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Human rights charges:
Ex-dictator Pinochet ordered arrested in Chile

A judge on Friday ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for crimes related to a secret detention center used in the years following his 1973 coup.

Judge Alejandro Solis ordered the arrest of Pinochet for 36 cases of kidnapping, one of homicide and for 23 cases of torture at the Villa Grimaldi, a political detention center run by Pinochet's secret police where thousands of people were tortured between 1974 and 1977.

" I am not going to give any details until Monday, when he will be judicially notified," he said outside the court house.

Solis, in charge of the Villa Grimaldi investigation, questioned Pinochet this month about what happened at the former detention center in the Chilean capital of Santiago.

Pinochet was forced to cancel celebrations for his 90th birthday last November after he was placed under house arrest on charges related to the disappearance and presumed death of three leftists during his 17-year rule.

The house arrest, also on charges of tax fraud, lasted for seven weeks, ending in early January when he was granted bail.

Pinochet has been diagnosed with mild dementia caused by frequent mini-strokes and he has avoided trial in other human rights cases on the basis he was too ill to stand trial.

" I don't think it has been proven that he is mentally ill," said Solis, who last met the former dictator on October 18, and remarked on how healthy Pinochet was looking.

During that interview, Pinochet denied responsibility for the torture of opponents at Villa Grimaldi, one of the country's most infamous secret detention centers.

He told Solis he was not involved in what happened and had no knowledge of it.

Villa Grimaldi is also the prison where Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the country's first woman president, was held and tortured three decades ago. Bachelet's case is not among those Pinochet has been questioned about.

Pinochet was first arrested in 1998 in London on an international warrant issued by Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon.

He was released in 2000, after 16 months of house arrest, on the grounds he was medically unfit to be tried.

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Elections 2006:
Bush remains "eternal optimist" despite polls

A lot of Republicans look at November 7 and are very afraid. Not President George W. Bush. Despite polls showing his party is in for a drubbing, the cheerleader in chief sees a good day.

Sinking under the weight of grim news from Iraq, discontent with Bush's leadership and lawmaker scandals, Republicans could be on the verge of a crushing defeat in next week's congressional elections, costing them control of the U.S. House of Representatives and maybe the Senate.

But if he is worried, Bush going to lengths not to show it. He remains the "eternal optimist" against a tide of opinion polls and declaring Democrats so cocky that they are prematurely "measuring the drapes."

He insisted, "November 7th is going to be a good day for the Republicans."

That contrasts with a gloomier mood of many other Republicans who early this month began to express fears -- mostly behind the scenes -- that the Internet sex scandal involving Rep. Mark Foley had accelerated a downward spiral that would lead them to defeat in at least the House.

" It's calculated to shore up the flagging motivation of Republicans," said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas.

But even out of the public eye, Bush is not entertaining talk of a possible shift in Congress. In meetings with Cabinet officials on plans for his final two years in office, there is no contingency planning for a Democratic takeover of Congress, officials said.

" It's the only way to proceed," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Bush is also talking of reviving his effort to revamp Social Security -- a nonstarter with Democrats.

Critics deride it as bravado or a sign of Bush's refusal to face realities he doesn't like. They compare it to his stance on Iraq.

" It is certainly part of an overall pattern in which the president seems to see the world differently than everybody else does," said Phil Singer, Senate Democratic campaign committee spokesman. "He seems to view things through rose-colored glasses."

BOOSTING THE PARTY
White House political director Sara Taylor readily admits the president is a optimist, but she called that a strength of his leadership style.

" There are a lot of Republicans who've talked themselves into a funk, and while certainly we get information from lots of places and hear lots of viewpoints, we believe strongly that we're going to hold both houses of Congress," Taylor said.

Buchanan said the president's upbeat stance also reflects his personality. "One of the reasons he has felt confirmed in that view is he has had a long string of personal successes."

He cited Bush's win in 1994 against the popular Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards when "even his own mother didn't think he could win." Bush's presidential victories in 2000 and 2004 also ran counter to a lot of conventional wisdom.

But Bush is hamstrung in his ability to help Republicans. Though he is raising a lot of money for candidates, many in the closest races are reluctant to appear in public with Bush, whose popularity is near 35 percent.

Nationwide polls consistently show Democrats favored by voters. By some measures, satisfaction with the U.S. Congress is at its lowest level since 1994, when control of the House shifted to Republicans after 40 years of Democratic control.

Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College, said Republicans lost critical momentum when the Foley scandal interrupted their efforts to tap into emotions of the September 11 anniversary and tie the war in Iraq to the war on terror.

" It was a chance for the president to frame how people thought about Iraq and it cannot be reclaimed," Fowler said..

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