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News Briefs

Sept. 11 Commission Reports Said To Criticize Ashcroft

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Draft reports by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks portray Attorney General John Ashcroft as largely uninterested in counterterrorism issues before Sept. 11 despite intelligence warnings that summer that al-Qaida was planning a large, perhaps catastrophic terrorist attack, panel officials and others with access to the reports have said.

They said the draft reports, which are expected to be completed and made public during two days of hearings by the commission this week, show that FBI officials were alarmed throughout 2001 by what they perceived as Ashcroft’s lack of interest in terrorism issues and his decision in August 2001 to turn down the bureau’s request for a large expansion of its counterterrorism programs.

The draft reports, they said, quote the FBI’s former counterterrorism chief, Dale Watson, as saying that he “fell off my chair” when he learned that Ashcroft had failed to list combating terrorism as one of the department’s priorities in a March 2001 department-wide memo.

China Tightens Bank Policy, Hoping To Brake Its Boom

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- HONG KONG

China’s central bank has tightened monetary policy for the second time in less than three weeks, trying to put the brakes on bank lending and property speculation as top Chinese officials voice concern that the economy may be overheating.

“Excessive growth in the supply of credit can initiate inflation or froth in property prices, which may eventually cause bad debts and increase financial risk,” the central bank said in a statement on Monday.

The latest tightening takes the form of higher reserve requirements for banks. The action accompanied the release of figures late Sunday showing that China ran a trade deficit in March for the third month in a row.

The deficit, though modest at $540 million, makes it more likely that China will continue resisting pressure from the United States, Europe and Japan to let its currency rise, even as Vice President Dick Cheney visits Beijing on Tuesday, economists said. The deficit may also make China more reluctant to compromise in Washington this month when it holds trade talks on semiconductors and other goods.

Google Won’t Remove Anti-Semitic Site From Search Results

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- SAN FRANCISCO

Google Inc., the leading Internet search engine, said Monday that it had no plans to alter its search results despite complaints that the first listing on a search for the word “Jew” directs people to an anti-Semitic Web site.

The dispute points to one of the most difficult challenges that has long plagued Web search engines: what to do when the results of a search are offensive to some, but legal?

In this case, the first listed site on a search for “Jew” is “Jewwatch.com,” a site promoting itself as “Keeping a Close Watch on Jewish Communities & Organizations Worldwide” and offering references to anti-Semitic research, documents and organizations.

A Web site calling itself “Remove JewWatch.com from the Google Search Engine!” is circulating a petition asking Google to remove the site from its listings. Google search results rely on a complex set of algorithms that ranks sites based on the number and quality of the links to them.