Democratic Senator John Edwards and US Vice President Dick Cheney stretched the findings of US intelligence to their own ends in tangling over former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to al-Qaeda. \nEdwards said the connection between Saddam and the terrorist network was minimal or nonexistent; Cheney asserted Saddam's Iraq ``had an established relationship with al-Qaeda.'' \nBoth statements Tuesday night mask what intelligence sources have said. The contacts were limited and sketchy, mostly Iraqi intelligence agents and al-Qaeda operatives, and did not amount to state sponsorship of al-Qaeda or any link to the Sept. 11 attacks, US intelligence officials have said. \nBut the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report on flawed Iraqi intelligence did conclude that the CIA had reasonably assessed there were likely several contacts between the Iraqis and al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s, although they did not add up to a formal relationship. \nThe exchange was typical of a night in which each accused the other of mangling facts and traded accusations at a faster pace than in the presidential debate last week. \n"More attacks, more problematic facts," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, comparing this debate with the last. She said Edwards and Cheney had more of a chance to challenge each other on distorted claims than President George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry did, but "still a lot of factual inaccuracies were left standing." \nIn perhaps the most awkward blooper of the evening, Cheney told Edwards to his face that they had never met before the debate, despite evidence they had. \nEdwards' campaign later provided a transcript of a February 2001 prayer breakfast at which Cheney began his remarks by acknowledging the North Carolina senator. The campaign said the two also met when Edwards accompanied the other North Carolina senator, Elizabeth Dole, to her swearing-in ceremony. \nCheney was trying to make the point that Edwards was an absentee senator. "The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight." \nAt one point, Edwards attacked Cheney for the administration's decision to give billions of dollars in new contracts to the vice president's former company, Halliburton. But congressional auditors recently reviewed those contracts and concluded US officials met legal guidelines in awarding the business without competition -- in part because Halliburton was the only company capable of doing some of the work. \nHe also asserted, "They sent 40,000 American troops into Iraq without the body armor they needed," a comment that might suggest they had no body armor at all, when in fact they did. \nGeneral Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said 40,000 troops did not have the brand new, improved armor but, "every soldier and Marine on the ground ... had body armor." \nCheney accused Kerry of voting for taxes 98 times. That's down from the 350 times wrongly claimed by Republicans, but it's still a stretch. Those 98 votes include times when Kerry voted for lower taxes -- but not as low as Republicans wanted. And times when many procedural votes were cast on a single tax increase or package. \nWhatever the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq over the years, another question touched on by the debaters was whether Saddam's Iraq had anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks specifically. There is no evidence of that. \nThe vice president stated flatly that he has never suggested a connection between Iraq and Sept. 11. \nBut he did say in 2003 that if efforts to establish democracy in Iraq succeeded, "we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications