Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chas Freeman: His wit and wisdom - compilation of statements

Chas Freeman: His wit and wisdom. By Scott Johnson
PowerLine Blog, Mar 15, 2009

Last weekend Martin Kramer compiled the statements of Saudi/Manchurian candidate Chas Freeman on al Qaeda and 9/11. Freeman is of course the former American ambassador to Saudi Arabia whom Obama administration DNI Dennis Blair appointed to chair the National Intelligence Council. In the spirit of Kramer's compilation, I thought it might be useful to collect in one place a few of the highlights of Freeman's keen analytical insight expressed over the years, grouped by subject with links to the sources.

Freeman on Tiananmen Square (May 2006):
I find the dominant view in China about this very plausible, i.e. that the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at "Tian'anmen" stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.

For myself, I side on this -- if not on numerous other issues -- with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans' "Bonus Army" or a "student uprising" on behalf of "the goddess of democracy" should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. I cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint that the Zhao Ziyang administration did in China, allowing students to occupy zones that are the equivalent of the Washington National Mall and Times Square, combined. while shutting down much of the Chinese government's normal operations. I thus share the hope of the majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of Zhao Ziyang's dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic protesters in China.

Freeman on Saudi education (December 2000):
It is widely charged in the United States that Saudi Arabian education teaches hateful and evil things. I do not think that is the case.

Freeman on Saudi Arabian King Abdullah (October 2008):
I believe King Abdullah is very rapidly becoming Abdullah the Great.

Freeman on 9/11 (October 2005):
I simply want to register what I think is an obvious point:; namely that what 9/11 showed is that if we bomb people, they bomb back.

Freeman revisits 9/11 (October 2006):
Americans need to be clear about the consequences of continuing our current counterproductive approaches to security in the Middle East. We have paid heavily and often in treasure in the past for our unflinching support and unstinting subsidies of Israel's approach to managing its relations with the Arabs. Five years ago we began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home. We are now paying with the lives of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines on battlefields in several regions of the realm of Islam, with more said by our government's neoconservative mentors to be in prospect.

Freeman on the Arab-Israeli conflict (October 2006):
Demonstrably, Israel excels at war; sadly, it has shown no talent for peace.
Freeman on Israeli intransigence (May 2007):
Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them.

Freeman on Israel's harm to America (May 2007):
American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel's American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation - whatever form it takes - will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture.

Freeman on the role of American Jews (October 2006):
[H]istory and the Israeli response to date both strongly suggest that without some tough love from Americans, including especially Israel's American coreligionists, Israel will not risk the uncertainties of peace.

Freeman on the withdrawal of his appointment (March 2009):
The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors....

I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government.

Freeman on his one regret regarding his withdrawal statement (March 2009):
The only thing I regret is that in my statement I embraced the term "Israel lobby." This isn't really a lobby by, for or about Israel. It's really, well, I've decided I'm going to call it from now on the [Avigdor] Lieberman lobby. It's the very right-wing Likud in Israel and its fanatic supporters here. And Avigdor Lieberman is really the guy that they really agree with. And I think they're doing Israel in.

In part via Andrew Bolt and The Blog (the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb).

Solar Energy Firms Leave Waste Behind in China

Solar Energy Firms Leave Waste Behind in China. By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post, Sunday, March 9, 2008; A01

GAOLONG, China -- The first time Li Gengxuan saw the dump trucks from the nearby factory pull into his village, he couldn't believe what happened. Stopping between the cornfields and the primary school playground, the workers dumped buckets of bubbling white liquid onto the ground. Then they turned around and drove right back through the gates of their compound without a word.

This ritual has been going on almost every day for nine months, Li and other villagers said.
In China, a country buckling with the breakneck pace of its industrial growth, such stories of environmental pollution are not uncommon. But the Luoyang Zhonggui High-Technology Co., here in the central plains of Henan Province near the Yellow River, stands out for one reason: It's a green energy company, producing polysilicon destined for solar energy panels sold around the world. But the byproduct of polysilicon production -- silicon tetrachloride -- is a highly toxic substance that poses environmental hazards.

"The land where you dump or bury it will be infertile. No grass or trees will grow in the place. . . . It is like dynamite -- it is poisonous, it is polluting. Human beings can never touch it," said Ren Bingyan, a professor at the School of Material Sciences at Hebei Industrial University.

The situation in Li's village points to the environmental trade-offs the world is making as it races to head off a dwindling supply of fossil fuels.

Forests are being cleared to grow biofuels like palm oil, but scientists argue that the disappearance of such huge swaths of forests is contributing to climate change. Hydropower dams are being constructed to replace coal-fired power plants, but they are submerging whole ecosystems under water.

Likewise in China, the push to get into the solar energy market is having unexpected consequences.

With the prices of oil and coal soaring, policymakers around the world are looking at massive solar farms to heat water and generate electricity. For the past four years, however, the world has been suffering from a shortage of polysilicon -- the key component of sunlight-capturing wafers -- driving up prices of solar energy technology and creating a barrier to its adoption.
With the price of polysilicon soaring from $20 per kilogram to $300 per kilogram in the past five years, Chinese companies are eager to fill the gap.

In China, polysilicon plants are the new dot-coms. Flush with venture capital and with generous grants and low-interest loans from a central government touting its efforts to seek clean energy alternatives, more than 20 Chinese companies are starting polysilicon manufacturing plants. The combined capacity of these new factories is estimated at 80,000 to 100,000 tons -- more than double the 40,000 tons produced in the entire world today.

But Chinese companies' methods for dealing with waste haven't been perfected.

Because of the environmental hazard, polysilicon companies in the developed world recycle the compound, putting it back into the production process. But the high investment costs and time, not to mention the enormous energy consumption required for heating the substance to more than 1800 degrees Fahrenheit for the recycling, have discouraged many factories in China from doing the same. Like Luoyang Zhonggui, other solar plants in China have not installed technology to prevent pollutants from getting into the environment or have not brought those systems fully online, industry sources say.

"The recycling technology is of course being thought about, but currently it's still not mature," said Shi Jun, a former photovoltaic technology researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Shi, chief executive of Pro-EnerTech, a start-up polysilicon research firm in Shanghai, said that there's such a severe shortage of polysilicon that the government is willing to overlook this issue for now.

"If this happened in the United States, you'd probably be arrested," he said.

An independent, nationally accredited laboratory analyzed a sample of dirt from the dump site near the Luoyang Zhonggui plant at the request of The Washington Post. The tests show high concentrations of chlorine and hydrochloric acid, which can result from the breakdown of silicon tetrachloride and do not exist naturally in soil. "Crops cannot grow on this, and it is not suitable for people to live nearby," said Li Xiaoping, deputy director of the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences.

Wang Hailong, secretary of the board of directors for Luoyang Zhonggui, said it is "impossible" to think that the company would dump large amounts of waste into a residential area. "Some of the villagers did not tell the truth," he said.

However, Wang said the company does release a "minimal amount of waste" in compliance with all environmental regulations. "We release it in a certain place in a certain way. Before it is released, it has gone through strict treatment procedures."

Yi Xusheng, the head of monitoring for the Henan Province Environmental Protection Agency, said the factory had passed a review before it opened, but that "it's possible that there are some pollutants in the production process" that inspectors were not aware of. Yi said the agency would investigate.

In 2005, when residents of Li's village, Shiniu, heard that a new solar energy company would be building a factory nearby, they celebrated.

The impoverished farming community of roughly 2,300, near the eastern end of the Silk Road, had been left behind during China's recent boom. In a country where the average wage in some areas has climbed to $200 a month, many of the village's residents make just $200 a year. They had high hopes their new neighbor would jump-start the local economy and help transform the area into an industrial hub.

The Luoyang Zhonggui factory grew out of an effort by a national research institute to improve on a 50-year-old polysilicon refining technology pioneered by Germany's Siemens. Concerned about intellectual property issues, Siemens has held off on selling its technology to the Chinese. So the Chinese have tried to create their own.

Last year, the Luoyang Zhonggui factory was estimated to have produced less than 300 tons of polysilicon, but it aims to increase that tenfold this year -- making it China's largest operating plant. It is a key supplier to Suntech Power Holdings, a solar panel company whose founder Shi Zhengrong recently topped the list of the richest people in China.

Made from the Earth's most abundant substance -- sand -- polysilicon is tricky to manufacture. It requires huge amounts of energy, and even a small misstep in the production can introduce impurities and ruin an entire batch. The other main challenge is dealing with the waste. For each ton of polysilicon produced, the process generates at least four tons of silicon tetrachloride liquid waste.

When exposed to humid air, silicon tetrachloride transforms into acids and poisonous hydrogen chloride gas, which can make people who breathe the air dizzy and can make their chests contract.

While it typically takes companies two years to get a polysilicon factory up and running properly, many Chinese companies are trying to do it in half that time or less, said Richard Winegarner, president of Sage Concepts, a California-based consulting firm.

As a result, Ren of Hebei Industrial University said, some Chinese plants are stockpiling the hazardous substances in the hopes that they can figure out a way to dispose of it later: "I know these factories began to store silicon tetrachloride in drums two years ago."

Pro-EnerTech's Shi says other companies -- including Luoyang Zhonggui -- are just dumping wherever they can.

"Theoretically, companies should collect it all, process it to get rid of the poisonous stuff, then release it or recycle. Zhonggui currently doesn't have the technology. Now they are just releasing it directly into the air," said Shi, who recently visited the factory.

Shi estimates that Chinese companies are saving millions of dollars by not installing pollution recovery.

He said that if environmental protection technology is used, the cost to produce one ton is approximately $84,500. But Chinese companies are making it at $21,000 to $56,000a ton.
In sharp contrast to the gleaming white buildings in Zhonggui's new gated complex in Gaolong, the situation in the villages surrounding it is bleak.

About nine months ago, residents of Li's village, which begins about 50 yards from the plant, noticed that their crops were wilting under a dusting of white powder. Sometimes, there was a hazy cloud up to three feet high near the dumping site; one person tending crops there fainted, several villagers said. Small rocks began to accumulate in kettles used for boiling faucet water.

Each night, villagers said, the factory's chimneys released a loud whoosh of acrid air that stung their eyes and made it hard to breath. "It's poison air. Sometimes it gets so bad you can't sit outside. You have to close all the doors and windows," said Qiao Shi Peng, 28, a truck driver who said he worries about his 1-year-old son's health.

The villagers said most obvious evidence of the pollution is the dumping, up to 10 times a day, of the liquid waste into what was formerly a grassy field. Eventually, the whole area turned white, like snow.

The worst part, said Li, 53, who lives with his son and granddaughter in the village, is that "they go outside the gates of their own compound to dump waste."

"We didn't know how bad it was until the August harvest, until things started dying," he said.
Early this year, one of the villagers put some of the contaminated soil in a plastic bag and went to the local environmental bureau. They never got back to him.

Zhang Zhenguo, 45, a farmer and small businessman, said he has a theory as to why: "They didn't test it because the government supports the plant."

Researchers Wu Meng and Crissie Ding contributed to this report.

Medvedev Urges Russia's Richest To Return "Moral Debts"

Medvedev Urges Russia's Richest To Return "Moral Debts"
Mar 15, 2009 11:13

MOSCOW (AFP)--President Dmitry Medvedev Sunday urged Russia's largest businesses to return "moral debts" during an economic crisis which he called " cleanup time."

"Nowhere in the world perhaps has the development of entrepreneurship in recent times happened as quickly as in our country.

"People simply have been getting very rich in a very short time," Medvedev said in an interview to be broadcast on national television later Sunday..

"Now it is time pay off debts, moral debts because the crisis is a test of maturity," he said.
Medvedev said the current crisis, Russia's worst economic collapse in a decade, was the time for the richest businessmen to embrace social responsibility and put interests of their employees before their own.

"If a person has really become a genuine businessman he can appreciate his employees," he said in comments released by the presidential administration.

"He will perhaps try to put off part of his proposals, part of his ideas or personal consumption, save his staff, pay them salaries, save what he's been doing in recent years."

Many of Russia's richest people earned fortunes through controversial loans- for-shares privatization in the 1990s and an economic bonanza fueled by high oil and gas prices gave birth to yet more tycoons.

Today Russia's richest are struggling to pay off billions of dollars in debts built up in better times, while the government has said businesses shouldn' assume there would be a blanket bailout of all.

"In this sense, this is probably cleanup time: he who survives the crisis conditions will be an effective entrepreneur, an effective manager in a good sense of the word," Medvedev said.


Counterfeit Drug Policy in India

Counterfeit Drug Policy in India. By Roger Bate
India's major pharmaceutical companies have been badly served by India's political system.
The New Ledger, March 12, 2009

For the past decade India's major pharmaceutical companies, alongside the public health community and police services, have attempted to drive forward a modern drug regulatory system which, among other things, would have effectually combated the scourge of counterfeit and substandard drugs. But due to a combination of lobbying from middle-sized companies making suspect quality drugs, as well as some states, which wanted to maintain control of drug quality decisions, the status quo is to remain. This is a tragedy for the many thousands who die annually from substandard medicines in India (and from India exports to Africa and Asia), most estimates say that at least 10% of Indian drugs are substandard.

Radical revisions to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 have been proposed on and off for the past thirty-odd years. Yet the major amendments proposed in October 2007 would have increased the minimum jail time for convicted drug counterfeiters from five years to ten years and increased the minimum fine for such offenses from 10,000 rupees (about $320) to a million rupees (about $32,000).

In November 2008, The Indian health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss from Tamil Nadu, pledged that through this amendment the Indian government would "go all out to do away with spurious drugs." But while he certainly tried to push the amendments through parliament, and succeeded through the upper house, he has failed to even get the lower house to hear the bill. With an election expected in two months the amendments will have to wait for another administration. Some local pharmaceutical company experts consider it may be years before the amendments are tabled again.

The amendments would have created a central drug authority, which in principle would have administered the entire drug regulatory system, overseeing drug quality and authorizing product marketing. At the moment the Drug Controller General of India authorizes new domestic and imported drugs but the manufacture of drugs is controlled by individual state drug authorities. The DCGI is underfunded and the states vary in the demands they place on companies and the monitoring and enforcement of those companies infringing rules. Maharastra, home to many large and respected pharmaceutical companies has nearer western style quality control, with at least some push towards what would be considered oversight of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Whereas Uttar Pradesh, home to many counterfeiters, has weaker oversight and non-existent GMP control. Yet a drug manufactured and approved in one state can be sold anywhere in the country, or exported. Substandard producers can locate in states with weak controls and ply their wares everywhere, allowing hundreds of substandard state-approved medicines to proliferate.

According to well placed locals, behind the scenes lobbying by politicians from states with weak GMP controls, prevented the amendments from becoming law. If they had failed they would lose revenue paid by pharmaceutical companies and perhaps more importantly they would lose control. According to experts from world class domestic and international pharmaceutical companies, while the revenue loss would be minimal the loss of control would have meant a reduction in opportunities for graft.

Meanwhile the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is establishing an office in India to oversee drug quality exports to America. Now that the Indian Government has effectively abdicated responsibility for quality control, it has made FDA's job much harder. By not squashing political opposition to the necessary legal changes, India's best companies may lose out on increasingly important export markets.

India's major pharmaceutical companies have been badly served by India's political system. While the Government plays to the militant anti-patent crowd, defending the rights of politically connected companies that enjoy ripping off western patents, it does nothing to improve the image of Indian companies oversees. When the FDA banned the exports to US in fall 2008 of India's largest drug company, Ranbaxy, it was a major blow to Indian prestige, yet few found the ban unexpected, given the lack of oversight by the Indian Government. Companies like Ranbaxy are always looking for ways to cut costs, and even if top management want to maintain high quality it is very easy for lower level managers to cut corners if there is no local oversight.

If some of Ranbaxy's drug stability data was falsified, as alleged by FDA and US Department of Justice, is anyone really surprised?

India has seen how a series of product scandals took a harsh toll on China's global credibility, its arch-rival in industrial development, yet it has squandered the chance to clean up its own act. This will, sooner or later, come back to bite them.

Since 1975, successive Indian government commissions have urgently recommended product safety reforms and been ignored. Perhaps only when hundreds die oversees from Indian exports, and its drugs are discredited and then banned across the world, will the necessary changes be made.

Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.

John Bolton: Team Obama's Anti-Israel Turn

Team Obama's Anti-Israel Turn. By John R. Bolton
The Mideast "peace process" is the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone--its mere existence being its basic justification.
AEI, March 13, 2009

The Obama administration is increasingly fixed on resolving the "Arab-Israeli dispute," seeing it as the key to peace and stability in the Middle East. This is bad news for Israel--and for America.

In its purest form, this theory holds that, once Israel and its neighbors come to terms, all other regional conflicts can be duly resolved: Iran's nuclear-weapons program, fanatical anti-Western terrorism, Islam's Sunni-Shiite schism, Arab-Persian ethnic tensions.

Some advocates believe substantively that the overwhelming bulk of other Middle Eastern grievances, wholly or partly, stem from Israel's founding and continued existence. Others see it in process terms--how to "sequence" dispute resolutions, so that Arab-Israeli progress facilitates progress elsewhere.

Pursuing this talisman has long characterized many European leaders and their soulmates on the American left. The Mideast "peace process" is thus the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone--its mere existence being its basic justification.

And now the Obama administration has made it US policy. This is evidenced by two key developments: the appointment of former Sen. George Mitchell as special envoy for the region, and Secretary of State Hillary's Clinton's recent insistence on a "two-state solution" sooner rather than later.

Naming Mitchell as a high-level, single-issue envoy--rather than keeping the portfolio under Secretary Clinton's personal control--separates Israel from the broader conduct of US diplomacy. Mitchell's role underlines both the issue's priority in the president's eyes and the implicit idea it can be solved in the foreseeable future.

Obama and Mitchell have every incentive to strike a Middle East deal--both to vindicate themselves and, in their minds, to create a basis for further "progress." But there are few visible incentives for any particular substantive outcome--which is very troubling for Israel, since Mitchell's mission essentially replicates in high-profile form exactly the approach the State Department has followed for decades.

When appointed, Mitchell said confidently: "Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings." This is true, however, only if the conflict's substantive resolution is less important than the process point of "ending" it one way or another. Surrender, for example, is a guaranteed way to end conflict.

Here, Clinton's strident insistence on a "two-state solution" during her recent Mideast trip becomes important. She essentially argued predestination: the "inevitability" of moving toward two states is "inescapable," and "there is no time to waste." The political consequence is clear: Since the outcome is inevitable and time is short, there is no excuse for not making "progress." Delay is evidence of obstructionism and failure--something President Obama can't tolerate, for the sake of his policies and his political reputation.

In this very European view, failure on the Arab-Israeli front presages failure elsewhere. Accordingly, the Obama adminstration has created a negotiating dynamic that puts increasing pressure on Israel, Palestinians, Syria and others.

Almost invariably, Israel is the loser--because Israel is the party most dependent on the United States, most subject to US pressure and most susceptible to the inevitable chorus of received wisdom from Western diplomats, media and the intelligentsia demanding concessions. When pressure must be applied to make compromises, it's always easier to pressure the more reasonable side.

How will diplomatic pressure work to change Hamas or Hezbollah, where even military force has so far failed? If anything, one can predict coming pressure on Israel to acknowledge the legitimacy of these two terrorist groups, and to negotiate with them as equals (albeit perhaps under some artful camouflage). The pattern is so common that its reappearance in the Mitchell-led negotiations is what is really "inevitable" and "inescapable."

Why would America subject a close ally to this dynamic, playing with the security of an unvarying supporter in world affairs? For America, Israel's intelligence-sharing, military cooperation and significant bilateral economic ties, among many others, are important national-security assets that should not lightly be put at risk.

The only understandable answer is that the Obama administration believes that Israel is as much or more of a problem as it is an ally, at least until Israel's disagreements with its neighbors are resolved. Instead of seeing Israel as a national-security asset, the administration likely sees a relationship complicating its broader policy of diplomatic "outreach."

No one will say so publicly, but this is the root cause of Obama's "Arab-Israeli issues first" approach to the region.

This approach is exactly backward. All the other regional problems would still exist even if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got his fondest wish and Israel disappeared from the map: Iran's nuclear-weapons program, its role as the world's central banker for terrorism, the Sunni-Shiite conflict within Islam, Sunni terrorist groups like al Qaeda and other regional ethnic, national and political animosities would continue as threats and risks for decades to come.

Instead, the US focus should be on Iran and the manifold threats it poses to Israel, to Arab states friendly to Washington and to the United States itself--but that is not to be.

President Obama argues that he will deal comprehensively with the entire region. Rhetoric is certainly his specialty, but in the Middle East rhetoric only lasts so long. Performance is the real measure--and the administration's performance to date points in only one direction: pressuring Israel while wooing Iran.

Others in the world--friend and foe alike--will draw their own conclusions.

John R. Bolton is a senior fellow at AEI.

WaPo: Burma's bullies are always ready with fresh examples of ruthlessness. U.S. engagement must be conditional

Burma's Bullies. WaPo Editorial
They're always ready with fresh examples of ruthlessness. U.S. engagement must be conditional.
WaPo, Sunday, March 15, 2009; A18

THE CRUELEST dictatorships, like the most ruthless criminal gangs, always have understood that the most effective way to deter opposition is to go after the innocent loved ones of potential enemies. Thus it was not enough for Gen. Than Shwe and his junta in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (also known as Myanmar) to sentence the Buddhist monk U Gambira to prison for 68 years last fall. It was learned last week that his brother, his brother-in-law and four cousins have been sentenced to five years in Burma's gloomy prisons. We hope that this small piece of data is fed into the review of U.S. policy on Burma that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has promised.

U Gambira, 28 at the time, was a leader of the nonviolent protests that broke out in Burma in September 2007. Thousands of Burmese followed him and other monks in peaceful protest against one of the world's most brutal dictatorships, despite understanding the possible consequences. U Gambira himself, in an op-ed published in The Post on Nov. 4, 2007 -- the day, as it happened, of his arrest after weeks on the run -- said that he understood the risks he was taking. "It matters little if my life or the lives of colleagues should be sacrificed on this journey," he wrote. "Others will fill our sandals, and more will join and follow." We can only guess whether he understood that even his uninvolved relatives would be victimized.

The United States has been frustrated in its efforts to promote democratization in Burma, a nation of about 50 million, so Ms. Clinton's policy review is well timed. No doubt her team will talk to academics and humanitarian aid workers who favor more engagement with the regime and the country. (Those who tout Burma's recent cooperation with relief agencies might, however, want to take note of another prison sentence handed down last week: 17 years to Min Thein Tun, who was arrested last July for distributing relief supplies to the victims of Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy delta.) They should talk with officials in neighboring countries, who have been pursuing a policy of engagement for years; in addition to its impact on the wealth of the regime and its trading partners in countries such as Thailand and Singapore, U.S. officials might ask, what effect has this policy had?

It may be that the U.S. review can lead to smarter and more targeted sanctions, with better coordination among allies and neighbors. Certainly, we hope that Ms. Clinton will make clear to Burma's government that the United States could never ease sanctions without first conducting full and free consultations with Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's rightful ruler. Aung San Suu Kyi's party overwhelmingly won an election in 1990, but the junta ignored the results and has kept her isolated and under house arrest for most of the time since. Her release, and that of thousands of other political prisoners -- and their families -- remains essential.

WaPo: Mr. Obama's next step on stem cell research

A Moral Stand. WaPo Editorial
Mr. Obama's next step on stem cell research
Sunday, March 15, 2009; A18

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S pronouncement on stem cell research last week, as we noted at the time, was only a partial decision. He decreed that federal funding of such research could go forward on a much broader scale than President George W. Bush had permitted. But he didn't say whether it could proceed on stem cells derived from embryos created specifically for the purpose of research. This is in large part an ethical question. Mr. Obama is right to turn to scientists for advice on the matter, but he should not hide behind them in making the ultimate decision.

Embryonic stem cell research is thought to hold great promise for the treatment of Parkinson's and other debilitating diseases and conditions. But many Americans are troubled by the destruction of human embryos that such research requires. As a result, Mr. Bush limited federal funding to research on stem cell lines in existence at the time of his 2001 decision; there would be no incentive for further creation or destruction of embryos for experimentation.

A breakthrough came in 2007: Scientists learned to develop stem cells from adult skin cells. Some argued that this would end the need to use embryos. Others, though, said that the field was too young to close off any avenue, and that the embryonic lines available under Mr. Bush's order had proved too limiting.

Mr. Obama accepted the latter argument, and we supported him. In so doing, though, he shunned a possible compromise: to allow research on stem cell lines grown from embryos that were created in fertility laboratories but never implanted. Thousands are frozen and awaiting destruction; with permission of the egg and sperm donors, they might satisfy researchers' needs. Mr. Obama did not embrace this opportunity to reach out to opponents -- not all of whom, of course, would have been satisfied by such a compromise.

The president has asked the National Institutes of Health to develop guidelines for research. Scientists can develop rules to make sure donors are dealt with ethically. If the scientists so believe, they can present reasons why existing frozen embryos aren't enough -- why research would benefit from having embryos created. But it's not the job of the scientist to decide whether those reasons outweigh concerns about such a practice. That's the president's job. He should listen to the scientists' arguments, make his decision and -- as Mr. Bush did in 2001 -- explain it to the American people.