Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bush's Best Speech Ever Bounces Approval Rating to 94%
Bush's Best Speech Ever Bounces Approval Rating to 94%
Davis Sweet

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are not those of George W. Bush, the Bush administration, the Republican party, or affiliates of the aforementioned. Any confusion by the reader is purely unconscionable.)

(Transcript courtesy Imaginary News Network) GEORGE BUSH: My fellow Americans, I speak to you today as a new man. Born again, again, you might say. And I intend to stand up for both my new beliefs and my core beliefs, because now I know that anything less is a betrayal of my sacred duty as a president and as a man.

The first positive action I intend to take is to ask the Congress to abandon every butt-covering bill my staff has inflicted upon them. My administration is shown to have broken the law, and retroactively changing the law is the action of a weak tyrant, not a democratically elected citizen president. My administration will work within the law at all times from this moment on. We will secure necessary warrants for necessary intelligence operations. We will respect our international and simply human obligations by closing down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and all other extralegal detention operations. Detainees we believe have committed crimes will face criminal charges; all others will be returned to their homes.

In conjunction with this Congressional action, I will ask for committees to be convened to examine and hopefully confirm replacements for my Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, Attorney General, and Vice President. I will further be replacing my chief of staff, my press secretary, and several officials with less prominent but still influential positions. Though I can assure you they're fine people, these members of my cabinet have been irredeemably corrupted by purely political considerations and are no longer able to function effectively as this country's representatives.

I understand and frequently share your frustration and fears about our struggle in Iraq, but I cannot call for the immediate withdrawal of American troops without dooming the new country to much worse than anyone deserves. The path forward in Iraq, while complicated, ultimately leads in only two directions: order and death. If America continues to police the country, order is not possible.

I will, however, convene a summit within two weeks from today between myself and all the leaders of our friends, allies, and others in the region to arrange for a new military and police force that is not only overwhelming in strength, but also overwhelmingly Arab. Regardless of the outcome of that meeting, the United States will withdraw 25 percent of our troops within 30 days, the entire remaining force being redeployed outside of Iraq within six months from today. If violent extremists want to kidnap, shame, and kill Egyptians, Yemenis, and Saudis, I agree with experts on the region that any remaining insurgency will be quashed in short order.

Later this year, in what I believe will be the culmination of the war on terrorism, I will call for the world's wealthiest nations to join the United States in helping to industrialize and modernize not only the Arab world but also the too-long-neglected continent of Africa. I have come to understand that poverty and hunger are the greatest sponsors of terrorism, and as long as we have the means to combat those evils, we will.

Our citizens are dying and being impoverished by a healthcare system whose goals do not include promoting health. I will ask Congress to present a bill before the upcoming election guaranteeing universal health coverage for all Americans.

I am a man of faith, and I do not believe God would allow us to completely poison the planet with unclean air, water, and food. At the same time I understand that we are making a considerable mess, and we cannot ask God to clean up after us. I am having executive orders drafted that will pledge clean and safe air, water, and food for all Americans, and I will work to extend that pledge around the globe.

In the coming tumultuous weeks and throughout the remainder of my term, I will work to establish the Bush administration as the hallmark of responsible, ambitious action for the good of our nation and our world. Please accept my humble apology for forgetting who I work for.

America is a strong, generous, and good country, and it can no longer afford weak, short-sighted, and deficient leadership.

God bless you, and God bless this great nation. Good night.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are not those of George W. Bush, the Bush administration, the Republican party, or affiliates of the aforementioned. Any confusion by the reader is purely unconscionable.)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are not those of George W. Bush, the Bush administration, the Republican party, or affiliates of the aforementioned. Any confusion by the reader is purely unconscionable.)


Moe, Larry and Curly?
Moe, Larry and Curly?
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer

Boy, talk about tough love!

No sooner do I finish writing yesterday's column about the press covering the Democrats groping for a message than one prominent progressive sends them a message that might be aptly summarized as a one-finger salute.

Jake Weisberg, the editor of Slate, an unabashed liberal, a Kerry voter in 2004, co-author of a book with Robert Rubin, presumably has something to say about the headlines on his Web site. So I gather he has no problem with calling the party's leading lights "The Three Stooges."

This is no wishy-washy analysis. Weisberg seems fightin' mad at the House minority leader, Senate minority leader and chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

I would contend that no set of Democratic leaders--remember all the complaints about Daschle and Gephardt?--could mastermind the perfect opposition when the Beltway balance of power is so seriously out of whack. And maybe they've hatched a secret plot to have the Republicans soften up President Bush. When a GOP-controlled committee votes 62 to 2 to reject a ports deal that the president says is necessary, you don't necessarily need to do a lot of screaming and yelling. (We'll get to the ports meltdown in a few moments.)

As for forging a positive agenda, there are certainly questions about whether anyone but the junkies is paying attention in March of an election year. The Democrats, in fact, probably wish the election was, say, tomorrow.

But the Weisberg piece makes clear that there is major-league exasperation with the Democratic leadership:

"Nancy Pelosi epitomizes [the] problem. To understand her politics, think Huffington Post without the flashes of wit. Here is a typical Bush-bashing, cliché-ridden quote of hers: 'The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality? Pull this curtain back!'

"Pelosi dismisses people who disagree as hoodwinked or stupid. She's not exactly Hillary Clinton herself, though. A five-minute interview is usually sufficient to exhaust her knowledge on any subject. And she can flop around like a fish. When Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., proposed a pullout, or 'redeployment,' of U.S. troops from Iraq in November, Pelosi's first reaction was to isolate him. 'Mr. Murtha speaks for himself,' she said. But after taking a drubbing from left-wing bloggers and her anti-war constituents, she announced that she supported Murtha after all. This shored up her image as Washington's answer to Barbra Streisand, and set up Dick Cheney to paint the Democrats as defeatist and unsupportive of our troops in Iraq.

"Reid's flaws are mostly a mirror image of Pelosi's. A Mormon convert who grew up in a working-class family in a small town, he doesn't dabble in Hollywood politics. Reid voted for the Iraq war resolution, and is anti-gun-control, anti-gay marriage, and--most shocking for a Democratic figurehead--anti-abortion. But as a leader, he's colorless and erratic. Most of the time, he's a study in gray, except when he livens it up with a spasm of random aggression. Reid has called Alan Greenspan a 'hack,' Bush a loser and a liar, and, in one off-the-mark, vaguely racist-sounding rant, charged that Clarence Thomas' opinions were poorly written. . . .

"After calling for more Supreme Court justices as brilliant as Antonin Scalia, he recommended that Bush nominate his undistinguished flunky Harriet Miers. Moreover, Reid's own pork-barreling and lobbyist-courting suggest that making him majority leader would merely replace the Republican hackocracy in Congress with a Democratic hackocracy...

"Howard Dean is smarter than either Pelosi or Reid and clearly stands for something. Unfortunately, what he stands for in the minds of most people is incandescent rage and upscale socialism. Dean has an unfortunate knack for making himself the issue, even when, as lately, he's trying to maintain a low profile. His injudicious comment about the GOP being the party of white Christians was followed by his statement that 'the idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.' Such gaffes lead to endless debate about how Howard Dean is screwing up, rather than about how Bush is screwing up."

Too bad the above mentioned politicians don't blog; I'd love to run their response.

All right, let's check in on Dubya's Dubai Disaster, and the deal's collapse:

"The decision came just hours after a delegation of Republican leaders in Congress told President Bush in an Oval Office meeting that Congress would act within days to block the company's acquisition of the United States port terminals in the name of national security, lawmakers present said," reports the New York Times .

"It was not immediately clear whether that concession alone would appease the bipartisan chorus against a Bush administration-brokered arrangement to let the Middle Eastern firm manage port facilities in New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans," says the Los Angeles Times .

"The announcement was an extraordinary retreat that signaled a shift in the power relationship between the White House and Congress," says the Philadelphia Inquirer . "Bush has been unused to losing. But this time, the Republican-led House, which has been a rubber stamp for Bush the last five years, was the first to revolt."

"Not since Watergate, when GOP congressional leaders told Richard Nixon they would vote him from office if he didn't resign, have Capitol Hill Republicans challenged their President like this," says the New York Daily News .

Back to the Democratic infighting: Another intramural spat has broken out over the loss of Ciro Rodriguez, favored candidate of the liberal bloggers, in a House Democratic primary in Texas.

Kos sees a silver lining:

"The bottom line: we helped a campaign that was the walking dead and gave it new life, pumped in resources, and made it competitive. We did much to even the playing field even if ultimately we came up tantalizingly short.

"And yeah, I know 'tantalizingly short', alongside 'moral victories', is about as desirable as the Bubonic Plague. We want more. But this is a long-term movement, building from nothing."

This set off the New Republic's Jason Zengerle :

"It's bizarre that these very same bloggers are always so eager to celebrate moral victories. After Howard Dean went down to defeat, they boasted about how they took a virtual nobody to the precipice of victory. Ditto for Paul Hackett. And the same thing is happening today now that Ciro Rodriguez--the former Texas congressman who became a blog darling after his Democratic primary opponent, incumbent Congressman Henry Cuellar, was shown hugging President Bush at the State of the Union--has apparently lost. . . .

"Electoral politics in the United States is a zero-sum game and, at some point, these bloggers are going to have to make enough of a difference to actually win a race--something they've so far failed to do. . . .

"But more often than not, these liberal bloggers (especially Kos) act like they already have taken over the world--writing manifestoes, issuing threats, and engaging in all sorts of chest-thumping behavior. But, like I said, their batting average is still a big fat zero."

Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum begs to differ:

"Look, this slam from Jason Zengerle is just unfair. Yes, Ciro Rodriguez, the Kos/Atrios/etc. candidate, lost fairly badly to Henry Cuellar in Texas last night, and yes, this means that liberal blogs continue to have a batting average that makes the '62 Mets look good. But Rome wasn't built in a day. I imagine the Kossacks will learn from their mistakes and figure out how to do better in the future."

Anyway, why not include the media in this sort of sniping? Salon's Peter Daou has had it with the host of "Hardball":

"The case against Chris Matthews is simple: he is not neutral. He channels a right-leaning perspective. This wouldn't be an issue if he and his employers acknowledged it, but a viewer who doesn't have the time or resources to analyze Hardball's content may well assimilate the pro-GOP spin unwittingly. As I've written recently, it's the seemingly neutral reporters who do the most insidious damage to our public discourse, augmenting and magnifying the filth spewed by legions of liberal-haters like Limbaugh and Hannity."

But isn't Chris one of the most opinionated guys on television? And aren't viewers smart enough to figure out where he stands and whether they agree with him?

The liberal Raw Story says Matthews "has accepted hefty speaking fees from conservative groups," but adds that "can't be proven whether Matthews has taken money from the groups." The "conservative" groups are basically corporate trade associations such as the Mortgage Bankers Association and American Hospital Association.

Okay, the same-side slams aren't only on the liberal side. Michelle Malkin was against the ports deal early and often, and now says:

"Already, the House Republicans are being dismissed as hysterical political opportunists. There will be a new round of race-card playing and accusations of Islamophobia against them. They will be lambasted for betraying President Bush.

"But if they are guilty of anything, the House Republicans who are revolting on this issue are guilty of doing something the incompetent staffers at the White House can't seem to do very well these days: listen and respond effectively to their constituents. When all is said and done, security-minded Americans would rather not see management of terminals at our U.S. ports in the hands of an Arab state-owned company whose government officials not only provided cover to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 and created a ripe environment that facilitated al Qaeda financing and remained a logistical hub after 9/11, but who also still maintain a catch-and-release policy toward terror suspects, deny the existence of our established ally, Israel, and may be providing material support for terrorism even as they welcome U.S. military forces to their shores. . . .

"House Republicans continue to get overwhelmingly negative feedback from their constituents about the deal. The message is clear: Bush is blowing it. Will all the brilliant GOP political strategists--the ones who are always telling us the American people know best and that the Republican Party is most in tune with ordinary citizens--now reprimand House GOP members for taking the electorate's pulse and reacting to bona fide national security concerns?"

And in the some-things-never-change department:

"Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was sentenced yesterday to three years of probation and ordered to pay almost $250,000 in delinquent taxes and interest for failing to file federal and city returns in 2000," says the Washington Times .

Oh, and don't forget this: "Mr. Barry's legal problems were compounded when he tested positive for cocaine during a drug screening shortly after his plea agreement last year."

Here's the tale of a Mexican paper that buried news of five murders because of threats from drug traffickers.

Speaking of violence, check out this "60 Minutes" release on the planned murder of a Boston columnist:

"The man who helped James 'Whitey' Bulger, the FBI's most wanted criminal, to rule Boston's streets through murder, robbery and drug dealing says he also tried to silence one of the city's top newspaper and radio personalities for Bulger. Kevin Weeks tells Ed Bradley in his first interview that he had radio talker and Boston Herald Columnist Howie Carr in his rifle sight but couldn't pull the trigger because Carr was with his daughter.

"Bulger and Weeks wanted Carr dead because the journalist wrote and spoke about their crimes constantly. After a plan to put an exploding basketball in Carr's driveway was abandoned for fear it would harm neighbors, he and Bulger decided on a more direct way. 'I was down at his house . . . about 5:30 in the morning, across the street in a cemetery with a rifle, waiting for him to come out," says Weeks. "And he come [sic] out . . . between 7:15, 7:30 and he had his daughter with him. I assume it was his daughter, young girl. He was holding her by the hand, going to his car. So I had to pass on it,' he tells Bradley. 'I didn't want to kill him in front of his daughter.'

"Carr lived across from a cemetery and acknowledges the possibility that Weeks may have been there, but believes Bulger was more apt to commit such a bold crime. 'It doesn't seem like Kevin would have the stones to do it. . . . If he said Whitey was there, well,' Carr tells Bradley, 'you wouldn't be interviewing me, because I'd be dead.' "

Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp on a profile in non-courage in South Dakota:

"Although the biggest abortion rights story in 33 years is taking place in its own backyard, South Dakota's largest newspaper will not editorialize on the controversial statewide abortion ban just recently approved by its legislature.

"'Part of it was that we wouldn't change people's minds, and part of it, regardless of which side we came down on this, is that people would read into it things that are not true,' Chuck Baldwin, editorial page editor of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., told E&P. 'People would think our coverage is tainted, and not just on abortion but on everything.' "

Um, in that case, why have an editorial page?


About That Rebellion ...

The New York Times
About That Rebellion ...

We keep hearing that the Republicans in Congress are in revolt against the president.

Some rebellion.

Yes, the Republicans defied President Bush on the United Arab Emirates ports deal. But it wasn't over a major principle, like the collapse of Congressional supervision of the executive branch or the incredibly lax security in the nation's ports, or even the security issues posed by this particular deal.

The Republicans dumped the ports deal into the harbor because of xenophobia and electoral tactics. Republican pollsters have been saying the president could be a liability in the fall elections, so lawmakers posed as rebels for voters who, they think, want rebels. They know those voters are unhappy about globalization, and specifically hostile toward Arabs.

The idea that a happy few are charging the White House ramparts is ridiculous. Republican lawmakers don't just turn a blind eye when they learn that the president is making profoundly bad choices, like cutting constitutional corners, abrogating treaties and even breaking the law. They actually legalize the president's misdeeds.

Take domestic spying, held up as another area of Republican revolt. The program violates the law. Congress knows it. The public knows it. Even President Bush knows it. (He just says the law doesn't apply to him.) In response, the Capitol Hill rebels are boldly refusing to investigate the program — or any other warrantless spying that is going on. They are trying to rewrite the law to legalize warrantless spying. And meanwhile, they've created new subcommittees to help the president go on defying the law.

Over the last couple of years, Republican lawmakers have been given proof that American soldiers and intelligence agents abused, tortured and even killed prisoners, or sent them to other countries to be tortured. Without hesitation, the Republicans did nothing — no serious investigation, no accountability.

Congressional and White House negotiators then watered down the new anti-torture law, which Mr. Bush said did not really apply to him anyway. And they passed another law actually encouraging the abuse of prisoners by allowing the use of coerced evidence at hearings on the prisoners' status.

After 9/11, Mr. Bush created a network of prisons outside the American legal system so he could hold people indefinitely without any hearings. When the Supreme Court said twice that he was reaching beyond his powers, the Republicans in Congress were determined not to let this assault on the rule of law continue. So they rose as one, and legalized the president's actions. In case there was any confusion about its resolve, Congress told the courts that they could no longer rule on these matters. Mr. Bush got the message, loud and clear. He sent his lawyers right out to inform the judges, including the Supreme Court, that they had to drop all the cases that were already before them.

And all this does not even include the act of open rebellion by which the Senate is helping the White House cover up the hyping of intelligence on Iraq.

With rebels like these, who needs loyalists?


CIA must give Libby intel summaries, judge rules

CIA must give Libby intel summaries, judge rules
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA must provide summaries of its top-secret intelligence briefings to a former vice presidential aide so he can defend himself against perjury charges, a U.S. judge ruled on Friday.

The ruling is a surprise victory for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who is charged with lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury during an investigation into who disclosed the identity of a CIA operative in 2003 after her husband criticized the Bush administration.

Libby's attorneys have sought access to his daily CIA security briefings to bolster his defense that he was too preoccupied with national-security matters to accurately remember conversations with news reporters about the operative, Valerie Plame.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has called the request a tactic to get the case thrown out of court. That tactic could prove successful if the government refuses to turn over the briefings, which have been described as among the most sensitive in government.

Judge Reggie Walton ruled that the CIA must give Libby copies of the reports with classified information removed, or a separate summary of the topics covered in each briefing.

Walton also ruled that the CIA should tell Libby what inquiries he made during the briefings, which could help show what he had on his mind during the time in question.

"Preparation of this defense can be accomplished with a general topic description of the matters presented to the defendant during his morning intelligence briefings. These general descriptions ... would provide the defendant everything he needs to prepare his preoccupation defense," Walton wrote.

Libby had sought access to nearly a year's worth of intelligence briefs leading up to his appearance before the grand jury in March 2004.

He scaled back his request this week after the CIA said it would take at least nine months to produce the documents.

Walton said the CIA must turn over briefings presented to Libby in the month and a half before Plame's identity was exposed by columnist Robert Novak in July 2003, as well as during periods when Libby spoke to the FBI and the grand jury.

The White House and CIA have until March 24 to challenge the order, Walton said.

One expert said the ruling came as a surprise


"I don't think anyone was expecting Judge Walton to grant this motion," said former U.S. prosecutor Scott Fredericksen, a white-collar criminal defense attorney with Foley & Lardner. "I don't think people felt he had a real compelling reason."

Libby spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said she was still reading the opinion and not ready to comment.

A Fitzgerald spokesman declined comment.

Libby is scheduled to go to trial in January 2007.


US academic says targeted by FBI over Venezuela

US academic says targeted by FBI over Venezuela
By Saul Hudson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. academic accused the FBI on Friday of trying to silence his criticism of Bush administration policy toward Venezuela, further straining ties between Washington and the major oil supplier.

Venezuela seized on agents' questioning of the professor, condemning it in a statement as "a violation of the freedoms of expression, thought and academic inquiry, and ... a desperate attempt to link Venezuela to terrorism."

The FBI did not address the accusations directly but said in a statement it had conducted an "informational interview" ofMiguel Tinker Salas, a history professor at Pomona College, a liberal arts university in California.

The State Department said the United States did not have a policy of targeting academics critical of U.S. policy.

Tinker Salas said two agents of an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force questioned him this week at his offices about his contacts with the Venezuelan Embassy.

"The intent was to intimidate," the Venezuelan-born American citizen told Reuters.

He said the agents asked if his opinions about U.S. policy had been influenced by the embassy and told him Venezuelans living in the United States were "of interest" to the task force, whose job is to prevent terrorist attacks.

Jonathan Knight, who directs a national program to protect academic freedom, said that if the allegations were true, it appeared the FBI wanted to silence a professor using tactics that he had not seen since the persecution of academics perceived as pro-Communist in the 1950s.

"A faculty member being confronted by two law enforcement agents could have a cautionary effect because what he can expect is that the U.S. government is watching his views," said Knight of the American Association of University Professors. "This is treading very much on his freedom."

Tinker Salas, whose recent work includes a book analyzing Venezuelan politics since President Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998, said he would not be cowed.

Chavez has said the Bush administration wants to designate Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism. That would lead to sanctions against the South American country, which for years has been one of the top oil suppliers to the United States.

Ties reached their worst point earlier this year when the two countries expelled diplomats in a dispute over spying charges.

Chavez, an ally of U.S. foe Cuban President Fidel Castro, has insulted senior U.S. officials and, flush with windfall oil revenue, galvanized popular anti-American sentiment in the region by opposing American policies, particularly on trade.

Like many U.S. political analysts critical of the Bush administration's policy toward Latin America, Tinker Salas believes the United States is stoking tensions with Venezuela by seeking to create the impression it is a threat.

"They want to put Venezuela in a kind of 'axis-of-evil' with Iran and North Korea," he said.


Friday, March 10, 2006

First the Scandal, Then the Coverup
Miles Mogulescu: First the Scandal, Then the Coverup

For the past two months, Bush's unconstitutional and illegal wiretapping, and his justification that as Commander In Chief he has the right to violate the law, seemed to be brewing as a major controversy that could hurt the Republicans in the Fall elections. Now, with the collusion of the Republican Senate, and the weakness of the Democrat's response, further information about the President's illegal actions will likely be covered up. With no new information available to the media, along with the Bush administration threatening to prosecute for espionage any investigative reporters who might reveal new information from a confidential source, the scandal, like so many others of the Bush administration, will likely disappear from significant media coverage.

On Tuesday, in a party-line vote, The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to block a congressional investigation of Bush's warrentless wiretapping. Even such so-called "moderate Republicans" like Chuck Hegal and Olympia Dukakis, who had previously expressed doubts about the legality of the NSA program, went along with the quashing of an investigation. So much for "moderate Republicans."

Even more discouraging, Senate Democrats seem to be putting up minimal resistance. Immediately after the Intelligence Committee vote, ranking Committee Democrat Jay Rockefeller claimed angrily that the Intelligence Committee was "under the control of the White House." But the next day, as reported by the New York Times, Rockefeller issued a conciliatory statement, saying that the appointment of a seven-member subcommittee to oversee the N.S.A. eavesdropping was "a step in the right direction".


Rockefeller, and too many other Congressional Democrats, still seem to think that the way to win elections is to not be too hard on the Republicans. Even as poll ratings for Pres. Bush and the Republican Congress are in free fall, particularly among independents, they seem to think that attacking Republican misdeeds will alienate moderates.

Instead, the Democrats should be screaming from the rooftops about Bush usurping the Constitution and claiming unfettered power as Commander In Chief to break the law. They should express outrage at the coverup by Congressional Republicans. Instead we get a meek apology for hurting the feelings of Republican Committee members. The Democrats should be keeping Bush's claim of unfettered power in the spotlight, and make the Republican Congress's collusion in the President's unconstitutional power grab an election issue. They should be arguing that only a Congress with a majority of Democrats can put a break on President Bush's attempt to be anointed King George.

As even the often timid New York Times editorialized this morning, "There are moments when leaders simply have to take a stand. It seems to us that one of them is when Americans are in danger of the kind of unchecked surveillance that they thought had died with J. Edgar Hoover, Watergate and spying on Vietnam protesters and civil rights leaders." WHERE ARE THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERS?.


Norm Ornstein: Dubai Ports World Is Considering Selling U.S. Operations To Halliburton

Norm Ornstein: Dubai Ports World Is Considering Selling U.S. Operations To Halliburton

Today Dubai Ports World announced it would “transfer fully the U.S. operations…to a United States entity.” This evening on the PBS News Hour, AEI scholar Norm Ornstein said that DP World was considering selling its U.S. operations to Halliburton:

If this is done now through the backdoor, where D.P. [Dubai Ports World] has any role at all, Congress is going to go ballistic, and it’s going to be a disaster, I think, for the administration.

They have got a dilemma now, because there simply aren’t American companies that have the know-how and the breadth to do this. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, what I had heard earlier in the day, as they were looking at those that have the — the kind of resources, Halliburton was a name that came up.

Very interesting.


Jury fines defense contractor in Iraq $10M

Jury fines defense contractor in Iraq $10M
By Laura Parker, USA TODAY

A federal jury on Thursday ordered a U.S. defense contractor accused of war profiteering in Iraq to pay more than $10 million in damages and fines.

In the first civil fraud case brought against a military contractor during the Iraq war, the jury in Alexandria, Va., found that Custer Battles LLC committed fraud in 37 instances in connection with a $9 million contract to help distribute new currency in Iraq.

The jury's decision came at the end of a three-week trial in which a string of witnesses testified that Custer Battles, which has offices in Rhode Island and Virginia, inflated its expenses with fake invoices that were run through a series of shell subsidiaries set up in the Cayman Islands.

Witnesses also detailed how the company boosted profits by overbilling the government for shoddy equipment.

The company denied the charges and said it would appeal.

The case was brought by two former Custer Battles employees, Robert Isakson and William "Pete" Baldwin, under a Civil War-era law that allows individuals to file lawsuits in secret on behalf of the government. Under the law, the cases are sealed while the government determines whether to join in.

The Justice Department declined to participate. Charles Miller, a department spokesman, declined to comment.

"The Bush administration has done nothing to recover this money or to penalize the people who committed the fraud," said Alan Grayson, attorney for Isakson and Baldwin. "All of the work was done by the whistle-blowers. They did nothing to help us."

Even so, under the federal False Claims Act, the government is entitled to about 70% of the award, with Isakson and Baldwin entitled to the rest.

The company's founding partners, Scott Custer, 37, and Michael Battles, 35, had denied the accusations. Custer is a former Army Ranger and Battles is a West Point graduate who ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican in Rhode Island in 2002. They have called the lawsuit a private dispute brought by disgruntled former employees.

Robert Rhoad, one of Custer Battles' defense attorneys, said that he was disappointed by the verdict and that his clients will appeal. At the trial, defense attorney David Douglass told the jury that "no false claims were submitted, that no one was defrauded, that Custer Battles performed an admirable and impressive task under unbelievably difficult circumstances."

The case involved only $3 million of the currency contract paid to Custer Battles by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led agency that ran Iraq after Saddam Hussein was ousted.

According to a transcript of the trial, retired brigadier general Hugh Tant, who was in charge of the currency distribution, testified how camps that Custer Battles built in Baghdad, Mosul and Basra to house currency distribution workers were poorly constructed. He said that 34 of 36 trucks the company supplied for the job didn't run.

The jury also heard testimony detailing how Custer Battles took forklifts from Baghdad International Airport, painted over the Iraqi Airlines insignia and then billed the U.S. government for them under the currency exchange contract.

Part of the case involving a separate contract that Custer Battles had to provide security at the airport will be tried separately. No trial date has been set, Rhoad said.

Under the law, the jury was allowed to triple the $3 million at issue. The jury also awarded Baldwin $230,000 in back pay because he had been demoted.

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Dubai firm to 'transfer' US ports

Dubai firm to 'transfer' US ports

Dubai Ports World (DPW) is to transfer its US ports business to a "US entity" to end a row over its takeover of P&O.

While DPW has not explicitly said it will sell the subsidiaries responsible for the ports, the White House is suggesting this will be the end result.

Arab-owned DPW made the move as members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate warned they would block the takeover over security concerns.

The White House welcomed DPW's offer saying it should defuse the standoff.

"It does provide a way forward and resolve the matter so we can continue working on other important priorities," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The deal will make DPW a top-three global port operator, with 51 terminals in 30 countries across five continents and an interest in more than 20 US ports.

'Preserve links'

News of the transfer of the six ports to a US entity was broken to the Senate by Senator John Warner, who read out a press release from DPW outlining its plans.

"Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship, DP World has decided to transfer fully the US operation of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity," the statement said.

Details of how the transfer would be carried out were unclear.

DPW's statement added that the decision was "based on an understanding that DP World will have time to affect the transfer in an orderly fashion and that DP World will not suffer economic loss".

Details awaited

The move was given a cautious welcome as a "promising development" by Senator Charles Schumer, one of the main critics of the deal.

"But the devil's in the details," he added. "Those of us who feel strongly about this issue believe that the US part of the British company should have no connection to the United Arab Emirates or DP World."

Fellow critic, Congressman Peter King added that while he welcomed the offer he and others were waiting to see the details of the proposal saying any firm that took over DPW's US interests "would have to be an American company with no links to DPW".

News of the surprise offer came as the White House played down President Bush's threat to veto any law seeking to block the takeover.

Instead, Mr Bush said he was trying to find a compromise to end the outcry over the deal which both Democrat and Republican lawmakers had warned would make the US more vulnerable to terrorism.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Doctors attack US over Guantanamo

Doctors attack US over Guantanamo

More than 250 medical experts have signed a letter condemning the US for force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The doctors said physicians at the military prison had to respect inmates' right to refuse treatment.

The letter, in the medical journal, the Lancet, said doctors who used restraints and force-feeding should be punished by their professional bodies.

Some 500 terror suspects are being held without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

The US has argued that the Geneva Convention does not apply to prisoners at the camp, who, it says, are enemy combatants who continue to pose a threat to national security.

Human rights groups and the UN have urged the US to close down the facility.

Amnesty International said the "troubling" accusations in the doctors' letter underlined the need for the "independent medical examination of the prisoners.

'Nasal tubes'

The open letter in the Lancet was signed by more than 250 top doctors from seven countries - the UK, the US, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands.

"We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned," the letter said.

The doctors said the World Medical Association - a world body representing physicians, including those in the US - specifically prohibited force-feeding.

Detainees at the camp have said hunger-strikers were strapped into chairs and force-fed through tubes inserted in their noses.

More than 80 inmates are said to have gone on hunger strike in December last year - a figure that has now reportedly dropped to four.

Dr David Nicholl, a UK neurologist who initiated the Lancet letter, told the Reuters news agency the allegations of force-feeding represented "a challenge" to the American Medical Association, which is a signatory to the World Medical Association's code of conduct.

"Are they going to obey those declarations [forbidding force-feeding], or are... [they] literally not worth the paper they are written on?" he asked.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Forbes reports billionaire boom

NOTE: Of course, this report does not address the other side, the fact that the number of poor has also increased, and more dramatically and in much larger numbers.

Forbes reports billionaire boom

A worldwide economic boom has yielded a record number of dollar billionaires in the past year, according to Forbes.

Their number rose by 15% to 793 with India taking the lead in Asia and new Russians lining up to fill the gap left by jailed Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Microsoft's Bill Gates tops the list for the 12th year running at a net worth of $50bn (£29bn).

The combined net worth of the 793 is $2.6 trillion and US billionaires account for just under half the amount.

Bill Gates (USA, Microsoft) - $ 50bn
Warren Buffett (USA, investor) - $42bn
Carlos Slim (Mexico, industrialist) - $30bn
Ingvar Kamprad (Sweden, Ikea) - $28bn
Lakshmi Mittal (India, steel) $23.5bn

"A billion just isn't what it used to be," said Luisa Kroll, Forbes magazine's associate editor, revealing the 20th annual list in New York.

But she noted the figures were conservative estimates for different reasons.

A very positive spreadsheet could indicate a desire to sell a business, she told reporters, while somebody about to divorce might seek to downplay their worth.

According to the 2006 list:

* the youngest billionaire is a Lebanese woman, 22-year-old Hind Hariri, who inherited $1.4bn from her assassinated father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

* India's 23 billionaires have a combined net worth of $99bn, surpassing former Asian leader Japan's 27 billionaires with their total worth of $67bn

* Russia's 33 billionaires now have a combined wealth of $172bn, based largely on oil and gas prices, compared to a total of $68bn for oil-rich Saudi Arabia's 11 billionaires.

'Whiff of inflation'

"Russia continues to astound us," said Ms Kroll, as seven new billionaires were recorded from that country.

Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos chief executive convicted of fraud and tax evasion last year, is now in a Siberian prison which allows its inmates to earn less than a dollar a day.

However, Forbes estimates he "still has somewhere below $500m", said Ms Kroll.

While New York has the highest number of resident billionaires with 40, Moscow is second with 25, and London comes third with 23.

Steve Forbes, Forbes' chief executive and editor-in-chief, attributed the global rise in the number of billionaires to an economic boom.

"The global economy has been growing the last two years at rates not seen since World War II, fuelled by a commodities boom with a whiff of inflation," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:


US panel seeks delay of foreign air ownership bid

US panel seeks delay of foreign air ownership bid
By John Crawley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressional committee wants a four-month review of the Bush administration's proposal to ease restrictions on foreign investment in U.S. airlines, saying the plan raises potential red flags on security.

The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved a non-binding resolution late on Wednesday night that was considered amid the firestorm over the proposal by a Dubai-based company to manage key U.S. ports.

That security-driven controversy abated on Thursday when port management giant Dubai Ports World, owned by the United Arab Emirates, said it would divest U.S. assets included in its $6.85 billion purchase of a British rival.

"The committee believes that the U.S. aviation industry is part of our critical infrastructure as are the ports," according to the measure drafted by Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican.

"The committee is seriously concerned about the promulgation of any rule which would allow any minority foreign investor to exercise control or decision making authority over any aspect of a U.S. carrier operation," the resolution said.

There currently is very little foreign investment in U.S. carriers.

Transportation planners proposed last year that foreign investors in U.S. airlines be allowed more influence over operations, including decisions on routes, fleet planning and marketing in return for their capital investments.

Proponents say the change -- which could involve foreign airlines taking an interest in a domestic carrier -- would give struggling U.S. airlines new options to raise money and potentially invigorate travel options for consumers.

The initiative does not change congressionally imposed rules that cap investment to 25 percent voting stock and restrict actual control of U.S. airlines to American citizens. But critics of the rule, including unions, say the proposed change could give foreign investors enough power to veto certain elements of airline operations.

However, the proposal's success is directly tied to final European support for a tentative agreement between the United States and the European Union on removing barriers to more competition on transatlantic routes.

There is no timetable for the Bush administration to finalize the proposal -- although the public comment period recently closed and a decision was expected soon. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said this week he did not want to delay the rule.

In a statement on Thursday, the Transportation Department emphasized that U.S. citizens would still control all decisions on security and safety of airline operations.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

17 Million Adult Entertainment Website Users Have Their Personal Info Released On Internet
17M Adult Entertainment Website Users Have Their Personal Info Released On Internet...
By Quinn Norton

Seventeen million customers of the online payment service iBill have had their personal information released onto the internet, where it's been bought and sold in a black market made up of fraud artists and spammers, security experts say.

The stolen data, examined by Wired News, includes names, phone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses and internet IP addresses. Other fields in the compromised databases appear to be logins and passwords, credit card types and purchase amounts, but credit card numbers are not included.

The breach has broad privacy implications for the victims. Until it was brought low by legal and financial difficulties, iBill was a top credit card processor for adult entertainment websites -- providing billing services for such outlets as DominaBDSM and

The transactions documented in the database are dated between 1998 and 2003, spanning a period at the height of iBill's success.

The company didn't respond to repeated e-mail and telephone inquires by Wired News.

Two caches of stolen iBill customer data were discovered separately by two security companies while conducting routine research into malicious software online.

Southern California-based Secure Science Corporation found the first data file containing records on 17 million individuals on a private website set up by scammers. The site was part of a so-called "phishing" scheme, in which a spamming fraudster poses as a bank or online retailer in an attempt to con consumers out of identification and financial information.

Secure Science found that data in February 2005, and reported it to the FBI's Miami field office, the company says. The FBI declined comment.

Last month, Sunbelt Software found an additional list of slightly over 1 million individual entries labeled Ibill_1m.txt on a spamming website. That list also appeared to date from 2003.

IBill has a troubled history. Founded in 1997 by executives of a Florida-based BBS software developer, by 2002 iBill was a big player in internet billing, processing approximately $400 million in credit card transactions per year, according to SEC filings. The company took 15 percent off the top in fees. Todd Dugas, a former inside sales representative for iBill, estimates that pornography made up 85 percent of the business.

But when Atlanta-based InterCept acquired iBill for $120 million in 2002, it immediately encountered problems. New rules from Visa made it more complicated and costly to process adult website transactions, and "accounts dropped like flies," says Dugas. Meanwhile MasterCard levied $5.85 million in fines against iBill for an unusually high volume of "charge backs" -- consumer-disputed charges -- though InterCept managed to recoup most of the fine from iBill's previous owners.

In September 2004, iBill lost the contract with its upstream credit card processor, First Data, which had grown wary of being associated with adult content. Website operators relying on iBill for payments had to wait months for their checks while First Data held the money in escrow. Roger Jacobs, who followed the story of iBill for adult industry publications AVN and XBiz, described low morale and a hemorrhaging of employees during this period..

Lance James of Secure Science and Adam Thomas of Sunbelt Software speculate that the company's troubles may have left them vulnerable to information embezzlement: The breach, they say, has all the markings of an inside job. The files appear to have been generated by exporting an SQL database into a CSV format -- a procedure that would be unusually extravagant for a quick, furtive hack-attack. Moreover, at 4.5 gigabytes in size, the larger file would have been tough to download unnoticed over iBill's internet connection.

Thomas speculates that an employee or other insider may have simply walked out of iBill with the transaction records to sell on the data black market.

What happened with the records from there is anyone's guess. The 1 million addresses found by Sunbelt Software were being used for spamming. Sunbelt found the database by tracing malware-infected computers as they connected to the internet to refresh their list of spam targets. The target list turned out to be the iBill database, hosted on a rogue website.

Secure Science's James says the 17 million database entries he found is prime data for spamming, phishing attacks, pretext phone calls, and even possible hacking of vulnerable computers at the IP addresses listed.

Independently, Wired News found that entries from the smaller cache are listed as mortgage leads on a spammer community site, (The website's homepage offered no contact information and Wired News was unable to reach the registered owner of the domain, one "Juice Wobble.") This suggests that the database was marketed as a lead list for outside businesses. "I can attest to the fact that this goes on with phishing groups," says James. "They break in and steal leads and then sell those leads to (black market) leads companies, who resell them to legitimate companies, and sometimes the same companies they stole them from."

"The fact that a total of 17,781,462 iBill records have been found in the hands of criminal hackers is quite disturbing, be it an inside job or the successful work of criminal hackers," says Thomas.

Contacted by Wired News, one of the victims of the breach expressed dismay that his information was in the hands of criminals. The 41-year-old San Diego man says he allowed a "business partner" to use his credit card on an adult website dedicated to finding resources in Tijuana's red light district, with discussion groups and locations of prostitutes.

"Life is difficult enough," says the victim. "It makes the net that much less secure in my eyes... I plan to not use any credit card information on any site."

The man says that neither iBill nor the FBI notified him of the breach.

Because the information didn't include Social Security, credit card or driver's license numbers, no U.S. laws require iBill or the companies for which they provided billing to warn victims. A year after the FBI first learned of the larger leak, they have also failed to issue any public warnings.

In January of last year, iBill was purchased by Interactive Brand Development for $23.5 million. On Monday, IBC's stock closed at 8 cents a share in over-the-counter trading.


If You Lose Music Row, You Lose the South
Eric Boehlert:
If You Lose Music Row, You Lose the South

News that two of country music's biggest stars undressed president Bush Wednesday for being an incompetent leader and for the government's "humiliating" and "embarrassing" lack of progress in cleaning up the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is a big deal in terms of cultural and political barometers. The outburst doubles as another marker in Bush's slow, public tumble.

Multi-platinum stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw unloaded on Bush when the topic of Katrina came up during a press conference to announce the duo's upcoming tour. "When you have people dying because they're poor and black or poor and white, or because of whatever they are...That erases everything that's great about our country," said McGraw. "There's no reason why someone can't go down there who's supposed to be the leader of the free world and say, 'I'm giving you a job to do and I'm not leaving here until it's done. And you're held accountable, and you're held accountable, and your held accountable."

Hill, reportedly close to tears as she discussed the Katrina mess, labeled the fiasco "Bullshit" and announced "I fear for our country."

The husband-and-wife team (she's from Mississippi, he's from Louisiana) with their movie-star good looks, double as the unofficial king and queen of Nashville, and usually steer clear of politics. (Although there have been rumblings McGraw may run for office in Tennessee as a Democrat one day.)

Unlike the Dixie Chicks who spoke their minds on the eve of the Iraq war about being embarrassed to be from the same state as Bush and were essentially banned from country radio stations drunk on patriotism, my hunch is neither Hill nor McGraw will pay any kind of price for criticizing the president and letting an expletive fly. Defending incompetence does not usually arouse deep passion among radio jocks or music fans.

Worse for Bush, the McGraw-Hill public flogging comes just days after a Elon University poll revealed a clear majority of voters in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida disapprove or strongly disapprove of Bush's performance in office. Two days later came the stunning poll results published in the Indianapolis Star that showed Hoosiers statewide giving Bush just a 37 job approval rating, down 18 points in one year. In 2004, Bush won Indiana, a longtime Republican bastion akin to the Deep South, by 21 points over John Kerry.

Is this what it looks like when the base begins to crumble?


Gonzales: NSA program doesn't need a law

Gonzales: NSA program doesn't need a law

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made clear Wednesday that the White House is not seeking congressional action to inscribe the National Security Agency's monitoring into U.S. law, even as members of Congress negotiate with the Bush administration about legislation.

Gonzales maintained the program is legal the way it is.

"There's a general consensus — quite frankly — that this is a needed program" designed to listen to al-Qaeda's communications, Gonzales told the National Association of Attorneys General Wednesday. "The concern I think that people have, which is a natural concern, is that, is this a limited program?"

Gonzales said administration officials have gone a long way in reassuring lawmakers about the NSA's operations. Over four years, he said, the administration has met "with select congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle about the scope of this program — everything that we're doing related to this program."

California Rep. Jane Harman, the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, said Gonzales has personally given her similar assurances. But generally she has "become increasingly skeptical over time about a lot of things I have been hearing." Harman declined to elaborate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the former top Democrat on the intelligence panel, has publicly questioned what the congressional leaders don't know. Her spokeswoman, Jennifer Crider, said Republicans have been unwilling to perform oversight of the administration.

"Since the members were not all briefed at the same time or place, it's not possible to know whether the same information was given to each," Crider said.

Aides to West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, noted that he visited the NSA all day Friday — with 450 questions he wanted answered. He's complained about the briefings he received before that session, saying they consisted of intelligence officials rushing through flip-charts.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., remains the most skeptical Republican in Congress. He's said he intends to call Gonzales up to his committee for a second appearance to testify about other classified intelligence programs that the attorney general hinted at in a recent letter.

Specter also had been pressing for a hearing with former Attorney General John Ashcroft and his deputy, but has abandoned that request.

Among other issues, lawmakers wanted to know about a 2004 dustup over the surveillance between the White House and Justice officials, including Deputy Attorney General James Comey. It reportedly got so serious that White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and then-White House counsel Gonzales visited Ashcroft in the hospital to discuss the concerns of his deputies.

Specter hinted that the administration opposed the testimony of Ashcroft and Comey.

"I've talked to both of those individuals and understandably they would require administration consent. I do not believe that we would be successful, were they to testify, to find what happened in the reported conversations in the hospital," Specter said.

Specter was also critical of a terrorist surveillance bill — soon to be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and other moderate lawmakers — that would allow the government to monitor the international calls of U.S. residents for 45 days without a warrant. The White House has called that approach a "generally sound measure."

Specter is planning to offer his own proposal that would require a federal intelligence court to vouch for the program's constitutionality every 45 days.

Democrats are calling for more oversight and may not embrace either approach.

"So little is known about this illegal program that it's akin to legislating in the dark," said Tracy Schmaler, Democratic spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Also Wednesday, in response to a judge's order, the Bush administration released a fraction of the documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the National Security Archive. The administration asked for four additional months to process additional classified materials.

The release included e-mail exchanges between Justice officials about the program's legal justification. One official said the department's arguments had "a slightly after-the-fact quality or feeling to them," according to the privacy center.

In a statement, the center's general counsel, David Sobel, said the administration's actions show a continuing resistance to public scrutiny on the NSA program.

Find this article at:


Bush Orders DHS to Create Center for Faith-Based Aid
Bush Orders DHS to Create Center for Faith-Based Aid
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer

President Bush ordered the Department of Homeland Security yesterday to create a center for faith-based and community initiatives within 45 days to eliminate regulatory, contracting and programmatic barriers to providing federal funds to religious groups to deliver social services, the White House announced last night.

Pressed both by churches that have not received privately raised Hurricane Katrina relief funds as promised and by the outpouring of help of religious groups to Gulf Coast storm victims, Bush also called on the department by September "to identify all existing barriers . . . that unlawfully discriminate against, or otherwise discourage or disadvantage the participation" of such groups in federal programs.

In signing an executive order, Bush asked the department to develop pilot programs, conduct outreach and provide technical assistance to the groups in concert with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

The departments of Justice, Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services have similar centers.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the move complements a recent White House "lessons learned" report about integrating such groups in disaster response and "also notes the extraordinary support by the faith-based community" after Katrina.

Federal funding is controversial among such groups. Some organizations, such as Catholic Charities, accept such funds, while others, such as the Rev. Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing, have said in the past that they would not accept it.

Along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Mississippi, religious groups have provided extraordinary help, local officials say, but also contributed to waste and duplication of effort when they failed to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local and county governments.

Congress has appropriated $67.9 billion for emergency supplemental hurricane relief, among other assistance, a portion of which is reserved for FEMA. Generally, the agency is restricted by law from engaging with religious organizations for disaster operations.

FEMA has announced, however, that it will reimburse religious organizations for feeding and sheltering storm victims. It has also contracted with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, an arm of the United Methodist Church, for $60 million to provide case management for the neediest storm victims.

Last week, a coalition of clergy members enlisted to help distribute $20 million raised by the relief fund set up by Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush, and former president Bill Clinton, complained that churches had seen none of the money yet.

Staff writers Jacqueline L. Salmon in Washington and Michael A. Fletcher in Crawford, Tex., contributed to this report.


Vanity Fair: Bush Had Ties to Abramoff, Joked With Him About About Weightlifting

ABC News
Vanity Fair: Bush Had Ties to Abramoff, Joked With Him About About Weightlifting
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff says President Bush knew him well enough to joke with him about weightlifting. "What are you benching, buff guy?" Abramoff said Bush asked him. The president has said he doesn't know Abramoff.

Abramoff said he finds it hard to believe Bush doesn't remember the 10 or so photos he and members of his family had snapped with the president and first lady.

"He (Bush) has one of the best memories of any politician I have ever met," Abramoff wrote in an e-mail, according to Vanity Fair's April issue being released this week. "Perhaps he has forgotten everything. Who knows?"

Abramoff pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to charges that he and a former partner, Adam Kidan, concocted a fake wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a sizable stake of their own money into a multimillion-dollar purchase of SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet in 2000. Abramoff also has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a probe into his ties with members of Congress and the Bush administration.

"I had my picture taken with him, evidently," Bush said of Abramoff on Jan. 26. "I've had my picture taken with a lot of people."

"I frankly don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy," Bush added. "I don't know him."

A few days later, Abramoff wrote to Washingtonian magazine that he had met briefly with the president nearly a dozen times and that Bush knew him well enough to make joking references to Abramoff's family.

Abramoff told Vanity Fair that he once was invited to Bush's Texas ranch where he would have joined with other big Bush fundraisers. Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, said he didn't go because the event fell on the Sabbath.

The lobbyist said that when Bush made a speech to fundraisers in 2003, he sat just a few feet from the president. Abramoff, the only lobbyist on the dais, was seated between Republican Sens. George Allen of Virginia and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Three former associates of Abramoff have told The Associated Press the lobbyist frequently told them he had strong ties to the White House through its deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove.

Asked about the former Abramoff associates' accounts, the White House said Rove and Abramoff were leaders of a young Republicans group decades ago.

"Mr. Rove remembers they had met at a political event in the 1990s," White House spokeswoman Erin Healy has said. "Since then, he would describe him as a casual acquaintance."

According to Vanity Fair, Rove's relationship with Abramoff was deeper.

After Bush took office, Susan Ralston, Abramoff's administration assistant, assumed the same post with Rove at the White House, where Abramoff met with Rove at least once, the magazine said.

Rove dined several times at Abramoff's former restaurant in Washington, Signatures, and was Abramoff's guest in the owner's box of the NCAA basketball playoffs a few years ago, sitting for much of the game at Abramoff's side, Vanity Fair reported.

The White House has not released any photos that Bush took with Abramoff, but acknowledged the authenticity of one that has been made public. In the 2001 photo, Bush is seen shaking hands with the leader of an Indian tribe that was an Abramoff client. The lobbyist is in the background.

Abramoff said he thought about, but decided against, selling his photos with the Bushes for money. Publications were making Abramoff offers that rose to the low seven figures, Vanity Fair reports.

He blames the Bush administration for the media attention.

"My so-called relationship with Bush, Rove and everyone else at the White House has only become important because instead of just releasing details about the very few times I was there, they created a feeding frenzy by their deafening silence," Abramoff told the magazine.

"The Democrats, on the other hand, are going overboard, virtually insisting I was there to plan the invasion of Iraq."


Carter Blasts Iraq an 'Unnecessary War' as Anniversary Nears, Urges Troop Withdrawal

ABC News
Carter Urges Troop Withdrawal From Iraq
Carter Blasts Iraq an 'Unnecessary War' as Anniversary Nears, Urges Troop Withdrawal
The Associated Press

SEATTLE - Former President Jimmy Carter criticized the war in Iraq on Wednesday, urging a troop drawdown as the United States enters its fourth year of conflict in Iraq.

"It was a completely unnecessary war. It was an unjust war," said Carter, the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner. "It was initiated on the basis of false pretenses. All of those are true, but we can't just pre-emptively withdraw."

He urged the Bush administration to bring home as many troops as possible within the next 12 months.

"The violence is increasing monthly," Carter said. "My prayer is we'll see some kind of democracy eventually evolve."

His comments came at a news conference before a building dedication at the University of Washington.

Carter was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the university's new Genome Sciences and Bioengineering Building in honor of William H. Foege. Foege directed the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during Carter's presidency and later headed The Carter Center, which promotes peace and health programs around the world.

Carter credited Foege with saving the lives of millions of people through his efforts to eradicate smallpox, Guinea worm and river blindness, and by encouraging childhood immunization.

Foege works with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which contributed $50 million for the building.


Abramoff Says Top Republicans Were Allies

The New York Times
Abramoff Says Top Republicans Were Allies

WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) — Jack Abramoff says in the latest issue of the magazine Vanity Fair that he worked closely with many top Republicans, despite their claims to the contrary.

"Any important Republican who comes out and says they didn't know me is almost certainly lying," Mr. Abramoff said in an article in the magazine's April edition, which was released to reporters on Wednesday.

Mr. Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in January and is cooperating with prosecutors in a corruption inquiry.

In the article, Mr. Abramoff complained that many of those who used to work closely with him now claim that they never knew him.

"You're really no one in this town until you haven't met me," he said.

E-mail messages and other subpoenaed records will eventually prove that he worked closely with them, he said.

The magazine features photographs of Mr. Abramoff with Representative Tom DeLay, former Representative Newt Gingrich and President Ronald Reagan.

Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, dined at Mr. Abramoff's house and forced a Democratic appointee out of the State Department for him, the article said.

Tracey Schmitt, a committee spokeswoman, said, "Jack Abramoff is someone that the chairman has known in various capacities during his time in Washington."

Mr. Abramoff said that he did not spend much time lobbying Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican, because he knew that the congressman would support his issues, but that they talked about other subjects.

"We would sit and talk about the Bible," he said. "We would sit and talk about opera."

Mr. Abramoffalso said Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, was especially cooperative, adding, "Every appropriation we wanted, we got. "

Spokesmen for Mr. Burns and Mr. DeLay were not immediately available for comment.


Justice Dept. Report Cites F.B.I. Violations

The New York Times
Justice Dept. Report Cites F.B.I. Violations

WASHINGTON, March 8 — The Federal Bureau of Investigation found apparent violations of its own wiretapping and other intelligence-gathering procedures more than 100 times in the last two years, and problems appear to have grown more frequent in some crucial respects, a Justice Department report released Wednesday said.

While some of these instances were considered technical glitches, the report, from the department's inspector general, characterized others as "significant," including wiretaps that were much broader in scope than approved by a court and others that were allowed to continue for weeks or sometimes months longer than was authorized.

In one instance, the F.B.I. received the full content of 181 telephone calls as part of an intelligence investigation, instead of merely the billing and toll records as authorized, the report found. In a handful of cases, it said, the bureau conducted physical searches that had not been properly authorized.

The inspector general's findings come at a time of fierce Congressional debate over the program of wiretapping without warrants that the National Security Agency has conducted. That program, approved by President Bush, is separate from the F.B.I. wiretaps reviewed in the report, and the inspector general's office concluded that it did not have the jurisdiction to review the legality or operations of the N.S.A. effort.

But, the report disclosed, the Justice Department has opened reviews into two other controversial counterterrorism tactics that the department has widely employed since the Sept. 11 attacks.

In one, the inspector general has begun looking into the F.B.I.'s use of administrative subpoenas, known as national security letters, to demand records and documents without warrants in terror investigations. Some critics maintain that the bureau has abused its subpoena powers to demand records in thousands of cases.

In the other, the Office of Professional Responsibility, a Justice Department unit that reviews ethics charges against department lawyers, has opened inquiries related to the detention of 21 people held as material witnesses in terror investigations.

As with the F.B.I.'s use of administrative subpoenas, civil rights advocates assert that the Justice Department has abused the material witness statute by holding suspects whom it may not have enough evidence to charge. The new ethics inquiries are reviewing accusations that department officials did not take some material witnesses to court within the required time, failed to tell them the basis for the arrest or held them without any attempt to obtain their testimony as supposed witnesses in terror investigations, the inspector general said Wednesday.

Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, characterized the report as "yet another vindication for those of us who have raised concerns about the administration's policies in the war on terror."

Mr. Conyers said that "despite the Bush administration's attempt to demonize critics of its antiterrorism policies as advancing phantom or trivial concerns, the report demonstrates that the independent Office of Inspector General has found that many of these policies indeed warrant full investigations."

For its part, the F.B.I. said in a statement that it had been quick to correct errors in intelligence-gathering procedures when they were discovered and that "there have been no examples by the F.B.I. of willful disregard for the law or of court orders."

The inspector general's review grew out of documents, dealing with intelligence violations, that were released last year under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a private group in Washington. The inspector general then obtained more documents on violations and included an 11-page analysis of the problem as part of a broader report Wednesday on counterterrorism measures.

The inspector general reviewed 108 instances in which the F.B.I. reported violations to an oversight board in the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years.

"We're always looking to bring the number of violations down," John Miller, chief spokesman for the bureau, said in an interview, "but given the scope and complexity of national security investigations, that's a relatively small number."

The inspector general's review found that reported violations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs some federal wiretaps, accounted for a growing share of the total, having risen to 69 percent last year from 48 percent in 2004.

The duration of the violations also grew in some crucial areas, the review found. Two of those areas were the "overcollection" of intelligence — going beyond the scope approved by the court in authorizing a wiretap — and "overruns," in which a wiretap or other intelligence-gathering method was allowed to continue beyond the approved time period without an extension.

The review found that the average amount of time that overcollections and overruns were allowed before they were discovered and corrected rose to 32 days last year from 22 in 2004. In most cases, the F.B.I. was found to be at fault, while about a quarter of the time a "third party," usually a telecommunications company, was to blame, the data showed.

In taking issue with some of the findings, F.B.I. officials said the data were skewed by a number of exceptionally long violations; one wiretap lasted 373 days.


Vermont towns endorse move to impeach Bush

Vermont towns endorse move to impeach Bush
Associated Press

NEWFANE, Vt. - In five Vermont communities, a centuries-old tradition of residents gathering in town halls to conduct local business became a vehicle to send a message to Washington: Impeach the president.

An impeachment article, approved by a paper ballot 121-29 in Newfane Tuesday, calls on Vermont's lone member of the U.S. House, independent Rep. Bernie Sanders, to file articles of impeachment against President Bush, alleging he misled the nation into the Iraq war and engaged in illegal domestic spying.

"It absolutely affects us locally," said Newfane select board member Dan DeWalt, who drafted the impeachment article. "It's our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, who are dying" in the war in Iraq.

At least four other Vermont towns, spurred by publicity about Newfane's resolution, endorsed similar resolutions during Tuesday's meetings: Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney.

In Newfane, the impeachment item came at the end of a roughly four-hour meeting that was devoted mostly to the local affairs of the town of 1,600 located in southeastern Vermont. Among the other items discussed was whether the town should fix some of its 100-year-old sidewalks.

The impeachment discussion took up more than half an hour, reflecting the intense interest in the topic and something of a division over whether the town meeting was the appropriate place to debate it.

"As a teacher I can't say to my kids that what happens on the national level doesn't affect us at the local level," Ann Landenberger told the Newfane meeting. "Would that we could all be in a cocoon, but that is not the case."

Greg Record, a local justice of the peace, criticized the amount of time and attention such advisory votes get.

"We spend more time on these things than on a million dollar budget item," said Record, who said the town is made up of people from the "far left."

Lenore Salzbrun defended Bush, saying she had close friends who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I am so grateful that our president didn't just put his head in the sand ... and did go out and fight," she said.

"How many attacks have we had on the U.S. since September 11?" asked another resident, Carlton Brown. "Maybe some of the terrorists around the world are sitting up and taking notice that we're not going to be patsies."

The Bush vote is not the first time Newfane has used its town meeting forum to take a state or national stand. Last year, for example, the town went on record against the Iraq war.

Sanders issued a statement after the Newfane vote saying that although the Bush administration "has been a disaster for our country, and a number of actions that he has taken may very well not have been legal," given the reality that the Republicans control the House and the Senate, "it would be impractical to talk about impeachment."

Jim Barnett, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, said Sanders should reject the resolution: "We should not be impeaching presidents just because we disagree with them."


Zogby poll: Majority supports impeaching Bush for wiretapping

Zogby poll: Majority supports impeaching Bush for wiretapping

WASHINGTON, D.C. — By a margin of 52 to 43 percent, citizens want Congress to impeach President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval, according to a new poll commissioned by, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of Pres. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

The poll was conducted by Zogby International.

The poll found that 52 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment."

Of those contacted, 43 percent disagreed, and 6 percent said they didn't know or declined to answer. The poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

"The American people are not buying Bush's outrageous claim that he has the power to wiretap American citizens without a warrant. Americans believe terrorism can be fought without turning our own government into Big Brother," said co-founder Bob Fertik in a statement.

Responses to the Zogby poll varied by political party affiliation: 76 percent of Democrats favored impeachment, compared to 50 percent of independents and 29 percent of Republicans.

Responses also varied by age, sex, race, and religion. 70 percent of those 18-29 favored impeachment, 51 percent of those 31-49, 50 percent of those 50-64, and 42 percent of those older than 65. Among women, 56 percent favored impeachment, compared to 49 percent of men. Among African Americans, 90 percent favored impeachment, compared to 67 percent of Hispanics, and 46 percent of whites.

The new Zogby poll shows a major shift in support for Bush's impeachment since June 2005. In a Zogby poll conducted June 27-29, 2005 of 905 likely voters, 42 percent agreed and 50 percent disagreed with the identical statement asked about in this recent polling.

- Vermont Guardian


Bird flu could hit Americas within a year

Bird flu could hit Americas within a year: UN
By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Bird flu, already spreading across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is expected to jump across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas within a year, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday.

"It is certainly within the next six to 12 months. And who knows, we've been wrong on other things, it could be earlier," said Dr. David Nabarro, coordinator of the U.N. drive to contain the pandemic in birds and prepare for its possible jump to humans.

He predicted the leap across the Atlantic Ocean would take place in two stages, carried in the next few months by wild birds flying from West Africa to the Arctic region, and then brought southward to North and South America six months later.

"I just think that every country in the world now needs to have its veterinary services on high alert for H5N1, to try to make sure that they don't get caught unawares and find that it gets into their poultry populations without knowing," Nabarro told a news conference at U.N. headquarters.

"And I will bet you that many countries in the Western Hemisphere are doing just that," he added.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has led to the deaths of millions of birds in more than 30 countries. It has spread to over a dozen new countries in the past month and infected 175 people since 2003, killing 96 of them.

Although it remains an avian disease, and rarely affects humans, health officials fear it will mutate into a form that can easily jump from human to human, triggering a pandemic in which millions of people might die.

For the immediate future, the spread of the disease among birds in Africa is the main focus of the U.N. team -- which includes the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health, Nabarro said.

The disease has been confirmed in Niger and Nigeria but there have been bird die-offs in other African nations and confirmation of its further spread is expected soon, he said.

To spur preparedness, representatives of more than 40 sub-Saharan African countries will be meeting in the Gabonese capital Libreville later this month, he said.


US records serious rights abuses in Iraq

US records serious rights abuses in Iraq
By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three years after U.S. forces invaded Iraq in part to stop human rights violations a U.S. report said on Wednesday that the country was again racked by abuses from arbitrary killings and arrests to torture.

In its annual report detailing human rights abuses worldwide, the State Department said in 2005 reports increased of killings by the Iraqi government or its agents and members of sectarian militias dominated many police units.

The report did not list any abuses committed by the United States, which has come under strong international criticism for its treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and at a U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued (in Iraq)," the report said. "Police abuses included threats, intimidation, beatings, and suspension by the arms or legs, as well as the reported use of electric drills and cords and the application of electric shocks."

In Iraq on Wednesday, the bodies of 18 men -- bound, blindfolded and strangled -- were found in a Sunni Arab district of Baghdad, apparent victims of the sectarian turmoil gripping Iraq.

The global report also listed abuses among both allies and traditional foes, from close friends Saudi Arabia and Egypt to adversaries Iran, Syria and Zimbabwe.

Governments targeted in the report frequently point to abuses by the United States and lambaste the report as hypocritical, a criticism Washington brushes aside.

"We are not saying we ourselves are perfect. When we find something wrong in our own rights record, we try to fix it. But usually those who charge us with hypocrisy are putting up a smokescreen and trying to ignore the facts in the report," said a State Department official, who asked not to be named.


In Iraq, where more than 130,000 U.S. forces are trying to quell sectarian violence, the report said the worst abuse was carried out by police but the military was also a violator.

President George W. Bush cites abuses by ousted President Saddam Hussein and a desire to establish democracy to justify the 2003 invasion, ordered originally to confront a threat from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.

On July 12 last year, nine Sunni men suffocated after police locked them up for several hours in a vehicle with no air conditioning. No one was punished for the incident and officials denied intentional wrongdoing.

Some detainees in Iraqi military custody alleged abuse that included hanging inmates upside down until they lost consciousness, beating with wooden and plastic sticks, weapons and electric cords, and use of electric shocks and stun guns.

The report said "unsettled conditions" in Iraq and insurgent and terrorist attacks hampered the government's human rights performance.

The world's "most systematic" human rights violators included North Korea and Burma where the report said the promise of democratic reform served as a "facade for brutality and repression".

Iran, which the United States accuses of building a nuclear weapon, was also accused of serious abuses such as summary executions and the use of torture.

In Africa, Zimbabwe maintained a "steady assault on human dignity" and basic freedoms and the government there displaced or destroyed the livelihoods of more than 700,000 people last year.

China's human rights record was also poor with anyone who publicly challenged the government facing harassment, detention or imprisonment, the report said.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Criminal Records, Bogus Licenses Among Truckers at Key U.S. Port; Thousands of Port Truckers Go Unscreened, Yet Many Have Criminal Records

ABC News
Criminal Records, Bogus Licenses Among Truckers at Key U.S. Port
Thousands of Port Truckers Go Unscreened, Yet Many Have Criminal Records

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2006 — - In Washington today, House Republicans vowed to defy President Bush's effort to have a Dubai company take over six major U.S. ports. But ABC News has learned about a port threat from within -- a major security breach at the ports of New York and New Jersey.

The two ports handle millions of tons of cargo, with scores of cruise ships passing through each year. Truckers who transport much of the cargo are issued ID cards, which give them access to all areas of the port.

ABC News has learned that the cards, given to thousands of truckers by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were issued with virtually no background checks. The Department of Homeland Security recently investigated the New York and New Jersey ports, and found stunning gaps in security.

The new DHS report, obtained by ABC News, shows that of the 9,000 truckers checked, nearly half had evidence of criminal records. More than 500 held bogus driver's licenses, leaving officials unsure of their real identities.

"We have no idea who's in the ports. And many of the folks who come in to service the ports, that drive the trucks back and forth, are people who don't have very distinguished backgrounds. May have criminal backgrounds," said Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank.

The intelligence report found truck drivers had been convicted of homicide, assault, weapons charges, sex offenses, arson, drug dealing, identity theft and cargo theft.

According to the report, a review of incident logs involving truck drivers at the Newark Seaport in late 2005 revealed one who was identified as an MS-13 gang member. MS-13 has been described as one of the most dangerous gangs in the United States. The logs also highlighted an incident involving "four cabs without containers [which] exited the terminal without stopping at the red light and ignored verbal commands to stop."

Truckers Involved in Drugs and Money Laundering

The report also says 33 ID cardholders were identified in narcotics-related offenses, including people arrested for the possession of cocaine and heroin. Others were involved in drug smuggling. In one incident, according to the report, authorities found 13 pounds of cocaine concealed under a truck's sleeper cab.

Money laundering and counterfeiting pose other security problems, the report points out. Authorities once seized almost half a million dollars, which was concealed inside a truck's rocker panels.

The report concludes port "security gaps" expose "vulnerabilities that could be capitalized by terrorist organizations." It also found similar problems at other major U.S. ports.

"It has to be a wake-up call," said Rep. Peter King, R- NY. "I strongly believe that, from any number of levels, the ports are our greatest vulnerability."

Security analysts say terrorists working with truck drivers could plant a bomb aboard a cruise ship and detonate it once it's at sea, or they could pack a 40-foot cargo container full of explosives and blow up part of a port.

"If a bomb went off in a sea port," said Flynn, "we would likely see a closing of the sea ports, bringing the global trade system to a halt and potentially putting our economy into a recession."

Homeland security officials tell ABC News they are trying to improve port security and have recently tested a national program that will vet truckers before they are issued identification cards.

ABC News' Pierre Thomas filed this report for "World News Tonight."


Congress hears of cruise ship disappearances

Congress hears of cruise ship disappearances

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Twenty-four people disappeared from cruise ships between 2003 and 2005 and 178 passengers reported being sexually assaulted, a congressional panel heard on Tuesday.

Among those who disappeared were an elderly Vietnamese-American couple who fled their native land as "boat people" in 1975.

Hue Pham, 71 and his wife, Hue Tran, 67, fled Vietnam 30 years ago with five other family members, spending two weeks floating in the Pacific with little food or water, their son, Son Michael Pham told a House of Representatives subcommittee.

They eventually reached the United States and built a successful life. Last May, they disappeared during a Caribbean cruise. Pham said the crew waited over four hours after being alerted to the disappearances before notifying the U.S. Coast Guard and it took several more hours to mount a search, which found no trace of the couple.

"Two American citizens with no personal or financial problems, no serious health problems, living the happiest time of their lives, both vanished without a trace or witness," Pham told the subcommittee on national security, emerging threats and international relations.

Of the disappearances, 12 were deemed suicides, one an accidental fall overboard and the others were deemed "missing for unknown reasons," said Lawrence Kaye, a lawyer representing major cruise lines.

Almost half of the 178 reported sexual assaults were allegedly committed by other passengers, according to figures released by the International Council of Cruise Lines.

With over 31 million people taking cruises in the three years under review, only four robberies were reported, the council said. However Ohio Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he suspected the figures understated the true situation and that not all crimes were being reported.

Several other witnesses told the subcommittee of tragedies on cruises. Lynsey O'Brien, a 15 year-old girl, was served at least 10 alcoholic drinks at a cruise ship bar and fell overboard while leaning over a balcony to vomit.

Janet Kelly, a 49-year-old married woman, said she was drugged by a bartender and raped.


Groups counterattack strict S.Dakota abortion law

Groups counterattack strict S.Dakota abortion law

PIERRE, South Dakota (Reuters) - Abortion rights supporters on Tuesday responded to South Dakota's strict new abortion law by organizing protests, raising money and debating whether to use legal action or a statewide vote to try to strike down the law.

The actions came a day after South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed what is considered the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. Backers of the measure, which outlaws abortions in virtually any circumstance, say it was designed as a vehicle to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a woman's right to an abortion.

Rounds said he expects the law to be mired in litigation for years. A Planned Parenthood official confirmed litigation was an option but said abortion rights supporters might try to kill the law quickly through a statewide referendum this fall.

"We haven't decided yet. We're trying to sort out our strategy," said Sarah Stoesz, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood operations in South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota. "Clearly the people are very unhappy about this law."

Stoesz said a statewide referendum would require "millions and millions of dollars" but she was optimistic the law would be rejected if put to a vote.

"All signs are certainly that we would win this," she said. "If the anti-choicers believed that they would win this they would have put this on the ballot as a constitutional amendment."

Abortion rights supporters are planning a "day of solidarity" on Thursday with supporters encouraged to rally at federal courtrooms across the nation, Stoesz said. An Internet fund-raising campaign also is under way.

Rounds held a press conference on Tuesday to reiterate his support of the law and his desire that it help lead to a ban on abortions across the United States.

"It is appropriate to do everything we can to save life, particularly the life of an unborn child," Rounds said.

The South Dakota law bans virtually all abortions at all stages of a pregnancy, even if it is the result of rape or incest. The law creates a narrow exemption in cases in which a physician's effort to save a pregnant woman's life results in the accidental death or injury of her fetus but says a physician must make "reasonable medical effort" to save the life of the fetus as well as the woman.

In anticipation of legal challenges, which are a necessity if the law is to be reviewed by the Supreme Court, the state has set up a fund to help defend the measure. Several donations already have been received, although in limited amounts, Rounds said. An anonymous donor has reportedly pledged $1 million toward the defense effort.

Abortion rights supporters said they were far short of the kind of funding they would need to overturn the law but hoped to change that.

In a separate action spurred at least in part by the South Dakota law, the NARAL Pro-Choice America abortion rights group has launched an ad campaign calling for federal and state lawmakers to work to prevent unwanted pregnancies instead of focusing on curtailing women's' rights.

NARAL is seeking support for improved access to birth control, sex education initiatives and increased support for family planning services.

Other states also are moving to pass sweeping anti-abortion laws including Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Indiana, and Ohio.

The moves come amid a shifting makeup in the Supreme Court. President George W. Bush, an avowed abortion opponent, is expected to get to name at least one more justice during his term, and abortion opponents hope that when combined with his other recent appointments, a new justice would swing the court majority to favor conservative views.