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web posted June 18, 2001

Bush voices doubts on global warming causes

U.S. President George W. Bush declared on June 11 that substantial doubts remain about the causes and severity of global warming as he set off on his maiden presidential trip to Europe with promises of more studies but few specific proposals on how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Bush, addressing an issue that will be a prominent subject of his talks with European leaders, said he was determined to take "a leadership role on the issue of climate change" by sponsoring increased scientific inquiry and "partnerships within our hemisphere and beyond to monitor and measure and mitigate emissions."

But the president struck a defiant tone in the face of widespread criticism by U.S. allies in Europe and Asia that he is failing to recognize the seriousness of global warming. He offered a detailed critique of the Kyoto global warming treaty that he renounced in March and gave his most expansive explanation yet of his doubts about studies that blame the planet's rising temperatures largely on man's activities.

"We do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming," Bush said in a Rose Garden appearance before he departed for Madrid, the first stop on his five-day trip. "We do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it. . . . And, finally, no one can say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided."

Some European allies, and many environmental groups, took immediate issue with the president's remarks, charging he was returning to questions that had been raised and answered during his father's administration, which ended in 1993. Former Clinton administration officials said that one of the centerpieces of the plan Bush outlined was a program that had been developed by President Bill Clinton.

European and Japanese leaders had anxiously awaited the president's speech in hopes he might offer the outlines of a proposal that would lead to an international agreement on global warming this year. "This will not meet the test in Europe of what they are looking for," said a European diplomat in Washington who is close to the global warming negotiations. "He hasn't given them much to go on here."

Bush said the global warming accord negotiated by the United States and 167 other nations in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 was "fatally flawed in fundamental ways." The agreement, which was never ratified by the Senate or any other major industrialized country, set the first binding limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that scientists say are contributing to global warming and threaten disastrous climate change.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. acknowledged that the administration had mishandled the announcement that it would not adhere to the Kyoto accord, telling reporters "we did not do a good job setting the stage for the obvious discussion of the flaws of Kyoto."

"The emperor Kyoto was running around for a long time and he was naked," Card said. "It took President Bush to say, 'The guy doesn't have any clothes on.' "

Bush said in his speech that the United States accounts for nearly 20 percent of the world's man-made greenhouse emissions; European governments and environmental groups say it is closer to 25 percent. But the president also noted that the United States is responsible for a fourth of the world's economic output, and said the Kyoto pact exempted developing countries, including China and India, two other large polluters.

The agreement set unrealistic targets that were "arbitrary and not based upon science," Bush said. Kyoto would have required the United States to reduce emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels. Because of the extraordinary economic growth over the past decade, however, it effectively would have resulted in a 30 percent cutback, which the administration argues would have a devastating impact on the economy.

"We recognize our responsibility and will meet it -- at home, in our hemisphere, and in the world," Bush said. "We're committed to protecting our environment and improving our economy, to acting at home and working in concert with the world."

Court says warrant needed to use heat-sensing device

Police violate the Constitution if they use a heat-sensing device to peer inside a home without a search warrant, the Supreme Court ruled June 11.

An unusual lineup of five justices voted to bolster the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and threw out an Oregon man's conviction for growing marijuana.

Danny Lee Kyllo

The ruling reversed a lower court decision that said officers' use of a heat-sensing device was not a search of Danny Lee Kyllo's home and therefore they did not need a search warrant.

In an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, by many measures the most conservative member of the court, the majority found that the heat detector allowed police to see things they otherwise could not.

"Where, as here, the government uses a device that is not in general public use to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a 'search' and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant," Scalia wrote.

While the court has previously approved some warrantless searches, this one did not meet tests the court has previously set, Scalia wrote.

The decision means the information police gathered with the thermal device -- namely a suspicious pattern of hot spots on the home's exterior walls -- cannot be used against Kyllo.

The court sent the case back to lower courts to determine whether police have enough other basis to support the search warrant that was eventually served on Kyllo, and thus whether any of the evidence inside his home can be used against him.

Justices Clarence Thomas, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joined the majority.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy.

Italy swears in Premier Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi was sworn in as Italy's premier on June 11, heading a Cabinet that includes Umberto Bossi, the volatile politician who brought down his government seven years ago.

After Berlusconi, the next to be sworn in was Deputy Premier Gianfranco Fini, who leads another coalition partner, the formerly neo-fascist National Alliance. Then Bossi, whose Northern League party once advocated secession for Italy's affluent north, swore loyalty to the Italian republic. He is the minister of reform.

Berlusconi assumed the premiership for the second time in his career the day before, after a month of haggling among his allies over how to divide up the ministry posts.

The media baron came to power after a May 13 parliamentary election victory that gave his center-right coalition a solid majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the upper house, the Senate.

The mandatory confidence votes in parliament were expected to be held this week, after Berlusconi returned from a NATO summit in Brussels and a European Union in Sweden.

Berlusconi, 64, is one of the world's richest men. Once a cruise ship entertainer, he now controls three private TV networks and has holdings in publishing, advertising, insurance and real estate.

Announcing his 25-member Cabinet, he spoke like the head of a corporation. He called his government a "team" that was "on top of the situation" and promising it would "ensure innovation, freedom and welfare for all citizens."

While their parties were in the Berlusconi's previous government, which lasted for seven months in 1994, Fini and Bossi had never held cabinet posts before.

The Northern League, which wants the central government to cede more powers to regional and local governments, also secured two other ministries, including justice.

"I am happy because it seems to be a government with people who have something to say and something to do," Bossi said.

Berlusconi's allies have raised concerns in Europe with their anti-immigrant positions. The European Union, however, shows no intention of imposing sanctions on Italy, as it did on Austria when the more virulent far-right party of Joerg Haider entered the government.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who stopped short of congratulating Berlusconi after the election, sent a more cordial message, wishing him luck and success and saying he hopes for a close partnership.

Piero Fassino, who would have been justice minister had the center-left won the election, said Bossi's post should have gone to someone "reliable and known for being able to speak to the whole nation." He also criticized Berlusconi for naming only two women.

Berlusconi's foreign minister is Renato Ruggiero, a respected diplomat who is a former chief of the World Trade Organization.

Many of the key jobs went to Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which won 30 percent of the vote in the May 13 elections. Some ministers -- including Defense Minister Antonio Martino and Economics Minister Giulio Tremonti -- were old faces from his first tenure as premier in 1994.

Bush's Social Security commission plans for privatization

George W. Bush's new Social Security commission is getting down to work on overhauling the massive entitlement program, with stock market investing on the panel's list of potential fixes.

"There has been a very remarkable change in the approach Americans take to the thought of owning a mutual fund or some other saving system that's connected with the markets," former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, co-chairman of the commission, said at the panel's first meeting on June 11.

All 16 commission members -- both Republicans and Democrats -- have supported privatizing the system to some degree. Critics charged that Bush stacked the commission with supporters that would provide political weight with a bipartisan label to his campaign pledge of creating personal investment accounts.

The commission "is astonishingly unrepresentative of the array of views held by most Americans concerning Social Security's future," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Institute for America's Future.

Hickey noted that members include corporate executives and financial investment officials, but no representatives or advocates for Social Security beneficiaries.

But, said Estelle James, a Democratic member and World Bank consultant, "The system has to change, everyone agrees."

Any change must be approved by Congress. Clouding the reality of any recommendations the commission makes are next year's congressional election, a newly Democratic-controlled Senate and stock-market queasiness in a softening economy.

The commission also must devise a way to pay for the private investment accounts without cutting benefits for current recipients when most of the government's projected surplus has been dedicated to Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut.

"One of the advantages of being an advisory commission is that you advise," said Dick Parsons, co-chairman, a Republican and co-chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner.

"As Senator Moynihan likes to say, he's a recovering politician and I never was one, so both of us have the luxury of not having to worry about the politics and just try to do what is right," he said.

During breaks of the four-hour commission meeting, both Moynihan and Parsons told reporters that things like increasing the retirement age and restraining cost-of-living raises for future retirees could be among the recommendations eventually made by the group.

Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than workers pay into the system starting in 2016. Benefits will have to be cut, taxes increased or the system overhauled to meet future demand, especially as the large baby boomer generation nears retirement and starts to deplete the Social Security fund.

The commission will hold two to four public hearings across the country, starting in September, to talk about private investment accounts.

The commission will issue an initial report that will identify problems with the system and make the case for change. A final report will be issued to the president this fall.

Beware of Canadian government reforms to access act, says information commissioner

Canadians should be wary of Liberal promises to reform the Access to Information Act given the "hostility displayed by the government leadership," the Information Commissioner said on June 12.

John Reid's annual report, tabled in the Commons, was another scathing indictment of government attitudes toward transparency, openness and accountability. Reid said reforms to the act soon to be released by a government task force could be "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"Better to have no reform of an act designed to improve government accountability than to make it more government friendly," Reid said in a release.

Reid said his relationship with top government agencies remains adversarial and confrontational.

The Prime Minister's Office is appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to stop Reid from examining Prime Minister Jean Chretien's personal agenda books to determine whether they should be released under the access act.

"It is particularly difficult to understand the hostility displayed by the government leadership since the commissioner has no power to disclose records, but only the authority to recommend to ministers that withheld records be disclosed," said Reid.

Kyoto is a waste of money, environmentalist says

The cost of limiting carbon dioxide emissions far outweighs the damage that global warming will eventually do to the world and merely postpones the problem for six years, Bjorn Lomborg, an environmental statistician, has calculated. As a result, he argues, trillions of pounds that might otherwise be spent on fighting poverty and malnutrition and improving infrastructure in developing countries will be wasted.

In The Sceptical Environmentalist, to be published in August, he says that millions of lives will be lost that could otherwise be saved and the eventual impact of climate change on the Third World will be much worse as countries will be less equipped to adapt.

The findings are based on a four-year audit of a massive set of official environmental indicators by Dr Lomborg, associate professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, who is also an environmentalist and a former member of Greenpeace.

Details of the research were made public as George W. Bush prepared for his first summit meeting with the EU in Sweden last week. Bush will come under renewed pressure there over his decision to reject the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which aims to cut the developed world’s carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels. Renewed international talks on climate change control are also due to begin in Bonn next month, after the collapse of last year’s summit on the issue at The Hague.

Although Dr Lomborg accepts that human-induced global warming is a reality, he is critical of the treaty because independent scientific models suggest that it will have little impact on the scale of global warming and offers very poor value for money.

“What happens with the Kyoto protocol, according to the most-accepted model, is that by 2100, global temperatures will rise by 1.9C rather than by 2.1C if nothing is done,” Dr Lomborg says. “Another way of looking at it is that a temperature rise of 2C, which would otherwise have been reached in 2094, is postponed to 2100.”

Instead of wasting money on implementing Kyoto, he says, the world would do better to invest much more than at present in research into renewable forms of energy, such as solar power and nuclear fusion. Should solar power become an economic way of generating energy by the middle of the century, carbon dioxide emissions would decline very steeply.

Canada, U.S. bowing to 'neo-fascism': Nobel author

Canada and the United States are bowing to the "neo-fascism" of political correctness even as people elsewhere, notably in Iran, fight to throw off tyranny, Nobel Prize-winning writer and activist Wole Soyinka said June 12.

Soyinka described North America as a place where "the new commissars of thought" have taken over and are destroying creativity by insisting that everyone speak in correct terms.

"I cannot help but observe that, in several countries, but most notoriously in the United States and Canada, the world of intellect and originality appears to be under siege," he declared.

Soyinka, winner of the 1986 Nobel in literature, was at the University of Alberta to accept an honorary doctorate of letters.

Exiled from his native Nigeria where he was jailed twice for challenging the authorities, the snowy-haired Soyinka now teaches in the United States.

He remarked at the irony of how thought is being stifled here by "the new conformism" at the same time people in Iran, a country that once embodied intolerance, are emerging from oppression.

A recent election in Iran, won by reformist Mohammad Khatami, the President, showed a strong desire for freedom, he said. "The people of Iran have just demonstrated, once again, that they desire change from the narrow world of their spiritual jailers."

By contrast, Soyinka recalled a speech he made several years ago at the University of Toronto condemning the death sentence issued by Iranian clerics to writer Salman Rushdie for his satirical novel, The Satanic Verses, which they viewed as blasphemous. He was surprised, he said, to receive praise for a courageous speech -- not for challenging Iran, but for challenging politically correct opinion in Canada, which asserted that Rushdie shouldn't have insulted Islam.

"Murder, it seemed, could be tolerated in the cause of political correctness," he said.

Since then, he said, he has seen numerous cases in which people's careers were ruined because they didn't toe a correct line.

He said the tyranny is reflected in such examples as the politically correct Happy Holidays instead of Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas. People and institutions in Canada, he continued, have to decide whether they are on the side of power and constriction, or freedom and creativity.

"I believe that the answer to that was given last week by the teeming masses of Iran" who voted for freedom, he said.

The full text of Soyinka's speech is available at: www.edmontonjournal.com/city/speech.html

Ruby Ridge prosecutor declines to prosecute FBI sniper

The manslaughter charge against the FBI sharpshooter who killed a woman during the Ruby Ridge standoff will be dismissed, an Idaho prosecutor announced June 14.

The week before, a sharply divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi could face trial for the death of white separatist Randy Weaver's wife Vicki in the 1992 shooting in north Idaho.

But Boundary County Prosecutor Brett Benson said he would dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charge because it was unlikely the state could prove the case and too much time had passed.

Benson said he filed a motion in federal court in Boise, Idaho, to dismiss the charge brought by his predecessor Denise Woodbury, who lost to Benson in last year's election.

Special Prosecutor Stephen Yagman, who was appointed by Woodbury to handle the case, criticized the decision and said he hoped a different prosecutor might refile the charge or bring a more severe charge.

"I could not disagree more with this decision than I do," Yagman said. "It sounds to me like the system has suffered a temporary corruption."

"The Ruby Ridge incident was a tragedy that deeply affected and divided many of the citizens of this county and country," Benson said in a news release from his office in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. "It is our hope that this decision will begin the healing process that is so long overdue."

The case was seen as a test of whether federal agents are immune from state prosecution. The federal government declined to prosecute Horiuchi, but the 6-5 ruling by the appeals court cleared the way for Idaho prosecutors to pursue charges against him.

The standoff at Ruby Ridge in north Idaho prompted a nationwide debate on the use of force by federal agencies. It began after government agents tried to arrest Randy Weaver for failing to appear in court on charges of selling two illegal sawed-off shotguns.

The Weaver's cabin had been under surveillance for several months when the violence began with the deaths of Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan, Weaver's 14-year-old son, Samuel, and the family dog.

During the 11-day standoff, Horiuchi shot and killed Weaver's wife and wounded family friend Kevin Harris. Witnesses said the sharpshooter fired as Vicki Weaver held open the cabin door, her 10-month-old baby in her arms.

The standoff ended after Harris and Weaver surrendered. Both men were acquitted of murder, conspiracy and other federal charges. Weaver was convicted of failing to appear for trial on the firearms charge.

Horiuchi has said he didn't see Vicki Weaver when he fired at Harris, who was armed and was ducking inside the cabin. He also said he fired to protect a government helicopter overhead.

Charges against Horiuchi had been dismissed twice by federal courts, on the grounds that a federal agent on duty was immune from criminal prosecution.

The appeals court sent the case back to the federal court in Boise to determine if the sharpshooter had acted in a reasonable manner, and thus merited immunity. If a federal judge had ruled that Horiuchi acted unlawfully, then the case could have gone before a jury.

Those in dissent said the majority was using hindsight in "dissecting the mistakes" of Horiuchi. They called the majority's opinion a "grave disservice" to FBI agents and argued that Horiuchi, who is still an FBI agent, should be immune from prosecution.

The Justice Department last summer settled the last civil suit stemming from the standoff. The government admitted no wrongdoing, but paid Harris $380,000 to drop his $10 million civil damage suit.

In 1995, the government paid Weaver and his three surviving children $3.1 million for the killings of Weaver's wife and son.

Bush stunned by U.S. nuclear arsenal size

U.S. President George W. Bush was stunned last month when told of the extent of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Newsweek magazine reported in its June 25 edition, released on June 17.

"I had no idea we had so many weapons," Bush was quoted as saying by an unidentified "White House insider."

"What do we need them for?" the president was said to have asked at a briefing, according to the Newsweek report.

But that was not a dumb question, the magazine noted in detailing the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal, which includes 5,400 warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers, 1,670 "tactical" nuclear weapons and another 10,000 warheads in bunkers around the United States.

That potential for nuclear overkill may be reined in, however, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld prepares at the Pentagon to implement Bush's stated goal of streamlining and downsizing the arsenal.

Rumsfeld has brought back retired Gen. George (Lee) Butler and former Reagan administration national security guru Richard Perle to spearhead an effort to reduce the arsenal to safer, more manageable and more cost efficient levels, Newsweek said.

"I see no reason why we can't go well below 1,000 warheads," Perle told the magazine. "I want the lowest number possible under the tightest control possible."

"The truth is we are never going to use them," Perle added. "The Russians aren't going to use theirs either."

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