- "Rogue" Florida moves up U.S. presidential primary
- U.S. closes atom smasher, passes baton to Europe
- Killing of American in Yemen raises legal questions
Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:17 PM PDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida defied national Republican Party leaders on Friday and set its U.S. presidential primary election for Jan. 31, a move likely to push forward the 2012 election schedule as other states jockey to keep their influence.
Florida, the largest of the presidential swing states, moved up its election in order to boost its clout in the process that will produce a Republican nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
The four states authorized by the Republican National Committee to go first in the nominating process -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- were expected to respond by moving their nominating contests forward from February to January, or even earlier to keep their favored spots.
Earlier primaries would likely favor Mitt Romney as he has been in the race for months and has already built up campaign finance warchests and a national network of activists.
An early start also would make it more difficult for potential candidates like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to join the Republican race now.
"We cannot rule out the possibility of conducting the primary before the end of this year," New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner's office said.
Party leaders in the early voting states were furious at Republican-led Florida, whose move likely will force candidates to campaign during the winter holidays.
"The arrogance shown by Florida's elected leadership is disappointing, but not surprising," said Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn.
"Rogue states have once again dictated the presidential nominating calendar," South Carolina Republican Chairman Chad Connelly said.
The two major U.S. political parties choose their nominees by having candidates compete at the state level in staggered elections and caucuses to win delegates who ultimately will pick the winner at party conventions.
The Republican National Committee has threatened to punish Florida with the loss of half its delegates to the party's nominating convention, which will be held in Tampa, Florida, in August 2012.
"TIME FOR FLORIDA TO BE A PLAYER"
Strawn, the Iowa Republican leader, urged the committee to make good on that threat and punish Florida's "petulant behavior." Connelly, the South Carolina Republican leader, said Florida should be stripped of all its delegates.
Members of Florida's date selection committee said the added influence from an early primary would offset the loss of delegates to the nominating conventions, which they said had become "coronations" for outcomes that have already been decided.
"We're the biggest swing state in the union," said former Florida Governor Bob Martinez, a Republican on the date selection panel. "So, I think this is a real, real election in Florida."
In the past, candidates who did poorly in the early-voting states have dropped out before Florida got its turn to cast ballots.
"It's time for Florida to be a player," said Al Lawson, a former state senator and a Democratic member of the date committee.
He voted with the 7-2 majority on the Republican-dominated committee to move the date forward, saying Florida's racial, political and ethnic diversity make it a critical bellwether of national politics.
Incumbent Obama does not face a challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, so the loss of Florida delegates to that party's convention would not affect his candidacy.
Voting had been scheduled to start with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 6, the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 14, the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 18 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28. Those states were expected to move their elections and caucuses forward in tandem to maintain that voting order.
(Additional reporting by Ros Krasny in Boston, Harriet McLeod in Charleston, South Carolina; Andrew Stern in Chicago and John Whitesides in Washington; Writing by Jane Sutton; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Vicki Allen)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 30 Sep 2011 08:17 PM PDT
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The powering down of Fermilab's Tevatron particle accelerator on Friday marked the end of a quarter-century of U.S. dominance in high-energy particle physics.
The Tevatron, which accelerates and collides protons and antiprotons in a four-mile-long (6.28 km) underground ring, has been replaced by the Large Hadron Collider under the French-Swiss border, which began operating in March 2010.
Physicists at the U.S. lab will now turn to smaller, more focused projects -- such as building the most intense proton beam -- as they pass the high-energy physics baton to the European Organization for Nuclear Research's (CERN) bigger, better atom smasher.
"Nothing lasts forever at the edge of science," said Pier Oddone, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. "We need to move on to those aspects of physics where we can put our mark."
Oddone said Europe has outspent the United States by a factor of three, and the United States now has to be very clever and define very carefully how it uses its resources.
"I think we can maintain a leadership position in the world. We are going to not be where we were 30 years ago where we led in every domain of particle physics, but we are going to lead in a narrower domain," he said in a telephone interview.
The highest-profile project on that front is an effort to confirm the startling discovery last week at CERN of particles that move faster than the speed of light.
It now falls to scientists at Fermilab to confirm or disprove that as part of its MINOS experiment (Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search).
That will use Fermilab's Main Injector to hurl an intense beam of neutrinos 455 miles (732 km) through the Earth to the Soudan Mine in northern Minnesota.
If it can be verified, it will turn modern physics on its head.
LACK OF FUNDING
In its near 26-year run, the Tevatron has taught many lessons about how to build and manage an accelerator of its size and complexity, and these have played a major role in the construction of the 16.7-mile (27 km) LHC ring at CERN.
"We built this machine to discover how the world is put together," Oddone said.
"It was a very daring machine in its time."
Tevatron's shining achievement was the discovery in 1995 of the top quark, the heaviest elementary particle known to exist.
Though it is as heavy as an atom of gold, the top quark's mass is crammed into an area far smaller than a single proton.
"Many machines were built around the world with the mission of discovering the top quark. It was only at the highest energy here that we found it," Oddone said.
The building of the Tevatron made contributions to the U.S. economy by bolstering the fledgling industry for superconducting cable to meet the Tevatron's need for 150,000 pounds (68,000 kg) of superconducting wire.
And while scientists largely believe the machine has outlived its useful life, lack of funding was the final blow for the Tevatron after the U.S. Department of Energy decided not to spend the $35 million needed to extend the Tevatron's operation through 2014.
As a result, many top U.S. physicists will continue research at a remote operation center that Fermilab has set up for scientists to monitor experiments at CERN.
Others will relocate to Europe.
"We are whores to the machines. We will go to wherever the machines are to do our science," said Rob Roser, co-spokesman for CDF, one of the two detectors that used the Tevatron.
"I personally will move to Europe to work on the next machine because we haven't finished answering the questions we're after, and I still find them very interesting and compelling. We've made good progress, but we are not done yet."
While the Tevatron will no longer be running experiments, Fermilab scientists have not given up hope of making a major contribution to finding the Higgs boson -- thought to be the agent which turned mass into solid matter soon after the Big Bang that created the universe 13.7 billion years ago.
Fermilab engineers and physicists have been furiously smashing particles together in the past several months, recreating the primal chaos of flying matter a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang.
The hope is that they will have accumulated enough data before the Tevatron shutdown to establish if the elusive Higgs boson exists in its long-predicted form.
If the particle does exist, scientists say it is running out of places to hide.
"We have cornered the Higgs into this particular space. By the time we analyze all the data, if it is not there, we will be able to say it is not there," Oddone said.
If the answer is no, scientists around the globe will have to rethink the 40-year-old Standard Model of particle physics which describes how they believe the cosmos works.
But if it is found, it will be up to the larger collider at CERN to confirm it.
(Editing by Eric Beech)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 30 Sep 2011 05:14 PM PDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Legal experts who have long criticized a U.S. government program to kill members of al Qaeda abroad as a breach of international law say the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki on Friday may also have broken U.S. law.
Al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and has been linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, was killed by a CIA drone strike in a remote Yemeni town, U.S. authorities said.
"The fact that (al-Awlaki) was a dual U.S.-Yemeni citizen means that he had extra protections under the U.S. constitution than he would not have had if he was just a Yemeni citizen," said Mary Ellen O'Connell, an international law professor at the University of Notre Dame's law school. "So the president has done something in my view that is highly questionable under our own Constitution."
Al-Awlaki, who lived in Virginia before leaving the United States shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, was the first U.S. citizen who the White House authorized U.S. agencies to kill since the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington a decade ago.
U.S. officials said al-Awlaki took a leadership role in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and was involved in failed terrorist attacks on U.S. targets. He also had contacts with a military psychiatrist accused of carrying out a deadly shooting rampage that killed 13 people in 2009 at the Fort Hood army base in Texas.
Under the Obama administration, the United States has stepped up its use of drone strikes to target alleged terrorists. In a speech last year, U.S. Department of State legal adviser Harold Koh defended the targeting of individuals, which he said complied with all "applicable law, including the laws of war."
Koh said that a "state that is engaged in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force."
"Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise," he said.
A former U.S. national security official said that a drone strike can be launched against someone who is on the target list by relatively low-level officials -- senior officers in the CIA's Counter-terrorism Center. When someone on the list is in the sights of a drone, there is no requirement that the CIA director, or even the head of the National Clandestine Service, personally sign off on pressing the button, the source said.
But before al-Awlaki's name was placed on the target list, the CIA sent it to the White House for approval because he was a U.S. citizen, the source said.
"As we've seen today, it's a program under which U.S. citizens far removed from the battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process and on the basis of standards and evidence that are secret," said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Last year, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups representing al-Awlaki's father lost a challenge to halt the Obama administration's program to capture or kill American citizens who join militant groups abroad.
U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington dismissed the case because he said the father lacked standing to bring the case and the court lacked jurisdiction over such a political case. However, he did not address the merits of the case and said it raised "vital considerations of national security and military and foreign affairs."
Some international law experts said that al-Awlaki's killing appeared to be on strong legal ground. Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, agreed al-Awlaki had rights under the U.S. constitution, but he said that other circumstances justified the government's actions.
Because the government had evidence that al-Awlaki posed an operational threat -- as opposed to just being a vocal supporter of terrorism -- and because there was no real likelihood that al-Awlaki could be arrested, the United States had a legal right to take action, Chesney said.
"The million dollar question is: does the killing of al-Awlaki mean that the government can kill any American at any time if they claim they have intelligence showing the person is a terrorist?," he said. "The answer is, no, I don't think it shows that all."
But other experts said the government should have tried to arrest al-Awlaki and bring him to a U.S. court. The flouting of the law on the heels of the Middle East's Arab Spring set a bad example for the region, said O'Connell of Notre Dame.
O'Connell said that, in contrast to the killing of Osama bin Laden -- which she said appeared to follow international law -- the al-Awlaki killing did not.
"It's ironic to me that bin Laden, so much worse as far as we know than al-Awlaki, gets a treatment that's closer to the rule of law than al-Awlaki," she said.
(Reporting by Andrew Longstreth; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Eddie Evans)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
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