Friday, April 30, 2004

Iraqi torture images 'will damage Britain'


PICTURES of United States troops torturing Iraqi prisoners will damage Britain as well as the US, it was claimed today.

Former foreign secretary Lord Owen said the photographs, which were shown on prime time US TV, had emerged at a "very bad" time.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said today he was "appalled" by the pictures.

No 10 said the actions shown - with Iraqis stripped naked and hooded and being tormented by their captors - were in "direct contravention of all policy under which the coalition operates".

And military experts said the images could bolster support for insurgents who have killed coalition troops and taken civilian prisoners since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Seventeen soldiers have been suspended, including one senior officer, over the abuse. Six soldiers are now facing court martial. The soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad are accused of forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual humiliation and other abuses.

America’s senior general in Baghdad immediately denounced the actions of the troops. But outraged politicians said today that the damage had already been done.

Lord Owen said: "I hope, I believe, nothing like this happens in the British Army. But there is no joy for us.

"What happens with the Americans of course impacts on us. We are in it together. It hurts us as well. We could have done without it, it is very damaging. You never pull back lost ground."

Tony Blair’s human rights envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, said that she had been "shocked" by the photographs.

The Labour MP said she had raised the treatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison with officials at the White House, but they had denied there was a problem.

"I made the point that there must be answers, because I found it very difficult to get answers and I was told by a very senior person there: ‘We don’t do this kind of thing’. Clearly, the people in charge did not know this was going on," she said.

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram joined the condemnation, saying: "Such behaviour is unacceptable and very damaging to building confidence in Iraq. We welcome the swift and firm steps taken by the American military authorities to deal with the perpetrators."

Labour MP Ronnie Campbell, whose son Barry served as a Royal Marine in the invasion of Iraq, added: "This is disgraceful and outrageous. You might expect this from Saddam Hussein and his troops, but not from the Americans."

The charges, first announced by the military in March, were documented by photographs taken by guards in the prison.

Brigadier-General Mark Kimmet appealed to the American people to keep faith with their troops in Iraq.

Some of the photographs, and descriptions of others, were broadcast in the US on Wednesday by a CBS television news programme and were verified by military officials. One shows a hooded prisoner standing on a box. Wires were attached to him and he was told that if he fell off the box he would be electrocuted.

One of the soldiers accused of the abuse insisted it was the army’s fault for not training its troops properly in how to treat prisoners. In his diary, Staff Sergeant Ivan "Chip" Frederick said he told senior officers about conditions, but one replied: "I don’t care if he has to sleep standing up."

The programme’s producers said the army also had photographs showing a detainee with wires attached to his genitals and another that showed a dog attacking a prisoner.

Sgt Frederick added: "We’re appalled. These are our fellow soldiers, they represent us and let their fellow soldiers down."

Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, said last month that many former detainees in Iraq claimed to have been tortured and ill-treated by coalition troops during interrogation.

Meanwhile, American forces have begun withdrawing from the Iraqi city of Fallujah after a month of bloody clashes with rebels.

A new Iraqi force, led by one of Saddam Hussein’s former generals, is expected to move into the city while the US keeps a presence outside Fallujah. Fresh clashes in Fallujah overnight saw US aircraft hit insurgent targets in the city.

Affirmative Action Around the World

Affirmative Action Around the World:
An Empirical Study
by Thomas Sowell
Yale. 231 pp. $28.00
Reviewed by
Carl Cohen

Among contemporary economists and social theorists, one of the most prolific, intellectually independent, and iconoclastic is Thomas Sowell, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. In nearly a half-century’s worth of books and essays, he has explored the cultures of the world and all the nooks and crannies of American society. Enormously learned, wonderfully clear-headed, he sees reality as it is, and flinches at no truth.

Affirmative Action Around the World is exactly what its title announces: an empirical study of what the consequences really are, and really have been, in the five major nations in which "affirmative action"—the term now commonly used to denote ethnic preferences—has been long ensconced: India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and the United States.*

In each case, Sowell’s presentation of the data is instructive and illuminating—and disturbing. Some themes recur: wherever ethnic preferences have been instituted, they have led to intergroup hostility, dishonesty, and further proliferation in spite of manifest failure. Reflecting on Sowell’s data, I also observe that each nation’s experience offers a powerful lesson with respect to one particular aspect of the results produced. Here follow five painful lessons.

In India, ethnic preferences have been established longer than in any other nation. "Positive discrimination" goes back to British rule, and was built into the Indian constitution in 1947. Originally intended to last for only twenty years, the preferences have been extended repeatedly in time. Originally devised to benefit only "untouchables" (a now forbidden term, replaced by "scheduled castes" or "Dalits"), they have been repeatedly expanded in reach. The benefits are no longer regarded as transitory; the beneficiaries, including members of many other "backward classes," now comprise more than three-quarters of the Indian population.

Preferential quotas have been limited by Indian courts to 50 percent of the available places at universities and elsewhere; but making use of those quotas requires "complementary resources" of education that the intended beneficiaries simply do not have. Therefore, the quotas for the most seriously deprived in India often go unfilled. On the other hand, quotas for "other backward classes" rarely go unfilled. Upshot: the great majority of the reserved places go to those who deserve them least.

Only deep inner change would enable members of the beneficiary groups to utilize the places preferentially reserved for them. But, as Sowell points out, there is "no political mileage to be made by telling people to change themselves." Expedience rules; Indian politicians buy support by confirming preferences and extending them to more and more ethnic groups. Enlargement is the easiest course.

What then do we learn from the Indian experience? Race preference does not wind down; it winds up. Proliferation is the rule.

Next, Malaysia, where Chinese laborers were first brought to the peninsula to work the rubber plantations, Indian laborers to work the tin mines. Both have become substantial ethnic minorities, with Malays remaining the great majority. The three groups are quite distinct.

The Chinese, adopting a frugal style and investing heavily in the education of their children, pulled themselves from the plantations and built businesses across the country; they have come to dominate retail establishments in Malaysia, of which they owned 85 percent by 1980. Corporate ownership by Chinese has also soared. Chinese incomes are double those of Malays.

In 1965, Malaysians willingly divested themselves of a great mass of powerful Chinese by expelling Singapore, which became a separate country and remains very largely a Chinese city—and greatly prosperous. But, although the expulsion of Singapore made the Malay majority politically secure, and somewhat reduced its economic domination by the Chinese minority, it did not stop the intellectual advance of the Chinese who remained. In 1969, more than half the officers in the Malaysian army were ethnic Chinese; as long as university admissions were determined by examination results, only 20 percent of the places went to Malays, and most of the rest to ethnic Chinese.

The majority, competing unsuccessfully, had to be protected. The Malay government set out to achieve racial balance in employment, giving formal preferences to Malays in hiring. But there seemed no alternative to continuing reliance on the better-educated Chinese and Indian minorities in fields where their technical skills were needed. And so admission to universities was altered as well. Group membership was emphasized over individual performance, and, to increase the number of Malays yet further, the Malay language became the only medium of instruction in schools as well as in universities.

The ethnic preferences that have pervaded Malaysia in recent decades were not designed to pull an oppressed minority from the depths; their purpose was to protect the relatively less competent majority from the intellectual and economic advances of more competent ethnic minorities. What, then, do we learn from Malaysia? We learn that the inferior performance of some ethnic groups is not always a consequence of discrimination against them. On the contrary, even the imposition of discriminatory advantages favoring a majority cannot obscure the fact that some groups prove less competent than others.

Sri Lanka, in the second half of the 20th century, experienced a steep social deterioration whose exact causes are difficult to specify. What began as ethnic tension between the Sinhalese majority in the south and the Tamil minority in the north became bloody slaughter. The substantial preferences given to the Sinhalese (awarded, as in Malaysia, to protect a less competent majority) certainly played a role in exacerbating these tensions.

In Sri Lanka, group rights had become a tool to win Sinhalese votes. The more recently arrived Tamils, clustered in the highlands, were flatly disenfranchised. To overcome inferior majority performance, group preferences were introduced in university admissions. Even so, the edge of Tamils in the sciences and other intellectual endeavors remained substantial, and so preference next took the form of race-norming. University admissions were based not on actual scores but on each applicant’s "standardized score," determined by his performance relative to the performance of other students in the same ethnic group. When that device proved insufficient as well, "district quotas" were introduced (a variant of what is done today in Texas), whereby admissions were allocated by geographic region. Since Sinhalese and Tamils were concentrated in different districts, this was simply a backhand method of establishing ethnic quotas.

Protests against preferences in Sri Lanka mounted but were unsuccessful. Concluding that only in a separate nation could their success be recognized, the Tamils pressed for secession, first with militancy, and then with bloodshed. The once-tranquil island was afflicted with widespread pillage, murder, rape.

Deliberately exacerbating racial tensions for the sake of political gain—we learn from the case of Sri Lanka—promotes hatred of a kind and of a degree almost impossible to reverse. What begins with race preference ends with race riots.

And then there is Nigeria, a nation encompassing a vast array of diverse ethnic groups and regions—largely Islamic in the north, largely Christian in the south. Before colonial rule it was never a country; after colonial rule, the changing governments of Nigeria have regularly practiced favoritism toward one or another of the scores upon scores of tribes and ethnic groups.

Preferences and quotas are justified in Nigeria by the demand, expressly formulated in the constitution of 1979, that national activities should "reflect the federal character of the country." This "federal character" principle has been extended to school admissions, to promotions in school, and even to membership on the national soccer team. Every activity must "look like Nigeria." Intergroup tensions have become very sharp; almost every policy issue becomes a matter of racial dispute accompanied by charges of ethnic corruption. These disputes often turn bitter, and become fights.

Whence the rancor? Economic disparities do not account for it. Sowell points out that in the 1990’s, when the Katafs, formerly lagging behind the Hausa, closed the gap between the two groups, relations became more polarized, not less. The slightest disagreement has tended to explode into violence, and the same sensitivity appears among other groups as well. Violence is produced, it seems, by the politicization of ethnic differences; and that politicization commonly takes the form of preferential treatment.

One byproduct of this strife has been the creation of more states within the country. To reduce discord, separate ethnic enclaves have been carved out and given formal status. Thus, having given rise to a deadly spoils system, ethnic heterogeneity is mitigated by a gerrymandered homogeneity. The lesson from Nigeria? When racial balance is advanced by granting preferences that are deeply resented, diversity produces not greater racial harmony but greater racial conflict.

One thread runs through all four of these case histories. We are often invited to suppose, almost as an axiom, that every ethnic group is possessed of equal talent with every other and will therefore, if given equal chances, perform with equivalent competence. Disparate numbers by group (in employment or education) are taken to be a sure sign of oppression, and proportionality thus becomes the unquestioned standard of fair play. This thinking is the product of an egalitarianism ungrounded in empirical inquiry.

The reality, driven home by Sowell’s excruciating reports, is very different. In fact, for a host of reasons, some of which we know and some of which we do not know, some of which spring from malign oppression and many of which do not, ethnic and racial groups behave differently, perform differently, learn differently, and exhibit greatly different talents and temperaments. That is not crude stereotyping; it is plain fact. Justice will not be done if this fact is denied or goes unrecognized. In giving us this great lesson with the aid of overwhelming evidence and a scrupulously dispassionate mind, Thomas Sowell is our finest teacher.

The fifth of the five great nations dealt with in this book is the United States of America. The appropriate lesson(s) here? All of the above.

Carl Cohen is professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan. His most recent book is a debate with James P. Sterba, Affirmative Action and Racial Preference (Oxford).

Friday, April 16, 2004

Who Needs English?

Who Needs English? (in Asia)

As South Korea's economy grows closer to China's, more people are
studying Chinese. For some, the choice is a rejection of the U.S.
By Barbara Demick, Times Staff Writer

SEOUL — After years of slogging through her English lessons,
stumbling over impossible pronunciations and baffling rules of
syntax, Chae Chang Eun came up with a better idea.

The 33-year-old science teacher switched to Chinese.

It wasn't that the language was easier. But studying Chinese felt
like a homecoming, a return to a culture and way of thinking closer
to Chae's roots as a South Korean. Besides, with China on its way to
surpassing the United States as South Korea's largest trading
partner, she figured its language would be more advantageous in
landing a job in the business world.

"When America was leader of the world, we all studied English," Chae
said. "Now that China is rising to the top, the interest is swaying
toward the Chinese language."

South Korea is known as one of the United States' staunchest allies
and is host to 37,000 U.S. troops. But in what might be a sign of
things to come, China is the object of infatuation at the moment.

The phenomenon isn't limited to South Korea. Chinese studies are
booming throughout Asia. At the largest chain of private language
schools in Japan, enrollment in Chinese in 2003 was double that in
2002 — displacing French as the second most popular language after

For most students, the motives are strictly mercenary: They believe
that command of Chinese will give them an edge in the job market,
and they don't develop much of a corresponding interest in Chinese
culture. Some study Chinese — once scorned by a society intent on
Westernizing — as a conscious gesture of rejection of the United

"The interest in Chinese does reflect some antipathy to U.S.
hegemony and arrogance," said Suh Jin Young, an international
relations professor at Korea University in Seoul.

In the last two years, half a dozen private Chinese schools have
opened in downtown Seoul, and posters for new ones are plastered
throughout the subway system. In December, prestigious Seoul
National University announced that Chinese had replaced English as
the most popular major among liberal arts students. The country's
largest electronics companies recently started offering free Chinese
lessons for their employees in anticipation of expanded operations
in China.

Since 2000, the number of South Koreans studying in China has more
than doubled. There were 35,000 as of the end of last year, making
South Koreans the largest nationality of foreign students in China.
Meanwhile, the number taking the entry exam for Chinese universities
has increased threefold, according to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul.

At the same time, student visa applications to the United States are
down about 10% this year from the year before, a U.S. diplomat said.
He attributes it to a combination of tighter security requirements
and what he calls "the competing pole from China."

"People are sending their teenagers to China to learn Chinese. They
are really crazy about China," said Nam Young Sook, an economist
with the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy. "After
all the hype about English, now everybody wants to learn Chinese."

In Thailand, so many students are taking Chinese that one university
official calls it an epidemic of "China fever."

"They see that the future belongs to China," said Prapat Thepcatree,
director of Thammasat University's Center for Policy Studies in

Prapat says it is not unlike the rage for learning Japanese in the
1980s, when Japan's economic might was at its zenith, but he
believes that anti-American sentiment is also a factor. As a matter
of simple practicality, more Chinese tourists are visiting Thailand
while Westerners, fearful of terrorism, are staying home. The tilt
toward China comes at a time when American policymakers are
increasingly fretting about the U.S. image abroad.

"Net favorable sentiment toward China has since caught up with — and
on a number of occasions even surpassed — that for the U.S.," warned
a report on South Korea released this month by the Rand Corp., a
Santa Monica-based think tank. "China's growing economic importance
to South Korea and its increasingly important role in influencing
North Korean behavior could portend more favorable attitudes toward
China, possibly even at the expense of the United States."

Scott Snyder, a senior associate with the Asia Foundation think tank
in Washington and until recently head of its Seoul office, said the
U.S.-declared war against terrorism has alienated Asian allies not
because they necessarily oppose it, but because they believe it is
not relevant to their concerns.

"The Chinese are coming and essentially saying, 'Let's get rich
together,' and that is a more compelling message for Asian
partners," Snyder said.

At the moment, with the U.S. and China basking in relatively warm
relations, South Koreans do not have to choose between the two. But
they may in the future — and it is not a given that they would side
with the United States.

"We have to ask ourselves, at what point does South Korea's economic
relationship with China impinge on the U.S. alliance? Can we
imagine, for example, that South Korea would vote for a U.S.-
introduced human rights resolution condemning China?" Snyder asked.

For South Koreans, the simple fact of the matter is that China is
much closer and much bigger than the U.S.

China has been the dominant foreign power for most of Korea's
recorded history, and many aspects of Korean language and culture —
from chopsticks to the Confucian family structure — are derived from
China. Although South Koreans have their own alphabet, they often
use Chinese characters for names and in newspapers.

Historians say that the close relationship is natural and that the
half-century estrangement during the Cold War was the anomaly. China
intervened on behalf of the Communist North in the 1950-53 Korean
War, and relations with the South were severed. Ties were
reestablished in 1992, and since then, the relationship has

Last year China surpassed the United States as South Korea's largest
export market. Bilateral trade between China and South Korea was
worth $63.2 billion last year and is expected to reach $100 billion
within the next year or two, according to the Chinese Embassy in

Yang Houlon, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, said that China
is the biggest importer of South Korean products, the biggest
destination for direct foreign investment and the biggest tourist
destination, with about 2 million South Koreans visiting annually.

South Koreans, meanwhile, make up the largest population of
foreigners in China, many of them students of the language.

"The Chinese economy is growing, so demand for Chinese speakers is
increasing. These are simple market rules," Yang said. "Chinese and
Koreans share a lot of values. It is easy for us to communicate."

Virtually all of South Korea's top corporations — Hyundai Motors,
LG, Samsung and SK Corp. among them — have made significant
investments in China in the last few years. Tsingtao, just a
commuter flight across the Yellow Sea from Seoul, has become
a "little Korea" of sorts, with about 4,000 South Korean companies
having set up shop.

Companies that a few years back were attracted by the vast reservoir
of cheap labor are now setting up research-and-development
facilities to take advantage of Chinese technology and to better
understand the Chinese consumer market.

"You can pay $100 or $200 per month for a well-educated scientist,"
economist Nam said.

"Whatever business you're in — whether you run a small drugstore or
build golf courses, you have got to think about doing business with
China," said Kim Jo Han, a 57-year-old textile company manager who
said he was studying Chinese because of his company's plant in

Until recently, South Koreans studying Chinese were primarily
scholars, not unlike Westerners who learn Greek or Latin. There was
little interest in the modern Chinese language.

"People would ask me, 'Why are you teaching Chinese?' Even if I was
sitting on a bus reading a book in Chinese, people would give me
funny looks," said Song Jae Bok, a teacher at the Koryo Chinese
Language Institute.

Eighty percent of the students at the school in downtown Seoul are
women, mostly looking for jobs in trading companies. One reason for
the boom in private Chinese institutes is that Chinese is not
offered in most public schools. English is still the mandatory
foreign language. Virtually all South Koreans taking Chinese lessons
have also studied English, although many have had difficulty
mastering it.

"Somehow students in the Chinese department are not interested in
English. It seems they did not like to learn English and they see
Chinese as an alternative," said Seo Kyong Ho, associate dean of
humanities at Seoul National University and one of the few academics
who is fluent in both Chinese and English.

Chinese popular culture has not made dramatic inroads into South
Korea — there are no signs that it will push aside the influence of
Hollywood. But South Korean music, soap operas, film and fashion are
increasingly popular in China.

Chae, the science teacher, started Chinese lessons four years ago
after reading a book predicting the rise of China. It was something
of an epiphany, and through the language she started exploring the
Chinese roots of Korean culture that had been forgotten in recent

"Whereas the American influence is only 50 years old — since the
U.S. military occupation of 1953 — Chinese culture goes back 5,000
years. We just didn't realize it," Chae said.

She also came to support China with the belief that it could be an
important counterbalance to the United States should the Bush
administration consider preemptive strikes against North Korea.

"There are a lot of us who feel that by befriending the Chinese we
can prevent the outbreak of war on the peninsula," Chae said.

Not all of the students have as positive an attitude toward China.
In fact, a few say they need to learn the Chinese language to
protect their country from being swallowed by China's rapid economic

"We don't really trust the Chinese," said Kim Min Joo, one of the
few students at the Koryo Institute in their 50s. She complained
that some of her young classmates are naive when it comes to China.

"A lot of them have rushed into studying Chinese because it's a
fad," she said, "without knowing much about China, its history or
its system of government."

Jinna Park of The Times' Seoul Bureau contributed to this report.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The New SAT: College Admissions Test Gets Major Overhaul

Don’t let the sweeping changes to the SAT exam catch your child by surprise. Here’s what the College Board has planned for the SAT: new writing and math tests, a new way of scoring and a change in how scores for students with disabilities are reported.

By Michael Mullaly,

Beginning in March 2005, a lot more students will score 1600 on the SAT. Unfortunately, the perfect score will rise to 2400 because the College Board is adding a writing test worth up to 800 points. There also will be significant changes to the verbal and mathematics sections.
America’s oldest college admission exam is being revamped for the first time since 1994, largely because the University of California threatened to drop the test as an admission requirement. The revised SAT will be more closely aligned with today’s high school curriculum and will address concerns among employers and university professors that the quality of student writing has declined.

In addition, after September 2003, the College Board will no longer disclose on score reports whether a student was allowed additional time to complete the test because of a disability.

What changes will occur in the verbal section?
What changes are being made to the math section?
What will the new SAT writing test be like?
What’s different about the score reports of students with disabilities?
What other changes are planned for the SAT?
Internet resources

What changes will occur in the verbal section?
The revised SAT verbal test will include a series of paragraph-long passages, each followed by a single multiple-choice question. These will replace analogy questions, which test a student’s ability to discern the relationship between words. (One example: “attorney” is to “client” as “physician” is to ______. The correct answer is “patient.”) Despite being a rigorous test of verbal reasoning, analogies are being eliminated because they are not a part of most high school curriculums. The test will be renamed “critical reading” to reflect its new emphasis.

What changes are being made to the math section?
The revised SAT math test will contain questions that require knowledge of Algebra II-level material, including matrices, absolute values, rational equations and inequalities, radical equations and geometric notations. Most students take Algebra II during their third year of high school. The current SAT tests only concepts from Algebra I and geometry. In addition, quantitative comparison questions will no longer appear on the SAT. These test items ask students to compare two mathematical expressions and determine which represents the larger quantity.

What will the new SAT writing test be like?
The new SAT writing test will be extremely similar to the current SAT II writing exam that students applying to more selective colleges are sometimes required to take. The one-hour test will include:

An essay (for which about 20 minutes will be alloted) on an assigned, but general, topic

A multiple-choice grammar section in which students specify the part of a given sentence that contains an error

A multiple-choice syntax section in which students select the most well-constructed sentence or the best-organized paragraph from several options

Two expert readers will score each student essay on a scale of 1 to 6, with higher scores denoting better performance. A third reader will be consulted if the experts’ scores differ by more than two points. The College Board is considering making copies of the essays available to college admission offices.

What’s different about the score reports of students with disabilities?
The College Board currently flags the SAT score reports of students who were granted additional time to take the test because of a disability. This practice will cease after September 2003.

This policy has raised the concern that some parents may exaggerate the need for their children to receive testing accommodations in order to secure additional time. While this is a legitimate concern, the College Board requires parents to provide professional documentation of a medically established disability before it considers granting special accommodations.

Reasons that students may be granted accommodations on the SAT include impaired vision or hearing, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), learning disabilities, physical handicaps and “certain medical conditions.” It is important to realize that there are other accommodations besides additional testing time, such as a different location or special equipment. Extra time is granted only when a student’s disability presents a direct need for additional time, or when the test is given in a nonstandard format (in Braille, for example).

If you have a child who may qualify for special accommodations, be sure to initiate the application process well in advance – ideally, during the spring before the first year in which your child intends to take an SAT test. All the necessary paperwork should be available at your child’s school. For additional information about testing accommodations, click here.

What other changes are planned for the SAT?
Because the new writing section will be scored on the same 200 to 800 scale used for the reading and math sections, the maximum SAT score will increase from 1600 to 2400. However, the College Board will calibrate the tests so that scores on the new critical reading and math sections can be directly compared to those on the current SAT verbal and math sections.

The duration of the test will increase by 30 minutes to 3½ hours. The College Board expects the price of the SAT to rise by $10 or $12 from its current cost of $26. Fee waivers will continue to be available to those who qualify.

Critics believe there is hidden agenda behind such change.