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News Briefs

Bush’s Approval Ratings Slip


President Bush’s approval rating has slipped below 60 percent for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, two new surveys have found.

Experts said the declining numbers do not necessarily suggest that Bush’s re-election prospects are in jeopardy, but do highlight some targets of opportunity for Democrats just as the field for the party’s 2004 nomination is taking shape.

Bush’s performance won the approval of 58 percent of 1,002 adults surveyed by the Gallup organization Jan. 10-12, while 37 percent disapproved. That was down 5 percentage points from a Gallup survey one week earlier. Both had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

An Ipsos-Reid-Cook poll conducted Jan. 7-9 found almost identical results: 58 percent approving and 38 percent disapproving. The survey of 784 registered voters had a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

Gallup pinpointed foreign affairs -- specifically, the controversy over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions -- as a key to Bush’s decline. It found that those approving of Bush’s handling of foreign policy fell from 60 percent to 53 percent between the two polls, closely tracking his overall dip.

Human Rights Watch Faults White House Anti-Terror Measures


An international human rights organization criticized Bush administration’s anti-terror measures as counterproductive Tuesday and warned that the United States shouldn’t impose “victor’s justice” if U.S.-led troops topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

If armed conflict breaks out in Iraq, U.S. forces should make a special effort to establish the rule of law and prevent score-settling by aggrieved Kurds and Shiites who have suffered under Saddam’s tyrannical regime, said Human Rights Watch in its annual report on global human rights practices.

The group noted that, during a 1991 uprising, Saddam’s opponents attacked and killed government workers and members of the ruling Baath Party. “Unless restrained during a possible new war,” the organization said, “there is every reason to believe that they will pick up where they left off, but this time as possible U.S. proxies.”

In the campaign against terrorism, the Bush administration’s relationships with authoritarian governments and its treatment of terror suspects and prospective witnesses is deeply worrying, said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director. He said “the smoldering resentment it breeds risks generating terrorist recruits” and alienates potential allies.

“The Bush administration is not conducting the war according to human rights principles,” Roth said, noting close relationships with such countries as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. “It adds up to a very ugly picture.”