Saturday, May 07, 2005

Bull's Eye: Targeted by the Christian Right

Bull's Eye: Targeted by the Christian Right

As these e-mails prove, Traditional Values Coalition doesn't value friendship with unfriendly columnists

by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

About 6 AM, April 21st, I checked the e-mail. There were more than a
few with odd titles and from address I didn't recognize. I left them
for later and began the daily media run: CNN, New York Times, LA Times
and, of course, the web sites of several evangelical Christian
lobbying organizations to see what new propaganda they were floating.

When I visited the Traditional Values Coalition site, the title of the
lead story caught my eye: "Leftist Web Site Writer Blasts Traditional
Values Coalition." That looked interesting, so I read the blurb:

"Leftist Web Site Writer Blasts Traditional Values Coalition

"April 21, 2005 -- Homosexual activist and tenured Penn State
Professor Mel Seesholtz sees Traditional Values Coalition and other
religious organizations as a major threat to freedom in the United
States. Seesholtz is a contributing writer for 'Online Journal,' a
'progressive' web site (progressive is a leftist code word for

"In 'Democracy perverted, justice denied; The unholy march toward
theocracy,' Seesholtz says that the Traditional Values Coalition is
attempting to bring the judiciary under the control of the religious
right. According to Seesholtz, the judiciary is the 'only independent
branch of government that would thwart their plans to theocratize
America. Hence the fanatical campaigns to remake the judiciary 'in
their own image' and by any means necessary.'

"Writing in 'Counterbias' on April 6, 2005, Seesholtz accuses TVC
and other groups of engaging in 'American StupidSpeak' (ASS).
According to Seeholtz, 'The Traditional Values Coalition is a
veritable paragon on ASS. Last summer they teamed up with a group of
ultra-conservative clergy to damn homosexuality, same-sex marriage and
gay people not only because that was 'God's will,' but also to
'debunk' the claim by gays and lesbians that their fight for the legal
right to a civil marriage is a 'civil rights' issue."

"Pray for Mel Seesholtz. If you wish to contact him, his email
address is: [xxxx] Please be polite but don't expect a polite

"Leftist." Virtually everything is "left" of Sheldon's and the TVC's
theofascist political ideology. "Progressive" as a "code word" for
socialist? In the eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
Dictionary, "progressive" is defined as "of, relating to, or
characterized by progress; making use of or interested in new ideas,
findings, or opportunities." Sheldon and the TVC fear social change
and new ideas, so it's understandable the word "progressive" upsets

In a political context "progressive" refers to "one believing in
moderate political change and especially social improvement by
governmental action." Sheldon and the TVC have enthusiastically
supported any and all "governmental action" against gay and lesbian
Americans and jurists whose decisions they didn't like. They claim
such moves are "social improvement." Would their own definition of
"progressive" make Sheldon and the TVC code red socialists? They're
not of course, and neither is "progressive" a "leftist code word for

"Homosexual activist." I guess if you advocate equal civil rights for
all citizens, that's makes you a "homosexual activist." I can live
with that.

My initial thought was, "Well, I must be doing something right if Lou
and the TVC are after me!"

Then I recognized the devious nature of the
attack. It was inappropriate -- at best -- for TVC to list my
professional e-mail address, emphasize my employer, and provide the
"Mel Seesholtz" link to my colleagues' names and e-mail addresses when
they had absolutely nothing to do with my writing. But the tactic was
transparent: get "the flock" to pressure the university to silence me
or take punitive action against me. As New York Times writer Paul
Krugman noted in an April 5, 2005 OpEd, "political pressure [by
conservative Christian groups] will nonetheless have a chilling effect
on scholarship. And that, of course, is its purpose."

The "don't expect a polite response" was typical of TVC's boorish
character assassinations of anyone who dares to publicly challenge

As for those messages in my in-box, reading them -- and the multitude
that followed -- provided invaluable insight into the "minds" of those
who embrace Sheldon's and the TVC's perversion of Christianity and
unholy march toward theocracy. But more importantly, reading the
e-mails confirmed what I'd suspected: more and more people inside and
outside the "religious community" are getting fed up with Sheldon's
rhetoric of hate and specious arguments.

A polite (albeit often brief) reply was sent to the authors of even
the most disgusting, hate-filled e-mails I received from TVC
"Christians," including this depraved one: "Why dont you catch aides
and die, you pervert."

I'll spare you the other, even more disgusting messages from so-called
"traditional values Christians" who echoed Don's vile bile, but I do
want to share others.

Many did as asked: they "politely" -- and unctuously -- prayed for me:
"Dear Prof: I have only one thing to say to you. When judgement day
comes and God asks you what you have done for him, what are you going
to say? Will you say, "I have tried to thwart everything that is good
and comes from you Lord and I am a stumbling block to your people" If
this is all you can answer, I suggest you review your life and come to
Him in prayer, we Christians all over this country will be praying for
you to come to your senses."

Others hailed the new United States of Jesus in their own grossly
illiterate, deranged way: "what's up man? Don't you get it yet?
America (ZION) belongs to JESUS!! so... if your not happy here, along
with the rest of the rebels, I suggest you all leave Zion. It's only
gonna get better for Christ as time continues on. that is why they
call it, "Jesus land." I'm saying this with a big smile on my face.
well, do what you want, but I promise you, it's going the way father
Yahweh has planned. LIKE IT OR NOT........whatever. from, the messiah"

The writing and language skills of the flock could certainly use some
work, but I guess that's not part of their "biblical worldview."
Literacy was at an all time low in the Dark Ages when theocracy was
the norm, and that's the norm Sheldon et al want to reestablish. After
all, you can't run an effective theocracy if people are reading
unapproved works or coherently writing and thinking for themselves.

Some messages were so ill-informed about history, science, social and
cultural anthropology as to defy a reasoned response. This comment
came from a man claiming to have an MBA and an MS degree: "Thank God
freaks-of-nature like you don't reproduce; a few more years and your
kind will be extinct."

Here's a brief sampling of other messages received and replies not
sent to their writers during the barrage, but offered to them now,

"Mr. Seeshits:
"Your name certainly matches your outlook on life!"

Yes. When I see "shit," I try to alert others so they don't fall victim
to it.

"The Bible condemns homosexuality and you know it. You can try
and find fault with the Bible but there are no problems with the
Bible. The problem is with rebellious sinners who love their sin and
refuse to repent."

Yes. Leviticus 18:22 does state "You shall not lie with a male as with
a woman; it is an abomination." But if that is absolute truth, then
Leviticus 24:10 is also. It calls for anyone who "hath cursed" to be
stoned to death. Leviticus 20:14 calls for sinners to be burned to
death, and Leviticus 15:19 commands a menstruating woman be "put apart
seven days, and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean." Leviticus
24:11-16 that call for a community gathering in order to stone to
death those who plant two different crops in the same field or wear
garments made of two different kinds of threads. What different
threads are your garments made of, madam? And if I'm not mistaken (and
I'm not), wasn't Jesus more than a bit "rebellious" against the
self-righteous, politically motivated religious leaders of his time?

"Supporting the homosexual agenda and the homosexual lifestyle is
a direct support for the eventual destruction of American society.
Take a step back and look at the big picture. Certainly you can see
the destructive road that the homosexual agenda is leading America

Rep. Barney Frank succinctly expressed the so-called "homosexual
agenda" in his address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention:

"Specifically, we want all people in the United States to enjoy
the same legal rights as everyone else, unless they have forfeited
them by violating the rights of others. We believe this should include
some things that are, apparently, very controversial.

"They include the right to serve, fight, and even die on behalf
of our country in the military; the right to earn a living by working
hard and being judged wholly on the quality of our work; the right for
teenagers to attend high school without being shoved, punched, or
otherwise attacked; and, yes, the right to express not only love for
another person but a willingness to be legally as well as morally
responsible for his or her well-being."

"Even taking twelve steps back, I just don't see "the destructive
road that the homosexual agenda is leading America down." It seems to
me more like the path to liberty, justice and equality for all."

Most telling was the fact that the vast majority of those criticizing
my arguments admitted they hadn't read them. Rather, like good attack
dogs, they simply obeyed their master's orders. Not surprisingly, the
few who had read the articles said they didn't see a "march toward
theocracy" or anything resembling an attack on the independent
judiciary. Some links were sent to them, including one to a recent LA
Times article describing the efforts of evangelicals "to punish
jurists they oppose" by stripping their courts of funding and one to
Sen. Ken Salazar's letter to Focus on the Family's James Dobson
charging him and the Republican leadership with "hijacking
Christianity" and trying to "set up a theocracy." A link to Krugman's
New York Times April 5 OpEd was also sent: "Today, even Republicans
like Representative Chris Shays concede that it [the Republican party]
has become the 'party of theocracy.'" References to The Constitutional
Restoration Act were sent as well:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme
Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of
certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is
sought against an element of Federal, State, or local government, or
against an officer of Federal, State, or local government (whether or
not acting in official personal capacity), by reason of that element's
or officer's acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law,
liberty, or government." (italics mine)

Some messages expressed what many Americans feel as the leaders of the
evangelical Christian Right and their pocketed politicians continue
goose-stepping toward theocracy: "I'm sure you saw this bit of lunacy
that I attached. I am sorry and disgusted that organizations like the
Traditional Values Coalition even exist in our supposedly enlightened,
modern world. I am very grateful for your reasoned commentary -- a
voice of sanity in an America (and administration) that I don't even
recognize as my own any more."

More than a third of the e-mails I received offered support and

"I only know of you [through] the Traditional Values Coalition. I
have been watching their messages -- keeping my enemies close.

"I support the few notions of yours that they reported. The main
statement: 'Traditional Values Coalition and other religious
organizations as a major threat to freedom in the United States' -- is
sad and true in my judgment.

"So this message is my support for your speaking out against such
flaming bigotry."

Some did so with insight and humor:

"I'm one of those 'progressive is a leftist keyword for
socialists' who is on the religio rightist email list to keep an eye
on the loon wing of the Republican party.

"You must be doing something right since Rev. Lou is in a tizzy
over your ideas in today's TVC email. Looks like your root canal has
started hitting some nerve. Keep drilling...

"Good to know they are also all praying for you. The bible says
the 'prayers of a righteous man availeth much.' I don't think you have
to worry about 'Rev' Sheldon's prayers reaching God's ears.

"Keep hammering the truth, dude."

Another message noted the hypocrisy of TVC's attack: "If you want a
taste of irony, note that one of the articles he [Louis Sheldon] sites
as problematic is your offense to the religious right trying to
"remake the judiciary in their own image," followed almost immediately
by his article 'Rev. Sheldon Speaks Out On War Against Bush Judges'
where he complains that the judiciary is not being remade in their
chosen way."

Other messages among the most meaningful were those from pastors,
ministers and Christians fed up with Sheldon's hate-filled perversion
of their religion and his brazen grab for political power.

"The latest hate-mongering message from the TVC seems to be
written to incite their subscribers to send messages filled with their
vitriolic rhetoric against anything in which they cannot find
themselves. As a practicing Christian who disagrees with their message
and their politics, I wanted to send a note of thanks to you for
standing up to them.

"As a Christian, I understand that because of God's unconditional
love for us, our response ought to be showing that same love toward
all those who are not us (and incidentally as well as toward
ourselves). I wish that religious leaders such as Lou Sheldon would
read the Bible with a little more discernment toward finding their own
actions and activities. Perhaps then, they might find some connections
between themselves and those whom Christ came to change."

Another example:

"I see that [Louis] Sheldon has his knickers in a twist over your
telling it like it is about the Traditional Values Coalition and other
right-wing religious groups. Hope you're not getting too much abusive
or icky "we're praying for your soul" spam.

"I'm an Episcopalian and often pray for these people to see
through the haze of bigotry to what Jesus would actually be saying and
doing if He were living in America today and for people like you to
continue using your platforms well and wisely."

And yet another:

"Lou Sheldon and his 'Traditional' 'Values' Coalition continually
spam me with his hate speech, simply because I run the website for our
church. In his latest screed, 'Leftist Web Site Writer Blasts
Traditional Values Coalition,' he gives out your email address... so I
thought I'd send you a thumbs-up. Hope it doesn't get lost among the
dung thrown your way.

"When I saw the title of the spam, I was hoping it was about me.
It's important for people to get the word out about these groups
working behind the scenes, and anyone who cheeses off Sheldon has to
be OK.

"Good luck and God be with you in this fight!"

These messages made me think: true Christians would have no part of
the hate Sheldon and the TVC spew out in the name of "God." An "First Person" Commentary by Rob Hamm, posted on November
2, 2004, came to mind. The lead-in to the article read: "A
church-going mom called her gay son last night to ask what he thinks
about today's ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage and civil
unions in their native Oklahoma. The conversation didn't go as he

What did Mrs. Hamm have to say? To begin with, she voted against the
Oklahoma constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil
unions because, as she put it, "God meant for everyone to have choice
in their lives. That is all about being human, and anyone that takes
that choice away is acting like God. That is blasphemy, and I won't be
a part of it. I don't think it can be changed or should be changed
that you are gay. I don't know if you were made that way or not, but
as long as there is a possibility that it is internal and can't be
changed, I cannot judge anyone based on that. Besides, the Bible says
there is only one judge, and we should not be putting ourselves in his

Her son commented further: "She said that since my partner's family
had disowned him when he came out to them, he was now her son with all
the rights and privileges accorded to that position. It took 12 years
for my mom to get to this point, and I know the world's perceptions
and many decades of discrimination will take a while to change. I have
hope that I didn't have before this phone call that eventually the
true Christians like my mom will win out, and eventually basic rights
will apply to everyone equally, no matter what."

The time of liberty, justice and equality for all Americans will come,
inevitably. And then Louis Sheldon and the Traditional Values
Coalition will be exposed for what they are. Future generations will
read about them in history books and -- with knotted brows -- ask

originally published May 4 2005


FTC Offers Security Tips to Mothers
FTC Offers Security Tips to Mothers
By Dennis Fisher

The Federal Trade Commission, perhaps having run out of things to do, suggested that Americans forgo giving jewelry and flowers on Mother's Day and instead give mothers an FTC e-card, which includes tips on safeguarding their personal data.

The FTC's e-card message is set to cloying piano music and starts with a Hallmark-esque poem thanking the recipient for teaching her kids to tie their shoes and be careful crossing the street.

But the clincher is the list of four tips at the end that advise mothers on keeping themselves from being victims of identity theft. The messages caution moms to safeguard their Social Security numbers, read bills and bank statements, check suspicious calls and e-mails, and report fraud to the FTC.


Student suspended over mom's call from Iraq

USA Today
Student suspended over mom's call from Iraq

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — A high school student was suspended for 10 days for refusing to end a mobile phone call with his mother, a soldier serving in Iraq, school officials said.

The 10-day suspension was issued because Kevin Francois was "defiant and disorderly" and was imposed in lieu of an arrest, Spencer High School assistant principal Alfred Parham said.

The confrontation Wednesday began after the 17-year-old junior got a call at lunchtime from his mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, who left in January for a one-year tour with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion.

Mobile phones are allowed on campus but may not be used during school hours. When a teacher told him to hang up, he refused. He said he told the teacher, "This is my mom in Iraq. I'm not about to hang up on my mom."

Parham said the teen's suspension was based on his reaction to the teacher's request. He said the teen used profanity when taken to the office.

"Kevin got defiant and disorderly," Parham said. "When a kid becomes out of control like that they can either be arrested or suspended for 10 days. Now being that his mother is in Iraq, we're not trying to cause her any undue hardship; he was suspended for 10 days."


Bolton criticized by former intelligence official and Powell's chief of staff


Bolton criticized by former intelligence official and Powell's chief of staff

WASHINGTON (AP) — John R. Bolton, nominated to be U.N. ambassador, vastly overrated the military might of Syria and Cuba and had to be talked into toning down his assessments, a former senior intelligence official told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff Friday.

Robert L. Hutchings, who was responsible for coordinating American intelligence assessments in 2003, told the committee staff he felt Bolton was intent on drawing conclusions in public speeches that were "politicized" and exceeded U.S. intelligence on both countries, said a committee source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In another interview, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, questioned Bolton's leadership skills and disputed the view that the undersecretary of state was brilliant, committee sources told The Associated Press.

Wilkerson told committee aides that Powell — who has not endorsed Bolton for the U.N. job — would "go down to the bowels of the building" to try to boost the morale of analysts who had clashed with Bolton. Bolton has been accused of berating subordinates who disagreed with his views.

Melody Townsel, a Dallas public relations consultant who called Bolton "pathological" in a letter to the committee last month, softened her criticism in an April 26 interview with the committee.

A transcript of her interview, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, described Bolton as pounding on her Moscow hotel door 11 years ago when they both worked for private companies.

"No matter where I went in this hotel, if he saw me (he) began to approach me rapidly," she told the committee. "If I saw him in the breakfast bar, he would make a beeline for me."

Previously, she said Bolton had chased her through the hotel's halls. But now, Townsel said "chasing may not be the best word" although "I definitely felt chased."

A former CIA official, John E. McLaughlin, told the committee last week that Bolton's efforts to have a top CIA analyst removed from his post because of a disagreement with Bolton was the only time he had ever heard of such a request coming from a policy-maker in his 32 years with the spy agency, The New York Times reported.

Bolton and the analyst were at odds over a Bolton speech the analyst thought overstated the extent of weapons programs in Cuba. "I had a strong negative reaction to the suggestion about moving him," McLaughlin told the committee, according to a transcript obtained by the Times.

Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told the committee Friday that he — not Bolton — had tried to get the CIA analyst transferred. He said Pentagon, CIA and State Department officials agreed the analyst's work was substandard.

The interviews coincided with the State Department's delivery of what one official said was a voluminous batch of documents sought by committee Democrats, who hope to kill Bolton's nomination.

The panel's senior Democrat, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, warned this week that if the department failed to provide the requested material he might try to delay a committee vote on Bolton set for next Thursday.

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said the department was "cooperating fully" with the committee, but did not say if the Democrats would get everything they wanted.

Affirming that he had called Bolton as an "abysmal choice" for the U.N. post, Wilkerson said Bolton went so far in his speeches that he was ordered to clear them with him or the office of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

The former Powell aide said Bolton was too aggressive in pushing sanctions against Chinese companies for spreading weapons technology and "overstepped the bounds" in the way he tried to block a third term for Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.


Sad steps back to death camps
Sad steps back to death camps

They walked with the ghosts of Auschwitz yesterday and they remembered.

Led by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 18,000 pilgrims marched 2 miles in the rain from the Nazis' biggest killing ground to the nearby Birkenau death camp.

Most were Israeli high school students. But marching with them were survivors like 82-year-old Bella Domanski, formerly of Brooklyn and a Polish Jew on whose arm the Nazis tattooed the number 24738.

"I was here 61 years ago, and I am remembering everything," said another survivor, 75-year-old Yitzhak Pery, who brought his grandson Shahar, 20, an Israeli paratrooper. "I never wanted to come back. I came because of my grandson."

With anti-Semitism again on the rise and survivors dying off, Sharon told the youngest marchers to "remember the victims and remember the murderers."

"Remember how millions of Jews were led to their deaths and the world remained silent," he said.

Young Israelis, some wrapped in their country's blue-and-white flag, passed through the camp gate with its sign "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "work sets you free."

Silently, they filed into the dingy barracks, where hundreds of prisoners were forced to sleep on wooden bunk beds. Silently, they surveyed piles of glasses and artificial limbs the guards stripped from the victims.

Many wept during the memorial ceremony at the ramp where the "Angel of Death," camp doctor Josef Mengele, decided whether a prisoner died fast in the gas chambers - or died slowly doing slave labor.

Over the loudspeakers, the names of the victims were intoned in Hebrew.

The majority of the 1.5 million people murdered at the Nazi camps in southern Poland were Jews. But thousands of Polish Catholics, Soviet POWs and Gypsies also were killed.

And for the first time, Israel honored Polish requests and instructed students making the pilgrimage that Germans - not Poles - were the main culprits in the Holocaust.

"German Nazis were the perpetrators, but a great deal of it occurred on Polish soil," said Noah Shalev, an education ministry official.

The March of the Living was inspired by the death marches that took place at the end of World War II. This year's procession was the biggest yet and came after world leaders commemorated the 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation.

In Israel, sirens wailed and the country came to a standstill for two minutes of silence in memory of the 6 million Holocaust victims.

But the observances were marred by unprecedented ugliness. Right-wingers opposed to Sharon's plan to pull Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip painted swastikas and graffiti likening him to Hitler on the road leading to Yad Vashem, the nation's Holocaust museum.

originally published Friday, May 6th, 2005


MSNBC and Fox covered for Bush over leaked Myers report on diminished military capability

MSNBC and Fox covered for Bush over leaked Myers report on diminished military capability

While many news outlets noted that an assessment of current U.S. military capabilities by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers, which was recently leaked to The New York Times, undermines President Bush's recent assurance that Myers believes the Iraq war has not weakened U.S. military capabilities, Fox News reporter Mike Emanuel and MSNBC host Ron Reagan glossed over the inconsistency.

At his April 28 press conference, Bush described a recent conversation with Myers: "I say, 'Do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq?' And the answer is no, he doesn't feel we're limited. He feels like we've got plenty of capacity."

But Myers' classified report to Congress stated that future military campaigns "may result in significantly extended campaign timelines, and achieving campaign objectives may result in higher casualties and collateral damage," according to a May 3 article in The New York Times. In comments to reporters the same day, Myers chose a different emphasis:

The message I'm sending to Congress is that the United States military can fulfill its tasks under the Nation Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy, and we will be successful and prevail in anything that our nation asks us to do under those strategies and that's the bottom line.

On Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, general assignment reporter Mike Emanuel mentioned the findings in the classified report only briefly, stating that "armed conflict in other parts of the world might take longer or more resources than one might expect." Emanuel showed the clip of Myers' comments, but he did not note that Myers spoke only after accounts of the leaked report appeared in the Times earlier that day, nor did he note that Myers' assessment of military readiness in the classified report appeared to conflict with what Bush described at his April 28 press conference as Myers's assessment.

From the May 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report:

EMANUEL: Now, with U.S. forces committed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the military risk assessment is that armed conflict in other parts of the world might take longer or more resources than one might expect. That assessment from Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in what was part of a classified report to Congress. Gen. Myers talked about that assessment this afternoon outside of the Pentagon.

MYERS [clip]: The message we're sending to Congress is that the United States military can fulfill its tasks under the Nation Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy and we will be successful and prevail in anything that our nation asks us to do under those strategies, that's the bottom line.

EMANUEL: Gen. Myers was also asked a hypothetical about what happens if North Korea invades South Korea. And Myers insists the U.S. would be successful.

On MSNBC's Connected Coast to Coast, host Ron Reagan failed to note that the leaked report to Congress was written by Myers himself. Airing the same post-leak statement from Myers that Emanuel showed, Reagan stated that the document "alleges the U.S. military would not be capable of winning a new war, because of strained resources and manpower," but "the general [Myers] does not agree."

From the May 3 edition of MSNBC's Connected Coast to Coast:

MYERS [clip]: The message we're sending to Congress is that the United States military can fulfill its tasks under the Nation Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy and we will be successful and prevail in anything that our nation asks us to do under those strategies, that's the bottom line.

REAGAN: Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responding not long ago to a classified congressional report in this morning's New York Times. According to the paper, the document alleges the U.S. military would not be capable of winning a new war, because of strained resources and manpower. The general does not agree, but the numbers may tell a different story. Army recruitment is down again for the third month in a row. Last month, the Army fell short of its monthly goal by 6,600 recruits. In March, there was a 32 percent shortfall. In February, the Army missed its goal by some 27 percent.

— N.C.


Hannity falsely suggested only "liberals" oppose coastal oil drilling

Hannity falsely suggested only "liberals" oppose coastal oil drilling

Fox News host Sean Hannity falsely suggested that only "liberals" have opposed proposals to drill for oil in United States coastal waters. On the May 5 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity declared that a major "problem" with the U.S. energy supply is that "liberals in this country ... won't allow us to drill off the shores of the coast of California or Florida, the Great Lakes, national parks, designated areas, the 48 states, anywhere." In fact, Republican presidents and governors have also opposed coastal drilling: President George H.W. Bush enacted a moratorium banning coastal drilling, President George W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush both opposed plans to drill off the coast of Florida, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes coastal drilling in California.

Contrary to Hannity's suggestion that only "liberals" oppose coastal drilling, it was a Republican president who first placed the ban on such drilling still in effect today. The presidential moratorium on coastal drilling, which "applies to virtually all the coasts" was "first imposed by President Bush in June 1990," as noted when then-President Bill Clinton extended the moratorium on June 12, 1998. The moratorium applies to all "new federal unleased areas" [Los Angeles Times 4/25/05].

Further, the current President Bush blocked coastal drilling in Florida. In 2002, Bush reached a deal to "buy out mineral rights in the cypress swamps of the Everglades and off the white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico" on Florida's coast [The Washington Post, 5/30/02]. The Washington Post reported that the deal "could ... provide a political boost" to the reelection hopes of his brother Jeb, who called the move "good public policy"; The New York Times also reported that Gov. Bush acknowledged that it was "likely to help his re-election campaign."

Schwarzenegger has steadfastly opposed coastal drilling in California; in an April 4 letter to members of Congress, "California Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman said the state is against 'any effort to lift the congressional moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing activities'" [Los Angeles Times, 4/25/05].

The Bush administration has flip-flopped on protecting California's coastal areas from drilling. After initially trying to facilitate drilling, the administration declined to appeal an adverse court decision that "temporarily blocked ... the renewal of 36 oil company leases while the state studies their potential environmental effects on the coast" and "upheld the right of the state to ban drilling on the leases permanently if it determines they threaten the coast or the state's fisheries" [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/03]. A March 31, 2003, Department of the Interior press release noted "the Bush administration's goal of protecting the scenic beauty of coastal California" and quoted Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton's explanation of the administration's decision not to appeal: "Our administration strongly supports environmental protection and understands the importance of this issue to the people of California." But though the administration had pledged to buy back the leases to resolve the issue and prevent any drilling, "negotiations have stalled because oil companies are holding out for hundreds of millions of dollars more than federal officials are willing to pay" [Los Angeles Times, 2/12/03]. -- A.S.

— A.S.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Lobbyist Had Close Contact With Bush Team

York Daily Record
Lobbyist Had Close Contact With Bush Team

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In President Bush's first year in the White House, the administration had roughly 200 contacts with Republican fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team as they sought to influence Bush's hires and pressed him to keep the Northern Mariana Islands free from the minimum wage law, documents show.

The reception Abramoff's team received from the administration contrasts with chilly relations during the Clinton years. Abramoff, then at the Preston Gates law firm, scored few meetings with Clinton aides as the lobbyist and the islands vehemently opposed White House attempts to extend U.S. labor laws to the territory's clothing factories.

"Our standing with the new administration promises to be solid as several friends of the CNMI (islands) will soon be taking high-ranking positions in the Administration, including within the Interior Department," Abramoff wrote in a January 2001 letter in which he persuaded the island government to follow him as a client to his new lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.

The meetings between Abramoff's lobbying team and the new Bush administration included Attorney General John Ashcroft and policy advisers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, according to his lobbying firm billing records.

Abramoff, a $100,000-plus fundraiser for Bush, is now under criminal investigation for some of his lobbying work.

His firm boasted that its lobbying team helped revised a section of the Republican Party's 2000 platform to make it favorable to its island client.

In addition, two of Abramoff's lobbying colleagues on the Marianas won political appointments to federal agencies: Patrick Pizzella, named an assistant secretary of labor by Bush, and David Safavian, chosen by Bush to oversee federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget.

"We have worked with WH Office of Presidential Personnel to ensure that CNMI-relevant positions at various agencies are not awarded to enemies of CNMI," Abramoff's team wrote the Marianas in an October 2001 report on its work for the year.

The records from Abramoff's firm, obtained by The Associated Press from the Marianas under an open records request, chronicle Abramoff's cultivation of relations with Bush's political team as far back as 1997.

In that year, Abramoff charged the Marianas for getting then-Texas Gov. Bush to write a letter expressing support for the Pacific territory's school choice proposal, his billing records show.

"I hope you will keep my office informed on the progress of this initiative," Bush wrote in a July 18, 1997, letter praising the islands' school plan and copying in an Abramoff deputy.

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Thursday that Bush didn't consider Abramoff a friend. "They may have met on occasion, but the president does not know him," she said.

As for the number of Abramoff lobbying team contacts with Bush officials documented in the billing records, Healy said: "We do not know how he defines 'contacts.'"

Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff, declined comment.

The Greenberg Traurig firm, where Abramoff worked between late 2000 and early 2004, is investigating Abramoff's work and cooperating with government investigations.

"Greenberg Traurig accepted Jack Abramoff's resignation from the firm, effective March 2, 2004, after Mr. Abramoff disclosed to the firm personal transactions and related conduct which are unacceptable to the firm and antithetical to the way we do business," spokeswoman Jill Perry said.

Abramoff is under federal investigation amid allegations he overcharged tribal clients by millions of dollars, and his ties to powerful lawmakers such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, are under increasing scrutiny.

The documents show his team had extensive access to Bush administration officials, meeting with Cheney policy advisers Ron Christie and Stephen Ruhlen, Ashcroft at the Justice Department, White House intergovernmental affairs chief Ruben Barrales, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and others.

Most of the contacts were handled by Abramoff's subordinates, who then reported back to him on the meetings. Abramoff met several times personally with top Interior officials, whose Office of Insular Affairs oversees the Mariana Islands and other U.S. territories.

In all, the records show at least 195 contacts between Abramoff's Marianas lobbying team and the Bush administration from February through November 2001.

Abramoff's team didn't neglect party politics either: There were at least two meetings with Republican National Committee officials, including then-finance chief Jack Oliver, as well as attendance at GOP fundraisers.

The records obtained by AP provide a detailed accounting of daily dealings between Abramoff and his team and government officials, and talk in raw terms about the lobbyist's campaign to convince Congress the U.S. territory was not home to sweatshops.

When Clinton was in office and his administration was targeting alleged "sweatshops" on the islands, Abramoff, then leading Preston Gates' Marianas team, considered trying to shut down the Office of Insular Affairs, a key source of criticism of working conditions in the territory's garment industry.

Abramoff and his Preston Gates team ultimately abandoned that plan, telling the Marianas government it would yield too many negative news stories and that, "if the department is wiped out, the Administration is free to carry on those activities in another branch."

"The CNMI has many needs and, thanks to the past trips, many friends on the Appropriations Committees in the Congress. Of urgent focus this year will be the effort either to defund, or more likely, to severely limit the activities of the Office of Insular Affairs," the firm wrote to the island government in a lobbying plan in February 1998.

Meanwhile, Abramoff and his team were working to get close to top Republicans and Democrats. By Bush's 2000 presidential race, they were connected enough to boast of obtaining early drafts of the platforms each party adopted at its presidential convention.

"In the case of the Republican platform, the team reviewed and commented on sections dealing with insular territories to ensure appropriately positive treatment. This was successful," the Preston Gates firm wrote to Marianas.

"In the case of the Democratic Party platform, the team assisted in drafting early versions of neutral language relating to the territories," the firm wrote. "However, heavy intervention by the White House eventually deleted positive references to the CNMI."

The access of Abramoff and his team to the administration came as the lobbyist was establishing himself as a GOP fundraiser.

Abramoff and his wife each gave $5,000 to Bush's 2000 recount fund and the maximum $1,000 to his 2000 campaign. By mid-2003, Abramoff had raised at least $100,000 for Bush's re-election campaign, becoming one of Bush's famed "pioneers."

Money also flowed from the Marianas to Bush's re-election campaign: It took in at least $36,000 from island donors, much of it from members of the Tan family, whose clothing factories were a routine stop for lawmakers and their aides visiting the islands on Abramoff-organized trips.

Two Tan family companies gave $25,000 each to the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2002 elections. Greenberg Traurig, too, was a big GOP giver. Its donations included $20,000 to the Republican National Committee for the 2000 elections and $25,000 each to the GOP's House and Senate fundraising committees in 2000 and again in 2002.


House backs $82 billion "emergency" spending bill that's packed with Pentagon pork.

House backs $82 billion "emergency" spending bill that's packed with Pentagon pork.

John Nichols

Just when you thought it might be impossible for the Bush administration and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to stoop any lower, they have sunk to a new depth. They are now, in the well-chosen words of one member of the U.S. House, "using America's fighting men and women as human shields to pass pork-laden legislation."

The administration and its chief congressional ally hijacked the resolution for supplemental funding of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and added to the measure a laundry list of giveaways to special interests and bad policies. In addition to packing in all sorts of new immigration rules and expenditures, which should have been dealt with on their own merits rather than buried in an "emergency" spending bill, they also included money for a "wish-list" of Pentagon boondoggles that have nothing to do with helping the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan -- let alone getting them home alive.

Unfortunately, most Democrats went along with this abuse of the legislative process, making themselves partners in an ugly and unwarranted diversion of taxpayer dollars. The final House vote in favor of the $82 billion package was 368-58. Supporting the "emergency" bill were 225 Republicans and 143 Democrats; opposing it were 54 Democrats, three Republicans and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders.

Why did so many Democrats and so many thinking Republicans back this "pork-laden legislation"?

"Republicans in Congress have stacked the deck on today's fiscally irresponsible supplemental spending bill: forcing members to either appear unpatriotic or support a cash-cow bill stuffed with pork projects that fail to either help our troops or meet any ‘emergency' need," explained U.S. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, D-Cal. "Rather than taking their Pentagon colleagues to task for not budgeting for the needs of the troops in the regular defense budget request, the Majority has endorsed a fiscally irresponsible ploy used since the start of the war in Iraq: Pass ‘emergency' supplemental after supplemental that Congress has limited or no ability to review."

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the Pentagon has made annual requests for "emergency funding," and the latest request for $82 billion is unlikely to be the last. Why can't the Pentagon -- with an annual budget in excess of $400 billion -- budget properly? Because doing so would require Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his aides to justify expenses.

"(The) supplemental bill is chock full of projects that could easily be planned and budgeted within the Pentagon's annual request. To call them emergency, last-minute needs is misleading, fiscally irresponsible, and prevents Congress from exercising proper oversight over vital programs and efforts. And now, in order to placate members who see through this costly tactic, the supplemental bill has swelled with unnecessary spending," says Tauscher. "This additional $82 billion measure brings total ‘emergency' supplemental funding for the war to $272 billion. The Administration's policy of irresponsibly budgeting for the Iraq war as a temporary, incremental involvement demonstrates its lack of a comprehensive plan to stabilize the country, internationalize the ground forces, and begin to withdraw American forces. I believe that our troops deserve better than a piecemeal plan."

Tauscher read the bill right. Unfortunately, like most Democrats and almost all Republicans, she did not vote right. For all her fine words, and solid insights, Tauscher did not have the courage to cast a vote against the "pork-laden" bill.

This is the frustrating thing about Congressional Democrats. They are willing to point out the fundamental flaws in the Bush administration's agenda, but most of them still vote with the Republicans to implement that agenda.

Only three Republicans voted "no" -- Texan Ron Paul, North Carolina's Howard Coble and Tennessee's John Duncan. They were joined by the House's only independent, Sanders, and 54 Democrats.

The Democrats who had the wisdom and the courage to object were:

Neil Abercrombie (HA) Tammy Baldwin (WI) Xavier Becerra (CA) Earl Blumenauer (OR) Mike Capuano (MA) Julia Carson (IN) Bill Clay Jr. (MO) John Conyers (MI) Danny Davis (IL) Bill Delahunt (MA) Sam Farr (CA) Bob Filner (CA) Barney Frank (MA) Bart Gordon (TN) Raul Grijalva (AZ) Luis Gutierrez (IL) Maurice Hinchey (NY) Rush Holt (NJ) Mike Honda (CA) Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX) Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH) Dennis Kucinich (OH) Barbara Lee (CA) John Lewis (GA) Carolyn Maloney (NY) Ed Markey (MA) Betty McCollum (MN) Jim McDermott (WA) Jim McGovern (MA) Cynthia McKinney (GA) Marty Meehan (MA) Gregory Meeks (NY) George Miller (CA) Grace Napolitano (CA) Jim Oberstar (MN) John Olver (MA) Major Owens (NY) Frank Pallone (NJ) Ed Pastor (AZ) Donald Payne (NJ) Charles Rangel (NY) Sánchez, Linda T. (CA) Jan Schakowsky (IL) Jose Serrano (NY) Pete Stark (CA) Mike Thompson (CA) John Tierney (MA) Ed Towns (NY) Nydia Velázquez (NY) Maxine Waters (CA) Mel Watt (NC) Anthony Weiner (NY) Robert Wexler (VL) Lynn Woolsey (CA)


From Iran-contra to Iraq

David Corn

From Iran-contra to Iraq

The George W. Bush presidency has been one long rehab session for the Iran-contra scoundrels of the Reagan-Bush administration. Many infamous veterans of the foreign policy connivance of the Reagan days have found a home in Bush II. Elliott Abrams--who pleaded guilty to misleading Congress regarding the Reagan administration's secret support of the contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua--was hired as a staff member of George W. Bush's National Security Council and placed in charge of democracy promotion. Retired Admiral John Poindexter--who was Reagan's national security adviser, who supervised Oliver North during the Iran-contra days, and who was convicted of several Iran-contra crimes before the convictions were overturned on a legal technicality--was retained by the Pentagon to search for terrorists using computerized Big Brother technology. John Negroponte--who as ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s was the on-the-ground overseer of pro-contra operations there--was recruited by Bush to be UN ambassador, then ambassador to Iraq, and, most recently, the first director of national intelligence. Otto Reich--who mounted an arguably illegal pro-contra propaganda effort when he was a Reagan official--was appointed by Bush to be in charge of Latin American policy at the State Department. Now comes the news that another Iran-contra alum--a fellow who failed a polygraph test during the Iran-contra investigation--is playing a critical role in Bush's war in terrorism.

James Steele was recently featured in a New York Times Magazine story as a top adviser to Iraq's "most fearsome counterinsurgency force," an outfit called the Special Police Commandos that numbers about 5000 troops. The article, by Peter Maass, noted that Steele "honed his tactics leading a Special Forces mission in El Salvador during that country's brutal civil war in the 1980s." And, as Maass reminded his readers, that civil war resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people, mostly civilians, and "[m]ost of the killing and torturing was done by the army and right-wing death squads affiliated with it." The army that did all that killing in El Salvador was supported by the United States and US military officials such as Steele, who was head of the US military assistance group in El Salvador for two years in the mid-1980s. (A 1993 UN truth commission, which examined 22,000 atrocities that occurred during the twelve-year civil war in El Salvador, attributed 85 percent of the abuses to the US-backed El Salvador military and its death-squad allies.)

Maass reported that the Special Forces advisers in El Salvador led by Steele "trained front-line battalions that were accused of significant human rights abuses." But he neglected to mention that Steele ran afoul of the Iran-contra investigators for not being honest about his role in the covert and illegal contra-support operation.

After the Iran-contra story broke in 1986, Steele was questioned by Iran-contra investigators, who had good reason to seek information from him. The secret contra-supply network managed by Oliver North had flown weapons and supplies to the contras out of Illopongo Air Base in El Salvador. Steele claimed that he had observed the North network in action but that he had never assisted it. The evidence didn't support this assertion. For one, North had given Steele a special coding device that allowed encrypted communications to be sent securely over telephone lines. Why did Steele need this device if he had nothing to do with the operation? And for a time Steele passed this device to Felix Rodriguez, one of North's key operatives in El Salvador. Furthermore, Congressional investigators discovered evidence indicating that aviation fuel given to El Salvador under a US military aid program that Steele supervised was illegally sold to the North network. (The Reagan administration refused to respond to congressional inquiries about this oil deal.) And according to the accounts of others, Steele had made sure that the North network's planes, used to ferry weapons to the contras, could come and go from Illopongo.


Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at Read recent postings on the latest in national security scandals (that haven't quite become full-blown scandals), Pat Robertson's bigotry, and how the Bush administration has screwed up both the hunt for bin Laden and planning for a nuclear terrorist attack.


When questioned by the Iran-contra independent counsel, Steele maintained that he had limited his actions to providing humanitarian assistance to the contras--an act that would not have violated the prohibition passed by Congress on supplying the contras with weapons. But, as independent counsel Lawrence Walsh later pointed out in his book, Firewall, a lie-detector examination indicated Steel "was not being truthful." Steele's name had also turned up in the private notebooks in which North kept track of his various Iran-contra operations. As Walsh wrote, "Confronted with the results of the lie-detector test and North's notebook, Steele admitted not only his participation in the [clandestine] arms deliveries [to the contras] but also his early discussions of these activities with Donald Gregg [the national security adviser to Vice President George Bush] and the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin G. Corr."

Walsh's description suggested that Steele tried to lie his way past investigators as part of a larger cover-up. At the time of the scandal, a significant question was how much Donald Gregg knew about the operation in El Salvador, for Gregg's connection to the secret, law-skirting contra-support network implicated Vice President Bush, who was running for president and claiming he had been out of the loop on the Iran-contra affair. (George H.W. Bush's own diaries--which he withheld for several years and did not release until after he had lost his 1992 bid for reelection as president--prove that despite his claim of ignorance he knew about the Iran-contra affair before it became public.) Steele had played the good soldier--that is, he did not tell the truth and kept his mouth shut as long as he could.

Steele escaped indictment and his flunking of the polygraph exam was not revealed until Walsh's book came out in 1997. But he did have to pay for his participation in the North's contra scheme. In 1988, the Pentagon sent to the Senate a list of 50 Army colonels who were up for promotion to brigadier general. An a list of proposed promotions to full colonel submitted at the same time included Lt. Colonel Robert Earl, a North deputy who assisted the contra supply effort and participated in the destruction of records after the Iran-contra scandal exploded. Usually such promotions fly though the Senate with no debate. But aides working for Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, noticed Steele's and Earl's names on these lists, and Harkin blocked these two promotions. "There is no way any of these people is going to get a promotion" without a congressional inquiry, Harkin told The Washington Post. The Army claimed that it had found that Steele had committed nothing wrong. Obviously, it had not looked hard enough, for, as Walsh later determined, Steele had not told the truth.

But misleading congressional and independent investigators didn't fully derail Steele's career. He is once more advising a military unit with a questionable human rights record. Let's hope that if his actions this time around become of interest to government investigators he is truthful when they come knocking.


Court Blocks TV Anti-Piracy Tech Rules

Yahoo! News
Court Blocks TV Anti-Piracy Tech Rules

By TED BRIDIS, AP Technology Writer 11 minutes ago

People buying the next generation of digital televisions will be able to record and then watch their favorite shows later, after all.

A federal appeals court on Friday threw out government rules requiring built-in, anti-piracy technology to let broadcasters and studios prevent digital shows from being copied.

The three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the Federal Communications Commission had exceeded its authority in requiring such technology in digital televisions and consumer devices sold after July 1.

"This opens up the future for consumers to have more wide-ranging video experiences," said Art Brodsky, a spokesman for Washington-based Public Knowledge, a consumers group. "They will be able to take advantage of new products and features that won't be dictated to them by the entertainment industry."

Congress may get the last word. The appeals court panel said lawmakers could change the law to require the anti-copying technology on new products. An aggressive lobbying effort by entertainment companies is already anticipated.

"People will cry to Congress," said Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, the trade group for device-makers.

The court's decision illustrates the complexity of applying copyright laws to forthcoming technology. The ruling narrowly hinged on whether the FCC under a 1934 law could regulate new digital TV and video-playback devices once the programs they receive are already in the home.

The court said the FCC's arguments that it had such authority were "strained and implausible."

Consumer groups and library associations challenged the new rules after they were announced in 2003. Their lawyers complained that the FCC requirement would drive up prices of digital television devices and prevent consumers from recording and viewing programs in ways permitted under copyright laws.

The appeals court panel said there is a "substantial probability" the anti-copying technology would interfere with libraries legally transmitting clips of television broadcasts over the Internet for educational purposes.

The technology, known as the broadcast flag, would have been required after July 1 for televisions equipped to receive new digital signals, many personal computers and VCR-type recording devices. It would permit entertainment companies to designate, or flag, programs to prevent viewers from copying shows or distributing them online.

Most digital TV sets and recording devices already accommodate the anti-copying technology, so the court's decision will have little immediate effect. Major television manufacturers design their products up to 18 months before they hit retail stores and have been preparing for the upcoming July deadline.

Some manufacturers, however, could choose to market TVs, computers and VCRs as unrestricted.

"Courts are right to be wary when government institutions seek to regulate the specific features and functions of safe, useful consumer technology," said Shapiro.

His trade group did not challenge the FCC rules in court because some member companies agreed with the requirement. Shapiro said he was "personally gratified the court took a narrow view over how government can regulate products."

Entertainment companies said the technology was needed to block viewers from recording high-quality, digital versions of television shows and films and distributing them free online. The Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Broadcasters warned that companies may choose not to air their best programs over local television if the shows couldn't be protected.

"If the broadcast flag cannot be used, program providers will have to weigh whether the risk of theft is too great over free, off-air broadcasting and could limit such high quality programming to only cable, satellite and other more secure delivery systems," said Dan Glickman, MPAA's chief executive.

The FCC acknowledged it had never before tried to impose regulations affecting television broadcasts after such programs are beamed into households. But it maintained that it was permitted to do so under the 1934 Federal Communications Act since Congress didn't explicitly tell the commission not to do it.

"We categorically reject that suggestion," the appeals panel said.

There were clear signals for Friday's ruling.

During earlier courtroom arguments, U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards told the FCC's lawyer the agency had "crossed the line" by requiring the new anti-piracy technology for next-generation television devices and rhetorically asked whether the FCC also intended to regulate household appliances.

"You've gone too far," Edwards said. "Are washing machines next?"


On the Net:

Court opinion:


Employers Hire More, Jobless Rate Steady

Yahoo! News
Employers Hire More, Jobless Rate Steady

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer

Employers ramped up hiring in April, adding 274,000 jobs, enough to hold the nation's jobless rate steady at 5.2 percent. The latest figures offered a hopeful sign that the labor market is gaining traction and that any economic rough patch will be temporary.

The Labor Department report, released Friday, also showed that job gains for both February and March turned out to be bigger than previously estimated. That also suggested that the overall health of the job market is improving.

"The economy is back on track," declared Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services.

The 274,000 net number of jobs added in April was the most since February and exceeded economists' forecasts. Before the report was released analysts were calling for a gain of around 175,000. They were also predicting the unemployment rate would be unchanged from March's reading of 5.2 percent.

Payroll gains were widespread, with retailers, health care providers, construction companies and financial services all showing employment rising. Manufacturing, however, lost jobs for the second straight month.

Job gains for March were revised to 146,000 from an initial estimate of just 110,000. And, payrolls for February were moved up to show an increase of 300,000, better than the 243,000 previously reported.

In another development, consumer confidence sank over the past month as surging energy bills and higher borrowing costs led people to worry about inflation and the condition of the economy generally.

The AP-Ipsos consumer confidence index came in at 78.2 in May, according to figures released Friday. That was down sharply from the showing of 84.5 registered in April and represented the lowest reading since October 2003.

May's showing suggests that consumers aren't feeling as good about the economy's prospects as they did a year ago, when the index clocked in at 87.4.

On Wall Street, investors were cheered by the employment report. The Dow Jones industrials were up 46 points and the Nasdaq gained 8 points in morning trading.

The Federal Reserve, worried more about inflation than economic growth, boosted short-term interest rates on Tuesday by one-quarter percentage point to 3 percent. It was the eighth increase of that size since the Fed began to tighten credit last June.

Economists said Friday's report would keep the Fed on a course of pushing rates higher through much of this year.

Workers' average hourly earnings rose in April to $16, up 0.3 percent from March's $15.95. That was slightly higher than the 0.2 percent increase that analysts were forecasting. That pickup might make the Fed a little bit more nervous about inflation but likely won't make the board more aggressive in tightening credit, said Anthony Chan, senior economist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

Economists, meanwhile, were especially encouraged to see that the work week increased to 33.9 hours in April, after five straight months of being flat. They thought that boded well for better hiring in the future.

Addressing the labor market, Fed policy-makers said Tuesday that conditions "apparently continue to improve gradually."

The positive news on jobs comes after some earlier reports suggested the economy hit a soft patch.

The government reported last week that the economy in the first quarter of 2005 grew at a 3.1 percent annual rate, its slowest pace in two years as high energy prices crimped consumer and business spending.

Oil prices, which had climbed into record-high territory on March 18 at $56.72 a barrel, set a new all-time high of $57.27 a barrel at the beginning of April. Prices have retreated somewhat since then.

Analysts believe that the rough patch the economy encountered as the first quarter drew to a close was temporary and not a sign of a slide toward recession. Friday's jobs report is now raising hopes that economic growth in the current April-to-June quarter may turn out to be better — as opposed to worse — than the first quarter's showing.

President Bush wants to see the economy and the labor market on firm footing especially as he tries to sell the public and politicians a centerpiece of his second-term economic agenda: a revamp of the Social Security retirement program.

There were 7.7 million people unemployed in April, with the average duration of 19.6 weeks without work.

However, the share of the working-age population working or actively seeking a job rose in April to 66 percent. That was up from 65.8 percent in March, which was a nearly 17 year low first reached in January.


Another misleading Republican Ad


Are Democrats Causing Delays in Court?

Contrary to a pro-Bush TV ad, Republicans share the blame for "empty
courtrooms," and delays are shorter now than they were before Bush.


A multimillion-dollar ad campaign blames Democrats for the fact that
"courtrooms sit empty." In fact, there are now half as many judicial
vacancies as when Bush took office. And of the 46 federal judgeships that
remain vacant, Bush has named only 16 replacements.

The ad also says cases are being delayed in federal courts for
"thousands of Americans." Actually, official statistics show cases typically
being decided more quickly now than they were in 1999, when it was
Republicans opposing Clinton's judicial nominees.

The AD:

Progress for America TV Ad "Fair"

Announcer: If you think judges should be fair and well-qualified, look at these women.

(Image on screen: photographs of Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown).

Janice Brown is the daughter of sharecroppers. She put herself through school and rose to become the first African-American woman on the California Supreme Court. Brown has won praise from Republicans and Democrats for being fair and honest. Other judges call Janice Brown "superb" and "extremely intelligent." Priscilla Owen was twice selected to serve on the Texas Supreme Court. Endorsed by major newspapers, Owen got strong bipartisan support and the ABA's highest rating. President Bush nominated them to be federal judges, some as long as four years ago. But Senate Democrats have abused the rules and refused to allow a vote. So courtrooms sit empty, while thousands of Americans have their cases delayed. The job of a US Senator is to vote. Urge your senators to vote, up or down. Enough is enough.

View the ad:


At a May 2 press conference, Progress for America President Brian McCabe announced his group will spend $3.3 million to air TV and radio ads designed to ensure that the President's "well-qualified nominees receive an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate."

The 60-second TV and radio spots will run in the home states of senators expected to be swing votes on the "nuclear option," the procedural maneuver used to amend Senate rules and require only a simple majority, rather than 60 votes, to break any filibuster. The ads will air in Alaska, Arkansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Rhode Island until May 9, when they will be replaced with national cable and radio spots.

At one point the ad states that Senate Democrats have "abused the rules" and refused to allow a vote on some of Bush's nominees. And then it says, "So courtrooms sit empty, while thousands of Americans have their cases delayed."

We wondered about that -- and checked the record. Here's what we found.

Courtrooms Sitting Empty

According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts , there were 46 vacant federal judgeships as of May 4. But that is fewer than half as many as in February 2001, the month after Bush took office, when there were 97 "empty courtrooms."

And most of the vacancies that remain aren't due to Senate delays. They are vacant because Bush has not yet named anyone to fill them. He's nominated persons to fill barely one-third of the vacancies, including 10 of 16 vacancies in the appeals courts, 6 of 29 vacancies in the federal district courts, and nobody to fill the single vacancy at the US Court of International Trade.

In the President's defense, he has filled lots of other vacant courtrooms – 205 currently active federal judges are Bush appointees, all confirmed by the Senate. But that's a fact cited most often by Democrats, as evidence that they aren't being unreasonable.

Furthermore, there were lots more vacant courtrooms when Republicans resisted confirming some of Bill Clinton's nominees. In December of 1999, for example, there were 67 vacancies in the federal judiciary – nearly 46 percent more than at present. And Clinton had nominations pending for just over half of them. By the time Bush took office, as mentioned earlier, the number of vacancies had grown even larger.

Cases Delayed?

The ad goes on to say "thousands of Americans have their cases delayed" because Democrats are blocking confirmations. There's no question that many cases drag on for years. But most cases are being resolved less slowly now than they were in 1999, as shown in these two graphs.

In federal District Courts, the median time taken to resolve a civil case was 10.5 months in 1999, meaning that half of all cases took longer, half took less. But by last year that time had grown shorter, falling to 8.5 months. (Criminal cases are resolved more speedily, with a median time of 6.9 months in 2004 -- about two weeks longer than the median time five years earlier.)

The picture is similar in the appeals courts, where the median time taken to resolve a case used to be 12 months and had fallen to 10.5 months as of last year.

Who's to Blame in the 6th Circuit?

Asked to support the ad's claim that Democrats are responsible for delays, Progress for America cited the situation in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. And indeed, that court's median time to dispose of a case was 16.8 months in 2004, the worst record of any of the 12 appeals courts. To be sure, there are currently four vacancies on that court all considered "judicial emergencies" based on its volume of cases, according to the Administrative Office of the US Courts. Bush has nominated judges to fill all of them.

However, a closer look shows that both parties share responsibility for the 6th Circuit’s awful record. Three of those vacancies opened up during the Clinton administration, one of them as far back as 1995. But former Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham, now Bush's energy secretary, blocked two of Clinton' s nominees to that court by the simple expedient of refusing to allow hearings on them. And that was despite the fact that even then the 6th Circuit’s delays had been the worst in the country since 1998.

There's no question that fewer courtrooms would be vacant if Senate Democrats approved more of Bush's nominees. And it stands to reason that cases might be decided with fewer delays. But the fact is – contrary to the impression this ad strives to create – there are fewer vacant courtrooms now than there were before, and cases are being resolved more quickly.


"Federal Court Management Statistics, 2004," Administrative Office of the US Courts.

"Federal Judicial Vacancies Archive," Administrative Office of the US Courts, Accessed 5 May 2005.


Privacy Experts Scoff at Government's Plans to Secure E-Passports
Privacy Experts Scoff at Government's Plans to Secure E-Passports
By Lisa Vaas

Security experts and civil libertarians reacted with skepticism to the government's recent decision to reconsider data protection measures for new RFID passports. The "e-passports," as they've been nicknamed, were originally slated for spring release in the Los Angeles Passport Agency but are now planned for issuance in August beginning with diplomatic passports, according to a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Frank Moss, deputy assistant secretary for passport services at the U.S. State Department, on Monday told news outlets that the rollout of proposed radio frequency identification technology for passports will be delayed until RFID's privacy and security vulnerabilities are resolved.

The State Department has previously claimed that the data on the 64-bit RFID tags—name, date of birth, place of birth (a datum that the ACLU claims is a key to identity theft), a digital photograph and a digital face recognition template—can only be read at a distance of 10 centimeters. That has been disproved by a demonstration in April at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Seattle and by studies that prove that the radio tags' readable distance is as far away as 30 feet.

The question, privacy advocates say, is why the RFID technology is needed at all.

"Why do they feel they need to use an RFID chip?" asked Ari Schwartz, an associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, in Washington. "They're saying [e-passports] can be read 3 to 4 inches away. To me, why be 3 to 4 inches away? When you could just have [a chip that required reader] contact?"

The State Department is now considering two means of protecting data: encryption and metal threads in the passport booklet cover that would hamper data reading unless the booklet were to be opened. Data would be encrypted as it's transmitted from the radio chip to a reader. In addition, the reader would be required to provide a key or password before being enabled to read data on the RFID chip.

In other words, privacy advocates said, the government is opting to render hand's-free radio technology into hand's-on technology.

"Whereas before they had this wonderful dream of people being able to walk along and ping people as they walked along through airports and other areas and suck information off passports—which would be fine and wonderful, [because that's] what RFID is for; it's radio frequency—now they've moved away, and they're putting little tin cover hats on the covers of passports and encrypting the data on the chip," said Bill Scannell, a publicist, freelance privacy activist and former government intelligence officer who recently launched an Internet campaign called RFID Kills to stop the government from deploying RFID in passports.

"In order to get access, they'll scan the [machine readable code on the passport cover], which is what they do now, and take off a number, and beam that at the chip, and it would dump information back to you," he said.

"What's bad about this?" Scannell said. "It's a completely inappropriate use of the technology. The purpose of RFID is you don't have to touch or have contact with anything. Now you have to have contact. You're adding more time to the procedure, to make it do stuff it's not meant to do."

At issue is the potential for data skimming, where identity thieves carry scanners in, for example, briefcases, passing close by travelers and snatching their personal information.

Some security experts scoff at the idea of thieves wasting their time fishing for personal data in airports when there are bigger payloads available in databases.

"I'm not that worried about RFID," said Pete Lindstrom, research director of Spire Security LLC. "You're at the wrong end of the spectrum. It's on the read end. If someone's going to do a [big data theft], they'll go to the database and do a massive snag."

But privacy advocates classify such thinking as naïve: If it can be done, it will be done, they say. And as far as the government's acquiescence to look at data encryption, such a security practice won't help for most of the problem, said Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security Inc., since RFID tags require anti-collision protocols and a unique identification number.

The unique ID would still be broadcast and couldn't be encrypted, lest yammering tags all talk at once and say the same thing. "The problem we worry about is tracking," Schneier said. "It's still a unique number. You can still track people but you can't identify someone."

What's wrong with that, if the unique identifier doesn't reveal personal information? They would create, in effect, a global identification number.

"People get worried about national ID numbers," Scannell said. "What about an international number? Your own, unique identification number. That's what you'd end up with in the machine-readable part of the passport. A hash of the crypto that's unique and becomes a national identifier number. That would be scanned and beamed to the chip.

"I think that's truly frightening," he said. "For the first time in history, together with some 40 other countries, we'd have a unique identification number. You don't have to go into the mark of the beast world to find this awful."


H-1B visa expansion clarified

H-1B visa expansion clarified

By Ed Frauenheim

Federal officials have announced long-awaited guidelines for how 20,000 new H-1B guest worker visas will be awarded this year.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency in charge of the controversial visa program, on Wednesday said the visas will be reserved for foreign workers who have received a master's or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education.

Confusion had swirled around the 20,000 visas, which Congress added last year to the H-1B program's annual cap of 65,000 visas. USCIS in March indicated the additional visas would be available this year to a range of workers--not just to those with advanced degrees. That upset a business group, which accused the agency of reversing its position and undercutting congressional aims.

H-1B visas have long been a flashpoint of debate in the tech industry. Microsoft leader Bill Gates stirred up the pot recently by calling for the elimination of H-1B visa caps.

Thirty-nine percent of visa petitions approved in 2003 were for workers in computer-related occupations, with nearly 37 percent of all approvals that year for workers born in India.
Disharmony on your cell phone

Critics have blasted the H-1B program as undermining U.S. wages, being ripe for abuse and fueling the shift of skilled work overseas. Industry leaders have said the visas serve instead as a brake on offshoring. They have also rejected the claim that H-1Bs amount to a cheap-labor program, defending the visas as a means to fill shortages and give U.S. companies access to international talent as they compete globally.

The annual cap, which primarily applies to applications for initial employment, has fluctuated over the years. It fell from 195,000 in 2003 to 65,000 in 2004, when employers hit the visa limit less than halfway through the government's fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The cap for 2005 was reached on the very first day of the fiscal year. Provisions of the new H-1B law went into effect in March, but employers have not been able to apply yet for new visas for this year.

Applications for the additional 20,000 visas for this year will be accepted beginning next Thursday, May 12, USCIS said, assuming the new regulations are published according to schedule the in the Federal Register.


Army to Issue Combat Badge For Soldiers Not in Infantry
Army to Issue Combat Badge For Soldiers Not in Infantry

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer

Any Army soldier who has seen active combat while in Iraq or Afghanistan may now receive a new "Combat Action Badge," making tens of thousands of soldiers who are not in the infantry ranks -- including women -- eligible for a combat award for the first time.

The new award, which the Army announced yesterday, means that the thousands of soldiers who are exposed to enemy action but are not officially in combat roles can earn a prestigious badge for being involved in the fight. Army officials said the badge was designed to honor soldiers such as military police, truck drivers and fuel specialists who face perilous situations while doing their jobs in the ongoing wars.

"It recognizes that in the current realities of the battlefield, an insurgency, any soldier could be subject to a combat situation," said Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman. "It's going to be a tremendous morale booster to soldiers."

The Army has not designed or chosen colors for the badge, which would be worn above the left pocket of a soldier's dress uniform. The badges should begin appearing in military clothing stores by the end of the summer.

The badge is the first non-medical combat distinction to honor women who are caught in battle during U.S. wars, largely because women are not assigned to frontline combat duties.

The war in Iraq has demonstrated that any soldier -- from a cook to a driver to an infantryman -- can be exposed to insurgent attacks, and the Army is seeking to honor anyone who "is personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy."

Curtin said the award is retroactive to Sept. 18, 2001, the date President Bush authorized the wars against terrorism, and applies to all soldiers around the world who are assigned to an area where hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay is authorized, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.


In Kansas, A Sharp Debate on Evolution

In Kansas, A Sharp Debate on Evolution
Educators Consider Intelligent Design

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005; A01

TOPEKA, Kan., May 5 -- Debating a question that the scientific establishment considers settled, Kansas education authorities put evolutionary theory on trial Thursday in a hearing marked by sharp exchanges over Earth's origins and what students should be taught in science class.

Scientists who support the idea of intelligent design, a set of assumptions that challenges established scientific thinking, told an approving Kansas State Board of Education subcommittee that modern Darwinian theory relies too much on unproven reasoning. Gaps in the science, they argued, leave open the possibility that a creator, or an unidentified "designing mind," is responsible for earthly development.

It would not be far-fetched, said William S. Harris, a Kansas City researcher who favors intelligent design, to conclude that DNA itself is the work of an intelligent being. Students, he said, should be told that.

Outside the auditorium, scientists and educators dismissed the arguments as claptrap.

"It's clear from the beginning that this is not a real science discussion. This is a showcase for intelligent design," said Jack Krebs, vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, which is boycotting the four days of hearings. "They have created a straw man. They are trying to make science stand for atheism so they can fight atheism."

The debate is the highest-profile confrontation over evolutionary theory in years, pitting the impassioned corps of anti-Darwinists against a scientific establishment that considers the evidence of the chemical and biological origins of life to be beyond dispute. It was made possible by Republican gains in November elections that gave the Kansas board a 6-4 conservative majority.

Local and national science organizations are so disturbed by the proceedings that they are boycotting them, apart from advising Pedro Irigonegaray, a civil rights and defense lawyer recruited to defend the existing Kansas science standards. On the eve of the hearings, he predicted a "whitewash" but said he would fight nonetheless.

"I had a delicious fantasy," the Cuban-born Irigonegaray said with a smile, recalling the offer to defend evolutionary theory. "I saw myself in a large courtroom, the fan moving slowly over my head, perhaps a skull in my hand, while I'm cross-examining a key witness."

Take away the television cameras and the PowerPoint presentations, and Thursday's scene bore a resemblance to the 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tenn., where a high school science teacher was famously convicted of violating a state law forbidding the teaching of evolution. This time, said Bruce Chapman, a former Reagan administration Census Bureau director, "This is the Scopes trial turned on its head."

Chapman heads the Discovery Institute, whose Seattle offices overlooking Puget Sound have become the headquarters of the intelligent design movement, which posits that modern Darwinian theory is limited and that life is too complex to be explained by evolutionary theory alone. An early witness was Jonathan Wells, a Discovery senior fellow who described himself as "an old Berkeley antiwar radical" who loves controversy.

Wells confirmed during cross-examination that he was a member of the Unification Church when he earned doctorates in theology from Yale and in biology from the University of California at Berkeley. In an Internet posting distributed outside the meeting by Kansas Citizens for Science, Wells refers to church leader Sun Myung Moon, saying, "Father's words, my studies and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism."

Testifying to the three-member education committee, Wells described himself as an embryologist and theologian, and said evolutionary theory "has left the realm of science" and instead has become a given, leaving many conclusions unproven. He described the common scientific conclusion that all living things come from a common ancestor as essentially an act of faith.

Harris, a specialist in omega-3 fatty acids, delivered the opening statement and outline of the testimony ahead. He said an essential goal of the hearings is to prove there is a scientific controversy about evolutionary theory and hence criticism that should be added to the school curriculum. A 26-member science standards committee concluded in March that the curriculum should remain unchanged. Harris and seven other members disagreed.

Harris disputed the accepted wisdom that ancient simple life forms became ever more complex, evolving over billions of years into human beings, beavers, tarpon and a multitude of other life forms. He also said it would not be an "irresponsible deduction from the data" to say the genetic code contained in DNA was produced by an intelligent "mind."

"Who's the designer?" asked Harris, a co-founder of Intelligent Design Network Inc. "I don't know."

Usually it is the evolution forces that accuse the intelligent design side of wanting to teach religion in science class. But Harris said educators who teach Darwinian evolution effectively introduce religion by rejecting the possibility that God created the universe and all living things.

Asked where he saw atheism in the Kansas science standards, Harris replied, "I see it between the lines."

Early in his remarks, Harris projected a strategy letter from a Kansas Citizens for Science member onto a large screen on stage. It said the way to defeat the anti-evolution forces was be to portray them as political opportunists, evangelical activists, unprincipled bullies and ignoramuses.

"Are we ignoramuses?" Harris asked the committee members. "Well, you'll have to decide."


Smile, perv - you're busted!

Smile, perv - you're busted!

Girls snap cell phone photo in subway & run for cops


A subway pervert was caught in a flash yesterday by feisty Catholic schoolgirls armed with a cell phone camera in Queens, cops and witnesses said.

The suspect sicko flashed the teens twice last week as they rode the F train toward their high school in Jamaica Estates.

He got away - but made the mistake of lurking inside the 179th St. station yesterday just as the girls stepped off the train at 7:30 a.m.

Terrified, but determined to get the creep arrested, one of the girls snapped his photo with her cell phone and ran to NYPD Officer Vincent Tieniber for help, police sources said.

"The cop looked at the picture, ran down to the platform and spots the guy getting on a train," a high-ranking police source said.

"He grabs him and takes him upstairs where the girl IDs him," the source said. "A little bit of new-age policing."

The alleged pervert, 57-year-old vagrant Wilfredo Ponte, was wearing the same brown pants, short-sleeved button-down burgundy shirt, silver jacket and black shoes he had on Monday morning, police sources said. He wore the same ensemble last night when he was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court and held on $3,000 bond.

Although police say he told a detective, "Maybe I did it, maybe I didn't," his Legal Aid attorney said Ponte is no flasher.

Lawyer Joseph DiFlumeri said, "Mr. Ponte adamantly denies the allegations in the complaint. He's frustrated, he's upset that he's being accused of this."

The girls' principal at Mary Louis Academy, Sister Kathleen McKinney, said she was proud of her plucky students.

"Our girls wanted him arrested," she said. "They didn't want him doing this to anyone else. They were willing to do what they did to stop him."

A token booth clerk who helped the freshmen from nearby Mary Louis Academy praised them for staying calm and taking the photo.

"The girls came running up. They were really upset, but one had gotten the guy's picture, and wanted him stopped," said the clerk, who asked not to be named.

"For a grown man to be exposing himself to children at 7:30 in the morning, it's terrible," the clerk said. "That girl deserves a lot of credit for getting him off the street."

Ponte was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child and public lewdness.

Ponte is apparently homeless - the address he gave cops turned out to be a Bronx bridal shop where one of his longtime friends works.

"He liked little girls," said the friend, Eva Santana, who described Ponte as a homeless man who often visited E&E Bridal on Westchester Ave.

"He liked to see the girls go by," she said. "We used to say, 'Get married, get an apartment.' But he wouldn't do it. He needed help. We told him every day, but he didn't want it."

Ponte targeted the girls because he was attracted by their freshman uniforms - baby blue shirts and gray skirts, a police source said.

Ponte's arrest brought some comfort to the parents and students, even as some of the girls remained shaken.

"I'm in a really bad state of mind," one of the teens said yesterday through her apartment door.

"She's scared," said her mother. "She's only 14."

Caught on camera

Pictures taken with cell phones have helped nab a host of suspects:

# In Utah last week, cops said photos stored in a 31-year-old man's cell phone led to his arrest for sexually assaulting at least two kids. The suspect's friend saw the images and called police.

# Two Atlantic City bandits snapped pictures of themselves carrying an AK-47 that had been used to shoot three men last December. Cops found the photos when a suspect's cell phone kept ringing - as he was being interrogated.

# Last August, a 15-year-old Clifton, N.J., boy helped nab a man who tried to lure him into his car, cops said. The kid used his cell phone to snap the creep's license plate. Cops grabbed the 59-year-old suspect the next day.


GOP Retracts Report Dems Call Slanderous

GOP Retracts Report Dems Call Slanderous

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- After a week of Democratic protests, Republicans agreed on Thursday to change a report that had said the Democrats' amendments to an abortion bill could assist sexual predators.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a floor speech that the changes made to the House Judiciary Committee report were "a tacit acknowledgment of the inaccuracy and untruthfulness of the original report."

He commended the committee chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., for the change and said he hoped that, "with this correction of the slanderous report language, this unfortunate chapter can be brought to a close."

The dispute involved a bill, passed by the House last week, that would criminalize the transporting of a minor across state lines to get an abortion.

The report accompanying the bill, normally a dry, unremarkable explanation, set off protests because of the way it described several Democratic amendments, all defeated by the committee.

It said Nadler, who wanted to exempt some relatives from the act, "offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution under the bill if they were grandparents or adult siblings of a minor."

On Tuesday Democrats offered a resolution, defeated on a party-line vote, accusing the Republican majority of deliberately mischaracterizing the amendments.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi demanded that Sensenbrenner apologize for "the disgusting misrepresentations."

Sensenbrenner, refused to back down, saying that "we were accurate, and if you do not want this to happen again, draft your amendments properly."

But on Thursday Sensenbrenner filed, without speaking on the House floor, the amended report that removed the references to sexual predators.

It did provide comment, common in reports, from the majority side expressing concerns that the amendments would create loopholes that sexual predators could exploit, and dissenting views from the Democratic side denying that this was the intent or effect of the amendments.


The abortion bill is H.R. 748

On the Net:



Terror Suspect Gets Bush Fundraiser Invite

Terror Suspect Gets Bush Fundraiser Invite

Associated Press Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A year after federal agents raided his home in a terrorism investigation, Muslim businessman Syed Maswood is lucky to get on an airplane without being detained and searched. But that didn't stop him from getting an invitation to dine with President Bush.

Maswood, a nuclear engineer who has not been charged with any crime and has been trying for months to get his name off no-fly lists, received an invitation to serve as an honorary chairman at a Republican fundraiser with Bush in Washington next month.

A Republican who has donated money to GOP campaigns, Maswood said he briefly considered attending but his wife refused to fly. The last time they were in Washington, he said, they were held for hours at the airport.

"I didn't want to go stag," Maswood said, "and she's absolutely adamant."

FBI and Homeland Security agents raided Maswood's home last year because he donated money to the Benevolence International Foundation, a once IRS-approved charity that was accused of supporting terrorism.

Investigators also said they uncovered an e-mail Maswood sent indicating support for Islamic rebels in Chechnya, but Maswood said he was simply trying to help humanitarian workers in the war-torn region.

A Bangladeshi immigrant who became an American citizen in 1997, Maswood spent much of the past year writing letters demanding to know why he is detained whenever he travels.

The U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut had no comment Thursday.

The President's Dinner is the National Republican Congressional Committee's largest annual fundraiser. Carl Forti, spokesman for the NRCC, said Maswood wouldn't have to worry about being hassled if he attends.

Only guests who pay for a photo with Bush are required to undergo security checks, Forti said.

Maswood said he voted for Bush in 2000 but not in 2004.

"I supported President Bush. I supported President Bush on Iraq. I really think he's a good guy," Maswood said. "But when you become a victim of this kind of thing over and over again, it becomes personal."