re:current iraq military casualty report,,none
~US Military Deaths in Iraq at 3,882
Published: 12/2/07, 8:05 PM EDT
By The Associated Press
(AP) - As of Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007, at least 3,882 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,161 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers as of Friday.
The AP count is three higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST.
The British military has reported 173 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, one death each.
The latest deaths reported by the military:
_ No deaths reported.
The latest identifications reported by the military:
_ No identifications reported.
On the Net:
re:iraqis are said to be facing too much violence to organise
~Violence Reportedly Hampers Iraq Forces
Published: 12/3/07, 11:25 PM EDT
By PAULINE JELINEK
WASHINGTON (AP) - Iraqis have not made enough progress toward learning to manage their security forces because they've had to divert too much attention to continued violence and sectarianism, congressional investigators said Monday.
For example, Iraqi recruits to the Army who were designated for training as logistics specialists have been diverted to combat roles, said the report by the Government Accountability Office.
The report said the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior have made some progress in the last year. The defense ministry has developed lower echelon logistics units for the military and the interior ministry has established an intelligence organization.
"While the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, with coalition assistance, made some progress since August 2006 in developing their respective logistics, command and control, and intelligence capabilities ... persistent violence and sectarianism, along with immature ministerial capacity, continue to impede this progress," the report said.
It said the Ministry of Defense has yet to develop adequate personnel management and support functions, Iraqi support specialists are not being employed in the positions for which they were trained, and schools for training those specialists lack fuel, equipment and supplies.
At the Ministry of Interior, violence has prevented contractors from completing the installation of a command and control network and hampered intelligence capabilities, the report said.
The report also criticized the terminology the Pentagon uses for assessing the progress of Iraqi forces.
While the Defense Department has, in multiple reports, stated that a certain number of (Iraqi) units are either "independent" or "fully independent," it is unclear how the military arrived at the determination, the report said.
It noted that in a number of reports in which the Department of Defense has asserted that a certain number of Iraqi units are independent, it has appeared to contradict itself by adding qualifiers. For example, defense officials reported in June that a certain number of units were either "in the lead" or "fully independent" - then added the forces "often do not get the support they require without substantial coalition assistance."
"As a result of DOD's lack of clarity, Congress and other decision makers may not obtain a clear picture of the progress" of the Iraqi forces toward becoming independent of U.S. forces, the report said.
Also, the report suggested that the Iraqi forces cannot be considered independent as long as neither of the ministries in charge of them have developed the abilities to logistically sustain their forces, effectively command and control their forces, and provide intelligence to their forces.~
re:bush admin now says iran nuke prog ceased in 03,,yet there WAS one and they can still enrich uranium
~US: Iran Halted Weapons Program in 2003
Published: 12/3/07, 11:25 PM EDT
By PAMELA HESS
WASHINGTON (AP) - A new U.S. intelligence report concludes that Iran's nuclear weapons development program has been halted since the fall of 2003 because of international pressure - a stark contrast to the conclusions U.S. spy agencies drew just two years ago.
The finding is part of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that also cautions that Tehran continues to enrich uranium and still could develop a bomb between 2010 and 2015 if it decided to do so.
The conclusion that Iran's weapons program was still frozen, through at least mid-2007, represents a sharp turnaround from the previous intelligence assessment in 2005. Then, U.S. intelligence agencies believed Tehran was determined to develop a nuclear weapons capability and was continuing its weapons development program. The new report concludes that Iran's decisions are rational and pragmatic, and that Tehran is more susceptible to diplomatic and financial pressure than previously thought.
"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," says the unclassified summary of the secret report.
The findings come at a time of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, which President Bush has labeled part of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and North Korea. At an Oct. 17 news conference, Bush said, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Rand Beers, who resigned from Bush's National Security Council just before the Iraq war, said the report should derail any appetite for war on the administration's part, and should reinvigorate regional diplomacy. "The new NIE throws cold water on the efforts of those urging military confrontation with Iran," he said.
A spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission declined to comment.
Senior intelligence officials said Monday they failed to detect Iran's fall 2003 halt in nuclear weapons development in time to reflect it in the 2005 estimate.
One of the officials said Iran is the most challenging country to spy on - harder even than North Korea, a notoriously closed society. "We put a lot more collection assets against this," the official said, "but gaps remain." The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Some of the changes in the new report reflect the use of "open source" intelligence - public information from sources such as the news media and international organizations. An official said, for example, that photos taken at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility during U.N. inspections in 2002 were particularly useful in assessing the capabilities of the civilian uranium enrichment program.
U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, said the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains "a serious problem." The estimate suggests Bush "has the right strategy: intensified international pressure along with a willingness to negotiate a solution that serves Iranian interests, while ensuring the world will never have to face a nuclear armed Iran," Hadley said. He was less interested in what the 2005 assessment missed than what it got right: that Iran had a covert nuclear program.
Bush was briefed on the 100-page document on Nov. 28. National Intelligence Estimates represent the most authoritative written judgments of all 16 U.S. spy agencies. Congress and other executive agencies were briefed Monday, and foreign governments will be briefed beginning Tuesday, the officials said.
Despite the suspension of its weapons program, it may be difficult to ultimately dissuade Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb because Iran believes such a weapon would give it international prestige and leverage to achieve its national security and foreign policy goals, the assessment concluded.
"The bottom line is this: For that strategy to succeed, the international community has to turn up the pressure on Iran with diplomatic isolation, United Nations sanctions, and with other financial pressure and Iran has to decide it wants to negotiate a solution," Hadley said.
The intelligence officials said they do not know all the reasons why Iran halted its weapons program, or what might trigger its resumption. They said they are confident that diplomatic and political pressure played a key role, but said the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Libya's termination of its nuclear program and the implosion of the illegal nuclear smuggling network run by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan might also have influenced Tehran.
To develop a nuclear weapon, Iran needs to design and engineer a warhead, obtain enough fissile material, and build a delivery vehicle such as a missile. The intelligence agencies now believe Iran halted warhead engineering four years ago and as of mid-2007 had not restarted it.
But Iran is still enriching uranium for its civilian nuclear reactors that produce electricity. That leaves open the possibility that fissile material could be diverted to covert nuclear sites to produce highly enriched uranium for a warhead. Engineers have known the design for a nuclear weapon for 60 years. The countdown to a nuclear weapon is determined more by the availability of fissile material than anything else, the officials said.
Even if the country went all out with present enrichment capability, it is unlikely to have enough until late 2009 or 2010 at the earliest, the officials said. The State Department's Intelligence and Research office believes the earliest likely time it would have enough highly enriched uranium would be 2013. But all agencies concede Iran may not have sufficient enriched uranium until after 2015.
Iran would not be able to technically produce and reprocess enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015, the report says. But ultimately it has the technical and industrial capacity to build a bomb, "if it decides to do so," the intelligence agencies found. They said Iran's immediate intentions are a mystery.
"We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart its program," the report says.
This national intelligence estimate was originally due in the spring of 2007 but was delayed because the agencies wanted more confidence their findings were accurate, given the inaccuracy of the 2002 intelligence estimate of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., said the report showed "a level of independence from political leadership that was lacking in the recent past."
The CIA, which did most of the analysis, considered at least six alternate scenarios that could explain the new findings, including whether Iran was intentionally trying to deceive them into believing weapons work had stopped.
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell decided last month that key judgments of NIEs should not be declassified and released. The intelligence officials said an exception was made in this case because the last assessment of Iran's nuclear program in 2005 has influenced public debate about U.S. policy toward Iran, and must be updated to reflect the latest findings.
Also Monday, a top U.S. diplomat said China may be open to discussing fresh U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran. China and Russia, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, have been reluctant to support new sanctions.~
(now,,if the bush admin says it's so,,what will the bush dissers believe?After all,,they seem to think everything that admin says is a lie or erroneous,,what about this?)
re:report about teacher facing death states muslims 'feel' the 'west' is besieging THEM,,and Mia Farrow seems to slam whites instead of thanking God that attention is brought to the region
~Sudan Leader to Meet British Delegation
Published: 12/2/07, 7:46 PM EDT
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) - Sudan's president will meet a British delegation to discuss a possible pardon for a teacher imprisoned in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad, a presidential spokesman said Sunday.
Two Muslim members of British parliament, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Lord Nazir Ahmed, have been in Sudan for two days trying to set up a meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. He is the only one who can pardon Gillian Gibbons, the 54-year-old British teacher who has been imprisoned since Thursday.
"The (Sudanese) president will meet the British delegation at 10:30 (Monday morning) at the presidential palace," Mahzoub Faidul told The Associated Press. "He will discuss the case and a possible pardon."
Al-Bashir's decision to sit down with the two politicians could be a breakthrough in the case.
Gibbons was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation for insulting Islam because she allowed her students to give a teddy bear the same name as Islam's revered prophet - a violation under Sudan's Islamic Sharia law.
Concern for the teacher's safety grew Friday after thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and swords and beating drums, burned pictures of her and demanded her execution at a rally in Khartoum.
Gibbons was moved from the Omdurman women's prison to a secret location on Friday after the demonstrations.
The British Embassy said they had not been officially notified about the meeting with al-Bashir. But spokesman Omar Daair said it would be "a positive development."
Earlier Sunday, Warsi said she and Ahmed had "some very, very difficult meetings" with Sudanese officials but indicated the two politicians had canceled their return tickets to Britain early Monday in hopes of a breakthrough.
Ahmed said "progress has been made" in their meetings.
"There is only one item on the agenda and that is Gillian and hopefully obtaining her pardon," said Ahmed.
He expressed hope that the cultural background of the two politicians would help bridge the gap between Britain and Sudan.
"That is very important, we are British and we are Muslim," said Ahmed. "We understand the sensitivity and culture of this part of the world and also our own culture and norms and customs."
The British Embassy said earlier that it was talking directly to the Sudanese government at the same time that the parliamentarians were working for Gibbons' release.
"We are working closely with Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi because we think their initiative has the best chance of success," Daair, the embassy spokesman, said earlier.
In London, the Foreign Office declined to say whether the British government had formally asked for Gibbons' pardon.
"We're not commenting in detail on negotiations ... these are very difficult discussions," said a statement from a Foreign Office spokesman speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with ministry regulations.
Gibbons' chief lawyer, Kamal al-Gizouli, was upbeat about the possibility of that the British delegation could secure the teacher's release, in part because the whole affair has become an international embarrassment to the government.
"They want to get rid of the problem and the visit of the British lords would be a good opportunity," he said. "This case is a headache for the government. I would not be surprised if Gibbons was released today or tomorrow."
Gibbons escaped harsher punishment that could have included up to 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine. Her time in jail since her arrest last Sunday counts toward the sentence.
During her trial, the weeping teacher said she had intended no harm. Her students, overwhelmingly Muslim, chose the name for the bear, and Muhammad is one of the most common names for men in the Arab world. Muslim scholars generally agree that intent is a key factor in determining if someone has violated Islamic rules against insulting the prophet.
But the case was caught up in the ideology that al-Bashir's Islamic regime has long instilled in Sudan, a mix of anti-colonialism, religious fundamentalism and a sense that the West is besieging Islam.
The uproar comes as the U.N. is accusing Sudan of dragging its feet on the deployment of peacekeepers in the western Sudanese Darfur region.
Actress and rights activist Mia Farrow, who launched a new humanitarian fund for Darfur in London on Sunday, said she hoped the media coverage of Gibbons' ordeal would open the eyes of the West to what is happening in Darfur.
Gibbons' imprisonment in Sudan "demonstrates the palpable insanity and cruelty of that regime," Farrow said.
Farrow said she was baffled and frustrated by what she called the indifference of Britons to Darfur, where 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million forced from their homes in four years of fighting between the Sudanese government and local rebels.
"One white woman in peril with a teddy bear has captured more media attention than the past three years of our brothers and sisters in the Darfur region," she said.
Associated Press Writers Mohamed Osman contributed to this report from Khartoum and Jill Lawless from London.~
(and did you notice,,the Arab Muslim children chose the name,,she did NOT.Why do I want to say,,'just like their parents,religion and nation do,,cause the problem then blame YOU for it'?)
re:the besieging of americans by islamists being resisted by radio host
~Radio Host Sues Group That Quoted Him
Published: 12/3/07, 10:05 PM EDT
By KIM CURTIS
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A conservative radio talk show host sued an Islamic civil rights group on Monday for copyright infringement over the organization's use of a portion of his show in which he called the Quran a "book of hate."
Michael Savage said the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, violated his rights by wrongfully using a 4-minute segment of his Oct. 29 "The Savage Nation" show in a letter-writing campaign directed against talk radio advertisers. Audio from the show remained on CAIR's Web site Monday.
In the broadcast, Savage called the Muslim holy book "a throwback document" and a "book of hate."
"What kind of religion is this? What kind of world are you living in when you let them in here with that throwback document in their hand, which is a book of hate," Savage said during the portion of the broadcast highlighted by CAIR. "Don't tell me I need reeducation. They need deportation."
In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, Savage said he was talking about Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his dangerous and violent brand of Islamic extremism, not about the religion in general.
Savage said he strongly supports freedom of speech, but "it's another thing to take away a man's millstone and try to put him out of business."
A CAIR spokeswoman, who said the audio was not a four-minute segment, but a series of clips separated by beeps, called the suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, "bizarre, sloppy and baseless."
"We expect to prevail based on the facts, the law and the Constitution," Amina Rubin said.
The group's "repackaging" of Savage's comments was "deliberately designed to obscure the specific message conveyed by Michael Savage," according to the suit. "The actual message, while highly provocative and strongly worded, was not intended as an attack on people of faith."
CAIR claims advertisers have stopped airing or refuse to air commercials during Savage's show.
Bill Crawford, a spokesman for Talk Radio Network, which syndicates the Savage show, said "there have been advertisers who've canceled Michael's show because of the CAIR situation." He refused to identify the companies or reveal the amount of lost revenue. Savage said he's lost at least $1 million in revenue.
The suit alleges CAIR is not a civil rights group, but a political organization funded by foreigners with ties to Hamas and other terrorist groups. CAIR denies those claims, saying it opposes terrorism and religious extremism.~
re:the stage being set in pakistan
~Bhutto Warns of Rising Islamic Militancy
Published: 12/2/07, 5:06 PM EDT
By RIAZ KHAN
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) - Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said Sunday she would use economic as well as military means to defuse Pakistan's pro-Taliban insurgency, warning "foreign forces" could invade unless the government curbs spreading militancy.
She was speaking to journalists in Pakistan's troubled northwest, where this weekend she launched her campaign for Jan. 8 parliamentary elections - ahead of key talks slated for Monday with another opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who is urging a boycott of the vote.
Bhutto also raised the specter of militants moving on Islamabad and gaining control of a key nuclear installation - widely seen as an unlikely scenario. While playing on fears of a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, her remarks also reflected her willingness to sustain Pakistan's unpopular military operations against al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in its lawless tribal regions.
That fight has been spearheaded by key U.S. ally President Pervez Musharraf, to tackle militants that fled Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But the jihadists have regrouped and expanded, posing a growing threat to Pakistan's own security.
"If Pakistan has no control in the tribal areas then tomorrow foreign forces can come there," Bhutto said in Peshawar, a stronghold of religious parties. It was an apparent reference to U.S. and NATO forces operating on the Afghan side of the border.
Bhutto also said economic development was crucial to defusing the pro-Taliban insurgency in the impoverished north, where Pakistani soldiers have clashed with insurgents in areas that now include the Swat valley, a former tourist attraction 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad.
Security forces have killed some 220 fighters in Swat over at least the past 10 days, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said. The army also reported arresting 26 suspected militants on Sunday.
"We will use the military in the tribal areas, but we disagree that a military operation is the only solution to the problem," Bhutto said. "The people of tribal areas are our own people. We want to bring them into the modern age by giving them progress and prosperity."
The government, promised $750 million in U.S. aid, says it has that same strategy and claims to be already promoting road-building and development projects in the tribal regions, regarded as the likely hiding place of key al-Qaida leaders like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.
But its inconsistent tactics, which in the past two years have swung from heavy-handed military action to failed efforts to make peace with pro-Taliban forces, have only served to alienate local tribesmen.
Bhutto, a Musharraf rival who shares his liberal and pro-Western outlook, has drawn flak in Pakistan for comments made before her return from exile, when she said she would cooperate with the American military in targeting bin Laden if Pakistan could not do the job alone.
That kind of talk has put her - like Musharraf - in the cross-hairs of Islamic militants. Suicide bombers struck at her October homecoming parade in the southern city of Karachi killing more than 140 people.
She warned Sunday against allowing the insurgency to spread.
"Whatever is happening in Swat and the tribal area today, that can come to Islamabad tomorrow. And will the world look on as spectators ... (if) Kahuta falls into their hands?" Bhutto said, referring to the site of Pakistan's main nuclear installation, located just east of the capital.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Sunday issued a statement in response to a British newspaper report on the safety of its nuclear weapons, saying there was no danger of them "falling in wrong hands."
Bhutto's presence in Peshawar, soon after unveiling her party's election manifesto, prompted a massive security operation involving hundreds of police and private guards. She urged indigenous ethnic Pashtuns to forsake militancy and support her secular Pakistan People's Party.
Other opposition parties have threatened to boycott the ballot unless Musharraf reinstates about a dozen Supreme Court judges he fired after declaring emergency rule Nov. 3. The opposition parties say free and fair elections are impossible without an independent judiciary and election commission.
A boycott would be a serious blow to U.S.-backed efforts to return Pakistan to democracy after eight years of military rule. Musharraf has said emergency rule will end Dec. 16 - as demanded by Washington and the opposition.
Bhutto and another former premier Sharif plan to meet Monday in Islamabad to discuss the election boycott issue. She has said she will only boycott the vote if all opposition parties do the same.
On Sunday, Sharif, who returned last week from seven years of overseas exile, led rallies of thousands of supporters in the eastern city of Lahore, his political stronghold, and in the nearby town of Phoolnagar. Sharif denounced Musharraf, accusing him of blindly following Washington's dictates, and of "crushing" Pakistan's Supreme Court because he feared it would scupper his plans to prolong his rule.
"Today Pakistan is in danger," Sharif told supporters of his Pakistan Muslim League-N party. "One individual is out to destroy the country for the sake of his lust for power."
Musharraf overthrew then-Prime Minister Sharif in a 1999 bloodless coup. He was elected for another five-year term as head of state in October. On Wednesday he stepped down as military chief and retired from the army.
Associated Press writers Sadaqat Jan in Islamabad and Zarar Khan in Lahore contributed to this report.~
re:unamid seems designed to fail as they replay mistakes displayed in recent events
~UN Starting Short of Forces in Darfur
Published: 12/1/07, 6:06 PM EDT
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU
EL FASHER, Sudan (AP) - Darfur's peacekeeping force will start in January with less than half the troops initially promised and without key equipment, the force's commander warned Saturday.
Some 20,000 troops and 6,000 police have been pledged for the joint U.N. and African force.
But only 6,500 soldiers will be deployed when the new mission, known as UNAMID, takes over from the current African Union force on Jan. 1, said Gen. Martin Agwai, the force commander.
Almost all of the 6,500 soldiers will come from that AU force, which has been overwhelmed by the violence in Darfur.
Some 2,000 unarmed, civilian police could also be deployed by January in a best case scenario, Agwai said. But the number would still fall far short of the numbers the U.N. Security Council had planned to deploy in Darfur, a region nearly the size of France where 200,000 people have already died and 2.5 million been forced from their homes in four years of fighting between the Sudanese government and local rebels.
Agwai warned that even at full capacity, the mission would be daunting.
"You realize how Herculean a task we are now facing," he told reporters.
U.N. officials blame Sudan's foot-dragging for much of the delays, saying the government is holding up key equipment at customs and still hasn't agreed to a "status of operations" under which peacekeepers can conduct their activities.
"If those agreements are not reached, the force will have great difficulties deploying successfully," Agwai said.
Khartoum, meanwhile, blames U.N. bureaucracy for being behind schedule.
The international community spends over $1 billion a year to alleviate suffering in Darfur, yet world powers have so far proved reluctant to send troops or costly equipment like helicopters to protect civilians and aid workers, who face growing threats and lack of access.
This disparity is "very hard to explain," said John Holmes, the U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. "We will make the best of a difficult situation," he told The Associated Press as he ended a two-day tour of the region.
One of the main goals for Holmes' visit was to try to improve relations between U.N. aid workers and the Sudanese authorities who regularly impede their work in Darfur.
Holmes met with the governors from northern and southern Darfur on Saturday to express his views on how to handle the ongoing problems.
"We had very frank exchanges," Holmes said. "We had to agree to disagree on issues such as security, lack of access and forced returns."
Both governors denied that ongoing insecurity was blocking aid from reaching large parts of the region. They also denied conducting a policy of forced returns to try to empty refugee camps.
A U.N. aid coordinator was expelled from South Darfur last month for reporting a police raid in a camp during which dozens of refugees were beaten and forced onto trucks.
In South Darfur, governor Ali Mahmoud said the aid coordinator had become involved in politics.
"We could easily expel anyone who overreaches his mandate," he warned.~
re:alledged al q training manual
re:the value of engaging in multiple arenas,,for terrorists
~US: al-Qaida Active in Afghanistan
Published: 12/3/07, 7:05 PM EDT
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The U.S. military is seeing early signs that al-Qaida may be stepping up its activities in Afghanistan, a senior defense official revealed for the first time Monday as Secretary Robert Gates made his third trip to this country.
Gates said he has not yet seen data on any uptick in al-Qaida activity, but he said increasing levels of violence in the country are a concern and he plans to talk about it with other defense leaders from NATO nations operating in Afghanistan.
"I'm not worried about a backslide as much as I am (about) how we continue the momentum going forward," Gates told reporters in Djibouti on Monday just before he left for Kabul. "One of the clear concerns that we all have is that in the last two or three years there has been a continuing increase in the overall level of violence."
The senior defense official said the U.S. military is concerned and is looking for definitive signs of greater activity by al-Qaida and foreign fighters, but the U.S. has not seen enough proof to draw any final conclusions. The official discussed the terrorist network on condition of anonymity because of the security concerns.
As Gates headed to Kabul, U.S. officials also said they are now considering the possibility of providing arms to local tribes in Afghanistan, along with training, equipment and other support. The effort would be modeled after successful efforts in Iraq to empower the locals to police their own neighborhoods.
While no decisions have been made, officials said the plan is under review.
The U.S. military has been pushing the idea that more attention must be paid to tribal leaders in the provinces in both Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than focusing all the attention on buttressing the central governments of those two wartorn nations. The thinking is that the locals are closer to the community and their people, and thus can better police their own streets.
Military officials have said they believe that the Taliban in Afghanistan is being refueled, possibly by militants in Pakistan crossing the border, or through support from other countries in the region sympathetic to the militants.
Insurgents are also finding more financing, including by taxing the widespread poppy crops that are used to make opium drugs.
Senior officials with Gates said they are troubled by the overall increase in violence in Afghanistan, particularly in the south. And they said it will be a key topic of discussion when Gates and other defense leaders from countries involved in the coalition in that region meet in Scotland later this month.
This year has been the most violent since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Insurgency-related violence has claimed nearly 6,200 lives, according to a tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials.
The number of attacks has surged, including roadside bombings and suicide assaults.
Currently there are about 26,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 13,000 with the NATO-led coalition. The other 13,000 U.S. troops are training the Afghan forces and hunting al-Qaida terrorists.
Defense officials said that while NATO is still looking for at least a battalion of troops to supplement the fight in Afghanistan, the U.S. is not, at this point, moving to fill that need. Gates pressed NATO leaders earlier this year to fill some of the gaps in equipment and troops in Afghanistan, but got only a lukewarm response.
Gates is expected to meet with key country leaders, including President Hamid Karzai, during his visit, as well as talk to commanders about the conditions across the provinces.
He also is hoping to gauge what impact, if any, the internal problems in Pakistan have had on the ability of that country's military to adequately monitor the volatile border region.
Gates' visit coincides with the release of a new poll that found Afghans are increasingly critical of U.S. military efforts, with just over half of Afghans still having confidence in the ability of U.S. and NATO forces to provide security - down from two-thirds a year ago.
The survey - conducted for ABC News, the BBC and the German public TV station ARD - noted that Afghans overwhelmingly prefer the government of Karzai to the Taliban, but they also believe that government should negotiate with the Taliban to end the war.
In southwestern Afghanistan, support for NATO-led forces has plummeted to 45 percent this year, from 83 percent a year ago, it found.
"Civilian casualties blamed on these forces is a prime complaint," the survey said.
On the Net:
Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil ~
re:tunnel entrance found 360 yrds from border
~Drug Tunnel Found on U.S.-Mexico Border
Published: 12/3/07, 12:05 AM EDT
TECATE, Calif. (AP) - The U.S. Border Patrol said Monday that it discovered a secret tunnel that may have been used for smuggling drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border east of San Diego.
Authorities found an estimated 10,000 pounds of marijuana inside a trailer that led to the underground crevice, said Eileen Zeidler, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A Border Patrol agent heard noise Monday from the 30-foot trailer parked 360 yards north of the border in the town of Tecate, agency spokesman James Jacques said.
When he peered inside, he saw a pistol-toting man disappear into a hole. The trailer was half-full of packages containing the marijuana.
The Border Patrol says it's unclear if the tunnel was completed. U.S. and Mexican authorities are investigating.
Authorities have discovered dozens of tunnels along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years, with many clustered around San Diego and Nogales, Ariz.~
re:mexican version of american rap industry violence
~2 Popular Mexican Singers Killed
Published: 12/4/07, 12:25 AM EDT
By MARK STEVENSON
MEXICO CITY (AP) - The tortured body of the lead singer of a popular Mexican band was found along a highway Monday and another singer was shot to death, police said, the latest Mexican musicians killed in a wave of violence over the past year.
Sergio Gomez, a singer with K-Paz de la Sierra, went missing Sunday after a concert in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia, according to the state attorney general's office.
Gomez allegedly got into a car with three other people after the concert and headed for Puerto Vallarta, said Magdalena Guzman, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office. His body was found Monday, showing signs of choking and severe bruising on the thorax and abdomen - as well as burns on the legs.
Guzman said it wasn't clear how Gomez died despite the signs of choking. "The blows were so severe that they too could have been fatal," she said.
K-Paz was the best-known band in the "Pasito Duranguense" music scene, which features ballads played at a sped-up rhythm. Among the group's hits was "Mas Capaces Que Nunca," or "More Capable than Ever," for which it earned a Billboard Latin Music Award last year.
Mario Olvera, the group's manager, told The Associated Press the singer's family identified his body Monday night. "His brothers saw the body: It's his," Olvera said.
A lesser-known singer Zayda Pena, 28, was shot in the heart Saturday in the city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, while recovering from a gunshot wound received on Friday, police detective Abel Infante said Monday.
Two people with Pena were killed in the Friday shooting. No suspects were identified in her killing.
Pena headed a band known as Zayda y los Culpables - "Zayda and the Guilty Ones." One of her songs was "Tiro de Gracia," a reference to an execution-style gunshot.
At least eight musicians have been killed in Mexico this year, including performers of the popular northern "Narcocorrido" music whose lyrics often focus on drug trafficking and violence.
Michoacan has made headlines this year for drug-related violence, as traffickers fight over routes to transport drugs north. K-Paz's songs, however, did not deal extensively with drug trafficking. Pena's songs were mostly romantic ballads.
On Nov. 25, 2006, Valentin Elizalde was shot to death along with his manager and driver shortly after performing across the border from McAllen, Texas.
Last December, Javier Morales Gomez of the band Los Implacables del Norte was shot to death in a park in Michoacan. Police have not spoken of a motive in that case.
In February, gunmen shot to death four members of the musical group Banda Fugaz after they performed in Michoacan.
Gomez will be buried in Mexico City on Tuesday, Olvera said.
Associated Press Writers Jessica Bernstein-Wax in Mexico City and Edmundo Velazquez in Puebla contributed to this report.~
re:christian prison ministry funding unconstitutional and would equal 'establishment or endorsement'
~Court: Prison Program Unconstitutional
Published: 12/3/07, 12:05 AM EDT
By DAVID PITT
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the state of Iowa cannot fund an evangelical Christian prison ministry program because doing so advances or endorses religion, violating the Constitutional separation of church and state.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt's June 2006 ruling that a Prison Fellowship Ministries Inc. program at the Newton Correctional Facility was unconstitutional if paid for with taxpayer dollars and should be shut down.
Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based advocacy group Americans United For Separation of Church and State, which brought the lawsuit, said the ruling would have major implications for the Bush administration's policies of allowing faith-based groups to offer services to government institutions.
"This is an enormously significant case on the whole question of how government can, or in this case, cannot aid religious ministries," Lynn said.
"I think this has implications far broader than a prison in a single state because the basic framework of this decision, the way they reached the conclusion is that government can't pay for these religious social services nor can they turn over functions of government essentially to religious operations," he said.
Prison Fellowship Ministries, which contracts with InnerChange Freedom Initiatives Inc. and other organizations to conduct faith-based programs, must repay about $160,000 to the state for money received between June 2006 and June 2007, said Mark Early, the group's president.
He said the ruling would clarify how faith-based programs could work with government agencies.
"We're pleased because in this opinion there are some clarifying guidelines to help us and other faith-based organizations working in government settings, such as prisons, to be able to fashion a program and make sure they do comply with current understanding of constitutional law in this area."
Prison Fellowship operates nine programs in six states: Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas. All are now privately funded through donations from individuals and foundations, he said.
The 24-hour a day, seven-day a week program at Newton immerses inmates in evangelical Christianity. Inmates who complete the 18-month program also get help after they're released from prison.
Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said corrections officials were reviewing the ruling with the attorney general's office to determine how the state would proceed with the operation of the program.
Bob Brammer, a spokesman for the Iowa attorney general's office, said attorneys were reviewing the ruling and considering whether to appeal.
An appeal could include asking the three-member 8th Circuit panel for clarification on issues or could seek consideration by the full 8th Circuit Court. The ruling also could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.~
(this includes other religions,or even those with religious elements from doing so as well,right?we'll see)
re:race baiters poster boy,,mike bell,,pleads guilty to 'juvenile battery'
~'Jena 6' Teen Pleads Guilty to Battery
Published: 12/3/07, 11:25 PM EDT
By MARY FOSTER
JENA, La. (AP) - A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate led to one of the largest civil rights protests in years pleaded guilty Monday to a battery charge.
Mychal Bell, 17, originally was charged as an adult with attempted murder in the beating of Justin Barker in December 2006. That charge was reduced before a jury convicted him in June of aggravated second-degree battery. An appeals court threw that verdict out in September and ordered Bell retried as a juvenile.
Under his deal, Bell pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery in return for an 18-month sentence, with credit for 10 months he already has served. Bell had faced being placed in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday.
Although he has about eight months left to serve for the beating of Barker, Bell is currently serving a separate 18-month sentence for previous unrelated juvenile charges. He has about 16 months left on that sentence, which will run at the same time as the sentence in the Barker case.
Bell also must pay court costs plus $935 to Barker's family, testify should his co-defendants in the Barker attack stand trial, undergo counseling and be reintegrated into the school system, his lawyers said.
"We were prepared to go forward with the trial, but you have to do what's best for the client," said Carol Powell Lexing, one of Bell's attorneys. A juvenile court trial was to begin later this week.
The charges against Bell and five other black students, who became known as the "Jena Six," led to a civil-rights demonstration in Jena in September. Felony charges against the other students are pending.
LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said he was pleased with the deal "because Mr. Barker is beginning to get the restitution and compensation he's due."
Walters said he would try to work out plea deals with the other teens charged in Barker's beating. He said his decision to work out a deal was not influenced by the intense media coverage and civil rights demonstrations.
Barker spent several hours in the emergency room after the attack but was discharged and attended a school event the night after the attack, which occurred about a year ago.
Critics said prosecutors have treated blacks more harshly than whites in LaSalle Parish, pointing to an incident three months before the attack on Barker in which three white teens were accused of hanging nooses from a tree at the high school. The three were suspended from school but never criminally charged.
Walters has said there was no state crime to charge them with.~
(article makes no mention of the fact that the boy that got ganged up on had nothing to do with the 'noose incident'.We used to say,,back in the old days,,'more that one on one is nigger fun',,even if whites or other colors did it.What'ya bet there will be more and more such 'travesties of justice' like this?)
re:clinton office hostage taker tells story akin to alledged 'mind control' tales
~Hostage Suspect Called Ill, Manipulative
Published: 12/3/07, 8:45 PM EDT
By BEVERLEY WANG
ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - The man accused of taking hostages at a campaign office of Hillary Rodham Clinton watched impassively during his video arraignment Monday as he was portrayed alternately as a sick man desperately seeking psychiatric help and a manipulative longtime criminal.
The judge ordered Leeland Eisenberg held on $500,000 cash bail on six felony charges and ordered a psychiatric evaluation for him.
"I think it's very, very important to keep this man under lock and key for now until we get to the bottom of his mental health problems," Rochester District Judge Daniel Capiello said.
Prosecutor Janice Rundles asked for the high bail, saying Eisenberg, 46, has a long criminal record, including two rape convictions, and would be a threat to the public.
She said he was sentenced to 10 years for rape in Worcester, Mass., in 1985 but apparently escaped the next year and committed another rape. He was sentenced to 11 to 20 years for that, she said.
Massachusetts officials have said Eisenberg was released from prison in March 2005 but have declined to give other details.
Eisenberg is accused of taking six hostages, including an infant and mother, at Clinton's storefront office in Rochester on Friday, showing them what he said was a bomb strapped to his chest. Authorities said it turned out to be road flares.
No one was hurt in the 5 1/2-hour drama, which ended when state police negotiators persuaded him to surrender.
Public defender Randy Hawkes portrayed Eisenberg as a man at the end of his rope emotionally after being repeatedly turned down when he sought help.
Eisenberg "heard voices and saw a movie in his head telling him he had to sacrifice himself" to shine light on the flaws in the health care system, Hawkes said.
"He asked me to extend his profound apologies," Hawkes said.
Rundles, however, said Eisenberg did not mention his mental illness or ask for help in previous complaints her office prosecuted. His mental illness, "as far as I can tell, has been phantom until now," she said.
Eisenberg's record in New Hampshire began in 2005 when he was charged with failing to register as a sex offender, Rundles said. He was convicted last year.
Eisenberg has two Social Security numbers and had been known previously in Massachusetts as Ralph E. Woodward, Rundles said.
"What we have here, in the state's view, is a man who has a trail of victims in his past," she said.
Eisenberg hung his head slightly and did not look at the camera as he appeared in a grainy live video link from county jail. He did not speak.
Eisenberg faces charges of kidnapping, criminal threatening and fraudulent use of a bomb-like device. He will not enter pleas until the case reaches Superior Court.
Hawkes said Eisenberg's efforts to get help included calling Gov. John Lynch's office Thursday. Hawkes said his client was referred to his local congresswoman's office, where he was told it was a state matter.
Lynch's office on Monday afternoon called that account "absolutely not true." Eisenberg spoke to a receptionist and got a phone message back from a staffer who helps constituents resolve problems, Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said. But that staffer never spoke to Eisenberg, and he was not referred to the congressional office, Manning said.
Eisenberg also contacted the state Department of Health and Human Services but was told there was nothing the agency could do immediately, Hawkes said. An agency employee urged him to apply for Social Security disability benefits but acknowledged that would take time, Hawkes said.
Police said Friday there had been five hostages. In court, Rundles said there were six, including a previously undisclosed 18-year-old man released soon after the situation began.
Rundles and police say Eisenberg ordered everyone to the back of the office and told them to lie down. When the hostages asked him to let the woman and her baby go, he agreed in the first few minutes, Rundles said. She said he agreed soon afterward to release the 18-year-old because of his age. The other three hostages were released as the afternoon wore on.
WMUR-TV of Manchester aired an interview with three former hostages Monday, identifying the campaign workers only as Catherine, 22, and Graham and Morgan, both 24.
Graham, the last hostage released, said Eisenberg threatened his life after Morgan managed to escape. The other hostages had been let go earlier, including Catherine, whose release Eisenberg had negotiated with police.
"It was really apparent from the get-go that we were dealing with a man who was dangerous and was sick," Graham said. "The way he was acting made us all fearful."
Hawkes said Eisenberg, who he said had repeatedly attempted suicide in the past, wanted to thank the police for not shooting him, even though he asked them to on Friday.
Rundles, in describing Eisenberg as manipulative, said there is evidence he had pressured his wife after she made domestic complaints against him that are still pending. Lisa Warren Eisenberg filed for divorce last week after about a year and a half of marriage.
On ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday, she said Eisenberg made her laugh and spoiled her when he was on medication and wasn't drinking.
"But without the medication and (with) the use of the alcohol, he turned into a different person," she said.
Her son, Ben Warren, said he spent Thursday night and Friday before the incident with his stepfather, who he said had been drinking heavily. As Eisenberg left the house Friday, he said, "No matter what happens today, tell your mother I love her," Ben Warren told police in an interview.
(This version corrects the spelling of the judge's last name to Capiello.)~
re:bush urges responsible behavour,,reid plays 'blame game',,as usual
~Crowded Agenda Greets Returning Congress
Published: 12/3/07, 7:05 PM EDT
By ANDREW TAYLOR
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush scolded Congress for its meager accomplishments as lawmakers returned Monday for an abbreviated holiday season session.
Taxes, spending, paying for the war, energy, farm subsidies and wiretapping top a crowded list of items Congress will consider during the three weeks.
"The end of 2007 is approaching fast and the new Congress has little to show for it," Bush said in the Rose Garden. "I call on members to use the time left to support our troops, and to protect our citizens, prevent harmful tax increases and responsibly fund our government."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Bush - not Congress - was to blame.
"We could have already given our troops what they need in Iraq and funded our critical needs at home if not for the stubborn refusal of President Bush and his Republican enablers to work with us," Reid said.
Partisan feelings are especially intense and fights are brewing on multiple fronts between Democrats who control Congress and Bush.
The Democrats' goal is to make sure they don't stumble over must-do legislation funding government agencies and programs, and preventing millions of upper middle income taxpayers from falling prey to the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.
They vow to bring the appropriations process to a close, even at the price of giving in to Bush's strict funding levels for domestic programs like education, grants to local governments and energy research. But many Congress-watchers thinks it's just as likely Congress will limp home for Christmas having passed yet another temporary stopgap funding bill.
"If they send me an irresponsible spending bill, I will veto it," Bush said.
Bush insisted that Congress pass his war funding request; he is expected to devote much of December to attacking Democrats for trying to condition additional money on a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. His war-related requests so far this year have totaled almost $200 billion.
Democrats counter that the Pentagon can juggle its books to provide the needed money for current operations, but that further funding a change in administration policy was necessary to make sure U.S. forces don't stay in Iraq indefinitely.
Addressing reporters before opening the Senate, Reid said Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress that the Army has until March 1 and the Marines until mid March. Reid suggested that Bush was exaggerating about how quickly the troops will need the money by depicting more of a doomsday scenario.
"Let me just say that the president is not leveling with the American people," he said.
The Senate is slated this week to try again to pass a $50 billion infusion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. But Republicans are sure to filibuster the measure over conditions attached by Democrats, including setting a nonbinding goal of removing combat troops by Dec. 15, 2008.
Congress also must pass a temporary fix to the AMT to prevent 20 million taxpayers from getting hit with tax increases averaging $2,000. House Democrats insist on paying for the AMT fix with revenue increases elsewhere. Republicans have promised to block that approach in the Senate. The common wisdom holds that any AMT fix will ultimately add to the deficit.
Even if the AMT is fixed, Democrats are likely to take a political hit. Delays in addressing the minimum tax are keeping the IRS from preparing tax forms and computer programs for the upcoming filing season, which means million of taxpayers counting on early refunds will be getting them later.
Democrats announced agreement Friday to move ahead with energy legislation that would raise automobile fuel economy standards, increase the use of ethanol as a motor fuel, and boost the use of alternative fuels such as wind and solar technology, by electric utilities. If the bill passes and Bush signs it, the energy reforms would join a slender roster of Democratic accomplishments, including a minimum wage increase and increases in college aid.
Other items on a crowded December agenda include:
_Terrorist surveillance. The Senate could vote as early as this week to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which dictates when the government must obtain court permission to conduct electronic eavesdropping.
_Farm bill. The Senate hopes to finish a bipartisan bill extending farm subsidies and food programs after the legislation bogged down over GOP attempts to add unrelated tax provisions.
_Children's health care. Negotiations should continue on legislation to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years.
With time so precious, leverage is flowing to Bush, who's armed with both a veto pen and enough Republican allies in the Senate to sustain filibusters against bills they don't like. When legislation - such as the AMT fix - simply has to pass, that leverage gives Republicans the edge in driving the outcome.
Also on the Senate agenda this week, Manley said, is ratification of a free trade agreement with Peru.~
re:science says all this about teen brains,,how can they claim the 'similisexual' elements are NOT influenced by these factors,,and why allow those advocates to have access at such a time as this or earlier in the childs developement???
~Scientists: Teen Brain Still Maturing
Published: 12/2/07, 7:46 PM EDT
By MALCOLM RITTER
NEW YORK (AP) - The teenage brain, Laurence Steinberg says, is like a car with a good accelerator but a weak brake. With powerful impulses under poor control, the likely result is a crash.
And, perhaps, a crime.
Steinberg, a Temple University psychology professor, helped draft an American Psychological Association brief for a 2005 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for crimes committed before age 18.
That ruling relies on the most recent research on the adolescent brain, which indicates the juvenile brain is still maturing in the teen years and reasoning and judgment are developing well into the early to mid 20s. It is often cited as state lawmakers consider scaling back punitive juvenile justice laws passed during the 1990s.
"As any parent knows," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the 5-4 majority, youths are more likely to show "a lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility" than adults. "These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions."
He also noted that "juveniles are more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, including peer pressure," causing them to have less control over their environment.
Some child advocates have pointed to the Supreme Court decision and the research as evidence that teens - even those accused of serious crimes - should not be regarded in the same way as adults in the criminal justice system.
Dr. David Fassler, a psychiatry professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine who has testified before legislative committees on brain development, says the research doesn't absolve teens but offers some explanation for their behavior.
"It doesn't mean adolescents can't make a rational decision or appreciate the difference between right and wrong," he said. "It does mean, particularly when confronted with stressful or emotional decisions, they are more likely to act impulsively, on instinct, without fully understanding or analyzing the consequences of their actions."
Experts say that even at ages 16 and 17, when compared to adults, juveniles on average are more:
_likely to take risks.
_reactive to stress.
_vulnerable to peer pressure.
_prone to focus on and overestimate short-term payoffs and underplay longer-term consequences of what they do.
_likely to overlook alternative courses of action.
Violence toward others also tends to peak in adolescent years, says psychiatrist Dr. Peter Ash of Emory University. It's mostly likely to start around age 16, and people who haven't committed a violent crime by age 19 only rarely start doing it later, he said.
The good news here, he said, is that a violent adolescent doesn't necessarily become a violent adult. Some two-thirds to three-quarters of violent youth grow out of it, he said. "They get more self-controlled."
Some of the changes found in behavioral studies are paralleled by changes in the brain itself as youths become adults.
In fact, in just the past few years, Steinberg said, brain scans have given biological backing to commonsense notions about teen behavior, like their impulsiveness and vulnerability to peer pressure.
It's one thing to say teens don't control their impulses as well as adults, but another to show that they can't, he said. As for peer pressure, the new brain research "gives credence to the idea that this isn't a choice that kids are making to give in to their friends, that biologically, they're more vulnerable to that," he said.
Consider the lobes at the front of the brain. The nerve circuitry here ties together inputs from other parts of the brain, said Dr. Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health.
This circuitry weighs how much priority to give incoming messages like "Do this now" versus "Wait! What about the consequences?" In short, the frontal lobes are key for making good decisions and controlling impulses.
Brain scans show that the frontal lobes don't mature until age 25, and their connections to other parts of the brain continue to improve to at least that age, Giedd said.
The inexplicable behavior and poor judgments teens are known for almost always happen when teens are feeling high emotion or intense peer pressure, conditions that overwhelm the still-maturing circuitry in the front part of brain, Giedd said.
As Steinberg sees it, a teenager's brain has a well-developed accelerator but only a partly developed brake.
By around 15 or 16, the parts of the brain that arouse a teen emotionally and make him pay attention to peer pressure and the rewards of action - the gas pedal - are probably all set. But the parts related to controlling impulses, long-term thinking, resistance to peer pressure and planning - the brake, mostly in the frontal lobes - are still developing.
"It's not like we go from becoming all accelerator to all brake," Steinberg said. "It's that we go from being heavy-foot-on-the-accelerator to being better able to manage the whole car."
Giedd emphasized that scientists can't yet scan an individual's brain and draw conclusions about how mature he is, or his degree of responsibility for his actions.
Brain scans do show group differences between adult and teen brains, he said, "but whether or not that should matter (in the courtroom) is the part that needs to be decided more by the judicial system than the neuroscientist."
Steinberg, who frequently testifies on juvenile justice policy and consults with state legislators on the topic, said it's not clear to him how much the research on teen brains affects lawmakers. They seem more swayed by pragmatic issues like the cost of treating teens as adults, he said. But he noted that he has been asked to testify more in the past few years than before.
In any case, experts say, there's nothing particularly magic about the age 18 as a standard dividing line between juveniles and adults in the courtroom.
Different mental capabilities mature at different rates, Steinberg notes. Teens as young as 15 or 16 can generally balance short-term rewards and possible costs as well as adults, but their ability to consider what might happen later on is still developing, he said.
A dividing line of age 18 is better than 15 and not necessarily superior to 19 or 17, but it appears good enough to be justified scientifically, he said.
Steinberg said he thinks courts should be able to punish some 16- or 17- year olds as adults. That would be reserved for repeat violent offenders who've resisted rehabilitation by the juvenile justice system, and who could endanger other youth in the juvenile system if they returned. "I don't think there are a lot of these kids," Steinberg said.
For the rest, he thinks it makes sense to try rehabilitating young offenders in the juvenile justice system. That's better than sending them through the adult system, which can disrupt their development so severely that "they're never going be able to be a productive member of society," Steinberg said. "You're not doing society any favor at all."
Ash said that to decide whom to treat as an adult, courts need some kind of guideline that combines the defendant's age with the crime he's accused of. That should leave room for individual assessments, he said.
But "we don't have very good measuring sticks" for important traits like how impulsive a juvenile is, he said.
In any case, the decision for each defendant should balance a number of reasons for punishment, like retribution, protecting society, deterring future crime, and rehabilitation, said Ash, who's a member of the American Psychiatric Association's Committee on Judicial Action.
Even if a 14-year-old murderer is held morally responsible for the crime, he will have matured by the time he's 18, and in the meantime he may be more amenable to rehabilitation than an adult murderer is, Ash said.
In fact, most experts conclude that rehabilitation works better for juveniles than for adult offenders, he said.
And just as parents know how irrational juveniles can be, Ash said, they also know that rehabilitation is a key goal in punishing them.
"What we really want," he said, "is to turn delinquent kids into good adults."
On the Net:
American Psychiatric Association statement on youth sentencing: http://www.psych.org/edu/other_res/lib_archives/archives/200507.pdf
Psychiatrists' brief in Supreme Court case: http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/simmons/ama.pdf
American Psychological Association brief: http://www.apa.org/psyclaw/roper-v-simmons.html
AP National Writer Sharon Cohen contributed to this story.~
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