads," said Duckworth campaign manager Jon Carson, whose camp provided the images of the ads. "We need to look for ways to stop these lawsuits on the front end, maybe by setting standards for the advertising."

Carson called upon Roskam to release a full list of his clients "so we can see what role he has or hasn't played in the reduction of frivolous suits."

Roskam spokesman Ryan McLaughlin branded Duckworth's line of attack as "dirty politics" and said that, "bottom line, groups that support lawsuit reform support Peter Roskam. ... Yeah, he's an attorney, but [as a state legislator] he has never voted against reform."

Though Roskam was against reform before he was for it.

In the mid-1990s, he and law partner Al Salvi, then a state representative, formed the Sir Thomas More Justice League.

It was a political action committee aimed at raising money from trial attorneys and others opposed to tort reform measures then moving through the General Assembly.

Terrence Lavin, former president of the Illinois Bar Association, recalled Wednesday that Salvi and Roskam promised, "We will never, ever vote for tort reform," when they asked him for a $25,000 donation.

When Roskam decided to vote for tort reform under pressure from Republican leadership, he and Salvi (who voted "present") returned many of the donations to their PAC. It was an all but open acknowledgement that the Sir Thomas More Justice League had been a votes-for-cash enterprise all along.

Many of the adjectives that come immediately to mind begin with the letters "sl."

Yet it was an old story, really--a malodorous tale from the last millennium--until Roskam made it new again this week by offering himself as the man who can clean up the mess he says has been made by his own profession.

You'd think he'd try to steer the political conversation as far from the Sir Thomas More Justice League as the rules of engagement would allow.

You'd be wrong.


Sweet child of mine By Richard Tomkins

Sweet child of mine By Richard Tomkins
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: June 24 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 24 2006 03:00

One of life's larger mysteries, though one not often addressed, is why people in developed countries persist in procreating long after children have ceased to offer their parents any practical benefit.

In centuries past, having children made sense: they worked for a living and were important contributors to the family's economic welfare. In the countryside they would be fetching water and minding the pigs or sheep by the age of six or seven, and with industrialisation they could be ushered into gainful employment in the factories, sweatshops or mines. Later in life they would typically provide the only means of support for any parents surviving into old age.

Now, however, children are worse than useless. Far from making any economic contribution to family life or even supporting themselves, they loaf around at school all day or otherwise while away the hours in recreation, devouring cash and drastically reducing the family's standard of living. Later, burdened by mortgages and student debt, they are more likely to be relying on their aged parents for even more hand-outs than offering to finance their retirement.

And so, we are presented with a paradox. Just at the point when children have become more expensive and more useless to their parents than at any time in history, they seem to be more adored than ever. Parents and society alike have become obsessively child- centric, tormenting themselves with anxiety over the safety and well-being of babies, toddlers and schoolchildren while simultaneously spoiling and indulging them with unprecedented levels of spending.

Consider: in Britain, the government has a minister for children and has launched an initiative called Every Child Matters, with its own website. The television schedules bulge with reality TV series on parenting skills such as Little Angels, Honey We're Killing the Kids, House of Tiny Tearaways and Driving Mum and Dad Mad. Even quite small children are placed at the centre of big family decisions on where to go on holiday, what car to buy or where to live. And it sometimes seems that everyone has to have a baby, with celebrities flaunting them, single career women obtaining them using sperm donors, gay couples adopting them and the elderly conceiving them through medical intervention.

The Baby Dior boutique that opened last year in London's Knightsbridge is a sign of how far we have come from the days when people worried about sparing the rod and spoiling the child. Here, in an appropriately miniaturised version of Christian Dior's flagship Avenue Montaigne store in Paris, parents can dress their offspring in an appropriately miniaturised version of Christian Dior couture. For girls aged up to 12, there are scaled-down versions of Christian Dior's ready-to-wear range at around £400 for a pretty summer dress, or for that very special girl, there is a little sheepskin jacket, admittedly gorgeous, with a price tag of £1,950. For baby, there are Dior dummies at £23, tiny white Dior booties at £48 a pair and Dior all-in-ones in a cashmere mix at £110 a throw.

"People are spending more and more money now on babies and children. They want the best for them," says Marie Motreff, store manager. "And if you are wearing designer, you want your children to wear designer as well."

She has a point. If you are dressed from head to foot in Christian Dior, you are hardly going to kit your baby out in Woolworths' Ladybird. Even so, mini designer fashion is a very recent phenomenon. What has changed to make parents and society want to lavish so much time, money and attention not just on children's clothing but on every aspect of their young lives?

A simple answer would be that it is a reaction to scarcity. Birth rates in most developed countries have fallen to lows never before seen in peacetime. If there are only one or two children in a family, each child may seem more special (and will certainly command a larger share of family spending) than if there were 10 or 20.

And yet... just as in economics, the idea that there is a fixed amount of work to be shared out among the available workers is known as the lump of labour fallacy, perhaps there is similarly a lump of love fallacy; in other words, maybe it is equally erroneous to suppose there is a fixed amount of parental love to be shared out among the available offspring.

Conventional wisdom holds that when children were more plentiful they were held in much less affection. In earlier ages, it is said, children were treated much as chattels. Horrifyingly high mortality rates discouraged parents from too much emotional investment in their offspring. Often they were not even named until they had shown good prospects of survival, and if they later died their names were recycled and used for subsequent children.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Philippe Aries and Lloyd deMause, two French writers of early influential books on the history of childhood, claimed that our attitudes towards children had undergone a transformation over the centuries. Aries said in Centuries of Childhood that "in medieval society, the idea of childhood did not exist" while deMause asserted in The History of Childhood: "The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of childcare, and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorised and sexually abused."

More recently, however, a different view has emerged. Yes, say historians, a lot of children had it tough in olden times, as did a lot of adults, but they were no less loved than they are today.

"I think nearly all historians now would reject the idea that parents didn't care for their children in the past," says Hugh Cunningham, professor of social history at Kent University and author of The Invention of Childhood, a book due to accompany a BBC Radio 4 series of the same name in September. In fact, he says, there is a weight of evidence pointing in the opposite direction, some of it going back as far as the so-called Dark Ages.

He cites Gregory of Tours in the 6th century describing a famine that "attacked young children first of all, and to them it was fatal; and so we lost our little ones, who were so dear to us, whom we cherished in our bosoms and dandled in our arms, whom we fed and nurtured with such loving care. As I write, I wipe away my tears."

Admittedly, Cunningham says, some children had a harsher time of it in the 16th and 17th centuries after the Reformation, when Protestants and particularly Puritans believed babies were born in sin and baptism alone would not save them. "If you believe your child is a sinful and polluted creature, your response to it is likely to be different than if you believe it's come straight from heaven as the Romantics later did."

But if some parents were especially strict with their offspring, it was not because they did not love them. "They were convinced that unless they brought to them a sense of the necessity of salvation, their children would go to hell," Cunningham says. Clearly, the thought would create tremendous anxiety. In fact, "I sometimes think the Puritans were as obsessed with children as we are, but for different reasons," he says.

In the US, Steven Mintz, a history professor at Houston University and author of Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood, agrees that parents loved their children and grieved when they died - though they may have tried to avoid over-investing in new-borns because of high infant mortality. "Mark Twain's parents waited five months before giving him a name because he had been born several weeks prematurely and seemed likely to die," he says.

If parents sometimes tried to hide their feelings about a child's death, Mintz says, there was a good reason for it. "Before the 19th century, parents were told by ministers [of religion] to suppress their emotions. Highly emotional grieving was considered a self- indulgence and, among the more religious, as a criticism of God's sovereignty."

So, parents have always loved their children even if they have not always shown it. But one small flaw in this otherwise heart-warming tale of doting down the ages is the apparent eagerness of mums, in the days before contraception, to abandon unwanted babies at an alarming rate. In the early 18th century, when philanthropist Thomas Coram started campaigning to establish London's first foundling hospital, up to 1,000 infants a year were being abandoned in the capital.

Cunningham cautions that it would be unwise to read too much heartlessness into such statistics. Any woman poor, hungry or desperate enough to desert an infant probably did so in the belief that abandonment offered the best hope of survival to mother and baby alike, especially if the child were illegitimate, which would disqualify the mother from employment. And women did not give up their babies without grief, as is evident to anyone who visits the Foundling Museum on the site of the original Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury.

Once inside the museum, parents of a sentimental disposition should equip themselves with plenty of Kleenex before perusing the exhibits too closely. It turns out that mothers leaving their babies at the hospital, which opened in 1741, often clung to the forlorn hope that they would one day be reunited with their children if they came upon better times. To this end, they left pathetic tokens with their babies to help identify them later in life: keys, lockets, bracelets and other trinkets, which are now on show.

As well as tokens, some mothers left heart-rending notes and poems. "Go, gentle babe, and all thy life be happiness and love," one mother wrote (or, more likely, had written for her). Another, handing over her infant son, left the words:

"If fortune shall her favours give That I in better plight may live I'd try to have my boy again And train him up the best of men."

Is all this to suggest that our obsession with children is nothing new? Not quite. Parents of the past may have loved their children every bit as much as those of today, but there is no doubt that we live in a more child-centric age. You have only to look at the way children have taken centre stage in politics, or the panics over children's education and health, or the desire of parents to create the perfect childhood - and their guilt about failing to do so.

According to one prominent theory, the roots of the phenomenon lie in a reaction to the 15 years of economic privation and upheavals leading up to the end of the second world war. People who grew up during the Depression and the war that followed it had been deprived of many of childhood's pleasures and were determined to give their own children better lives. Perhaps you could have said that of any previous generation of parents, but the difference this time was that, thanks to the post-war economic boom, parents were in a position to do something about it.

"For parents whose own childhoods were scarred by war and insecurity, the impulse to marry, bear children and provide them with a protected childhood was intense," Mintz writes in Huck's Raft. "Childlessness became a sign of maladjustment and parenthood a sign of maturity and success."

Within 30 years of its first publication in 1946, parents of the baby-boom generation had made Dr Benjamin Spock's The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care one of the best-selling books of the 20th century. As usual, then, it is all about the baby-boomers, and has been going on ever since.

But the real explanation may go back further: to the regulation and eventual abolition of child labour and the subsequent introduction of compulsory education, a process that began in the 19th century and continued into the first half of the 20th. Cunningham calls this mass migration of children from the workplace to the schoolroom probably the most important transition to have occurred in the history of childhood, precisely for the reason noted at the outset: by eliminating the productive role of children, it turned them from an asset into a liability.

The point is, the transition did not leave children unwanted. On the contrary, as if to compensate for the loss of their economic value, the sentimental value of children soared. Since children no longer generated any cash, the whole of their value lay in the emotional gratification they brought. And since money can't buy you love, children became almost literally priceless.

In her book Pricing the Priceless Child, Viviana A. Zelizer, a Princeton University sociology professor, tells how parents in the US started insuring themselves against the deaths of their children not for the loss of the child's earning power, as in the past, but for the emotional loss they would suffer. And the courts started awarding parents much higher levels of compensation.

The 20th century also saw the emergence of what you might call adoption for pleasure. Previously, people usually only adopted children from outside their extended family if they needed cheap labour: in the children's classic Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908, the Cuthberts ask the orphanage in Nova Scotia to send them a boy to help on the farm, and get the freckle-faced Anne by mistake. Yet by the 1930s, Zelizer reports, a black market for unwanted children had emerged in the US, and childless couples were shelling out big money for blue-eyed boys or fair-haired girls with no intention whatever of putting them to work.

"The new market for children was shaped by children's non-economic appeal," Zelizer writes. "While in the 19th century a child's capacity for labour had determined its exchange value, the market price of a 20th- century baby was set by smiles, dimples and curls."

Perhaps, then, we are now nearer knowing why people persist in having children. Some may be motivated by romantic love, or a desire to carry on the family line, or a primeval urge to perpetuate the species. Others may just be too drunk to put on a condom. But, for the rest, we have to conclude that whether adopting other people's children or conceiving their own, they do it largely for emotional satisfaction.

"Children don't ask to be born, so by and large, we have them to meet our own needs. That's the bottom line," says Jack Boyle, a Scottish psychologist with a specialism in family dynamics. "As lifelong companions and friends, for example, they're much more reliable than your partners. They're less likely to divorce you or abuse you or batter you and they're a much better bet as a support system in your old age."

As well as being a source of affection, children can also, of course, be a source of immense pride. But it goes beyond that. They have become an extension of the parents' selves and a vital part of their parents' claim to status. The names they bear, the clothes they wear, the schools they attend, the instruments they play, the food they eat, the values they reflect - all bear witness to their parents' supposed intelligence, sensibility and good taste. The child's success is the parent's success and nothing must be allowed to stand in its way.

As Mintz says, in today's highly competitive environment, parents want fewer but "higher quality" children and invest more resources in them to try to promote their success. "Parents want to protect and perfect their own kids, while viewing other parents' kids as a problem. Instead of caring about kids in general, we care about our own kid."

Naturally, the flip side of that greater investment in fewer children is heightened parental anxiety about anything that might threaten their children's welfare. "We no longer worry about kids' posture or whether they write neatly or clean their fingernails," Mintz says. "We worry obsessively about their health, safety and academic achievement."

Thus the term "hyper-parenting" has come into use to describe today's anxiety-driven, success-oriented approach to child-rearing. Right from the child's birth, parents embark on a programme of enhancing their new-born's cognitive, motor, language and social skills; and later, outside school hours, its time is filled with further learning, organised sports and culturally enriching activities. They believe they must deluge their child with love and approval to bolster its self-confidence and must never call it "bad" for fear of destroying its self-esteem. They are mortified about sending it to day-care and try to compensate by turning every moment with the child into quality time involving intense communication.

The funny thing is, none of it makes a scrap of difference to the way children turn out: not whether they listen to Baby Einstein CDs, nor whether their mothers work or stay at home, nor whether the parents are adoring or mean. Ample studies and decades of evidence have shown that about half the variation in a person's personality comes directly from their parents' genes and the rest is shaped by forces outside the home, notably their peer group and the neighbourhood in which they grow up.

"Parental upbringing does nothing at all to form the child's character," says Judith Rich Harris, author of the newly published No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality, which sets out to bring the science behind this still poorly understood reality to a wider audience. (The evidence comes from studies showing, for example, that adult siblings end up equally similar whether they grow up together or apart, and that unrelated children adopted by the same parents end up no more similar than people plucked off the street at random.)

This does not mean that the parenting role is unimportant. Clearly, it has a big and lasting effect on the relationship between the child and its parents, Harris says. "It also has a profound effect on how children behave at home, on how they get along with their siblings, which is a life-long relationship, and on how happy or unhappy people are in childhood - because if things are going badly at home, it's hard for a child to be happy."

The other big effect parents have, apart from bestowing their characteristics on their children through their genes, arises from the decisions they make about the environment in which their children grow up. At an extreme, a child brought up as an Amish will have a different personality from one brought up in mainstream US culture. And if the parents move to another country, their children will adopt the culture and personality traits of people in the new country, unless they are brought up in a tight-knit community of other, similar, immigrants.

But if obsessional parenting makes no difference to the way children turn out, why bother? What, after all, is the point of adults sacrificing their peace of mind and even their enjoyment of life for their children if all the children have to look forward to when they grow up is making exactly the same sacrifices for their own offspring?

Harris, a grandmother herself, agrees. "I think it's harmful to family life," she says. "The home is no longer being run by parents, it's being run more by the children, and children don't really know how to run the home as well as parents do.

"I think parents have a right to a peaceful home life just as children do and that, on the whole, it works better if adults are in charge. But parents are no longer willing to be in charge, and that's unfortunate - not because it's going to harm their children in the long run, but because it's made family life a lot more chaotic."

No one is saying children should be sent back down the pit, but something seems to have been lost amid the modern-day desire to treat childhood as a project with the perfect child as the desired outcome. Perhaps, for everyone's sake, parents should just back off a little. You never know: parenting could even turn out to be fun. So could being a kid.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The Human Rights Council

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The Human Rights Council
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 23, 2006

The Bush administration was right to hold out for high principle when the ground rules for membership on the new UN Human Rights Council were being debated earlier this year.

Unfortunately, the United States lost that fight, and the council's opening session this week was tarnished by the participation of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, all flagrant abusers themselves and poorly suited to judge the human-rights performance of other nations. Other questionable members include China and Russia, which not only circumscribe the rights of their own citizens but also use their clout regularly to defend the indefensible behavior of allies like Uzbekistan or Sudan.

Iran, a nonmember, flaunted its contempt for human rights by sending Saeed Mortazavi, the fearsome public prosecutor of Tehran, as an observer to the opening session. Mortazavi has been implicated in torture, and Canada holds him personally responsible for the death in custody of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi.

Despite losing the fight over membership rules, Washington has pledged to help the new council succeed. Regrettably, it passed up an obvious chance to do so by choosing not to seek a seat itself this year. An American voice on the council would have been a spur toward greater candor and understanding. While it is hard to feel optimistic about a human-rights group that includes Saudi Arabia, where women's rights are virtually nonexistent, or Pakistan, where possible sentences include stoning and judicial gang rape, the problematic members only make up a fraction of the 47-member group.

The United Nations did struggle to create a council that would be an improvement upon its discredited predecessor, and many human-rights experts have expressed some optimism and hope. The secretary general, Kofi Annan, spelled out the challenge clearly: "This council represents a great new chance for the United Nations, and for humanity, to renew the struggle for human rights. I implore you, do not let the opportunity be squandered."

WHO finds son gave father bird flu

WHO finds son gave father bird flu
By Elisabeth Rosenthal and Peter Gelling
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 23, 2006

JAKARTA An Indonesian man who died after catching H5N1 bird flu from his 10-year-old son represents the first laboratory confirmed case of human- to-human transmission of the disease, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

The WHO investigators also discovered that the virus had mutated slightly when the son contracted the disease, although not in any way that would allow it to pass more easily among people. Flu viruses like H5N1 mutate constantly and most of the mutations are insignificant biologically, as appears to have been the case in the Indonesian cluster.

"Yes it is slightly altered, but in a way that viruses commonly mutate," said Dick Thompson, a spokesman for the UN health agency in Geneva, describing the findings of the investigation, which has not yet been released, into a cluster of bird flu deaths within a family in North Sumatra.

"But that didn't make it more transmissible or cause more severe disease."

The findings came as the UN agency, along with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Indonesian government, concluded a three-day conference in Jakarta to review Indonesia's progress in fighting the disease, which has now killed 39 people here.

Although Vietnam has recorded the highest number of bird-flu related deaths at 42, Indonesia has recorded deaths at a much faster rate in the last year than any other country, and is expected to soon surpass Vietnam.

Officials at the conference cited a lack of coordination between animal health agencies and human health agencies, as well as a lack of funding and public education, for Indonesia's faltering progress against the disease.

"We know things still need to be done, we know we need to push on," said Keiji Fukuda, coordinator for the World Health Organization's global influenza program, who was in Jakarta for the meeting. "This is a long-term fight."

Representatives at the conference said avian flu was widespread and "well established" among poultry in Indonesia, and that large numbers of animal infections still went unreported, increasing the risk to humans.

Indonesia has 1.3 billion chickens, which often roam freely in both urban and rural areas. Sick chickens often go unnoticed as many families keep only a few.

The group of experts played down the significance of the cluster of bird-flu deaths among the family in North Sumatra, saying the virus had not mutated into a more dangerous form and had not spread beyond the family.

They also pointed to similar clusters that occurred as far back as 1997 in Thailand, in Hong Kong in 2004 and last year in Azerbaijan.

The overriding importance of the slightly modified virus in North Sumatra, Thompson said, is that it allowed researchers flown in from the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to document for the first time that the virus has almost certainly been passed from person to person.

In previous cases in which human-to-human transmission was suspected there was not the ability to test samples from the patients, or the virus in the patients was the same as that in poultry in the area.

Scientists have long said that the H5N1 virus, which has killed hundreds of millions of birds worldwide, does not spread easily to humans or among them. But they have worried that it might acquire that ability though normal biological processes that involve genetic rearrangement, setting off a devastating human pandemic of the disease.

About 200 people have contracted bird flu around the world, almost all of them after exceedingly close contact with ill birds.
International health officials have been in Indonesia for much of the past month, investigating the family outbreak that affected seven relatives in the Karo highlands, a remote region in Sumatra. Six of the seven died.

Although Indonesia has been struggling all year to control a series of bird flu outbreaks among poultry, the family on Sumatra had no direct contact with sick birds, though the first death in the family was a woman who sold vegetables in a market that also sold birds.

The family members in the cluster had a feast together in late April when the woman was already ill and coughing heavily. Some spent the night in the same small room with her. Also, some of the family members took care of others when they were sick, before going to the hospital.

The first five family members to fall ill had identical strains of H5N1, one that is common in animals in Indonesia. But that virus had mutated slightly in the sixth victim, a child.

Still, Thompson said there was no evidence that the mutated germ was better adapted to human infection. The UN health agency has for a month been following 54 neighbors and other family members who lived near the affected family and none have contracted the virus.

Peter Gelling reported from Jakarta and Elisabeth Rosenthal from Rome.

U.S. mines bank data as tool in terror fight

U.S. mines bank data as tool in terror fight
By Eric Lichtblau and Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: June 23, 2006

WASHINGTON The White House on Friday vigorously defended a secret program of combing through a vast international database containing banking transactions involving thousands of Americans. Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials said the program, whose existence was revealed Friday in an article in The New York Times, was both legal and necessary to deter terrorism.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, in his first public remarks about the program, called it "government at its best." He told reporters that the operation was carefully controlled to trace only those transactions with an identifiable link to possible terrorist activity.

"There can't be any doubt about the fact that the program is an effective weapon, an effective weapon in the larger war on terror," he said. "It's for that reason that these disclosures of the particular sources and methods are so regrettable."

Separately, President George W. Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, said the program complied with "the letter and spirit of the law." He said members of congressional intelligence committees had been apprised of the program, though he did not provide specifics.

The spokesman derided criticisms of the program as "entirely abstract in nature." He said that it had been subjected to outside auditing, and that the president did not need to seek authorization from Congress for it.

"Let me tell you why this is important: It works," he said. "It is sought only for terrorism investigations. A series of safeguards have been put in place."

The banking consortium, known as Swift, that maintains the database gave no sign Friday that it was rethinking its relationship with the government, despite the sudden glare of publicity aimed at an organization that generally keeps a very low profile.

American officials, in urging The Times not to publish Friday's article, expressed concerns that Swift, which has its headquarters in Brussels, could be prompted to pull out of the program if its role were revealed - particularly in light of sharp anti-American sentiments in parts of Europe. But an official with Swift, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that there had been "no discussions" about a withdrawal.

News of the program's existence renewed concerns about civil liberties first raised last year when The Times reported on another secret program, conducted by the National Security Agency, involving eavesdropping on telephone communications without court warrants.

Both disclosures prompted complaints to the administration from members of Congress, who are calling for more oversight, and from advocates for civil liberties.

"I am very concerned that the Bush administration may be once again violating the constitutional rights of innocent Americans, as part of another secret program created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks," Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has made privacy a signature issue, said in a statement.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, condemned the program, calling it "another example of the Bush administration's abuse of power."
But Snow, the White House press secretary, said Americans by and large supported the eavesdropping program.
"You can go ahead and look at your own polling, and you will find that Americans - if somebody says, 'Do you want a program that listens in on people who have been identified as Al Qaeda terrorists?' - the answer would be, 'Yes, I would like to do that. I would like to find data on it.'"

The press secretary made his remarks during a lengthy morning briefing, during which he at times grew uncharacteristically testy.

At one point, he accused news organizations like CNN, The Times and The Los Angeles Times of collecting personal data from visitors to their Web sites without disclosing it. At another, he grew exasperated when Helen Thomas, a longtime White House correspondent, interrupted him, and told her to "stop heckling and let me conduct the press conference."

Eric Lichtblau and James Risen reported earlier from Washington:

Administration officials said the program was limited to tracing the transactions of people suspected of ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from Swift, the nerve center of the global banking industry that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions.

The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas or into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to the United States are not in the database.

Viewed by the administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most- wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.
The program, run out of the CIA and overseen by the Treasury Department, "has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities," Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview Thursday.

The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records.

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records.

Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from Swift.

That access to large amounts of sensitive data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

"The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said a former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous."

The program is separate from the NSA's efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and collect domestic phone records, operations that have provoked fierce public debate and spurred lawsuits against the government and telecommunications companies.

Officials described the Swift program as the biggest and most far-reaching of several secret efforts to trace terrorist financing. Much more limited agreements with other companies have provided access to ATM transactions, credit card purchases and Western Union wire payments, the officials said.

Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry executives discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. Some of those officials expressed reservations about the program, saying that what they viewed as an urgent, temporary measure had become permanent nearly five years later without specific congressional approval or formal authorization.

Data from Swift have allowed officials from the CIA, the FBI and other agencies to examine "tens of thousands" of financial transactions, Levey said.

While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other organizations under suspicion inside the United States, officials said. A small fraction of Swift's records involve transactions entirely within the United States, but Treasury officials said they were uncertain whether any had been examined.

Swift executives have been uneasy at times about their secret role, the government and industry officials said. By 2003, the executives told U.S. officials they were considering pulling out of the arrangement, which began as an emergency response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said. Worried about potential legal liability, the Swift executives agreed to continue providing the data only after top officials, including Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, intervened. At the same time, new controls were introduced.

Among the program's safeguards, government officials said, is an outside auditing firm that verifies that the data searches are based on a link to terrorism intelligence. Swift and Treasury officials said they were aware of no abuses. But Levey said one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate.

"We are not on a fishing expedition," Levey said. "We're not just turning on a vacuum cleaner and sucking in all the information that we can."

The administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.

Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, said: "We have listened closely to the administration's arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

Levey agreed to discuss the classified operation after The Times' editors told him of the newspaper's decision.
On Thursday evening, Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, said: "Since immediately following 9/11, the American government has taken every legal measure to prevent another attack on our country."

She added: "We know the terrorists pay attention to our strategy to fight them, and now have another piece of the puzzle of how we are fighting them.

Referring to the disclosure by The Times in December of the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, she said, "The president is concerned that once again The New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is working to protect our citizens."

Barclay Walsh contributed reporting for this article.

Baghdad oasis 'falling to terrorists'

Baghdad oasis 'falling to terrorists'
By Sabrina Tavernise
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: June 23, 2006

BAGHDAD Mansour is Baghdad's well-to-do oasis. It has fancy pastry shops, jewelry stores, a designer furniture boutique and an elite social club. But it is no longer the address everyone wants.

In the past two months, insurgents have gunned down a city councilman, kidnapped four Russian Embassy workers, shot and killed a tailor in his shop and bombed a pastry shop.
"It's falling to the terrorists," said Hasaneen Mualla, director of the Hunting Club, a social club in the affluent area that lies just five kilometers, or three miles, from the Green Zone. "They are coming nearer to us now. No one is stopping them."
For most of the past six months, Iraq has drifted without a government and its security forces have largely stood by and watched at most crucial moments, like the one in February, when Shiite militias killed Sunnis after the bombing of a sacred shrine.

Now, as Iraqi leaders in the Green Zone savor their recent successes - the naming of the first permanent government since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most-wanted guerrilla leader - Iraqis outside its walls are more frightened than ever.

Neighborhood after neighborhood in western Baghdad has fallen to insurgents, with some areas bordering on anarchy: Bodies lie on the streets for hours. Trash is no longer collected. Children are schooled at home.

The paralysis that shut down life in west Baghdad is creeping ever closer to the heart of the city, and Iraqis in still livable areas are frantic for the government to halt its advance, something it pledged to do when it unveiled a new security plan for Baghdad last week.

"It's like a cancer, spreading from area to area," said a guard at Delta Communications, a Mansour cellphone shop that is now shuttered after a bomb blast last month.

Mansour is an area of stately homes, elaborately trimmed hedges and people who can afford guards. But in recent weeks, that has not mattered.

Home-made bombs have struck two sport utility vehicles belonging to the former exile Ahmad Chalabi, a Mansour resident, in the past month. Gangs have kidnapped the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates and the four Russian Embassy workers. Wedding arrangements at the Hunting Club now require the couple to provide their own guards for the festivities.
"These middle- and upper-class families, these guys are not willing to fight," said one affluent resident. "It's like cutting into butter."

The neighborhood has long been tormented by kidnappings. Criminal gangs know where the city's affluent live. But the violence in the past two months feels more organized and, in many ways, more relentless, aimed broadly at businesses and neighborhood mainstays.

One victim was Khassaki Sweet Shop, an icon on Mansour Street since the 1980s, famous for its plump baklava, candied almonds and crème-filled honey rolls displayed behind a sparkling glass storefront.

On May 28, a teenager placed a bag in front of the shop and moments later it exploded, shattering glass, scattering pastries and sending a large chunk of shrapnel flying over the head of the cashier.

Last week, workers were building an ugly brick protective wall in front of the shop. A small piece of cloth that read "Open" hung above the gaping entrance.

"Ruined! Destroyed!" the owner said angrily. "It's not a first-class shop anymore."

The owner, who refused to give his name, blamed the Americans for the security troubles, an opinion expressed by many in Mansour - Shiite and Sunni alike.

"If the Americans want to destroy Iraq, they are on the right path," said the owner, a Shiite, who stood scowling behind a candy counter. He displayed a pistol jammed in his waistband. "If they can't improve things, they should just leave us alone."
A man waiting in line for Turkish delight disagreed: "But not now, we're still in a mess."

The owner shook his head in disgust.

The wave of insurgent crime lapping at Mansour's borders has already sunk other neighborhoods in west Baghdad into anarchy.

In Dora, it is impossible to collect the bodies of murdered loved ones because of sniper fire. Trash collection has all but stopped.

Ali Aziz, a Shiite, had to hastily load the body of his friend into the back of a pickup truck in late April, after the police refused to respond to the pleas of the man's widow.

He waited until he had reached the safety of a police station to put the body in a coffin.

"There is no government there," said a computer programmer who moved out of Ameriya two weeks ago, after four murders on his block. "I want to go to my home, to bring some clothes, but I can't go there. My own country, my own home, and I can't go there."

In Mansour, life has not shut down entirely, but slowed from a bustle to a trickle. An internal American Embassy security document leaked to The Washington Post quoted an Iraqi employee who said that Mansour was "an unrecognizable ghost town."

Threats have closed a number of shops on Mansour Street, and the emptiness in the early afternoon is palpable. Last week, two jewelry shop owners were sitting in the back room of a house in the afternoon, watching a Word Cup soccer game. They shut their shops when they received telephone calls from a man threatening to bomb them if they did not pay money. It was the day, coincidentally, that Iraq's most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed.

"I thought it was one of my friends joking," said one owner, Omar, who declined to give his last name. He later checked the phone number with a friend, who said he had received three phone calls from the same number. Omar never considered going to the police.

Now he barely recognizes his life. He washes his car and goes shopping. He naps in the middle of the day. He is losing about $500 every day he keeps the store closed.

Some shop owners said insurgents told Shiite merchants to take down pictures of Shiite saints, but Omar scoffed at the idea that the threats have mostly sectarian motives. "It's all about money," he said, images of the World Cup game flashing on the screen behind him. "The pictures are just an excuse."

Fatalism and dark humor infuse conversations around dinner tables and among friends in Mansour.

"Someone was wearing shorts, and someone else said, 'Well, at least we know that when Zarqawi's people arrive, you'll be the first one they grab,'" said a foreign resident.

Even so, Iraqis expressed hope that a new security regime that took effect would produce meaningful results. Last week, a smiling Iraqi Army soldier stood waving cars by a makeshift checkpoint near Chalabi's compound, across from the Hunting Club. Mualla, the club's director, said the area had been quiet since the regime began.

A major problem is the state itself. With the central government weak, powerful Iraqis - rich men, political leaders, tribal sheiks - manipulate it with ease, using their influence to enlist police officers and soldiers to do their bidding. Smaller-time criminals buy uniforms. As a result, it can be all but impossible to differentiate between criminals and the official forces.

Consider the case of Iraqna, one of the country's largest cellphone providers, whose shop in Mansour was raided by about 10 Iraqis in army uniforms in early April. The soldiers - or criminals, depending on your point of view - locked 60 employees on two floors in a room, rummaged through drawers and took phones and wallets. Two people were killed.

Company executives are still puzzling over whether the forces were legitimate government ones (none have admitted to it) or thieves dressed as soldiers. Alain Sainte-Marie, the company's chief executive officer, said he had filed a legal case in court to force the state to get to the bottom of what happened.

"Witnesses said it was a raid done by official troops," Sainte-Marie said in the company's elegant headquarters with a spiral staircase in a fortified area of Mansour. "To tell you frankly, the way that it happened, I still have doubts."

The branch is now closed, and Sainte-Marie is reviewing security plans. In an attempt at preserving aesthetic, he has balked at suggestions for giant chunks of concrete. "It has to stay friendly," he said. "I won't accept it to look like a bunker."

Mualla sips ice-cold water in his renovated office in the back of the Hunting Club and worries. Business - receptions and banquets - is down by about half over the past two months. Weddings are now booked just a week in advance, not a month. "They are coming nearer to us now," he said, slumping slightly in a high-backed chair. "I'm tired. I'm very tired of controlling the situation. Nobody is helping me."

Fed scare puts speculation and volatility back in the market

Fed scare puts speculation and volatility back in the market
By John Authers
Published: June 24 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 24 2006 03:00
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

Only a few weeks ago, the Financial Times was writing that next week's meeting of the Federal Reserve's open market committee was one of the least predictable in years. At the beginning of this month, the price of futures contracts written on the Fed Funds rate showed that the market rated the probability of a 25 basis point interest rate rise at exactly 50 per cent.

Now, we appear to be heading for an anticlimax. As Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and several of his fellow governors made it ever clearer that they thought inflation was already too high, in a campaign to "jawbone" down inflation expectations, so the market got the message.

According to Fed Funds futures, the chances that the Fed will raise rates by at least 25 basis points next week are precisely 100 per cent. There is also a probability of about 80 per cent that the Fed will raise rates again in August. And, most intriguingly for the market, bonds and currencies have been changing hands for the past couple of days on the back of a rumour that the Fed might even raise rates by 50 basis points next Thursday.

This bubble of speculation dates back to suggestions earlier in the week that Mr Bernanke had used a regular meeting with representatives of the bond market's biggest broker-dealers to introduce the possibility of a 50 basis point rise. The argument in its favour is that it could work as an "over and out" move - demonstrating the Fed's hawkish credentials, but allowing the market more certainty going forward.

However, the arguments against are rather stronger. First, Mr Bernanke has admitted to Congress that he was unwise to talk privately about future monetary policy to Maria Bartiromo of CNBC. It would have been very, very much more foolish to tip off brokers who between them accounted for most of the trading in the bond market. Give traders information, and they will trade on it.

Further, it would be difficult to make it an "over and out" move, as it is yet possible that data between now and August would show that more tightening is necessary. And finally, the markets are febrile enough as it is. However it was packaged, a rise of that magnitude would run the risk of sending a message that the Fed was seriously scared, rather than a message of icy resolve. It has not raised by 50 basis points since early 2000. And there is enough fear in the market as it is.

Thus we are set up for an anticlimax. Thursday might conceivably see some relief at a rise of "only" 25 basis points. But the likelihood is that the market will return to the game of deciphering hidden meanings in the choice of vocabulary in the accompanying communiqué, which the Fed may well choose to make more hawkish.

The sense of anticlimax may be accentuated by the high drama that has preceded it. The last FOMC meeting - which left open the Fed's options on rates - triggered the most volatile passage for the US stock markets since the invasion of Iraq in early 2003.

The correction since the last FOMC meeting has been dramatic enough - 9.5 per cent in the Nasdaq Composite, 6 per cent in the S&P 500, and a thumping 12 per cent for the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies, a sector which is at last underperforming the biggest blue-chips after a bull run that has lasted several years.

But the best measure of the pain the market went through as it was dragged, kicking and screaming, to acknowledge that the Fed will be clamping down yet further on the supply of cheap money, comes from the VIX index.

A measure derived from the movements of futures written on the S&P 500, the VIX had been dwindling steadily since 2003, when it reached a level of 45.

For the past year it had scraped along at a level of about 10. But volatility finally returned this month. It reached 24 last week, and while it is now down to 16 again, the almost universal expectation is that it will remain high until the Fed embarks on monetary easing once more.

That creates opportunities, particularly now that variance swaps and other instruments allow volatility to be traded almost as an asset class.

But it also demonstrates exactly what scares the market.

After years of easy money, the Fed, with other central banks, is at last crunching liquidity. And Wall Street does not like that one little bit.

Rates decision countdown begins in earnest

Rates decision countdown begins in earnest
By Christopher Brown-Humes
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: June 24 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 24 2006 03:00

Worries about where US interest rates are heading unsettled investors yesterday as the countdown to next week's Federal Reserve meeting began in earnest.

A seventeenth consecutive quarter point increase in US interest rates to 5.25 per cent next Thursday is fully priced in by the market.

But speculation that the Fed might lift rates by50 basis points was enough to keep investors on edge.

The futures market seemed to be giving a slim probability - just 12 per cent - to the chance of a 50bp rise.

The more widely held view is that rates will be increased by 25bp next week, with the strong probability of a further 25bp at the Fed's next meeting in August.

Some economists predict that the Fed will lift interest rates to 6 per cent overthe next year as it continues its battle to hold down inflation.

Fears over higher interest rates played out in theUS Treasuries market yesterday.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose to a four-year high above 5.21 per cent, while the yield on the two-year note, which is particularly sensitive to Federal Reserve monetary policy shifts, rose above 5.25 per cent, its highest since Dec-ember 2000.

The unsettled mood spread into the corporate bond market, with a sell-off in high-yield debt, suggesting rising risk aversion for this asset class.

"There is a certain amount of risk-aversion in the market, given that US interest rates could go higher than previously thought.

"There is no doubt that the macro economic conditions in the credit market are deteriorating, although it is a slow development," said Gary Jenkins, head of credit strategy at Deutsche Bank.

Interest rates are also being increased in the eurozone and the Bank of Japan is expected to move away from its near zero interest rate policy in the next few months.

"I am concerned that we may be entering a phase of 'monetary overkill' ascentral banks worldwide continue to remove liquidity from the system," saidNick Parsons, head ofmacro research at Commerzbank.

"Either short rates will rise too much or long rates will rise too much. Either way, the implications for the real economy, in the US and globally, could be quite serious for the markets."

Equity markets found it hard to make progress after a weak close to Wall Street on Thursday and a weak start yesterday. By mid-afternoon on Friday, the S&P 500 was 0.4 per cent higher and 0.1 per cent lower for the week. The Nasdaq was 0.5 per cent higher leaving it up 0.2 per cent for the week and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.3 per cent, a gain of 0.3 per cent for the week.

Weaker than expected economic data did little to help the mood on Wall Street yesterday.

US durable goods orders for May were down 0.3 per cent month on month, whereas the consensus had been for a rise of 0.4 per cent.

European shares held steady with the FTSE Eurofirst 300 index rising0.1 per cent to 1,283.03 yesterday, taking its gains over the week to 1.8 per cent. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Average fell 0.08 per cent to 15,124.04, but the index was 1.6 per cent higher on the week.

Tim Harris, strategist at JPMorgan Private Bank, said: "We expect conditions to remain volatile over the next three months.

"We need to know that the Fed is on top of inflation but not killing growth before the current unsettled period comes to an end."

The dollar reached atwo-month high against the euro, the yen and the Swiss franc, while hitting a seven-week high against sterling yesterday as it benefited from talk of higher US interest rates and a sell-offin some emerging market currencies.

Oil prices remained above $70 a barrel, as investors fretted about tightness inUS gasoline stocks ahead of the peak summer driving season.

Worries about possible disruption to supplies during the hurricane season has also helped to keep prices high.

Financial Times Editorial - Divided Democrats

Financial Times Editorial - Divided Democrats
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: June 24 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 24 2006 03:00

Pity the candidate whose task is to unite the Democrats at the next presidential election. This week the party's continued indecisiveness over Iraq was on agonising display with Democrat senators splitting three ways. One group, led by Joe Lieberman, voted with the Republicans to "stay the course" in Iraq. Another, led by John Kerry, voted to "cut and run" - albeit by July 2007. And a third, which included Hillary Clinton, voted to maintain US troops in Iraq for the time being - well sort of, depending on circumstances, caveat emptor, etc. It was hardly a stirring performance.

To be fair to the Democrats, the picture in Iraq remains complex. Any simple outcome, particularly one peddled by an undivided Republican party, should be taken with a large pinch of salt. If you add in a sprinkling of Karl Rove - George W. Bush's electoral maestro, recently liberated from the threat of prosecution over war-related leaks - then the brew starts to look unappetising for America's loyal opposition.

The Democrats need to overcome two perennial challenges if they are to take control of Capitol Hill in November and the White House in 2008. First, they should stop trying to atone for previous blunders - it only leads to new ones. In calling this week for a US withdrawal from Iraq, many Democrats tried to make up for the fact that half of them were stampeded into voting for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 - an earlier Rovian masterstroke when mid-term elections were also looming. Likewise, the Democrats' rash support for the 2002 Iraq resolution was driven by regret at having overwhelmingly opposed a 1990 resolution authorising Bush senior to liberate Kuwait. That mistake, in turn, was motivated by Democratic contrition at having taken the US into the disastrous war in Vietnam by endorsing Lyndon Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964.

Approached dispassionately, history is always instructive. But fighting the last battle is a recipe for permanent defeat. This week was not the time for Democrats to hold a revote on the 2002 Iraq resolution. It was a strategy that addressed neither the existing conflict in Iraq, which requires leadership and realism from America, nor the Democrats' own political difficulties.

Their second challenge is to go into battle under one commander-in-chief. Admittedly the US constitution makes it hard for the party not occupying the White House to unite under one leader, especially if it is in the minority on Capitol Hill. But it can be done - as the Republicans showed under Newt Gingrich in the mid-1990s. Deciding who that will be is another matter. In the meantime Mr Rove will continue to torment a divided opposition. Opinion polls still lean towards a Republican defeat in November. But there is plenty of time for Democrats to squander their opportunity. Indeed, history suggests it is more likely than not.

Friday, June 23, 2006

"I'm the Decider" by Roddy McCorley

"I'm the Decider" by Roddy McCorley

I'm the decider. I pick and I choose.
I pick among whats and I choose among whos.
And as I decide each particular day,
The things I decide on all turn out that way.

I decided on Freedom for all of Iraq.
And now that they have it, I'm not looking back.
I decided on tax cuts that just help the wealthy.
And Medicare changes that aren't really healthy.

And parklands and wetlands, who needs all that stuff?
I decided that none would be more than enough!
I decided that schools all-in-all are the best
The less they teach and more they test.

I decided those wages you need to get by
Are much better spent on some CEO guy.
I decided your Wade, which was versing your Roe
Is terribly awful and just has to go.

I decided that levees are not really needed.
Now when hurricanes come they come unimpeded.
That old Constitution? Well, I have decided
It's "just goddam paper." It should be derided.

I've decided gay marriage is icky and weird.
Above all other things, it's the one to be feared.

Yes, I'm the Decider. I know what is best.
Listen only to me and ignore all the rest.
Or I'll tap your phones and your e-mail I'll read.
Because I'm the Decider, like Jesus decreed!
Yes, I'm the Decider, so watch what you say
Or I may decide to whisk you away.

Cheney and Rummy and Condi all know
That I'm the Decider. They tell me it's so.
Yes, I'm the Decider. The finest alive
And I'm nuking Iran. Now watch this drive!

America’s Disappearing Wealth By Carlos T. Mock, MD

America’s Disappearing Wealth By Carlos T. Mock, MD
Chicago, IL

Federal borrowing eventually results in a transfer of income from U.S. taxpayers to the investors who hold the Treasury bonds. As long as Americans own the bonds, the transfer is simply from one American to another. Bondholders may get richer, while taxpayers who don't own bonds get poorer. But shuffling the income between the two groups doesn't reduce America's overall wealth.

Today, however, 43 percent of the United States' publicly held debt of $4.8 trillion is held abroad, mainly by central banks in Japan, China, and Britain and by offshore hedge funds. That's up from a 30 percent share in 2001, an extraordinary increase.

Indeed, during the Bush years, 73 percent of new government borrowing has been from abroad. Paying the interest on the foreign- owned portion of the debt will be a burden on future generations of Americans, draining their wallets, and siphoning off America's wealth.

America is at war and the budget is so wildly out of balance that the government cannot pay its bills without borrowing money from foreign investors. America is living beyond its means, and foreigners are increasingly supporting the excess - in exchange for a government guarantee that a chunk of America's future collective income will benefit them, not the Americans who earn it. The problem will come when there is a shift in global foreign exchange reserves away from the dollar, perhaps driven by events in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, David Goldman of Cantor Fitzgerald worries that the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have become sources of risk for the markets. The rise in inflation breakeven rates (derived from bond markets) has been driven by oil and gold prices. He believes these factors are geopolitical, not economic. 
Then, there is the run on resources such as oils, metals and construction materials! The Commodity Research Bureau (CRB) index has doubled since January 2002, thanks to surging demand from China, India, and other developing countries. Recently prices slid, but the high-demand story still has years to run, says CRB chief economist Richard Asplund.

As we absorb the true meaning of these words we have seen in just the past month, the Dow slid 6.4 percent, the S&P 5.5 percent and the NASDAQ 9 percent—reminding us that investors have little faith on the New Fed Chairman and his ability to produce a “soft landing.” They even believe that The Fed is a source of risk for the markets, perhaps the culprit of our next recession.

Europe's economy is expanding, Asia's is sizzling, and countries that export oil and metals are raking in the chips. "The shifting sands of the global economy aren't moving our way, they're moving Asia's way," says chief global economist Allen Sinai of Decision Economics. "You don't want to be only in dollar investments anymore." Besides, the dollar will weaken when the Fed stops raising interest rates, he says. When the dollar declines, internationals do even better for American investors.
While this is happening, our Senate spends its precious time debating Gay Marriage and Flag Burning. Any day in which the U.S. Congress refrains from doing something destructive is about as good as it gets in Washington lately. At what point is the Republican majority in congress going to reverse this economic drain?

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Immigration reform? Run!

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Immigration reform? Run!
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published June 23, 2006

Just when it seemed like a fix to the country's immigration crisis might not be out of reach, the House of Representatives has decided it would rather run from the problem.

Instead of meeting with the Senate to try to reach a compromise on two very different immigration bills, House leaders plan to hold hearings around the nation, then take a nice August recess and ... oops, sorry folks, we're out of time. We'll get right back on that immigration thing as soon as the election is over ...

"We are going to listen to the American people," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said, explaining the decision to set up a traveling road show rather than stay in Washington and negotiate a law.

It seems unlikely that House leaders genuinely believe they need to hear from the American people at this point. If ever a group had its mind made up about something, it's the House Republicans on immigration. For months they've insisted they have a finger on the pulse of the public, and that the public wants a secure border, period. None of this "earned citizenship" for illegal immigrants that the Senate has proposed.

The decision to go back out and re-check the public's pulse pretty much kills the chances for passing an immigration reform bill this year, but Hastert & Co. apparently find that more attractive than compromise. "Listening to the American people" has a nicer ring to it than Hastert's earlier pronouncement--that no legislation would be brought to a floor vote unless it was favored by "a majority of the majority." But the result is the same: nothing.

There are two possible explanations for the foot-dragging: 1. House leaders are certain the American people agree with them or 2. They aren't. If you subscribe to No. 1, the logic is simple: Why even try to solve the problem in September if you can bang that drum all the way to November? If you're worried about No. 2, well, it's safer to stall. Either way, the House seems cynically confident that voters won't call the members on it.

There is one thing the American people have said loud and clear, and with near unanimity: The immigration system is badly broken. People are not so much polarized over immigration reform as they are conflicted. It is at precisely such times that political leadership is needed. Too bad the House has decided to hit the road instead.

Fears grow that Fed could raise interest rates to 6%

Fears grow that Fed could raise interest rates to 6%
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
By Jennifer Hughes in New York
Published: June 23 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 23 2006 03:00

Fears are growing in financial markets that benchmark US interest rates could rise as high as 6 per cent in a bid to quell rising inflation.

Investment bank Barclays Capital yesterday became the latest of a small but growing group forecasting that the US Federal Reserve would raise rates to a higher level than the market is currently expecting.

The Fed's open markets committee meets next week and is expected to raise its benchmark Fed funds rate by a quarter point to 5.25 per cent. Most analysts believe that the June move, or perhaps one further move in August, will mark the peak in the bank's rate rising cycle.

But Barclays Capital economists said: "We have become less convinced that the FOMC will be comfortable keeping rates at 5.5 per cent in August as growth remains strong and core inflation continues to move higher.

"We now project that the FOMC will raise the Fed funds rate to 6 per cent this year."

Fed funds futures, a gauge of the market's expectations, have swung sharply this month. August contracts currently price in an 80 per cent probability of a quarter-point rate rise in that month, as well as the quarter-point rise expected next week.

Interest rate-sensitive two-year yields yesterday reached their highest since December 2000 at 5.247 per cent - just shy of next week's expected Fed funds target.

Dealers cited speculation that the Fed could surprise the market with a half-point point rise rather than quarter point rise next week. "We think that there is a notable chance of a 50 basis point rate hike at an upcoming meeting," Barclays said yesterday, although they felt such a move was more likely in August.

Last week, economists at Lehman Brothers raised their Fed funds forecast to 5.75 per cent. Others with a 6 per cent peak include JPMorgan and Credit Suisse, although both expect to see that some time next year.

But others fear the Fed will be tightening policy in a slowing economy, worsening the slowdown. "If the Fed were to choose to chase the peak [in inflation], then the funds rate could be headed for 6 per cent - which we think would be a big mistake," said David Rosenberg, chief US economist at Merrill Lynch.

Short view By Philip Coggan - Finantial Times

Short view By Philip Coggan
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: June 23 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 23 2006 03:00

Andrew Smithers is a noted bear whose 2000 book, "Valuing Wall Street" (written with Stephen Wright), was neatly timed to catch the top of the bull market. Although he was proved partly right (the high ratio of share prices to the replacement cost of net assets, the Q ratio, did herald a fall), Q has yet to revert to the mean.

His latest report on the markets, "Where we are now", is gloomy about the medium term. "Asset prices are out of line with incomes; in the absence of a marked rise in inflation, a return to equilibrium requires a fall in nominal asset prices."

While he forecasts gruel tomorrow, he is not serving it today. "We do not expect an immediate collapse in stock markets," he says, adding "so long as credit spreads remain low and managements are optimistic about profits, company buying should moderate market weakness".

This source of support cannot last forever, Smithers warns. Profit margins are high, particularly in the financial sector, and they have a strong tendency to be mean-reverting. The OECD's forecasts for 2007 imply a small fall in corporate profits as a proportion of GDP.

This creates some risky outcomes. The world economy needs to slow to counter inflationary pressures. But there is a likelihood of adverse shocks because of low savings in the US and the UK and large current account imbalances. As savings rise to a more normal level, the economy will slow.

"Below-trend growth is likely to be accompanied by falling profits," says Smithers. "As equity markets are seriously over-valued, there is a large risk that falling profits will cause a vicious circle in which falling profits cause further declines in the stock market, which will in turn increase household savings, partly through requiring higher pension contributions from companies, which will set off further falls in profits and share prices."

It is a strong bearish case. But bulls would sayprofits can stay high, because the global economy has moved in favour of the corporate sector, and the imbalances are not as unsustainable as he believes. Indeed, they have already been sustained for a long time.

The rhetoric of a war on terror obscures the real challenges

The rhetoric of a war on terror obscures the real challenges
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
By Philip Stephens
Published: June 23 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 23 2006 03:00

Sometimes the threats seem to be everywhere: we are menaced by a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, by the insurgency in Iraq, turmoil in Palestine, Iran's nuclear programme, political instability in Pakistan, and failed African states such as Somalia. The list goes on. Conflict and chaos have coalesced in a virulent strain of Islamist fundamentalism.

Sometimes, you can be too afraid. Before we despair and, more dangerously, talk ourselves into the war of civilisations, it is worth remembering where we came from. Uncertainty may have deepened our insecurities but life was never safe. Those who think otherwise should read an eloquent lecture given the other day by Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US national security adviser. The lecture* honoured the memory of Christopher Makins, a distinguished Atlanticist and past president of the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Mr Brzezinski recalled his time as national security adviser to Jimmy Carter more than one-quarter of a century ago. One of his tasks was to inform the president if the US was under nuclear attack. Mr Brzezinski had three minutes to verify the nature of the attack. The president had four minutes to decide the response. Six hours later some 160m people would be dead. Today's perils are on nothing like that scale. They are amplified in our minds by the fact they are at once ubiquitous, imprecise and sometimes invisible. The enemies are simultaneously fragmented and connected, without and within. Should we be worrying about the successes of Islamists in Somalia or the radicalisation of young Muslims in the north of England?

The simplicity of mutually assured destruction has been replaced by the unpredictability of religious fundamentalism and the proliferation of unconventional weapons. We knew how to counter communism. Deterrence, containment and mutual restraint were strategies honed over decades. But how do you deter a suicide bomber armed with a nuclear or chemical weapon?

The cold war, though, was never as stable as it seems in retrospect. There was always the chance, as Mr Brzezinski remembers, of nuclear war by mishap, of a technical glitch or a missile exchange by miscalculation. The consequences would have been far more terrible than anything we can imagine today. This does not make the thought of terrorists acquiring a nuclear weapon seem less frightening. It does provide what Mr Brzezinski calls a sense of proportion.

The pressures on political leaders are otherwise. Complexity and uncertainty do not sell to voters. They expect a guarantee of absolute security. The shock delivered by the attacks on America in September 2001 and subsequent terrorist outrages across the world demanded of politicians a simple narrative.

So the myriad conflicts and threats to the west have been woven by George W. Bush into a Manichean struggle between good and evil, freedom and oppression. The "war against terrorism" has become all-embracing, in the US president's description an ideological struggle comparable to the cold war.

Tony Blair has chosen different language but has also emphasised the global dimension. The fight against violent extremism in London, Madrid or Paris, he said recently, was the same as that against Hezbollah in Lebanon or rejectionist groups in Iraq. The killing of school children in Beslan was inseparable from the taking of innocent lives in Saudi Arabia or Yemen. The clash was not one of civilisations, but it was one about civilisation.

You can see why political leaders speak in such terms. We are living through a period of immense political and ideological upheaval.

Mr Brzezinski speaks of something akin to the 18th century political awakening crystallised by the French Revolution - but this time on a global scale. An explosive mix of stirring political awareness, unleashed passions and anger and escalating aspirations is challenging the status quo across great swaths of the globe.

The rise of radical populism in much of the world coincides with the dismantling of national borders in the process we call globalisation. Ease and speed of travel, large-scale migration and instant global communication have connected disparate grievances and conflicts. Extreme Islam, al-Qaeda if you like, supplies the unifying ideology between jihadis in Afghanistan, insurgents in Iraq, rebels in Chechnya and many others. It then connects these groups to isolated and resentful Muslim communities in Europe. The internet gives a new and terrifying force to terrorism's oldest weapon, the propaganda of the deed.

This world of multiplying frictions - economic, religious, cultural and ethnic - thus presents the west with a threat that is simultaneously distant and close up. With Islamist fundamentalism providing ideological glue, the inevitable temptation is to frame the threat as one rooted in a single global confrontation.

This is a mistake. As Mr Brzezinski says, painting the challenge in vague and sweeping terms may well serve as an encouragement to the Muslim world to unite against the west; and,

I would add, to Muslim communities in Europe to take up the fight.

The global struggle paradigm too easily becomes an excuse for inaction, a distraction from some of the hard issues the west must confront. It deflects attention from the real grievances that feed the anger in much of the Arab world, cast the west in the role of a colonial power and give extreme Islam much of its force.

There are no easy solutions to the stand-off between Israel and the Palestinians, the sectarian war in Iraq, the revival of the Taliban or Iran's nuclear ambitions. But, intractable as they may seem, these are problems that, over time, can be tackled by traditional methods of statecraft and diplomacy. Progress towards settling them would not snuff out the extremism of Osama bin Laden's followers. It would, in that ugly but evocative phrase, begin to drain the swamp. What is required of the west - of the US above all - is even-handed engagement.

I am not among those who believe that today's threats are largely in the imagination of our leaders; nor among the myopic isolationists who think that the west's security lies in retreating from the Middle East. But the rhetoric of global confrontation, of titanic ideological struggles and never-ending wars against terror serve to obscure rather than illuminate the challenges. We should be less afraid and more engaged.


The absurdities of a ban on smoking

The absurdities of a ban on smoking
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
By Martin Wolf

Published: June 23 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 23 2006 03:00

Smokers are the new lepers. One already sees them huddled in doorways. Soon the health bill now before parliament will ban smoking in all workplaces in England, including pubs, restaurants and private clubs. But the government revealed on Monday night that the ban might eventually apply to doorways and entrances of offices and public buildings, as well as to bus shelters and sports stadiums. Smokers are to be driven out into the wilderness, as befits their pariah status.

As a life-long non-smoker, I wonder what is driving these assaults. Is it an attempt to improve public health, as campaigners suggest? Or do smokers serve a need every society seems to have - for a group of pariahs that all right-thinking people can condemn? I strongly suspect the latter.

John Stuart Mill himself said that: "As soon as any part of a person's conduct affects prejudicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it." The discovery of passive smoking has, for this reason, given the anti-tobacco lobby its success. It has overwhelmed the protests of libertarians. Riding a tide of moral indignation, the government has enacted a draconian law banning smoking even in private clubs. Now it plans to extend that ban outdoors.

So how many lives might this extension "save" (or, more precisely, prolong)? Indeed, how many lives might the ban itself save?

According to a survey published in 2003 by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, a mere seven out of 37 studies showed a statistically significant impact of passive smoking on lung cancer. But pooling the results of all the studies indicated that passive smoking increases the risk of death from lung cancer by 25 per cent.* This sounds dramatic. But these studies probably contain biased or inaccurate samples: some smokers may, for example, be classified as non-smokers. Moreover, the risk for non-smokers of death from lung cancer is itself only 10 per 100,000. So the increase generated by passive smoking comes to just 2.5 per 100,000.

If every non-smoker were exposed to sufficient quantities of second-hand smoke this would amount to a maximum of 1,000 deaths a year in England, since it contains some 40m non-smokers (both children and adults). Even 1,000 a year would be less than 0.2 per cent of all deaths in the country. In practice, however, the exposure - and so the number of extra deaths from lung cancer caused by passive smoking - must be very much smaller than this. Many people already live in an overwhelmingly tobacco-free environment. Indeed, if that were not the case, studies comparing those having low exposure to tobacco smoke with those having high exposure would be impossible.

Moreover, the government's ban does not even go near to eliminating passive smoking. As for the proposed extension to open spaces, it can add nothing. The notion that people would be exposed to dangerous quantities of passive smoke in open bus shelters or the doorways of buildings seems ludicrous. It also seems next to impossible to police fairly: where do doorways stop and who decides?

These difficulties do not, as it happens, apply to the places where the most damaging forms of passive smoking occur, in homes. That is where vulnerable children are likely to be most exposed and most damagingly affected.

If the government were engaged in a serious health endeavour, as opposed to gesture politics, it would outlaw smoking in the home. This would be perfectly feasible, or at least as feasible as the much discussed possibility of banning smacking. Children could be encouraged to "shop" their parents. Random visits could be arranged. Surely a government that has given us the antisocial behaviour order would find it neither difficult nor, still less, inappropriate to police the behaviour of adults in their homes.

There is a precedent, although not a happy one: Montgomery County, in Maryland, US, did ban smoking in the home a few years ago, but then retracted the ban under global ridicule. Yet why the ridicule should have won out is far from obvious. All those people who think that the risks from passive smoking justify comprehensive legislation on public places must see the still stronger case for protecting children at home. Indeed, I wonder why the UK government does not ban the noxious weed altogether, as Bhutan has done. That would be in accord with policy on a range of prohibited drugs.

Note: I am opposed to any such policy. I am merely pointing out the absurdities of current plans. Harm to others is a necessary justification, for government interference. But it is not sufficient. Intervention should also be both effective and carry costs proportionate to the likely gains. The bans already planned may well not meet these standards. Their proposed extension outdoors would fall vastly short. An extension into the home would be logical, but also intolerable. This is gesture politics at its worst.

*Smoking in Public Places,

Selig sends Guillen to school

Selig sends Guillen to school
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
June 23, 2006

BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter

Ozzie Guillen had no problem with Major League Baseball fining him an undisclosed amount Thursday and ordering the White Sox manager to attend sensitivity training for offensive comments made toward Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti this week.

Then again, Guillen still was looking for an explanation of what sensitivity training actually means.

Guillen had about a two-minute phone conversation with baseball commissioner Bud Selig and came away feeling like he was treated fairly.

"I don't even know what [Selig] was saying,'' Guillen said when asked about the sensitivity training. "I have to ask the [Sox public-relations] department what I have to do. I might have to sit with [third-base coach] Joey Cora a couple of hours before the game and try to learn.

"I'm not going to change. One thing I'm going to make clear is I apologize to the community, but to Jay? No chance. This thing is on and on for good.''

Upset because he feels like Mariotti is "not accountable,'' Guillen called the writer "a piece of s---'' and "a f------ fag'' in a tirade Tuesday.

While Guillen initially explained that in his country of Venezuela, the word "fag'' has to do with courage and not sexual orientation, he apologized Wednesday for using that word. While the Sox felt Guillen's apology was enough and didn't warrant any punishment, Selig disagreed.

"On Tuesday night, Ozzie Guillen used language that is offensive and completely unacceptable,'' Selig said in a statement. "Baseball is a social institution with responsibility to set appropriate tone and example. Conduct or language that reflects otherwise will not be tolerated. The use of slurs embarrasses the individual, the club and the game.''

Mariotti said the punishment was not severe enough.

"I'm viewing this not as the subject of a slur, but as a sports columnist,'' he said. "And in regard to baseball justice, this seems awfully soft. It's hard for me to believe a purpose pitch would warrant a one-game suspension and a slur that hurts millions of people would merit only a fine and sensitivity training.

"As far as it being 'on and on for good,' this shows me that anger management seems to be an issue, as well.''

Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf addressed the situation Thursday in an interview with WBBM-AM (780).

"There's no excuse for his choice of words,'' Reinsdorf said of Guillen. "Although I understand in his country it might have a different meaning, he's been here a long time and he has to understand how people react.

"You have to separate that from the issue of the person he's talking about because that person is, indeed, a piece of garbage. So I understand why he was frustrated. But if he wants to attack somebody who attacked him, he has to do it in a politically correct way.''

As far as what type of sensitivity training awaits Guillen, Sox vice president of communications Scott Reifert explained the process.

"I'll use myself as an example,'' Reifert said. "If I have an issue around the house, we have EAP [Employee Assistance Program] people that we can call 24 hours a day. So you call these folks, say I'm having an issue with whatever, they'll connect you with a professional specific to that issue.

"That's what we'll do. We'll go to our EAP folks, and they'll connect in turn to a sensitivity course. At this point, I don't know the particulars.''

Guillen kept the commissioner's office busy Thursday, also getting suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for an incident in the Sox' 20-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday in which reliever David Riske was deemed to have thrown intentionally at the Cardinals' Chris Duncan.

Because both dugouts had been warned before Duncan was plunked, Guillen automatically received the one-game punishment, which he served Thursday night.

Riske was suspended for three games but said he is appealing it.

It was the back-and-forth with Mariotti, however, that remained the hot topic at U.S. Cellular Field.

"I went to the dictionary and learned different ways to say stuff to people,'' Guillen said. "I got a couple of things to say in a couple of days to Jay Mariotti, and he might not like it. I'm going to continue to be the same way. I'm not going to change.''

As far as when and where Guillen will begin the sensitivity training, the manager didn't have a guess.

"If they want me to do it, make sure it's after 12 o'clock,'' Guillen said. "I don't get up until after 12 o'clock.''