Saturday, September 09, 2006



Here is a little test that will help you decide.

The answer can be found by posing the following question:

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, an Islamic Terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you. You are carrying a Glock Cal 40, and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do?

1) Democrat's Answer:

Well, that's not enough information to answer the question! Does the man look poor! Or oppressed?

Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?

Could we run away?

What does my wife think?

What about the kids?

Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?

What does the law say about this situation?

Does the Glock have appropriate saf! ety built into it?

Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?

Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me?

Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?

If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?

Should I call 9-1-1?

Why is this street so deserted? We need to raise taxes, have a paint and weed day and make this happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.

This is all so confusing!

I need to debate this with some friends for few days and try to come to a consensus.

2) Republican's Answer:


3) Southern Republican's Answer:

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! ! BANG! click...(sounds of reloading)


Daughter: "Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips or Hollow Points?"

Son: Can I shoot the next one?

Wife: You are not taking that to the Taxidermist!

Pitt won't wed until everyone can

Pitt won't wed until everyone can
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 9, 2006

Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won't be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.

"Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able," the 42-year-old actor reveals in Esquire magazine's October issue.

In the article he reflects on "fifteen things I think everyone should know."

Though Shiloh, the world-famous daughter of Pitt and girlfriend/earth mother Jolie, hogged much attention upon her birth in May, Pitt says he "cannot imagine life" without adopted children, Maddox, 5, and Zahara, 1.

"They're as much of my blood as any natural born, and I'm theirs," says Pitt.

Pitt, who plays a world traveler in the upcoming drama "Babel," subscribes to a laid-back parenting style.

"I try not to stifle them in any way," he says. "If it's not hurting anyone, I want them to be able to explore."


The Personals page was compiled by Cheryl Bowles from Tribune news services and staff reports.

Financial Times Editorial - Back to work for the world's investors

Financial Times Editorial - Back to work for the world's investors
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: September 9 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 9 2006 03:00

The houses in the Hamptons are empty, the yachts have returned to their moorings and the interns have been sent back to university. Now the worlds' fund managers and financiers are back at their desks, working out where to invest clients' money in order to generate the performance fees to pay for next year's summer holiday. The long, long boom in asset prices since the 1970s, which has driven many investments to vertiginous levels, means that is a difficult task.

After a three-year rally from the trough of 2003, US equities are within striking distance of levels reached during the internet bubble. Unlike the bubble years, these prices are supported by corporate profits: the S&P 500 index trades on a price-to-earnings multiple of only 15 times. This, however, comes far into an economic recovery. Profit margins and the share of profits in gross domestic product are the highest they have ever been, American consumers are showing signs of spending fatigue and interest rates may yet have further to rise.

There is always the possibility of a new paradigm. By putting pressure on wages, globalisation may mean that profits continue to take more of GDP. A global savings glut may have lowered the real rate of return required in the world economy. But new paradigms often turn out to be new ways to lose money. A new world of high profits and low real rates would surely mean a surge in business investment. That has not materialised yet.

While American shares look especially pricey, valuations are high around the world. Only in emerging markets, and particularly in east Asia, where traces of the 1997 crisis still linger, do some stocks look affordable. For foreign investors, east Asia has the further advantage of cheap currencies.

Though shares look expensive, bonds do not excite. Ten-year government debt in Britain and America yields less than an overnight deposit and Japanese government bonds appeal even less. Either deflation will resume and Japan will continue to run a vast budget deficit, or the economy will re-cover, deflation will end and real interest rates will rise. Japanese bonds will suffer in both scenarios. Nor do other bonds look compelling. The premiums paid by less creditworthy debtors - emerging market governments and highly leveraged companies - are still close to record lows.

But even in this world of expensive assets there are possibilities for investors. Not every asset is near its record high: Japanese property, particularly residential property, has only just begun to rise from levels last seen in the early 1980s. Another interesting area is implied volatility, the options market's estimate of how risky an asset is. For many assets it is the lowest it has been in a decade, but crises in the Middle East, a US trade deficit near 7 per cent of GDP and high commodity prices all suggest the world is still a risky place. There are possible explanations: hedge funds now provide more liquidity to the option markets, while central banks are more transparent, reducing uncertainty about interest rate moves. Investors, though, may still find strategies to implement through options that make them money.

Like children starting a new school year, investors returning to work will find the job has got a little harder. Making money with asset prices high and inflation low will be difficult. But for the investors that manage it, next year's summer holiday will be especially sweet.

New urgency to Nato troop call

New urgency to Nato troop call
Rachel Morarjee in Kabul and Daniel Dombey in Brussels
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: September 8 2006 11:48 | Last updated: September 9 2006 02:13

Kabul on Friday suffered its worst bomb blast in recent years, as Nato continued a push for more troops for the battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The two events highlighted the challenges facing the military alliance, which has to contend with both a renewed insurgency and inbuilt difficulties in the way it provides troops for its missions.

A suicide bomber rammed into a US military convoy near the US embassy in the Afghan capital, killing two US soldiers and at least 14 civilians. Another 29 people were injured.

The blast was the second deadly bombing in Kabul in the space of a week and an indication that Taliban insurgents are becoming bold enough to strike outside their traditional southern strongholds.

A British soldier was killed in a suicide bomb along with four Afghan civilians on Monday, while fighting in Ghazni province just two hours south of the capital has been fierce this month.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned Friday’s blast as “despicable and shocking”, in words echoed by Afghan residents injured in the explosion.

The attack came as the military chiefs of Nato’s 26 member states met in Warsaw to discuss an urgent request for reinforcements from Gen James Jones, Nato’s top commander.

In comments made to US-based journalists on Thursday night, Gen Jones made clear that he was looking for a reserve battalion of 800-1000 soldiers, plus air support that could involve additional personnel of up to 1,500 people.

Although Gen Jones formally requested such resources before Nato began its operation against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan on July 31, he now believes they are more important than ever.

“Normally in most operations we get by with about 80 per cent, 85 per cent of what we asked for, because most of our operations are somewhat benign,” he said. “But since this one has turned, in the south at any rate, for a moment, pretty hot… getting that remaining 10, 15 per cent seems like more necessary now than it was maybe a month ago.”

Gen Jones’ request represents one of Nato’s toughest challenges yet, since the alliance has long-standing difficulties in providing speedy troop deployments, air support and forces that can be moved around with ease.

Although Nato commanders are keen to use extra soldiers to help against the Taliban before the winter months set in, Nato usually takes considerable time to win troop commitments – and faces particular problems at a time when contributors are stretched in theatres ranging from Lebanon to Iraq.

At present, operations in the most important theatre against the Taliban – around the city of Kandahar - have been bolstered by short-term reinforcements from the Dutch and the US.

Gen Jones also called for a squadron of attack helicopters and “two or three” C-130 aircraft, the latest in a series of requests for more air support in Afghanistan. For years, alliance commanders have been hamstrung by the lack of available aircraft and at present the US is providing air support for many of the operations in the south.

Gen Jones’ call for a flexible reserve battalion could also be difficult to meet. At the moment, national caveats restrict many Nato troops from moving around at will and taking on a fully fledged combat role.

Suit: Halliburton cheated taxpayers

Suit: Halliburton cheated taxpayers
Items compiled from Tribune news services
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 9, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Halliburton executives ordered a big-screen television and 10 large tubs of tacos, chicken wings and cheese sticks delivered to Iraq for last year's Super Bowl, then billed U.S. taxpayers for their party, according to a lawsuit unsealed Friday.

The Houston-based company also defrauded the government by double- and triple-billing for Internet, food and gym services to soldiers, according to the suit by an ex-employee for KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary that ran dining halls for soldiers in Iraq.

Halliburton vehemently denied the allegations of fraud, which were filed by lawyer Alan Grayson under the False Claims Act. Such lawsuits allow citizens to sue on behalf of the government and recover a portion of any damages.

The company did not deny ordering the TV and the food; it set up snack buffets and special screenings at military bases throughout Iraq for the 2005 Super Bowl. But KBR said its contract allowed recreation and morale-boosting services for its own employees as well as American soldiers.

Grayson, who recently lost a primary race for a House seat in Florida running as a Democrat, denied any political motivations in pursuing the case against Halliburton, noting that he had filed it before deciding to run for office.

He said the whistle-blower in the case, Julie McBride, came forward only after KBR officials ignored her complaints. McBride alleges she was placed under armed guard then fired after she raised questions about Halliburton's billing practices.

Justice department officials "are stonewalling and keeping these cases under seal unnecessarily," Grayson said.

Bloggers help Obama pass Senate pork bill - House also near OK on database searches

Bloggers help Obama pass Senate pork bill - House also near OK on database searches
By William Neikirk
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 9, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Teamed with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. Barack Obama has scored the biggest legislative victory of his Senate career on a bill to establish federal searchable databases of all government contracts, loans, grants and special-interest spending commonly known as pork.

Coburn of Oklahoma and Obama (D-Ill.) overcame the secret opposition of two powerful Senate veterans, Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), partly because Internet bloggers on the left and right tracked down and disclosed that first Stevens and then Byrd had stealthily put holds on the bill.

Stevens, Byrd back away

Senators have the privilege of putting holds on legislation without their names being disclosed. Usually the leadership doesn't buck them. But, facing criticism in the blog world and in newspaper editorials, Stevens and Byrd--renowned for their ability to snare federal dollars for projects in their states--dropped their opposition.

The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent Thursday night. The House has passed a similar bill that does not cover contracts. But late Friday, Obama's office announced that House sponsors had agreed to go along with the Senate-passed measure with some modifications. And so Obama, elected in 2004, likely can soon claim he has passed a law.

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he planned to schedule the compromise bill, largely tracking the Obama-Coburn measure, for a House vote next week.

Obama earlier succeeded in passing an amendment to an Iraqi spending bill to provide assistance to the Republic of Congo, but the database legislation has further reach, covering $1 trillion in federal spending, and wider consumer appeal.

Both senators also have co-sponsored an amendment that would require competitive bidding on Federal Emergency Management Agency contracts, ending the practice of non-bid contracts.

The victory for Obama and Coburn demonstrated the growing power of the Internet in influencing legislation. Their bill would make it easier for Americans to use computers to quickly discover how their money is being spent, and particularly who is benefiting most from the federal budget.

Brian Riedl, a budget expert for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said computer users could type in "Halliburton" and get a list of all contracts between the government and the oil services company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Similarly, he said, they could type in "Planned Parenthood" or "Sierra Club" and discover all federal financial dealings with such groups. Or they could type in a phrase for a broad category of spending, such as "highway spending."

"People are going to be stunned to see how much of our tax dollars are wasted," Riedl said, adding that over time the databases could be a powerful tool in controlling spending.

Although it doesn't directly crack down on earmarks by members of Congress, in which lawmakers attach local pork projects to large bills, it would allow the public to get complete lists of such projects with little effort. But the names of the sponsors of earmarks would not be disclosed. Obama has introduced legislation to do that.

Information on federal spending is widely available on the Web, but the Obama-Coburn bill would make it easier to search for and monitor spending.

"By helping to lift the veil of secrecy in Washington, this database will help make us better legislators, reporters better journalists and voters more active citizens," Obama said in a statement. "It's both unusual and encouraging to see interest groups and bloggers on the left and the right come together to achieve results."

An unlikely alliance?

The legislation also brought together an unlikely pair in Obama, who usually leans to the left on legislation, and Coburn, a physician who leans far to the right on many issues.

John Hart, Coburn's press secretary, said, "They have great rapport. It's surprising for people who make a lot of assumptions about partisan differences. Both have sincere motivations to hold government accountable."

In announcing an agreement on disclosure legislation, Boehner, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said the government awards $300 billion in grants to 30,000 different organizations and a million contracts that exceed the $25,000 reporting threshold. There will be separate databases for contracts and grants, they said.

Rob Portman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, praised congressional efforts for databases his agency will set up. "American taxpayers benefit from having the necessary information to hold government accountable," he said.


Schwarzenegger red-faced over `very hot' ethnic remark

Schwarzenegger red-faced over `very hot' ethnic remark
By Michael R. Blood
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press
Published September 9, 2006

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Friday for saying during a closed-door meeting that Cubans and Puerto Ricans are naturally feisty and temperamental because of their combination of "black blood" and "Latino blood."

He said the tape-recorded comments "made me cringe" when he read them in Friday's Los Angeles Times.

"Anyone out there that feels offended by those comments, I just want to say I'm sorry, I apologize," Schwarzenegger said.

The furor comes amid a re-election campaign in which the Republican has tried to mend fences with Democrats and moderates and look more statesmanlike and less like the swaggering action hero he played on screen.

The statements about Hispanics and blacks were captured on a six-minute tape made during a March 3 speechwriting session with his advisers. On it, Schwarzenegger and chief of staff Susan Kennedy speak affectionately of state Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia and speculate about her nationality.

"I mean Cuban, Puerto Rican, they are all very hot," the governor says on the recording. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."

Garcia, who is Puerto Rican and a Republican, appeared with Schwarzenegger on Friday and said she was not offended by the governor's comments. Garcia earlier told the Times that she often calls herself a "hot-blooded Latina."

Schwarzenegger also said he contacted leaders from ethnic groups, who he said were not upset.

"All of them understood it was an off-the-record conversation," Schwarzenegger said. "It was not meant to be in any negative way."

A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez declined to comment directly on the remark but said the governor "has always been very respectful toward Latinos."

However, Schwarzenegger's Democratic challenger, Phil Angelides, said the governor should "conduct himself with dignity."

"Once again, Gov. Schwarzenegger has used language that is deeply offensive to all Californians and embarrassed our state," Angelides' statement said.

Schwarzenegger aides routinely tape his speechwriting sessions so the writers can keep a record of his thoughts and speaking patterns.

The newspaper did not say how the tape was obtained. The participants suggest during the meeting that they know they are being recorded.

Field's green fades to red

Field's green fades to red
Nostalgic shoppers snatch almost anything with the famed name and logo from shelves, trying to stop time and buy some memories
By Sandra Jones
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 9, 2006

Tote bags, mugs, key chains, tumblers, trays, coasters and the collectible clock. Just about anything with the Marshall Field's name was selling fast on Friday.

In its last hours as a Marshall Field's, nostalgic Chicagoans poured into the store's Vintage shop at the State Street flagship, purchasing all manner of Field's souvenirs in hopes of holding on to a piece of the 154-year-old emporium that for generations embodied Chicago.

After surviving the Chicago Fire, the Great Depression, the Great Chicago Flood and five separate owners, Marshall Field's disappears Saturday from the Chicago landscape and officially becomes Macy's.

It's a makeover that Macy's owner says must happen in order to revive the department store as a shopping destination. But it's one that many Chicagoans have lamented, characterizing the New York store's takeover of a Chicago landmark as an affront to Chicago's identity.

Laurie McGovern, who works in the Loop, stopped into the store for what she expects to be the last time in order to buy a $50 Field's collectible clock, the most popular item on the floor, according to Field's officials. McGovern had already given a clock to her retired aunt, a former Field's employee, as a memento. On Friday, she decided she needed one for herself as well.

"I have a lot of great memories here with my grandmother and my mother and my aunt," said McGovern, who said she wouldn't shop at the store once it changes over to Macy's. "I've always shopped at Field's. I want a little piece of the memories I've had here."

The seventh-floor Field's souvenir outpost was packed with shoppers all day, keeping sales associates busy restocking merchandise. One sales associate, who asked not be named, said he had never seen so much elbowing and shoving among shoppers worried there were no more souvenirs to be had.

But there were. And they kept coming. Several sales associates said the Field's clocks and the tote bags were moving as fast as they could get them on the floor.

By the end of the day, most of the stock, including tote bags with the store's signature saying "give the lady what she wants," was gone.

The Frango mint department was swarmed as well, as shoppers stocked up on Frango boxes that sported the Marshall Field's name.

Macy's will continue to make Frangos, but will no longer put the Marshall Field's name on the boxes. The existing stock of Frangos with the Field's name is expected to last at least another few weeks, said Macy's spokeswoman Jennifer McNamara.

Mother and daughter Ruth and Barb Wendel have been shopping at the State Street store for several years and came downtown from the Western suburbs Friday just to experience Field's one last time. With most of the Field's merchandise gone, the women bought three boxes of Frangos. They plan to use the containers as jewelry boxes.

"I am very sad," said Barb, the daughter. "I came here every Christmas to the Walnut Room. Each year my father would bring each of us down to the Walnut Room and the toy department and each of us got to pick out a toy."

Megan McKeon, a native Chicagoan whose arms were filled with Field's coasters, key chains and other merchandise, was taking photos of the changes with her cell phone and sending the photos to her mother in Schaumburg.

"It's kind of sad, but it's not going to make me stop shopping here," she said.

The souvenir shop at State Street will remain after the conversion. Similar Field's memorabilia is available at other former Field's stores including those in Oak Brook, Lake Forest and at Water Tower Place in Chicago.

More than 400 regional department stores nationwide will officially become Macy's, expanding the New York chain to more than 800 stores nationwide. Besides the Field's names, other longtime regional brands will also be mothballed, including Boston's Filene's, Houston's Foley's and Los Angeles' Robinson-May.

The decision by Macy's owner Federated Department Stores, which acquired Field's and several other regional stores through its acquisition of May Cos., comes as people have left behind traditional department stores for Target, Kohl's and J.C. Penney, among others.

Now unified under one brand, Federated hopes that Macy's will have the marketing and buying power to compete more effectively on price as well as merchandise.

"We look at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Federated Chairman Terry Lundgren told investors Wednesday at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference in New York. "We intend to bring affordable luxury and fashion to America with this launch."

Macy's, which had eyed State Street before taking over Field's, plans to host a series of events on Saturday, literally rolling out the red carpet at State Street and bringing the Macy's parade to Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumburg.

The retailer is handing out gift cards to the first 500 shoppers to arrive at all the Macy's stores starting at 9 a.m. All but one of the cards given away at each store will be valued at $10. One card at each store will be worth $1,000.


Report rejects prewar link of Iraq, Al Qaeda

Report rejects prewar link of Iraq, Al Qaeda
By Stephen J. Hedges of the Washington Bureau
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 9, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A Senate report on the Bush administration's use of intelligence that led to the American invasion of Iraq debunks White House claims that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had operational ties to Al Qaeda before the war began in March 2003.

The report, released Friday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, provides details to support the committee's earlier, July 2004 conclusion that much of the intelligence that led up to the Iraq war was flawed, and the report did not turn up any new evidence to support the administration's claim that Iraq was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the committee's chairman, sought to minimize the political fallout of his committee's findings by noting that doubts about intelligence on Iraq are nothing new.

"The long-known fact is that the prewar intelligence was wrong," Roberts said. "That flawed intelligence was used by policymakers, both in the administration and in Congress, as one of numerous justifications to go to war in Iraq."

But committee Democrats, presaging a certain campaign theme this fall, said the new report substantiates suspicions that the White House trumped up the case against Iraq.

"The Bush administration's case for war in Iraq was fundamentally misleading," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the committee's ranking Democrat. "The administration pursued a deceptive strategy of using intelligence reporting that the intelligence community had already warned was uncorroborated, unreliable and, in critical instances, fabricated."

Since the invasion of Iraq, the conflict has devolved into an extended battle among anti-American Iraqi insurgents and U.S. and British forces, and, increasingly, fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslim militias and death squads, according to a recent Pentagon assessment.

As of midmorning Friday, 2,662 Americans have died in Iraq operations, and more than 19,945 have been wounded, according to the Pentagon.

No weapons of mass destruction have been found by U.S. forces in Iraq, with the exception of some older chemical weapons shells. After the U.S. invasion, the CIA and Pentagon dispatched a substantial team of experts to search for such weapons.

The Senate report reflects bureaucratic infighting and incompetence at the CIA. The agency frequently clashed over its conclusions on Iraq with other U.S. government departments.

The report describes how the CIA insisted that special aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq could be used for enrichment of nuclear material, though U.S. Departments of Energy and State insisted otherwise. So did the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nonetheless, the CIA noted on Dec. 26, 2002, that, "We judge that Iraq would use any suitable tubes rather than try to procure perfect ones."

Iraq maintained, and the atomic energy agency later agreed, that the tubes were for use in Iraq's rocket program.

The report also reveals a tortured discourse in 2002 and 2003 over an apparently fabricated report that Iraq tried to buy uranium, known as yellowcake, from the African nation of Niger.

Despite strong dissenting voices within the U.S. government, and even an October 2002 dissent from then-CIA Director George Tenet, the belief that Iraq had tried to strike a uranium deal with Niger persisted within the CIA and the administration.

Tenet, in fact, suggested in October 2002 that a planned reference to the deal by Bush in a Cincinnati speech be removed because of doubts about the deal, the Senate panel's report states.

The Niger-Iraq connection, which the Senate report concluded did not exist, is important for two reasons.

First, it was mentioned by Bush during his 2003 State of the Union speech, though the president did not mention Niger specifically, referring instead to an African nation.

Second, the Niger connection proved to be the launching point for one of Washington's more intriguing recent scandals. Ambassador Joseph Wilson was tasked by the CIA to visit Niger to examine the claims of a uranium deal. After his visit, Wilson reported that there was no evidence of a deal. The CIA did more intelligence gathering and largely confirmed Wilson's conclusion.

When Bush mentioned the deal in his speech and administration officials kept discussing it, Wilson wrote a New York Times opinion piece disputing the claim. Shortly afterward, the name of his wife, who was a clandestine CIA operative, was revealed in print by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak.

Wilson has since suggested that the White House deliberately leaked his wife's name, Valerie Plame, in reprisal for his article criticizing Bush.

It is a felony to disclose the name of an undercover CIA operative. A special prosecutor, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago, was appointed to investigate the case. The investigation has resulted in the perjury indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

On Thursday, Richard Armitage, a former top State Department official, admitted he told Novak that Plame worked for the CIA. Armitage has not been charged.

The Senate panel's report also found that claims and reports of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link before the war "did not add up to an established formal relationship."

The new report included information from interviews with Hussein, now imprisoned in Iraq. Hussein, the Senate committee found, "did not trust Al Qaeda or any other radical Islamist group and did not want to cooperate with them. Hussein reportedly believed, however, that Al Qaeda was an effective organization because of its ability to successfully attack U.S. interests."


- - -

Al Qaeda-Iraq connection?


`Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Iraq could decide on any given day' to give a dangerous weapon `to a terrorist group.'

--President Bush


`Osama bin Laden has proclaimed the third world war is raging in Iraq. Al Qaeda leaders have declared that Baghdad will be the capital of the new caliphate that they wish to establish across the Middle East.'

--President Bush


`Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of Al Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from Al Qaeda to provide material or operational support.'

--Senate Intelligence Committee report

Sudan to release jailed Tribune correspondent

Sudan to release jailed Tribune correspondent
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 9, 2006

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson secured the release of Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Paul Salopek and his Chadian driver and interpreter on humanitarian grounds after a 45-minute meeting Friday with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Richardson said Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, is to be released into his custody Saturday in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, where Salopek and the two Chadians were awaiting trial on charges of espionage, passing information illegally and printing false news, as well as entering the country without visas.

Salopek, 44, was on a scheduled leave of absence from the Tribune and on a freelance assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was detained.

"The president said, `This is your lucky day,'" Richardson said in a telephone interview from Khartoum, describing what he said was a "friendly" meeting with al-Bashir.

"I was surprised but confident. I figured there was a 50-50 chance," Richardson said. "I figured it would take more time."

Richardson said he planned to fly Saturday morning to El Fasher and return with Salopek to Khartoum before flying back to the United States. The Chadians are to be repatriated to their country after landing in Khartoum, he said.

The Sudanese government confirmed the release without additional comment.

Richardson, a former congressman, energy secretary and United Nations ambassador who 10 years ago negotiated the release of three Red Cross workers held by Marxist rebels in Sudan, led a contingent that included Salopek's wife, Linda Lynch, and Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski.

"I am deeply grateful to President al-Bashir for releasing Paul on humanitarian grounds and restoring our family," Lynch said. "Paul and I apologize for his entering the country without a visa. Our gratitude extends immeasurably to Gov. Richardson for his remarkable compassion toward me and Paul."

Lipinski expressed her own gratitude and relief.

"It's been a long three weeks since we learned of Paul's disappearance," she said. "We are elated by today's developments. Linda and I reached out to Gov. Richardson after learning of Paul's detention, and the governor has worked tirelessly with us to try to gain Paul's release and that of his Chadian colleagues.

" ... We had hoped that this meeting would end as it did, and we are very grateful to the governor and President al-Bashir for arranging Paul's release on humanitarian grounds."

Lipinski also thanked "dozens of people inside and outside the U.S. government, including the embassy here, who have been working steadfastly to see to this day. Those of us at the Tribune and National Geographic are enormously grateful to them all."

Salopek said he was "dancing in the moonlight. ... It's terrific news. It's been a long 33 days."

"We were steeling ourselves for the trial," Salopek said in a phone conversation with Lipinski. "This is quite a surprise. I realize I have an enormous beer tab to pay off and I look forward to dispensing it."

Chris Johns, editor in chief of National Geographic, hailed the announcement as a "victory for freedom of the press."

"I am overjoyed that Paul Salopek and his Chadian assistants will be freed and I thank Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for it," said Johns, who traveled to meet Richardson in Sudan. "I am grateful to Gov. Bill Richardson and Ambassador Khidir Ahmed [the Sudanese envoy in Washington]. Both have worked tirelessly with National Geographic and the Chicago Tribune to secure Paul's release."

Men deny criminal offenses

Salopek, a resident of New Mexico, was detained Aug. 6 in Darfur by forces loyal to the Sudanese government. He and the Chadians, driver Idriss Abdulraham Anu and interpreter Suleiman Abakar Moussa, were formally charged Aug. 26 in El Fasher and were scheduled to go to trial Sunday.

The three men denied the espionage and other criminal charges, although Salopek acknowledged entering the country illegally, a civil violation.

ast week, Richardson met in Washington with Ahmed, Sudan's ambassador to the United States, who was his interpreter during the 1996 mission. A formal invitation to the Democratic governor to meet with the Sudanese president followed.

Richardson arrived in Khartoum on Friday, expecting the meeting with the Sudanese president to take place Saturday. Shortly after landing, Richardson said, he was informed that al-Bashir would meet with him Friday night, at the president's home.

The meeting, which Richardson described as "jovial," included Cameron Hume, the U.S. charge d'affaires; Calvin Humphrey, Richardson's foreign policy adviser; and Pahl Shipley, Richardson's spokesman.

Also present was Abdulhalim al-Mutaafi, the governor of Khartoum state, and the Sudanese national security adviser.

Hume, the top U.S. diplomat in Sudan, compared the immigration violations to "a parking problem, not a crime, and it simply wouldn't be worth" putting Salopek and the Chadians in jail.

"It was obvious early on [in the meeting] that the Sudanese had made the decision to release Mr. Salopek," Hume said. "While public pressure had been moderate to release him, it would only be more acute if they had imprisoned him, and I think they saw no benefit in putting Paul Salopek in jail."

`Personal connection helped'

Richardson said he believed "the personal connection helped," referring to his 1996 dealings with al-Bashir.

"I separated the political differences from the humanitarian differences [and said] this would be viewed as a humanitarian gesture," the governor said. He said he emphasized that Salopek is not a spy and that he is a journalist "doing his job."

During the meeting, according to Humphrey, al-Bashir said, "When I announce this, the Sudanese people will say, `What about our people in Guantanamo Bay?'"

An estimated five Sudanese are listed on a U.S. government roster of Guantanamo detainees, but it is not clear from government records whether any of the five have been released between 2002 and May 2006, according to documents.

The president asked Richardson to relay his concerns to the Bush administration, as well as his wish to see the Sudanese treated properly and released. Richardson made no promises but said he would convey the message to the administration.

Despite stated concerns about Sudanese detainees in Guantanamo, Humphrey said, "the president said clearly that he'll send the instructions" Friday night to authorities in Darfur that Salopek and the Chadians be released Saturday.

"We're very confident ... but once we're home we won't have to be worried about anything," Humphrey said in an interview.

Richardson also has traveled to Iraq, North Korea and Cuba to gain the release of detainees.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Death squads targeting gays in Iraq

Death squads targeting gays in Iraq
September 26, 2006 Issue
Copyright by The Advocate Magazine

Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a death-to-gays fatwa in Iraq last October, and now squads of the local Badr Corps are systematically targeting gay Iraqis for persecution and execution, veteran political journalist Doug Ireland reports on his Web site. Iraqi gays who have sought protection from U.S. authorities in the “Green Zone” around Baghdad say they have been met with indifference and derision.

“The Badr Corps is committed to the ‘sexual cleansing’ of Iraq,“ Ali Hili, a 33-year-old gay Iraqi exile in London who fled to the United Kingdom five months ago, told Ireland. “We believe that the Badr Corps is receiving advice from Iran on how to target gay people.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the news in recent months for persecuting and executing young gay men. According to Ireland, the well-armed Badr Corps is the military arm of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the powerful Shia group that is the largest political formation in Iraq’s Shia community.

The Ayatollah Sistani, 77, an Iranian-born cleric who is the supreme Shia authority in Iraq, is revered by the Supreme Council as its spiritual leader. His antigay fatwa says that “people involved” in homosexuality “should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

"There is a very, very serious threat to life for gay people in Iraq today," Hili told Ireland. "We are receiving regular reports from our extensive network of contacts with underground gay activists and gay people in Iraq—intimidation, beatings, kidnappings, and murders of gays have become an almost daily occurrence. The Badr Corps was killing gay people even before the Ayatollah’s fatwa, but Sistani’s murderous homophobic incitement has given a green light to all Shia Muslims to hunt and kill lesbians and gay men.

"Badr militants are entrapping gay men via Internet chat rooms," Hili continued. "They arrange a date and then beat and kill the victim. Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married. Badr will typically give them a month to change their ways. If they don't change their behavior or if they fail to show evidence that they plan to get married, they will be arrested, disappear, and eventually be found dead. The bodies are usually discovered with their hands bound behind their back, blindfolds over their eyes, and bullet wounds to the back of the head.”

Tahseen, a 31-year-old correspondent for the British Abu Nawas Group living in Iraq, told Ireland by telephone from Baghdad that “just last week, four gay people we know of were found dead. I am afraid to leave my room and go out in the street because I will be killed. We all live in fear.“ Tahseen said that men who seem obviously gay “cannot walk in the street. My best friend was recently killed for being gay.”

Tahseen confirmed the murderous efficiency of the Badr Corps’ Internet entrapment program. “Within one hour after they meet a gay person in an Internet chat room, that person will disappear and be found dead,” he said, adding that “since Sistani’s fatwa, the life of a gay person is worth nothing here, and the violence and killings have gotten much, much worse.”

Tahseen lives in a Baghdad apartment with his two brothers. “Right now, I have five gay men hiding in my room in fear of their lives, because they cannot go outside without risking being killed,” he said. “They are all listening to me as I speak with you.” All those hiding with Tahseen are in their late 20s or early 30s and by their mannerisms would be easily identified as gay by most Iraqis, Ireland wrote.

Sen. Feingold Stands Up Again

Sen. Feingold Stands Up Again
by Dave Lindorff
Copyright by OpEd
September 8, 2006.

Once again, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), has nailed it, doing exactly the right thing, acting in a courageous manner as a progressive politician should act.

It is clear to everyone in Congress that President Bush knows he's in deep political and legal trouble over his warrantless NSA spying program. It has been declared a violation of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence law passed by Congress in 1978, and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, by a federal judge in Detroit. His justification for breaking those laws--that he is the commander in chief in a so-called "war" on terror--was summarily slapped down and tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in the course of its Hamdi v. Rumsfeld decision in June. And anyone who thinks honestly about why the president would have decided to violate the FISA law and avoid seeking warrants for the spy program from a group of secret, top-security-clearance-rated judges in a special FISA court that has only rejected four such requests in 28 years has to admit that Bush is clearly doing something outrageous (most likely spying on his political enemies in a replay of Nixon's actions-the very crime that led Congress to pass FISA in the first place).

My own Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican who keeps playing at liberal to the home crowd in Pennsylvania but who has shown himself to be nothing but an enabler of Bush's constitutional crime wave, held hearings on the NSA spying. He huffed and puffed a little about its being illegal, and then came up with a proposal that, if passed by Congress, would retroactively exonerate the president of his crime against the Constitution, while establishing a new shortcut to permit the warrantless spying to continue unabated, and unmonitored by either Congress or the FISA court.

It looked like this atrocity of Specter's was going to pass into law, but Sen. Feingold, with the help of, not Democrats, but three Republican senators he rounded up who still respect the Bill of Rights and rule of law, managed to fend it off by way of a filibuster threat.

Feingold deserves all of our thanks for this move--so uncharacteristic of his feckless Democratic colleagues, who continue to cower at the thought of an attack by Karl Rove and his media minions.

The amazing thing is that when Feingold introduced a censure motion against Bush late last year, his approval rating among Democrats and among the general population soared--a clear indication that he has the political positions that American voters are looking for. It is likely that Feingold's numbers will jump again as news of his latest action in the Senate spreads. And yet most Democrats in Congress still remain supine when it comes to standing up to the Bush administration.

Part of the problem, as always, is the mass media, which largely ignore Sen. Feingold, or as they did in the case of his censure motion, ridicule his actions. When Feinfold proposed censuring the president, which was a bold move that only two of his Senate colleagues endorsed (and then only after intense pressure from their constituents), the New York Times buried the story on page 19. Two days later though, the paper, in a textbook example of inappropriate news judgment, ran a page-one "reaction" story, reporting that Republicans were claiming to be happy to see censure and impeachment in the news, as this would presumably "energize" their political base. Nowhere in that story was there any mention of how censure or impeachment would similarly energize the Democratic base in November.

Hopefully, Feingold will not be deterred by threats from the right, abuse by the media, or the cowardice and lack of support of his fellow Democrats, and will continue to press the fight against the Bush administration's assault on the Constitution and on American democracy and freedom. So far, based upon his consistent opposition to "free-trade" legislation, his opposition to the Iraq War, his opposition to the Patriot Act, his censure motion, and now his effort to block passage of a law exonerating Bush expost facto of his domestic spying crimes, it doesn't look like he is going to back down.

Right there, he has distinguished himself from the pack of weasels and poll-hugging opportunists lining up to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

1st home-price decline since '93 possible: Realtors

1st home-price decline since '93 possible: Realtors
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News
Published September 8, 2006

WASHINGTON -- U.S. home prices could fall for the first time since 1993 as a record number of homes for sale gives buyers the upper hand in negotiations, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"We'll probably see prices [in August] dip temporarily below year-ago levels as the market works through a build-up in housing inventory," David Lereah, the group's chief economist, said in a report released Thursday. He didn't provide a monthly median estimate.

The inventory of new and existing homes for sale has swelled to record levels as the five-year housing boom comes to an end. Shares of home builders have fallen this week on weak earnings reports and lowered outlooks by Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., Beazer Homes USA Inc. and KB Home.

Short-term housing investors, so-called "flippers," are putting their properties up for sale, making for "an increasingly challenging housing market," KB Home Chief Executive Bruce Karatz said Wednesday in a statement that detailed the builder's 43 percent drop in new orders.

"People who purchased last year with the intent of flipping are likely to get burned," Lereah said in the Realtors group's report.

The last time the monthly median price for an existing home fell below the year-ago level was February 1993, when it dipped 1.1 percent. On Sept. 25, the group will report existing-home prices and sales for August. Two days later, the Commerce Department will report new-home prices and sales.

The Federal Reserve said last month that "cooling" in the housing sector is weakening the economy, and ended a series of 17 consecutive increases in its target interest rate.

Home sales and ancillary purchases such as new furnishings and renovations account for as much as 23 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Lereah said the median price of new homes probably will rise 0.2 percent on an annualized basis in 2006, the worst performance since prices fell in 1991, when the market was mired in a housing depression. The median price for an existing home probably will gain 2.8 percent, the slowest rate since 1992.

Sales of existing houses and condominiums declined to an annual rate of 6.69 million in the second quarter from a 7.19 million pace a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Realtors group.

The median price for a condominium dropped 0.3 percent from a year ago, to $225,800, the first decline on record. The median price for a single-family home rose 3.7 percent, to $227,500, the slowest pace in six years.

The inventory of unsold existing homes climbed to 3.86 million in July, the highest ever, according to the Realtors group. The number of new homes for sale reached a record 568,000, according to Census Department data.

Washington Mutual steps back - Bank plans to close 28 branches in area

Washington Mutual steps back - Bank plans to close 28 branches in area
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 8, 2006

Washington Mutual Inc., which moved aggressively into the Chicago market in recent years, is now closing branches in the area.

The Seattle-based bank plans to close 28 of its 172 Chicago-area branches, mainly in Lake and McHenry Counties as well as in other outlying suburbs. An estimated 168 jobs could be affected by the closures.

Washington Mutual made a big splash when it entered the market in 2003 by rapidly opening branches throughout the area. But the company has struggled to win market share in the highly competitive banking market here.

Industry observers have long been waiting for a shakeout to occur, and WaMu has topped many lists for predicted cutbacks.

WaMu's deposit market share in the Chicago area is 0.3 percent, the same as Rockford-based Amcore Bank, which has only about two dozen Chicago-area branches, and Elgin-based EFS Bank, which has about 10.

The retrenchment in the Chicago area is part of a broader consolidation under way by the company, which is in the process of closing 80 poor-performing stores nationwide.

WaMu spokesman Shane Winn said the area branches slated to close are lagging in three areas: household growth, market density potential and financial performance.

"We'll continue to open stores in Chicagoland, as we believe in our ability to succeed here," Winn said.

Do I hear a $37 million? In his 30 or so years as an auctioneer, Joel Langer has sold everything from a Shelby prototype convertible to a bottle of rare cabernet sauvignon to works of art.

So why not hundreds of millions of dollars of bad debt?

Langer's new business venture, Chicago Debt Exchange, on Wednesday will conduct a live auction of about $500 million in commercial, credit card, mortgage and auto loan debt, including some on behalf of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Portfolios being sold include $37 million in bank-card debt, $57 million in phone-bill debt, and Chapter 7 bankruptcy-related home renovation debts of $194,000.

About 150 potential bidders have registered for the event, said Langer, who'd like to hold the events weekly and who gets a fee for each transaction.

"When you don't pay your phone bill, after the phone company is done trying to collect, they package it and sell it to someone else," Langer said in an interview Thursday.

Potential buyers can participate in person at 200 S. Wacker Drive, by phone or the Internet.

Skeptics have said that auctions aren't conducive to buying a debt portfolio.

"The caution that I have is that these are nonperforming consumer loans; these aren't commodities," one debt buyer told trade publication American Banker in a story about Langer's start-up. "It's not like a share in a public company."

Langer expects everybody who buys a portfolio will do due diligence ahead of time.

Indeed, Chicago lawyer Horace Fox, a panel trustee for the U.S. trustee's office and involved in some matters that the auction is trying to resolve, likes the new effort to sell debt.

"Usually, you have to do it the old-fashioned way, filing a lawsuit for each claim, and that is expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming," the Lehman Fox lawyer said Thursday. "The thought is we'd try something that smacks of this century's technology and use the Internet and a simultaneous live auction to sell the debt."


Maybe now the first shall not be last

Maybe now the first shall not be last
By Ameet Sachdev
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 8, 2006

It will still be bumpy and you'll still be sitting next to the lavatories, but things are looking up for those in the back of the plane.

For decades, passengers seated in the rear of an airplane have endured long waits onboard as the first to get on and the last to get off. But United Airlines is experimenting with a dual ramp that will allow passengers to board and exit the plane from the front and rear doors at the same time.

To do that, United has started testing a new Y-shaped jet bridge, called the DoubleDocker, at its Denver hub, that links the gate to both doors in an effort to limit the time its planes sit on the ground.

Now a passenger in the back can exit the plane at the same time as someone in first class--a small victory for coach-paying customers who become more stepchild-like each time airlines cut free meals and other services in the face of intense competition.

While United officials hail the move as "all about the customer," it's also very much about efficiency. By speeding up the boarding and unloading process, if even by a few minutes, United can jam additional flights into the day--without using more aircraft.

"We are refining our processes so planes can be in the air flying, being productive versus sitting at the gate being grounded," said Jim Kyte, general manager of United's Denver operations.

United has been testing the jet bridge at one gate since Aug. 15 on flights operated by Ted, its discount carrier. It found it can unload a full plane of 156 passengers in less than five minutes, about twice as fast as using a traditional jet bridge, Kyte said.

Using two doors instead of one seems like a simple concept, and, indeed, international airports often de-plane passengers through both doors. But at most of those airports, ramp workers drive massive staircases up to the plane and passengers have to brave the elements upon exiting.

What's different with the new jet bridge is that United passengers will remain indoors the whole time. The jet bridge also is fully automated, using sensors to find the aircraft doors and drive the front and rear legs to their docking positions.

In a release issued Thursday, United touted itself the "first and only airline in the world" to use such a high-tech bridge system.

Some airline-industry observers mocked United for making a big deal out of a technology that it is only using at one gate, at one airport.

"The airline industry is the only industry that thinks using two doors is a breakthrough," said Joe Brancatelli, who runs a Web site for business travelers. "The bigger issue is whether United will use the bridge at other airports."

The Elk Grove Township-based airline said it plans to expand the use of the jet bridge to other airports but offered few specifics other than to say it is in discussions with other facilities. In Denver, it will deploy five such bridges by Thanksgiving.

Complicating a possible rollout is that airports have different arrangements on the ownership and maintenance of jet bridges. Some cash-strapped airports may object to paying tens of millions of dollars to buy a DoubleDocker.

In Denver, United purchased the jet bridges, made by Dewbridge Airport Systems, based in Ottawa, Ontario. The airline declined to disclose its total investment.

Denver is the first U.S. airport to test the bridge, which was developed specifically for use with single-aisle jets, such as the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737, said Neil Hutton, vice president of Dewbridge. The company sold an earlier version of the jet bridge to some airports in Canada.

Airlines that used the bridges in Canada shaved an average of 10 minutes in the time it takes to "turn" a plane--that is, unload passengers at the gate, reload, prepare the plane and leave the gate, Hutton said.

By cutting turnaround times between flights, airlines can expand their schedules using the same crew, pilots and baggage handlers. The only cost is fuel.

"The airline industry is at a point in time where they are looking for any savings they can get," Hutton said.


House brands heavy at Macy's - Federated uses a legion of designers to help set its clothes, other products apart, increase profitability

House brands heavy at Macy's - Federated uses a legion of designers to help set its clothes, other products apart, increase profitability
By Sandra Jones
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 8, 2006

When Marshall Field's officially converts to Macy's on Saturday, the star of the show will be Macy's in-house brands--a contingent of clothing, handbags, costume jewelry, cookware and even furniture that takes center stage.

Federated Department Stores Inc., parent of Macy's, is banking on designing and selling more of its own merchandise, allowing it to offer lower prices and make a higher profit. In-house brands account for 18 percent of Macy's store sales, higher than most department stores. Federated plans to bring the in-house brands at the newly converted Macy's stores up to that same level within the next two years.

The strategy is key to winning over shoppers who have complained for years that all department stores look the same. And it's a linchpin in the efforts to woo Chicago shoppers, many of whom are irritated about losing the Marshall Field's moniker.

"I'd like to see how they feel two months from now," said Macy's North Chairman Frank Guzetta, during an impromptu interview while touring the former Field's store at Old Orchard shopping center in Skokie in preparation for Saturday's big event. Guzetta is betting that the changes will restore Field's long string of declining sales.

With about $95 million in annual sales, according to industry estimates, Old Orchard is one of Field's largest-volume stores and a significant contributor to the 63 Macy's stores that will make up the Macy's North division Guzetta runs out of Minneapolis.

Federated, which also owns Bloomingdale's, employs scores of designers who watch fashion trends and create affordable versions for Macy's. It's an operation that rivals the size of some manufacturers.

One example: In women's clothing, Macy's generates more sales from its in-house traditional sportswear line called Charter Club than from Ralph Lauren, the powerhouse traditional sportswear vendor also available at Macy's, Guzetta said.

"It's very clear that Macy's private label will be given a lot more prominence," said Donald Soares, principal of Capgemini's Midwest consumer products and retail practice. "The very high-end brands that don't fit with the Macy's profile are probably going to be replaced."

Indeed, designers Prada, Miu Miu and Jimmy Choo are already gone, while Yves St. Laurent has scaled back its handbag collection.

Instead, the in-house brands are displayed prominently throughout the store, taking up key positions near entryways and major aisles.

In women's clothing, Charter Club, I.N.C., Alfani and Style & Co. dominate the floor.

Alfani and Club Room by Charter Club have a big presence in the men's department.

And in home goods, Tools of the Trade cookware and the Hotel Collection bedding and tabletop collections are front and center.

The retailer also has agreements with well-known designers to offer collections exclusive to Macy's: T Tahari, a hip women's clothing line from Elie Tahari, is in stores now. O Oscar, an affordable apparel line from Oscar de la Renta, is due to arrive in February. And Martha Stewart will be selling her home collection next year. All are exclusive arrangements with Macy's.

Field's shoppers will also notice changes in the stores' layout--wider aisles, less clutter, sitting areas near the fitting rooms and wheeled shopping carts.

Sales clerks are required to dress in black in order to be more easily recognizable. And computerized price scanners allow shoppers to check prices themselves.

Amira Krvarac has lived in the Chicago area for a decade and walked out of the Old Orchard store on Thursday with two dresses and two pairs of shoes for her children.

"I think it's better," Krvavac said. "There's more to choose from and the prices are better. If I had more time, I'd shop more.

THE SHORT VIEW By John Authers - More bad news for the economy

THE SHORT VIEW By John Authers
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: September 8 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 8 2006 03:00

If corporate America has bad news to get off its chest, we can expect to hear it soon. The third quarter will be ending in three weeks, and the "pre-announcement" season, in which companies try to massage expectations down to a level they can reach, is almost upon us.

Even without any attempts at massaging expectations, the second quarter was a huge surprise on the up-side. With almost all the S&P 500 having reported, 70 per cent produced earnings ahead of expectations, while only 19 per cent disappointed. Typically, only 60 per cent manage to surprise on the up-side. Overall earnings were up 16.3 per cent, an impressive figure by any metric, and far ahead of estimates. Strong earnings have been a key factor in keeping the world's main equity indices in positive territory for the year.

However, changes in earnings estimates over the last few weeks suggest that analysts are growing less optimistic. Last month, the proportion of earnings estimate revisions that were positive dropped below 40 per cent - the first time this has happened in more than three years. That timescale coincides with the beginning of the remarkable run of profit growth in the US. Last quarter was the 12th in a row where profit growth exceeded 10 per cent. The record is 13 consecutive such quarters.

Apart from the earnings revisions, there are other technical signals that suggest it will be difficult to break this record. Richard Bernstein of Merrill Lynch says recent moves in the Treasury yield curve have left it completely inverted; from the three-month treasury bill to the 10-year bond, the longer until a bond matures, the lower its yield. This has happened four times since 1970. On each occasion, it was followed by a fall in corporate profits. He suggests that earnings expectations for the next year are too optimistic.

And Robin Evans, global strategist at Fox-Pitt Kelton, says downward earnings revisions tend to correlate with high levels of volatility as measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange's Vix index. The moving average for the Vix is rising following the sharp correction many markets endured in May - another bad sign for earnings.

West must address roots of Islamic struggle

West must address roots of Islamic struggle
By Harlan Ullman
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: September 7 2006 20:06 | Last updated: September 7 2006 20:06

His approval ratings are dropping, violence in Iraq is surging and Republican control of Congress after the November elections is in the balance. Consequently, George W. Bush is taking his case for what is now called “winning the struggle between freedom and terror in the Middle East” on the road. In the coming weeks, the president will deliver a series of what he calls “non-political” speeches to persuade the public he is on the right track.

Dissenters and critics are scolded for ignoring Munich in 1938 and accused of abetting a new brand of the old appeasement that brought on the second world war. Mr Bush has adopted the neo-conservative description of the enemy as “Islamist fascists”. One wonders if the enemy views us as Judeo and Christo-fascists? Regardless, the Munich analogy is wrong. Appeasement is not our main problem. More relevant is the summer of 1789 in Paris and the French Revolution.

Today, two powerful revolutions are sweeping the Arab and Muslim worlds. The first pits citizens demanding greater slices of political and economic pies against their autocratic governments. The second is the growing struggle between fundamentalism and modernism in determining Islam’s future. The west is oblivious to these revolutions, to the forces causing them and to consequences that could be as profound as what happened in Paris more than two centuries ago.

Beyond ignoring these revolutions, the Bush administration errs by lumping the “enemy” together into a “single worldwide network of radicals” to be defeated. Worse, we forget what brought Hitler to power in 1933 and seem incapable of embracing a comprehensive strategy that deals with the causes of these dangers.

The war on terror began against an adversary that was Sunni, Salafist and Wahabi. However, the administration has broadened the war to include Hizbollah and Iran – Shia who are of a different ideological and political stripe from Salafist and Wahabi radical Sunnis – and Hamas, the elected Sunni government in Palestine. Sunni Salafist and Shia “terrorists” have different agendas, aims and ideologies. The former would turn the clock back centuries by instituting caliphate-type governments. The Shia, beyond the sectarian violence in Iraq and the Sunni-Iranian divide, see the world largely through Israel’s former occupation of and recent retaliatory strikes in Lebanon, the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what is viewed as America’s one-sided support of Israel. Many Iraqi Shia are inflamed over Israel’s destruction of Lebanon and the influence of Iran and Syria has been strengthened by the conflict in Lebanon. Without this understanding, a one-size-fits-all strategy can never work.

The roots of these revolutions are not conceptually different from the seeds for Hitler and his fascism and for the Soviet Union that were sown after the first world war by the refusal of the allies to rehabilitate the defeated powers. Desperation, humiliation, disenfranchisement and deprivation led to violence and revolution then and now.

A comprehensive strategy must address root causes. If that strategy does not attack the grounds for desperation and humiliation, wrapped in perverse, often suicidal and conflicting interpretations of Islam, this fight can never be won. Without a resolution that leads to recognised and secure Israeli and Palestinian states, terror will not disappear. Without convincing the autocratic regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that greater political modernisation is crucial, we cannot win. And without engaging Syria and Iran, more terrorists will materialise than are killed or captured in this fight. This is neither Munich nor 1938.

But until 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue understands this, we will not win the struggle between freedom and terror no matter how many speeches are given.

The writer, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is author of America’s Promise Restored: Preventing Culture, Crusade and Partisanship from Wrecking Our Nation

Financial Times Editorial - Wounded Blair must set an early exit date

Financial Times Editorial - Wounded Blair must set an early exit date
Published: September 8 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 8 2006 03:00
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

The long and remarkable premiership of Tony Blair, the first Labour leader to win three consecutive general elections, is, for most practical purposes, over. The civil warfare within Britain's governing party - which Mr Blair raised from near oblivion to become very nearly the natural party of government - has fatally undermined the authority of the prime minister.

Nevertheless, Mr Blair yesterday refused to set the precise date of his departure, merely confirming the prior intimations of his lieutenants that this month's Labour party conference in Manchester would be his last.

Gordon Brown, his chancellor, partner in the resurrection of the party, and ever more impatient rival for the leadership, did not yesterday demur. Perhaps chastened by public perception that he was trying to organise a coup only 16 months after Labour's re-election, and maybe fearful that he risked destroying the citadel just as it was about to fall into his hands, Mr Brown seemed to indicate he was prepared to wait a little longer.

The events of recent days have not been an edifying spectacle. All civil war is notoriously vicious and beyond reason's reach. But it is striking how much commentary accepts the self-interested terms of debate set by the civil warriors, about what is best for them and their party.

This is a matter of some bemusement to most British citizens, as well as foreigners perplexed by Britain's traditions of political assassination. On the face of it, moreover, this has been a successful government that has presided over unbroken economic growth. It is not massively below popularity levels common for second- or third-term governments, yet it is wallowing in introspective factionalism that has lost sight of the national interest.

Mr Blair, of course, has forfeited a lot of support within a party that never took him to its heart and which he has frequently treated with contempt. His plummeting popularity because of the Iraq debacle, compounded by his error of judgment in holding out against an early ceasefire in the recent Lebanon war, is the sort of trend that makes many Labour MPs fear for their seats.

Mr Blair and his circle often seemed trapped in a weird amalgam of embattled hubris. Here is a man who responds to any questioning of his increasingly inexplicable foreign policy by expressing his "complete inner confidence" that he is doing the right thing. Aides plotting the manner of his departure aver that it is not so much what the government has delivered that counts as the survival of Blairism.

But the more proximate cause of his troubles is that different streams of party discontent have flowed into each other - the unreconciled on Iraq, the irreconcilable Old Labour rump, and a larger, mainstream group unhappy with the domestic reform agenda.

This confluence of rebellion is probably enough to deny Mr Blair his long goodbye. It is certainly enough to paralyse meaningful government. That means the prime minister should set a date for his exit that is sooner rather than later - in a way that serves the country ahead of his party.

This government was re-elected - albeit with widespread clenching of teeth - on the understanding that Mr Blair was pledged to serve a full term, and on a prospectus of reform, especially in public services. That cannot now be changed as a result of some backroom deal between the prime minister and the chancellor. As Mr Blair himself said yesterday: "We can't treat the public as irrelevant bystanders."

Britain's parliamentary system - where it is the largest party that has the right to form the government - allows the transfer of power within the party. But to proceed purely on that basis in these circumstances would be to pickpocket the electorate.

Mr Blair should therefore set an early date for his move to a caretaker role and the start of a contest to succeed him. Mr Brown is, of course, the overwhelming favourite to take over. But we know surprisingly little about the likely content of his future policies, beyond the assertion of his absolute right to formulate them.

There are genuine differences within New Labour. The most significant, highlighted by, among others, Charles Clarke, the defenestrated former home and education secretary, is between those who favour a centralised, Fabian-style delivery of public goods and services, and those who insist on the need for choice and diversity. The Blairite view that design flaws in the provision of welfare and public service entrench inequality and hold back the disadvantaged is valid. Where does the chancellor, instinctively centralist throughout his years at the Treasury, stand on this? What sort of foreign policy, for that matter, can we expect from Mr Brown, beyond periodic and patronising sermons to our European partners?

None of this should be seen, or used, as a ploy to deny the chancellor the premiership. The purpose of debate is to clarify and to sharpen. People want to know what Mr Brown really stands for. He and Mr Blair should not forget they are public servants; under Britain's system, the electorate is master.

Financial Times Editorial - Bush has learnt no lessons about torture

Financial Times Editorial - Bush has learnt no lessons about torture
Published: September 8 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 8 2006 03:00
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

Virtually on the eve of the September 11 anniversary, President George W. Bush has issued a remarkable defence of what the Central Intelligence Agency did to detainees at secret prisons abroad, techniques that he calls "tough but safe" - but the rest of the us call torture. On Wednesday he even went so far as to brag about how much information the CIA had obtained by using those methods against the al-Qaeda VIPs detained in those prisons.

So the rest of the world can be forgiven for wondering just how much is likely to change, now that Mr Bush has finally acknowledged that secret prisons do exist. True, he says the CIA ghost cells have been emptied, and their most dangerous inmates transferred to the relative limelight of the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. That is good: it brings them one step closer to public trial and legal due process.

And true, the president made sure that his full-throated defence of "rendition" coincided with some news that seems to indicate a kinder, gentler detention policy: new detention and interrogation rules from the Pentagon that comply with the Geneva conventions and explicitly ban some techniques believed to have been favourites of US interrogators, such as forced nudity and simulated drowning.

But we should not be fooled by what appear to be concessions to the international community, to human rights critics and to the US Supreme Court (which recently slapped down the president's plans for trying terror suspects). For Mr Bush made clear that, though empty, the secret prisons will continue to exist - and he even had the audacity to demand that Congress give the CIA interrogators who operate there, and are not covered by the new Pentagon rules, a new immunity from prosecution for all but the most egregious forms of torture.

In short, rendition can go on exactly as it did before, and if the US is lucky enough to catch another al-Qaeda VIP tomorrow (and if Congress concedes to the Bush request) his interrogators would have virtual carte blanche for how they treat him. The military can keep its hands clean, while the CIA plunges into this murky mess up to its elbows.

The president's defiance did not end there: on Wednesday he proposed new rules for how the former secret prisoners will be tried, now that they have made their new home at Guantánamo Bay. But his plan for military commissions to try them is uncannily, some would say insultingly, close to the plan rejected angrily by the US Supreme Court only two months ago as illegal.

The prosecutors could use evidence obtained through coercion, or hearsay, or evidence that is kept totally secret from the accused. These are violations of the most basic principles of justice, and thankfully, even some Republican Senators have had the courage to condemn them. But that does not mean they will have the courage to reject the plan in the end, on the eve of mid-term elections in which the Republicans face the prospect of serious losses.

Five years after launching a war on terror that has undermined America's moral authority abroad - and proved spectacularly counter-productive in the battle for hearts and minds in the Muslim world - Mr Bush seems to have learnt few lessons about why torture and martial law will not win this war for him. For the benefits of intelligence gleaned, if any, are ultimately outweighed by the damage to America's standing at home and abroad.

Bolton’s UN position in jeopardy

Bolton’s UN position in jeopardy
By Holly Yeager in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: September 7 2006 22:41 | Last updated: September 7 2006 22:41

A vote to allow John Bolton, US ambassador to the United Nations, to remain in his post beyond the end of the year was unexpectedly delayed on Thursday when a Republican senator said he still had questions about the nomination.

President George W. Bush’s attempt last year to put Mr Bolton in the job met fierce opposition from Democrats and some Republicans, and he used a special procedure to install the sometimes gruff diplomat in the post without Senate confirmation.

That “recess appointment” expires in January and, with the support of some senators who had opposed him in the past, Republican leaders had hoped to confirm Mr Bolton under regular rules.

But Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, abruptly removed the nomination from his committee’s agenda on Thursday after Lincoln Chafee, a committee member, said he still had questions about Mr Bolton.

Mr Chafee, a moderate Republican, faces a tough challenge on Tuesday in Rhode Island’s primary from Steve Laffey, who complains that his votes are frequently at odds with Bush administration policy.

Mr Chafee voted against the invasion of Iraq and several tax cuts.

But, with Republicans struggling to hold on to control of Congress, most national party officials have sided with him in the contest, arguing that a moderate Republican with an independent streak offers the best chance for Republicans to hold on to the seat in the heavily Democratic state.

If Mr Chafee opposes the nomination in the committee, it could still move to the Senate floor, where Democrats could again move to block Mr Bolton.

The president could again use a recess appointment, but Mr Bolton would not be permitted to receive a salary.

Sean McCormack, State Department spokesman, said the committee could return to the nomination as early as next week, and he said he hoped all senators would have a chance to vote on it.

Bush administration officials have stood by Mr Bolton, insisting that his skill is needed as the UN Security Council deals with important issues such as Iran, Sudan and North Korea.

BP executive refuses to testify - Pleads the 5th!

BP executive refuses to testify - Pleads the 5th!
By Jeremy Grant in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: September 7 2006 19:16 | Last updated: September 8 2006 01:17

A BP executive formerly in charge of monitoring corrosion at the oil company’s Prudhoe Bay operations in Alaska on Thursday refused to testify under oath at a congressional hearing that examined the oil company’s litany of failures in the US.

The development came as US lawmakers got their first chance to grill BP since a massive March oil spill and the partial closure last month of the country’s largest oilfield.

Richard Woollam, a former head of corrosion monitoring, cited his constitutional right against self-incrimination in refusing to testify.

Steve Marshall, president of BP Exploration, told lawmakers that Mr Woollam had been removed last year from its Alaska operations after the company found evidence of an “atmosphere of intimidation” in his pipeline inspection operations team.

Lawmakers at the energy and commerce sub-committee hearing seized on the revelation as a sign that whistleblowers who may have tried to raise the alarm about the condition of BP’s pipelines were ignored.

BP last month shut down half its oilfield in Prudhoe Bay after government-ordered inspections found severe corrosion of the eastern oil transit line.

Bob Malone, president of BP North America, said Mr Woollam had been “put on leave” but remained on its payroll.

This week, BP moved to counter criticism that it failed to listen to its workers’ concerns by appointing a retired US judge as ombudsman.

Mr Malone called his company’s record “unacceptable” and said BP had “fallen short of the high standards we hold for ourselves, and the expectations that others have for us”.

Prudhoe Bay accounted for 8 per cent of US domestic supply. Its closure led to anger about BP’s safety and pipeline management policies and has prompted scrutiny in Washington at a time of public unease about petrol prices.

Mr Malone took issue with critics who “alleged that BP engineered the shutdown of Prudhoe Bay as a way to manipulate prices”.

He said: “I am here to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. BP took the extraordinary step to shut down production because we saw unexpectedly severe corrosion that couldn’t be explained.”

Lawmakers expressed astonishment that BP could not have foreseen its pipeline problems by inspections known as “pigging”, in which a device is sent down a pipeline.

Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who chairs the House committee, said BP’s admissions in hindsight “just didn’t cut it” when it came to excusing “consistent failure”.

Interpreting uncertain terms - Fearful words for young Muslim

Interpreting uncertain terms - Fearful words for young Muslim
By Azam Nizamuddin, an attorney and adjunct professor of religion and theology at Elmhurst College
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 8, 2006

As news of another terror plot swirled on television news, I was watching a cable news channel with my 10-year-old son when President Bush stepped out of Air Force One to make a statement. To my dread, however, what came out of his mouth will live in infamy.

The president stated that "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists." My son then turned to me and asked, "Dad, does this mean that we will be targeted?" I could tell by the uncertain tone in his question and by his innocent facial expression that for the first time in his life, he actually felt scared of being Muslim. This Oklahoma-born child, who recently completed his first Little League season, a season in which he helped his baseball team compete in the championship game, was actually scared by the words of his own president.

As an American Muslim, I never thought I would actually have to explain to my children that their president does not really hate them. However, as I reflected on my son's question, I could not justify Bush's remark under any circumstances. What worried me was that if many young American Muslims felt threatened and fearful of their own government, could they be lost to extremist views and ideologies, just as so many young British Muslims appear to be lost to the likes of the Taliban or Al Qaeda?

Clearly, Bush had a choice. He could have used many terms to describe those who were arrested in the terror plot in the United Kingdom. He could have called them "terrorists." He could have called them "British terrorists." He could have called them "extremists" or even "alleged criminals." So why did Bush use this terminology of racial profiling? What evidence did the president have that religious principles or Islamic theology was the cause or motivating factor in this terror plot?

It appears that in an election year, Bush is appealing to the right wing of his political base. Recently, a pro-Israel lobby group called Christians United for Israel, led by the apocalyptic evangelical preacher John Hagee of Texas, held its first summit meeting in Washington. One of its keynote speakers was Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who essentially sounded out the crusading banter by using the term "Islamic fascists" during his presentation. According to Santorum, "Terror is not the enemy. The enemy are Islamic fascists." During this event, the term "Islamic fascists" was used regularly by many right-wing speakers, including Gary Bauer, a former Republican candidate for president, and Daniel Ayalon, Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Political pandering is not new in an election year. But politics alone cannot justify one of the few remaining forms of abject bigotry in America, namely Islamophobia. In the 1950s and 1960s, many Southern Democrats refused to support the civil rights movement for fear of antagonizing white Southerners. Similarly, many German public officials in the early 1930s refused to condemn the alarmingly anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Nazi Party, fearing that it would upset the supporters of the growing fascist movement. However, just as bigotry was unacceptable during the Jim Crow era of the South and German society in the 1930s, it should be equally unacceptable in America in 2006.

Minority communities have had to face many challenges in America. Despite the bigoted and often hostile attitude toward Muslim Americans and others, I am optimistic about America because our Constitution guarantees and protects all citizens from violations of our religious beliefs and practices by the government. Moreover, we still have an independent judiciary, notwithstanding the recent assaults on our federal justices under the guise of so-called "activist judges."

The message I will give to my son and others is that despite the growing tide of Islamophobia in today's America, particularly from public officials and media pundits, we still have the right to petition the government for grievances. I will counsel him that despite the failure of political leaders to courageously condemn bigotry, there are many people of goodwill who have the responsibility to lobby for a change in leadership and a change in domestic and foreign policy.

Moreover, as Americans we must strengthen the Constitution by making sure that even in the midst of crisis, we develop and maintain a vibrant and independent judiciary that will not be swayed by racial or religious bigotry, irrational fears or undue political influence. The promise that America offers to its citizens and to the rest of the world is not rooted in party politics or charismatic leadership, but in an enduring and living Constitution that promotes essential human rights and balances the respective powers inherent in the president, Congress and especially the Supreme Court.


Azam Nizamuddin is an attorney and adjunct professor of religion and theology at Elmhurst College.

Key Conservative Jew sees easing of gay rabbi ban

Key Conservative Jew sees easing of gay rabbi ban
By Rachel Zoll
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press
Published September 8, 2006

NEW YORK -- A key Conservative Jewish leader is traveling the country to prepare synagogues for a potentially divisive change: The movement will roll back its ban on ordaining openly gay rabbis by year's end, he predicts, with confusion and discomfort to follow.

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, says a committee of scholars who interpret Jewish law for the movement will likely loosen the prohibition when they vote in December.

At the same time, Epstein expects the scholars will endorse a policy aiming to keep more traditional congregations within the fold. The panel will effectively allow synagogues that believe that Jewish law bars same-sex relationships to hire only heterosexual rabbis.

The vote by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards will test what Conservative leaders call their "big umbrella"--allowing diverse practices within one movement. It will also signal to the wider community how far the Conservative branch will go to reinterpret Jewish law.

"The committee might accept--will accept, I think--two or more" policies, Epstein said at an August meeting of New York Conservative Jewish rabbis and synagogue leaders. "One that actually reaffirms the current position and at least one that will liberalize it."

The effect of the contradictory actions will be that local Jewish communities have more freedom. Conservative seminaries, along with the movement's estimated 750 synagogues and more than 1,000 rabbis in the United States and Canada, will get to decide which policy to follow.

"It could cause confusion, it could cause tremendous angst, it could cause tremendous tension, it could cause tremendous disagreement," Epstein said.

The vote comes as the movement is trying to hold on to a shrinking middle ground between innovation and strict tradition in American Judaism. The Conservative branch follows Jewish law, while allowing limited change for modern circumstances.

It's been a hard road to follow. Many Conservative Jews have joined the more liberal Reform stream, which has recently surpassed the Conservative branch as the largest in America. The Reform movement ordains gays and is more accepting of interfaith couples.

For Conservative Jews seeking more rigorous observance, the Orthodox branch has become a popular choice. The Orthodox strictly adhere to Jewish law, prohibiting women and gays from becoming rabbis.

Rabbi Joel Roth, a leading religious scholar and a member of the Conservative Law Committee, questioned whether people with traditional Jewish views on sexuality will stay, even if the panel allows synagogues leeway to accept or reject gay relationships. Roth said he has been "demonized" for saying that he interprets religious law as barring same-gender sex.

Roth contends the verses in Leviticus considered to ban gay relationships "are really quite clear, despite the efforts by some to call their clarity into question."

"I know the law as it stands causes pain," he said. "But pain is not to be equated with immorality."

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, vice chairman of the Law Committee, supports ordaining gays, saying "it is simply not natural" to demand that gays and lesbians remain celibate.

"We have to interpret God's will in our time," Dorff said. He's confident that synagogues will realize that they share too much to let disputes over homosexuality divide them.

Dorff and Roth are traveling with Epstein to explain their differing interpretations of Jewish law. Along with presentations in Toronto and New York last month, the three plan to speak in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The debate focuses on the significance of Leviticus 18:22, which states "Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman," and 20:13, which says such an act is punishable by death.

The last major Law Committee vote on gay relationships came in 1992, when the panel voted 19-3, with one abstention, that Jewish law barred openly gay students from enrolling in seminaries and prohibited rabbis from officiating at gay union ceremonies.

In the latest discussion, the 25-member committee is considering legal papers called "teshuvot," for and against change. Each policy needs six votes to be accepted by the movement. Although it occurs rarely, more than one opinion can be endorsed, leaving synagogues and seminaries to decide which to follow.

Claypool refuses to give endorsement to Stroger - March primary loser will support no one

Claypool refuses to give endorsement to Stroger - March primary loser will support no one
By Mickey Ciokajlo
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 8, 2006

Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool said Thursday that he will neither endorse nor vote for Ald. Todd Stroger for County Board president in the November election.

Claypool, who lost the Democratic primary in March to Stroger's father, said he objected to the way Todd Stroger was selected to replace his stroke-stricken father on the ballot. Claypool said Todd Stroger also lacks the "executive ability" to pursue reform at the county.

"I have very real concerns about whether Todd Stroger is going to be the type of president that I think my supporters--and the type of people who want change and reform--want in Cook County," Claypool said.

Claypool got 46.5 percent of the vote in the March 21 primary. Stroger won, even though he had suffered a stroke a week before the election. He retired July 31.

Party leaders selected Todd Stroger to replace his father on the Nov. 7 ballot and run against Republican Tony Peraica, a commissioner from Riverside.

Claypool, who spent nearly $3 million on the primary, said he would not tell his supporters to follow his lead and sit out the race.

"I'm not urging anything. I am personally not taking a position in the race," Claypool said outside the boardroom where commissioners where holding their first meeting under the leadership of interim President Bobbie Steele.

Todd Stroger said Thursday that he hopes to meet with Claypool and persuade him to change his mind.

"I want to tell him what my plans are for the county, and I think when he hears them he'll say, `Makes sense to me,'" Todd Stroger said. "And like we do when it's time for the general election, Democrats will get together and we'll all back each other and run together," Stroger said.

If Claypool does not support him, Stroger said, "It tells me he decided not to be on the reservation, as we say."

Peraica called Claypool's announcement a victory.

"Forrest Claypool is probably my best friend on this board so I am disappointed that he will not acknowledge that I indeed am a better candidate," Peraica said. But he said he understood Claypool was a Democrat, and that it would be difficult for him to publicly support a Republican.

County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, a Republican from Elmwood Park, said Claypool's stand helps Peraica.

"I think it's significant because of the high number of voters in the Democratic primary that voted for him," Silvestri said. "And he's basically saying I don't have confidence in the candidate."

Silvestri said he hears from a lot of voters who are upset at what they believe was an attempt to hide information about John Stroger's condition following his stroke.

"A lot of the people that are most upset about what happened are Claypool supporters, and Commissioner Peraica's victory is dependent on swaying a lot of those people to his side of the ballot," Silvestri said.

Commissioner Mike Quigley, who chaired Claypool's primary campaign, was critical of Claypool for saying he won't vote in the race.

"This is democracy, you've got to vote," Quigley said.

Quigley said he hasn't yet decided to endorse Stroger but he has been meeting with him and sees "a glimmer of hope."

"I see a guy willing to evolve into the person he needs to be," Quigley said.

Also Thursday, Steele announced that she had placed Gerald Nichols, the former patronage chief to John Stroger, on paid suspension pending an investigation by the county's inspector general into allegations that Nichols pushed for the hiring of a politically connected ally in the Highway Department.

Steele said three other workers in the Highway Department were placed on paid suspension as part of the investigation, which was prompted by a story in the Chicago Sun-Times.


Feds turning up the heat - Immigrant son won't lose rights, U.S. says

Feds turning up the heat - Immigrant son won't lose rights, U.S. says
By Oscar Avila
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 8, 2006

The U.S. government and Elvira Arellano's legal team escalated their skirmish Thursday over an unusual federal lawsuit contending that to deport the undocumented immigrant would violate her young son's rights.

Attorneys for 7-year-old Saul Arellano say his constitutional rights would be violated if he is forced to return to Mexico with his mother even though he is a U.S. citizen by birth.

Prosecutors detailed their counterarguments in a motion filed Thursday to dismiss the case, insisting that Saul would not lose legal rights by his mother's deportation.

Arellano has taken refuge in a Humboldt Park church since defying a government deportation order Aug. 15, creating a standoff that has generated international notoriety.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said Saul Arellano's lawsuit raises "novel issues." Normally, illegal immigrants contest their own deportation orders instead of having their U.S. citizen children become plaintiffs, experts say.

Legal observers and advocates on both sides of the immigration debate are closely watching the lawsuit, which could affect the 3.1 million U.S. citizen children with at least one parent living here illegally. Some say the lawsuit is a long shot but could have political benefits.

"The courtroom is only one arena in which this lawsuit is going to play out. There is also the political arena," said Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto United Methodist Church, where Arellano has taken refuge.

Arellano, a well-known activist for undocumented immigrants, and the government have been in a stalemate since she took refuge at the church. Arellano said she is not leaving the church. Immigration officials say they don't plan to enter the church to get her even though she is a fugitive.

For now, Arellano's hopes rest on Saul, who had already taken center stage at sympathetic rallies, quietly playing with a Spiderman action figure or a TV microphone cord.

Arellano said she does not want to take Saul to Mexico because she fears that he will return to the United States as she did: with no knowledge of English and little formal education. Arellano said she has never seriously considered leaving her son behind either.

Federal prosecutors, in their court filings Thursday, said allowing Arellano to stay in the U.S. because of her son would grant her a benefit that Congress never intended. They implied that Arellano was hypocritical in turning to the court after ignoring the government's orders.

"Ms. Arellano should not be permitted to ignore the law and yet use the law through the means of a legal fiction by challenging the order through her son," prosecutors argued.

Prosecutors said they considered but rejected a plan to grant Arellano a temporary stay of deportation while her son's case is heard.

Joseph Mathews, attorney for Saul, said Arellano had been willing to wear an ankle bracelet or observe a curfew if she could be protected from deportation while the case is heard.

"I am disappointed in [the government's] decision, but I understand it," Mathews said. "They have a job to do, and they are doing it."

Prosecutors said legal precedents work against Arellano, and many experts tended to agree.

David Martin, a law professor at the University of Virginia and former counsel for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said he would be surprised if a judge agrees with the boy's claim.

"Some people's knee-jerk reaction is that you can't force a U.S.-citizen child to live somewhere else," Martin said. "This isn't really forcing him. Technically, they aren't deporting the child."

Muzaffar Chishti, director of the non-profit Migration Policy Institute's office at New York University School of Law, agreed that Saul's rights would be violated only if the government was ordering him to leave. In this case, Arellano is choosing to take him to Mexico rather than leave him in the U.S. with a guardian.

"It's a tragic human case but not a very compelling legal issue," Chishti said.

Even if Arellano's strategy doesn't hold up in court, some legal observers think her lawsuit could have political value in publicizing the situations of families like hers.

"This reflects the fact that our immigration laws are not accomplishing what they set out to, which is family unification," said Mary Meg McCarthy, director of the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center.

Critics say Arellano's rhetoric and legal tactics show how cynically many illegal immigrants use their U.S. citizen children as protection from their lawbreaking.

For some illegal immigrants, their children could eventually provide a legal window. When the children turn 21, they can petition for legal status for their parents living here illegally although the process is not easy.

Those children gained U.S. citizenship through the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 mainly to reverse pre-Civil War legal barriers against African-Americans. The amendment states that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

A growing number of congressmen want to strip the citizenship rights of the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) sponsored a bill last year to change the practice and received nearly 100 co-sponsors, almost all Republicans.