Friday, July 30, 2004

The truth behind the latest Misleading Bush Video



Audit Finds Fraud, Other Abuses in Iraq Contract Awards

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2004; Page A10

In its second report to Congress, the inspector general's office for the occupation authority that ruled Iraq until recently found significant cases of mismanagement, fraud, missing paperwork and manipulation in the awarding of contracts using millions of dollars of U.S. and Iraqi funds.

The Coalition Provisional Authority inspector general audit, to be released today, uncovered cases of abuse by officials of the occupation government. The report does not name names, but the inspector general's office said its work has resulted in 69 criminal investigations. Forty-two have been closed or sent to other investigative agencies and an additional 27 are still open.

According to the report, a high-ranking adviser for the CPA manipulated the contract-award system to bypass the bidding process for a security contract. The $7.2 million award was revoked, a $2.3 million advance payment was returned and the CPA official was fired. A Defense Department civilian who was a coach for an Iraqi amateur sports team was advanced $40,000 cash for expenses to take the team to compete in other countries. But the coach gave the funds to his military assistant, who gambled the money and lost some of it. The missing amount was then written off as a legitimate loss.

The inspector general's office also found weaknesses in the monitoring process for work done under CPA contracts. Its staffers went to inspect work for a contract for oil pipeline repair and found that employees were not in the field doing the labor specified by the contract. The contractor was docked $3.4 million for improper charges. Auditors also found that a different contractor providing security for the oil pipeline repair crew overcharged by $20,000.

Full article at:


Governor Pataki's Odd Veto

July 30, 2004

Gov. George Pataki vetoed a bill yesterday that is the most important piece of legislation passed by New York's Legislature so far this year. It would have provided the lowest-paid workers in the state a gradual increase in the minimum wage, now $5.15, to $7.15 an hour by 2007. Mr. Pataki said he wanted a federal minimum wage bill instead. But that might be a long wait. Legislators from both the Assembly and the Senate need to override the governor's veto in the next few weeks.

What made this particular veto so odd is that last week Mr. Pataki sent the Legislature a "message of necessity'' about this same bill. The message, a shortcut around the normal legislative timetable, allows an immediate vote. Such a stamp of urgency from the governor should mean, at the very least, that the state's chief executive desperately wants that bill to be law. Not, apparently, this time.

The governor's people scoff that giving bills emergency status has become a routine courtesy to the Legislature. But most veterans of Albany's byzantine ways would suspect more than courtesy in this case. It is an election year for legislators, and the minimum wage issue is a tricky one for Republicans. Mainly, residents of New York City generally like the increase. Conservative Party leaders generally don't. So what to do about Republican-backed candidates in New York City who need both Conservatives and other voters? This looks like another case of an old Albany dodge: Republicans vote for the bill and the governor, conveniently, vetoes it. The problem is that a lot of low-wage workers will be the losers unless the Assembly and especially the Senate vote to override the governor.


Triumph of the Trivial

July 30, 2004


Under the headline "Voters Want Specifics From Kerry," The Washington Post recently quoted a voter demanding that John Kerry and John Edwards talk about "what they plan on doing about health care for middle-income or lower-income people. I have to face the fact that I will never be able to have health insurance, the way things are now. And these millionaires don't seem to address that."

Mr. Kerry proposes spending $650 billion extending health insurance to lower- and middle-income families. Whether you approve or not, you can't say he hasn't addressed the issue. Why hasn't this voter heard about it?

Well, I've been reading 60 days' worth of transcripts from the places four out of five Americans cite as where they usually get their news: the major cable and broadcast TV networks. Never mind the details - I couldn't even find a clear statement that Mr. Kerry wants to roll back recent high-income tax cuts and use the money to cover most of the uninsured. When reports mentioned the Kerry plan at all, it was usually horse race analysis - how it's playing, not what's in it.

On the other hand, everyone knows that Teresa Heinz Kerry told someone to "shove it," though even there, the context was missing. Except for a brief reference on MSNBC, none of the transcripts I've read mention that the target of her ire works for Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire who financed smear campaigns against the Clintons - including accusations of murder. (CNN did mention Mr. Scaife on its Web site, but described him only as a donor to "conservative causes.") And viewers learned nothing about Mr. Scaife's long vendetta against Mrs. Heinz Kerry herself.

There are two issues here, trivialization and bias, but they're related.

Somewhere along the line, TV news stopped reporting on candidates' policies, and turned instead to trivia that supposedly reveal their personalities. We hear about Mr. Kerry's haircuts, not his health care proposals. We hear about George Bush's brush-cutting, not his environmental policies.

Even on its own terms, such reporting often gets it wrong, because journalists aren't especially good at judging character. ("He is, above all, a moralist," wrote George Will about Jack Ryan, the Illinois Senate candidate who dropped out after embarrassing sex-club questions.) And the character issues that dominate today's reporting have historically had no bearing on leadership qualities. While planning D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower had a close, though possibly platonic, relationship with his female driver. Should that have barred him from the White House?

And since campaign coverage as celebrity profiling has no rules, it offers ample scope for biased reporting.

Notice the voter's reference to "these millionaires." A Columbia Journalism Review Web site called, says its analysis "reveals a press prone to needlessly introduce Senators Kerry and Edwards and Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as millionaires or billionaires, without similar labels for President Bush or Vice President Cheney."

As the site points out, the Bush campaign has been "hammering away with talking points casting Kerry as out of the mainstream because of his wealth, hoping to influence press coverage." The campaign isn't claiming that Mr. Kerry's policies favor the rich - they manifestly don't, while Mr. Bush's manifestly do. Instead, we're supposed to dislike Mr. Kerry simply because he's wealthy (and not notice that his opponent is, too). Republicans, of all people, are practicing the politics of envy, and the media obediently go along.

In short, the triumph of the trivial is not a trivial matter. The failure of TV news to inform the public about the policy proposals of this year's presidential candidates is, in its own way, as serious a journalistic betrayal as the failure to raise questions about the rush to invade Iraq.

P.S.: Another story you may not see on TV: Jeb Bush insists that electronic voting machines are perfectly reliable, but The St. Petersburg Times says the Republican Party of Florida has sent out a flier urging supporters to use absentee ballots because the machines lack a paper trail and cannot "verify your vote."

P.P.S.: Three weeks ago, The New Republic reported that the Bush administration was pressuring Pakistan to announce a major terrorist capture during the Democratic convention. Hours before Mr. Kerry's acceptance speech, Pakistan announced, several days after the fact, that it had apprehended an important Al Qaeda operative.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Republicans have definitely lost their way

On the website is the following, which clearly points out what is wrong with the current administration. Guess they are so proud that they want the world to know.

They Said It!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
They Said It! (John Edwards & Al Sharpton)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (10:27 PM): "Between now and November, you, the American people, you can reject this tired old hateful negative politics of the past and instead you can embrace the politics of hope, the politics of what's possible, because this is America where everything is possible." (Sen. John Edwards, Remarks At The Democratic National Convention, Boston , MA, 7/28/04 )

AL SHARPTON (8:30 PM): "I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in ‘54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school." (Rev. Al Sharpton, Remarks At The Democratic National Convention, Boston , MA, 7/28/04 )


Putting E-Voting to Rest

From the Desk of David Pogue


To the immense credit of this column's readership, not a single person has written to complain that I've spent too much time and space on the topic of computerized voting machines. Still, with today's installment, I hope to wrap up my coverage of this topic, at least for now. It's becoming clear that this issue is just as contentious and polarizing as any other this election season, and few people's minds will be changed by continued discussion. Meanwhile, the more it becomes clear that there's no way to solve the problems in time for this fall's Presidential election, I'm getting a little depressed by the whole thing.

Hundreds of you wrote to share your thoughts. For example, I heard from several readers overseas, who claimed to be disgusted by the entire voting-machine flap. "In a country where fewer than 50 percent of the citizens even bother to cast a vote, you've got a much bigger problem with your democracy than haggling over which kind of voting machine to use," wrote one.

I also heard from readers who derided the belief that, in the face of concerns that voting-machine software might be flawed or rigged, a voter-verified paper trail is the solution. I've written that such a paper record is critical if a recount is needed; otherwise, the only "recount" you can perform is to check the memory card yet again, which is pointless if you questioned its total the first time.

But the paper trail, several of you wrote, is no panacea. Yes, it provides a secure method of performing a recount -- but that's valuable only if it occurs to someone to PERFORM the recount. Trouble is, how will we know whether a recount is necessary? If one candidate wins the election by a 20 percent margin, will anybody realistically demand a recount? Does that mean we'll have to hand-count the results of every
voting machine in America?

The paper trail is certainly better than nothing -- if one paper-trail recount shows evidence of software tampering, then at least a wider investigation can begin -- but it's worthless unless somebody does, in fact, conduct a recount.

I heard from many, many people who felt that the rush to computerized voting machines is an ill-planned overreaction to the Florida hanging-chad episode. They wrote that non-computerized systems, particularly optical-scan and lever machines, have worked well for years--and they're a lot more secure than the new computer programs.

But many others wrote it to say that in the hands of a ruthlessly determined conspiracy, ANY system is, in theory, hackable. "Regarding the lever machines," wrote a voting official from California, "it's not in the final counting, but in the prep. My grandfather was a politician in Brooklyn in the 30's and 40's. The way machines got 'set up' then was to put a toothpick into an opponent's counter on the back of
the machine during set up, breaking off the excess and letting the counters carry the piece into the workings. This will slow down the roll of the numbers. You don't do this in the units line [of the counter], which could be too obvious, but in the tens or hundreds line, where it would be less noticeable. Ingenious, huh?"

Even paper ballots aren't tamper-proof. "Each side used to keep men called 'short pencil' guys at each polling place," that reader went on. "They would keep graphite under their fingernails so that they could run them across opponents' ballots to make them ineligible for counting (since no marks outside the boxes were allowed)."

I heard from a state voting official in Virginia who agreed that, in the end, no system is totally tamper-proof -- and offered some concrete ways for you to get involved. "In the final analysis, you have to trust the process, and to do this you have to know the details of the process. So volunteer to be an election official, get to know about YOUR system, and make sure that it and your election process works."

Lots of you wrote to suggest superior voting-machine technologies. Dan Wallach, for example, is a co-author of the Johns Hopkins study that ripped apart the security practices of Diebold, the largest maker of e-voting machines.

"I think you've missed one of the best technologies we've got for voting," he wrote. "It's called precinct-based optical scanning. The voter fills in a bubble with a pen on a printed paper ballot, then inserts it into the scanner above the ballot box. This sort of system satisfies what computer scientists have been grumbling about (it's voter-verifiable -- voters see the ballot when they mark it up) and it has a low error rate. And, oh by the way, op-scan is much, much cheaper."

There are even devices that combine the best of both worlds, he went on: touch-screen machines that offer the simplicity and accessibility of Diebold-type systems multi-lingual, adjustable type size, software that prevents voting for more than one candidate, and so on) -- but that print out an optical-scan ballot rather than allowing the software to tally the votes.

These are all terrific suggestions. These systems would do a lot to quell voters' fears and restore confidence in our election process.

The problem, of course, is that many states have already spent millions of dollars on self-contained touchscreen machines with no paper trail and no "op-scan" ballots. The states are not about to throw out all that equipment.

When I made this point to one of my correspondents, he wrote back: "A few million dollars? So what? We're spending $5 billion a MONTH trying to build a democracy in Iraq. Why not spend a tiny fraction of that to ensure a working democracy at home?"


Forum: David Pogue's Columns

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Michael Moore Vs. Bill O’Reilly


It was a showdown on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor on Tuesday night when Michael Moore went head to head against Bill O’Reilly.

Some of the exchange went like this:

Moore: Over 900 of our brave soldiers are dead. What do you say to their parents?

O’Reilly: What do I say to their parents? I say what every patriotic American would say. We are proud of your sons and daughters. They answered the call that their country gave them. We respect them and we feel terrible that they were killed.

Moore: And, but what were they killed for?

O’Reilly: They were removing a brutal dictator who himself killed hundreds of thousands of people

Moore: Um, but that was not the reason that was given to them to go to war, to remove a brutal dictator

O’Reilly: It was a mistake

Moore: Oh, just a mistake, and that’s what you tell all the parents with a deceased child, “We’re sorry.” I don’t think that is good enough.



Awkward Silences Dominate Rose Garden Visit

As Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry crossed Boston Harbor in
a boat filled with his former Vietnam War comrades, President George W.
Bush attempted to upstage Mr. Kerry by holding a reunion of his Alabama
National Guard unit in the White House Rose Garden.

The former guardsmen arrived at the White House at noon and were
immediately issued "HELLO, MY NAME IS" tags before being reunited with the

"Hi there... Johnny," the President was heard haltingly greeting one of
the veterans before posing with him for a photograph, saying to
another, "Hey, how are you doing... Dan!"

The gathering was marked by a series of increasingly awkward silences
as the guardsmen struggled to summon memories of their training days
with Mr. Bush.

"I'm pretty sure I remember him," said Tracy Conner, 57, of Mobile.
"If I'm not mistaken, he called me late one night and said, 'Sign in for
me tomorrow, willya pal?'"

After the twelve-minute reunion appeared to lose steam, the president
brought the event to a close with a brief prepared statement.

Calling the assembled guardsmen his "band of brothers," Mr. Bush
attempted to draw a sharp contrast between his military service record and
that of Sen. Kerry.

Holding aloft his recently recovered Alabama National Guard payroll
records, "Unlike some people I know, I am proud of my military service -
and I will never throw these records away again."

In other political news, two out of three Kucinich voters say they will
vote for John Kerry, but the other one remains undecided.


Florida Again Faces Disputes Over Elections
Recounts, Missing Records Debated

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; Page A03

MIAMI, July 28 -- Anything sound familiar here?

Voting rights lawyers are in Tallahassee, one of the epicenters of the 2000 presidential election convulsions, arguing about recounts. Florida civil rights advocates are seething about restoring the voting rights of felons. And, in Miami, elections officials now find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to explain why they've lost much of their audit records from the last big statewide election.

"We are no safer than we were in 2000," said Lida Rodriguez-Tasseff, chairman of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a voting-rights group. "We may have even bigger problems that we don't even know about."

Rodriguez-Tasseff's organization unearthed the latest in an increasingly lengthy string of embarrassments for the Florida elections system when it filed a public-records request this month with the Miami-Dade County elections office asking for the audits of votes in the 2002 governor's election. The records were supposed to have been collected by the county's new $25 million electronic voting network. The answer the group received has made voter advocates queasy about how the system will perform in the November presidential election: The records were gone.

The group was told that two computer crashes -- the first in May last year and the second in November -- erased the records of the 2002 primary and general elections. The group's request, first reported in the New York Times, also revealed that the lack of a backup system meant that the records could not be recovered.

Full article at:


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Hypocrisy of Silence


by David Sirota, Christy Harvey, Judd Legum and Jonathan Baskin

July 26, 2004

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)
and other White House allies, who were in full attack mode
( last week against Sandy Berger, were
dead silent this weekend as senior law enforcement officials
acknowledged they were conducting a criminal investigation into possible
intelligence leaks by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
( . The information is related to a
leak of intercepted al Qaeda communications just prior to the Sept. 11,
2001 attacks. Shelby was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at
the time, and the matter has been referred to the Senate Ethics

and the 9/11 Commission
( both played down
the allegations against Berger last week, congressional Republicans
decided they wanted to push the story anyway
( , calling for hearings on Capitol
Hill. Similar calls for an investigation into the Shelby matter have not
followed this weekend. And, as a new American Progress backgrounder
shows, these same Republicans have also refused to hold hearings on other
pressing national security matters, including the leak of an undercover
CIA agent's name by the Bush administration.


2004 Democratic National Convention

Schedule and speeches


Monday, July 26, 2004

9/11 Commission Report Confirms Key Fahrenheit 9/11 Facts

The September 11 Commission's 567-page final report has confirmed key facts presented in Fahrenheit 9/11.


'Steadfast' Bush's amazing flip-flops

The Boston Globe
By Dan Payne
June 5, 2004

BUSH-CHENEY team likes to say president is "steadfast." And John Kerry is "flip-flopper." But Senator Kerry is bolted to floor compared to Bush. President Bush is no more steadfast than Tony Soprano is faithful.

Never burdened by reality, Bush says departing CIA chief George Tenet did "superb job." That assumes Tenet's job was to fail miserably to anticipate 9/11 and to goad Bush into going to war under false pretenses. Bush doublespeak is matched only by his amazing flip-flops, which are underreported. Armchair Strategist aims to fix this, with help from Center for American Progress, liberal (There, I said it!) think tank.

Bush can't get enough of Chalabi. Chalabi cons Bush's neocons into toppling Saddam; sits behind Laura Bush at State of Union speech; always looks marvelous in custom-made $1,000 suits. US paid him $335,000 a month for "intelligence."

US troops raid Chalabi's house. US soldiers raided Chalabi's home and seized documents and computers. (Hope they didn't wrinkle his suits.) While on US payroll, told Iran that US had cracked code for Iran's secret communications. Time magazine says, "The US's abandonment of Chalabi may prove to be the most head-snapping reversal of all."

Bush called Osama number one priority. "There's an old poster out West that says, `Wanted: Dead or Alive.' . . . The most important thing is to find Osama bin Laden. It's our Number One priority. We will not rest until we have found him." (Sept. 13 and 16, 2001.)

Now Bush doesn't care about him. "I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care. It's not that important." (March 13, 2002.)

Cheney: We will be greeted as liberators. On "Face the Nation" Cheney predicts war in Iraq will "go relatively quickly." On "Meet the Press," says "things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." (March 16, 2003.)

Bush: That's Cheney's story, and I'm sticking with it.

On Feb. 7, 2004, Tim Russert asks: "It's now nearly a year, and we are in a very difficult situation. Did we miscalculate how we would be treated and received in Iraq?"

Bush: "Well, I think we are welcomed in Iraq." (Pentagon reports 820 US troops killed in Iraq and 4,682 injured, June 3, 2004.)

Bush opposes Department of Homeland Security. Former press secretary Ari Fleischer says Bush told Congress, "There does not need to be a Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security." (White House press briefing, Oct. 24, 2001.)

Bush supports Department of Homeland Security. "So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America." (June 6, 2002.)

Bush: Al Qaeda and Saddam same. "You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." (Sept. 25, 2002.)

Bush: Saddam had no role in 9/11. "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11." (Sept. 17, 2003.)

Bush acrobatics on 9/11 commission. Bush was against creating commission, then for it. Against National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testifying, then for it. Against testifying himself, then for it. Said he'd testify only for one hour. Then said no time limit but had to have Cheney along -- to keep their stories straight.

Bush says president should talk OPEC into lower prices. "The president ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots . . . The president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price." (Jan. 26, 2000.)

But not this president. With gas prices soaring, President Bush refuses to "personally lobby oil cartel leaders to change their minds." (Miami Herald, April 1, 2004.)

Bush then: gay marriage is state issue. "The states can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this state's issue like you're trying to get me into." ("Larry King Live," Feb. 15, 2000.)

Bush now: for constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. "Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife." (Feb. 24, 2004.)

Flip-flops, ad nauseam. Against nation-building, then for it. Found WMD, then lost them. Against McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, then signed it into law. Tariffs? Not gonna have 'em; puts 'em on steel, then lifts 'em. Mocks Al Gore's idea for hybrid fuel car; calls for $1.3 billion to develop one. For extending ban on assault weapons in 2001; now against it.

Fashion idea for DNC conventioneers: Bush flip-flop shoes. If it flips, wear it.


Where Do They Stand?



July 26, 2004

Most campaigns feature efforts by the candidates to characterize their opponent as being out of the mainstream - as an extreme liberal or as part of the far right. The current presidential campaign is no exception.

Thus far, most of the ideological fire has been directed at the Kerry-Edwards ticket. The Bush campaign has gotten particularly good mileage out of a National Journal analysis of roll call voting in 2003 that ranked John Kerry of Massachusetts as the No. 1 liberal in the Senate and John Edwards of North Carolina as the fourth-most-liberal senator.

Yet the senators' ratings are misleading because of the large number of votes each man missed. Mr. Kerry, for example, attended so few votes on social and foreign policy that his composite score in 2003 was based only on economic policy. Even then he was not the single most liberal senator on economic issues; it was a distinction he shared with six other senators, including Bob Graham of Florida.

So where do the Democratic nominees really fit along the left-right spectrum? Well, you get a different answer if your calculations are based on nearly all votes cast by the candidates in their Senate careers. Using this measure, we have arrayed Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards from left to right in the above figure based on their voting history in the Senate. For comparison's sake, we also have included Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John McCain of Arizona, and the parties' median senators. We even have scores for President Bush (from his announced positions on roll call votes while president) and Vice President Dick Cheney (based on the votes he cast when he represented Wyoming in the House of Representatives from 1979 through 1988).

Assertions that the Democrats' presumptive nominees are extreme liberals fall flat. True, Mr. Kerry's voting history places him to the left of today's median Senate Democrat (Tom Daschle of South Dakota). But he is closer to the center of the Democratic Party than he is to the most liberal senators, including Mr. Kennedy. John Edwards falls just to the right of the median Democrat. In fact, he is nearly indistinguishable from Mr. Lieberman, the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in 2000.

On the other side of the partisan divide, Mr. Bush - like Mr. Kerry - is more extreme than his party's median senator (Richard Shelby of Alabama). He is also noticeably more conservative than his primary challenger in 2000, John McCain. So any assertion that the Democratic candidates are out of the mainstream might easily be applied to the Republicans as well. In fact, if any of the four candidates on the national party tickets this year is out of the mainstream, it is Mr. Cheney, who in his last full term in the House was on the right flank of roughly 90 percent of his Republican colleagues.


Terror in the Skies, Again?

A detailed first person experience by Annie Jacobsen, a writer for, about a Northwest Airlines flight on June 29, 2004. As you will see if you read the article and the follow-up items, her experience was not an isolated event.

Here are the links:

Terror in the Skies, Again?

Part II: Terror in the Skies, Again?

Update: Terror in the Skies, Again?


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Copyright Bill to Kill Tech?

By Katie Dean

Jul. 22, 2004

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill Thursday that would hold technology companies liable for any product they make that encourages people to steal copyright materials.

Critics say the bill would effectively outlaw peer-to-peer networks and prohibit the development of new technologies, including devices like the iPod. The Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (S. 2560) was introduced last month by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation would hold a company liable that "intentionally induces" a person to infringe copyright.

"We think this is a recipe for disaster for the Internet," said Markham Erickson, general counsel for NetCoalition, a public policy group that represents Internet companies like Google, Yahoo and Internet service providers. "The bill as it is currently drafted is extremely broad and not entirely clear. It would, at a minimum, undermine the Sony Betamax decision."

In the Betamax decision, the Supreme Court ruled that any technology that people use for legal purposes would be legal -- even if the device could be used for illegal purposes, like content piracy. Because of the ruling, the consumer electronics industry and Hollywood went on to develop a thriving market in home video and DVDs.

Complete article at:,1283,64297,00.html