Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Bush visit aims to bolster Latin America trade
Concerns about jobs here and violence there have eroded support for free trade pacts.
By DAVID ADAMS, Times Latin America Correspondent
Published October 13, 2007
Upon arrival to the St. Pete/ Clearwater Airport, President Bush was greeted on the tarmac by Senator Mel Martinez, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and his children, from left, Julann,11, and Jacob,10.
[Cherie Diez | Times]
MIAMI - For more than a decade, free trade has been the linchpin of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
But eroding public and political support for more open markets has the Bush administration scrambling to save a series of new trade deals awaiting approval from a reluctant Congress.
With that in mind, President Bush made a hastily arranged trip to Miami on Friday to extol the virtues of free trade to local politicians and business leaders, while warning that failure to pass the trade deals would "damage America's credibility" with its allies in the region.
Calling it "a historic opportunity to strengthen our economy at home and strengthen democracy and prosperity across the hemisphere," Bush said the three trade deals with Peru, Colombia and Panama were "essential to our economy ... our security ... and our moral interests."
All three trade deals have been signed and are awaiting congressional approval.
Peru's is thought to be the least problematic and could be ratified this year.
Panama is considered a "no-brainer" by free trade advocates. The United States enjoys a huge trade surplus with Panama, whose 3-million residents import nearly half their goods from American companies. U.S. businesses also hope that a free trade agreement would put them in a better position to bid on a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal.
The trade pact with Colombia is the one most in peril, due to concern in Congress over the slaughter of dozens of unionists by right-wing paramilitary warlords.
American labor unions have campaigned vehemently against the trade agreement, arguing that Colombia's government has failed woefully to protect union leaders and prosecute their murderers.
While Colombia's population of 44-million represents an important market for U.S. goods, the country's importance transcends economic factors.
U.S. officials highlight the close cooperation of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in the drug war.
"This is somebody who cast in his lot with partnership with the U.S., and it ought to mean something," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week.
During his Miami visit, Bush recognized that Colombia has problems.
"Colombia's record is not perfect, but it is clearly headed in the right direction and is asking for our help," he said.
President Bill Clinton launched the free trade era in 1994 with the North American Free Trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
Democrats have notably cooled toward the idea in recent years, citing concern for U.S. jobs and salaries, as well as human rights abuses in Latin America.
The issue has also lost steam among some Republicans. One poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC published this week found that six in 10 Republicans believe free trade has harmed the U.S. economy by reducing demand for domestic goods, taking away American jobs and putting unsafe imported products on U.S. store shelves.
In Miami, Bush touted his free trade record, noting that the United States had free trade deals with only three countries when he took office in 2001. There are now deals with 14 countries, seven of them in Latin America.
Those include a free trade deal with Chile in 2003 and another with the five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic last year. However, the Chile deal took 11 years to be approved, and the Central American vote was a squeaker that Congress passed by two votes.
While Bush noted the rising protectionist sentiment in the country, he said Americans need to understand that free trade brought prosperity.
"When trade expands, American workers gain," he said.
Exports to Chile have more than doubled in the last three years, he said. Exports have increased 13 percent with Central America and the Dominican Republic.
A matter of jobs
Free trade undoubtedly stimulates imports and exports, but critics say it has failed to create many well-paying jobs. "The public doesn't look at trade figures. They look at their wages and jobs," said Mark Weisbrot, a free trade critic at the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington.
Free trade isn't the only issue facing U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, other analysts say.
"Instead of promoting free markets the U.S. should be looking at building stronger governments in the region," said Abraham Lowenthal, a Latin American expert at the University of Southern California.
But free trade is a matter of the utmost urgency, Bush told his Miami audience, hinting that the region might otherwise fall under the left-wing influence of Cuba and Venezuela.
He cited a recent letter signed by a bipartisan group of politicians, including former Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham and Donna Shalala, who was Clinton's health secretary.
"Latin America is up for grabs," the letter said. "Rejecting these agreements would set back U.S. interests for a generation."