Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - We must do all we can to cool off climate change

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - We must do all we can to cool off climate change
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
February 4, 2007

By adding the small but significant word "very" to their long-awaited report last week, a body of international scientists took a major step toward erasing doubt about the causes of global warming. Rather than saying it was "likely" that global warming is caused by human activity, as they did six years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserted in a landmark analysis that it is "very likely," meaning they now are more than 90 percent certain. While there will still be flat-Earthers who dispute that conclusion, the question for the rest of us becomes, "What on Earth are we going to do about it?"

Scientists representing the United States and more than 100 other countries say the world will get hotter and the seas will get higher no matter what we do to control the burning of fossil fuels. The scientists said their best estimate is that temperatures will rise 3.2 to 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Ocean levels could go up between 3 to 23 inches in the same time frame, and up to 7.8 inches more if the recent and surprising melting of polar ice sheets continues, they said.

Their report also says it is "virtually certain" that there will be fewer cold days and nights over most land areas, and warmer and more frequent hot days and nights. It said it is "very likely" there will be more frequent heat waves, and more frequent heavy rainfalls, over most areas. It is "likely" that there will be more tropical storms and droughts.

Such gloomy forecasts might lead some to throw up their hands and say there's nothing to be done. But that's precisely the wrong conclusion. The effects of man-made pollution can't be reversed, but they can be slowed, the scientists argue. "The point here is to highlight what will happen if we don't do something and what will happen if we do something," said Jonathan Overpeck at the University of Arizona, one of the authors of the study. "I can tell you if you will decide not to do something, the impacts will be much larger than if we do something."

The scientists are expected to issue another report later this year detailing the best ways to slow global warming. But it's no secret what needs to be done -- humans and their governments will have to find ways to cut greenhouse gases and adapt to a warmer world.

It won't be easy. So far we've taken only baby steps -- things such as President Bush's proposals in his State of the Union speech last month, which critics say are way too little and very late, or the new $500 million BP Energy Biosciences Institute announced last week, where scientists in Illinois and California will conduct research on alternative energy sources. But making a huge reduction in our fossil fuel emissions could very likely hurt our economy, especially if the United States acts but emerging economies like China and India refuse. Who would be willing to give up their job, when their sacrifice's impact may only be incrementally apparent? Our guess is that few people will. Still, societies can adjust if scientists and political leaders, acting on the latest research, can convince citizens of the greater good. Last week's report takes a major step toward that goal.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

From global warming report, U.S. feels heat - Pressure likely to build on Bush

From global warming report, U.S. feels heat - Pressure likely to build on Bush
By William Neikirk
Tribune senior correspondent
Published February 3, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Global warming is "very likely" a human-caused problem that will last for centuries and require concerted international action to reduce its potentially devastating impacts, a United Nations panel of climate experts declared Friday in a landmark report.

Now the question is whether the bleak report will change the politics of global warming in the U.S. and lead to a more united effort to deal with the problem, and for the moment, that appears uncertain.

The Bush administration embraced the report but rejected demands for a mandatory system of capping "greenhouse gas" emissions such as carbon dioxide. Instead, the administration said President Bush would rely on his plans to develop more renewable fuel and require more efficient vehicles.

But with Democrats controlling Congress, pressure is apt to build on the White House to take a tougher approach. More than half a dozen bills--some of them bipartisan--have been presented to Congress calling for mandatory caps on emissions, though the administration said they would hurt the economy and not effectively deal with the problem.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said, "President Bush should immediately work with Congress to pass legislation that requires reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases, and he should call together the leaders of the world to obtain their binding commitment to reducing pollution around the globe."

The report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change struck a chord of urgency as it warned of rising sea levels, more powerful storms and rapidly shifting weather patterns, including floods and droughts, resulting from a warming of the planet that it said could last a thousand years.

The scientists from 113 countries said they are now 90 percent confident that global warming is caused by humans, in contrast with a 2001 report in which they said they were 60 percent to 90 percent confident.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, said the focus should shift from the cause of global warming "to what on Earth are we going to do about it. The public should not sit back and say, `There's nothing we can do.'"

"Warming of the planet is unequivocal," the 21-page report concluded, "as is now evident from observations of global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level."

In effect, the panel said governments and people cannot prevent the planet from warming but that steps can be taken to stem the projected increases.

The panel forecast global temperature increases of 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100 but added that its best estimate was for a rise of 3.2 to 7.1 degrees. Warming during the 21st Century would "very likely be larger" than that of the 20th Century, the report said.

Not all scientists agree

Some question such conclusions about global warming.

Patrick Michaels, a scholar at the Cato Institute, a Washington libertarian think tank, said that "it is not news to say that human beings are responsible for much of the warming in the late 20th Century."

But Michaels said the report was not as alarming as portrayed. He cited a prediction by the panel that sea levels would rise by a modest 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century and noted that this was slightly less than the panel reported in 2001.

"What this report does is place this very small but very widely quoted group of alarmists--who are talking about 20 feet of sea-rise--far, far beyond the fringes [of environmental science]," he said.

But the report, as well as Bush administration officials, said the relatively modest increases in the sea level do not take into account the recent increased rate of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

"[The sea-rise prediction in the report] is less," Stephen Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told reporters. "But we believe there are other effects that haven't been taken into account yet."

The report said an additional 3.9 to 7.98 inches of sea-level rise are possible if the recent melting of polar ice sheets continues at its recent rate.

Joseph Romm, an assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, said in an interview that if the rate of recent ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica continues, there would be a dramatic rise in sea levels that would devastate coastlines around the world.

Romm, author of a book on global warming, called the report "very solid and alarming." He said a "hidden bombshell" in the report is a finding that as the Earth grows hotter, the less the soil is able to absorb carbon. That would lead to an acceleration of greenhouse gases, he said, and could be devastating to the ecosystem.

"The key point is that it said humans are the most likely cause," Romm said. "If we are the main cause, we are the main solution. You can't endorse the report and not endorse strong action on climate change."

Bush's mixed record

The Bush administration said it is already taking action. The White House noted that Bush has devoted nearly $29 billion to climate-related science, technology, international assistance and incentives since 2001.

Bush has spent nearly $9 billion on climate science research, "leading the world with unparalleled financial commitment," the White House said in a statement.

In his State of the Union speech last month, the president acknowledged that global warming is a problem and that he is taking steps to do something about it. But it has not been his top priority.

He refused to endorse the 1997 Kyoto agreement to create a mandatory system to cap carbon dioxide emissions, saying it would harm the U.S. economy and wouldn't be effective because fast-developing countries like China and India are not abiding by it.

During his first presidential campaign, he had pledged to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, but he backtracked when he took office.

At the Energy Department on Friday, Secretary Samuel Bodman said the president has set an "aggressive" goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent by 2012, through increasing the supply of renewable fuels like ethanol and reforming the government's fuel economy standards for cars.

Bodman also called for a dramatic increase in nuclear power generation around the world.


Financial Times Editorial- We need a clear and predictable price for carbon

Financial Times Editorial- We need a clear and predictable price for carbon
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: February 2 2007 18:33 | Last updated: February 2 2007 18:33

Man-made climate change is “unequivocal” and demands urgent action. Yesterday’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underlined the former point, while discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week demonstrated the growing consensus on the latter. The challenge now is action.

The IPCC’s warning is stark: temperatures are likely to rise by about 3°C by 2100, with a range of 2°C to 4.5°C. The latter would be close to the difference between the last ice age and today.

Adaptation is going to be part of the response, not least because a substantial rise in temperatures is already on the way: the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is already 50 per cent above pre-industrial levels. But it is also essential to mitigate growth in the stock, ideally to keep it below 550 parts per million, which would still be double the pre-industrial levels.

On present trends, the atmosphere is likely to reach such a concentration in just three decades. To prevent levels rising further, emissions will need to be reduced to at least 50 per cent below what Sir Nicholas Stern called “business as usual” – that is, the continuation of historic trends – by then.

The good news, suggests the UK Stern review of climate change, is that the economic costs of achieving these objectives might be as little as 1 per cent of global gross product. The bad news is that big changes to long-lived investment decisions will be required soon, particularly in the power sector.

For this reason, the world – and business, above all – needs a predictable and effective replacement for the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. If this is to happen, negotiations will need to be completed by 2010, so progress this year, particularly in discussions between the leading high-income countries and five significant developing countries (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa) is essential

Much depends, however, on the US, which is responsible for a quarter of all emissions. Without willing American engagement, the chances of an effective international agreement are minimal. The US does not have to sign a treaty. But it does need to put in place an effective scheme for emissions control that can be linked to a global one.

Then, and only then, are the important developing countries likely to be drawn into an effective framework. But they will not agree to the same limits as the high-income countries – and rightly so. Not only have they not caused the problem, but they have overriding development objectives.

The way forward is a framework that compensates developing countries for the costs they bear, but also encourages the most efficient possible use of energy resources. The buying of rights to emit by high-income countries from developing countries is one way to achieve this result. A common tax regime, with accompanying cross- border transfers, would be another.

The crucial requirements, however, are three: a clear and predictable price for carbon emissions across the world; much increased investment in research and development in renewables, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage; and arrangements for transfer of best technology across the globe.

This is a huge, long-term and global challenge that involves difficult questions of justice both within and across generations. Humanity’s ability to address it is a test of its capacity to manage the consequences of its own actions. So far it has failed. It can afford to do so no longer.

Scientists dispel global warming doubts

Scientists dispel global warming doubts
By Fiona Harvey in Paris
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: February 1 2007 16:31 | Last updated: February 2 2007 20:15

The world’s leading climate scientists on Friday swept away the last doubts surrounding global warming, saying they were certain human activities were altering the climate and warning severe effects were inevitable unless greenhouse gas emissions were curbed.

The evidence for climate change caused by fossil fuel combustion was “unequivocal”, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body comprising 2,500 climate experts convened by the UN.

Their report predicted severe heatwaves, droughts, storms and floods resulting from an expected rise of 3 degrees Celsius in average global temperatures by 2100. It will be difficult for governments to ignore because it was agreed by all UN members, including the US and China.

Six years in the making, the report is the most authoritative ever produced on climate change and will form the basis for negotiations on a possible successor to the Kyoto treaty, the main provisions of which expire in 2012.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said: “You can see [from the report] what the costs of inaction are. Everything is [included in the report] by consensus, so the implication is that it has the stamp of acceptance by all governments in the world.”

Yvo de Boer, secretary-general of the UN climate change secretariat, said work should now begin on a successor treaty to Kyoto that would include obligations on developed countries to cut carbon dioxide emissions and incentives for poor countries to limit theirs.

Stavros Dimas, the European Union’s environment commissioner, called the IPCC’s findings “a grim report” and urged governments to agree to the European Commission’s proposal of reducing emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.

Jacques Chirac, French president, proposed a new worldwide environmental organisation under the UN, to spearhead action on emissions.

But the report met a cool reception from the US government. Sharon Hays, leader of the US delegation in Paris and deputy director of the White House office of science and technology policy, said: “This summary for policymakers captures and summarises the current state of climate science research and will serve as a valuable source of information for policymakers.”

The US is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and has rejected the Kyoto treaty.

Achim Steiner, director-general of the UN Environment Programme, said in the light of the report’s findings, it would be “irresponsible” to resist or seek to delay actions on mandatory emissions

U.S. agencies offer dim outlook on Iraq

U.S. agencies offer dim outlook on Iraq
By Mark Mazzetti and David Stout
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
February 2, 2007

WASHINGTON: A much-anticipated assessment by America's intelligence agencies describes a worsening cycle of chaos in Iraq and predicts that sectarian strife will continue to fracture the country without bold actions by Iraqi politicians.

Even if violence is diminished, the assessment warns, prospects for a political reconciliation are dim "given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene."

The assessment, "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead," begins with a blunt conclusion: "Iraqi society's growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides' ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism.

"Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006."

The term "civil war" accurately describes key elements of the conflict, including "the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities," the report says, but the overall struggle is more complicated. The report points to a lethal stew of Iraqi-on-Iraqi bloodshed across and within ethnic lines, Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent attacks, "and widespread criminally motivated violence."

The assessment contains the consensus judgments of the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community and is sure to fuel the debate within Congress and between lawmakers and the White House over what to do next.

The report also argues against a withdrawal of U.S. forces, concluding that a rapid military pullout "almost certainly would lead" to carnage worse in scale and scope. Several judgments in the report were first reported Friday in The Washington Post.

There are a few grains of optimism. The Iraqi security forces have shown "real improvements," the report asserts, even though they are unlikely to be able to assume greater responsibilities and battle Shiite militias successfully in the next 12 to 18 months.

And the assessment says that some developments "could" help to reverse the downward spiral: broader Sunni acceptance of the political structure; concessions by Shiites and Kurds to "create space" for Sunni acceptance; and "a bottom-up approach" to help mend frayed tribal and religious relationships.

But prospects for better relations between Shiites and Sunnis are clouded by the Shiites' deep feelings of insecurity spawned by decades of subordination by the Sunnis under Saddam Hussein — and the Sunnis' lack of respect for the central government and reluctance to accept their minority status now. Moreover, the Kurds, while "willing" to take part in building a new Iraq, are reluctant to surrender the autonomy they have achieved recently, the report says.

The Kurds are a particular concern to Turkey, which does not want Iraq to disintegrate and is determined to eliminate the safe haven in northern Iraq for a Turkish Kurdish terrorist group, the assessment notes. But while neighbors of Iraq, especially Iran and Syria, "influence and are influenced by" events in Iraq, they probably do not have enough strength to stabilize Iraq because that country's "internal sectarian dynamics" are self-sustaining, the documents states.

The report says Iraq could break apart "with grave humanitarian, political and security consequences" through a deadly mix of sectarian killings, assassinations of political and religious leaders, and the complete Sunni repudiation of the government. Moreover, it says, many professional and entrepreneurial Iraqi people have already fled their country.

Should the worst happen and the country fall apart completely, the assessment sees three possible outcomes, all dire. The first possible outcome of widespread fighting could produce "de facto partition" into "three mutually antagonistic parts" and spawn "fierce violence" among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds for years. A second possibility is that a new strongman could emerge, a Shiite this time, instead of the new democracy envisioned by the Bush administration. Finally, there could be anarchy, with resulting instability and bloodshed.

John O'Neil contributed reporting.

4th U.S. chopper goes down

An American Apache attack helicopter was shot down Friday just north of Baghdad and both crew members were killed, an American military official said, Marc Santora reported Baghdad.

It was the fourth U.S. helicopter to crash in two weeks, a disturbing trend that military commanders acknowledged had them concerned.

General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that attacks by militants have "been more effective against our helicopters in the last couple of weeks."

Saying that he had looked closely at the issue, Pace said he did not know if militants were using a new approach or growing more skilled at attacking helicopters, or whether the losses were a reflection of how much the military had come to rely on helicopters in combat.

militant group claimed credit for shooting down the helicopter hours before the U.S. military confirmed the incident. The militants promised to post a video of the attack on the Internet.

Separately, U.S. forces engaged in a fierce overnight battle with militants in the western city of Ramadi. They came under attack Thursday night as Sunni insurgents directed mortar fire at the main U.S. headquarters in the city, witnesses and military officials said.

Troops sent into two Ramadi neighborhoods were ambushed, witnesses said. The city has been the scene of some of fiercest street fighting of the past four years.

The American military reported no casualties in the incident. But neighborhood residents said that civilians were caught in the middle of the battle. Abdullah Saleh, a doctor at the main Ramadi hospital, said 4 people were killed and 12 were wounded.

In Falluja, in Anbar Province, the Sunni chairman of the City Council, Ali Hussein, an outspoken critic of Al Qaeda, was gunned down. He was the third city council leader to be killed this year.

Global warming called 'unequivocal'

Global warming called 'unequivocal'
By Elisabeth Rosenthal and Andrew C. Revkin
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
February 2, 2007

PARIS: In a bleak and powerful assesment of the future of the planet, the leading international network of climate change scientists concluded for the first time Friday that global warming was "unequivocal" and that human activity was "very likely" to blame. The warming will continue for hundreds of years, they predicted.

The scientists, members of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, said that new science had also allowed them to conclude that the warming caused by human activity was probably influencing other aspects of climate change, including a rise in the number of heat waves, extreme storms and droughts, as well as ocean warming and wind patterns.

A vast improvement in the science of climatology, including "large amounts of new and more comprehensive data," has allowed the group to become far more confident and specific in its predictions since its last assessment, in 2001, the authors said. The conclusions were presented at a press conference in Paris, along with a summary of the group's much anticipated fourth report.

Until Friday, there was still the scientific possibility that the global climate change in the last 50 years could be explained by natural variation rather than man-made influences, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.

The scientists, representing 13 countries and whose work was vetted by representatives from hundreds of nations, left little doubt of where they stood.

"There is no question that this is driven by human activity," said Susan Solomon, one of the panel's leaders. She noted that in calling the link "very likely" scientists had increased certainty on a connection from their previous estimate of 66 percent to 90 percent. "Warming of the climate system in now unequivocal, unequivocal."

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said the report represented a tipping point in the accumulating data on climate change, even though the basic message of the document — that human activity is creating dangerous warming — was widely accepted.

"Feb. 2, 2007, will perhaps be remembered as the day" when global thinking about climate change moved from debate to action, he said. "The focus will shift from whether climate change is due to human activity, to what on earth are we going to do about it."

Indeed, many of the report's authors called on governments to heed the evidence. "Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have high, very scientific confidence in this work — this is real, this is real, this is real," said Richard Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University. "So now act, the ball's back in your court."

[The Bush administration played down the U.S. contribution to climate change on Friday and called for a "global discussion" of the problem, Reuters reported from Washington.

["We are a small contributor when you look at the rest of the world," the energy secretary, Sam Bodman, said of greenhouse gas emissions. "It's really got to be a global discussion."]

Climate change will cause far-flung ramifications for both humans and nature, according to the 21-page summary of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was approved early Friday by officials from more than 100 countries after three days and nights of wrangling over wording.

The ripple effect of warming has devastating implications for humans that will continue for centuries even if carbon emissions could be stabilized at 2000 levels, because the gases persist for years. In fact, the impact that carbon emissions have on climate has increased 20 percent in the last 15 years, Solomon said.

In the report, the authors lay out six possibilities resulting from global warming, depending in part on how man responds. All predict a continuing rise in temperatures and sea level for the next century. Temperatures will rise from 1.8 to 6.4 degrees Celsius (3.2 to 11.5 Fahrenheit) by 2099.

While the report projected a modest rise in sea levels by 2100 — from 18 to 55 centimeters — it concluded that seas would continue to rise and coastlines to retreat for at least a thousand years.

Even the midrange projections for warming would likely seriously disrupt ecosystems, water supplies and agricultural production.

"The new report powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable," said John Holder, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a climate expert at Harvard University.

"Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and the growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way," he said. "In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger."

The report warns that heat waves, droughts and intense storms will continue to become more frequent.

Generally, the scientists said, more precipitation will fall at higher latitudes, which are likely also to see lengthened growing seasons, while semi-arid, subtropical regions already chronically beset by drought could see a further 20 percent drop in rainfall under a midrange scenario.

But Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the panel, said the report was heartening in the sense that it gave politicians very specific information on which to act. "The science has moved several steps beyond what was possible before," he said. "You see the extent to which human activity is influencing greenhouse gases. You are able to see the costs of inaction."

The scientific panel operates under the aegis of the United Nations and was chartered in 1988 — itself a year of record heat and forest fires — to provide regular reviews of climate science. Its scientist-members are unpaid.

Big questions remain about the speed and extent of some impending changes, both because of uncertainty about future population and pollution trends and the complex interrelationships of the emissions, clouds, dusty kinds of pollution, the oceans and Earth's veneer of life. Scientists remain unsure about how much Arctic ice will melt and how fast, which will have a major impact on sea levels.

The report caps a half-century effort to discern whether humans, through the buildup of carbon dioxide and other gases released mainly by burning fuels and forests, could influence the Earth's climate.

Two subsequent reports by the panel will be released this spring, focusing on how the world should respond to the new evidence.

One report will deal with mitigation, efforts by countries to reduce the production of heat trapping gasses. These include international efforts like the Kyoto Protocol, as well as programs that encourage individuals to use solar heating in their homes and to take public transportation rather than driving.

The second will focus on how countries might respond to the climate change that scientists are now sure will occur. Should rivers be widened to accommodate increased rainfall that is likely to occur in much of Europe? Is sea level rise likely to be so great that low- lying cities should be abandoned?

In two weeks, the European Union will convene a meeting in Berlin on how to adapt to changing conditions, like heavier rains and flooding. Politicians "need to include new scientific climate change projections into their plans," said André Jol, climate change specialist at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "But this is all very new and there will be a lot of ideas."

Andrew C. Revkin reported from New York.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Michigan court: No same-sex benefits

Michigan court: No same-sex benefits
Copyright by The Associated Press
Fri Feb 2, 12:33 PM ET

Public universities and state and local governments would violate the state constitution by providing health insurance to the partners of gay employees, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel said a 2004 voter-approved ban on gay marriage also applies to same-sex domestic partner benefits. The decision reverses a 2005 ruling from an Ingham County judge who said universities and governments could provide the benefits.

"The marriage amendment's plain language prohibits public employers from recognizing same-sex unions for any purpose," the court wrote.

A constitutional amendment passed by Michigan voters in November 2004 made the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose." Those six words led to the court fight over benefits for gay couples.

Gay couples and others had argued that the public intended to ban gay marriage but not block benefits for unmarried opposite sex or same-sex domestic partners.

The appeals court agreed with the Michigan attorney general, Republican Mike Cox, who said in a March 2005 opinion that same-sex benefits are not allowed in a state that does not recognize same-sex unions.

The legal challenge was mounted by 21 gay couples who work for the city of Kalamazoo , universities and the state.

"The protection of the institution of marriage is a long-standing public policy and tradition in the law of Michigan ," Judges Kurtis Wilder, Joel Hoekstra and Brian Zahra noted In the unanimous ruling.

Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, a leading gay and lesbian advocacy group in Michigan , said the legal sanctity of marriage was not in question.

"This ruling will result in families being robbed of their health care and other basic necessities that are fundamental to protecting their well being," he said.

The case will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, said Jay Kaplan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

"We're very disappointed by this result," he said. "It's a misguided analysis, and they produced a heartless result. It was never the voters' intention in 2004 to take away health insurance benefits from families and children."

Big spending wins out in our elections

Big spending wins out in our elections
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
February 2, 2007

You want to live in the White House? You can buy it for $5 billion! That's what the experts say the campaign of '08 will cost. It will be split between parties and within the parties and among candidates, perhaps $200 million, $250 million for the winning candidate.

That is a lot of money. It would pay for a month of the war in Iraq. It would double the amount of money authorized but not yet paid for the renewing of New Orleans. It might pay for an aircraft carrier or two or three, which is just what the country needs these days. It might provide shelter for the homeless or for sick kids who don't have insurance. It could back up the pensions that are being taken away from workers.

Where does it go? Mostly to the media and advertising industries and to the spinners and flacks who think up dirty tricks. It pays for "research" on one's oponents with which to smear them. It also finances the yearlong drama of the election entertainment to the masses for whom the campaign is rather like a horse race, for the polls (some good, some bad) that purport to tell who's winning, and for the focus groups that tell candidates what words to use or not to use and measures the impact of their gaffes. It pays for the consultants -- soothsayers, wizards, readers of entrails, astrologers, spell casters -- whose job is to hold the candidate's hand and tell him he's making the right decisions.

My advice to candidates is to sprinkle pollsters, spinners, consultants, focus group leaders and researchers with holy water and mutter appropriate prayers of exorcism.

It has been a long time since Abraham Lincoln went home to Springfield after he was nominated at the "Wigwam" in Chicago and sat on the front porch throughout the election campaign. In those days it was believed appropriate for the candidate not to campaign at all. No one suggested that endurance of the water torture of a campaign was a measure of how a man might stand up to the pressure of the White House.

You find out what a person's character is by how he acts during a circus devised by homicidal maniacs?

The commentators who offer wisdom for the masses frequently predict outcomes on the basis of how much money a given candidate may have amassed before a campaign is announced, as in asserting that Sen. Hillary Clinton has the Democratic nomination virtually in hand because of the size of her war chest. Now, I personally like the senator and think she'd make a good president (all hate mail on the subject will be deleted), but such comments demonstrate the folly of American politics. The voters don't decide any more, but the fat cats in both parties make the decisions by their contributions and pass the word on to us plebes. Ordinary folks, it is said, who own a computer can make small online contributions that collectively can outweigh the gold of the petro or pharma barons. And the moon is made of blue cheese.

There doesn't seem to be much that can be done about this immoral extravaganza of soiled gold. The Supreme Court continues to believe most restrictions on campaign contributions violate freedom of speech. The candidates could agree to voluntarily limit contributions and eschew all negative campaigning (such as suggesting that Sen. Barack Obama went to a terrorist school). They could resolutely commit themselves to restrain their pollution of the atmosphere by capping the amount of aviation fuel they expend in madcap dashes around the country.

All of these steps would require self-restraint -- and trust that their rival would honor the agreement. It would also mean that they would repudiate the support of unofficial groups who intervene in the campaign, allegedly on their own initiative. Most of these suggestions are pipe dreams. However, one step in the right direction would be for all serious candidates to gather around the table in the old Indian Treaty room and sign a solemn compact to repudiate negative campaigning -- and create a board to monitor adherence to the compact. Then they could smoke the requisite peace pipe and remember what happened to the signers of treaties in that room.

Preview of a Post-U.S. World By Fareed Zakaria

Preview of a Post-U.S. World
The ball is in everybody's court, which means it's in nobody's court. This free ride can't last. The global system is not self-managing
By Fareed Zakaria
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.

Feb. 5, 2007 issue - Two things were missing from this year's world Economic Forum at Davos: snow (which arrived eventually) and America-bashing (which did not). There were, of course, lots of American businessmen, activists and intellectuals filling the panels and halls of the conference. There were even a few senior American officials—though no star speaker. But, for the first time in my memory, America was somewhat peripheral. There were few demands, pleas, complaints or tantrums directed at the United States. In this small but significant global cocoon, people—for the moment at least—seemed to be moving beyond America.

"There has always been a talk by a senior American official as one of the centerpieces of the Forum," said a European who has advised the Forum for many years—and who asked to remain anonymous because of his relations with U.S. officials. "And in the past, people eagerly anticipated who that would be—Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice. This year, almost no one inquired. We expected disappointment. But there was none. No one even noticed."

Part of the reason is that people are moving beyond George W. Bush. Europeans and Middle Easterners in particular used to rail against Bush. Now they think that their views about him and his policies—whether on Iraq, global warming or unilateralism—have all been vindicated, so why keep ranting? Besides, he's a lame-duck president, his weakness on full display in last week's plaintive State of the Union address.

But there may be a larger phenomenon at work here. This year's conference theme was titled "Shaping the Global Agenda: The Shifting Power Equation." The emphasis, and some of the talk at the conference, focused on that shift in power, with speakers foretelling the rise of Asia (and implicitly, the decline of America and Europe).

We are certainly in a trough for America—with Bush in his last years, with the United States mired in Iraq, with hostility toward Washington still high almost everywhere. But if so, we might also be getting a glimpse of what a world without America would look like. It will be free of American domination, but perhaps also free of leadership—a world in which problems fester and the buck is endlessly passed, until problems explode.

Listen to the new powers. China, which in three years will likely become the world's biggest emitter of CO2, is determined not to be a leader in dealing with global environmental issues. "The ball is not in China's court," said Zhu Min, the executive vice president of the Bank of China and a former senior official in the government. "The ball is in everybody's court." India's brilliant planning czar, Montek Singh Alluwalliah, said that "every country should have the same per capita rights to pollution." In the abstract that's logical enough, but in the real world, if 2.3 billion people (the population of China plus India) pollute at average Western levels, you will have a global meltdown.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a new round of trade talks and asked that everyone be "flexible." In fact, the United States has exhibited considerable flexibility, relaxing its position on many contentious issues, including agricultural subsidies. On the other hand, France, that eloquent critic of U.S. unilateralism, has refused to budge on its lavish subsidies for farmers. As a result, the European Union is fractured and paralyzed. For their part Brazil, China and India speak of flexibility in the abstract but have made no new proposals. The ball for every problem is in everybody's court, which means that it is in nobody's court.

The problem is that this free ride probably can't last forever. The global system—economic, political, social—is not self-managing. Global economic growth has been a fantastic boon, but it produces stresses and strains that have to be handled. Without some coordination, or first mover—or, dare one say it, leader—such management is more difficult.

The world today bears some resemblance to the 1920s, when a newly globalized economy was booming, and science and technological change were utterly transforming life. (Think of the high-tech of the time—electricity, radio, movies and cars, among other recent inventions.) But with Britain declining and America isolationist, that was truly a world without political direction. Eventually protectionism, nationalism, xenophobia and war engulfed it.

In a provocative essay in Foreign Policy three years ago, the British historian Niall Ferguson speculated that the end of American hegemony might not fuel an orderly shift to a multipolar system but a descent into a world of highly fragmented powers, with no one exercising any global leadership. He called this "apolarity." "Apolarity could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age," Ferguson wrote, "an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism, of economic plunder and pillage in the world's forgotten regions, of economic stagnation, and civilization's retreat into a few fortified enclaves." That might be a little farfetched. But for those who have been fondly waiting for the waning of American dominance—be careful what you wish for.

Justice for All gala

Justice for All gala
Copyright by The Windy City Times

Equality Illinois hosted its annual gala, “Justice for All,” Saturday at the Chicago Hilton. Special awards went to Rev. Willie Barrow ( left ) , Jenner & Block, Prairie Flame and Fair Illinois. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ( right ) was among the dozens of politicians at the event.

Dozens of politicians of all persuasions attended the Equality Illinois gala, “Justice for All,” Saturday at the Chicago Hilton. Special awards went to Rev. Willie Barrow, Jenner & Block, Prairie Flame and Fair Illinois. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, statewide, Cook County and other city officials were among those at the event. Photos by Mel Ferrand and Suzanne Kraus

Doctors battle to keep superbugs at bay

Doctors battle to keep superbugs at bay
By Andrew Jack and Clive Cookson
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: February 1 2007 21:37 | Last updated: February 1 2007 21:37

Fiona Wise, the chief executive of Ealing Hospital in west London, sighs as she describes a letter that she received from a local resident last week: “He wrote to me saying he was coming in for an operation and wanted me to guarantee that he wouldn’t get MRSA.”

It was the latest expression of public anguish about the MRSA “superbug” – and other so-called hospital-acquired infections generating concern in healthcare systems around the world – that she and her colleagues constantly encounter.

“MRSA is the main cause of anxiety for every patient who goes into hospital,” says Kathryn Murphy from the Patients’ Association, a group that campaigns for improved efforts to bring infection under control. “We’ve had people ringing us up who’ve cancelled surgery because they are too frightened to go in.”

In many ways, the situation is unsettling. The number of deaths linked to superbugs has risen sharply over the past decade, resistance to existing drugs designed to treat them has been increasing and there are few new medicines in the pipeline.

While MRSA has received most attention in the industrialised world, other bacteria such as Clostridium difficile pose related and important public health threats. In southern Africa and parts of eastern Europe, fresh concern has been sparked in recent months by extensive resistance to the already complicated and lengthy drug treatments available for tuberculosis.

Yet the periodic horror stories need to be interpreted carefully and seen against a backdrop of renewed political commitment, intensified public health measures and some signs of fresh research interest in new drugs and diagnostics.

Soon after penicillin, the first antibiotic, was manufactured on a large scale for Allied troops during the second world war, resistant forms of the common Staphylococcus aureus infection began to emerge. Within a decade of the launch of a replacement drug, methicillin, in 1961, resistant strains dubbed MRSA – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – were identified in the UK. MRSA can cause a wide variety of symptoms depending on where it starts, ranging from skin abscesses to fatal blood poisoning.

Antibiotics transformed modern medicine but they did create a culture of greater complacency around infection. Doctors used them widely and in many countries they could be bought easily without prescription, while long-standing family advice on hand-washing faded.

Professor Peter Borriello, head of the centre for infections at the Health Protection Agency (HPA), points out that many people affected by MRSA have weakened immune systems and would not have been treatable without the medical advances of recent decades. “A few years ago you would have been attending a wake for them instead of admitting them to hospital,” he says.

The latest data issued by his agency this week showed that in England during the six months to September 2006 alone, there were 3,391 cases of MRSA infections of the bloodstream, where it is most dangerous. While probably an underestimate of the problem’s extent, the latest Office of National Statistics figures show just 360 cases where MRSA was cited as the underlying cause of death during 2004 and a further 1,168 where it was a contributory factor.

Prof Borriello stresses that such figures have to be seen against a backdrop of a substantial and continued growth in overall hospital admissions year-by-year. “The vast majority of patients do not get an infection in hospital and not all infections are preventable,” he says.

Nevertheless, the UK data reveal higher rates of infection than in many other European countries. While there are debates about the comparability of the figures and whether there may simply be a time-lag before resistance identified in the UK is found elsewhere, this suggests practical approaches adopted in other countries could have an effect in reducing infection still further.

At Ealing Hospital, Dr William Lynn, medical director, highlights posters and prominent signs on the floors urging staff and visitors to rub their hands with antiseptic gel dispensed as they enter and leave wards and at patients’ bedsides. Doctors no longer wear dangling ties and he is considering issuing uniforms that are regularly changed to even the most senior staff.

Procedures for intravenous “lines” into patients have been changed, with nurses taking over responsibility from doctors and removing them at the first sign of inflammation or if they have not been used in the previous 24 hours. Refurbished wards have more isolation units, toilets and bathrooms with fewer surfaces, and floors with lino that tapers up the walls, minimising space that is difficult to clean.

With an estimated quarter of MRSA infections brought in from outside the hospital, Dr Lynn believes the most significant improvement has come from the screening, on arrival, of nearly half of patients admitted – those judged to be most at risk. Those found to be infected are given twice-daily antiseptics for the body and nose over seven days.

The strategy seems to be paying off at Ealing and elsewhere in the UK, where the latest HPA figures show a 5 per cent decline in MRSA cases to the lowest levels since mandatory national data collection began in 2001.

But Dr Lynn also expresses longer-term concern about the need for more effective and cheap diagnostics to identify infection more rapidly than the current three days, as well as new classes of drugs to tackle particularly resistant strains. “The worry is what will happen in five or 10 years’ time,” he says.

Furthermore, while efforts to combat MRSA are improving, the HPA’s data show a 5.5 per cent rise during the first nine months of last year in Clostridium difficile, a gut infection needing a different approach to hygiene control, for which antibiotics can accentuate the risk by eliminating useful microbes.

The challenge in fighting bacteria with new drugs is that all the most promising avenues of development have been pursued, leaving today’s researchers with a much harder task. Pharmaceutical analysts love to invoke the image of “plucking the low-hanging fruit” to explain why the industry is producing fewer and fewer new drugs as it spends more and more on research.

The image is particularly apposite in antibiotic development, partly because of the field’s long history and partly because bacteria present fewer potential targets than the human biological pathways at which most other drug classes are aimed.

Many scientists hoped that the decoding of bacterial genomes during the 1990s would lead to a productive new era of antibiotic discovery. This was a false promise, as researchers at GlaxoSmithKline, the UK-based pharmaceuticals giant, admit in a bleak assessment recently published in the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. They say people do not appreciate “just how difficult it is technically and how much time it takes to make a novel antibiotic”.

GSK scientists spent seven years, using the latest high-throughput screening technology, to search vast numbers of chemicals for activity against the products of 300 bacterial genes. They found only five “leads” worthy of further development, a success rate four or five times lower than similar exercises in other areas – “a disappointing and financially unsustainable outcome”, the researchers say.

Yet the medical need for new weapons against bacterial infections is so great that GSK will stick with antibiotic research – and is reverting to more traditional techniques to discover new ones – says David Pompliano, head of biology. “If you take a cold-hearted view of the financial returns, you can’t see why big pharma would be in there,” he adds, “but I think this company has its heart in the right place”.

Many other large pharmaceutical groups have given up in the face of the technical obstacles and poor market incentives. “These factors have led to the overriding view that big companies can spend their research dollars in more productive ways,” says Holger Rovini, head of infectious diseases at Datamonitor, the London-based market research company. “Ten out of the 15 largest companies have fully abandoned or cut down significantly their discovery efforts in this field since 1999.”

Datamonitor says the global antibacterial market grew at a compound annual rate of 5.1 per cent between 2001 and 2005 – slower than almost every other pharmaceutical sector – to reach $25.5bn (£13bn, €19.5bn). Projections for the next decade show the growth rate slowing to just 1 per cent a year.

Although sales of hospital antibiotics are rising more rapidly, the overall market has been held back by declining sales of the “community antibiotics” (mainly cheap generics) prescribed by family doctors as public health campaigns in the UK, France and elsewhere have had an effect.

Sir Anthony Coates, professor of microbiology at St George’s Hospital, London, points out that official restrictions on the use of antibiotics, intended to control the emergence of resistance, act as a disincentive to pharmaceutical innovation by cutting the sales of new products.

But the medical profession agrees that such restrictions are necessary, says Clive Page, professor of pharmacology, King’s College London: “It is estimated that if you introduce a new antibiotic today with a completely novel mechanism of action, resistance to it will have emerged somewhere in the world within 18 months,” he says.

Nevertheless, the antibiotic development scene is not all gloom. Last week AstraZeneca announced a $100m investment in a new research centre in Boston, which will focus on finding new treatments for infections. John Rex, the company’s head of infectious diseases, says: “We need to discover completely new classes of bacteria. We are looking for something structurally novel, for which there is no pre-existing resistance.”

Treatments for the MRSA superbug are by far the fastest growing sector of the antibiotic market. Datamonitor forecasts that their sales will rise from about $1.3bn in 2005 to $6bn in 2012. They also dominate the antibiotic development pipeline, with many smaller biotechnology companies coming up with new approaches.

Last month, for example, e-Therapeutics, a spin-out from Newcastle University, said it was planning clinical trials for three closely related drugs that kill the MRSA superbug. “We are going for a cluster-bomb effect, targeting a variety of bacterial proteins, which will make it harder for the bacteria to develop resistance,” says Malcolm Young, chief executive.

“You are going to see a lot more re-engineering of existing antibiotics – trying to get more life out of them – which is not a stupid thing to do,” says Prof Young. “But I’m more interested in wacky left-field ideas, making things that bacteria will not have seen before.”

Several other small UK biotech companies are pursuing innovative approaches to MRSA. Destiny Pharma, based in Sussex, is developing a light-activated antibiotic. Prolysis of Oxford is targeting a bacterial protein called FtsZ that is essential for cell division. Helperby Therapeutics of Yorkshire is going after bacteria in their dormant phase, which resist attack by conventional antibiotics.

The challenge is creating mechanisms that compensate for the “market failures” of small volume and low price at the core of the antibiotic field, as well as marshalling the broadest range of intellectual effort to tackle the considerable scientific challenge.

Recognising the funding gap between academics and commercial backers, the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest medical charities, last month launched a new seed fund which included support to one group researching MRSA. The non-profit TB Alliance has raised funds to launch collaborative projects sharing ideas and intellectual property between pharmaceutical companies and university researchers.

That there are some signs of progress is just as well. In the fight against continuously mutating superbugs, standing still is not an option.

US manufacturing ‘on brink of recession’

US manufacturing ‘on brink of recession’
By Eoin Callan in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: February 1 2007 16:43 | Last updated: February 1 2007 16:43

The US manufacturing sector contracted unexpectedly this month as factory activity fell to its slowest pace in nearly three years, according to a fresh survey.

The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index fell into negative territory in January as it slipped below the 50 mark to 49.3.

The poor performance underlined economists’ fears that the sector could be sliding into recession.

Industry leaders have been predicting a recovery this year after a weak performance in recent months. But a fall in new orders in January suggests further weakness ahead, economists said.

Richard Iley, an economist at BNP Paribas, said: “The ISM manufacturing index was weaker than expected and dovetails with our assessment that the manufacturing sector is really very weak and on the brink of recession.”

Investors largely shrugged off the poor factory performance as US stock markets touched new highs, sustaining a rally that began this week after the Federal Reserve expressed increasing confidence in the economy.

Investors were encouraged by separate data released on Thursday that showed personal incomes rose 0.5 per cent last month.

The gain adds to recent increases in Americans’ disposable income, which has lifted consumer spending and was the main driver of economic growth of 3.5 per cent in the fourth quarter.

The government figures also showed inflation pressures remained “moderate”, according to Haseeb Ahmed, an economist at JPMorgan.

The core price index rose 0.1 per cent, following an unchanged reading in November and a 0.2 per cent rise in October.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Indefinitely grounded

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Indefinitely grounded
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: February 1, 2007

Travelers and airlines have a deal. In exchange for transporting them safely, passengers agree to give up a great deal of freedom of movement. Once aboard a plane, there's no getting off until the crew says so. People have to sit when they're told, buckle up and raise their seatbacks on command. In return, passengers expect the airlines to take care of them.

But several recent high-profile failures suggest that Congress needs to intervene and set some ground rules to enforce this deal for people unreasonably stranded on aircraft. Delays at the gate are a hassle, but extraordinary delays on planes can be dangerous for the handicapped, chronically ill, elderly or small children.

Take the passengers of American Airlines Flight 1348, whose flight from San Francisco to Dallas was diverted by bad weather to Austin, Texas. Obviously, weather is out of human control, and airlines rightly err on the side of safety rather than haste when it comes to bad weather or mechanical difficulties. Flying invariably entails a risk of delay.

But there is delay, and then there is detention. The passengers on Flight 1348 were trapped on the plane after it landed for another eight hours. They say there was nothing to eat but pretzels, and the toilets began to stink. Passengers say they overflowed. The airline says they didn't. The difference is not worth debating.

Passengers from that flight have revived the idea of a Passengers' Bill of Rights, posting their ideas at Among the common-sense notions are procedures to get passengers back to a gate when a plane has been sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours. When delays are that long, passengers' essential needs — food, water, medical attention and sanitation— must be met. These proposals are a good starting point for eventual legislation.

Following a similar incident in 1999, the airlines managed to avoid this sort of law through a voluntary customer service commitment.

Congress should hold hearings to revisit their promises — and replace them with some requirements.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Bullying Iran

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Bullying Iran
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: February 1, 2007

Given America's bitter experience in Iraq, one would think that President George W. Bush could finally figure out that threats and brute force aren't a substitute for a reasoned strategy. But Bush is at it again, this time trying to bully Iran into stopping its meddling inside Iraq.

We have no doubt about Iran's malign intent, just as we have no doubt that Bush's serial failures in Iraq have made it far easier for Tehran to sow chaos there and spread its influence in the wider region. But more threats and posturing are unlikely to get Iran to back down. If Bush isn't careful, he could end up talking himself into another disastrous war, and if Congress is not clear in opposing him this time, he could drag the country along.

The drumbeat began during Bush's recent speech on Iraq, when he vowed to "seek out and destroy" Iranian and Syrian networks he said were arming and training anti- American forces. Bush also announced that he was sending a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf.

Hours earlier, U.S. troops raided an Iranian diplomatic office in Iraq. If anyone missed the point, aides let it be known that the president had authorized the military to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq.

Iran certainly is helping arm and train Shiite militias. But the administration is certainly exaggerating the salutary effect of any cutoff as long as these militias enjoy the protection of Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al- Maliki. If Bush is genuinely worried — and he should be — he needs to be as forceful in demanding that Maliki cut ties to these groups and clear about the consequences if he refuses.

In what passes for grand strategy, the president's aides say he is betting that bloodying Iranian forces in Iraq, and raising the threat of a wider confrontation, will weaken Tehran's regional standing and force its leaders to rethink their nuclear ambitions. Never mind that Bush's last big idea — that imposing democracy on Iraq would weaken Iran's authoritarians — has had the opposite effect.

Bush seems to be grossly misreading Iran's domestic politics and ignoring his own recent experience. In a rare moment of subtlety, the Treasury Department has quietly persuaded some banks and investors to rethink their dealings with Tehran. That has made some in Iran's permanent religious elite — already worried about future oil production — express doubts about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's defiance of the Security Council.

As ever, the one tactic the administration is refusing to consider is diplomacy. Bush has resisted calls to convene a meeting of Iraq's neighbors to discuss ways to contain the crisis. There is no guarantee that Ahmadinejad can be persuaded that Iraq's further implosion is not in Iran's interest. But others in Tehran may have clearer heads. And any hope of driving a wedge between Iran and Syria will have to start by giving Damascus hope that there is a way in from the cold.

Bush's bullying may play well to his ever shrinking base. But his disastrous war in Iraq has done so much damage to U.S. credibility — and so strained its resources— that it no longer frightens America's enemies. The only ones really frightened are Americans and America's friends.

Panel: Global warming makes stronger hurricanes

Panel: Global warming makes stronger hurricanes
Copyright by The Associated Press
February 1, 2007

PARIS: Global warming has made stronger hurricanes, including those in the Atlantic Ocean such as 2005's Katrina, an authoritative panel on climate change has concluded for the first time, participants in the deliberations said Thursday.

During marathon meetings in Paris, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change approved language that said an increase in hurricane and tropical cyclone strength since 1970 "more likely than not" can be attributed to man-made global warming, according to Leonard Fields, of Barbados, and Cedric Nelom, of Suriname.

In its last report in 2001, the same panel had said there was not enough evidence to make such a conclusion.

"It is very important" that the language is so strong this time, said Fields, whose eastern Caribbean island is on the path of many hurricanes. "Insurance companies watch the language too."

The panel did note that the increase in stronger storms differs in various parts of the globe, but that the storms that strike the Americas are global warming-influenced, according to another participant.

Fields said that the report notes that most of the changes have been seen in the North Atlantic.

The report — scheduled to be released Friday morning — is also a marked departure from a November 2006 statement by the World Meteorological Organization, which helped found the IPCC.

The meteorological organization, after contentious debate, said it could not link past stronger storms to global warming. The debate about whether stronger hurricanes can be linked to global warming has been dividing a scientific community that is otherwise largely united in agreeing that global warming is human-made and a problem.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kerry Emanuel, who pioneered much of the research linking global warming to an uptick in hurricane strength, looked at the original language in an IPCC draft and called it "a pretty strong statement."

"I think we've seen a pretty clear signal in the Atlantic," Emanuel said. The increase in Atlantic hurricane strength "is so beautifully correlated with sea surface there can't be much doubt that there's a relationship with sea surface temperature."

But U.S. National Hurricane Center scientist Christopher Landsea has long disagreed with that premise. While he would not comment on the IPCC decision, Landsea pointed to the meteorological organization's statement last fall.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Funding cut that is severely impacting Questioning Youth Center (QYC)--a long time CESO Member

Hi all:
I just got this from Questiong Youth Center (QYC). Please read it and take action by writing or calling your elected officials in Springfield. Then pass this on to other activists to get the word out.

If you're not familar with QYC, here's some basic information. QYC has expanded to five centers operating in four counties in Northwest Illinois, a youth leadership project and a young women-only program, serving more than 1000 youth aged 14 to 21 in just their first five years


Important Changes at Suburban Programs for LGBTQ Youth
Nancy Mullen, MSW, Executive Director

The Questioning Youth Center (QYC) is known to many P-FLAG members as the “safe place where LGBTQ youth come to socialize. QYC has operated in DuPage, Kane, McHenry and DeKalb Counties, beginning in 1998, and has served upwards of 1500 youth since then.

From the start, QYC noted the importance of HIV prevention education for youth. Since 1998, QYC has received a grant through IDPH to make HIV prevention education a reality.

That just came to a screeching halt. QYC Executive Director Nancy Mullen received a letter dated December 29, 2006 stating that effective January 1, QYC would no longer receive ANY funding from the IDPH. No explanation was offered. Questions and requests for information have gone unanswered.

Anyone in not-for-profit can agree: losing a third of your annual budget with no warning, lead time, or justification is very unsettling.

This loss had immediate impact. Woodstock program - gone. Glen Ellyn program - gone. When a call came in asking for resources in McHenry County , the answer was, sadly, QYC cannot help.

Questions must be asked! Who will keep prevention education alive among our youth? They don't access services elsewhere. Schools teach abstinence-only, leaving gaps in their understanding of how to stay healthy.

This education was prioritized by the Centers for Disease Control. QYC provided it successfully 8 1/2 years. What happened to the CDC's priorities? Why is it so difficult to get information about why QYC was abruptly defunded after years of compliments and congratulations?

Last year, QYC developed a new peer education program with potential to change HIV prevention for queer youth. That's gone. If not QYC and if not their peers, exactly who is going to talk to our kids about HIV prevention?

Hogwarts and all: Actor strips down

Hogwarts and all: Actor strips down
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published February 1, 2007

"Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe, who strips for his new role in London's West End revival of "Equus," is igniting a bit of a media firestorm with those racy promotional photos for the production.

The award-winning drama tells the story of a stable hand who has an erotic fixation with horses. In one photo, Radcliffe, 17, gets naked with a white horse; in another, the suddenly grown-up star is pictured with a nude actress from the play.

"Equus" opens at the Gielgud Theater on Feb. 27.

"It's a really challenging play, and if I can pull it off--we don't know if I can yet--I hope people will stop and think, `Maybe he can do something other than Harry,"' Radcliffe tells Newsweek.

Obama decision set for Feb. 10

Obama decision set for Feb. 10
By Christi Parsons
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published February 1, 2007

WASHINGTON -- When he makes the expected announcement this month that he will run for president, Sen. Barack Obama will do so at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., a venue rich in historic and political significance where Abraham Lincoln served as a lawmaker, lawyer and orator.

The Obama campaign on Wednesday confirmed the location of the event on Feb. 10, when the Illinois Democrat is expected to announce his run for the White House in 2008 in a morning rally with supporters.

Lincoln frequented the building as a member of the state legislature, which met there for part of his career. He also used the governor's reception room in the building as a political headquarters before and after the 1860 presidential election. His last funeral services was held in the Representatives Hall there in May 1865.

The building is also the site of the famous 1858 Lincoln speech in which he condemned slavery and urged preservation of the Union, drawing on biblical references to warn, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Reference to the 16th president is implicit in Obama's choice of the location, said Tom Schwartz, the Illinois state historian.

"Lincoln was able to use that space to accept the Republican nomination to run for the Senate, and eventually that led to a series of debates which have become the gold standard for political discourse in this country," he said. "There's symbolism everywhere."

Obama hasn't said explicitly that he is running for president. But he is putting together a campaign team and on Wednesday announced that billionaire Penny Pritzker will be national finance chairwoman of his exploratory committee.

On Wednesday, aides said the Feb. 10 event would be free and open to the public.


Biden tosses hat in ring, puts foot in mouth - Senator backpedals on Obama remark

Biden tosses hat in ring, puts foot in mouth - Senator backpedals on Obama remark
By Jill Zuckman
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published February 1, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a foreign policy expert and Iraq war critic with a propensity for long-winded oratory, entered the Democratic race for president Wednesday with a clumsy comment about Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois that was taken by some to be racially insensitive.

Though he touted his foreign affairs experience during a news conference, Biden was forced to explain why he had described Obama, a potential rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Biden challenges context

Biden made the comments to the New York Observer and said his use of the word "clean" to describe Obama was "taken totally out of context."

Obama initially told reporters they would have to ask Biden what he was thinking when he made the comment: "I don't spend too much time worrying about what folks are talking about during a campaign season."

But by day's end, the senator from Illinois took a sharper tone, issuing a public rebuke to his more senior colleague.

"I didn't take Sen. Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate," Obama said. "African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."

Biden called Obama to explain his comments and Obama told him he did not take the comments personally, according to aides to the Illinois senator.

"This guy is a superstar," Biden said, praising Obama's attributes in what was supposed to be his own presidential debut. "He is probably the most exciting candidate this party has had in a long time."

Even so, Biden released a separate statement Wednesday as he tried to tamp down the controversy.

"I deeply regret any offense my remark in the New York Observer might have caused anyone. That was not my intent and I expressed that to Senator Obama," he said.

Biden told reporters that he has long enjoyed the support of the black community in Delaware and did not intend to cause offense. He also said he did not believe that Sharpton, Jackson or other black leaders would misunderstand his remarks.

"My mom has an expression, `clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack.' He is crisp and clear. I think a lot of him," said Biden, describing Obama as "lightning in a bottle" and adding that Obama had captured the imagination of the country like no other politician.

In an interview, Jackson called Biden "a decent man" who had made a verbal gaffe while trying to slight the competition.

"He was saying in effect that Barack is more style than substance, that he is just coming onto the scene," Jackson said. "In doing so, he seemed to be dismissive of our 1988 campaign and diminishing Barack's potential campaign."

Jackson, who spoke with Obama and Biden by telephone Wednesday, said he would not characterize Biden's comments as racially motivated.

"That is my interpretation and Barack's interpretation," he said, adding that he hoped Biden's campaign would not be harmed by his choice of words.

As he kicked off his candidacy, Biden, 64, said he believes he would be a better president than Obama or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), two of the top contenders.

"I make no apologies for saying I believe I am the best prepared of all the candidates," said Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who has served in the Senate for 34 years.

`No margin for error' in Iraq

"The next president, left with the debacle this president will leave us, will have no margin for error and will need a fully thought out, comprehensive notion of what he or she will do with the problems in the world," Biden said.

In some ways, Biden's entry into the race signals the preeminent role that the war in Iraq will play in the 2008 election. The issue dominated midterm elections as Democrats swept to power in Congress. Now, each of the presidential candidates has detailed positions on how to approach the conflict and the region.

Biden criticized both Clinton's and Obama's positions on Iraq, singling out Clinton's ideas as "incorrect for how to proceed." Clinton would cap American troop levels and has threatened to cut off funding for Iraqi troops.

"From the part of Hillary's proposal, the part that really baffles me is, `We're going to teach the Iraqis a lesson,'" Biden said. "We're not going to equip them? OK. Cap our troops and withdraw support from the Iraqis? That's a real good idea," he added sarcastically.

The Clinton campaign had no comment on Biden's criticism.

Like Clinton, Biden voted in 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force if necessary in Iraq. Since that time, Biden has become an ardent critic of the administration and the war, complaining about poor preparation and field intelligence, as well as insufficient troop levels. His proposal would divide Iraq along ethnic lines to end civil strife.

This is not Biden's first time running for president. In 1988, he was forced to withdraw from the race six months before the first primary after it became public that he had plagiarized some passages in his speeches from a British politician.

Biden has a compelling personal story. In 1972, while a 29-year-old county councilman, he challenged a Republican senator with an anti-Vietnam War platform, winning by a little more than 3,000 votes. Five weeks later, his wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident, and his two sons were badly injured. Biden was sworn into office at the side of one son's bed. Since then, he has made it a point to commute home by train every day.


HEALTH BEAT: CONTROLLING CHOLESTEROL - Niacin's role as an effective HDL booster gets a major lift

HEALTH BEAT: CONTROLLING CHOLESTEROL - Niacin's role as an effective HDL booster gets a major lift
By Michael Mason
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times
Published January 30, 2007

Perhaps you heard it? The wail last month from the labs of heart researchers and the offices of Wall Street analysts?

Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical giant, halted late-stage trials of a cholesterol drug called torcetrapib after investigators discovered that it increased heart problems -- and death rates -- in the test population.

Torcetrapib wasn't just another scientific misfire; the drug was to have been a blockbuster heralding the transformation of cardiovascular care. Statin drugs such as simvastatin (sold as Zocor) and atorvastatin (Lipitor) lower blood levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, thereby slowing the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

But torcetrapib worked mainly by increasing HDL, or good cholesterol. Among other functions, HDL carries dangerous forms of cholesterol from artery walls to the liver for excretion. The process, called reverse cholesterol transport, is thought to be crucial to preventing clogged arteries.

Many scientists still believe that a statin combined with a drug that raises HDL would mark a significant advance in the treatment of heart disease. But for patients now at high risk of heart attack or stroke, the news is better than it sounds. An effective HDL booster already exists.

It is niacin, the ordinary B vitamin.

In its therapeutic form, nicotinic acid, niacin can increase HDL as much as 35 percent when taken in high doses, usually about 2,000 milligrams per day.

It also lowers LDL, though not as sharply as statins do, and it has been shown to reduce serum levels of artery-clogging triglycerides as much as 50 percent. Its principal side effect is an irritating flush caused by the vitamin's dilation of blood vessels.

Despite its effectiveness, niacin has been the ugly duckling of heart medications, an old remedy that few scientists cared to examine. But that seems likely to change.

"There's a great unfilled need for something that raises HDL," said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and president of the American College of Cardiology. "Right now, in the wake of the failure of torcetrapib, niacin is really it. Nothing else available is that effective."

In 1975, long before statins, a landmark study of 8,341 men who had suffered heart attacks found that niacin was the only treatment among five tested that prevented second heart attacks. Compared with men on placebos, those on niacin had a 26 percent reduction in heart attacks and a 27 percent reduction in strokes. Fifteen years later, the mortality rate among the men on niacin was 11 percent lower than among those who had received placebos.

"Here you have a drug that was about as effective as the early statins, and it just never caught on," said Dr. B. Greg Brown, professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. "It's a mystery to me. But if you're a drug company, I guess you can't make money on a vitamin."

By and large, research was focused on lowering LDL, and the statins proved to be remarkably effective. The drugs can slow the progress of cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk of heart attack or other adverse outcomes by 25 percent to 35 percent.

But recent studies suggest that the addition of an HDL booster such as niacin may afford greater protection.

After analyzing data from more than 83,000 heart patients who participated in 23 clinical trials, researchers at the University of Washington calculated this month that a regimen that increased HDL by 30 percent and lowered LDL by 40 percent in the average patient would reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by 70 percent. That is far more than can be achieved by reducing LDL alone.

Other small studies have produced similarly encouraging results, but some experts caution that the data on increased HDL and heart disease are preliminary.

Researchers at 72 sites in the United States and Canada are recruiting 3,300 heart patients for a study, led by Brown and financed by the National Institutes of Health, comparing those who take niacin and a statin with those who take only a statin. This large head-on comparison should answer many questions about the benefits of combination therapy.

Many cardiologists see no reason to wait for the results.

But niacin can be a bitter pill; the vitamin can cause liver damage and can impair the body's use of glucose. High doses should be taken only under a doctor's supervision.

Molly Ivins, Columnist, Dies at 62 Obituaries by the New York Times and The Financial Times

Molly Ivins, Columnist, Dies at 62
Copyright by THe New York Times and By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: January 31, 2007
Filed at 11:09 p.m. ET

''We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war,'' Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. ''We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'''

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as ''Shrub,'' died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Ivins died at her home while in hospice care, said David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, where Ivins had once been co-editor.

Ivins made a living poking fun at politicians, whether they were in her home state of Texas or the White House. She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist humor. Ivins' illness did not appear to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

''I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person,'' she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.

To Ivins, ''liberal'' wasn't an insult term. ''Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal -- fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed,'' she wrote in a column included in her 1998 collection, ''You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You.''

In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

''We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war,'' Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. ''We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'''

Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled ''Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush'' and another was ''BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America.''

''Molly Ivins was a Texas original,'' Bush said in a statement. ''I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase. She fought her illness with that same passion.''

Dubose, who has been working on a third book with Ivins, said even last week in the hospital, Ivins wanted to talk about the project.

''She was married to her profession. She lived for the story,'' he said.

Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power.

''The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point,'' she wrote in a 1997 column. ''Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits.''

In an Austin speech last year, former President Clinton described Ivins as someone who was ''good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me.''

Ivins loved to write about politics and called the Texas Legislature the best free entertainment in Austin.

''Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?'' she wrote in a 2002 column.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom Ivins had playfully called ''Governor Goodhair,'' praised Ivins for her wit and insight. ''Molly Ivins' clever and colorful perspectives on people and politics gained her national acclaim and admiration that crossed party lines,'' Perry said in a statement.

Born Mary Tyler Ivins in California, she grew up in Houston. She graduated from Smith College in 1966 and attended Columbia University's journalism school. She also studied for a year at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.

Her first newspaper job was in the complaint department of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her way up at the Chronicle, then went on to the Minneapolis Tribune, becoming the first woman police reporter in the city.

Ivins counted as her highest honors the Minneapolis police force's decision to name its mascot pig after her and her getting banned from the campus of Texas A&M University, according to a biography on the Creators Syndicate Web site.

In the late 1960s, according to the syndicate, she was assigned to a beat called ''Movements for Social Change'' and wrote about ''angry blacks, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers.''

Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer, a liberal Austin-based biweekly publication of politics and literature.

She joined The New York Times in 1976, working first as a political reporter in New York and later as Rocky Mountain bureau chief.

But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of going barefoot in the office were too much for the Times, said longtime friend Ben Sargent, editorial cartoonist with the Austin American-Statesman.

''She was just like a force of nature,'' Sargent said. ''She was just always on and sharp and witty and funny and was one of a kind.''

Ivins returned to Texas as a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald in 1982, and after it closed she spent nine years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.

''She was magical in her writing,'' said Mike Blackman, a former Star-Telegram executive editor who hired Ivins in 1992. ''She could turn a phrase in such a way that a pretty hard-hitting point didn't hurt so bad.''

In 1995, conservative humorist Florence King accused Ivins in ''American Enterprise'' magazine of plagiarism for failing to properly credit King for several passages in a 1988 article in ''Mother Jones.'' Ivins apologized, saying the omissions were unintentional and pointing out that she credited King elsewhere in the piece.

She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and she had a recurrence in 2003. Her latest diagnosis came around Thanksgiving 2005.

Associated Press writers April Castro in Austin and Matt Curry and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.


Witty scourge of Shrub and of all ‘dipsticks’
By Jurek Martin
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: February 1 2007 15:59 | Last updated: February 1 2007 15:59

Obituary: The death on Wednesday of Molly Ivins from breast cancer at the age of 62 robs American journalism of one of its most pungent, funny and liberal commentators. She was also a singular scourge of the person and policies of President George W. Bush, the man she dubbed “Shrub.”

Though born in California, she was raised in Houston and became the quintessential Texan, but the hard-drinking, thick-accented wise-cracking exterior concealed the brain of a genuine intellectual, refined in part by her education at Smith College, Columbia University in New York and SciencePo (the Institute of Political Science) in Paris.

Apart from a six year stint on the New York Times covering politics and the Rocky Mountain West and an earlier beat as a police reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune, her writing was always rooted in Texas, especially its political idiosyncracies. She wickedly dissected the doings of its state legislators, all, to her, in greater or lesser degrees “dipsticks.” Of one congressman she once wrote, “if his IQ slips any lower. we’ll have to water him twice a day.” Her spiritual and writing home was the Texas Observer bi-monthly magazine.

Ross Perot, the Texas entrepreneur and 1992 independent presidential candidate, proved rich fodder for her pen, though, in retrospect, she was just warming up for the current president. His additional grievous sin was that he ousted as state governor Ann Richards, Ms Ivins’ similarly tart-tongued great friend, who died of cancer last autumn.

Having christened him Shrub, she went on to write a wickedly acid book, Bush-whacked, on his presidency. Her regular recent appearances at the annual World Affairs Conference staged by the University of Colorado always produced new streams of Bush stories, many not printable.

But her heart was always in the progressive movement and the extent which the under-privileged survived, and sometimes even thrived, in spite of odds stacked against them. She confessed she was a classic “bleeding heart” liberal, admitting even to “crying a little” when former president Richard Nixon finally died.

Be Politically Correct

Due to the climate of political correctness now pervading America, Kentuckians, Tennesseans and West Virginians will no longer be referred to as "HILLBILLIES."

You must now refer to them as APPALACHIAN-AMERICANS.

And furthermore:


1 She is not a "BABE" or a "CHICK" - She is a "BREASTED AMERICAN."

2. She is not "EASY" - She is "HORIZONTALLY ACCESSIBLE."



5. She does not "NAG" you - She becomes "VERBALLY REPETITIVE."

6. She is not a "TWO-BIT HOOKER" - She is a "LOW COST PROVIDER."


1. He does not have a "BEER GUT" -

2. He is not a "BAD DANCER" - He is "OVERLY CAUCASIAN."

3. He does not "GET LOST ALL THE TIME" -

4. He is not "BALDING" - He is in "FOLLICLE REGRESSION."

5. He does not act like a "TOTAL ASS" -
He develops a case of "RECTAL-CRANIAL INVERSION."

6. It's not his "CRACK" you see hanging out of his pants - It's "REAR CLEAVAGE".

Cheney's Handwritten Notes Implicate Bush in Plame Affair

Cheney's Handwritten Notes Implicate Bush in Plame Affair
By Jason Leopold and Marc Ash
Copyright by t r u t h o u t | Report
Wednesday 31 January 2007

Copies of handwritten notes by Vice President Dick Cheney, introduced at trial by defense attorneys for former White House staffer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, would appear to implicate George W. Bush in the Plame CIA Leak case.

Bush has long maintained that he was unaware of attacks by any member of his administration against [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson. The ex-envoy's stinging rebukes of the administration's use of pre-war Iraq intelligence led Libby and other White House officials to leak Wilson's wife's covert CIA status to reporters in July 2003 in an act of retaliation.

But Cheney's notes, which were introduced into evidence Tuesday during Libby's perjury and obstruction-of-justice trial, call into question the truthfulness of President Bush's vehement denials about his prior knowledge of the attacks against Wilson. The revelation that Bush may have known all along that there was an effort by members of his office to discredit the former ambassador begs the question: Was the president also aware that senior members of his administration compromised Valerie Plame's undercover role with the CIA?

Further, the highly explicit nature of Cheney's comments not only hints at a rift between Cheney and Bush over what Cheney felt was the scapegoating of Libby, but also raises serious questions about potentially criminal actions by Bush. If Bush did indeed play an active role in encouraging Libby to take the fall to protect Karl Rove, as Libby's lawyers articulated in their opening statements, then that could be viewed as criminal involvement by Bush.

Last week, Libby's attorney Theodore Wells made a stunning pronouncement during opening statements of Libby's trial. He claimed that the White House had made Libby a scapegoat for the leak to protect Karl Rove - Bush's political adviser and "right-hand man."

"Mr. Libby, you will learn, went to the vice president of the United States and met with the vice president in private. Mr. Libby said to the vice president, 'I think the White House ... is trying to set me up. People in the White House want me to be a scapegoat,'" said Wells.

Cheney's notes seem to help bolster Wells's defense strategy. Libby's defense team first discussed the notes - written by Cheney in September 2003 for White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan - during opening statements last week. Wells said Cheney had written "not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of incompetence of others": a reference to Libby being asked to deal with the media and vociferously rebut Wilson's allegations that the Bush administration knowingly "twisted" intelligence to win support for the war in Iraq.

However, when Cheney wrote the notes, he had originally written "this Pres." instead of "that was."

During cross-examination Tuesday morning, David Addington was asked specific questions about Cheney's notes and the reference to President Bush. Addington, former counsel to the vice president, was named Cheney's chief of staff - a position Libby had held before resigning.

"Can you make out what's crossed out, Mr. Addington?" Wells asked, according to a copy of the transcript of Tuesday's court proceedings.

"It says 'the guy' and then it says, 'this Pres.' and then that is scratched through," Addington said.

"OK," Wells said. "Let's start again. 'Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy ...' and then what's scratched through?" Wells asked Addington again, attempting to establish that Cheney had originally written that President Bush personally asked Libby to beat back Wilson's criticisms.

"T-h-i-s space P-r-e-s," Addington said, spelling out the words. "And then it's got a scratch-through."

"So it looks like 'this Pres.?'" Wells asked again.

"Yes sir," Addington said.

Thus, Cheney's notes would have read "not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy this Pres. asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others." The words "this Pres." were crossed out and replaced with "that was," but are still clearly legible in the document.

The reference to "the meat grinder" was understood to be the Washington press corps, Wells said. The "protect one staffer" reference, Wells said, was White House Political Adviser Karl Rove, whose own role in the leak and the attacks on Wilson are well documented.

Furthermore, Cheney, in his directive to McClellan that day in September 2003, wrote that the White House spokesman needed to immediately "call out to key press saying the same thing about Scooter as Karl."

McClellan had publicly stated in September 2003 that Rove was not culpable in the leak of Valerie Plame's covert CIA identity, nor was he involved in a campaign to discredit her husband, but McClellan did not say anything to the media that exonerated Libby, which led Cheney to write the note. A couple of weeks later, in October 2003, McClellan told members of the media that it was "ridiculous" for them to suggest Libby and Rove were involved in the leak, because he received personal assurances from both men that they had nothing to do with it.

Moreover, Wells insinuated Tuesday that Cheney's note [seemingly] implicating President Bush in the discrediting of Wilson was one of the 250 pages of emails and documents the White House failed to turn over to investigators who had been probing the leak for more than two years.

Wells insinuated that Cheney's note, because it contained a reference to "this Pres." may have been an explosive piece of evidence that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who at the time of the leak was White House counsel, withheld from investigators, citing executive privilege. Addington told Wells that when subpoenas were first issued by the Justice Department in the fall of 2003, demanding documents and emails relating to Wilson and Plame be preserved, he was given Cheney's notes and immediately recognized the importance of what the vice president had written. Addington said he immediately entered into a "discussion" with Gonzales and Terry O'Donnell, Cheney's counsel, about the note, but Addington did not say whether it was turned over to investigators in the early days of the probe.

Wells's line of questioning is an attempt to shift the blame for the leak squarely onto the shoulders of the White House - a tactic aimed at confusing the jury - and will likely unravel because it has nothing to do with the perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges at the heart of the case against Libby. Still, Tuesday's testimony implicating President Bush may be the most important fact that has emerged from the trial thus far.

Addington revealed during his testimony Monday that in June 2003 there were internal discussions - involving President Bush and Vice President Cheney - about declassifying for specific reporters a portion of the highly classified October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate as a way to counter Wilson's criticisms against the administration. That portion purportedly showed that Iraq was attempting to purchase uranium from Niger to use for building an atomic bomb - a claim that Wilson had debunked when he personally traveled to Niger to investigate it a year earlier.

In late June or early July 2003, "a question was asked of me - by Scooter Libby: Does the president have authority to declassify information?" Addington told jurors Monday, in response to a question by defense attorney William Jeffress. "And the answer I gave was, 'Of course, yes. It's clear the president has the authority to determine what constitutes a national security secret and who can have access to it.'"

President Bush signed an executive order in 2003 authorizing Cheney to declassify certain intelligence documents. The order was signed on March 23, four days after the start of the Iraq War and two weeks after Wilson first appeared on the administration's radar.


Truthout will publish a follow-up to this story, with opinions from legal experts on possible implications of these latest developments for the White House.