18 April 2003

Baghdad Peace: Made in Kosovo

PQ+ | Friday 17:52:23 EST | comments (0)

Baghdad Peace: Made in Kosovo

BAGHDAD, April 18 — One of the signal accomplishments of the American military has been its ability to rapidly shift its focus from fighting Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard to securing Iraq's capital. American forces that were blasting Iraqi tanks and paramilitary fighters less than two weeks ago are now patrolling Baghdad's neighborhoods, seeking out new Iraqi civic leaders and trying to ensure that the capital is sufficiently stable for the reconstruction that lies ahead.

It is not an easy transition. But one thing that has helped is the military's experience in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

During the presidential election campaign Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush's national security adviser, argued that peacekeeping operations in the Balkans degraded the readiness of American forces and undercut their ability to go to war. It was not an isolated view. In fact, for years conservative politicians have looked at peacekeeping as a diversion from the main task of fighting and winning the nation's wars.

But that was before the Bush administration made the pre-emptive use of force and "regime change" the heart of its foreign policy. If American forces are going to invade a country and topple its government — whether it is in the name of fighting the spread of weapons of mass destruction or restoring human rights — then it needs to deal with the power vacuum that follows.

Officials who previously dismissed the value of peacekeeping are now committing American forces to "peace enforcement" operations in Iraq to stabilize the country and lay the foundation for a new Iraqi government. The military's warrior and training culture prepared it for the battlefields of Iraq, and its peacekeeping experience in the Balkans is now helping it as it strives to consolidate its victory in Iraq's cities.

To better understand the link between the Balkans and Baghdad it is useful to consider 3-69, the armored battalion that was at the tip of the spear when the Army's Third Infantry Division made its push toward the Iraqi capital. The battalion seized two bridges, grabbed the international airport from the Special Republican Guard and generally tore apart the Republican Guard and paramilitary forces it confronted.

Lt. Col. Rock Marcone, the commander of 3-69, said the Army's experience in the Balkans made his soldiers better prepared to venture into a foreign city, identify and win over potential civic leaders and elicit local support to root out die-hards. Many other officers here agree.

"It has helped the transition," said Capt. Jerard Robbins, who serves Colonel Marcone as the commander of Charlie Company. "Those who were in Kosovo have a skill set to rely on. We are pulling it out of the kit bag, dusting it off and using it all over again."

Captain Robbins said his Kosovo tour gave him and his men some useful background in working with Muslims and in protecting American soldiers against potential threats in cities. It made them more familiar with a nation with minimal services and a damaged infrastructure.

It also gave troops experience in how to forge links with a foreign population and form a civil leadership out of the ruins of an old order.

"Every neighborhood has a big shot," he said. "You have to identify these folk, learn how to deal with them and get them on your side so they will not cause trouble for you and will report the bad guys."

Capt. Charles O'Brien, another company commander, said that the shift from combat to peace enforcement in Iraq had been difficult for his men especially since the threat of suicide bombers and paramilitary forces still exists. He said the Kosovo experience had provided his soldiers with a foundation in "stability support ops." The transition to peace enforcement operations, he said, requires a new focus and different skills.

"It affects how you conduct patrolling, how you assess the infrastructure and the needs of the people," he said. "You have a wartime situation report, `contact, five dismounts with R.P.G.,' versus `contact with local leaders who say they need water and protection from looters.' "

There is a downside to peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. American forces deployed there have less time to train for combat. They cannot maneuver their tanks in large formations or practice maneuver warfare.

Some measures have been taken to preserve basic combat proficiency during the peacekeeping tours in Kosovo, like installing tank simulators. Some peacekeeping tasks, like flying helicopter patrols or firing illumination rounds with artillery to light up the border, also give the troops an opportunity to practice some basic war-fighting skills.

Nobody pretends that peacekeeping duty is a substitute for the intensive preparations made by the Army or Marines for high-intensity combat. Units that are involved in peacekeeping tasks cannot be rushed to the battlefields of the Middle East without additional training.

Still, the Balkan experience has expanded the American military's repertoire of skills. It has given them more experience in post-combat operations that have become more important as a result of the Bush administration's campaign in Iraq.

Some foreign militaries, like the British, have long valued the capability to move up and down the spectrum of combat. The British have never seen their tours in the Balkans or in Northern Ireland as tasks that diminish their abilities as soldiers. The British are now using these experiences in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

American military forces in Iraq seem to be moving to this realization as well. Commanders here are proud of the victory in Phase Three of the allied campaign plan: decisive combat operations. But the ultimate success or failure in Iraq, they acknowledge, will depend on Phase Four: stabilizing and rebuilding the country.

Peacekeeping is a worthy end in itself. It has pluses and minuses in terms of how it affects American military's ability to go to war, but most soldiers who have been peacekeepers think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, according to the informal survey I have conducted here.

"I would consider it a plus for soldier development," Captain Robbins said. "For armored task force development, it is a detriment because there was no armored training at the battalion and company level. But we came out of Kosovo, had a year of training for this and executed pretty doggone well."

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Confusion Over North Korea Statement on Nuclear Program

Asia | Friday 17:51:36 EST | comments (0)

Confusion Over North Korea Statement on Nuclear Program

SEOUL, South Korea, April 18 — Just days from the opening of discussions with the United States, North Korea said today in an English-language statement that it was reprocessing nuclear fuel rods, but there were growing indications late in the day that the North Koreans had mistranslated their own announcement from the original Korean.

The original announcement from North Korea stated unequivocally that "we are successfully reprocessing more than 8,000 spent fuel rods at the final phase." However, Daniel A. Pinkston, a Korean expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said that a proper translation was that "we are successfully making progress in the last stages up to the task of reprocessing the approximately 8,000 spent fuel rods." Mr. Pinkston said there was no ambiguity in the language.

The White House, reacting cautiously, said that it would consult with Japan, South Korea and China before responding to the original statement. "Once we have a clear sense of the facts and views of our friends and allies, we'll make a decision on how to proceed," said a White House spokeswoman, Claire Buchan.

Earlier in the day, a senior United States official had gone so far as to threaten canceling the talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program even before they started. But officials cautioned that they had yet to see evidence of renewed processing.

"Whether the talks go forward, that's not decided," said a senior American official, who spoke on condition he not be identified. "There is active consideration to canceling them. It is an accurate statement as of the moment to say we don't know of any reprocessing, but it's possible that it's begun and we just haven't determined it yet."

The original North Korean statement also said that a "powerful deterrent" was needed to protect the country in the wake of the American war in Iraq, and claimed that "interim information" was sent to the United States and "other countries concerned" last month.

As recently as this week, experts with access to Western intelligence on North Korea's nuclear program reaffirmed that there was no indication of actual reprocessing of nuclear fuel, a line consistently taken by American intelligence officials since the start of a crisis late last year over weapons development in the impoverished Communist country.

This evening, officials in the United States, South Korea and Japan all said they also lacked any strong indication of reprocessing of the country's known plutonium fuel rods, which had been stored under international supervision at a North Korean nuclear complex at Yongbyon, until the inspectors were expelled in January.

Chun Young Woo, a director for arms control at South Korea's Foreign Ministry, told Reuters: "North Korea has repeatedly said it would start reprocessing, I've never heard that they actually did."

Today's claim was being regarded by many North Korea analysts as a classic piece of the country's shrewd, confounding and often reckless-seeming negotiating style. For months, North Korea had been demanding "knee to knee" talks with the United States to provide security guarantees to the country in exchange for verifiable disarmament.

The Bush administration ignored these demands, saying it would only accept multilateral talks, including North Korea's neighbors, and even then would only talk once North Korea had dismantled its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Earlier this week, the two countries agreed to meet next week in Beijing in three-way talks, a configuration that appears to have been settled on to save face for each side. Taken at face value, the original translation of today's North Korean statement would seem to render the talks meaningless.

Several analysts responded, however, by saying that the reprocessing announcement was almost certainly a provocative bit of posturing, deliberately enervating and consistent with North Korea's longtime negotiating style.

"This is an attempt to pre-empt any American hard line in the negotiations, and a reaction to statements from people like Secretary Rumsfeld, saying that he can't think of anything to give to North Korea in return for its agreement for verifiable disarmament," said Hak Sun Paik, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute, an independent research organization in Seoul. "North Korea also wants to offset a kind of image in Washington that it had learned a lesson from the Iraqi war, and that is why it has agreed for dialogue."

Some analysts said the original translation of the North Korean statement was a bluff intended as cover for the fact that Pyongyang had not yet begun reprocessing, perhaps because of major technical problems in the country's aging nuclear laboratories.

Others said that just as the Bush administration had staked out a firm position before the talks, saying in essence that it would not settle for anything less than the complete and verifiable dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear infrastructure, North Korea was staking out a firm position of its own for purely tactical reasons.

As with much of what happens within North Korea, which is widely considered the world's most closed society, no one on the outside speaks with absolute certainty about its actions.

North Korea is known to bristle fiercely whenever the country is made to appear weak, and analysts say the country's leadership has recently undergone a major transformation in which the role of the military has been dramatically increased in everyday decision making.

These changes have made it more difficult to dismiss provocative declarations as a simple bluff.

"Every move in North Korea is being tracked by the intelligence community, and the general consensus has been that they are not reprocessing," said a longtime analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "At the same time, it isn't easy to imagine they are completely lying about this. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between."

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China Cautions Officials Not to Hide SARS Cases

China | Friday 17:50:21 EST | comments (0)

China Cautions Officials Not to Hide SARS Cases

BEIJING, April 18 — China's top leaders, seeking to quell an international uproar over the honesty of their medical reports as well as to halt a dangerous new virus, have issued their strongest warning yet about severe acute respiratory syndrome and have explicitly cautioned officials not to cover up the spread of the disease.

With large front-page headlines this morning, the People's Daily and other newspapers described an urgent meeting on SARS held Thursday by the country's supreme ruling body, the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo.

In the symbolic forms of Chinese politics, the message could hardly have been delivered with more force or fanfare, and the word to officials down the line was stern.

"The meeting explicitly warned against the covering up of SARS cases and demanded the accurate, timely and honest reporting of the SARS situation," said the account issued by the New China News Agency.

The top leaders called the spread of the new disease a serious threat to "China's reform, development and stability" and said that party and government leaders around the country "will be held accountable for the overall situation in their jurisdictions."

The articles prominently noted that Hu Jintao, the party chief and state president, presided over the meeting, thus putting his personal stamp on the directives.

Publicity about SARS and infection-control efforts here in Beijing have visibly increased in recent days, though the effectiveness remains to be seen. In a sign that old ways in this secretive system die hard, the Chinese media still have not been allowed to mention the scathing findings of a World Health Organization team. At a news conference Wednesday, the team said that Beijing may have up to 200 SARS cases rather than the 37 officially reported. It also described the city's surveillance and control efforts as seriously lacking.

Nor has the Beijing Government or the Ministry of Health acted yet to correct its disease numbers for Beijing. One major problem, the WHO team found, was that scores of patients being treated in hospitals run by the military in Beijing were not included in city and national reports. The team contradicted the repeated public statements, by senior health ministry and city officials, that the military hospital data had been incorporated.

The WHO group also said that many cases labeled as "suspect," and not included in disease reports, should be reported as confirmed SARS cases.

Many of the recommendations made by WHO and other international experts, such as to guarantee care for impoverished SARS patients so they will not avoid hospitalization, and to adopt swift, daily, nationwide reporting on new cases, were fully endorsed in the ruling body's statement Thursday.

The extent of reporting in distant provinces has already increased, though no one knows how may cases may be missed in regions where health facilities are scarce and often substandard.

Chinese credibility on SARS was first questioned in February and March as it became evident that the virus had spread quickly in the southeastern province of Guangdong, where the disease apparently originated and where more than 1,300 cases have been reported, constituting the bulk of China's current official total of 1,457 cumulative cases.

From Guangdong, travelers took the disease to Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere as well as to different parts of China. More frankness and public urgency early on, medical experts say, might have helped contain the disease.

In recent weeks, a WHO team found, Guangdong has taken effective countermeasures against SARS and its reports are reliable and open. But new questions arose in Beijing, where officials seemed determined to minimize the threat.

China has borne growing economic costs as tourists and business travelers cancel visits. Its record of dissembling has also drawn angry words from neighboring countries where some say its early secrecy imperiled their citizens where some say its early secrecy imperiled their citizens.

One motive for Beijing's evasions, diplomats and doctors here speculate, was to avoid the placement of Beijing, the capital city, on WHO's travel advisory list, which now recommends against "nonessential travel" to Guangdong and Hong Kong.

But the tactic appears to have backfired, with official credibility demolished and rumors running rampant, here and among prospective visitors, about SARS in the city. The very uncertainty about the situation in Beijing and other parts of China could lead the world body to advise against travel here, though that has not happened yet.

In Beijing itself, the belated and still incomplete publicity about SARS seems mainly to be kindled fears. In the last few days, a significant minority of subway and bus riders have started wearing surgical masks, and crowds are reported to be down at shopping centers.

Mary Ma, 28, a seller of Mary Kay Cosmetics, wore a mask on the subway this afternoon, but lowered it when approaching a potential customer.

"I only wear a mask on the subway or when shopping in air conditioned department stores," she said. "My friends all wear masks on the subway."

Based on sketchy product claims in news reports, some people were buying incense, which someone has suggested may kill the virus, while others bought an herbal medicine that purportedly featured a testimonial from a doctor.

Now, by all accounts, the country's uppermost political leaders say they are ready to confront SARS with more urgency and openness. The test will come not only in Beijing in coming days but also in far-flung cities and provinces, where the incentives for officials and institutions are not always in accord with national policy.

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Trained for War, 12 Green Berets Keep the Peace in an Iraqi Town

PQ+ | Friday 01:06:29 EST | comments (0)

Trained for War, 12 Green Berets Keep the Peace in an Iraqi Town

DIWANIYA, Iraq, April 17 — They were trained in the art of war and came to Iraq to fight. But now that the regime has been toppled, Army Special Forces soldiers in Diwaniya have found themselves on an entirely different and, in many ways, more difficult mission.

They are trying to rebuild the city.

It is a battle against chaos instead of bullets. The Green Berets have had to wade into angry crowds. They have mediated between rival tribes locked in blood feuds. They have tried to hold together the city's thin threads of social order, not always with success.

Today, a man was killed when the bodyguards of a sheik from another city fired into a crowd of 200 men who were protesting the sheik's presence at a community meeting. Soldiers arrested 16 of the bodyguards and detained the sheik, drawing loud applause from the crowd. But it was a setback for the team, which had worked closely with the sheik, a leader of the Jabour tribe.

"Just when things looked like they were going good, we have a power struggle in town," said the Special Forces team leader, a 32-year-old captain. Rules imposed by the military bar identification of the leader, or any members of his team.

There is a crisis like this almost every day. The team has become the de facto center of Diwaniya's government, which has all but ceased to function. It is a role the Green Berets have played before, in villages and towns in Vietnam and elsewhere.

Each morning, tribal leaders, businessmen and regular citizens in Diwaniya stream into the compound to complain about the spotty electricity, the rampant looting, the lack of jobs and commerce. They come because several of the Green Berets speak Arabic, though none are fluent. But they come also because there is nowhere else to turn.

The 12-man team is doing what it can. In the last week, it has started a police force, recruited a city manager, located offices for a municipal government and begun holding meetings where community leaders discuss Diwaniya's problems. The goal is to create an administrative council consisting of tribal leaders, government bureaucrats and academics that can take control of Diwaniya, a city of more than 400,000 people 120 miles south of Baghdad.

"Ten days ago, we were taking mortar fire at a bridge outside town," said the team sergeant, a 12-year Special Forces veteran who has become a favorite of the locals. "Who would have guessed we would have come this far? Each day is a baby step forward."

But the problems facing Diwaniya are immense. Though it was not a major battleground and not severely damaged by American bombs, Diwaniya has ground to a halt. Businessmen have kept their shops shuttered. Government workers are staying home. The sewer treatment plant is not operating. Fuel supplies are low. Television and radio are silent. Only the phones seem to work.

After decades of having their lives directed by an iron-fisted government, many Iraqis, including some of Diwaniya's most prominent families, do not seem ready to take control of their city's destiny.

"The Iraqis want us to secure every business, turn on every light, solve all their problems," the team leader said. "But I tell them: `We are only 12. You must start to do it yourselves.' "

One thing has made their work easier: the city has welcomed them as heroes. Working with the leaders of three major tribes and a former Iraqi Army colonel who defected before the war, the Green Berets were able to pinpoint fedayeen and Baath Party headquarters inside Diwaniya and the nearby town of Hamza.

During 24 hours of airstrikes that started on April 8, American warplanes obliterated nine targets with satellite-guided 500-pound bombs, including a building where more than a dozen Baath officials were meeting.

Unlike other southern Iraqi cities where the paramilitaries stood and fought, in Diwaniya they turned and fled, or melted back into the populace. On April 10, the tribal sheiks led a parade of their own fighters, accompanied by the Green Berets and a squad of marines, into Hamza and Diwaniya. Over loudspeakers, the opposition leaders declared the cities free and the Americans their friends.

Within minutes, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people poured into the streets. They hung from windows and rooftops shouting "welcome" and "Bush good." They wept and kissed the soldiers' hands.

"It was the most gratifying day in my career," the team sergeant said.

Then the hard part began.

The team's first priority was security. Looters roamed free, stripping government offices, warehouses and universities of everything down to the ceiling tiles and water pipes. Even bath tubs were not spared.

Following classic Special Forces doctrine, the team began organizing a municipal police force to patrol the streets and enforce a curfew. The sheiks provided the recruits, and the Americans provided rifles and green arm bands in lieu of uniforms.

Many of the recruits were teenagers with only wisps of facial hair and no experience with guns. On the first day, eight of the 50 recruits quit. On the third day, five of them shot at an American Army patrol they mistook for looters. They were handcuffed and disarmed, barely escaping with their lives.

Nervous and trigger-happy, the police recruits often call the Green Berets for backup. On Tuesday, the soldiers answered one of those calls to find a group of officers encircled by a mob of fist-pumping men outside one of the city's five banks.

"Ali Babba!" the mob shouted at the police officers, accusing them of being Baathists who were planning to loot the vault.

A leader of the police force urged the Special Forces team to shoot over the heads of the mob and arrest its leaders. But the team sergeant counseled calm.

Flashing a toothy smile and speaking in Arabic, the sergeant waded into the throng, imploring people to go home. "Bad things happen when so many people come together," he told them.

The crowd fell back for a few minutes, but then began inching forward menacingly. Suddenly, the sergeant leaped onto his Humvee and swung a .50-caliber machine gun — until then unmanned — toward the crowd. People ran screaming. The threat of a riot seemed to pass.

After a 90-minute standoff, a security detail from the 82nd Airborne arrived to replace the police officers outside the bank. When the Special Forces soldiers mounted their Humvees to depart, the crowd cheered and flashed thumbs up.

"It's crazy, isn't it?" the team sergeant said. "The only ones they consider honest brokers are the Americans."

Now the Green Berets are trying to convince the Iraqis they can run the city by themselves.

The soldiers have asked a former professor at the medical college who speaks excellent English to serve as the town manager. They have also tried to organize a governing council of former city bureaucrats and tribal leaders. But as today's near-riot outside the town hall meeting demonstrated, some people in the city are objecting to the Americans' selection of council members.

The Green Berets say that former Baath Party officials in Diwaniya may be trying to inflame passions against the sheiks who have helped the American forces. But they acknowledge that they are wading into tribal rivalries that have no easy solutions, and have asked tribal and religious leaders from Diwaniya to attend the next council meeting.

"I understand you want the people of Diwaniya to be responsible for Diwaniya," the team sergeant told one of the protesters today. "But we can't do everything in one day. If we left now, you'd kill each other. For 35 years, you've had a chance to get it right. Give us a month."

In their spare time, the Green Berets share stories about their girlfriends and wives, their motorcycles and trucks. They talk about past wars: Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan. Almost all have won Bronze Stars for exceptional deeds in battle.

But there are no medals or commendations for rebuilding cities, they note with dismay. And although several soldiers said Diwaniya has been one of the most satisfying experiences of their careers, they also express frustration with the tedium of reconstruction. This is not what we do, they often mutter.

"Big green rolls through," said the assistant operations sergeant, referring to the Third Infantry Division, which raced north to Baghdad. "And we get left with this."

Nongovernmental aid groups, Army Civil Affairs teams and the United States Agency for International Development will arrive in Diwaniya to oversee larger-scale reconstruction projects. But that could be weeks, even months away.

"We train to take down governments, but I've never been schooled in building one back up," the captain who leads the team said. "This is new territory."

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West Pointers Prepare to Face Changed World

PQ+ | Friday 01:05:36 EST | comments (0)

West Pointers Prepare to Face Changed World

WEST POINT, N.Y., April 16 — Despite her appointment to the United States Military Academy, Mary Tobin says she never quite grasped the meaning of war. She graduated from an Atlanta high school with good grades and was in R.O.T.C., so West Point seemed an obvious way to get a first-class education at government expense. In 1999 the nation was at peace, and Ms. Tobin did not dwell on the dangers that might lie ahead.

In exactly 45 days, Cadet Tobin will graduate and become a 22-year-old second lieutenant in the Army. Chances are good she will go to Iraq, one of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who will occupy the country until a government is in place. Though she exudes an easy confidence, she is the first to admit it is a little more than she bargained for.

"It is one thing to know that I'll have to lead 30 soldiers who don't like me because I am a snot-nosed kid from West Point," Cadet Tobin said. "But now I might have to go over there and basically be mayor of a town. That is a mission I never imagined."

Like most soldiers, cadets at West Point unfailingly profess faith in their leaders, right up to President Bush. But like the bright young men and women that they must be to gain admittance to this highly exclusive institution, they are full of questions about the role of America in the world, what their mission will be as leaders in the greatest fighting force known to man and whether they are ready for the new reality they will face.

"The world is a different place than it was when we got here, that's for sure," Cadet Tobin said, sitting beneath a bronze statue of Gen. George S. Patton, complete with matching six-shooters, on a brilliant spring morning high above the Hudson River. "We are going to face things we couldn't possibly train for. And that is a huge, huge challenge."

At West Point, a place as constant as its gray stone walls, the outward signs that the nation is at war are few. Isolated by geography and insulated from the world by tradition, life goes on here pretty much as it has for 200 years. Military police, once assigned only to the front gates, now wander the campus checking the identity of anyone who is not in uniform. Everything else remains the same. Just before noon, thousands of gray-suited cadets march to lunch with Swiss-watch precision. First-year cadets — plebes, in West Point parlance — do not speak unless spoken to. Taps sounds across the hills at 2230 hours.

But in the minds of cadets, everything has changed. Cadets who took their appointments to West Point before Sept. 11, before they had ever heard the words "regime change" or "weapons of mass destruction," mused on what might face them as they embark on Army careers in a nation transformed.

"I came here because I wanted to be G.I. Joe," said Andrew Salmo, a 21-year-old third-year cadet from Christopher, Ill. "It's like playing the biggest game of soldiers in the biggest backyard you can imagine. And everybody comes home safe. In war, everybody does not always come home safe."

All the cadets interviewed expressed a fervent faith that their education at West Point and their training by the Army would help them meet whatever challenges they will face.

"I am not afraid, because the Army will not send me into harm's way unprepared," Cadet Tobin said. "I have been trained at the foremost leadership academy in the world, and I will be ready. I will serve my country with pride, and hopefully will come home safe."

But they also have fears. Cadets have followed the progress of the war in Iraq closely on television, in newspapers and on the Internet. In late-night bull sessions, they have dissected the performance of the American military. None were surprised by the swiftness of victory in the military phase of the campaign. And while they called the deaths of American soldiers sad, they said they understood that casualties are a cost of victory. But as the military moves from invasion to occupation, the future seems less certain.

Cadet Salmo, asked what he made of the television picture showing Iraqis cheering as American tanks rolled into Baghdad, said the sight was heartening. But his major — history — taught him caution.

"But how long until the `Yankee go home!' signs come out?" he asked. "How long until the liberated attack the liberators? That is how it happened in South Vietnam. That is what eventually happened in Haiti."

Grace Chung, 21, a third-year cadet from nearby Congers, N.Y., said she came to West Point for "all the wrong reasons," because it is pretty, free and close to home. Now, as the reality of war sinks in, she is grateful that she has come to cherish this place for more durable reasons. Otherwise the possibility of death in combat would be unbearable.

"When you get here, they tell you, look around, people in your class will see conflict," Cadet Chung said. "But it didn't really hit home until now, when people we know from classes ahead of us head into battle."

Cadet Chung said some of her friends, many of whom went off to elite liberal arts schools, opposed the war in Iraq, which made for some uncomfortable conversations.

"A lot of people just don't understand what we do here, who we are, and that we think about war and peace just like everyone else," Cadet Chung said. "We aren't robots. We have thoughts and feelings."

Cadets Tobin, Salmo and Chung all said that the war cemented their desire to serve in the military. For Cadet Tobin, it will be five years in the signal branch — "AT&T on the battlefield," she explains — and then, she hopes, a career as a chaplain. Cadet Chung, a geospatial information science major, wants to fly Black Hawk helicopters, a grueling specialty that requires extensive training. Cadet Salmo hopes he will make the cut for Special Forces.

At this point, all three said they were in the Army for the long haul, whatever the dangers may be.

"All our friends who graduated last year are now in combat," Cadet Tobin said. "Once I get away from these gray walls, I'll probably be there, too. I guess the battlefield is not as far away as we thought. But I know I am ready."

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17 April 2003

North Korea Blinks

PQ+ | Thursday 14:30:40 EST | comments (0)

North Korea Blinks
NYT Editorial

Brinkmanship has given way to diplomacy in North Korea, and not a moment too soon. Instead of opening a nuclear bomb production line while the United States was preoccupied by Iraq, North Korea unexpectedly agreed to meet next week in Beijing with American and Chinese diplomats to talk about ending the North's nuclear weapons programs. The negotiations will not be easy, but the mere fact that they have been arranged suggests it may still be possible to induce North Korea to abandon its reckless pursuit of nuclear bombs.

The urgency of resolving this problem cannot be overemphasized. North Korea has quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is pursuing two different methods of producing nuclear bomb fuel. If no deal is reached, it could make one nuclear weapon per month by late summer. And it could sell surplus bomb fuel to countries like Iran, already a North Korean weapons customer.

The breakthrough came when North Korea stopped insisting on one-on-one talks with Washington. The Bush administration wanted a broader regional meeting. The invasion of Iraq may have given North Korea second thoughts, but pressure from China was probably more significant. Beijing brokered the compromise format of a three-way meeting. North Korea is desperately short of energy. Most of its imported fuel is from China, and last month Beijing briefly cut the flow to signal displeasure with Kim Jong Il's policies. Without Chinese oil, the North's military would grind to a halt. China also provides much of the food that keeps North Koreans alive after repeated harvest failures.

The goal of negotiations should be nothing less than getting the North to give up its nuclear ambitions, rejoin the nonproliferation treaty and allow intrusive verification. There must also be a permanent halt in the building of long-range missiles. Temporary and conditional freezes have been tried and have failed. If the North takes all these steps, Washington is willing to consider security guarantees, diplomatic recognition and economic aid.

North Korea's weapons programs threaten Asia as well as America. China apparently recognizes that Mr. Kim's provocative moves could start an arms race involving Japan, South Korea and perhaps Taiwan. That would threaten China and undermine its bid for regional leadership. A permanent end to all of the North's threatening weapons programs is Washington's goal. It should be Beijing's, too.

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U.S. Generals Meet in Palace, Sealing Victory

PQ+ | Thursday 14:29:44 EST | comments (0)

U.S. Generals Meet in Palace, Sealing Victory

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 16 — Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of America's war on Iraq, sealed his victory today by convening a meeting of his top allied land, air, naval and special-operations officers in what was once one of Saddam Hussein's proudest palaces, now a symbol of his vanished grip on the country.

The bevy of commanders who gathered today at Abu Ghraib palace — an extravagant amalgam of marble, tile, gold fittings and massive chandeliers, all surrounded by an azure moat — discussed how to maintain security and rebuild Iraq now that Mr. Hussein is gone, and agreed to meet again in General Franks's headquarters back in Qatar in several days to complete plans.

As part of the arrangements for securing the country, the Army will take responsibility for Baghdad and territory to the north, while the Marines deploy in the south, where the British control the most important city, Basra.

The two-hour session, which concluded with a video conference with President Bush, was the first such gathering since war erupted four weeks ago and was laden with symbolism. It made clear that the Americans now dominate Iraq. But General Franks avoided downtown Baghdad, landing at the international airport and traveling the short distance to the palace under heavy security.

As much as American troops were striving to re-establish order, Baghdad today remained a shattered city still groping for normal life, still in the thrall of looters and arsonists and full of wary and confused people with much hostility toward the Americans. In the city of Mosul in the north, marines opened fire and killed Iraqis as they had on Tuesday, trying to quell unrest.

Ahmad Chalabi, a well-connected Iraqi exile who last saw Baghdad in 1958, arrived here late today, his aides said. The putative interim government of Baghdad was claimed hours earlier by his representative here, Mohammed Zobeidi, who swept through the Palestine Hotel, the headquarters of foreign journalists and the Marine civil administration, accompanied by an entourage of Sunni and Shiite religious leaders, tribal sheiks and apparently rehabilitated police commanders.

"I want to serve the people and work for the stability of the country," Mr. Zobeidi told reporters.

General Franks, after his meeting, acknowledged that much remained to be done. "The Republican Guard no longer serves in this country," he said. "The Special Republican Guard no longer serves in this country. The regular army in this country no longer functions. In that respect, certainly, the decisive combat portion of the campaign is finished. Now — having said that — every day we see the remnants of what we call Arab fighters or foreign fighters who have come in from a number of other countries. We see them here in Baghdad. So now we are about the business of rooting them out."

The commanders who met today included Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the air-war commander; Vice Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the naval commander; Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the land-war commander who has now made his headquarters in the frigid and electricity-starved halls and chambers of Abu Ghraib palace; and Brig. Gen. Gary L. Harrell, the Special Operations commander.

Despite the clusters of people in Baghdad streets, and the several stores and sidewalk kebab stands opened on main thoroughfares, the atmosphere remained tense.

"Affairs are natural, things are returning to normal," said Walid al- Fartousi, a 33-year-old fruit and vegetable vendor on a bustling market block of Karadara Street in the city center.

Within seconds, his optimism gave way to ambivalence. "Frankly, the people are beginning to lose their trust in America," he said. "Because America promised Iraq to remove the tyrant government, but now things are even worse. Some people are even beginning to wish Saddam had stayed because all the troubles erupted after his departure."

"Until today we are sitting in our houses," he went on. "Not safe from killers, looters. American forces stand by and do nothing. There is no security, no order. People do not feel safe."

Two Americans themselves felt at close hand the lack of security, according to an official with the United States Agency for International Development in Kuwait.

Last weekend, Dr. Frederick Burkle, a public-health physician who holds a senior position with the agency, and George Havens, a pharmacist with the Public Health Service, were flown to Baghdad to try and improve medical operations here.

But today they were pulled back to Kuwait after they were shot at in three different locations while traveling to a Baghdad hospital on Tuesday, the official said. The two men were being driven by an American soldier in an armored vehicle, with gunners on other vehicles in front and in back of them, the official said.

In Mosul, trouble erupted for a second straight day, both times after the Americans said marines came under sustained gunfire. The two days of shooting have killed 17 Iraqis and wounded 39, according to Dr. Ayad Ramahani, director of Mosul's general hospital.

All of the shootings occurred outside the governor's office in downtown Mosul, which was occupied by American troops on Tuesday. Iraqi witnesses said that in today's incident, Iraqi police officers who had surrounded a group of looters in a nearby bank building had fired shots into the air to disperse a crowd. The Americans, thinking they were under fire, started shooting, they said. Among the wounded were the two police officers who fired the warning shots, the witnesses said.

American Special Operations forces backed by about 40 marines staged a raid on the Baghdad residence of Rihab Taha, a a microbiologist who was said to be in charge of a biological weapons program.

Three men emerged from the raid on the house with their hands up, and American troops removed several boxes of documents. Dr. Taha's whereabouts were unknown.

At least two senior Iraqi scientists have been reported either to have surrendered or been captured since last weekend, and it is hoped that they will provide details of weapons programs.

The existence of chemical and biological weapons and efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon were among the main reasons cited by the Bush administration and its allies in going to war. So far, American inspectors — like United Nations teams before them — have not found any such weapons.

At a sugar warehouse in the center of Baghdad, looters worked freely until they were caught blocks away by one of the new, unofficial, but very well-armed neighorhood patrols.

The chief Marine spokesman, Capt. Joseph Plenzler, said this evening that the Americans hoped to restore electricity within 48 to 72 hours.

At Baghdad's zoo, American soldiers who are struggling to feed the animals said that they had to shoot a lion that escaped and attacked a horse.

The luster of Abu Ghraib palace has also been diminished by war, not least because a Tomahawk cruise missile drove through several ceilings and exploded in a ground floor room, spraying chunks of concrete that soldier lore here holds was Mr. Hussein's bedroom.

One of causeways to the palace has been bombed. Sheep grazed along the palace wall, having been shooed out of the palace as General McKiernan's staff started turning the building into their command post.

The palace was stripped pretty effectively by the Iraqis well before the Americans arrived: there is no fine china or silver, paintings have been removed from frames stacked against walls, and even circuit breakers were taken out of the power systems.

During his visit today, General Franks called Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Later, the generals conferred in a large room with green couches and chairs with gold trim. A coffee table was covered with cigar butts and coffee cups. The generals slapped one another on the back and embraced.

General Franks also took his fellow commanders on a tour of the palace. "It was an oil-for-palace program," the general said, alluding to the United Nations' program that allowed Iraq to sell oil in exchange for food and other necessities that Mr. Hussein's government argued were kept from many Iraqis by the sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

The land-war command has been working hard to fix up the palace as a forward command post. Some commanders thought the structure had other potential.

"This could make a pretty nice casino," said General Moseley, the air-war commander.

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On the Ground in Iraq, the Best Compass Is in the Sky

PQ+ | Thursday 14:27:51 EST | comments (0)

On the Ground in Iraq, the Best Compass Is in the Sky

ON an afternoon early this month, in the desert near Najaf, Iraq, elements of an elite United States Army unit received word of a column of almost 60 vehicles, including about two dozen tanks, moving along a nearby road.

Some of the soldiers thought it could be Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.

Then a general in his Humvee leaned over to a computer console that is part of a satellite-based navigation system called FBCB2. He tapped in the military grid coordinates where the mystery force was located. Then on the screen, up popped the little blue symbols that represent friendly units, rather than the red icons that the United States military uses to designate enemy forces.

It was not the Republican Guard. It was a separate United States division.

During the cold war and even the 1991 Persian Gulf war, satellite technology was not an everyday part of the lives of foot soldiers or even generals. But in the Iraqi desert, satellite technology - specifically the Global Positioning System, or G.P.S. - has become a fundamental and pervasive navigation tool for ground forces.

G.P.S. gadgetry has become almost as much a part of army life as shovels and cigarettes - whether integrated into vehicles in advanced systems like FBCB2 (often referred to as "blue-force tracker"), used in the hand-held receiver known to soldiers as the Plugger, or even bought off the shelf.

"Primarily the way that G.P.S. technologies have changed the way the army can perform its mission is it has given us a more accurate way to navigate the battle space," said Lt. Col. William S. Harborth, the Army's product manager for Global Positioning System technology.

That means the devices simply help soldiers figure out where they are. Perhaps even more important, the ability to define location precisely can help soldiers figure out where other units are.

"Increased accuracy is more important because if you know better where you are, you can ensure that you reduce fratricide," Colonel Harborth said. "In the old days, there was some human error in determining your location on the ground."

Satellite navigation continues to be crucial for long-range weapons like cruise missiles, and G.P.S. is essential in the sort of unmanned aircraft that saw their first broad deployment in Afghanistan. In contrast, the main such tool among ground troops, the Plugger, is in some ways less sophisticated than gear found at Wal-Mart or in rental cars - its utility in traversing the open desert diminished as forces entered urban areas, for example, since roads and landmarks are not programmed into it.

Still, the increasing use of satellite-based systems for navigation - and for "situational awareness," in military parlance - is one of the biggest changes in United States ground operations since the 1991 gulf war.

During that war, the Global Positioning Satellite network was in its infancy, and among front-line units, a single G.P.S. receiver might be allotted to an army company, perhaps numbering 180 soldiers in the infantry. Now the Army says that it has more than 100,000 Pluggers (the name is derived from the initials for their full name, PLGR for Precision Lightweight G.P.S. Receiver). In Iraq, the leader of each combat squad, which might include nine soldiers, often has a Plugger at hand; in some Army units, Pluggers are even more numerous.

The Marines have adopted the technology more cautiously. Matthew Brandt, the Marines' project manager for G.P.S., said the corps had purchased only about 5,400 of the units and generally deployed them at the platoon level. (A platoon might include three to five squads.)

That may be one reason that at least some marines are carrying their own civilian-grade G.P.S. devices from home. The civilian devices, made by companies including Garmin International, are typically smaller than Pluggers and, though not quite as precise as Pluggers, are apparently sufficient for everyday purposes.

Those purposes can be as trivial as finding the chow line. Before the shooting started in Iraq, some soldiers in front-line units were using their Pluggers to navigate through the dark and sand to the mess tent.

As with most technologies, however, satellite navigation is only as useful as the human intelligence guiding its use. For instance, in late March an American military detachment was sent to pick up some prisoners near Najaf. The soldiers were told the coordinates of the captives.

Their Plugger unit worked fine and the soldiers reached the coordinates. But they did not find the prisoners there. Instead, they came close to a mortar attack. The human intelligence had failed, not the device.

And even with the growing use of satellite navigation devices, there are gaps. A prominent setback for the Army in the early days of the war was the ambush of members of the 507th Maintenance Company near Nasiriya, Iraq, in which eight soldiers were killed. A private captured in the confrontation, Jessica D. Lynch, was later rescued, and five others taken prisoner were found alive north of Baghdad on Sunday.

The Nasiriya episode, which occurred while the soldiers were traveling in a convoy of trucks and other vehicles, was initially attributed to their having taken a wrong turn off a major highway. The Army has refused to comment publicly on precise details of the incident, and more recent accounts indicate that the convoy was ambushed after having stopped to repair vehicles.

But a technology expert with the American forces in the region and a civilian expert on military G.P.S. both said it was unlikely in any case that the captured unit had a G.P.S. device on board.

While Plugger units are almost ubiquitous among front-line combat units, they remain less common among units like maintenance companies, which are not generally meant to engage the enemy.

Even soldiers who have Pluggers are relying on devices that are in some ways primitive compared with their civilian counterparts. It is a curious position for the Pentagon, the driving force behind the creation of the constellation of 24 G.P.S. satellites in the 1980's and 90's.

The Plugger devices remain largely unchanged since their initial deployment in 1994 (although their cost has fallen from about $2,000 each to less than $1,000), and for many purposes, the relatively scant information they provide is sufficient. Soldiers can specify their destination, and the unit will tell them what direction to go. Using encrypted satellite signals reserved for government use, they are accurate to within roughly 10 yards, compared with 20 to 25 yards for civilian devices.

Built for resilience in combat, they are big (roughly the size of a small shoebox), heavy (about 2.75 pounds) and have a small text-based display incapable of showing maps or other information. In general, the units, which are made by Rockwell Collins, display only location, velocity (if the unit is moving) and time.

Civilian G.P.S. devices like the NeverLost system in Hertz rental cars, in contrast, are often able to display maps and other information.

The advanced graphical FBCB2 system used in Army combat vehicles, in contrast, allows commanders to electronically "see" broad swaths of a battlefield. In the version of FBCB2 known as "blue-force tracker," far-flung United States units not only receive their location information from G.P.S. but also communicate with one another using other classified satellite systems. Other versions of FBCB2 units receive their location from G.P.S. but communicate with one another using land-based radio.

(In either case, the system is connected by cable to a Plugger, which serves as the actual location-detection device. In fact, more than half of the Pluggers in the Army are not used in a hand-held mode. Rather they are used as "slave'' location-detection devices for other systems, which include air-defense batteries in addition to FBCB2.)

FBCB2, which has been in development since 1997, has been deployed in practically every tank and Bradley fighting vehicle in the Fourth Infantry Division, said Michael Lebrun, deputy director in the Army's command, control, communication and computers office. Elements of the Fourth Infantry, which in some ways is the most technically advanced of the army's infantry divisions, are on the way to Iraq.

The FBCB2 system displays the location of similarly equipped units in the area as blue icons. When any of the units spot enemy forces, they enter their location into the system. They are then displayed as red icons, and that information is relayed to other FBCB2 trackers.

Mr. Lebrun said that over the last seven or eight months, FBCB2 was deployed to other army divisions, though generally company by company. A tank company might include three platoons, each with four tanks.

For foot soldiers without access to the FBCB2, however, satellite navigation usually means getting their location from the Plugger and then using a paper map to plot their location manually.

That is why the Pentagon is ordering a new generation of hand-held G.P.S. devices, to be known as DAGR, pronounced "Dagger," for Defense Advanced G.P.S. Receiver. Rockwell Collins is competing with Raytheon for the right to produce the new system, which is scheduled to reach everyday soldiers next year. The Pentagon is to pick the winning company in September.

"Plugger is about 12 years old, and if you can make an analogy to the commercial electronics marketplace, just think about your cordless phone you had at home 10 years ago versus now," said Mark Youhanaie, Raytheon's strategy director for G.P.S. products. "Now, we can make these receivers more accurate. We can acquire the satellite signal more quickly. It has higher jam immunity, and we can give you that all in a package that is a quarter of the size of the old Plugger system."

For now, it appears that the Rockwell Collins contender is a bit smaller than Raytheon's, while Raytheon's boasts a bigger screen. Whichever company wins, however, the Dagger will weigh only about a pound and will be much smaller than the Plugger. Perhaps most important, the new devices will allow soldiers to see not just lines of coordinate numbers, but also a map that shows their location in relation to objects like minefields, rivers and enemy positions. The units will also incorporate graphical user interfaces.

Drawing a comparison to generations of computer operating systems, Steve Jones, the Rockwell Collins marketing manager for land navigation products, said that "Plugger is DOS, and Dagger is Windows."

By plugging the Dagger system into a military radio, soldiers may be able to display their location on the screens of nearby Dagger units or more advanced FBCB2 systems, Mr. Jones said.

The Dagger devices, which are meant to initially cost about $2,000 each, will be more advanced than the Plugger in other ways as well. While the Plugger receives its encrypted signals at 1,575 megahertz, the band also used for civilian G.P.S. devices, the Dagger will also be able to pick up signals at the government-only 1,227-megahertz band, allowing for additional accuracy. The 1,227 band is now used largely for military aircraft, cruise missiles and other airborne systems, military officials say.

The new system will also track all 12 G.P.S. satellites in each hemisphere at once. The old units can only track five satellites at once, and signals from four satellites are required to establish a three-dimensional position. In addition, current G.P.S. receivers are somewhat vulnerable to enemy equipment that beams false G.P.S. signals to indicate the wrong location, a technique known as spoofing.

The Dagger is meant to include classified technology that will help the device verify that the signal it is receiving is actually coming from a United States G.P.S. satellite.

It is still unclear just how many of the new devices will reach United States soldiers. "The plan was to replace all of the Pluggers in one year,'' said Mr. Brandt of the Marines, "and of course that depends on how much money Congress decides to give us, which is never certain."

But no matter how many are ultimately deployed, the new devices are meant to give the soldiers perhaps the most precious commodity on the modern battlefield besides life itself: information.

"The key is greater situational awareness for our soldiers so we bring them home alive," Colonel Harborth said. "That's it."

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Some Looters Had Keys to Iraqi Museum Vaults, Experts Say

Arts | Thursday 14:26:44 EST | comments (0)

Some Looters Had Keys to Iraqi Museum Vaults, Experts Say
Filed at 12:04 p.m. ET

PARIS (AP) -- Some of the looters who ravaged Iraqi antiquities appeared highly organized and even had keys to museum vaults and were able to take pieces from safes, experts said Thursday at an international meeting.

One expert said he suspected the looting was organized outside the country.

The U.N. cultural agency gathered some 30 art experts and cultural historians in Paris on Thursday to assess the damage to Iraqi museums and libraries looted in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion.

Although much of the looting was haphazard, experts said some of the thieves clearly knew what they were looking for and where to find it, suggesting they were prepared professionals.

``It looks as if part of the looting was a deliberate planned action,'' said McGuire Gibson, a University of Chicago professor and president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad. ``They were able to take keys for vaults and were able to take out important Mesopotamian materials put in safes.''

``I have a suspicion it was organized outside the country, in fact I'm pretty sure it was,'' Gibson said. He added that if a good police team was put together, ``I think it could be cracked in no time.''

Cultural experts, curators and law enforcement officials are scrambling to both track down the missing antiquities and prevent further looting of the valuables.

The pillaging has ravaged the irreplaceable Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections that chronicled ancient civilization in Mesopotamia, and the losses have triggered an impassioned outcry in cultural circles.

Many fear the stolen artifacts have been absorbed into highly organized trafficking rings that ferry the goods through a series of middlemen to collectors in Europe, the United States and Japan.

Officials at the UNESCO meeting at its headquarters in Paris said the information was still too sketchy to determine exactly what was missing and how many items were unaccounted for.

The experts, which included Iraqi art officials, said some of the most valuable pieces had been placed in the vault of the national bank after the 1991 Gulf War, but they had no information on whether the items were still there.

At U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, officials said they weren't aware of the reports of organized looting and couldn't comment.

``I have no knowledge of what looters used to get access to the museums, but it was a terrible loss to all of humanity, and we are working with the Iraqi people to find those responsible,'' said a spokesman, Navy Lt. Herb Josey.

Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, began the meeting Thursday by calling for a U.N. resolution imposing a temporary embargo on trade in Iraqi antiquities.

Matsuura said it was urgent to repair the antiquities that remain and to keep them from the hands of those who traffic in the lucrative market of stolen objects.

``It is always difficult, when communities are facing the consequences of an armed conflict ... to plead the case for preservation of the cultural heritage,'' Matsuura said.

Matsuura said he would ask U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to seek a resolution against illicit trafficking that would also impose an embargo ``for a limited period'' on the acquisition of Iraqi cultural objects. Such a resolution would also call for the return of such items to Iraq, he said.

In addition, Matsuura said the establishment of a nationwide ``heritage police'' was necessary to watch over cultural sites and institutions. Such a force could be set up by ``the authorities on the ground,'' an apparent reference to U.S. and British forces in Baghdad.

``To preserve the Iraqi cultural heritage is, in a word, to enable Iraq to successfully make its transition to a new, free and prosperous society,'' he said.

He reiterated a call for governments to adopt emergency legal and administrative measures to prevent anyone's importing objects from Iraq and to museums and art dealers to refuse transactions in such objects.

A database of all cultural objects needs to be quickly established so police, museums, customs authorities can act against any traffickers, he said.

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Rumsfeld Requests Power to Reorganize Services

PQ+ | Thursday 14:25:30 EST | comments (0)

Rumsfeld Requests Power to Reorganize Services

WASHINGTON, April 13 — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is asking Congress for broad new powers to reshape the uniformed services from the highest ranking officers down to reservists and supply clerks.

If approved, the legislation would put Mr. Rumsfeld's stamp on personnel practices for years, even decades, to come, powerfully influencing assignments and promotions at the top of the chain of command and refocusing many people lower in the ranks on fighting wars rather than pushing pencils.

Mr. Rumsfeld's legislative requests, which Congressional aides said today were delivered this weekend and would be circulated broadly to members on Monday, are certain to spark debate. But they could receive a more sympathetic hearing in the wake of the campaign in Iraq, which is already seen as a victory for advocates of a leaner and more agile military, one that is both more sophisticated and deadlier.

David S. C. Chu, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, described the plan as the most sweeping reorganization of military personnel since the Eisenhower administration.

He said the proposed legislation requests greater flexibility over personnel policy affecting the very senior levels, allowing a defense secretary to extend the tenure of generals and admirals in especially important jobs, while easing the early retirement of those unlikely to be promoted further.

Lower in the ranks, the legislation would clear the way for transferring a large number of military support jobs to civilian employees — about 300,000 are under consideration, Mr. Chu said — increasing the numbers of combat troops without adding to the roughly 1.5 million people in uniform today. And it would change the peacetime schedule of reservists, who have been called up by the tens of thousands over the past two years for the campaign against terror.

Active-duty military personnel could switch into the Reserves for a number of years if family pressures or desires for education made full-time service difficult, and then return to the active service, which does not happen now.

Reservists could opt for specialties that guarantee more active service time and mobilization if that fit their lives; others, depending on the specialties they chose, would be confident of less time on active duty beyond the weekend a month and two weeks a year of training now.

Senior Pentagon officials and Congressional aides who have read the legislation say its most significant, and probably most controversial, proposals provide for longer tenure for some of the most senior generals and admirals, raising the retirement age from the current 62 years and allowing a number of four-star positions to serve beyond one term. For example, the chiefs of the armed services must now retire after four years unless Congress declares war or a national emergency.

Mr. Rumsfeld already experimented with this process, asking Gen. James Jones to depart early from his post as commandant of the Marine Corps, a four-year job that had been the final post for the top Marine four-star general, to serve as commander of all American and allied forces in Europe.

Even at lower levels of the general and flag officer corps, the goal would be to have more senior military leaders spend more than the traditional two years in a single job.

The legislation has been written and rewritten since late last year, and Mr. Rumsfeld hinted at some of the designs in January in a speech to the Reserve Officers Association.

The armed services "make a terrible mistake" by "having so many people skip along the tops of the waves in a job and serve in it 12, 15, 18, 24 months and be gone," he said. "They spend the first six months saying hello to everybody, the next six months trying to learn the job and the last six months leaving. I like people to be in a job long enough that they make mistakes, see their mistakes, clean up their own mistakes before they go on to make mistakes somewhere else."

To ease the growing numbers of senior officers whose advancements would no doubt be slowed by longer-serving superiors, the legislation seeks to allow any officer of one-star and above to retire with full benefits even if he has not served the full three years set by law today.

By law, all officers "serve at the pleasure of the president," and can be asked to retire at any point. The legislation would ease financial hardships of early retirement.

Mr. Chu said certain positions would be untouched by any new rules to lengthen tours of duty, and he cited the commanders of ground divisions, naval battle groups and air wings, whose responsibilities are focused on readiness and war fighting and less on carrying out new policies. However sweeping these proposed changes may be, Mr. Rumsfeld chose not to pursue two significant proposals that had been aired privately with some members of Congress.

One previous proposal, to consolidate a number of senior staff positions of the Joint Staff under the defense secretary, would have required rewriting the Goldwater-Nickles legislation that set up the current system of the Joint Chiefs and regional combatant commanders. The idea of merging personnel, which was viewed by some officers as an attempt to reign in the independent analysis of the military's Joint Staff, is not in the proposed legislation.

Also absent from the proposed legislation is a suggestion to eliminate a number of assistant secretary of defense positions, consolidating their responsibilities.

Mr. Rumsfeld has made no secret that he views his personnel decisions as equally significant to changes he may bring to weapons procurement strategic doctrine, and he has begun interviewing each candidate from all of the four armed services for every position of one-star and above, according to senior aides.

This involvement in the advancement of senior officers, which is far more detailed and hands-on than previous defense secretaries, has rankled some in the officer corps who say Mr. Rumsfeld is weeding out the high command to preserve only like-minded officers.

In broad terms, Mr. Rumsfeld does not argue with that assessment. "My whole life as an executive has proven to me the importance of people," he said during the speech in January. "That's why selecting them is so critical."

Assuring long-term Pentagon changes requires senior leaders with the "orientation, attitude, energy and intellect to move big chunks on their own initiative," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "If you get the right people, those ripples go out in exactly the right way, and for a long time."

Mr. Chu said that Pentagon analysis found more than 300,000 military jobs that could be filled by civilians. The proposed legislation would allow the Pentagon to "convert some of these posts that could be civilians to civilian status," using those personnel slots "for other new kinds of structure that the country will need in the years ahead," he added.

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Iraqi's Road Home, by Way of the Web

PQ+ | Thursday 14:24:27 EST | comments (0)

Iraqi's Road Home, by Way of the Web

WHEN Sam Kareem started the Web site Iraq.net as a hobby in 1995, he could not have known that his efforts would lead to meetings with the president, the secretary of state and the national security adviser. Nor could Mr. Kareem have known that in bringing together fellow Iraqi expatriates online, he would be planting the seeds of a political movement.

But when Mr. Kareem, 46, shook hands with President Bush this month in a White House ceremony greeting 12 prominent Iraqi-Americans and exiles, it was evident that those seeds were coming to flower.

"It's exciting," said Mr. Kareem, who fled Iraq for London in 1982 and made his way to the United States two years later. "It's wonderful. We're making history." A month ago, Mr. Kareem, an Internet project manager for a technology company, left his home near Detroit for an indefinite stay in Washington to work with the Defense Department in planning a transitional postwar government for Iraq.

His involvement, he said, can be traced to Iraq.net and the online networking to which it gave rise.

Politics was not his motivation for building the site, which grew out of disparate online gatherings in chat rooms and e-mail exchanges, he said.

"The intention was to link people who got scattered around the world," said Mr. Kareem, who says he will be working on revamping the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications when he goes to Iraq in perhaps a few weeks. "Then, people wanted to see each other in person." So social clubs formed on both coasts and in Toronto, London, Switzerland and Australia.

While the meetings, both online and face-to-face, provided comfort to others who were unable to return home, conversations would invariably turn to conditions in Iraq. "You cannot separate Iraqis from politics," Mr. Kareem said.

Yet he and others said they were not always so interested in acknowledging their heritage. Ahmed Al-Hayderi, 49, who migrated to Ottawa in 1980, said that for years, he wanted only to forget his homeland.

"I would hear an Iraqi voice and turn the other way,'' Mr. Al-Hayderi said.

But as the situation in Iraq worsened under Saddam Hussein, he said, he began to seek out Iraqis. "It was time to let the world know what atrocities were being committed,'' he said.

The Internet generally and Iraq .net specifically provided a way to do that - first by simply gathering people scattered by the Iraqi diaspora, then by allowing the virtual discourse to unfold.

"Like anything, it was difficult in the beginning," he said. "There were varying opinions and emotions. With any democracy, any ideas, the first step is chaos, and that chaos gradually takes shape and order."

In 1998, some participants in Iraq.net gave that idea a more formal shape with the creation of the Iraqi Forum for Democracy (www .iraqifd.org), an international group for which Mr. Kareem serves as Webmaster. (Because of the demands of that role, he gave up running Iraq.net and leased the domain in 1999 to the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of political exiles led by Ahmad Chalabi, whom some Pentagon officials favor to lead an interim government. The congress uses the site as a Web presence for its efforts.)

The goal of the Iraqi Forum, according to its Web site, is "the establishment and preservation of democracy in Iraq." Members decided to publish the site in English to make their message accessible beyond their own ranks.

Iraq.net was a place "to advocate democratic principles among the Iraqi participants and visitors of the discussion forum as well as to defy the themes of Saddam's regime apologists and appeasers,'' said Saad Rashid, a member who lives in Manchester, England. The Iraqi Forum "propagated and attracted many free Iraqis through Iraq.net until we created our own Web site."

That is something that many Iraqi groups have been doing recently, particularly once Mr. Hussein's ouster seemed a prospect, said Dr. Judith Yaphe, an Iraq scholar at National Defense University in Washington. "A lot of these little niche groups are popping up with their own sites," as well as chat rooms and e-mail lists, Dr. Yaphe said. "You're nobody if you don't have a Web site, I guess. Most Iraqi exiles have tended to keep a low profile for political reasons, but now things have changed."

The Bush administration meanwhile grew more interested in amplifying their message and drawing on their efforts. In late February, as war loomed, nearly 300 Iraqi-Americans gathered in Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb, to hear Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz speak at a meeting sponsored by the Iraqi Forum. Mr. Wolfowitz asked those assembled to help rebuild Iraq after Mr. Hussein's ouster.

The freedom to imagine democracy and to exchange varied opinions is the point of the forum's online colloquy, said Dr. Ithaar Derweesh, 32, a urologist in Cleveland whose family fled Baghdad when he was 9. "We made a conscious attempt not to associate with one party or another," Dr. Derweesh said.

Once the war began, he said, the dialogue became even more intense, and information flowed quickly. "It has brought us together and allowed to discuss and coalesce our views throughout the world and to disseminate this information," he said.

With the ouster of Mr. Hussein, the discussions now include homecoming plans. Mr. Al-Hayderi said he wanted to be in Baghdad to celebrate his 50th birthday in May. And as Mr. Kareem huddles with other Iraqi natives to help remake the country he left 20 years ago, he too looks forward to returning, his meeting at the White House fresh in his mind.

"All the way to the president," he marveled. "When you look at it, we started from zero. Had it not been for the Internet, our struggle would have suffered tremendously."

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How One Person Can Fuel an Epidemic

Science | Thursday 14:23:30 EST | comments (0)

How One Person Can Fuel an Epidemic

A child in China so infectious that he is nicknamed "the poison emperor." A Chinese doctor who infects 12 fellow guests in his Hong Kong hotel, who then fly to Singapore, Vietnam and Canada. An elderly Canadian woman who infects three generations of her family.

Watching as the mysterious illness called severe acute respiratory syndrome hopped around the world and exploded in new outbreaks, epidemiologists began to ask themselves an unsettling question: is it carried by "superspreaders"?

The notion that some people are hyperinfective, spewing germs out like teakettles while others simmer quietly like stew pots, has been around for at least a century, ever since Typhoid Mary became notorious in 1907.

For some diseases, including tuberculosis, smallpox and staphylococcus infections, superspreaders definitely exist. They have been variously called "superinfectors," "supershedders" and even "cloud cases" for the mist of invisible droplets trailing them.

But while there are anecdotal case studies of individuals behind some outbreaks, there is little concentrated research in the field. "There hasn't been enough time, thinking and probing" to hazard more than a guess as to why superspreaders are responsible for so much of the spread of SARS, said Dr. Donald A. Henderson, the epidemiologist who led the global eradication of smallpox.

Dr. Joshua Lederberg, emeritus professor of microbiology at Rockefeller University and a Nobel laureate in medicine, said there were many hypotheses — for instance, that superspreaders are partly resistant to the disease they spread. But he added, "It's epidemiological conjecture."

As several experts pointed out, it is hard to describe how a disease spreads when its cause has not even been nailed down; in the case of SARS, a coronavirus is still just a prime suspect. Moreover, no one knows the answers to basic questions about disease transmission — why, for example, AIDS is transmitted by blood but not by coughing, while tuberculosis is usually the opposite.

Several SARS patients have infected more than 30 people, according to the World Health Organization. The biggest reported superspreader is a 26-year-old airport worker admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong in early March. He infected 112 people, including every doctor and nurse who treated him.

Doctors suspect the cause was a jet nebulizer that sprayed medicated mist deep into his phlegm-filled lungs four times a day for seven days. The mist expanded his lungs and was itself exhaled.

"You put someone with a viral infection in their lungs on a nebulizer — well, yeah, you're going to spread the disease," said Dr. Susan C. Baker, a professor of microbiology at Loyola University of Chicago. "The air that goes in has to come out."

That, experts said, is a good example of a leading theory about superspreaders — that their infective powers are not genetic, but are due simply to unhappy coincidences. They have shedding sores in the throat that make their coughs extra deadly. They have no symptoms and feel well enough to go out. They have an occupation like flight attendant, doctor or prostitute that involves close contact with many strangers. Or they get sick while in a group of people with low resistance.

In many outbreaks, said Dr. Jack M. Gwaltney Jr., an expert in the common cold at the University of Virginia, children are the spreaders.

Referring to a well-known study of a cold outbreak at the Eagle Heights Apartments in Madison, Wis., and to an early theory that the outbreak of more than 300 SARS cases in the Amoy Gardens apartment complex in Hong Kong was spread by cockroaches, he said: "Don't blame the cockroaches. In Wisconsin, it wasn't the cockroaches, it was the kids."

But neither children nor cockroaches are suspects at Amoy Gardens now. The leading theory is that leaking sewage contaminated sidewalk puddles. Residents walked through them, then took off their shoes and picked up the disease by touching their faces or eating without washing their hands. Many viruses are shed in feces, famously including polio, which can spread to diaper-changing parents.

Whoever put SARS in the Amoy Gardens sewage pipes — and one regular visitor was a dialysis patient at the Prince of Wales Hospital while the airport worker was on the nebulizer — would be a superspreader, with the help of rusty pipes.

Some people become superspreaders because they contact many others in the hours before symptoms develop. A famous case of the superspreading of smallpox was described in 1913: a man who took two trains across England, and was said to have infected nearly 100 people en route. No one in his compartment noticed any rash on his face.

Another theory is that some people have more contagious strains. Flu viruses mutating between animals and humans can become more or less infectious, said Dr. Megan Murray, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. The Norwalk virus, found on cruise ships, is highly infectious.

But in tuberculosis outbreaks, for example, what matters is not the strain but whether the carrier has a throat infection or, more commonly, lung cavities. The oxygenated bacteria grow faster, "so they cough up huge amounts," said Dr. James Plorde, an infectious disease expert with the University of Washington.

A famous tuberculosis superspreader, described in The New England Journal of Medicine in November 1999, was a 9-year-old boy in rural North Dakota, an immigrant from the Marshall Islands, who in 1997 and 1998 infected his family and 56 schoolmates. The boy had deep cavities in his lungs, while his twin brother, who was two inches taller and 11 pounds heavier, had a mild case and was not infectious.

Some populations are genetically more susceptible, so the first carrier to get it often becomes a superspreader. For example, Dr. Plorde said, "people of European descent handle TB much better than American Indians — presumably because their genetic stock survived more epidemics of TB."

Also, a second infection can turn someone with a mild primary illness into a superspreader.

In 1996, the journal Annals of Internal Medicine described an experiment conducted after an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus in a hospital's surgical intensive-care unit. Of 64 people tested, one medical student was found to have staph germs in his nose that matched those infecting eight patients. He had a mild cold during the week the patients were infected, he said.

Since he was healthy again, his dispersal of staph germs was tested, and was unremarkable. Then, with his permission, he was given another cold. Three days later, his sneezes were tested, and he was spraying out 40 times as much bacteria.

Secondary infections are thought to be part of the rapid spread of AIDS in Africa. The virus spreads much more rapidly in populations where untreated genital sores are common.

Gaetan Dugas, the gay airline attendant blamed for much of the early spread of AIDS in North America who was dubbed Patient Zero in Randy Shilts's book "And the Band Played On," would be considered a superspreader like Typhoid Mary because he willfully infected others. The book says he even taunted some men he had slept with by pointing to the sores on his arm and saying, "gay cancer — maybe you'll get it."

Mary Mallon, or Typhoid Mary, infected as many people as she did because she never got sick enough to stop working, and she refused to quit her chosen occupation: cook.

"If she'd been an epidemiologist or a reporter," observed Dr. James Curran, dean of Emory University's school of public health, "she wouldn't have been Typhoid Mary."

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Exposure to SARS in Toronto Raises Chance of Its Spread

China | Thursday 14:22:29 EST | comments (0)

Exposure to SARS in Toronto Raises Chance of Its Spread

TORONTO, April 15 — The possibility that severe acute respiratory syndrome could be spreading to the Toronto population at large increased significantly with the news that 500 members of a church group had been exposed to the disease March 28 and may have passed it to others.

The exposure of such a large group was made public Monday night. The develpment was a setback for health officials, who had become increasingly optimistic that Toronto had passed the worst of the SARS outbreak. Now, their effort to contain the disease through the quarantine of more than 3,500 people in their homes has been put into question.

The latest exposure involves members of the Bukas-Loob Sa Diyos Covenant Community, a Philippines-based Roman Catholic group active in the Toronto area. At least one member was infected at the Scarborough Grace Hospital, where the initial outbreak in Toronto began last month. That person later attended a Mass where hundreds had gathered. The following day many in the group also attended a retreat.

In early April, several members of the church group attended the funeral of a person who was later determined to have died of SARS. Health officials now know that some people who attended the funeral had the disease at the time.

Within the religious group, 29 probable and suspected cases have been identified. One doctor who was treating the group was also infected. There are now nearly 300 suspected or probable cases of SARS in Canada, mostly in Toronto. The disease has claimed 13 lives in Toronto, and 2 people are in critical condition.

Local officials urged the public to remain calm, and repeated that the threat of the disease spreading widely beyond the church group was still slim. Officials said it was not surprising that there would be some holes in the quarantine.

"We have not lost control," Dr. James Young, Ontario Commissioner of Public Safety, said today.

Dr. Colin D'Cunha, Ontario Commissioner of Public Health, said that "there are different threads that keep this community together and what we're trying to do is put the rings around this community to contain its spread."

Several hospitals have delayed elective operations and other procedures to limit exposure of patients to possible infection. Four schools were closed for several days. But most people in Toronto have taken the disease in stride, at least so far, using mass transit and attending parties and public events without wearing the kinds of masks that have been common in some Asian cities.

The Archdiocese of Toronto, however, ordered today that all of its churches change customary practices this Easter holiday because of the outbreak. The taking of communion from the cup will be suspended, along with the kissing of the crucifix on Good Friday and the practice of shaking hands for the "salutation of peace."

No American cases of SARS have been linked to Canada so far.

How far the disease may have spread in Toronto is not yet known. But some health care officials have expressed concern at the considerable time between the exposure at the Mass on March 28 and the point at which members of the church group were isolated in their homes Sunday and Monday.

The possible outbreak was not made public until late Monday to ensure that the exposure was properly traced, health officials said.

Until today health officials had said that non-travel-related SARS cases in Toronto could be traced to the Scarborough Grace Hospital. Now the tie may be less direct. Any patients with symptoms and a link to the hospital could, relatively easily, be considered possible SARS cases and put into respiratory isolation.

Dr. Donald Low, chief of microbiology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, expressed concern over the news of a wider outbreak of SARS. "This is a different animal than I've ever seen before," he said, noting that the struggle against the disease in Toronto is now reaching the five-week mark.

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Prosecutors Detail Lavish Way of Life of Double Agent Suspect

PQ+ | Thursday 14:21:33 EST | comments (0)

Prosecutors Detail Lavish Way of Life of Double Agent Suspect

LOS ANGELES, April 16 — It was no secret in political and social circles here that Katrina Leung, a long-time F.B.I. informer who is accused of being a Chinese double agent, liked the good life.

Ms. Leung, a 49-year-old businesswoman who was arrested last week, dressed impeccably, gave lavish parties at her home in San Marino, owned various businesses and property, and frequently flew overseas.

But the extent of Ms. Leung's assets, which the authorities have described as "enormous and complex," has begun to emerge in recent days, although a full accounting may never be known.

At a bail hearing for Ms. Leung on Tuesday, federal prosecutors said that she and her husband, Kam Leung, had access to at least $872,000 in bank and retirement accounts in the United States and that the couple might have had millions of dollars in foreign accounts under different names.

United States Assistant Attorney Rebecca Lonergan said Ms. Leung could use these assets if she chose to flee the United States. The prosecutor said Ms. Leung, a naturalized American citizen, had not reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in overseas earnings on her United States tax returns.

In addition, Ms. Leung claimed mortgage interest deductions on a California residence that was not in truth mortgaged, Ms. Lonergan said.

Citing her "significant foreign assets" as a flight risk, Federal Magistrate Victor B. Kenton on Tuesday ordered Ms. Leung held without bail until trial on charges of illegally obtaining secret documents from her Federal Bureau of Investigation handler, with whom she had a sexual affair.

The magistrate said that despite the best efforts of the authorities, "there is much about the defendant's financial wherewithal that has not been revealed in the court."

In a statement released today, Ms. Leung's lawyer, John Vandevelde, asked that the public "not jump to any conclusions" regarding the government's portrayal of his client's assets.

"Information is being withheld from us, and the government has only shown the tip of the iceberg," Mr. Vandevelde said. "When all the information is out it will show that for 20 years the F.B.I. controlled everything and knew everything that Ms. Leung did. Her overseas activities furthered her role for the F.B.I."

Ms. Leung, who is said to have extensive contacts in the Chinese government, was recruited by James J. Smith, an F.B.I. agent who was her main handler and lover for 20 years until his retirement in 2000.

Mr. Smith has been charged with gross negligence in his handling of national security documents that officials say Ms. Leung copied and passed on to the Chinese government. Mr. Smith was released last week on $250,000 bond.
At the bail hearing for Ms. Leung, her lawyers argued that the F.B.I. was fully aware of their client's every action and approved them.

They said Ms. Leung's home in San Marino, a rich suburb just east of Los Angeles, was equipped with built-in microphones and video cameras that allowed American agents to spy on her Chinese house guests.
"The F.B.I. fed information to her and encouraged her to give it to the People's Republic of China in order to obtain the trust of the P.R.C. and obtain information in return," according to the documents filed by Ms. Leung's lawyers.
Underscoring what prosecutors said was Ms. Leung's vast wealth, she and her family had offered to post bail for as much as $2 million in property to secure her release. Her husband, brother and sister, all attended the hearing but declined to be interviewed.

Ms. Leung, who wore a green windbreaker jacket and navy blue sweat pants, was escorted into the courtroom in shackles. Her hair pulled back in a long ponytail, Ms. Leung appeared relaxed and confident. She often smiled when looking back at her relatives.
Prosecutors provided some details of the sources of Ms. Leung's assets and the complex financial schemes they said she used to hide them.

For starters, they said Ms. Leung had received $1.7 million for work and expenses as an informer for the F.B.I. in which she provided the agency with secret material on the Chinese government over 20 years.
Ms. Leung, who is fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English, also was paid $1.2 million in 1995 and 1996 for negotiating a deal that allowed Nortel Telecommunications to do business in China, prosecutors said.

As Nortel's representative, Ms. Leung, who used the business name "Merry Glory" for the deal, received 3 percent of any contract that she obtained for Nortel, they said.
Prosecutors said a review of Ms. Leung's personal tax returns showed that she reported neither the F.B.I. payments nor the Nortel payments as income on her on federal income tax filing, as required by the Internal Revenue Service.
According to an affidavit filed by federal prosecutors in connection with the bail hearing, Ms. Leung admitted to the authorities that she had two bank accounts in Hong Kong under the name Merry Glory and Right Fortune.

The accounts were used "to create the appearance of a separate creditor to which she made mortgage payments when in fact she was paying herself," the document stated.
Ms. Leung bought her home in San Marino about 12 years ago for $1.4 million, prosecutors said. She made a down payment of half that amount and financed the balance.

She deposited payments from Nortel in her Right Fortune account and used the money to pay off the balance of her mortgage. "This created the appearance she had refinanced with another company and enabled her to falsely claim mortgage interest deductions for her residence after she had in fact paid her mortgage in full," the affidavit said.
Nancy Mathis, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, said that because of privacy laws that protect all taxpayers the agency could not comment on whether it would investigate Ms. Leung in connection with tax fraud.

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Delta Reports Severe Financial Crisis

Finance | Thursday 14:19:08 EST | comments (0)

Delta Reports Severe Financial Crisis
Filed at 12:13 p.m. ET

ATLANTA (AP) -- Delta Air Lines said Thursday it faces its worst financial crisis ever as it reported a wider first-quarter loss and warned it will need to cut costs even further.

But investors were encouraged the losses weren't deeper, revenue edged higher and American Airlines' success in getting unions to approve sharp cuts in labor outside of bankruptcy.

For the three months ending March 31, Delta lost $466 million, or $3.81 a share, compared with a loss of $397 million, or $3.25 a share, for the same period a year ago.

Excluding one-time items -- mainly charges for pension benefits related to job cuts -- Delta said it lost $426 million in the quarter, or $3.49 a share. That beat the lowered expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, who predicted a loss of $3.51 a share.

Revenue in the quarter was $3.16 billion, a slight increase from the $3.10 billion the airline brought in a year ago.

Atlanta-based Delta, which lost $1.3 billion last year, has laid off 16,000 employees since the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Thursday, the nation's third-largest airline said it plans to furlough an additional 200 pilots this year because of a drop-off in travel due to the war in Iraq. It also plans to reduce capacity by 10 percent and will remove 12 MD-11 aircraft from service.

Delta blamed the war for $125 million, or more than one-quarter, of the first-quarter loss.

``Even as we face the greatest financial crisis in Delta's history, which is deepened by the impact of military action in Iraq, Delta continues to successfully reduce costs, preserve liquidity and implement the strategic elements of our long-term plan for survival,'' chief executive Leo Mullin said.

In a conference call with investors, Mullin said the outlook for Delta's future is even more bleak. The airline expects to lose substantially more in the second quarter than it did in the same period a year ago.

Chief financial officer Michele Burns said that although fuel expenses skyrocketed in the quarter due to the war, ``it is evident that we continue to make progress on the cost side.''

For major carriers like Delta, the war in Iraq and the deadly SARS illness in Asia have slowed international travel. At home, the struggling economy has prompted deep discounts on flights.

Still, shares of Delta were up $1.01, or 9.6 percent, at $11.50 in morning trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. Other major airline stocks also rose on news that American Airlines was able to secure nearly $2 billion in concessions from its labor unions and avoid a bankruptcy filing, at least temporarily. AMR Corp. shares gained 21 percent and Continental Airlines shares rose 9 percent, both on the NYSE.

Continental and Northwest Airlines both reported hefty losses earlier in the week. Continental lost $221 million in the quarter, while Northwest lost $396 million in the quarter.

Northwest shares were barely changed Thursday. The Eagan-based carrier is negotiating hundreds of millions in wage and benefit givebacks from its unions.

Raymond Neidl, an analyst with Blaylock and Partners in New York, said there will be added pressure on Delta to make more cuts because of the deep concessions agreed to by employees at American Airlines. Delta cannot sustain such losses much longer, Neidl said.

``Like Continental and Northwest before it, there's no surprise with Delta's numbers,'' Neidl said. ``That's why they have to move to cut costs as quickly as possible.''

Mullin said Delta will use the concessions agreed to at American as context for its talks with pilots about cuts. The company is working to avoid bankruptcy, he said.

``I think we'll be moving forward with a sense of urgency on both sides with those discussions,'' he said. ``Everybody at Delta is working and is absolutely committed to achieving our aims outside of bankruptcy. It is a struggle that is worth the pain and challenge that it represents.''

Delta plans to hold its annual shareholder meeting next week in New York.

The company has faced criticism because in the midst of the layoffs it revealed Mullin earned millions last year. Mullin responded by saying he would cut his pay another 15 percent and wouldn't accept incentive payments this year.

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Primedia Chairman's Contract Will Not Be Renewed

Finance | Thursday 14:18:20 EST | comments (0)

Primedia Chairman's Contract Will Not Be Renewed

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company announced today that the firm would not renew the contract of Thomas S. Rogers, the chairman and chief executive of Primedia Inc., the publisher of New York magazine.

Henry R. Kravis of KKR said that his firm was parting ways with Mr. Rogers over differences in strategies for the company's future. Mr. Rogers took over Primedia in 1999.

Charles G. McCurdy, previously president of Primedia Inc., has been named interim chief executive, and KKR will begin searching for a new chief executive. Dean Nelson, chief executive of Capstone Consulting, an independent consulting firm that works exclusively with KKR portfolio companies, has been named interim chairman.

Mr. Rogers attempted to build Primedia, a collection of business and consumer magazines, into an integrated media company through the acquisition of About.com, but the acquisition was met with skepticism on Wall Street and the company labored under more than $2 billion in debt. Primedia has sold American Baby, Chicago Magazine and is in the process of selling Seventeen magazine to pay down debt.

"Tom has led Primedia through a difficult period in its evolution and has accomplished a lot for the company," Mr. Kravis said in a statement. "However, Tom and the board recognize we have real differences in the strategic direction of the company that surfaced in the contract renewal process."

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Hard-Wired Baroque Lights Up Milan Show

Arts | Thursday 14:17:35 EST | comments (0)

Hard-Wired Baroque Lights Up Milan Show

MILAN -- THERE were cabbage roses in the land of molded plastics last week at the annual Milan furniture fair. Swank minimalism was still in evidence, of course, but it was the blowzy prints and shiny crystal chandeliers that caught the eye.

Not that the war and the fragile economy had thrown anybody into a nostalgic mood. On the contrary, the frankly luscious patterns adorning everything from light bulbs to armrests were more often than not the result of extreme technology wielded by designers too young to have ever met a chintz.

But a rose is a rose, even if it is laser-cut. "This generation has completely grown up with technology, and they don't share the traditional view of tech as harsh, cold and functional," said Alice Rawsthorn, director of the Design Museum in London, who curated a show of young tech-savvy British designers here. "To them, advanced technologies offer new ways to create sensual form. They know how to use it to make forms as emotionally expressive as a piece of music."

The technological opulence on display last week was in the spirit of the feather-light genius of Shiro Kuramata, the Japanese designer whose 1988 armchair, Miss Blanche, was made of solid acrylic embedded with plastic red roses. Two exhibitions dedicated to Kuramata opened during the fair, one sponsored by Domus magazine and a second at the Galleria Carla Sozzani (Corso Como 10, through May 11).

As the show grows larger, its theme packs a bigger cultural punch. With 1,660 exhibitors of furniture at the official fairgrounds and hundreds more scattered in improvised showrooms around the city, the annual Milan furniture fair has outstripped the twice-yearly fashion shows as the most explosive display of style since Cleopatra sat on an asp.

Decoration was everywhere. At Moroso, where only a few years ago the late Achille Castiglioni (he of the lamp made from a car battery and a fishing rod) was still showing his brand of functionalism and wit. This year there was a living room suite in an exploded floral print on a painted copy of an Afghan rug made during the Soviet occupation. This provocative tableau was put together by Michael Lin, a Chinese artist who specializes in installations with distorted plays on traditional Taiwanese textiles. In this case, he applied the fabrics with startling effect to furniture by Ron Arad and Patricia Urquiola, among others, who are known for much harder-edged designs.

The theme of lush and hard, color and transparency was much in evidence at Kartell, where Philippe Starck rarely fails to produce the wittiest chair du jour. Last year, the indefatigable egoiste introduced the transparent Louis Ghost, a plastic rendition of a Louis XIV fauteuil; it became one of the store's best sellers months after it went on sale last October. Its history-quoting romance, said Ivan Luini, the president of Kartell U.S., allowed "a new mass audience to open its heart to technology." This year's Mademoiselle by Mr. Starck was even more shrewdly attuned to the moment with a corset-curved polyurethane body and seat wrapped in silk jacquard atop slightly splayed transparent polycarbonate legs (approximately $350).

While some interpreted the new decorative streak as a form of postmodern kitsch, Murray Moss of Moss on Greene Street in Manhattan said he welcomed the return of beauty for its own sake, as long as it came with a technological twist to make it contemporary. "Design is getting domesticated," said Mr. Moss as he leapt into a hired car gripping a scrawled list of urgent appointments. "High tech is breaking down. Offices look like homes, not workplaces. Chandeliers are everywhere."

Technology is so ubiquitous, he added, it no longer has to show off. In fact, it's often buried to the point of invisibility.

Much of the technological derring-do last week was shown in conjunction with the Euroluce lighting show, which shares space with the furniture fair every other year. Once again, Swarovski, the Austrian crystal company, dazzled with its designer-made chandeliers befitting that new oxymoron, the baroque loft. Ingo Mauer, the designer based in Munich, with a Manhattan shop, offered his own take on the new chandelier, a suspended piece of flat glass sandwiching L.E.D. sparks of light, as if a whole constellation of stars had been caught in the branches of an upside-down tree (the light, Mr. Mauer said, should last 100,000 hours, or for three generations of users).

As expected, the most aggressive attitude came from the Dutch, specifically from Mooi, a product development company founded by Marcel Wanders, widely known for making a chair of lace hard-edged enough to rip your stockings. Smoke, designed by Mooi's Maarten Baas, 25, is a gentleman's leather armchair that has been burned to a crisp. Its charred and slightly crumbled silhouette — preserved, according to Mr. Wanders, by chemical injections and coated in clear epoxy — captured today's street-tough contemporary beauty.

"It looks like a piece of Rococo revival after an air attack," said Gareth Williams, the curator for furniture, textiles and fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. "It has a brutal beauty, the beauty of imperfections. Charred wood has a texture we've never seen before that's both poetic and darkly romantic."

At a converted sponge factory where Paul Smith, the voraciously hip fashion designer, has set up a new headquarters, there was an exhibition of new design talent in Britain demonstrating the marriage of technology, domesticity and art. Sam Buxton's electroluminescent dining table used syncopated L.E.D.'s pressed within the table's plate glass to indicate the proper placement of knife, fork, plate and glass. On a far smaller scale, Mr. Buxton, who designs products for Habitat and Kenzo, also showed a miniature stainless-steel model of a complete house interior laser-cut right down to the doorknobs.

Laser-cut decorations were also shown by Tord Boontje, the 34-year-old London-based industrial designer. His laser-cut fabric flowers — wrapped on wires around a light bulb (called Garland) — are already so popular there's a waiting list a thousand names long to buy them at the London store Habitat for about $23.50.

"The dominant theme of the rich and the romantic," Ms. Rawsthorn said, "is not just about the cyclical rebellion against stripped-down minimalism and not just about reviving a decorative aesthetic."

The search for an emotional edge has led some designers to mine craft traditions. Hella Jongerius, the Dutch designer whose raw manipulations of craft — last year she wove together ceramics and yarn — joined up with the 409-year-old Dutch ceramics company Royal Tichelaar Makkum to produce a set of heavy but ethereal soup bowls and ladles ($77 to $432). They are part printed, part hand painted (the exact percentage is indicated on each) with traditional Dutch maritime patterns rendered in ghostly red dots.

Venini, the Deco-age Murano glass blowers, invited Rodolfo Dordoni, the Italian designer, to make furniture using ancient glass-blowing techniques. He came up with a black-lacquered bookshelf made obscenely sensuous by a funnel-shaped cavity of amber-and-rose-striped glass. A semitransparent screen, or room divider, with alternating panels of white lacquer and hand-blown smoky gray-and-pink glass within a polished chrome frame revitalizes the Deco cliché. (Venini's furniture and chandelier collection will be at Moss in May.)

Alongside intense pattern, transparency acted as a form of mood-setting decoration, whether in the colored acrylic vases at Sawaya & Moroni that boldly invoke Kuramata or in the photographs at Driade that show couches, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, carved from solid lens glass.

Trained in the offices of Mr. Kuramata as well as by the fashion designer Issey Miyake, Mr. Yoshioka has long been preoccupied with the interplay of transparency and emotion in making objects of seductive beauty. But the future, he says, lies in experimentation.

In the face of life-changing technology, after all, what's in a mere shape? "Why bother with how the next chair will look," said Mr. Yoshioka, 36, straddling his own armchair that was all the rage at last year's fair, "when someday we will be designing ways to sit on air?"

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How Rona Jaffe Found the Best of Everything

Living | Thursday 14:16:08 EST | comments (0)

[author of one of my favorite films -- The Best of Everything]

How Rona Jaffe Found the Best of Everything

WHEN Rona Jaffe tells people that she lives in the building where her parents used to live, they smile and say, "How nice," murmuring how lovely it is when a family sticks together.

Well, not exactly.

Ms. Jaffe, the author of 15 novels and one children's book, cheerfully admits that she spent many years running away from her "super-controlling mother."

A precocious child, she attended the Dalton School in Manhattan and graduated from Radcliffe College when she was 19. Because respectable girls in the 50's were not expected to go out on their own, she returned to Manhattan and moved back in with her parents.

But she yearned to be free, and after working in publishing for a while, she got a contract from Simon & Schuster, based on the first 50 pages, for her first novel, "The Best of Everything," and persuaded her father to help her get her own apartment.

"I was 26," she said. "He knew I didn't get along with my mother."

Feeling so liberated by her escape, she said, she wrote the book in just five months and five days. "As soon as I got out of the house," she said, "it was like a cannon going off."

Apparently, it was something similar for her mother.

"The day I moved into my new apartment," she said, "my mother stood on the sidewalk outside weeping. `Give me more time,' my mother kept saying. `Just some more time.' "

Almost immediately, she said, her parents found religion and joined a temple that happened to be across the street from her new apartment, giving them a reason to visit her every Saturday morning.

When her first two books became best sellers — the second was "Away From Home" — Ms. Jaffe moved to a larger apartment on the Upper East Side so she would have more room to write.

"Immediately," she said, "my parents bought a co-op in a building a block away from me." They wanted her to buy an apartment there, but she refused.

On the other hand, she didn't want to stay where she was, because the apartment's thin walls allowed every sound to travel. "You could hear people fighting," she said.

In the early 1960's, she said, it was easy just to pick up and move, because there was a surplus of apartments, and to get tenants, landlords would offer discounts. "In those days," she said, "instead of having your apartment painted, you moved."

She moved to the Upper West Side to a building with thick walls. The neighborhood appealed to her because her friends tended to live there, but it had another advantage too: she knew her parents would never follow her there.

"They thought it was the Wild West," she said, and they weren't totally wrong. "There were guys shooting up on the doorstep," she said.

Her mother continued to offer to buy her an apartment in her parents' building, but Ms. Jaffe always said no.

Eventually, her mother died and her father remarried. Ms. Jaffe decided she wanted to buy something, and for two years, she looked for the right place. Finally, she said, it dawned on her that she had never liked any building more than the East Side co-op her parents had lived in a block away from her old place. And after all that running, she said, "it seemed safe."

TWENTY years ago, she bought a classic six in the building. She won board approval, she said, only because of her family connection.

The building was suspicious of her, she said, because it was afraid of paparazzi, given that photos of her have tended to appear after various events in the city. "They made me sign a thing promising that I would never have a party with more than 50 people in the publishing business," she said.

Because of the building's desire for quiet, she asked that the address not be given, and that the exterior not be photographed.

Not, she said, that she has ever been a target for paparazzi. "They've never come near me," she said, "except for the ones I already know who see me sometimes at parties."

The apartment, decorated in shades of beige and white, is her hiding place, and it is pristine, with every book and every plate in perfect order. It is not a place that would take well to 50 people in publishing or any other field walking around with glasses of red wine.

In all her years in the apartment, she said, she has had maybe four dinner parties. "I have a house in the Hamptons, and I entertain like crazy out there," she said. "It's easier. I only have one rug in the whole house. The furniture is slip-covered."

She is also not someone who encourages visitors. She has outfitted the maid's room as a guest room with just a single bed. No couples allowed. "You don't want people staying forever," she said. "It's just for one friend, for the temporary roommate."

Roommates were never something she liked — she now lives alone — but their habits were her subject matter in a 1963 article she wrote for New York magazine, when the fledgling publication was still part of The New York Herald Tribune.

The article was the inspiration for her newest novel, "The Room-Mating Season," which will be published tomorrow by Dutton. It follows through more than four decades the lives of four young women who become roommates in 1963 in a small one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side.

Only when she shared houses in the Hamptons, Ms. Jaffe said, did she have roommates as a young woman, and she really disliked the experience. "It was so horrible," she said. "I was always cleaning and buying the groceries."

Living with strangers, she said, was never really comfortable. Now, so comfortably ensconced in the building that also sheltered her parents, she said, "It does feel like I've finally come home."

posted by paul | link | Comments (0)

Sir John Paul Getty Jr., Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 70

PQ+ | Thursday 14:13:50 EST | comments (0)

Sir John Paul Getty Jr., Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 70
Filed at 11:28 a.m. ET

LONDON (AP) -- Sir J. Paul Getty Jr., the reclusive American-born billionaire philanthropist and art lover who became a British citizen late in life, died Thursday, his doctor said. He was 70.

Getty, Britain's leading patron of good causes, died in a London hospital where he was being treated for a chest infection.

Getty was admitted to the London Clinic on Monday for treatment of a recurrent infection but died Thursday morning, Dr. John Goldstone said.

``His family would like to extend their thanks to all those who have expressed their sympathy, which is greatly appreciated,'' Goldstone said in a statement.

During more than a quarter-century of living in Britain, the fiercely Anglophile Getty gave more than $200 million to many causes, including the National Gallery.

He once paid to rescue a family of seals caught in a storm, bought a mansion for needy children and gave a grand piano to a concert pianist who did not own one.

Getty was given the honorary title of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1986 for services to charity, but could not be called Sir Paul then because he was not a British citizen.

He was invested with the full honors in 1998, a year after changing his citizenship.

``When I heard the national anthem played, I felt very proud to be British -- it's my national anthem now,'' Getty said after his investiture at Buckingham Palace. ``I love Britain's way of life. I love its people. I love its history and I love its future.''

In 1985, he gave $63 million to the National Gallery in London. He also gave $32 million to the British Film Institute and millions more in smaller donations, often anonymous, to other charities and causes.

In a rare public statement after subsidizing the families of striking miners in 1985, Getty said he was ``privileged to be the heir to huge wealth and I regard myself as custodian of that money for the benefit of people who need it more than I do.''

John Paul Getty Jr. was born Sept. 7, 1932, the third of five sons of J. Paul Getty, nicknamed ``Oklahoma Crude,'' who founded Getty Oil and built a $6 billion fortune -- making him the richest man in the world in his day.

After attending the University of San Francisco and doing a brief stint in the army, Getty Jr. took charge of Getty Oil enterprises in Rome. But he resigned within six years, telling his father, ``It doesn't take anything to be a businessman.''

He then embarked on a freewheeling lifestyle of drugs and parties, growing his hair and adopting colorful velvet kaftans. In 1967, he divorced his wife of 11 years, Gail, with whom he had four children.

But the hippie life ended in 1971 when Getty's second wife, Bali-born model Talitha Pol, died of an accidental drug overdose in Rome.

He moved to Britain in 1972 and, for years, lived alone in a heavily secured mansion on the bank of the River Thames in London's upscale Chelsea neighborhood, taking solace in heroin and rum. He gave no interviews, issuing only the occasional statement through his lawyers.

The bulk of Getty's fortune came from a family trust after the sale of Getty Oil to Texaco in 1984. His father, from whom he was estranged, left him only a nominal sum in his will.

The younger Getty's fortune had been put as high as $2 billion, but he said much of it was in family trusts he did not control.

In 1971, Getty's teenage son from his first marriage, John Paul III, was abducted in Italy and held for five months. It was only after the kidnappers cut off part of his ear and sent it to the family that the boy's grandfather agreed to help pay a reported ransom of $3.4 million.

A year later, the youngster had a drug-induced stroke that left him a paraplegic and practically blind.

In 1994, the staunchly Catholic Getty married Victoria Holdsworth, his longtime British girlfriend, who is credited with his rehabilitation and gradual emergence into public life.

``I owe everything -- repeat everything -- to Victoria,'' he told an interviewer shortly after his marriage. ``She has been my inspiration, you could say.''

posted by paul | link | Comments (0)

Robert C. Atkins, 72, Creator of Controversial Diet, Dies

PQ+ | Thursday 14:12:55 EST | comments (0)

Robert C. Atkins, 72, Creator of Controversial Diet, Dies
Filed at 1:46 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Dr. Robert C. Atkins, whose best-selling low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet was dismissed as nutritional folly for years but was recently validated in some research, died Thursday, his spokesman said. He was 72.

Atkins died at New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center, surrounded by his wife and close friends, said Richard Rothstein, his spokesman.

Atkins had suffered a severe head injury April 8 after falling on an icy sidewalk while walking to work. He underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain, Rothstein said.

Atkins first advocated his unorthodox weight-loss plan -- which emphasizes meat, eggs and cheese and discourages bread, rice and fruit -- in his 1972 book, ``Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution.''

Its publication came at a time when the medical establishment was encouraging a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. The following year, the American Medical Association dismissed Atkins' diet as nutritional folly and Congress summoned him to Capitol Hill to defend the plan.

Labeling it ``potentially dangerous,'' the AMA said the diet's scientific underpinning was ``naive'' and ``biochemically incorrect.'' It scolded the book's publishers for promoting ``bizarre concepts of nutrition and dieting.''

Despite this, his books sold 15 million copies, and millions of people tried the diet. Atkins' philosophy enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s with ``Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and spent five years on The New York Times best-seller list. His most recent book, ``Atkins for Life,'' has been on the Times' best-seller list since its release in January.

In an interview published this month in Business 2.0 magazine, Atkins said he was always able to deal with the criticism because of his unflagging belief in the diet.

``I want to eradicate obesity and diabetes,'' Atkins said. ``I believe God wants me to do that.''

``Why would I give up?'' Atkins asked. ``I'm on the verge of succeeding.''

But criticism of the diet lingered, with many arguing that it could affect kidney function, raise cholesterol levels and deprive the dieter of important nutrients.

Atkins said no study showed that people with normal kidney function developed problems because of a high-protein diet, and he never gave in to his detractors.

Defending his plan at the American Dietetic Association's convention in 2000, Atkins quipped, ``I'm very happy to be here. Not as happy as Daniel in the lion's den.''

This year, his approach was vindicated in part by the very medical community that scorned him. In February, some half-dozen studies showed that people on the Atkins diet lost weight without compromising their health. The studies showed that Atkins dieters' cardiovascular risk factors and overall cholesterol profiles changed for the better.

Still, many of the researchers were reluctant to recommend the Atkins diet, saying a large new study now under way could settle lingering questions of its long-term effects.

On the Atkins diet, up to two-thirds of calories may come from fat -- more than double the usual recommendation, and violating what medical professionals have long believed about healthy eating. Carbohydrates are the foundation of a good diet, most say. Eating calorie-dense fat is what makes people fat, they say, and eating saturated fat is dangerous.

To Atkins, the key dietary villain in obesity was carbohydrates. He argued they make susceptible people pump out too much insulin, which in turn encourages them to put on fat.

Fat in foods can be a dieter's friend, Atkins said, in part because it quenches appetite and stops carbohydrate craving.

Atkins, a graduate of Cornell University's medical school, first tried a low-carbohydrate diet in 1963 after reading about one in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He said he lost weight so easily that he converted his fledgling Manhattan cardiology practice into an obesity clinic.

Besides his work on nutrition, Atkins also argued that ozone gas can kill cancer cells and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and claimed to have treated more than 1,000 patients with ozone therapy.

The ozone treatment is a common alternative therapy in Germany and some other nations but has not gained acceptance in the United States.

In 1999, Atkins established the Robert C. Atkins Foundation to finance diet research. It has sponsored research at Duke University, the University of Connecticut and Harvard.

The foundation ensures that Atkins' ``legacy of hope and health will endure as a result of his personal financial commitment,'' said Paul Wolff, chairman and CEO of Atkins Nutritionals, which sells diet foods and supplements. According to Business 2.0, the company had more than $100 million in revenue last year.

Last April, Atkins was hospitalized for cardiac arrest, which he said was related to an infection of the heart and was not related to the diet.

Besides his wife, Veronica, Atkins is survived by his mother, Norma, of Palm Beach, Fla.

posted by paul | link | Comments (0)

16 April 2003

Fights, fury and fish...

Arts | Wednesday 17:24:03 EST | comments (0)

[excellent article from the guardian, referenced from greg's blog:]

Fights, fury and fish...
the auction of Breton's collection in Paris has got the surrealists up in arms. Fiachra Gibbons puts in a bid
by Fiachra Gibbons, The Guardian
Monday April 14, 2003

'Monsieur, you are a traitor, a traitor to France, and a philistine!" The last word was spat out in a venomous ball of phlegm. Then, without so much as an "en garde", I felt the stab of a cigarette holder in my stomach.

Never, ever pick a fight with a surrealist. Not unless you are packing a kipper yourself, and are prepared to use it. That much I now know. But at lunchtime on Monday, when I tried to slip through the surrealist blockade of the André Breton auction at the Hôtel Drouot, I assumed a black polo neck was protection enough against accusations that I was a bourgeois lackey bent on picking the bones of the great man.

I had gone to Paris to witness the "death of surrealism", to watch what was being called "a great national humiliation", the Passion of André Breton. That is how French intellectuals see the sale and dismemberment of the astonishing collection of surrealist masterpieces, letters, books and bric-a-brac the leader of the 20th-century's most important art movement crammed into his small apartment above the clip joints of the Rue Fontaine.

Dali, Miro, Duchamp and Max Ernst all climbed the stairs to Breton's studio, hard by the Moulin Rouge, to take part in surrealistic experiments and pay homage to the man who wrote the Manifeste du Surréalisme in 1924. All left work behind on the walls next to the Picassos, the Magrittes, and the photographs and collages by Man Ray and the rest of the gang.

The dreams and fantasies that poured out with the absinthe were recorded and stacked away alongside Breton's collections of curiosities, religious kitsch and "object poems" made from bottles, buttons and bits of string. By the time he died in 1966, and the door of 42 rue Fontaine was locked, there was only room inside for two people. It had become a museum to a man and a movement that loathed museums. It was the perfect surrealist conceit - a museum no one could enter except in their dreams.

For years Breton's family assumed that one day the French government would take the flat and its contents off their hands. This was a national treasure, after all, worth many millions, and pride demanded it. Didn't it contain the desk from behind which France last led modern art? But the government never did. The famous "wall" of paintings, cartoons, and Polynesian masks that hung behind that desk was taken in lieu of death duties, but that was it. Even Uli, the four-foot wooden ancestor statue from New Ireland in the South Pacific, whose spirit Breton claimed inspired his "art magique ", was left behind. Breton's daughter Aube finally snapped as she neared 70, the age at which her father died. Now she is getting shot of the lot, piece by piece, in an "ordeal by capitalism" lasting 10 days.

The gannets had gathered in their thousands all last week - 50,000 by Friday - to pore over the odds and sods in the Hôtel Drouot's slightly battered red-plush salerooms before popping down to the glorified house clearances in the basement, offering chamber pots, gilt furniture and hideous 1970s settees. The auctioneers call it "the sale of the century", and expect to make £25m. The French left, with typical understatement, call it a catastrophe, and blame Jacques Chirac.

So emotions outside were high. But the last thing I was expecting was Surrealism's Last Stand, or that I would play a part in that resistance. Nor was I expecting a fight. But then I wasn't to know that the ruck outside the saleroom had been organised by the philosopher Jacques Derrida, the big dada of deconstructionism. In leaflets handed out by protestors, he lamented the destruction of this "space made up of creation and desire, the witness to a new form of thought being generated... When you went into the flat, you discovered both the secret of a life and a movement of thought."

I tried to find him among the mass of grey heads blocking the door and jostling bemused dealers back into the street. "I am Jacques Derrida," said a man too big and fat to be the philosopher, when I asked where he was. "I am Jacques Derrida," his friend repeated. This Spartacus chorus continued for a few more minutes, until it became clear he wasn't there.

But the joking stopped when a dealer in an Asterix moustache and a tweed jacket tried to storm the barricade. "Fight your way through," he shouted, brandishing his cane, as the surrealists locked together like a well-drilled front-row. Someone shouted "He shall not pass!" - Marshall Pétain's war cry at Verdun - but he did. "Pigs, communists, homosexuals, sons of whores," the reactionary replied. I following in his wake, and that's when the stabber with the cigarette holder struck.

But the protest outside was only the amuse bouche. As soon as the auctioneer, Cyrille Cohen, started bidding on the first lot - a book by the playwright Arthur Adamov, dedicated to Breton ("a very rare man who remains pure") the main course began. A stink bomb was crushed underfoot and a pale man to my right began to read in wavering monotone from a tightly typed manifesto, quoting Trotsky and Cocteau. Then all round the room, surrealist infiltrators began to throw fake money around. Each doctored 10-euro note carried Breton's head and the legend, "Your money for the stinking corpse of a poet that you didn't dare become." (It's better in French.) The heavies were called but dogged resistance continued at the back.

Then as Monsieur Cohen worked his way through Breton's library of Apollinaires - the man who coined the term surrealist in the first place - a particularly incensed aesthete at the back began to cry: "You are killing the poet! You are killing the poet! This is a scandal against humanity!" He would not be silenced. Then a new corps of cultural nationalists began to show themselves. "I buy this for France, to the shame of France!" one man announced to loud applause as he paid 13,000 euros for another first edition of Apollinaire. Another woman two rows in front secured a Hans Arp novella with the cry: "It's a scandal! Forgive me, André, forgive me France."

I too had been instructed to buy, to take a relic back across the channel before the French slammed on an export bar. But what should I buy? I tried a surrealist method: automatic writing.

Breton, Breton, Breton. Well, he died in 1966 - the same year I was born. Was I his incarnation? Nonsense. He was a miserable git, an inveterate feuder who excommunicated anyone who disagreed with him from the movement. He so loathed Dali's sluttish commercialism that he would only refer to him anagramatically as Avida Dollars. Quite clever, that. Hold on, what was this book by Louis Aragon doing here? Hadn't Breton purged everything by the poet from his library when he and Aragon, one of his oldest friends and co-founder of surrealism, fell out over Stalin? Maybe Dali slipped this Russian translation of Aragon's Red Front back into the library to upset Breton's psychic balance. He'd never have known. He couldn't read cyrillic.

I would have to bid surrealistically, of course. With the price at 300 euro, I bid 250. Monsieur Cohen acknowledged my bid and then paused for a second, perplexed. "200," I said, dropping my bid again. "Monsieur, monsieur," he said, before calling for 350 euro. A bid came. I topped it at 400 and the book was mine. Roland, a writer and theorist who was sitting in front of me, was disgusted. "They may as well give it to the dogs in the street. Surrealism is not dead. They just refuse to publish our books and show our art in the galleries any more. There is a conspiracy, a very big conspiracy against us. I have written a book about it. It starts with the government... "

I went with my chit to pay, and proferred three vacuum-packed smoked mackerel I had grabbed from a cockney cockle-and-eel stall on the way to Waterloo. He was all out of kippers. (What was it with the surrealists and cured fish and female genitalia?) Since they already had my credit card number, I knew it was an empty gesture. But they took the mackerel anyway. "Mackerel means pimp in slang, you know," the teller said. I didn't know that. Bulls eye. Here was proof of Breton's belief in "petrified coincidence".

I was their first fish of the day. No one else had tried to pay with anything but cash. "We French are always protesting but we are always bourgeois when it comes to art," she said. "Everyone wants what they can get."

I returned to the saleroom, but the fight seemed to have gone out of the surrealist guerrillas. One, who had been filming the "atrocity", had stopped to flirt with one of the girls taking telephone bids; there was even a round of applause when someone paid 243,000 euros for the Magritte collage Breton had used for the cover of his book, What is Surrealism?

I walked back out on to the street and let coincidence guide me. I soon found myself on Rue Lafayette where Breton met the beautiful actress who became the model for the girl in his novel Nadja. I opened a page of Nadja at random. It was one of the plates, a collage called The Agonising Journey or The Enigma of Fatality. It pointed up the hill towards Sacré Coeur. After a few minutes I was on Rue Fontaine itself, a street of dives, goth cafes and seedy bars where peroxide blondes with voluminous thighs perched on bar stools by the door. And then I was outside number 42 itself, squeezed between a burlesque theatre where a show called The Bathroom was playing, and the Carrousel de Paris - "cabaret and diner spectacle".

The door was locked. I tried to force it. It wouldn't budge. So I waited. A fat boy on one of those foot scooters eventually turned up and tapped out the combination. The door opened. I followed him into the gloom of the tatty lobby. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, but there, nearly 37 years after his death, was Breton's postbox, with his name typed out in clean capitals as if he had just popped out for lunch.

I pulled up my sleeve and squeezed my hand inside, half expecting to find a scorpion. There was only emptiness and dust. I scooped some out on to a tissue. I took the book from my bag. Four hundred euros, 471 with tax. Bugger it.

I tried to read a few lines of the Red Front. One stanza had CCCP five times. Aragon obviously had communism bad. I slipped it into the postbox and left.

Today I wrote a letter to Breton's book. Bids on the dust start at £250.

posted by paul | link | Comments (0)

Eating Dirt

Living | Wednesday 16:49:29 EST | comments (0)

carlos commented on amabelle's blog that he heard that a study was done finding microscopic fecal matter on the fabric of theater seats. could just be another urban legend. but i don't think its so surprising even if it were true.

when i was a kid, i always heard that we eat about a pound of dirt a year. animals definitely do. and plants often carry residual dirt. i'm sure there's lots of fecal matter in dirt. so i don't think there's any avoiding it.

some articles:

Bug parts are added protein in your veggies
By Kay Harvey
Posted on Mon, Apr. 07, 2003

You'll eat a pound of dirt in your lifetime. Most of us have heard that bit of folk wisdom. But should we believe it?

Nope. Now, the gritty truth: A pound is just the appetizer.

"We actually eat more than a pound of dirt in our lifetime," says Susan Moores, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Probably several pounds, depending on how long an individual lives."

It's a tough thing to swallow. But the good news is dirt probably won't hurt you - depending on what you call dirt. Put it this way: Typical soil won't hurt you, soil and food experts say. Unless it's contaminated by things you really don't want to read about over your morning coffee.

Dirt is hardly the lone substance invading our culinary turf. It's virtually impossible to get all the foreign objects out of food on its way to processing, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has settled on monitoring what it considers acceptable levels of unappetizing offenders.

Here's your official warning: Do not continue reading this story if you're eating.

In processed cornmeal, for example, FDA guidelines allow one or more whole insects, 50 or more insect fragments, two or more rodent hairs and one or more rodent excreta per 50 grams. In a can of peaches, 3 percent of the fruit can be moldy or wormy. And canned mushrooms will pass inspection if they have no more than an average 20 or more maggots per 100 grams.

Surprised? So was Jay Bell, a faculty member in the University of Minnesota's College of Agriculture, when he once worked at a job counting tomatoes before they were shipped.

"It was my job to count the maggots, too," he says. "It was pretty amazing how high they'd let the number go."

But bugs and worms won't hurt you, either, he says. In many cultures, people eat insects. And in many packaged products, they are exposed to heat - which kills disease-producing organisms - during processing. As a professor of soil science, Bell has the dirt on dirt, too. For those who don't make a distinction, he likes to establish the difference between soil and dirt.

"Soil is a living body that occurs on the surface of the Earth," he explains. "It has to be able to support plant material, and it usually has something growing in it. Once you remove it from the surface of the Earth, it's dirt. Dirt is what you have under your fingernail."

And on some of your vegetables when you pick them out at the produce counter.

Unlike soil, which is full of nutrients, dirt no longer supports organic matter so it has lost most of its nutritional value. That indicates it's low in calories, if that helps anyone to better accept it as part of the standard American diet.

Dirt is most likely to cross one's palate when eating root vegetables, especially those with crevices in them, such as potatoes and carrots, food experts say. It's also common in leafy greens, such as lettuce and spinach, which tend to collect blowing soil and retain it when they are pulled out of the ground.

"Almost any fresh fruit or vegetable is going to catch some dirt," says Moores, the dietitian.

Soil and dirt aren't the only substances that get on food. "Dirt" on food is to most people "anything we're not planning on," says Donald Vesley of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He agrees that inert particles of dirt carrying nothing dangerous are probably irrelevant.

"What's of most concern would be pathogenic organisms, bacteria or viruses," he says.

Pathogens - microorganisms able to cause disease - are the real bad guys. They can be present in raw food or make their way onto food during processing and handling.

Publicized cases of food contamination in the manufacturing, restaurant and cruise-ship industries have brought the topic of food safety to the dinner table, Vesley says.

He emphasizes the importance of hand washing before eating or preparing food; keeping kitchen tools sanitized; cooking hamburger, poultry, pork, fish and eggs thoroughly; and storing perishable foods properly.

"Keep it hot, keep it cold, or don't keep it," he says.

But there are two schools of thought on the subject of the zealous washing of fresh fruits and vegetables. One is that ingesting normal nonfood substances can help the body build up immunities to some diseases. The other is that dirt on food can hurt you and you'd better scrub those potatoes with a vengeance.

Bell, the soil science professor, says he doesn't wash his fresh produce particularly ambitiously. "My wife does," he says. "She likes to have it as clean as possible. But I don't. I don't see a problem with it."

Dirt-Eating Persists in Rural South
c.2002 Newhouse News Service

ROXANA, Ala. -- Carrie Webb, 78, is thankful she can buy white dirt in East Alabama convenience stores. The local red variety will do in a pinch, but the white tastes better, particularly when fried with a little grease.

"That red dirt has grit in it sometime. This here is the best," she said, drawing the powdery white chunk of clay out of a plastic bag. Smiling, she slipped a piece of "Down Home Georgia White Dirt" into her mouth.

"This is sho 'nuff good," she said.

It's a tradition at least as old as history. It's practiced all over the world. And though it might seem strange to the uninitiated, it's not that different from adding salt (sodium rocks) to your food or chewing on a piece of gum (synthetic rubber).

Though dirt-eating's demise has been predicted for decades, the practice persists, particularly in rural areas such as the slice of East Alabama from Loachapoka to Camp Hill, from Tallassee to Opelika, where modern distribution has displaced the home-dug supply.

Wayne Smith, owner of a Conoco convenience store near Opelika, estimates he sells 50 of the one-pound bags of white dirt every month. "They say they don't eat it. They get it for someone else," Smith said.

In Loachapoka, they're more straightforward.

"We have white dirt connoisseurs around here," said Ron Burton at the Greenway Grocery. "They'll want to sample it before they buy it. ... I've got a lot of young girls who are pregnant come in for it."

Though both of the South's dominant races are known to practice "geophagy," the scholarly term for dirt-eating, it is most commonly associated with black women, particularly during pregnancy. Webb said she "was in the family way" when she started.

The white powdery clay Webb prefers is pure kaolin. That is the principal ingredient in Kaopectate, the over-the-counter medication for diarrhea and intestinal cramping. Iron, a mineral that's sometimes lacking in the diet but is particularly important during pregnancy, gives Alabama clay its red hue.

Biological benefits aside, the dirt-eating is culturally perpetuated, according to experts who've studied the phenomenon.

Dennis Frate, a professor in the department of preventive medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, first studied dirt-eating in rural Mississippi in the early 1970s. At the time, more than half the women surveyed in one rural Mississippi county said they had consumed clay.

"It was quite a common sight to see a group of women gathered on the porch sharing a plate of dirt," he said.

The dirt was harvested from earthen banks where the clay layer, usually 24 to 36 inches underground, was exposed. Frate said women often bake it in an oven or a chimney, drying the clay and making it longer lasting. Some flavor it with vinegar and salt. But no matter how it's spiced, Frate has never found it to his liking.

"I guess it's an acquired taste," he said.

Several former dirt eaters described the taste, once acquired, as a craving.

"I used to tear up a bank," Webb said. "When I used it regular, I don't care what it done. I went wild over it, I ate so much. I was killin' that dirt."

As Webb was aware, over-consumption of clay can lead to constipation. But in general, dirt eating is not particularly harmful, Frate said. In fact, it is better than some of the substitutes people have come up with. Some women substitute laundry starch and baking soda for the dirt. Both have similar textures but are potentially more harmful.

Geophagy is widely and elaborately practiced in modern Africa. Prized dirt from different regions is sold in markets. Africans sold into slavery appear to have brought the tradition across the Atlantic. Perplexed plantation owners devised mouth locks to prevent slaves from eating dirt. Poor whites picked up the habit, earning them the pejorative nicknames "dirt eaters" or "clay eaters."

"If you look at ethnographic accounts of people and societies, about every population at some time in their history engaged in geophagy," Frate said.

Plato wrote about Greek women eating soils, and the Swedes used to add a clay to their flour when making bread, Frate said.

Humans aren't the only dirt-eating species. Scientists have observed elk, bears, raccoons, parrots, giraffes, zebras, sheep in New Zealand and Nepalese monkeys eating soils. In Kenya, elephants make treacherous climbs to hillside caves in search of their favorite dirt. In experiments, rats, also known dirt eaters, were fed compounds that caused stomach aches and diarrhea. The rats responded by eating much more clay than normal.

In fact, geophagy may have made the domestication of potatoes possible. A book by Timothy Johns, an ethnobotanist at Montreal's McGill University, points out that nearly all of the 160 species of wild potatoes growing in the Andes contain toxic chemicals. Indians eat the poison potatoes with a dip made of clay and seasoned with herbs. With the clay neutralizing the toxic effects of the potatoes, the Indians, Johns hypothesizes, were able to begin consuming them, leading to the cultivation and selection of non-toxic varieties.

But the potential dangers of dirt-eating made the news in Alabama recently. Monsanto is being sued for allowing PCBs produced at its plant to contaminate an Anniston neighborhood. Many of the residents have high levels of PCBs in their bloodstreams, and one possible route for exposure was snacking at the neighborhood clay bank, which was a tradition there in bygone days.

Because of the potential for contamination and other reasons, Neil Sasse, Alabama's state toxicologist, advises against dirt-eating. "We would rather people not eat clay," he said.

In fact, Charles and Shirley Maddox, whose Griffin, Ga., company distributes the dirt, advise against eating Down Home Georgia White Dirt. It's labeled "Novelty" and the label warns: "Not suggested for human consumption."

Charles Maddox is retired from the grocery and beverage business, and he took up the clay cause from his father. They are aware that some portion of the three to four tons of kaolin they bag each year gets eaten. But Maddox would rather focus on the dirt's non-culinary applications.

"It is a product Georgia should be proud of. They make so many things out of it," Maddox said. The label reads: "Some of its uses: adhesives, catalyst, ceramics, glass, ink, paint, paper, pesticide, pharmaceuticals, plastics, rubber, old whitewash."

Maddox added, "I keep some in my boat and use it as a fire extinguisher."

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PQ+ | Wednesday 02:37:15 EST | comments (0)


I was chatting with an Egyptian friend in Cairo two weeks ago when she got a joke e-mailed to her cellphone, which she immediately shared with me. It said: "President Bush: Take Syria — get Lebanon for free."

Now that it's become apparent that the Syrians have given military help to Saddam Hussein's army, and are alleged to be providing sanctuary for members of his despised clique, the question has been raised as to whether the Bush team might take out Syria's regime next. After all, when the Roto-Rooter truck's in the neighborhood, why not take advantage?

My short answer is this: There are many good reasons for the U.S. to promote reform or regime change in Syria, but we have no legal basis to do it now by military means and are not likely to try. Yet Syria, and countries like it, will be a problem, and we need a new strategic doctrine in the post-Saddam era to deal with them.

Let's explore this in detail. For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for.

Yes, Mr. de Villepin did say, while actually visiting Lebanon, that the world should focus not on Syria, but on rebuilding Iraq and advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process. But what he neglected to mention is something I am also for, and France should be for and the world should be for: the end of Syria's occupation of Lebanon, which has been going on since 1976.

And that leads to the second-best reason for regime change in Syria: it could set Lebanon free. Lebanon is the only Arab country to have had a functioning democracy. It is also the Arab country that is most hard-wired for globalization. Trading and entrepreneurship are in Lebanon's DNA. Lebanon should be leading the Arab world into globalization, but it has not been able to play its natural Hong Kong role because Syria has choked the life out of the place.

Iraq is the only Arab country that combines oil, water, brains and secularism. Lebanon has water, brains, secularism and a liberal tradition. The Palestinians have a similar potential. Which is why I favor "triple self-determination." If Lebanon, Iraq and a Palestinian state could all be made into functioning, decent, free-market, self-governing societies, it would be enough to tilt the entire Arab world onto a modernizing track.

The third reason for taking on the Syrian regime is the fact that next to Saddam's regime, Syria's is the most repressive in the region, and the one most deeply implicated in protecting terrorists. Syria must get out of Lebanon, and Israel also needs to get out of Syria (the Golan), but that is going to happen only if there is a reformed Syrian government that no longer needs the conflict with Israel to justify its militarization of Syrian society.

But, as I said, we're not going to invade Syria to change Syria. So what to do? The Middle East expert Stephen Cohen offers a useful concept. He calls it "aggressive engagement — something between outright military engagement and useless constructive engagement."

Bush-style military engagement with Syria is not in the cards right now. But French-style constructive engagement, which is just a cover for dancing with dictators, is a fraud. The natural third way is "aggressive engagement." That means getting in Syria's face every day. Reminding the world of its 27-year occupation of Lebanon and how much it has held that country back, and reminding the Syrian people of how much they've been deprived of a better future by their own thuggish regime.

Aggressive engagement of Syria also feels right to me because a U.S. attack on Syria right now would make many Iraqis feel very uncomfortable about working openly with America. Iraq may be liberated from Saddam, but never forget that it is still an Arab country, dominated by an Arab narrative. Iraqis are not watching Fox TV.

Which is why I would also apply "aggressive engagement" — in different ways — to Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon. The Arabs need to force Mr. Arafat to retire, and the Americans need to test Mr. Sharon's professed willingness for a fair deal with a reformed Palestinian Authority.

Aggressive engagement in support of triple self-determination — for Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinians — would be a great way to follow up, and help consolidate, the liberation of Iraq.

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Experiments on Monkeys Zero in on SARS Cause

Asia | Wednesday 02:35:56 EST | comments (0)

Experiments on Monkeys Zero in on SARS Cause

UNITED NATIONS, April 15 — Monkeys experimentally infected with a new coronavirus have developed an illness similar to the mysterious human respiratory disease SARS, and it is now almost certain that the coronavirus causes the disease, a World Health Organization official said here today.

Dr. David L. Heymann, executive director in charge of communicable diseases for W.H.O., said the agency "is 99 percent sure" that SARS is caused by the new coronavirus based on the monkey experiments in the Netherlands. Experiments on animals are necessary because the lack of an effective treatment for SARS and the relatively high death rate make it unethical to conduct such experiments on humans.

Preliminary findings show that the monkeys developed an illness resembling SARS after the coronavirus was put in their nostrils. Some monkeys developed pneumonia, and examination of their lungs under a microscope showed that the coronavirus caused a pattern of lung damage similar to what affected humans have suffered.

Scientists from the W.H.O.'s network of 12 international laboratories who have been seeking the cause of SARS will meet Wednesday in Geneva and by teleconference to review the evidence concerning the new coronavirus.

The monkey experiments are essential in fulfilling the steps known as Koch's postulates that are needed to establish proof that a virus or other microbe causes a disease. Applying the postulates to SARS, scientists must determine whether injecting the coronavirus into animals causes similar symptoms to those that humans experience. A formal announcement that the likely cause of SARS has been found could come as early as Wednesday.

Verifying the cause of SARS is essential for the development of reliable diagnostic tests to determine who has the disease so that affected patients can be treated in isolation and those who are not affected can carry on with their normal activities. A principal aim of the W.H.O meeting on Wednesday is to discuss how close researchers have come to developing such tests and to reach a consensus on their use in controlling the epidemic.

As of today, the disease has affected 3,042 people and caused the deaths of 154 of them in 22 countries and Hong Kong. The fatality rate has risen to 5.1 percent from 4 percent in recent days.

Dr. Heymann, in addressing United Nations delegates and staff today, expressed hope that new tests aimed at the coronavirus would eventually help contain SARS.

There is no determination yet whether SARS has the potential to cause epidemics around the world and become a permanent cause of disease like tuberculosis, Dr. Heymann said. "We can't make any predictions until we understand what is going on in China."

China has come under severe worldwide criticism for not fully reporting until recent weeks the number of SARS cases that have occurred there since November, and for not allowing international teams of experts to visit affected areas until recently.

Despite China's pledge to report SARS cases fully, in recent days Chinese doctors have contended that they have treated many cases in military hospitals that the Chinese government has not reported to W.H.O. A team of experts from W.H.O. had been denied access to military hospitals. W.H.O. reported today, however, that its team of experts had visited one military hospital in Beijing and expected to visit others soon.

The Chinese government's decision to allow the W.H.O. team to visit military hospitals "is a welcome indication of China's willingness to come to terms with the SARS outbreak on the mainland," the organization stated. On Monday, China's president, Hu Jintao, said on state television that he was "very worried" about SARS.

Dr. Heymann said that China had developed a national SARS reporting system over the last three weeks and had elevated SARS to the status of two diseases, cholera and yellow fever, for which the government can impose quarantines.

Nine patients in Hong Kong died of SARS on Tuesday, setting a new single-day record for such fatalities. Five of those who died were younger than 45 and included a pregnant woman and four patients with no underlying illnesses.

On Tuesday, Shanghai imposed the first travel restrictions within China by ordering a halt to all group tours to Hong Kong.

As of today, doctors in the United States have reported 193 cases and no deaths. All but 19 of the cases have involved travelers to affected areas. The 19 cases represent secondary transmission to 14 family members and 5 health care workers.

Later this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is expected to lower the total of SARS cases in the United States to about 30. The C.D.C. has deliberately used a broader case definition than W.H.O. because federal officials wanted to cast a wide net to make sure they did not miss a mild case.

Over the weekend, W.H.O. added the United States to its list of SARS-affected areas. The agency took the step after the C.D.C. was criticized for not reporting secondary transmission of cases to W.H.O., as other countries have done.

The list includes Toronto; Singapore; China (Beijing, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Shanxi); Taiwan; Hanoi, Vietnam; and London. W.H.O. said that the United States and Britain had limited local transmission and there was no no evidence of international spread from those areas since March 15 and no transmission other than close person-to-person contact reported.

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Looking at Postwar Bush, Democrats Are Gloomy About 2004

PQ+ | Wednesday 02:34:58 EST | comments (0)

Looking at Postwar Bush, Democrats Are Gloomy About 2004

WASHINGTON, April 15 — The swift fall of Baghdad has complicated what many Democrats had already viewed as the difficult task of unseating President Bush and winning back Congress next year, party leaders say.

Several expressed concern that the Iraq conflict had steeled Mr. Bush's national security credentials while reinforcing the Democrats' image as an antiwar party.

In interviews over several days, some Democrats said they were optimistic that the 2004 election, like the contest after the first gulf war, which led to the defeat of Mr. Bush's father, would end up as a referendum on the nation's ailing economy.

Yet as they watched Mr. Bush turn his sights to Syria, other party leaders expressed fresh concerns that the White House would not permit the election of 2004 to become a replay of 1992.

"The big difference is that the first gulf war ended," a prominent Democratic senator said. "This administration will never end the war. And because they never end the war, they will have an ongoing advantage. An open-ended war on terrorism that will never end and that keeps people constantly on edge. A never-ending military commitment in Iraq that might lead to other commitments beyond Iraq also keeps people focused on national security."

Democratic officials, who have been notably silent as the war winds down, said they could turn the elections into a debate on the economy only if they withstood Republican efforts to portray Democrats as weak on security.

But many said that task had become harder in the wake of a victorious war that many prominent Democrats opposed.

"There's no question that the president has been strengthened at least in the short run," Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, said. "If people can't envision a candidate as their commander in chief in a dangerous world, they're not going to listen to you. The threshold has now been raised, and we need to nominate someone on those grounds."

Jim Jordan, campaign manager for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, warned, "Unless the Democratic nominee can make a compelling and convincing case — a case built on story and persona instead of just rhetoric — that he can keep Americans safe in a dangerous world, we're looking at McGovern-like results."

He was referring to Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, who was trounced by Richard M. Nixon when he ran as the peace candidate in the Vietnam War in 1972.

In an effort to put the party back on track, Democratic officials said they were planning new lines of attack to use against the Republicans after the war. For example, one Democratic official said, the Democrats believed that Republicans would be vulnerable on conflict-of-interest charges after the Pentagon awarded a no-bid contract to a Halliburton subsidiary to fight oil well fires in Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton from 1995 until he was selected as Mr. Bush's running mate in 2000.

Democratic officials have also urged party consultants and members of Congress to use television appearances and discussions with reporters to repel Republican efforts to portray the Democrats as weak on security by drawing a contrast between the military records of the party's presidential candidates and Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who have no combat experience.

Some Democrats say they are encouraged that there is no evidence that the war in Iraq has produced the transformation in the nation's view of its president that occurred after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And 1991 aside, history offers reason for Democrats not to be bereft, including Churchill's defeat during the Potsdam Conference just over two months after World War II in Europe had ended or the near defeat of Harry S. Truman in 1948.

Moreover, Democratic leaders said that no matter how aggressively the White House pushed the Mideast war effort, they were confident that the nation was moving into a postwar era that would open the stage to the nine Democratic presidential candidates and the arguments that they have been trying to make, often unnoticed, since the start of the year.

"We're going to see a re-do of 1992, where former President Bush had high ratings after the gulf war and started plummeting because of the economy," said Art Torres, the California Democratic chairman.

Mike Feldman, a Democratic consultant and a close adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 campaign, said of Republicans:

"They own the national foreign policy and national security playing field right now. Of course they do. But the battle for who is on your side domestically — that terrain is far from defined.`

Another senior Democratic official, noting recent polls that showed Mr. Bush enjoying overwhelming support among Americans, argued that the high numbers were a passing phase.

"This is the height of his popularity," the official said. "Does it get any better than this? Unlikely. There is a great opportunity here. But we aren't underestimating the extent of the challenge."

Still, there is little question among nervous Democrats that the outcome of the war had at the very least diminished hopes they had of retaking the Senate or the House — and complicated the challenge for some presidential contenders.

Republicans strategists said they would highlight statements against the war made by both Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, and Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate minority leader, to undercut Democratic members of Congress seeking re-election from states and districts next year where there was strong support of Mr. Bush's war policies.

Republicans said they would try to use Mr. Daschle's criticism of Mr. Bush's war policies to defeat him as he sought re-election next year, though Democrats dismissed that.

A more immediate problem for the party may be the maneuvering among Democratic presidential candidates struggling to balance the antiwar sentiments of many primary voters with the overall support for the war.

Three major Democratic candidates, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, supported the war from the outset and did not waver from that position even in the face of intense challenges from Democrats in places like Iowa.

By contrast, many Democrats said Mr. Kerry had been hurt by what even Mr. Kerry's supporters described as the shifting tone of his statements as the war moved from peak to valley to peak.

In the prelude to the war, Mr. Kerry moved from voting in favor of the resolution to criticizing Mr. Bush's execution of it.

After the hostilities began, Mr. Kerry shifted from saying at one point that he would not criticize the president or the war while troops were in the field to declaring in New Hampshire that the nation needed "regime change" at home, a turn of phrase that proved to be a lightning rod for Republicans while raising questions among Democrats about Mr. Kerry's campaign skills.

Steve Elmendorf, an adviser to Mr. Gephardt, inquired archly what Mr. Kerry would do if President Saddam Hussein was shot or found or weapons of mass destruction were found.

"Those who have been trying to dance on the war, like John Kerry, what does he do?" Mr. Elmendorf asked. "Does he flop back and say, `See, I was for it.' "

Mr. Kerry's campaign manager, Mr. Jordan, responded by saying Mr. Kerry had been consistent in supporting military action and criticizing Mr. Bush's diplomatic efforts leading up to the war.

Dr. Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont who opposed the war, drew considerable attention, and contributions, by presenting himself as an antiwar candidate.

Although some Democrats suggested that Dr. Dean would now need to find a new horse to ride, he showed no sign of doing that at a debate last week in Washington, where he expressed at best tepid support for Mr. Hussein's ouster.

"We've gotten rid of him; I suppose that's a good thing," Dr. Dean said.

That, Mr. Bayh suggested, was the kind of remark that might reinforce the image the party was trying to avoid.

"Equivocating about whether Saddam's departure is a good thing or not doesn't help the Democratic Party," Mr. Bayh said.

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Reality TV

China | Wednesday 02:33:51 EST | comments (0)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad
PRD Peoples Republic of Desire
by Annie Wang, SCMP
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

AFTER JENNY STEALS the editor-in-chief's position from Lulu with the ''help'' of the magazine owner, Lulu quits her job.

In the following weeks, her life changes dramatically. She unplugs the phone and hides at home, watching soap operas rented from Blockbuster. With a bowl of instant noodles and a cup of coffee on the stand next to her sofa, she watches them around the clock, living in a fantasy world that takes her away from the realities of war or severe acute respiratory syndrome-related news.

Instead of getting herself into real cat fights, office politics or heartbreaking relationships with men, she watches other people suffer. Their characters' torment makes her feel not too bad about her own situation.

As she cries and laughs at their silliness, she feels she has outsmarted them.

Lulu prefers kung fu soap operas such as The Water Marshals and The Eagle-Shooting Heroes. Kung fu stories are always set in stunning desert, lake or forest locations - a real contrast to the concrete jungle in which she lives. At times, the fight scenes are violent, but they are aesthetically so. Each time she sees a duel on screen, she imagines herself scrapping with Jenny. It would perhaps be more honourable than behind-the-back mischief.

Because she has rented so many videos and DVDs, Blockbuster sends her a free gift, Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad series workshop. Lulu watches it for the sake of practising English and as a change of pace. But soon, she is captivated. In the video, Kiyosaki talks about the Cashflow Quadrant; the differences between an employee and a business owner and explains why most employees go from job to job while others quit their jobs and build business empires. According to Kiyosaki, one can get rich as a business owner, or stay a member of the middle class as an excellent employee. He encourages people to find their own business models rather than rely on corporations for financial freedom. Lulu is inspired and cheered up by this god-sent video.

''I'm on the right track to financial freedom by quitting my job. I should have my own business and be my own boss,'' she tells herself.

''But the next step is to find the right business. That is to say, what can I do?''

She looks at the piles of soap-opera cassettes on her living-room floor and she finds the answer: manufacturing soap operas. ''Isn't my life like a soap opera?'' Lulu wonders. She recalls the parties, the dinners and the dates she has had. Yes, her life is so dramatic. But how can she write them down? It would probably take her 10 years to finish it. She thinks of what Jenny said: ''The only thing China doesn't lack is people''. Yes, she was right. ''If I can hire a team of writers to work with me, we can form several production lines. Networks need content to fill in their time slots. We can even go international since we can sell rights to other countries!'' Lulu thinks, all excited.

Lulu is a go-getter. A week later, she meets a producer in the lobby of the Shangri-La hotel. He is good-looking, well-dressed and smooth. She tosses around her ideas for the soap opera. He says he wants to hear more, and asks if they can meet the next day.

Lulu arrives at the hotel and rings him in his room. He says: ''Come upstairs.'' But she becomes suspicious when she sees the room: it is gorgeous, and he has wine, soft music, and cheese and crackers. Lulu has one, two, three glasses of California Mountain Chablis. His hand is on her thigh, and his other arm around her.

Lulu deftly slips away and asks from a distance: ''Is this also part of your job?''

The man replies: ''Yes.''

''Don't you feel ashamed?''

''I love women,'' the man says. ''My job allows me to meet lovely women like you. It's a privilege. Why should I feel ashamed?''

''I love your honesty. Welcome to my first reality TV show!'' Lulu says, pointing at the concealed camera she had set up while her host opened the wine in the kitchen. The man stares at the small red light, dumbfounded.

All things bright and beautiful

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15 April 2003

Asia Project

Blog | Tuesday 20:19:46 EST | comments (0)

Tiantan (Beijing, 2001)

slowly getting my "real" images from asia up. its taken almost forever to edit through them. sometimes i feel like its a giant mahjong game or a puzzle with tens of thousands of pieces. after hours of editing, my brain hurts from too many images in my head. and how to group and arrange them to say something meaningful? so now beijing and shanghai.

as i write this, the moon is so full and rising from the east in a pale blue evening sky. a few faint wisps of cirrus almost seem behind it, making the moon seem ensconced in a soft bed of clouds. through my 10x scope, its seas and craters, reflecting the purist marble white, seem so sharp i could cut myself on their edges. it's so much larger than life. almost alive. i'm captive to its allure. minutes pass like seconds, and i don't realize that a half hour has passed. or has it been an hour already. if only i could take a picture that could be even a shadow of this moment. its too beautiful for words...

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14 April 2003

Takashi Murakami / Another week

Blog | Monday 15:18:25 EST | comments (0)

murakami's show at marianne boesky murakami at his studio kaikai kiki
Joyce Kim at Priska Juschka with new friends at adam's party in the LES

had such a busy weekend, that i did absolutely no work at all. we will definitely have to put a stop to that! being such a beautiful weekend, it was hard to stay inside.

friday night, went to the opening of Takashi Murakami's new show at marianne boesky. with his recent collaboration with Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, the show was almost all colored interpretations of the classic LV pattern with intermittent eyeballs, and floating anime figures. the most interesting pieces in the new collection were a beautifully painted japanese scroll, and an animated video that seemed more like an advertisement for japanese video phones. the video though was my favorite. i feel like most of us here in the west have no conception of what japan really is, beside the standard image of lighted neon and video screens of shinjuku at night. (which is like having a sole perspective of manhattan from a picture of times square!) the video flew the viewer through local streets, train platforms, and a view of the ginza street from the flaship LV store in tokyo. afterwards, had dinner in the east village, and tried in vain to get tickets for the new asian independent film, Better Luck Tomorrow (there were crowds of asian people outside angelika).

saturday, went with a small MOMAJA group to visit Murakami at his small studio in Queens. we got to see the real behind the scenes view of his work in process. i think we were all surprised to discover that he is really a designer, who creates plans for work, that is then executed by others (he said he has a staff of about 50!; 30 in tokyo and 20 in new york). at the studio, there were four of his artisans busy working on three new pieces, filling in color together with xeroxed plans marked with color numbers (almost like a sophisticated color by number plan). on the wall was a schedule for his NY staff of a dozen or so, a rack of time cards, and a punch clock! another surprise which would have seemed extremely strange by western artist standards, but maybe perfectly suitable by the perfectly ordered japanese mentality. after a visit to another gallery, we headed to williamsburg for brunch at relish, and had a beautiful leisurely walk home across the williamsburg bridge. it was really the day for it -- the warm sun, blue skies, a gentle breeze, and the beautiful skyline of manhattan.

saturday night went to an opening for fellow MOMAJA member Yasufumi Nakamori's show (curated at the ISE Cultural Foundation in Soho), then drinks on avenue B, a friend's party at his beautiful duplex in the LES (with a fantastically beautiful view), and pangeae. sunday, went for dimsum at JingFong, and an evening barbeque at a friends. and so passed yet another week. time stops for no one. sigh....

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Mysterious Object / The Blue Kite

Film | Monday 14:20:47 EST | comments (0)

with all the other stuff i did this weekend, still managed to see two very interesting asian films -- young Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mysterious Object at Noon and banned Chinese director Tian Zhuanghuang's The Blue Kite.

Despite its surreal strangeness and disjointed feeling, Mysterious Object at Noon (2002) is an interesting documentary view of one reality of everyday rural Thai people. the film, almost entirely overexposed (which just makes it seem that much more surreal), was created by the filmmakers soliciting story lines from random people they met, each adding their own few lines to a continuing constructed tale. by documenting the created narratives and a local theater troup that performs the narrative as they progress, Weerasethakul really documents his subjects and a small frame of their environs. i felt like i was back in thailand, riding dusty dirt roads on the back of a motorbike, and visiting little villages along the way. unfortunately, overall, the film kind of loses energy and becomes almost aimless before ending abruptly.

The Blue Kite (1993), in contrast, is a more traditional and beautifully filmed account of life in china from the 1950s through the cultural revolution. as expected, the film was banned, and its director Tian Zhuanghuang was banned from *ever* filming again in china (i guess better than being put in jail?). the film tells its story from the perspective of one extended family in the beijing hutongs, who one by one become victims to the social and political events around them. what is most interesting about the film is that its criticism of the government is not as overt or judgmental as one might expect, but subtle and almost accepting of the tragedies that come from circumstance, human nature, and political mistakes. in any case, it was still banned, despite providing a beautiful and poignant view of what the realities of life in china really meant for many after the revolution.

screenshot from The Blue Kite children and lanterns from The Blue Kite

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Europe Seems to Hear Echoes of Empires Past

PQ+ | Monday 13:16:38 EST | comments (0)

Europe Seems to Hear Echoes of Empires Past

BERLIN, April 11 — As the United States began the task of finding Iraqi leaders to take power after the war is over, there were many in Europe and elsewhere who were reminded of an earlier period in global history — the era of imperialism.

"What cannot now be disguised, as U.S. marines swagger around the Iraqi capital swathing toppled statues of Saddam Hussein with the stars and stripes and declaring `We own Baghdad,' is the crudely colonial nature of this enterprise," wrote Seumas Milne, a columnist in The Guardian, the leftist British daily.

Mr. Milne's comment, in a newspaper that rarely misses a chance to cast the United States in a negative light, was an especially virulent and hostile expression of a view that has become common in recent days.

"The key terms of the new imperialism will be the ability of the U.S. to provide security and stability for other nations without imposing an American way of life," Karl-Otto Honrich, a sociologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt, said in a telephone interview. After the war in Iraq began, Mr. Honrich wrote a much noted article subtitled "Without a Hegemonic Power There Can Be No Peace."

That view, which Mr. Milne shares with many other commentators and government officials, is that the war in Iraq confirms the status of the United States as no longer just a superpower, but an unambiguously imperial power. It is seen as a country that uses its might to establish dominion over much of the rest of the world, as Rome once did, or as Britain did in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many Americans will quarrel with that view, convinced not just of the absence of any American ambition to control foreign territory but persuaded by the Bush administration's assurance that power in Iraq will be turned over to Iraqis as swiftly as possible. It is not generally part of the American self-conception to associate the United States or even the Pax Americana with the great empires of the past.

But elsewhere in the world, the United States is being seen in a new way, as the latest — and perhaps most powerful — of the imperialist powers that bestrode the globe over the centuries. As evidence, critics cite not just the sudden collapse of Iraqi resistance, but the stunning American military triumphs in recent years, in Afghanistan, Kosovo and in the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

With this observation, that the United States represents what the respected German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this week called a "hegemonic internationalism," comes the question: will it turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing for the rest of the world?

"The key terms of the new imperialism will be the ability of the U.S. to provide security and stability for other nations without imposing an American way of life," Karl-Otto Honrich, a sociologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt, said in a telephone interview. After the war in Iraq began, Mr. Honrich wrote a much noted article subtitled "Without a Hegemonic Power There Can Be No Peace."

"Over the last 10 years, U.S. hegemony has become clearer as a function of what America has done in the world," he said. "It has taken on the role of world police in several cases, and successfully done so.

"The function of the U.S. right now is to tell the world there is someone who is ready to fight in cases of big security and disorder," Mr. Honrich said. "The U.S. has taken on this role, and hence its leadership has become a social reality."

To some in Europe, the operative word is not so much imperialism as it is unilateralism. The frequently repeated American contention that the United States led a broad coalition into Iraq has not been very convincing to those who feel that the war illustrates a new twist on imperial behavior: the use of pre-emption in the face of widespread opposition even from close allies.

"The neo-conservatives in the U.S. have developed a new imperial vision," said Guillaume Parmentier, the director of the Center on the United States at the French Institute of International Relations. Senior Bush administration advisers, like Paul D. Wolfowitz and Richard N. Perle, are commonly seen in Europe as having gained decisive influence over foreign policy to the disadvantage of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is viewed as a sort of defeated multilateralist.

The speed of the victory in Iraq is being seen as likely to bolster the prestige and influence of those in Washington who, Europeans believe, would now like to embark on further military conquests, in Syria, Iran or possibly North Korea.

"Traditionally, the U.S. has emphasized its great convincing and coercive power on other states," Mr. Parmentier said. "Its foreign policy managed to convince other heads of state that what they were doing was in their national interest, and this was American's great strength.

"Today, the U.S. is affirming a much more blunt and brutal stance," Mr. Parmentier continued. "Its vision for foreign affairs has somewhat retrograded to a more national or even nationalistic definition, in the most limited sense of the term, as it was understood in the 19th century."

Outsiders wonder whether the United States will use its power from now on as it has in Iraq, free of the constraints of multilateralism and dismissive of its allies.

Some answer that question with a stark new definition of the American goal, which is not so much to control unconventional weapons or to bring about government change in Iraq, but to establish unchallenged global dominance. This view, which would seem strange, almost paranoid, to many Americans, is heard in serious and respectable places in Europe.

"The `war against terrorism' is certainly an excuse, and an organizing principle, but not in and of itself a primary motive for a strategic new direction in international relations and American world policy," Stefan Frölich, a German scholar and a professor of international politics at Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, wrote in the "hegemonic internationalism" commentary in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a conservative daily with a long tradition of pro-American views.

"In this sense, the war against Iraq can be seen as a logical and necessary defense of American predominance," Mr. Frölich wrote. Critics of "the increasing imperial assertion of the Bush regime," he continued, "are judged to be promoting a policy of `appeasement' toward rogue states like Iraq."

No historical period is exactly like another, and few people are arguing that the United States is a new Rome or a new colonialist Britain. In the main view being expressed in Europe, it is not the classic imperialist goal of national wealth and resources that is driving the United States.

In the more radical view of American power — represented by The Guardian or by Mr. Frölich — the United States is seeking global dominance almost for its own sake. The more moderate view is that Washington has reacted, or perhaps overreacted, to the threat of terrorism. The American destiny, as the German newsweekly Der Spiegel put it recently, is "to bring peace to the world through war." In other words, the motive is good, even if the actions are violent and possibly unjustified.

But there seems to be a strong emerging view that the immensity of American power amounts to something different in the world.

"Throughout the history of mankind, certainly no country has existed that has so thoroughly dominated the world with its politics, its tanks and its products as the United States does today," Der Spiegel said.

What are the consequences? Some commentators are waiting to see whether new military actions stem from the Iraqi victory, which, they believe, would be final confirmation of the new American imperium.

"Does the policy remain on this trajectory and they go off hunting other regimes that are judged undesirable and dangerous?" said Michael Emerson of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels. "Or do they say: `Whew, that was a sweat politically, the Iraqi campaign. We better slow down and attempt to reconstruct multinational understanding and consensus.' "

Echoing this view, but with eyes on another potential crisis, an influential South Korean commentator, Kim Young Hie, a columnist for the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, worries that American success in Iraq will backfire when it comes to North Korea.

"For Pyongyang, Iraq was the second shock and awe after Afghanistan," Mr. Kim wrote. "When Bush is determined to do something, he just goes ahead. And America undoubtedly has the military prowess to carry out his will. This message is sinking in with Kim Jong Il."

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Baghdad Residents Begin a Long Climb to an Ordered City

PQ+ | Monday 13:14:51 EST | comments (0)

Baghdad Residents Begin a Long Climb to an Ordered City

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 13 — The chaos that turned Baghdad into a place of nightmarish lawlessness during the past five days began today to give way to tentative signs of a city determined to begin the long climb back toward order.

The change came almost a week after American troops broke into the heart of Baghdad and uprooted the government of Saddam Hussein, setting loose the demons of popular revenge.

Almost everywhere, from the revival of some bus service in the city center to squads of Iraqi volunteers venturing out into what had been free-fire zones to recover the putrefying bodies of the dead, there were signs that the 4.5 million people of Baghdad were beginning to reclaim the edges of a normal life.

With fires still burning in government ministries, and the National Library and its centuries of archives added to the roll call of institutions ransacked and burned, the frenzies of the looters were not yet spent.

Violence also abounded in Saddam City, a large slum in eastern Baghdad that is home to an estimated two million people, most of them Shiite Muslims long repressed under Mr. Hussein and his ruling coterie of Sunni Muslims.

But in a break from the pattern since early Wednesday, the looters were outnumbered, for the first time, by taxis, buses carrying passengers rather than plunder, street stalls selling eggs and fruit and vegetables, and enough casual motorists and pedestrians to create a distant facsimile of a normal Sunday in Baghdad.

A clear manifestation of a tightening American grip came with the appearance early today of the first American military helicopters to venture over the city center. Troop-carrying Chinooks with gunners visible at the side and rear were flanked by deadlier Apache attack helicopters bristling with rockets as they clattered low over the Republican Palace presidential compound that was until recently the central seat of Mr. Hussein's power.

From there, the helicopters arced across the Tigris River, over neighborhoods that American commanders still consider dangerous because of the armed Iraqi militiamen that may still be lurking there.

With none of the helicopters firing, and none appearing to come under attack from the ground, the impression left among Iraqis who rushed to their balconies to watch was that the American forces wanted to convey a message to would-be looters and hard-core remnants of Mr. Hussein's government. That message appeared to be that the United States was now the nearly unchallenged power in Baghdad, as in many other cities north and south, and that time was running out for those intent on score-settling over the brutalities of Mr. Hussein or striking out against the American forces who toppled him.

General Tommy R. Franks, the allied commander in the region, said today on on CNN's "Late Edition" that the military had divided Baghdad into "55 or 60 block zones" for patrolling, and that there were pockets of "5 to 25 hard-core fighters" in about 10 to 15 of those zones.

Perhaps stung by the anger of many Iraqis at the Americans' failure to send troops to curb the looting and burning, military commanders began accelerating plans to revive civil administration. At a meeting at a sports club near the Palestine Hotel, the temporary Marine Corps headquarters in eastern Baghdad, American civil affairs officers began meetings with Iraqi government officials in an effort to revive essential city services, including the police and fire departments that disintegrated as the American forces advanced.

On Monday, the Americans will hold meetings at all government ministries to begin planning how, with almost all the ministries' equipment and records stolen or destroyed, government can be revived.

Traffic flow, and in some places traffic jams, were encouraged by the American troops pulling many of their checkpoints off the streets, to be replaced by discreetly stationed tanks and other armored vehicles.

At the same time, some American patrols appeared to have adopted more muscular tactics in dealing with looters, after days when bands of marauders had the city's thoroughfares to themselves, assured by the Americans' inaction that they could act as they pleased.

In one encounter beside Al Jumhuriya Bridge on the Tigris's eastern bank, a Marine patrol ran into a confrontation between a group of about 30 men and a driver in a black Mercedes.

The incident, in a neighborhood littered with burned-out cars from battles last week between American troops and government loyalists, appeared to escalate after the Mercedes driver abandoned his car, and another man ran down the street with a bullet wound in his upper arm.

The marines immobilized the driver and two other men with plastic handcuffs and ordered about 25 others to sprawl face down on the ground while they were searched. "Get your nose in the dirt!" one marine shouted, again and again.

The company commander, Lt. Lewis Langella, of New Haven, said the patrol's assignment was to make a show of force in the neighborhood, after Marine units in the area had come under fire overnight.

"It's important right now, because the government is somewhat in turmoil, they've lost their old leadership and they don't have a new one yet, either, which is not good," he said. "So our message is, If you're a shooter, we're not going to tolerate that in this town."

The marines took possession of one Kalashnikov rifle, several bayonets and pocketfuls of ammunition.

As the three handcuffed men were led away, the other Iraqis began rising from the ground and watching as the Marine patrol moved off. As if to affirm that their business, whatever it had been, was driven by the motive for revenge against the past under Mr. Hussein, and not out of any quarrel with the United States, they shouted after the retreating Americans.

"Thank you very much!" they said. "You my friend, America!" and "Good, Bush good!"

Whether out of exhaustion, a dwindling list of government targets or a sense that American commanders were running out of patience with the lawlessness, looters seemed to have backed off, at least in the city center.

In their place, another, gentler face of Iraqi society emerged, in the form of volunteers in masks and rubber gloves, picking up bodies left where they had been hit by American fire, and carrying them away for burial.

"If we don't do it, nobody else will," said Ali Ahmed Hamid, one of the volunteers working near Al Jumhuriya Bridge.

But even as some Iraqis sought to heal the city's wounds, others, fired by anger and revenge, broke through to the little that was left of untouched government buildings after four days of continuous looting. Among other buildings afire or still smoldering in eastern Baghdad today were the city hall, the Agriculture Ministry and — so thoroughly burned that heat still radiated 50 paces from its front doors — the National Library. Not far from the National Museum of Iraq, which was looted on Thursday and Friday with the loss of almost all of its store of 170,000 artifacts, the library was considered another of the repositories of an Iraqi civilization dating back at least 7,000 years.

By tonight, virtually nothing was left of the library and its tens of thousands of old manuscripts and books, and of archives like Iraqi newspapers tracing the country's turbulent history from the era of Ottoman rule through to Mr. Hussein. Reading rooms and the stacks where the collections were stored were reduced to smoking vistas of blackened rubble.

Across the street, a lone American tank roared out of the monumental gates of the Defense Ministry, untouched by the looters presumably because they knew that the ministry, at least, would be under close guard by American troops.

Almost as much as the civilian casualties from American bombs and tanks, the destruction of the museum and the library has ignited passions against American troops, for their failure to intervene. How far these passions offset the widespread jubilation at the toppling of Mr. Hussein is impossible to tell, in part because of the differing views within the population. Along looters, many but not all of them from the impoverished underclass, and especially from the slums of Saddam City, the end of Mr. Hussein's government appears to have been greeted as an absolute good.

But a different view emerges among Baghdad's professionals. Many of them managed to elude the worst brutalities of Mr. Hussein, either because they were members of the Baath Party, or were Sunni Muslims, or because, as doctors, lawyers, engineers and university teachers, they made themselves useful to the government and offered few challenges to its survival. Among those people, the common view in recent days has been the one expressed by protesters who gathered in the heat outside the Palestine Hotel today, shouting abuse at the marines: that the cure has proven worse than the disease — that having many of the city's principal institutions laid to waste by looters has been too high a price for freedom.

One exponent of that view is Gailan Ramiz, a Princeton-educated political scientist at Baghdad University, who sought out reporters at the hotel.

Dr. Ramiz, 62, had bitter words for Mr. Hussein, but he added: "I believe the United States has committed an act of irresponsibility with few parallels in history, with the looting of the National Museum, the National Library and so many of the ministries. People are saying that the U.S. wanted this — that it allowed all this to happen because it wanted the symbolism of ordinary Iraqis attacking every last token of Saddam Hussein's power."

Other professionals said they feared far worse consequences than the looting in the weeks and months ahead.

Much of their concern focused on events in Saddam City, the Shiite stronghold on Baghdad's outskirts, which has been a virtual no-go area for American troops. Many of the looters reaching the city center have come from Saddam City, which community leaders have renamed Al Sadr City, after Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, a leading Shiite cleric who was killed in the holy city of Najaf in 1999, in circumstances many Shiites say involved Mr. Hussein's secret police.

A cauldron of repressed loathing for the toppled Iraqi ruler, the area appears to have become, in a matter of days, a stronghold of heavily armed Shiite militias. American military units have stayed away from the area, effectively ceding control.

Reporters reaching Saddam City today said the area had been cordoned off by militia checkpoints that appeared to be well organized, many of them under the control of neighborhood mosques.

At one mosque, several machine guns were mounted on the roof. Some militias appeared friendly to Westerners, waving and shouting, "Bush good!" But others, the reporters said, appeared hostile, in ways that suggested that they might have been organized by Iraqi opposition groups based in Iran that have espoused a militant form of Islam similar to that which inspired the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Some of the men at the checkpoints were described as having headbands bearing the legends of militant Islam, as well as checkered head scarves.

Groups like those have been a major worry for American officials planning for a postwar Iraq. Their concern has been that schisms in Iraqi society that were suppressed by Mr. Hussein's dictatorial rule —between the majority Shiites and the minority Sunni, between Arabs and Kurds and Turkmen and other ethnic groups, and between those favoring an Islamic republic and those eager to maintain the secular form of rule favored by Mr. Hussein — could erupt in ways that could leave the United States sitting atop an Iraqi powder keg.

Thus any sign that Islamic militancy is gaining the upper hand in Saddam City, especially so soon after Mr. Hussein's overthrow, would be a major headache for Washington.

In middle-class districts of Baghdad, many people were not waiting to find out what the events in Saddam City might portend. Using local self-defense committees formed in the hope of warding off looters, some people spent the weekend drawing up petitions to American commanders and to prominent Muslim clerics in Saddam City, warning against the risks to Iraq of allowing Islamic fundamentalist groups free rein in a period when Iraq has no government.

One prominent scholar, Wahmid Ladhmi, a professor of political science at Baghdad University, compared the vacuum in Iraqi politics with the period of uncertainty and direction that followed the collapse of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi's rule in Iran in 1979.

Dr. Ladhmi said that after watching the American failure to curb the looters, many middle-class Iraqis feared that "the carelessness shown by the invading power," meaning the United States, did not bode well for Washington's ability to manage the complex interplay between Iraqi ethnic, religious and political groups.

In this effort, he said, it was crucial that the Americans engage early on with Shiite groups that favor genuine elections and parliamentary institutions, and not allow other groups that have an agenda similar to the one followed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran in 1979 to gain the upper hand.

"We would like to see a secular state preserved in Iraq," he said. "We don't think that there is a Khomeini here, because the Shiites are too divided, and we know that a great many Islamists in Iraq accept the idea of democracy and an alternation of competing groups in power through elections.

"But there are others for whom elections are a one-time thing, a way station on the road to the end of democracy," he said. "The message we want to get through is that no one represents the word of God — or rather, that it is the people, not the clerics, who represent the word of God."

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North Korea Shifts Stance on Nuclear Talks

Asia | Monday 13:14:00 EST | comments (0)

North Korea Shifts Stance on Nuclear Talks

SEOUL, South Korea, April 12 — In a policy shift, North Korea said today that it would negotiate its nuclear program without sticking "to any particular dialogue format" if the United States changed its stance on the issue.

The new policy signals an end to a six-month insistence on two-way talks with the United States, and comes days after the fall of Iraq's government, a part, along with Iran and North Korea, of what President Bush has called an "axis of evil."

Ever since a Bush administration envoy confronted the North Koreans last October with evidence that they were pursuing a secret program to make nuclear bombs, the United States has insisted that negotiations over the threat involve North Korea's neighbors — China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Today, the Korean Central News Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that if the United States was "ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue," then North Korea would "not stick to any particular dialogue format."

To analysts of political discourse in the isolated nation, the report indicated that North Korea was moving away from insisting on one-on-one talks with the United States.

"North Korea seems to be saying they are ready to try a multilateral format," said Scott Snyder, author of "Negotiating on the Edge," about North Korean negotiating tactics. "The problem is that, given the mood of the moment, can the Bush administration take yes for an answer?"

In Washington, a senior official who deals extensively with North Korean issues said today that while the statement was still being evaluated, it appeared that pressure exerted by China had compelled the North Koreans to change their position. "This means some kind of discussion can go forward but in the past the North Koreans have been known to drop out of talks if they don't like how they are going," the official said.

As recently as Friday, American officials said there was still activity at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, although no evidence that North Korea had yet begun converting its 8,000 nuclear fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium.

North Korea's shift may be a result of diplomatic pressure from Russia and China. On Wednesday, both nations, historic allies of North Korea, blocked the adoption in the United Nations Security Council of any statement critical of North Korea's nuclear program. It is possible that with the United Nations action out of the way, the North Koreans saw their moment to move.

On Friday, a top Russian official said Russia would reconsider its longstanding policy of opposing sanctions against North Korea if it developed nuclear arms.

The announcement comes as South Korea's new president, Roh Moo Hyun, prepares for a series of trips to countries concerned about North Korea's nuclear program.

With the Iraq war drawing to an end faster than many people here expected, President Roh is advancing his trip to Washington by 10 days, arriving there May 11. After that, he plans to travel to China, Russia and Japan, he said today.

North Korea is "petrified" by the rapid American victory in Iraq, Mr. Roh said Friday in an interview with The Washington Post.

In a nation full of statues of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, there have been daily references in the news media to the attack on Saddam Hussein's government.

"The United States' sinister design is not in inspections themselves but in using them to spread rumors of weapons of mass destruction and find an excuse for armed intervention," North Korea's state-run TV said on Friday.

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Reports of Virus Jump Sharply in China

China | Monday 13:13:13 EST | comments (0)

Reports of Virus Jump Sharply in China

BEIJING, April 14 — Reported cases of a mysterious respiratory disease jumped sharply today in an interior province of north-central China, heralding the possible spread of the dangerous pneumonia through the country's vast hinterlands.

A report last week that 32 people in Shanxi Province, a region of coal mines and factory towns, had been diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome had already raised the eyebrows of health experts. The disorder, which has been fatal in about 4 percent of cases, has been concentrated mainly in the prosperous, urbanized southeastern province of Guangdong and in neighboring Hong Kong, with small numbers of cases appearing in scattered other Chinese cities.

The worry deepened today when the Ministry of Health, in its daily update to the World Health Organization, said that 47 more cases had been reported from Shanxi on April 13.

"We're very concerned about what may be happening out in the provinces," Henk Bekedan, director of the W.H.O. office here, said in an interview today.

The Shanxi cases are concentrated in the provincial capital of Taiyuan, where the disease was apparently introduced several weeks ago by a traveler returning from Guangdong.

The new figures bring reported cases in the Taiyuan area to 79. This is still a small number in a city of 3.3 million, but it is more than double the 37 cases reported as of today in Beijing, with a population of some 14 million.

Mr. Bekedan said the surge in Shanxi may reflect a natural second wave of infections, as the initial patients exposed others before they were diagnosed and isolated. What happens next will depend on the effectiveness of control measures introduced by local officials, he said.

The large jump may also reflect more effective or honest reporting from Taiyuan after central authorities sent a special team there last week to strengthen the effort against SARS, he said.

Reached by telephone this afternoon, officials at the national health ministry and at the health departments of Shanxi province and Taiyuan city all declined to comment on the rising Shanxi caseload. The ministry is to issue the latest national data on Tuesday.

Adding to the concern of health experts are the often substandard quality of health facilities and surveillance in much of internal China. Yet these same regions received home visits by millions of workers from China's more prosperous coastal regions during the lunar new year holiday in February — just when the epidemic was peaking in Guangdong.

"Our assumption is that most of China's provinces will have cases," Mr. Bekedan said today.

Second to Shanxi in reported cases, among the inland provinces, is Inner Mongolia, which as of Sunday had reported 17. Smaller numbers have been detected in several other provinces but the vast majority of victims are still in Guangdong, with more than 1,250 reported cases as of Sunday but a declining curve of new victims.

Hong Kong health officials said this evening that there had been 40 more cases in the autonomous Chinese territory, and seven deaths. The death rate among SARS patients in Hong Kong has jumped lately, with three dying on Saturday and five on Sunday.

Dr. Ko Wing-man, the acting chief executive of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, said at a news conference that it was unclear whether the mortality rate had risen or whether there were simply more patients infected with the disease.

Dr. Ko has been filling in for Dr. William Ho, who fell ill with SARS on March 23. Dr. Ho has recovered and was discharged from a hospital here today, but will recuperate at home for another week on his doctor's orders, and participate in videoconferences from there, before returning to his office at the Hospital Authority, Dr. Ko said.

Malaysia's consulate in Hong Kong had announced on Saturday the temporary suspension of a ban on the issuance of most visas to people from Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Canada. But Malaysia's health minister, Chua Jui-meng contradicted this position at a news conference today in Kuala Lumpur, saying that the policy had not changed and that most visas would not be issued, Reuters news agency reported.

Mr. Chua also mentioned that Malaysia's cabinet might consider broadening the visa restrictions to other countries.

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LES Bouncer Dies

NYC | Monday 13:11:57 EST | comments (0)

Bouncer Dies, and Family Blames City's Smoking Ban

A bouncer at a bar on Manhattan's Lower East Side was fatally stabbed early yesterday during a fight that broke out after he asked two patrons to put out their cigarettes, the police said.

The bouncer's brother blamed a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars that went into effect two weeks ago for the death, calling his brother, Dana Blake, "the first casualty" of New York City's new law.

About 2:30 a.m. yesterday, Mr. Blake, 32, known in the neighborhood for a gentle manner that contrasted with his imposing frame, told two brothers, Jonathan and Ching Chan, that they could not smoke in the bar, the police said they were told by witnesses.

It is not clear how the brothers responded, but whatever was said caused Mr. Blake to try to eject Jonathan Chan, 29, from the bar, Guernica, at 25 Avenue B, taking hold of his neck, the police said.

Ching Chan, 31, tried to intervene, the police said, grabbing Mr. Blake's neck, and then another man and woman who were apparently friends of the brothers joined in, with the woman leaping onto the bouncer's back to break up the fight.

Amid the scuffle, one of the brothers stabbed Mr. Blake in the torso, and both ran out of the bar, the police said. People who work on that block of Avenue B said that another bouncer from the bar chased them down.

The police arrested the two brothers on charges of assault, criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.

The police said last night that they had not determined which brother had stabbed Mr. Blake.

A woman who answered the door last night at Jonathan Chan's address on the Lower East Side declined to comment. No one answered the door at Ching Chan's address in Chinatown.

Mr. Blake, 32, was taken to Beth Israel Medical Center, where he died almost 12 hours later with his family watching over him. The knife had severed one of his arteries, said Tony Blake, Mr. Blake's older brother.

"Why does somebody have to suffer because somebody wants to pass a cigarette law?" Tony Blake asked. He said that he did not smoke or drink himself, but added, "If you go to Sodom and Gomorrah, you're going to find people smoking there. This is what bars are."

But the police played down the connection between the death and the antismoking law, which was championed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "The smoking issue was the initial contact," said Deputy Commissioner Michael O'Looney, the Police Department's chief spokesman. "The homicide seems to be more over the issue of the ejection from the bar."

Edward Skyler, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, declined to comment on Tony's Blake's assertion that the smoking regulations were central to the crime. "The mayor is satisfied that the police quickly apprehended the two men responsible for this senseless death, and his thoughts are with the family of the victim," Mr. Skyler said.

Tony Blake said that in his brother's years as a bouncer, he had been attacked and even stabbed before, but that he loved the job. He had been working at Guernica for about 18 months, and had a side business custom-painting portraits on the backs of denim jackets, Tony Blake said.

Standing 6-foot-5 with a shaved head, Dana Blake, known to his co-workers and friends as Shazam, was a striking presence on the block of Avenue B between Third and Fourth Streets. He went out of his way to play with small children, assembling a bicycle for his 2-year-old niece, Nyah, or entertaining Noah Leeds, the toddler son of Jonathan and Suzie Leeds, who sell ices on Avenue B, friends and family members said.

"He had a tremendous heart," Mr. Leeds said. "He was so big and imposing, but when you knew him you couldn't help gravitating to him."

Unaware that Mr. Blake had died at the hospital, the Leeds family had been discussing how to raise money to help pay his medical bills, they said.

Adam Silk, a chiropractor on the block, called Mr. Blake a "pacifist" and said he was diplomatic when it came to handling belligerent patrons.

Most of the workers at Guernica, an upscale lounge with a sleek curved bar and a menu of tapas, declined to speak with a reporter yesterday, but put a vase of red chrysanthemums on the sidewalk. In the window, they put up several photographs of Mr. Blake, alone and with friends, in each one wearing black and smiling with delight.

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Over the Top, as He Wants to Be

Fashion | Monday 13:10:24 EST | comments (0)

Over the Top, as He Wants to Be

MUSING about the people, real and imaginary, who have shaped his career, André Leon Talley, Vogue's editor at large and one of fashion's most voluble cheerleaders, spooled off a list headed by Bennie Frances Davis, his maternal grandmother; Diana Vreeland, the legendary style doyenne who became his mentor; and influential tastemakers of the 1970's and 80's like Mica Ertegun and C. Z. Guest.

But the woman who holds the most hallowed spot in Mr. Talley's heart is Emma Bovary.

Easing his portly, 6-foot, 7-inch frame into a caramel-colored leather banquette in the cafeteria of Condé Nast, Vogue's publisher, Mr. Talley talked about Flaubert's ill-starred heroine, a country doctor's wife who dreamed of Paris. "I just loved the desperation of this woman in the boondocks, wanting something bigger," he said. "Emma Bovary had pictures of Paris interiors pinned to her wall, pictures from magazines that she used to help her decorate. This was a woman who had aspirations."

Mr. Talley nursed his own aspirations in the boondocks of Durham, N.C., where, tacked to the cherry-pink walls of his room in his grandmother's house, were photographs from Vogue and W of the stylized, willful creatures whose absolute dedication to artifice he was precociously emulating. "Other boys that I grew up with may have been pinning up pictures from girlie magazines," he said. "I had Mica Ertegun, Mrs. Vreeland and Verushka, Pat Cleveland and Naomi Sims."

He writes about them, reverently, in a new memoir, "A.L.T." (Villard), whose title is an overt homage to Vreeland, who named her own reminiscences "D.V." Like her — indeed, like the fashion pooh-bah he has become — Mr. Talley's idols were devoutly fastidious, hyperconscious of appearance. "These women were cryptotic," Mr. Talley said, delighting in his coinage. "Concealed and mysterious — and so am I." Continuing, he said: "In the world of fashion, you have to be hidden to survive. Think of Halston, Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld. They were very much cryptotic. They saw themselves as playing a role to their public. Who in the world really knows who they are?"

The observation was odd coming from a man who has long seemed to flaunt his sentiments like a gilded brooch, in print and occasionally on television. "André is an enthusiast," said Marian McEvoy, a former editor of House Beautiful, who worked with Mr. Talley in the 1970's in the Paris bureau of Women's Wear Daily. "If he liked a designer's collection, he would go backstage and hoist him into the air. He wore his heart right on his sleeve."

A fixture in fashion's front rows, Mr. Talley turns up in New York and Europe swathed in a scarlet crocodile coat or a military jacket edged in braid. He glides down red carpets in Persian lamb with a diamond tiara wrapped like a choker.

Last week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America acknowledged his willfully outrageous style and his contributions to fashion, naming him recipient of this year's Eugenia Sheppard award for fashion journalism. For Mr. Talley, the honor comes somewhat belatedly. "I don't want to sound arrogant," he said, choosing his words carefully. "To be considered for an award is always flattering." Then a wounded note seeped in. "I'm 54. I just thought I could have been considered years ago."

Mr. Talley, one of a handful of fashion personalities to figure in the popular imagination, is more guarded than in the past. "Everybody has seen me all these years as a flamboyant shadow," he said. "Ralph Lauren once said to me, `I thought you had nothing inside.' But that was because I presented a veneer."

Sitting up in the banquette with a rail-backed formality, he continued: "When I came to New York, I lived in awe, not that anyone knew it. I kept my emotions bottled up. I thought a veneer was necessary. I would never let it crack."

One expects that in his memoir he will let in the light, settle scores, let go somewhat of the manicured persona. One would be wrong. Mr. Talley frames his memoir as a coming-of-age story, telling it primly, even piously, with a tendency to sermonize. He only alludes to his years in the 70's as a sidekick of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Halston, partying until the sun came up, witnessing — though not participating in, he says — lewd acts at tawdry clubs. But pity the reader who expects a tell-all about misspent youth.

"I think it's a book you read with surprise, expecting there would be more gossip and more dirt," the designer Oscar de la Renta said. "But that would be so unlike André."

Diane von Furstenberg agreed. "He is soulful," she said, "and that comes through."

Mr. Talley said he was determined to subvert the myth. "Everyone expects flamboyance, bitchy gossip. They want André in his heyday, la-di-da — they want the myth of André Leon Talley," he said. In an interview he declined to talk much about his love life or his New York salad days, playing up instead his dedication to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he is a member of the congregation and an enthusiastic fund-raiser. "I'm not going to say God, God, God to you," he said, "but without that church I don't think I would have the foundation to sit here and cope with this world."

Mr. de la Renta, a friend for more than two decades, said: "André is devout and profoundly disciplined." Despite their long acquaintance, Mr. de la Renta has never been inside his home. "I have been so many times to the door of his house in Hastings-on-Hudson," he said, "but I have never been inside. André didn't allow it. You know he is so grand. Perhaps he thinks his house is not all that."

Mr. Talley said that the house was still a work in progress. At the moment, he explained, "it is more like a repository for dressing."

Mr. Talley carries a surprising reticence into other parts of his life. "With all his extravaganza, he is in no way a libertine," Mr. de la Renta added. "There is an extremely prudish side to him."

That observation might surprise former colleagues and his employers at Women's Wear Daily, who drew their own conclusions about his closeness to French designers of the 80's like Thierry Mugler. "I emoted at their shows. People didn't like that," Mr. Talley said. "At Women's Wear, they told me, `You've been to bed with every designer in Paris.' "

Mr. Talley said he responded at the time with an indignant resignation letter, which he had notarized at the American Embassy in Paris.

"I've slept in many a designer's bed as a luxuriating guest," he said, somewhat haughtily. "But I've never slept with a designer to advance my career."

The Women's Wear resignation might have made a pungent chapter in his memoir, but Mr. Talley does not mention it. John Fairchild, retired publisher of Women's Wear Daily, declined to comment in detail. "André resigned," he said. "He just wanted to go on to better things."

As creative director of Vogue, Mr. Tally's mantra was "opulence, opulence, opulence," words he spoke lashingly, like the crack of a whip. Today, he is more apt to substitute "correct." In his memoir he uses the term to describe his Richard Anderson suits from Savile Row, his father, who worked in the Patent Office, and his grandmother, the rigorously disciplined but big-hearted woman who reared him after his parents were divorced. She worked uncomplainingly, supporting Mr. Talley, an only child, by cleaning dormitory rooms at Duke University.

Along with her sense of propriety, Mr. Talley absorbed her conviction that attention to appearances would always see one through. "She had the unconscious ability to put herself together in the most perfect, appropriate way," he writes. "As a result she seemed poised, centered, and nearly impossible to ruffle."

Other life lessons he picked up on his own. Early on, Mr. Tally redirected a scholarly bent (at Brown University he wrote his master's thesis on Baudelaire) to the study of glamour. Even as a student, he wore gray flannel trousers and a navy blue Saint Laurent coat, and carried a Vuitton duffle bag, adopting the stately gait, sonorous diction and Tallulah Bankhead flair for self-dramatization that abides to this day. "Everything he did was stylized," recalled Jane Kleinman, a former classmate at the Rhode Island School of Design, where Mr. Talley took design classes.

It was then that Mr. Talley exhibited his editor's flair. "I remember I had a wrap skirt, lime green, a really cheap skirt, but André gave it attitude," Ms. Kleinman said. "It was the way he put a little Lacoste shirt over it and then tied the sash just so. When he was through I looked like C. Z. Guest in Palm Beach."

Even now Mr. Talley cannot seem to look at a dress or shoe without making reference to social divas. During an impromptu visit to Manolo Blahnik's shoe design studio in Midtown last week, he examined a black crocodile pump. Its simple lines prompted a stream of verbiage. "This is the shoe for me — elegant, fabulous, very Anne Bass; the heel box is almost erotic," he said. He picked up another, an embroidered ankle boot elaborately fringed with crystal and sniffed, "Who would wear that, J.Lo?"

The sight of it seemed to weary him. "There is so little elegance in fashion now," he said in a schoolmaster's tone." What we lack is depth. People have forgotten fashion's foundations: color, line, silhouette. Those aren't just words. "

As he spoke, Mr. Talley sank low into a chair, his disappointment seeming to diminish him. "We're living in such a vulgar age," he said.

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Photo Shops Find the Bright Side of Digital Technology

Finance | Monday 13:08:24 EST | comments (0)

Photo Shops Find the Bright Side of Digital Technology

A couple of years ago, Oregon Photo Supply looked to be a goner. Its sales peaked at $1.3 million in the late 90's. Then, digital photography soared as the economy plunged. Sales sank so low that Oregon Photo closed four of its five stores.

But now things at the last store, just outside Portland, are looking way, way up. In fact, Wayne Welch, Oregon's president, says sales may hit $400,000 this year — within striking distance of the store's $449,000 sales peak in 1998. Why? Oregon Photo, which now uses the name Oregon Photo and Digital, installed new equipment, revamped its Web site and rewrote its advertising, all to get users of digital cameras to come in for their prints. Finally, customers are doing just that.

"Digital photography and the Internet have opened possibilities we never dreamed of," Mr. Welch said.

Apparently, the Cassandras were wrong: digital photography has not made photo retailing obsolete. Granted, people still print very few of the digital pictures they take — and most of those, they print at home. But photo retailers are finding their niche. The clunkiness of much photo-related software, the slowness of photo printers, and the chancy quality of homemade prints have discouraged people from printing photos at home. So has the high cost of paper and ink: print-it-yourselfers spend upwards of $1 a print — two or three times what stores charge.

Also, women are snapping a lot more digital pictures these days. That has retailers clapping, as studies show that women are more likely than men to want lots of prints and less likely to make those prints themselves.

"For women, photography is about memories, not technology, and that is definitely good for us," said Judy Strauss-Sansone, vice president for photo and consumables for the CVS Corporation.

The photo-shop industry sorely needs an uptick. Sales of film, developing and processing have been flat at best, while people have been buying digital cameras in computer stores.

"No question, every store's lost revenues because of digital," said Edward Y. Lee, a photography analyst at Lyra Research. Many independent stores have been forced to close, said Ulysses A. Yannas, an analyst with Buckman, Buckman & Reid. "It's just getting more difficult to compete," he said.

The retailers that toughed it out still rely heavily on sales of double sets of prints from rolls of film. But now they can also burn those images on CD's, archive them on Web sites or print them on T-shirts or greeting cards.

And now, with digital developing labs and interactive Web sites, they have learned to turn digitally captured images into prints, CD's and other lucrative products.

"Before, someone dropped off a roll of film, you gave them prints, that was it," said Mitchell Goldstone, president of 30 Minute Photos Etc., a photo specialty store in Irvine, Calif. "Now we do our version of `Would you like fries or a shake with that?' "

The upshot is that while no store is boasting huge profits from digital photography yet, few still worry that its ascendance will drive them out of business. "Finally, it is a good time to be a photo retailer," said John Larish, president of Jonrel Imaging Consultants in Rochester.

Well — not entirely. The retailers now occupy a chaotic world in which the lines of competition between vendors, wholesalers, mom-and-pop stores and megastores have blurred. Some 1,800 of the 2,500 Wal-Mart stores with photo centers now process digital photos, and the rest will be equipped to do so by November. Wal-Mart customers can also upload their digital images to www.walmart.com and pick up the prints at the nearest Wal-Mart store.

Kodak sells digital labs to retailers, and operates Web sites for several. But it also owns Ofoto, an online service that makes prints and stores electronic photos, at prices that often undercut those offered by its retail customers.

Similarly, District Photo, a mail-order photo processor in Beltsville, Md., used to get most of its revenues from handling processing for other retailers. Now it operates Web sites under the brands Snapfish, York and Clark, on which consumers can store electronic pictures, set up online albums and order prints, CD's and gifts, like calendars or cookie tins imprinted with their photos. In December — traditionally a big time for taking pictures but a slow one for printing them — nearly 40 percent of District Photo's revenues came from gifts.

"Anyone who says that digital wasn't bad news is lying, but at least it is a growing business," said Neil D. Cohen, District Photo's president.

Retailers themselves are tackling what has to date been the worst impediment to growth: letting the world know what they offer.

"Hewlett and Epson have done a wonderful job of telling consumers that they can make photos at home, while our industry has done an extremely poor job of letting them know that we can make pictures from digital files," said Mr. Welch, of Oregon Photo.

The manufacturers, who want retailers to buy their digital developing equipment as well as their ink and paper for making prints, are helping out. Kodak, for one, is spending nearly $30 million in Atlanta to educate consumers about the ease with which local retailers can convert their digital images to prints.

"A lot of people are printing photographs at home because they don't know there is a retail alternative," said Jude Rake, Kodak's chief operating officer for consumer imaging in the United States and Canada.

Fuji Photo Film U.S.A. is tackling that problem, too. Visitors to its Web site can enter their ZIP codes and get driving directions to the nearest retailer that has Fuji equipment for making digital prints. This summer, Fuji plans to set up links that let customers upload photos directly from the Fuji site to the nearest retailer, then pick up the pictures the same day. And, they could split the order up among different stores.

"That way, customers can pick up one set of prints at their local Duane Reade, even while their mom in California picks up a duplicate set at her local Ritz Camera," said Manny Almeida, a vice president for commercial imaging at Fuji.

The retailers themselves have grown savvier about marketing. For example, 30 Minute Photos Etc. now markets a digital printing service to families of troops who are overseas and who presumably would want to swap photos. Mr. Goldstone also has gotten permission from I.B.M., Canon and some other large companies to market directly to their employees via their intranets.

Using consumer receptivity to digital bargains as a guide, such efforts are working. In December, Fuji Photofilm USA offered $2 coupons in newspapers, redeemable at retail stores that use Fuji equipment to make prints from digital cameras.

"The redemption rate killed our budget," Mr. Almeida said. He quickly added, "It was just great."

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