Impact of Hussein's death likely to be limited
12/29/2006 - Los Angeles Times - Washington DC Bureau (cir. 851,832)
Resetting US Policy in the Middle East
12/20/2006 - Council on Foreign Relations (cir. )
SRI LANKA: Tamil Tigers accuse army of killing civilians
01/04/2007 - Radio Australia (cir. )
01/04/2007 - New York Times Upfront, The (cir. 1,142,464)
Whoosh! New Molecules Fastest Ever For Optical Technologies
01/03/2007 - ScienceDaily (cir. 43,333)
Impact of Hussein's death likely to be limited
12/29/2006 - Los Angeles Times - Washington DC Bureau (cir. 851,832)ഀ Return to Top
The execution only underscores lingering divisions in Iraq.
December 30, 2006
WASHINGTON — Many Iraqis and Americans have looked forward to the day when justice would catch up with Saddam Hussein. Yet, when it arrived today, it seemed to be much less than the historic turning point many once had anticipated.
With Iraq beset by violence and turmoil, the former dictator's demise no longer appeared to signal the beginning of new order. After a trial marked by disruption and controversy, the execution seemed only another reminder that the country's divisions remain deep and seemingly insoluble nearly four years after the U.S.-led invasion.
"If everything had followed the coalition plan, if everything were calm now, this could have been the biggest event of the year, maybe the biggest event in the post-invasion," said Henri J. Barkey, a former State Department official and Mideast specialist.
"This is not just a sideshow. But everyday existence is so grave and grim, it's not what it might have been."
Ever since Hussein was toppled from power, Bush administration officials have pinned their hopes on a procession of developments — the elections, the capture of the former leader and the killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, to name a few — to reshape opinions in the United States and Iraq about the American mission.
But though some of the events have affected public opinion, none has so far succeeded in convincing most Americans that things have fundamentally changed for the better.
"I just don't see this as a big turning point," said Daniel P. Serwer, a former U.S. diplomat and State Department official now at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
Even among some in the Bush administration, the potential for a positive reaction to Hussein 's death was considered limited.
One U.S. official said he believed that the execution would serve as a reminder that Hussein had been a danger to Iraqis as well as the region. But the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, acknowledged that the development's effect was likely to be "limited," in part because of the continuing difficulties in Iraq, and in part because it had been foreseen for some time.
Any positive reaction among Americans also is likely to muted by disenchantment over the number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq.
In Iraq, the execution of Hussein has commanded attention, but it may not outlast the daily struggle faced by most Iraqis.
"People in Iraq today are concerned with very basic things these days. Will this put more food on the table, make the streets safer, put more electricity in the wires " Serwer asked. "The answer is likely not. So many people will not see this as that big."
Two years ago, it appeared that Iraqis were beginning a dialogue about their common history and Hussein's place in it.
If the country had made greater steps toward a unified view of their history, Hussein's execution might have more weight, said Nathan Brown, a specialist in Arab politics at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
But with the country increasingly fractured along sectarian lines, "this is a bit more of a sideshow than it would have been," Brown said.
Hussein's execution also would have carried more significance had his trial been carried out differently, some experts said.
Barkey, who is now at Lehigh University
, believes the Iraqis made a major mistake in deciding to put Hussein on trial for the killings of 148 Shiite men and boys from the town of Dujayl after a 1982 assassination attempt there, rather than for the chemical weapons attacks in the country's north that are thought to have killed as many as 100,000 Kurds.
By executing Hussein for "a relatively minor crime ... you're leaving this important chapter open," said Barkey. The attacks on Kurds were clear violations of international law, he said.
"It's one of the reasons the United States went to war, and yet they're leaving that unresolved," Barkey said. "It's very problematic."
He said that decision has left many Kurds feeling that "they are being cheated — they have not received justice."
Juan R. Cole, a Mideast specialist at the University of Michigan, said the nature of the trial also tended to further divide Iraqis, rather than heal wounds.
Because the charges concerned Hussein's reprisals against members of a revolutionary Shiite party, Dawa — which happens to be the party of the current and previous Iraqi prime ministers — the execution could appear to many Sunnis as simple score-settling.
"This can be read as the Dawa party and a Kurdish judge taking revenge on Saddam," Cole said. "To the Sunnis it will look like just one more slap in the face…. This is the opposite of national healing and will just deepen the divisions."
Cole said he expected adverse Sunni reaction to the execution, noting that about 20 demonstrators were killed in Sunni-dominated Baqubah after Hussein's verdict was announced.
Even so, he agreed that the execution's political significance would be limited.
"It won't change anything on the ground," he said.
Resetting US Policy in the Middle East
12/20/2006 - Council on Foreign Relations (cir. ) Return to Top
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) report has stirred debate in Washington with a raft of policy recommendations that includes linking broader Mideast issues with the resolution of the Iraq conflict. The Bush administration has followed the report with an intense round of consultations that is expected to lead to the announcement of policy changes early next year. Bush says he is sticking to his goal of helping make Iraq a stable democracy, and seemed to rebuff some of the ISG prescriptions. But he is hearing from top advisers and Iraqi leaders that the path to this goal involves everything from “surging” U.S. milSyria. The Bush administration has shunned Syria for the past two years for supporting Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon and reportedly serving as a transit route for arms and insurgents into Iraq. While the two sides have diplomatic contacts, Washington declines to conduct any serious talks until Syria reduces its role in Lebanon and drops its support for what Washington calls terrorist groups. But the ISG calls for new engagement and, according to the Wall Street Journal , the group is “backed quietly by a number of senior Bush administration officials, who say it is critical for the United States to find a way of persuading Syria to abandon its close ties with Iran and drop its support for Hezbollah and other militants.” In return, the paper says, they want the White House to offer Damascus a series of economic and political incentives. Lasensky says a “cautious and tough engagement” with the Syrians could be fruitful but talks would be very difficult. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is getting pressure from some Democratic lawmakers to open dialogue with Syria. Earlier this week, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, had a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, seeking his help in stabilizing Iraq. Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Christopher Dodd (D-CN), and Arlen Specter (R-PA) are also expected to visit Syria soon.
Is the Bush administration going to modify its democracy promotion policy
No. Though the ISG report omitted mention of the policy of establishing democracy in Iraq, Bush and Rice have repeatedly said it remains a centerpiece of their efforts in Iraq and the region. But Rice told the Washington Post, “We've not always been able to pursue [this policy] in ways that have been effective." Bush’s UN General Assembly speech in September signaled an effort to engage Arab moderates but some experts say it is the autocratic allies of the United States in the region that can offer the most immediate assistance. Lehigh University
’s Barkey says to advance U.S. interests in the region, the Bush administration needs to move vigorously toward building a coalition of key countries. This could prove effective, he says, in eventually approaching the Iranians and Syrians about future cooperation. “You don’t just go to the Iranians and say ‘Hi, let’s go and talk,’” says Barkey. “You talk to your allies, you talk to the Saudis, the Turks, the Jordanians, the Kuwaitis, the Egyptians, right, and you hammer out some kind of a vision, then say to the Iranians ‘We have a way of going forward, you want to join us ’”
SRI LANKA: Tamil Tigers accuse army of killing civilians
01/04/2007 - Radio Australia (cir. ) Return to Top
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers have again accused government forces of killing 15 civilians in an air strike in the northwest of the country. Presenter - Zulfikar Abbany; Speaker - Rajan Menon, professor of international relations at Lehigh University
[NOTE: click on the paperclip to the left to visit Radio Australia's Web site. To listen to the interview, scroll down under "Latest Programs" until you find "SRI LANKA: Tamil Tigers accuse army of killing civilians," then hit the "Listen to Windows Media" link.]
01/04/2007 - New York Times Upfront, The (cir. 1,142,464) Return to Top
The amount of summer ice in the Arctic is shrinking, and scientists say global warming is at least part of the reason.
The floating cap of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean shrank this summer to what is probably its smallest size in at least a century of record keeping, continuing a trend toward less summer ice. That shift is hard to explain without attributing it in part to human-caused global warming, says a team of climate experts who issued their findings in a September report.
The change also appears to be becoming increasingly self-sustaining: The additional open water absorbs solar energy that would otherwise be reflected back into space by bright white ice, says Ted A. Scambos, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., which compiled the data along with NASA.
The findings are consistent with recent computer simulations indicating that a buildup of greenhouse gases from smokestack and tailpipe emissions could lead to a profoundly transformed Arctic later this century, when much of the once ice-locked ocean would routinely become open water in the summers.
Expanding areas of open water in the summer could be a boon to whales and cod stocks, and the ice retreat could create summertime shipping shortcuts between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
But scientists say a host of troubles may lie ahead as well. One of the most important consequences of Arctic warming will be an increased flow of meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets, and thus an accelerated rise in sea levels, threatening to flood coastal areas. Loss of sea ice could also hurt both polar bears and Eskimo seal hunters.
In the last century, the Earth's average temperature has increased by one degree Fahrenheit, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and it's now clear that such a change has profound consequences in a delicate region like the Arctic. The big question for scientists is whether this warming is part of a natural cycle or is caused by human activities.
"The polar regions are our 'canary in the coal mine' for global warming—they respond first," says Dork Sahagian, director of the Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University
. "This is why observed reduction in seasonal ice cover in the Arctic Ocean is a harbinger of global warming, and scientists are taking it very seriously."
A record summer
The Arctic ice cap always grows in the winter and shrinks in the summer. The average minimum area from 1979, when precise satellite mapping began, until 2000 was 2.69 million square miles, similar in size to the contiguous area of the U.S. The new summer low, measured on September 19, was 20 percent below that. The difference between the average ice area and the area this summer was about 500,000 square miles over the years, an area roughly twice the size of Texas, the scientists say.
This summer was the fourth in a row during which the ice-cap areas were sharply below the long-term average, says Mark C. Serreze, a scientist at the snow and ice center and a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Serreze says the role of accumulating greenhouse-gas emissions has become increasingly apparent in recent years with rising air and sea temperatures. "With all that dark open water, you start to see an increase in Arctic Ocean heat storage," he says. "Come autumn and winter, that makes it a lot harder to grow ice, and the next spring you're left with less and thinner ice. And it's easier to lose even more the next year."
Still, many scientists say it is not yet possible to determine what portion of Arctic change is being caused by emissions from human sources and how much is just the climate's usual wiggles.
Compared with climate changes that have occurred over the past 4,000 to 7,000 years, the current changes are nothing alarming, according to Patrick Michaels, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. "We had a large temperature rise in the Arctic 75 years ago that was faster than the one that is occurring now," he says.
A different arctic
Other experts are also expressing caution. William L. Chapman, a sea-ice researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, notes that the size of the ice cap can vary tremendously, in part because of changes in wind patterns, which can cause the ice to heap up against one Arctic shore or drift away from another.
When current conditions are examined in the context of the broad historical context, says Michaels, the notion "of apocalypse becomes somewhat dulled."
In any case, Serreze, of the University of Colorado, says the Arctic is "becoming a profoundly different place than we grew up thinking about."
Whoosh! New Molecules Fastest Ever For Optical Technologies
01/03/2007 - ScienceDaily (cir. 43,333) Return to Top
Science Daily — The internet could soon shift into overdrive thanks to a new generation of optical molecules developed and tested by a team of researchers from Washington State University, the University of Leuven in Belgium and the Chinese Academy of Science in China.
"To our great excitement, the molecules performed better than any other molecules ever measured," said WSU physicist Mark Kuzyk. The team's findings are published in the January 1 issue of the journal Optics Letters.
The new materials, organic molecules known as chromophores, interact more strongly with light than any molecules ever tested. That makes them, or other molecules designed along the same principles, prime candidates for use in optical technologies such as optical switches, internet connections, optical memory systems and holograms. The molecules were synthesized by chemists in China, evaluated according to theoretical calculations by a physicist at WSU and tested for their actual optical properties by chemists in Belgium.
"To our great excitement, the molecules performed better than any other molecules ever measured," said WSU physicist Mark Kuzyk.
The team's findings are published in the January 1 issue of the journal Optics Letters.
Ever since optical technologies became prominent in the 1970s, researchers have tried to improve the materials used to handle light. In 1999, Kuzyk discovered a fundamental limit to how strongly light can interact with matter. He went on to show that all molecules examined at that time fell far short of the limit. Even the best molecules had 30 times less "optical brawn," as he calls it, than was theoretically possible. The molecules described in the new report break through this long-standing ceiling and are intrinsically 50 percent better than any previously tested, which means they are far more efficient at converting light energy to a useable form.
Earlier this year Kuzyk and two WSU colleagues published theoretical guidelines describing molecular structures that should excel at interacting with light. Koen Clays, a chemist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, had pioneered the use of a test called hyper-Rayleigh scattering to measure the strength of a molecule's interaction with light. He was in the process of measuring molecules that had been sent to him by chemists from around the world, when he realized that some of his test molecules met the design criteria set forth in Kuzyk's paper. One series of seven molecules, which had been supplied by chemist Yuxia Zhao at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, looked especially promising. When lead author Xavier Perez-Moreno studied the molecules, he found that two of them showed a more powerful interaction with light than had ever been observed before.
"We found an excellent agreement with Kuzyk's theoretical results," said Perez-Moreno. "We use the quantum limits to try to get a clearer view of the nonlinear optical interaction and we wish to unveil the unifying principles behind the interaction of light and matter--a very ambitious goal. This summer we set some of the foundations of the quantum limits framework."
The new design parameters call for a molecular structure that increases a property known as the "intrinsic hyperpolarizability," which reflects how readily electrons in the molecule deform when the molecule mediates the merger of two photons into one, an action which is the basis of an optical switch.
Other researchers in the field hailed the breakthrough.
"This is a great lead," said Geoff Lindsay of the U.S. Navy Research Department. "I would say this is the greatest advance in organic dye hyperpolarizability theory since the field began."
According to physicist Ivan Biaggio of Lehigh University
, the work "is a very important contribution that may help the community to finally deliver the all-optical switching performances that are needed for tomorrow's all-optical data-processing networks, an aim that has eluded researchers for 20 years."
In the new designs, each molecule has a component at one end that donates an electron and a component at the other end that accepts an electron. In between is the "bridge" portion of the molecule. Previous efforts to boost the interaction with light focused on "smoothing out" the bridge to allow electrons to flow more easily from donor to acceptor end. Kuzyk's calculations showed that a more "bumpy" structure actually enhanced the interaction with light; and Clays recognized that Zhao's structures filled the bill -- which was confirmed by measurements made by his group. Quantum mechanics explains the behavior of electrons in this situation, Kuzyk said.
"When you're looking at something like an electron, you can't really think of it as a classical little ball that's moving around," Kuzyk said. "In reality what ends up happening is that the electron is in a lot of places at the same time. When the electron is all spread out, it can be interfering with itself. By inserting these speed bumps, you're causing it to bunch up in certain places, and preventing it from interfering with itself."
The molecules described in the current report have just one "speed bump;' now that researchers have confirmed that the theoretical designs work, they are synthesizing molecules with more bumps.
"The calculations show that the more bumps, the better," said Kuzyk.
He said that for use in optical switches or other products, the molecules would probably be embedded in a clear polymer that would provide structural assets such as the ability to be formed into a thin film or into fibers, molded into other shapes or used to coat circuits or chips.
Kuzyk is Boeing Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Washington State University. Clays is professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leuven and an adjunct professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at WSU. Perez-Moreno is a doctoral student jointly enrolled at WSU and the University of Leuven. Zhao is associate professor at the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Their research was supported by the University of Leuven, the Belgian government, the Fund for Scientific Research in Flanders, the National Science Foundation and Wright-Paterson Air Force Base.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Washington State University.
Posted on Thursday, January 04, 2007