* Both Colin Powell and Condi Rice have by now openly come out in favor of the University of Michigan admissions system, which awards points for various factors, including poverty, location (the Upper Peninsula students get points) and also race. They are thus in direct opposition to the position of President Bush. But, I think they had a duty to resign. In a democratic government if a minister or a close adviser differs deeply with the chief executive on a matter of important policy, the only honest course is resignation. Moreover, I suspect if the two of them had stuck together and made a stand, credibly *threatening* resignation over the issue, they could have forestalled Bush taking this step. Should the Bush position prevail at the Supreme Court this spring, I think the university should simply begin awarding extra points for urban poverty. It should not go to the Texas system of admitting the top ten percent of each high school graduating class, which is insipid and depends on de facto racial segregation. It should simply identify a race-neutral category such as urban poverty (in the Michigan context) that would have the same effect as giving points based on race.
* The Los Angeles Times reports that the Indian firm NEC Engineering Private Ltd., employed front companies and phony documents to “export 10 consignments of raw materials and equipment that Saddam Hussein’s regime could use to produce chemical weapons and propellants for long-range missiles . . .” These shipments included “atomized aluminum powder and titanium centrifugal pumps” and were worth nearly $1 mn.; they were shipped “between September 1998 and February 2001.” The destinations were listed as other countries in the region, but they actuall went to Iraq. An Iraqi dissident author visiting Jordan also gave a secret interview to Pino Buonagiorna of the Milan “Panorama” in which he said the emphasis on Iraqi scientists developing weapons of mass destruction themselves is overblown, and that much can simply be imported, which is what Saddam has done.
*On Monday morning at 2 am police finally raided a mosque in the Finsbury Park district of London, which has been under surveillance for some time. The preacher there, Abu Hamza al-Masri (actually just an engineer) has attempted to justify the September 11 attacks. He had refused to heed warnings that his statements made him liable to arrest on the basis of the UK’s new anti-terrorism statute.
On Sunday, Sir John Stevens, head of London’s Metropolitan police, had warned that there are large numbers of al-Qaeda supporters in the UK who have not yet been apprehended. Worries have sharpened recently because of the discovery of an Algerian cell, presumably of the Armed Islamic Group, that had stockpiled poison ricin gas in a London apartment. A British police officer–Detective Constable Oake–was stabbed to death when he and others attempted to apprehend some of this group in Manchester. According to Jane’s Defence weekly, some 2800 Algerian militants were trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This is the third largest country cohort after Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Spokesmen for immigrant groups in the UK expressed concern about suspicions falling on all Algerians. Many Algerians, they say, are legitimately in the UK as asylum seekers and are not violent. The Algerian civil war of the past decade has killed more than a 100,000 persons.
*Returned Afghan refugees numbering nearly 2 million are in danger of starving and freezing this winter because the international community has not sufficiently followed through on its pledges, made at Tokyo over a year ago, to provide reconstruction aid. There are also troubling reports of the US military high-handedly arresting Afghans in places like Kabul without any due process, which is beginning to provoke protests among the Afghan population.
*Japan is signalling behind the scenes that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi might well support a US war on Iraq without a second UN Security Council resolution authorizing it, as long as the US does provide compelling proof that the Iraqis are developing weapons of mass destruction. It would not do so in the absence of such proof. Presumably the Japanese stance on the issue is related to policy toward North Korea. But given how unpopular the war is in the Middle East, and how Japan has usually attempted to avoid stepping on toes there because it depends heavily on Middle East petroleum, this statement is remarkable.