Saturday, October 07, 2006

Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers

The New York Times
Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers

Correction Appended

Despite their packed megachurches, their political clout and their increasing visibility on the national stage, evangelical Christian leaders are warning one another that their teenagers are abandoning the faith in droves.

At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it “the 4 percent panic attack”), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

“I’m looking at the data,” said Ron Luce, who organized the meetings and founded Teen Mania, a 20-year-old youth ministry, “and we’ve become post-Christian America, like post-Christian Europe. We’ve been working as hard as we know how to work — everyone in youth ministry is working hard — but we’re losing.”

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.”

Among the leaders speaking at the meetings are Ted Haggard, president of the evangelical association; the Rev. Jerry Falwell; and nationally known preachers like Jack Hayford and Tommy Barnett.

Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual “hooking up” approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music. Divorced parents and dysfunctional families also lead some teenagers to avoid church entirely or to drift away.

Over and over in interviews, evangelical teenagers said they felt like a tiny, beleaguered minority in their schools and neighborhoods. They said they often felt alone in their struggles to live by their “Biblical values” by avoiding casual sex, risqué music and videos, Internet pornography, alcohol and drugs.

When Eric Soto, 18, transferred from a small charter school to a large public high school in Chicago, he said he was disappointed to find that an extracurricular Bible study attracted only five to eight students. “When we brought food, we thought we could get a better turnout,” he said. They got 12.

Chelsea Dunford, a 17-year old from Canton, Conn., said, “At school I don’t have a lot of friends who are Christians.”

Ms. Dunford spoke late last month as she and her small church youth group were about to join more than 3,400 teenagers in a sports arena at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst for a Christian youth extravaganza and rock concert called Acquire the Fire.

“A lot of my friends are self-proclaimed agnostics or atheists,” said Ms. Dunford, who wears a bracelet with a heart-shaped charm engraved with “tlw,” for “true love waits,” to remind herself of her pledge not to have premarital sex.

She said her friends were more prone to use profanity and party than she was, and added: “It’s scary sometimes. You get made fun of.”

To break the isolation and bolster the teenagers’ commitment to a conservative lifestyle, Mr. Luce has been organizing these stadium extravaganzas for 15 years. The event in Amherst was the first of 40 that Teen Mania is putting on between now and May, on a breakneck schedule that resembles a road trip for a major touring band. The “roadies” are 700 teenagers who have interned for a year at Teen Mania’s “Honor Academy” in Garden Valley, Tex.

More than two million teenagers have attended in the last 15 years, said Mr. Luce, a 45-year-old, mop-headed father of three with a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard and the star power of an aging rock guitarist.

“That’s more than Paul McCartney has pulled in,” Mr. Luce asserted, before bounding onstage for the opening pyrotechnics and a prayer.

For the next two days, the teenagers in the arena pogoed to Christian bands, pledged to lead their friends to Christ and sang an anthem with the chorus, “We won’t be silent.” Hundreds streamed down the aisles for the altar call and knelt in front of the stage, some weeping openly as they prayed to give their lives to God.

The next morning, Mr. Luce led the crowd in an exercise in which they wrote on scraps of paper all the negative cultural influences, brand names, products and television shows that they planned to excise from their lives. Again they streamed down the aisles, this time to throw away the “cultural garbage.”

Trash cans filled with folded pieces of paper on which the teenagers had scribbled things like Ryan Seacrest, Louis Vuitton, “Gilmore Girls,” “Days of Our Lives,” Iron Maiden, Harry Potter, “need for a boyfriend” and “my perfect teeth obsession.” One had written in tiny letters: “fornication.”

Some teenagers threw away cigarette lighters, brand-name sweatshirts, Mardi Gras beads and CD’s — one titled “I’m a Hustla.”

“Lord Jesus,” Mr. Luce prayed into the microphone as the teenagers dropped their notes into the trash, “I strip off the identity of the world, and this morning I clothe myself with Christ, with his lifestyle. That’s what I want to be known for.”

Evangelical adults, like believers of every faith, fret about losing the next generation, said the Rev. David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology of Emory University, in Atlanta.

“The uniqueness of the evangelical situation is the fact that during the 80’s and 90’s you had the Reagan revolution that was growing the evangelical churches,” Mr. Key said.

Today, he said, the culture trivializes religion and normalizes secularism and liberal sexual mores.

The phenomenon may not be that young evangelicals are abandoning their faith, but that they are abandoning the institutional church, said Lauren Sandler, author of “Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement” (Viking, 2006). Ms. Sandler, who calls herself a secular liberal, said she found the movement frighteningly robust.

“This generation is not about church,” said Ms. Sandler, an editor at “They always say, ‘We take our faith outside the four walls.’ For a lot of young evangelicals, church is a rock festival, or a skate park or hanging out in someone’s basement.”

Contradicting the sense of isolation expressed by some evangelical teenagers, Ms. Sandler said, “I met plenty of kids who told me over and over that if you’re not Christian in your high school, you’re not cool — kids with Mohawks, with indie rock bands who feel peer pressure to be Christian.”

The reality is, when it comes to organizing youth, evangelical Christians are the envy of Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews, said Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, who specializes in the study of American evangelicals and surveyed teens for his book “Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual lives of American Teenagers” (Oxford, 2005).

Mr. Smith said he was skeptical about the 4 percent statistic. He said the figure was from a footnote in a book and was inconsistent with research he had conducted and reviewed, which has found that evangelical teenagers are more likely to remain involved with their faith than are mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews and teenagers of almost every other religion.

“A lot of the goals I’m very supportive of,” Mr. Smith said of the new evangelical youth campaign, “but it just kills me that it’s framed in such apocalyptic terms that couldn’t possibly hold up under half a second of scrutiny. It’s just self-defeating.”

The 4 percent is cited in the book “The Bridger Generation” by Thom S. Rainer, a Southern Baptist and a former professor of ministry. Mr. Rainer said in an interview that it came from a poll he had commissioned, and that while he thought the methodology was reliable, the poll was 10 years old.

“I would have to, with integrity, say there has been no significant follow-up to see if the numbers are still valid,” Mr. Rainer said.

Mr. Luce seems weary of criticism that his message is overly alarmist. He said that a current poll by the well-known evangelical pollster George Barna found that 5 percent of teenagers were Bible-believing Christians. Some criticize Mr. Barna’s methodology, however, for defining “Bible-believing” so narrowly that it excludes most people who consider themselves Christians.

Mr. Luce responded: “If the 4 percent is true, or even the 5 percent, it’s an indictment of youth ministry. So certainly they’re going to want different data.”

Outside the arena in Amherst, the teenagers at Mr. Luce’s Acquire the Fire extravaganza mobbed the tables hawking T-shirts and CD’s stamped: “Branded by God.” Mr. Luce’s strategy is to replace MTV’s wares with those of an alternative Christian culture, so teenagers will link their identity to Christ and not to the latest flesh-baring pop star.

Apparently, the strategy can show results. In Chicago, Eric Soto said he returned from a stadium event in Detroit in the spring to find that other teenagers in the hallways were also wearing “Acquire the Fire” T-shirts.

“You were there? You’re a Christian?” he said the young people would say to one another. “The fire doesn’t die once you leave the stadium. But it’s a challenge to keep it burning.”

Correction: Oct. 7, 2006

A front-page article yesterday about evangelical Christian teenagers gave an incorrect academic credential for Ron Luce, the founder of Teen Mania, a youth ministry that organizes “Acquire the Fire” stadium events. He is a graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, where he received a certificate from the Owner President Management program. He did not earn a master’s degree from the school.


Anti-U.S. Attack Videos Spread on Web

The New York Times
Anti-U.S. Attack Videos Spread on Web

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 5 — Videos showing insurgent attacks against American troops in Iraq, long available in Baghdad shops and on Jihadist Web sites, have steadily migrated in recent months to popular Internet video-sharing sites, including YouTube and Google Video.

Many of the videos, showing sniper attacks against Americans and roadside bombs exploding under American military vehicles, have been posted not by insurgents or their official supporters but apparently by Internet users in the United States and other countries, who have passed along videos found elsewhere.

Among the scenes being viewed daily by thousands of users of the sites are sniper attacks in which Americans are felled by snipers as a camera records the action and of armored Humvees or other military vehicles being hit by roadside bombs.

In some videos, the troops do not appear to have been seriously injured; in one, titled “Sniper Hit” and posted on YouTube by a user named 69souljah, a serviceman is knocked down by a shot but then gets up to seek cover. Other videos, however, show soldiers bleeding on the ground, vehicles exploding and troops being loaded onto medical evacuation helicopters.

At a time when the Bush administration has restricted photographs of the coffins of military personnel returning to the United States and the Pentagon keeps close tabs on videotapes of combat operations taken by the news media, the videos give average Americans a level of access to combat scenes rarely available before, if ever.

Their availability has also produced some backlash. In recent weeks, YouTube has removed dozens of the videos from its archives and suspended the accounts of some users who have posted them, a reaction, it said, to complaints from other users.

More than four dozen videos of combat in Iraq viewed by The New York Times have been removed in recent days, many after The Times began inquiries.

But many others remain, some labeled in Arabic, making them difficult for American users to search for. In addition, new videos, often with the same material that had been deleted elsewhere, are added daily.

Russell K. Terry, a Vietnam veteran who founded the Iraq War Veterans Organization, said he had mixed feelings about the videos.

“It’s unfortunate there’s no way to stop it,” Mr. Terry said, even though “this is what these guys are over there fighting for: freedom of speech.”

One YouTube user, who would not identify himself other than by his account name, facez0fdeath, and his location, in Britain, said by e-mail that he posted a video of a sniper attack “because I felt it was information the U.K. news was unwilling to tell.”

“I was physically sickened upon seeing it,” he said, adding, “I am wholly opposed to any form of censorship.”

The video he posted, which had been viewed more than 33,000 times, was removed earlier this week.

Another YouTube user, who said he was a 19-year-old in Istanbul and who posted more than 40 videos of Iraq violence, said via e-mail that “anti-war feelings and Muslim beliefs (the religion of peace) motivates me.”

Neal O. Newbill, a freshman at the University of Memphis who viewed some of the YouTube videos and posted comments on them, said in an interview that he was enraged by the recorded chants of “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” that follow some of the sniper attacks.

But Mr. Newbill added that he was awed by the size of the blasts from the improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, used against American vehicles. A son, nephew and grandson of American veterans, Mr. Newbill said he had sought out the videos, searching on YouTube for “I.E.D.,” “because I like watching stuff blow up.”

The Web sites also contain a growing number of video clips taken by American soldiers. One shows the view from the back of a truck containing several members of a platoon, whose vehicle then hits an I.E.D. and is turned on its side. A few videos also show American servicemen or private security guards firing at attackers, and one shows an American rocket-propelled grenade hitting a building from which insurgents are firing.

A spokesman for United States Central Command, which oversees troops in Iraq, said the military was aware of the use of common Internet sites by both insurgent groups and American military personnel.

“Centcom is aware we are facing an adaptive enemy that uses the Internet as a force multiplier and as a means of connectivity,” Maj. Matt McLaughlin, the spokesman, said by e-mail.

While posting of Web logs, pictures and videos by American troops is subject to military regulations, Major McLauglin said, “Al Qaeda uses the Internet and media to foster the perception that they are more capable than they are.”

Some of the videos are obvious propaganda, with Arabic subtitles and accompanying music, while others simply have scenes without sound or graphics. They appear to be real, though the results of attacks are not always clear.

One frequently posted video shows individual photographs of several hundred American soldiers allegedly killed by a Baghdad sniper referred to as Juba. But a television news report from the German weekly Der Spiegel that also has been posted on the video sites shows an interview with one American soldier whom the insurgent group claimed to have killed but whose protective vest stopped the sniper’s bullet.

Geoffrey D. W. Wawro, director of the Center for the Study of Military History at the University of North Texas and a former instructor at the United States Naval War College, said the erosion of the command structure of terrorist and insurgent groups had led them to increase their reliance on the Internet and videos to gain recruits.

American troops, too, have always sent snapshots home from the front, Mr. Wawro said, and digital pictures and video are simply a new incarnation of that.

“This is how the new generation does things,” he said.

“It results in a continued trivialization of combat and its effects,” Mr. Wawro added, “but no one feels completely comfortable saying, Don’t do it.”

YouTube does feel comfortable saying so, however, as does Google Video. Both have user guidelines that prohibit the posting of videos with graphic violence, a measure that spokeswomen for each service said was violated by many of the Iraq videos.

Julie Supan, senior director of marketing for YouTube, said the company removed videos after they were flagged by users as having inappropriate content and were reviewed by the video service.

In an e-mail message, Ms. Supan said that among the videos removed were those that “display graphic depictions of violence in addition to any war footage (U.S. or other) displayed with intent to shock or disgust, or graphic war footage with implied death (of U.S. troops or otherwise).”

David Gelles and Omar Fekeiki contributed reporting from Berkeley, Calif.


Friday, October 06, 2006

ABC mistakenly releases ID in page probe

Yahoo! News
ABC mistakenly releases ID in page probe

ABC News' fleeting, inadvertent publishing of a computer screen name enabled a blogger to track down and make public the supposed identity of a former congressional page who traded salacious messages with former Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record).

In breaking the story of the now-burgeoning scandal, the network last Friday posted on its Web site a series of instant message exchanges between Foley and the teen-ager. The name of the page was not included.

But in one exchange the network inadvertently left the victim's screen name on. It was quickly discovered and removed, replaced by a version with the name redacted.

However, ABC said Thursday that a blogger was able to retrieve the deleted file. The blogger, known as "Wild Bill' from the "Passionate America" site, went on a computer detective mission he describes in detail on his site to discover the name.

[Editor's note: Click here to see the blog entry that describes how Wild Bill, with help, tracked down the information.

"To be clear, no one visiting our Web site would have simply stumbled on the old version," ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said. "We thank the blogger and (Matt) Drudge for bringing this to our attention."

ABC has taken additional steps to make sure no one can access the deleted messages, he said.


Voters say scandals will affect votes

Yahoo! News
Voters say scandals will affect votes
By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer

In yet another hurdle for Republicans, the scandals that have dogged Congress for the past year are prominent in the minds of many voters who say corruption will significantly influence their vote in November.

With midterm elections less than five weeks away, the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that about half of likely voters say disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress will be very or extremely important when they enter the voting booth.

About two out of three of those voters said they would cast their ballots for Democrats in House races, further complicating the political landscape for Republicans already struggling against negative public perceptions.

The poll was conducted this week as House Republican leaders came under increasing pressure to explain what they knew of sexually explicit messages from former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida to teenage pages. Last month, another Republican, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, admitted that he accepted trips, meals and other gifts in exchange for legislative favors.

In that roiling environment, the poll found that by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 likely voters say Democrats would better combat corruption than Republicans. More troubling to Republicans, likely voters in some key Republican groups were split on whether to trust Democrats or Republicans to clean up corruption.

Voter perceptions about corruption underscore a strong sense of dissatisfaction, if not outright anger, toward Congress. And they help explain the pessimism with which some Republicans in and outside Congress now view their chances on Election Day.

Among likely voters, 28 percent said they are angry at the Republican leadership in Congress and 35 percent said they were dissatisfied but not angry.

Rep. Mike Simpson (news, bio, voting record), R-Idaho, told the Associated Press that Republicans had been somewhat upbeat in early September, believing they would only lose a handful of House seats and still retain their majority. But after Foley's electronic exchanges with teenage boys became public on Friday, Simpson said he now is "not confident" they can keep control of the House.

"From Thursday it went (from) fairly confident we were going to keep the majority to a real tossup," he said.

The Foley scandal, with its proximity to the elections and its simple set of facts, has sent Republican leaders and GOP candidates on a political detour just as they were preparing their final offensive against Democrats to save control of Congress. Since Friday, the Foley affair has broadened amid questions about who in the GOP leadership had been warned about his behavior.

Like other Democrats, Joe Courtney, who is challenging Republican Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut, has called for the resignation of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., over the Foley matter. But he said voters raised the subject without prompting during campaign stops last weekend.

"This Congress wasn't exactly held in high regard before this incident," he said. "It has a life of its own."

Lawrence Nuccio, a 78-year-old Republican from Glen Cove, N.Y., said he would vote for Democrats for the first time out of frustration with Republican congressional leaders.

"I'm a registered Republican, but when I turn around and see them trying to cover up — and that's what they're doing — and try to pass the buck to the Democrats, that's not right," Nuccio said. "You have elected officials who are running the country and you assume are doing the right thing, but they're not."

Whether they live in the suburbs or cities or rural areas, likely voters tended to trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle corruption. That didn't necessarily mean they would vote for Democratic candidates, but the results highlighted a vulnerability for Republicans. Even suburban men, traditionally a strong Republican voting bloc, were divided about which party could better address the problem of corruption.

Overall, Democrats maintained a 10-percentage point lead over Republicans in House races. Fifty-one percent of likely voters said they would vote for the Democrat in their congressional district; 41 percent said they would vote for the Republican. That's essentially unchanged from last month.

The number of adults who say the country is on the wrong track remained virtually unchanged from last month at 64 percent. That's still lower than in August, when it was 71 percent or May when it reached 73 percent.

The leading issue among likely voters remained Iraq, followed closely by the economy.

But the poll also found that President Bush's efforts to depict the war in Iraq as part of a larger campaign against terrorism and to portray Democrats as weak on national security was not altering the political landscape.

Approval of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq was at 37 percent among likely voters, down slightly from 41 percent last month. Bush's rating on handling foreign policy and terrorism also fell slightly, from 47 percent last month to 43 percent this month.

Similarly, recent good news on the economic front — from lower gas prices to a rising stock market — did not appear to pierce through the public's downbeat view of the economy. Fifty-six percent of likely voters disapproved of Bush's handling of the economy, compared to 59 percent who held that view last month.

The low approval ratings that have dogged the president and Congress were essentially unchanged from last month. Among likely voters, 24 percent approved of the way Congress was handling its job and 39 percent approved of Bush's job performance.

While many voters aim their antipathy at Republicans, who control Congress, others blame both parties for refusing to work together.

John Hart, a 47-year-old materials manager from Norwalk, Ohio, said he would prefer neither party controlled Congress after next month's elections.

"I've become much more cynical about the whole process just because it's no longer about what's your plans for the good of the country, now it's what can we throw at the other side and avoid getting tossed back at us," he said.

The poll of 741 likely voters was conducted Monday through Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.


AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson and Associated Press Writers Philip Elliott and Kasie Hunt contributed to this report.


On the Net:



Ex-page says he got messages from Foley

Yahoo! News
Ex-page says he got messages from Foley
By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer

A former congressional page said Thursday he received sexually suggestive messages from then-Rep. Mark Foley in 1997.

Tyson Vivyan's account appears to show the earliest exchange of suggestive messages reported so far between Foley and teens who had served in the Capitol page program. Previous accounts placed the earliest contacts in 2003.

Vivyan, 26, told The Associated Press that Foley began sending him instant messages about a month or two after his nine-month stint as a page ended in June 1997.

Vivyan, who gave interviews this week to other media, said he never met Foley personally during his stint as a page, other than brief greetings while working in the cloakroom beside the House chamber where members take breaks.

A few months later, he said, he started getting instant messages via computer from a person with the screen name MAF54, which has been linked in news reports to Foley. He said he wasn't sure who it was, but the person knew his name and physical description. He said the person asked personal questions, such as his sexual orientation.

Vivyan said he figured the person had to be on Capitol Hill, and began looking up initials in a congressional guide. He said that when he found Foley's initials — MAF, born in 1954 — he realized who it was.

"It was almost surreal. Not only was I conversing with a congressman in a personal manner, I was conversing in a sexual manner," Vivyan said.

After he guessed it was Foley, the person continued to contact him. Vivyan said he tried to turn the talk to politics. Foley would often stop talking and contact him a week later with suggestive messages.

Vivyan also said he was invited to Foley's brownstone in Washington. Vivyan said he didn't want to go alone, so brought a fellow page with him. He said they had pizza and soft drinks, and nothing sexual happened.

David Roth, attorney for the Florida Republican former congressman, declined to comment on the allegations.

Foley, 52, resigned Friday. He has since entered an alcohol rehabilitation facility at an undisclosed location. Through his lawyer, he has said he is gay but denied any sexual contact with minors.

Vivyan said he was nominated as a page by Rep. John. J. Duncan, R-Tenn. Don Walker, Duncan's deputy chief of staff, confirmed Thursday to the AP that Vivyan was a page from Duncan's district.

"We did not get any complaints form him while he was a page or after he was a page or anytime thereafter until Monday," Walker said. "As soon as we learned of it we turned it over to the authorities."

Vivyan said he was interviewed this week by the FBI. FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett in Atlanta declined comment.


IM conversations can linger for years

Yahoo! News
IM conversations can linger for years
By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer

Instant-messaging conversations, though quick, aren't always fleeting.

Rep. Mark Foley's salacious chats with teenage pages emerged along with e-mails last week, as the Florida Republican abruptly resigned. ABC News, which broke the story, has said former pages were the source of the revelations about IMs from 2003.

Most likely, the pages who corresponded with Foley either manually saved messages or used IM software with built-in logging capabilities, allowing time-stamped chat sessions to be kept indefinitely on one's computer. The programs vary in whether the features are initially on or off and how well they notify users.

"Computers are really, really good at saving things, unlike a dumb telephone," said Richard M. Smith, an Internet security and privacy consultant at Boston Software Forensics. "If you don't want something to get out, don't put it in any computer form at all."

Chat programs from Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are among those with logging capabilities. Microsoft's installs with the "off" button initially selected, while Yahoo's automatically records chats but clears them when a user signs off (users can choose to turn it off or record forever).

AOL Instant Messenger, the most popular IM service in the United States, doesn't offer logging in its current consumer versions but does in its business-oriented AIM Pro software. AOL's service also can be accessed by Trillian and other third-party software with built-in logging.

Computer-indexing programs such as Google Desktop also have options to retain chats on a personal computer. Some computers also may have keystroke-recording programs secretly installed by a boss or a spouse.

In some cases, the services themselves retain chats.

Google Inc. offers users the ability to store such conversations online, so they can be accessed just like e-mail. You need a password to see conversations, although Google and other service providers typically disclose such information to law enforcement when issued a subpoena or court order.

Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft all say they do not retain chat sessions at all. Once a message is sent, it should exist only on the sender's and recipient's computer.

The Foley investigation comes as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales seeks a federal law requiring that Internet providers preserve customer records, asserting that prosecutors need them to fight child pornography. However, Justice officials have said that any proposal would not call for the content of IM and other communications to be preserved.

Some employers have software in place to record traffic through their networks, and some business-grade IM systems have centralized logging.

Conversations may also remain on Foley's home or work computers, even if he did not have automated logging. Some computers temporarily store their memory's contents on the disk drive, but the data could take awhile to get overwritten, said Kristin Nimsger, vice president of legal technologies with Kroll Inc.'s Kroll Ontrack.

"Delete does not mean delete, and a hard drive by its very function is going to retain all sorts of information about a person's computer that they may not be aware of," she said.

The Justice Department has ordered House officials to preserve all records in the case.

The tougher part may be proving the messages' authenticity, particularly when the evidence comes from the recipients. Logs are generally plain text files that can be easily altered.

Mark Rasch, a former Justice Department computer crimes prosecutor, said prosecutors must also prove that Foley was on the other end, not someone else using his IM account.

"We've got to prove that the instant-messaging session occurred and that Foley's hands ... (were) on his keyboard," Rasch said.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Aide says he reported Foley to Hastert 3 years ago

Yahoo! News
Aide says he reported Foley 3 years ago
By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer

A senior congressional aide said Wednesday he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office about worrisome conduct by Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) toward teenage pages more than three years ago, long before officials have acknowledged becoming aware of the issue.

Kirk Fordham made his comments to The Associated Press in an interview as a Kentucky Republican canceled a campaign fundraising event with Hastert. Rep. Ron Lewis (news, bio, voting record) said he wants to know the facts behind a scandal that has roiled Republicans since last week.

"I'm taking the speaker's words at face value," Lewis said in an interview. "I have no reason to doubt him. But until this is cleared up, I want to know the facts.

"If anyone in our leadership has done anything wrong, then I will be the first in line to condemn it."

Taken together, the comments by Fordham and the actions by Lewis added to the political uncertainty surrounding Hastert and fellow Republicans five weeks before midterm elections in which their control of the House will be tested.

Hastert's office did not immediately respond to either development.

Foley, 52, a Florida Republican, resigned last Friday after he was confronted with sexually explicit electronic messages he had sent teenage male pages. He has since entered an alcohol rehabilitation facility at an undisclosed location and, through his lawyer, has denied having had any sexual contact with minors.

His abrupt departure left behind a virtual sex scandal and a string of unanswered questions — about what senior lawmakers knew, when they learned and what they did about it.

Fordham said he was serving as Foley's chief of staff when he was told about the lawmaker's inappropriate behavior toward pages more than three years ago. He said he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene" at the time.

Fordham declined to identify the officials in Hastert's office he spoke with.

Two members of the GOP leadership say they told Hastert this past spring they had heard Foley had sent overly friendly e-mails to a page. Hastert said over the weekend he does not recall those conversations, but has not disputed they took place.

Fordham resigned Wednesday as chief of staff to Rep. Thomas Reynolds (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y., and said: "I never attempted to prevent any inquiries or investigation."

He said he would fully disclose to the FBI and the House ethics committee "any and all meetings and phone calls" regarding Foley's behavior that he had with senior staffers in the House leadership.

Fordham said one staffer he spoke with remains employed by a senior House Republican leader, but he declined to identify the person.

"Rather than trying to shift the blame on me, those who are employed by these House leaders should acknowledge what they know about their action or inaction in response to the information they knew about Mr. Foley prior to 2005," Fordham said.

At the time of his resignation, Fordham was serving as chief of staff for Reynolds, a member of the GOP leadership who has struggled to avoid political damage in the scandal's fallout.

Lewis, the Kentucky congressman, had arranged for Hastert to appear at a $50-per-person fundraiser next Tuesday. Hastert is one of the GOP's most sought-after speaker for campaign events, and the decision to scrap the appearance reflected concern over sharing a stage with a man suddenly struggling with a scandal.

State and federal investigators swung into action.

The Justice Department ordered House officials to "preserve all records" related to Foley's electronic correspondence with teenagers. Acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor for the District of Columbia sought protection of the records in a three-page letter to House counsel Geraldine Gennet, according to a Justice official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Such letters often are followed by search warrants and subpoenas and signal that investigators are moving closer to a criminal investigation.

The request was aimed at averting a conflict with the House similar to a standoff in May when FBI agents raided Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson (news, bio, voting record)'s office seeking information in a bribery investigation.

FBI agents have begun interviewing participants in the House page program, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. The official declined to say whether the interviews were limited to current pages or included former pages.

Separately, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that it has begun its own preliminary inquiry.


Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Lara Jakes Jordan and Laurie Kellman in Washington; Marus Kabel in Springfield, Mo., and Michelle Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck

Huffington Post
Frank Dwyer
Good Night, and Good Luck

In an important, though distressing, post a few hours ago, Jeff Cohen warned us that Keith Olbermann may be in trouble. Given the politics and history of Olbermann's bosses at NBC/GE, how much longer will they allow him to have a platform? His show could be canceled.

If that happens, my wife and I will cheerfully add NBC (and MSNBC) to our list of blocked channels.

It's surprising how easy and fulfilling that is: we're doing fine without swiftboat ABC. I hope many of you will join us. If they act like FOX, let them enjoy FOX ratings.

As for Olbermann, I have a suggestion about his future.

He's a brilliant, eloquent, quick-witted, fearless progressive. (How many other Democratic leaders deserve all--or any--of those adjectives?) His passion, clarity, and force make him a hero in a time singularly lacking in heroes. He's become a true leader, a spokesperson for the righteous indignation of the decent, for the hope of the afflicted,
for the conscience of America, for the liberal movement.


Why not? Why not select a national leader with such qualifications? Some will point out that he has no experience as a politician. Is that really such a disadvantage, especially given his manifest excellence? Isn't it time we used a wider net to choose our leaders, since our old net is clearly beyond repair?

GORE-OLBERMANN. Why not have a ticket with two heroes?

Imagine the campaign: saving the planet, saving the democracy, saving the middle class, saving the poor, having allies again. Not being ashamed of your leaders. Being proud of them!

Imagine the vice-presidential debate.

Morning is apparently inevitable now, after a very bad night, though how could morning following night have come to be such a close call? So "Good night, and good luck," and then "Good morning!"--and let's begin making our own luck. We're citizens. It's a democracy. It's about time.


Auditors: Health records for millions at risk of improper disclosure

Auditors: Health records for millions at risk of improper disclosure

WASHINGTON (AP) — Security weaknesses have left millions of elderly, disabled and poor Americans vulnerable to unauthorized disclosure of their medical and personal records, federal investigators said Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Office said it discovered 47 weaknesses in the computer system used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to send and receive bills and to communicate with health care providers.

The agency oversees health care programs that benefit one in every four Americans. Its massive amount of data is transmitted through a computer network that is privately owned and operated.

However, CMS did not always ensure that its contractor followed the agency's security policies and standards, according to the GAO report released Tuesday.

"As a result, sensitive, personally identifiable medical data traversing this network are vulnerable to unauthorized disclosure," the federal investigators said. "And these weaknesses could lead to disruptions in CMS operations."

Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency was working to address problems cited in the report but noted the GAO "found no evidence that confidential or sensitive information had actually been compromised."

"Security of our beneficiaries' data is paramount and we appreciate GAO's assistance in identifying important opportunities for the contractor to strengthen network security," he said.

In the past year, security breaches have led to closer scrutiny of how government agencies maintain sensitive information about the people they serve. The most notable example was the theft of a laptop computer from a Veterans Affairs employee, which contained personal data on about 26.5 million people. The laptop was later recovered. Its contents had not been accessed or copied.

But the theft put a scare into many veterans and prompted calls for major changes in how government records with personal information are secured.

The network handling Medicare claims transmits extremely personal information, such as a patient's diagnosis, the types of drugs the patient takes, plus the type of treatment facility they visited, including treatment centers for substance abuse or mental illness.

In addition, claims data contains personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses and dates of birth, the investigators said.

The investigators and CMS emphasized that the report focuses solely on the transmission of data. The auditors did not evaluate security controls for the servers used to store patient data.

That's an important distinction because "intercepting or compromising information during transit across the network would be difficult," McClellan said.

Still, auditors at the GAO had previously reported this year that the Department of Health and Human Services had "significant weaknesses" when it came to the security of its computer systems.

The report does not name the contractor that oversees the data transmissions.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed dismay over the audit's findings and said Medicare and Medicaid officials need to respond quickly.

"Program officials need to get on top of these shortcomings immediately," said Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "Beneficiaries and providers expect that sensitive health information is protected, and it's up to the agency officials to ensure the system is secure."

According to the audit, other weaknesses included:

•Inadequate ability to identify and authenticate the users managing the network.

•Insufficient control of network access and privileges.

•Inadequate controls to protect the network from external attacks.

•Inadequate audit trails to determine the source of any transaction within the network.

CMS officials said they have already corrected 22 of the 47 weaknesses cited by auditors. Another 19 weaknesses were scheduled to be resolved soon, and the remaining six were under review to determine what additional resources were needed.

Find this article at:


In Military Spending Bill’s Fine Print: Millions to Celebrate Victory

The New York Times
In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Even as the Bush administration urges Americans to stay the course in Iraq, Republicans in Congress have put down a quiet marker in the apparent hope that V-I Day might be only months away.

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.

The original legislation empowered the president to designate “a day of celebration” to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

The celebration would honor the soldiers, sailors, air crews and marines who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it would be held in Washington, with the $20 million to cover the costs of military participation.

Democrats called attention to the measure, an act that Republicans are likely to portray as an effort to embarrass them five weeks before the midterm election. The Democrats said both the original language and the extension were pushed by Senate Republicans. A spokesman for the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee said it was protocol not to identify sponsors of such specific legislation.

The overall legislation was approved in the Senate by unanimous consent and overwhelmingly in the House after a short debate.

Democrats nevertheless said they were not pleased.

“If the Bush administration had spent more time planning for the postwar occupation of Iraq, and less time planning ‘mission accomplished’ victory celebrations, America would be closer to finishing the job in Iraq,” said Rebecca M. Kirszner, communications director for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a Pentagon spokesman, said late Tuesday that the event was envisioned as an opportunity for “honoring returning U.S. forces at the conclusion” of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. “As the funds were not used in F.Y. 2006,” the official said, using the initials for fiscal year, “the authorization was rolled over into F.Y. 2007.”


Call for action on climate change

Call for action on climate change

The world must act now to curb climate change, as doing nothing will cost more long-term, UK officials have said.

British government scientist and former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said pursuing alternative energy made economic and environmental sense.

He was addressing a closed-door meeting in Mexico of representatives of 20 of the world's most-polluting nations.

The two-day gathering hopes to reach agreement on ways to meet future energy demands while cutting emissions.

The meeting in Monterrey is the latest round of talks on the climate action plan decided upon at the G8 Gleneagles Summit last year.

Ministers from G8 nations are joined at the event by representatives from the emerging economies of China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

Organisers hope the meeting will be able to make progress on a number of issues, including:

* economic challenges of tackling climate change
* alternative low-carbon technologies
* level of investment from public and private sectors
* "road map" for a low-carbon future

'Not optimistic'

British Environment Secretary David Miliband quoted findings reached by Mr Stern in his report, which was commissioned by the UK government.

"He shows that the longer action is delayed, the more expensive it is," Mr Miliband said.

"What he says is that... it is imperative we take action to prevent further climate change because the economic costs - never mind the human costs and the costs to the environment - will far outweigh the costs of mitigation."

Also at the meeting, Claude Mandil, head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), presented the findings of extensive research carried out by the agency.

Mr Mandil told the BBC that the technologies needed to cut emissions for the foreseeable future already exist.

However, he warned that investment in new low-carbon technologies was needed now - otherwise a fresh generation of inefficient, carbon intensive power stations would become locked into the global energy mix.

But he said that he was not optimistic that there was a political will to deliver the necessary support, and that there was "a huge gap between words and deeds".

Costing the Earth

The Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development was created by the UK when it held the presidency of the G8 in 2005.

One of the dialogue's aims was to attempt to reach an informal agreement between industrialised and developing nations on a long-term strategy to cut emissions.

The world's biggest polluter, the US, has not ratified the UN's Kyoto Protocol - the international agreement on reducing nations' greenhouse gas emissions.

President Bush rejected it, saying it would harm the US economy and fail to deliver any meaningful reductions.

Emerging economies, led by China, argued that if the world's richest nation was not part of the Kyoto targets, it was unfair to expect developing nations to be subject to legally binding limits.

Campaigners hope the Sir Nicholas' findings will help deliver a consensus among the big polluters.

"We are urging the G8 not to miss another opportunity to take action in favour of the poorest people of the world, who are already struggling to cope with the effects of climate change," said Rachel Roach, a climate change policy adviser for the aid charity Tearfund.

But she added: "Unfortunately, it may well be that this week's meeting is another case of lots of talk but little action."

Story from BBC NEWS:


New Paltz board: Impeach Bush

Poughkeepsie Journal
New Paltz board: Impeach Bush
By Alice Hunt

NEW PALTZ — Impeach Bush? Yes, says the New Paltz town board.

The board voted 5-0 last week in favor of a resolution calling for the impeachment of the president. Grounds for impeachment listed in the resolution were taken from a list of 13 legal violations compiled by groups who also support Bush's impeachment.

"I'd say it's an unfortunate time in our history that we have to do this," Councilman Jim Bacon said.

While a majority vote in the U.S. House of Representatives is required to initiate a trial and a two-thirds vote by members present in the U.S. Senate is necessary for a president's removal from office, town resident Bob Hughes said the resolution sends a message to those at the state and federal levels.

"It becomes collective with the growing number of resolutions," he said. "It brings nationwide attention to the legal actions possible."

Hughes had presented the resolution to the board.

Sixteen state political action committees and 24 cities and towns across the United States have approved the resolution.

In New York, the Town of Woodstock, the City of Plattsburgh and Village of New Paltz have all passed similar resolutions.

All members of the New Paltz town board are Democrats.


Man Sues Secret Service Agent Over Arrest After Approaching Cheney and Denouncing War

The New York Times
Man Sues Secret Service Agent Over Arrest After Approaching Cheney and Denouncing War

DENVER, Oct. 3 — A Colorado man who was arrested in June on harassment charges after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney to denounce the war in Iraq filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday accusing a Secret Service agent of civil rights violations.

In his suit, filed in Federal District Court in Denver, the man, Steven Howards, an environmental consultant who lives in Golden, Colo., says he stepped up to the vice president to speak his mind in a public place and found himself in handcuffs — in violation, the suit says, of the Constitution’s language about free speech and illegal search and seizure.

The suit seeks no specific damages, and names only one agent, Virgil D. Reichle Jr., who is assigned to the Denver office of the Secret Service. But Mr. Howards’s lawyer, David A. Lane, said Mr. Cheney might be called as a witness, along with the district attorney in Eagle County who threw out the criminal case against Mr. Howards. If a chain of command within the Secret Service is found that suggests Mr. Reichle was acting on orders, Mr. Lane said, more defendants could be named.

A call to Agent Reichle was not returned. A spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney referred questions on the matter to the Secret Service. The agent in charge of the Denver office, Lon Garner, declined to comment.

Mr. Howards, 54, said at a news conference here that he was taking his 8-year-old son to a piano lesson on June 16 at the Beaver Creek Resort about two hours west of Denver when he saw Mr. Cheney at an outdoor mall. Mr. Howards said he approached within two feet of Mr. Cheney and said in a calm voice, “I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible,” or as the lawsuit itself describes the encounter, “words to that effect.”

Mr. Howards said he then went on his way. About 10 minutes later, he said, he was walking back through the area when Agent Reichle handcuffed him and said he would be charged with assaulting the vice president. Local police officers, acting on information from the Secret Service, according to the suit, ultimately filed misdemeanor harassment charges that could have resulted in up to a year in jail.

A June 16 article in The Vail Daily quoted a spokesman for the Secret Service, Eric Zahren, as saying that Mr. Howards “wasn’t acting like other folks in the area,” and that he became “argumentative and combative” when agents tried to question him. Mr. Howards said Tuesday that he was never threatening and did not become upset until his arrest.

“This was not about anything I did — this is about what I said,” he said.

Mr. Zahren declined to comment on the suit or on his original description of the event.

Mr. Howards said he was released on $500 bond after about three hours in jail. A state judge dismissed the charge about three weeks later at the request of the Eagle County district attorney, Mark Hurlbert.

“It was our understanding that the vice president did not want to prosecute,” Mr. Hurlbert said in a telephone interview. “The original indication was that he had pushed the vice president. Later it looked to be that he had just spoken to him.”

Mr. Hurlbert said the initial information on the incident came from the Secret Service agents at Beaver Creek. A later communication from Mr. Cheney’s office or the Secret Service — Mr. Hurlbert said he did not remember which — said the government wanted to drop the matter.

The suit joins two others — in West Virginia and another in Denver — charging that Secret Service agents or White House staff members violated the law in keeping people with opposing political views away from President Bush or Mr. Cheney.

In the other Colorado suit, two people said they were ejected from a taxpayer-financed appearance by Mr. Bush in Denver in March 2005 because of an antiwar bumper sticker. The case is awaiting a ruling from the judge on a motion by the government to dismiss the case.

In the West Virginia case, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jeff and Nicole Rank, who said they were arrested on July 4, 2004, at an appearance by Mr. Bush in Charleston. The Ranks had proper tickets but were wearing anti-Bush T-shirts, the suit says. The government has an Oct. 10 deadline to respond to the suit, said Chris Hansen, a senior staff counsel at the A.C.L.U. in New York.

Mr. Howards said that he had had no intent to test the limits of free speech when he approached Mr. Cheney, but that the government’s actions in the aftermath only deepened his convictions and opposition.

“This administration has a history of intimidating folks,” he said.


Software Being Developed to Monitor Opinions of U.S.

The New York Times
Software Being Developed to Monitor Opinions of U.S.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — A consortium of major universities, using Homeland Security Department money, is developing software that would let the government monitor negative opinions of the United States or its leaders in newspapers and other publications overseas.

Such a “sentiment analysis” is intended to identify potential threats to the nation, security officials said.

Researchers at institutions including Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah intend to test the system on hundreds of articles published in 2001 and 2002 on topics like President Bush’s use of the term “axis of evil,” the handling of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, the debate over global warming and the coup attempt against President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

A $2.4 million grant will finance the research over three years.

American officials have long relied on newspapers and other news sources to track events and opinions here and abroad, a goal that has included the routine translation of articles from many foreign publications and news services.

The new software would allow much more rapid and comprehensive monitoring of the global news media, as the Homeland Security Department and, perhaps, intelligence agencies look “to identify common patterns from numerous sources of information which might be indicative of potential threats to the nation,” a statement by the department said.

It could take several years for such a monitoring system to be in place, said Joe Kielman, coordinator of the research effort. The monitoring would not extend to United States news, Mr. Kielman said.

“We want to understand the rhetoric that is being published and how intense it is, such as the difference between dislike and excoriate,” he said.

Even the basic research has raised concern among journalism advocates and privacy groups, as well as representatives of the foreign news media.

“It is just creepy and Orwellian,” said Lucy Dalglish, a lawyer and former editor who is executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Andrei Sitov, Washington bureau chief of the Itar-Tass news agency of Russia, said he hoped that the objective did not go beyond simply identifying threats to efforts to stifle criticism about an American president or administration.

“This is what makes your country great, the open society where people can criticize their own government,” Mr. Sitov said.

The researchers, using an grant provided by a research group once affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency, have complied a database of hundreds of articles that it is being used to train a computer to recognize, rank and interpret statements.

The software would need to be able to distinguish between statements like “this spaghetti is good” and “this spaghetti is not very good — it’s excellent,” said Claire T. Cardie, a professor of computer science at Cornell.

Professor Cardie ranked the second statement as a more intense positive opinion than the first.

The articles in the database include work from many American newspapers and news wire services, including The Miami Herald and The New York Times, as well as foreign sources like Agence France-Presse and The Dawn, a newspaper in Pakistan.

One article discusses how a rabid fox bit a grazing cow in Romania, hardly a threat to the United States. Another item, an editorial in response to Mr. Bush’s use in 2002 of “axis of evil” to describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea, said: “The U.S. is the first nation to have developed nuclear weapons. Moreover, the U.S. is the first and only nation ever to deploy such weapons.”

The approach, called natural language processing, has been under development for decades. It is widely used to summarize basic facts in a text or to create abridged versions of articles.

But interpreting and rating expressions of opinion, without making too many errors, has been much more challenging, said Professor Cardie and Janyce M. Wiebe, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Pittsburgh. Their system would include a confidence rating for each “opinion” that it evaluates and would allow an official to refer quickly to the actual text that the computer indicates contains an intense anti-American statement.

Ultimately, the government could in a semiautomated way track a statement by specific individuals abroad or track reports by particular foreign news outlets or journalists, rating comments about American policies or officials.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, said the effort recalled the aborted 2002 push by a Defense Department agency to develop a tracking system called Total Information Awareness that was intended to detect terrorists by analyzing troves of information.

“That is really chilling,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “And it seems far afield from the mission of homeland security.”

Federal law prohibits the Homeland Security Department or other intelligence agencies from building such a database on American citizens, and no effort would be made to do that, a spokesman for the department, Christopher Kelly, said. But there would be no such restrictions on using foreign news media, Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kielman, the project coordinator, said questions on using the software were premature because the department was just now financing the basic research necessary to set up an operating system.

Professors Cardie and Wiebe said they understood that there were legitimate questions about the ultimate use of their software.

“There has to be guidelines and restrictions on the use of this kind of technology by the government,” Professor Wiebe said. “But it doesn’t mean it is not useful. It can just as easily help the government understand what is going on in places around the world.”


Dean: "It's time for the truth."

Dean Responds to Latest Bush Election Year Rhetoric

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, President Bush again engaged in misleading partisan attacks, by falsely asserting that Democrats have a "softer side" when it comes to fighting terrorism. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement responding to President Bush's latest failed, stay-the-course rhetoric:

"What's softer than giving up the hunt for Osama bin Laden and ignoring the 16 intelligence agencies who told him that the war in Iraq is making us less safe at home and around the world? It's time for the truth.

All the tough talk in the world cannot hide the fact that President Bush and his GOP Congress's bad decisions have hurt America's security."


Actors, musicians oppose U.S. media consolidation

Actors, musicians oppose U.S. media consolidation
By Jeremy Pelofsky

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood actors, producers and musicians on Tuesday crowded into a Federal Communications Commission hearing to clamor for the retention of curbs on the growth and power of big media conglomerates.

The five FCC commissioners, who are considering overhauling ownership limits, found themselves center stage as participants, ranging from Mike Mills, bassist for the rock band R.E.M., to "Rockford Files" producer Stephen Cannell, criticized media mergers they said were drowning out independent voices.

Producers described difficulties getting shows on television networks unless they accepted demands to change actors or storylines. They urged the FCC to require that 25 percent of primetime programming come from independent producers.

"Casting decisions are now made by the networks," said actress Anne-Marie Johnson, who has appeared on popular TV shows like "Melrose Place" and "JAG".

"A requirement for independent voices in production is critical to the completion of a goal of diversity in America," Johnson said during an event that at times sounded like a raucous political rally against media consolidation.

The FCC is reviewing whether broadcasters can be allowed to own more television and radio stations in a specific market, and whether to lift a ban preventing a company from owning a newspaper and a broadcast outlet in a market.

Another rule under review is a ban preventing two of the four major networks from combining.

Marshall Herskovitz, president of the Producers Guild of America, said that given television stations' demands for profits, news editors have to choose between segments that are newsworthy and those that are more "marketable".


Broadcasters argue that there are plenty of outlets for local news, entertainment and information thanks to cable television, the Internet and other providers.

"Media competition today is far more intense than at any time in history," said Bruce Owen, a professor at Stanford University and a representative for three of the broadcast networks, CBS, Fox and NBC.

The general manager of a Los Angeles television station owned by the Tribune Co., which also owns the Los Angeles Times newspaper and advocates lifting the cross-ownership ban of broadcast outlets and newspapers, said the community has benefited from the dual ownership.

"We do have the enormous reporting capabilities of the L.A. Times and we use that asset to complement, augment and enrich our local news telecasts," said Vincent Malcolm of KTLA, which is an affiliate of the new CW network.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin gave no hints at the hearing about his own views.

"The decisions we will make about our ownership rules will be as difficult as they are critical," said Martin, a Republican. "We must also recognize, though, that some of our rules have not been updated for years and may no longer reflect the current marketplace."

The FCC in 2003 tried to lift the common-ownership ban and permit companies to own more TV stations in a market. However, an appeals court in 2004 sent the agency back to the drawing board, ruling that the limits were not adequately justified.

Martin, who will lead the crafting of the initial proposal of changes to the rules with his staff, has previously expressed a general desire to lift the ban on common-ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets.

He must get at least two of the other commissioners to agree with his plans for the move to pass and address concerns outlined by the appeals court that put the limits on hold. The agency is divided 3-2 in favor of the Republicans.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

C.I.A. Chief Warned Rice on Al Qaeda

The New York Times
C.I.A. Chief Warned Rice on Al Qaeda

President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and George J. Tenet met after the Sept. 11 attacks. An earlier meeting by Ms. Rice and Mr. Tenet, who have long had a contentious relationship, is now the subject of dispute.

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 2 — A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

The account by the spokesman, Sean McCormack, came hours after Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, told reporters aboard her airplane that she did not recall the specific meeting on July 10, noting that she had met repeatedly with Mr. Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. Ms. Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said it was “incomprehensible” to suggest she had ignored dire terrorist threats two months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. McCormack also said records showed that the Sept. 11 commission had been informed about the meeting, a fact that former intelligence officials and members of the commission confirmed on Monday.

When details of the meeting emerged last week in a new book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, Bush administration officials questioned Mr. Woodward’s reporting.

Now, after several days, both current and former Bush administration officials have confirmed parts of Mr. Woodward’s account.

Officials now agree that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so alarmed about intelligence pointing to an impending attack by Al Qaeda that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Ms. Rice and her National Security Council staff.

According to two former intelligence officials, Mr. Tenet told those assembled at the White House about the growing body of intelligence the C.I.A. had collected suggesting an attack was in the works.

But both current and former officials, including allies of Mr. Tenet, took issue with Mr. Woodward’s account that he and his aides had left the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had ignored them.

Earlier this week, some members of the Sept. 11 commission said they could not recall being told about a meeting like the one described by Mr. Woodward.

On Monday, officials said Mr. Tenet had told members of the commission about the July 10 meeting when they interviewed him in early 2004, but committee members said he never indicated he had left the White House with the impression that he had been ignored.

“Tenet never told us that he was brushed off,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the commission. “We certainly would have followed that up.”

Mr. McCormack said the records showed that far from ignoring Mr. Tenet’s warnings, Ms. Rice acted on the intelligence and requested that Mr. Tenet make the same presentation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft, then the attorney general.

But Mr. Ashcroft said by telephone on Monday evening that he never received a briefing that summer from Mr. Tenet.

“Frankly, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get that kind of briefing,” he said. “I’m surprised he didn’t think it was important enough to come by and tell me.”

Government investigations have shown that Mr. Ashcroft was briefed by other C.I.A. officials in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The dispute that has played out in recent days gives further evidence of an escalating battle between the White House and Mr. Tenet over who should take the blame for the failure to stop the Sept. 11 attacks and assertions by Bush administration officials that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling chemical and biological weapons and cultivating ties to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Tenet resigned as director of central intelligence in the summer of 2004 and was honored that December with a Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony. Since leaving the C.I.A., Mr. Tenet has stayed out of the public eye, largely declining to defend his record even after several government investigations assailed the faulty intelligence that helped build the case for the Iraq war.

Mr. Tenet is now completing work on a memoir that is scheduled to be published early next year. It is unclear how much he will use the book to settle old scores, although recent books have portrayed him both as dubious about the need to invade Iraq and angry that the White House has made the C.I.A. the primary scapegoat for the war.

In his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” the journalist and author Ron Suskind quotes Mr. Tenet’s former deputy at the C.I.A., John McLaughlin, as saying Mr. Tenet “wishes he could give that damn medal back.”

In his own book, Mr. Woodward wrote that over time Mr. Tenet developed a particular dislike for Ms. Rice, and that the former C.I.A. director was furious when she publicly blamed the agency for allowing President Bush to make the false claim in the 2003 State of the Union address that Mr. Hussein was pursuing nuclear materials in Niger.

“If the C.I.A., the director of central intelligence, had said, ‘Take this out of the speech,’ it would have been gone, without question,” Ms. Rice told reporters in July 2003.

In fact, the C.I.A. had told the White House months before that the intelligence about Niger was dubious, and had managed to keep the claim out of an October 2002 speech that Mr. Bush gave in Cincinnati.

More recently, Mr. Tenet has told friends he was particularly angry when, appearing recently on Sunday talk shows, both Ms. Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney cited Mr. Tenet as the reason that Bush administration officials asserted that Mr. Hussein had stockpiles of banned weapons and ties to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Cheney recalled in an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sept. 10: “George Tenet sat in the Oval Office and the president of the United States asked him directly, he said, ‘George, how good is the case against Saddam on weapons of mass destruction?’ The director of the C.I.A. said, ‘It’s a slam dunk, Mr. President, it’s a slam dunk,’ ”

Philip Shenon reported from Jidda, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.


House Republicans grapple with sex scandal

House Republicans grapple with sex scandal
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Republican leaders, already facing a tough election fight to keep control of the U.S. Congress, struggled on Monday to contain a mushrooming sex scandal just five weeks before the November 7 vote.

Former Republican Rep. Mark Foley, under FBI investigation for sending sexually explicit Internet messages to underage male congressional pages, reportedly checked into an alcohol rehabilitation facility over the weekend after resigning from Congress on Friday.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, responding to questions about what and when Republican leaders learned about the scandal, strongly denied knowing the explicit sexual nature of Foley's messages until they surfaced on Friday.

"No one in the Republican leadership ... saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public," Hastert told reporters at the Capitol.

Hastert and other top House Republicans said over the weekend they knew of e-mail traffic between Foley and a 16-year-old boy, which was described to them as "over-friendly," but were not made aware of the explicit nature of messages sent to other pages.

Some members of both parties suggested any congressional leader who knew about the content of the messages and failed to take action should step down.

"Congressman Foley duped a lot of people," Hastert said. "He deceived me too."

The scandal put Republicans on the defensive in the final month of a close election campaign, with Democrats looking to pick up the 15 House seats and six Senate seats needed to regain control of each chamber.

President George W. Bush and the White House tried to stay above the fray. "The House has to clean up the mess, to the extent there is a mess," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

Foley, a six-term veteran and chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children, resigned after the sexually explicit messages to current and former congressional pages were made public.

The FBI, Florida state investigators and House ethics investigators are all looking into Foley's communications with pages, who are teenagers assigned to answer telephones, deliver documents and run other errands for members of Congress.

Florida Republicans on Monday picked state Rep. Joe Negron to replace Foley in the November House race against Democrat Tim Mahoney, but it was too late to take Foley's name off the ballot. Negron will serve in Congress if Foley wins the most votes, state officials said.

The scandal not only created a ripe takeover target in Foley's previously safe Florida district for Democrats, but gave them renewed ammunition for charges that congressional Republicans have abused their power.

"This leadership, which has been so terribly wrong on so many policies, now seems willing to cover up events to protect its members," said Dianne Farrell, a Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Christopher Shays in Connecticut in one of the country's top races.

Democrats questioned traditional Republican claims to be protectors of family values.

"As a citizen and a voter, I am mortified by this latest turn of events. As someone running for Congress, I believe it is yet another reminder that we need to restore honor and dignity to the House," said Democrat Lois Murphy, who is challenging Republican Rep. James Gerlach in Pennsylvania in another top race.

The scandal erupted just as Bush's approval ratings were starting to climb slightly and Republicans felt more hopeful about retaining congressional majorities.

"Just as the Republicans were beginning to feel a little more confident, this happens," said Cal Jillson, a political analyst at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. "It could remind voters of why they were dissatisfied with Republican control of Congress to begin with."

CNN quoted Foley's lawyer as confirming the authenticity of a letter sent a Florida television on Sunday saying he was checking into a rehabilitation facility for "alcohol and emotional difficulties."


No Bill Too Small for GOP Incumbents in Tight Elections; House Leaders Rush Through Measures to Win Voters
No Bill Too Small for GOP Incumbents in Tight Elections
House Leaders Rush Through Measures to Win Voters
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer

In a bid to help embattled incumbents win tough reelection campaigns in November, House Republican leaders last week muscled through more than 165 bills that their members can use to win over voters back home -- and deflect attention from the scandals they left behind in Washington.

The scandal brewing around former Florida representative Mark Foley's inappropriate e-mails to teenage boys is only the latest in a series of indictments, resignations and accusations to rock Washington. In the face of such ill winds, House Republican leaders have urged GOP candidates to focus their campaigns on local issues and personal accomplishments. The last days of legislating were devoted to giving the candidates the specifics to run on.

Dozens of the made-to-order bills that flew through the House bear the names of the endangered lawmakers, from Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gerlach's Open Space and Farmland Preservation Act to Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays's reauthorization of the HOPE VI housing program, to measures to preserve Native American languages and assist in water planning for Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.).

"If you've got people with must-do pieces of legislation, you want to help them out," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference.

To be sure, larding up bills for endangered incumbents is nothing new. But with money tight and only two spending bills completed, this year's efforts focused less on home-district spending and more on substantive measures tailored to specific constituents -- a "suburban agenda" for embattled Republicans in the suburbs of Philadelphia, bills to appeal to Christian conservatives for troubled Midwestern Republicans and expressions of independence for Republicans from districts that have turned against President Bush.

Kingston said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), in his first end-of-session rush in that post, proved masterful at filling blank spots on the House's agenda with long-sought legislation.

The name of Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.), one of the most threatened incumbents, was blazed across the Public Expression of Religion Act, which passed the House Tuesday and would deny legal fees to anyone winning a lawsuit to block the display of religious symbols in public places. The little-noticed "GOP Suburban Agenda" that cleared the House in recent weeks included eight bills, seven of which were authored by Republicans in jeopardy.

"People care about these issues," said Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), an endangered freshman who returned to Bucks County over the weekend to tout an "online predators" bill and a measure to promote charitable giving for open-space preservation to counter Democratic attacks that have been fixated on the war in Iraq.

"I've got the quintessential suburban district," Fitzpatrick said. "When I go home and go to the ball fields with my wife, this is what people want to talk about, parklands and 'my space.' "

On the campaign trail, such small-bore bills are likely to be featured far more prominently than the measures that captured more headlines in Congress's last days, such as legislation creating military commissions to try suspected terrorists, a House-passed bill authorizing Bush's warrantless wiretapping, final approval of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, and bills covering port security, defense policy, military spending and homeland security funding.

Democratic campaign chiefs remain confident that such local measures will have little impact in an election year that they say remains a referendum on the president's leadership.

"There are forces bigger and more powerful at work," shrugged Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Democratic leaders have not let up in criticizing what they call a "do-nothing Congress," which has delayed action on a legion of big-ticket items. Despite personal promises from Republican leaders in the wake of influence-peddling scandals, changes to the rules governing lobbying were never made. Nine of 11 annual spending bills haven't passed. High-profile efforts to authorize Bush's warrantless wiretapping, open offshore areas to oil drilling and reform the rules on foreign investment after the Dubai ports fiasco all fell short of a presidential signing ceremony.

Bush's top three domestic priorities -- a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws, a remaking of Social Security and simplification of the tax code -- went nowhere. The minimum wage has not been raised for a decade. And the last, best chance for conservatives to virtually eliminate the estate tax permanently may have passed if Democrats gain seats in the House and Senate in November.

But in a year when National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.) has implored candidates to resist national themes in their campaigns, major legislation may be beside the point, GOP aides say. Not when Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) will get money to deal with leaking underground storage tanks in his district, when Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.) will get to tout his National Dam Safety Act and when Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) can claim bragging rights for the transfer of national forest land to the towns of Laona and Wabeno, Wis., as he campaigns for governor.

"I asked for help and I got it," Gerlach said of the leadership's last-minute scheduling of a vote on his open spaces and farmland preservation bill. "It was legislation my district wants. It was something my legislative district has a need for."

The effort to achieve such successes went to extraordinary lengths last week, even almost bringing down a major defense policy bill. House and Senate negotiators nearly failed to reach agreement on the defense bill, not because of issues such as the prohibition on torture that held up the bill last year, but because of an issue that had nothing to do with national defense -- a measure to clamp down on illegal immigrant gangs.

During a rare news conference, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) publicly challenged Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), saying he would not bring the defense policy bill to the House floor without the gang provision. Asked why Hastert had singled out the gang measure for his stand, one senior House leadership aide pointed to the person standing next to the speaker: freshman Rep. David G. Reichert (R-Wash.), the provision's author, who is running neck-and-neck with Microsoft executive Darcy Burner.

In the end, Hastert relented, but he offered Reichert a promise to be used on the campaign trail. The gang measure will be one of the first revisited when Congress returns after the election.


There He Goes Again!

Bush attacks Democrats on national security votes
By Steve Holland

RENO, Nevada (Reuters) - President Bush, opening a Western campaign swing, attacked Democrats on Monday for voting against legislation authorizing the wiretapping of terrorism suspects and setting rules for their interrogation.

Bush said in a fund-raising speech that the way the Democrats voted on the legislation last week, it seems the opposition party wants to wait "until we're attacked again" before responding to threats.

"I want you all to remember when you got to the polls here in Nevada, what political party supported the president to make sure we have the tools necessary to protect the American people, and which political party didn't," Bush said.

It is a theme he is expected to step up on Tuesday with a political speech in Stockton, California.

Although Republican majorities propelled the legislation to the president's desk for signing, large numbers of Democrats voted against them, and Bush planned to use those votes as a sign of the opposition party's weakness in the war on Islamic militants.

"Democrats say that they share the goal of fighting the war on terror aggressively but their votes in the Senate and the House often tell a different story and a vote is a statement," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

With five weeks left to persuade voters to stick with Republican control of the U.S. Congress, Bush opened a three-day Western campaign trip in Nevada by helping Republican congressional candidate Dean Heller raise $360,000.

He will also travel to California, Arizona and Colorado before returning to Washington on Wednesday.

Republican hopes of hanging on to control of the House of Representatives have been jolted by a sex scandal that prompted the resignation of Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley and led to Democratic charges that House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois should have acted swifter when told of suspicious e-mails Foley was sending to a teenage staffer.

Bush is trying to assist his party retain control of the House and the Senate with visits to congressional districts where Republican candidates need his fund-raising prowess despite his unpopularity due to the Iraq war.

He is looking to rebound from a difficult week in which a National Intelligence Estimate was made public that declared the Iraq war was furthering a global Islamist militant movement and a new book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward accused Bush of misleading Americans about the conflict.

Bush did not mention the Woodward book in his speech and gave his usual defense of the Iraq war, differing with Democrats who call it a distraction from the broader war against terrorism.

Heller is running against Democrat Jill Derby for the House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons, who is running for state governor.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria)


Monday, October 02, 2006

Consumers cut spending in August while inflation jumps

Consumers cut spending in August while inflation jumps

WASHINGTON (AP) — Battered consumers, faced with weak income growth and rising inflation, trimmed their spending in August by the largest amount in nearly a year.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending, after adjusting for inflation, dropped 0.1% last month, the first decline since a 0.3% fall in September 2005, a month when business activity was disrupted by Hurricane Katrina.

Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was up a worrisome 2.5% compared to a year ago, the biggest year-over-year increase in more than a decade.

Core inflation rose 0.2% in August from July.

That 2.5% increase is well above the Federal Reserve's comfort range of core inflation increases from 1% to 2%. However, many economists believe the central bank, after raising rates for 17 consecutive times over two years, is through with its credit tightening, believing that a slowing economy will restrain inflation pressures going forward.

Incomes, reflecting lackluster gains in employment, rose just 0.3% in August, the weakest performance in nine months.

The report underscored how much the economy is slowing this year as consumers have been battered by record-high gasoline prices and a cooling housing market. Falling home prices are making Americans more cautious about spending money because they feel less wealthy.

The overall economy grew at an annual rate of just 2.6% in the April-June quarter, the government reported Thursday, and the report on consumer spending indicates that growth will likely slow even more in the current quarter.

However, most economists believe the country will be able to escape an outright recession, in part because trends in recent weeks have been more favorable with gasoline prices falling rapidly, helping to boost consumer confidence.

That development is expected to bolster consumer spending in the final months of this year, giving retailers a decent holiday sales season. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity.

Consumer spending before adjusting for inflation showed a tiny 0.1% rise, far below the 0.8% jump in the previous month.

The 0.1% decline in spending after adjusting for inflation followed a 0.5% rise in July. Much of the slowdown reflected a drop in auto sales in August following a strong July.

The 0.3% rise in incomes followed a 0.5% July gain and was the weakest showing since incomes edged up just 0.2% last November.

After-tax incomes were up 0.4% in August, the weakest increase since a similar 0.4% gain in May.

Americans' savings rate came in at a minus 0.5%, compared to a minus 0.7% in July. That marked the 17th consecutive month that the savings rate has been in negative territory. That means that Americans are spending all of their after-tax incomes and dipping into savings or borrowing to finance their purchases.

Find this article at:


Congress adjourns for election with work unfinished

Congress adjourns for election with work unfinished
By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leaving behind a pile of unfinished work, members of the scandal-rocked U.S. Congress adjourned and went home on Saturday to ask voters to re-elect them in five weeks.

With polls showing President George W. Bush's fellow Republicans could lose control of Congress in the November 7 contests, their leaders even decided to depart a week early to give members more time to campaign.

"It's been a ghastly congressional session, particularly the last year," said Stephen Hess, a congressional scholar the Brookings Institution. "They figure the best thing to do is get out of town. They aren't doing anything here."

Congress has been dogged by low approval ratings, huge federal deficits, the increasingly unpopular Iraq war and a string of scandals. At the top of the list was the departure of indicted former House of Representatives Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas and an investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who, according to a congressional report this week, had frequent contact with the White House.

On Friday, there was another case. Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida resigned after reports he sent sexually inappropriate e-mails to congressional interns.

Foley was the third Republican House member to resign under pressure in the past two years. A fourth, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, abandoned a re-election bid before agreeing to plead guilty in the influence-peddling scandal that snared Abramoff and some associates.

Aside from the ethics issues, critics have called this a "do-nothing Congress," citing its failure on legislation to clean up how it does business, revamp the nation's immigration laws and overhaul the Social Security retirement program.

Lawmakers couldn't even agree on a new budget and have to return after the election to finish a number of must-pass federal spending bills.


Still the House and Senate passed a Bush-backed bill for tough interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists. But they have not yet agreed on a bill to give his warrantless domestic spying program congressional authorization.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist cited as accomplishments confirmation of two U.S. Supreme Court nominees and passage of legislation to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, renew the anti-terror Patriot Act and bolster port security.

"I'm very pleased where we are," said Frist, a Tennessee Republican who is retiring from Congress and eyeing a possible 2008 presidential bid.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who could lead the body if Democrats win control in November, said this has been "a make-matters-worse Congress for the working family in America."

Senate Republican Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky countered: "A lot of Americans have forgotten what Democrats do when they are in the majority. We are going to remind them."

If they seize control, Democrats vow to hold oversight hearings on such matters as whether the president manipulated facts to build support for Iraq war.

A survey released on Friday found broad public dissatisfaction with Congress as well as demand for action on such matters as global warming, immigration, energy, health care, Social Security and even old roads and bridges.

"If members of the next Congress want to be remembered as members of a 'Do-Something Congress' it must address these issues," Paul Light of New York University's Center for the Study of Congress said in releasing its report.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Vicki Allen)


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Derelictions Of Duty: How George Bush Has Disrespected Commanders and Hurt Our Troops

Huffington Post
Brent Budowsky
Derelictions Of Duty: How George Bush Has Disrespected Commanders and Hurt Our Troops

George W. Bush has now made one of the most appalling speeches in presidential history, comparing himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman and making charges against his opponents that should not be dignified by repeating.

It is time to set the record straight. Those who President Bush was really attacking were his commanders, his former Secretary of State, leaders of the NATO alliance among many others who have warned him of dangers and urged him to change course.

Time and time again, itemized in detail below, George Bush has shown contempt for his commanders, disrespected their advice, demeaned them publicly and privately, and taken action after action that directly harmed the safety of our troops and caused great damage to the mission and our national security.

In the Washington Post of September 26 I was both honored and outraged to read four full pages of American heroes lost in action in Iraq.

Honored because these young men and women, many of them 18 to 21 years of age, black, white, hispanic, asian, are truly the best that America has to offer. There are not words to fully express the honor they bring in the long line of American patriots, from the days of the Continental Army until every next morning in the America they defend for us.

Outraged because these American heroes deserved a damn sight better than they have gotten from the politicians in Washington and the nation that celebrates its tax cuts and housing bubbles while their blood is shed in the sands of the Middle East

What we have witnessed on a massive scale is a dereliction of duty of unparalleled proportion, from those who sent these young men and women to war, where they heroically did their duty, while politicians used them as cannon fodder for partisanship while committing derelictions of duty that did them great harm.

On issue after issue our hyper-partisan president has abused both the chain of command and his trust as commander in chief.

Congress should conduct televised public hearings, now, that would bring every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, every commander of the Iraq mission, and a significant number of enlisted men and women who have served in Iraq, to testify publicly and fully about what they truly believe about what should be done now.

They should be put under oath, not to question their truthfulness, but to protect them from any more abusive pressure or misrepresentation from civilians in the Administration or Congress.

And if Congress and our President can agree on any one thing, they should award a special and subtantial hardship bonus to every man and woman who has served in Iraq and in the cases of those who have left us, to their families who honor them, and make us proud to be their neighbors and fellow patriots.

It's high time we end this abuse of command influence, these attempts by the President and Secretary of Defense to ignore the advice of commanders, and to threaten or intimidate them into not speaking out, and then to publicly misrepresent their views.

I dare any Republican, I dare any conservative, I dare any neoconservative to put their name on paper and challenge any one of these blunt and true assertions:

This whole Iraq venture began when our commanders presented a war plan that would have required 400,000 troops.

I challenge the President and his partisans:

Is it not true that our commanders were bullied, beaten down and rudely and unprofessionally treated to force them into a war plan that they believed had far too troops for the mission?

Did our commanders not despise the shameful, unethical, and abusive treatment of General Eric Shinseki when he tried to warn us and was treated with ridicule and abuse by the neocons and our President?

Did it not do real damage for morale when General Shinseki was forced into early retirement while George Tenet and others who failed were given the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

Did not our commanders repeatedly, time and again throughout this venture, advise against inadequate troop strength, then be ordered to stop advocating what they believe is right, and read in the newspapers our President promising, falsely, that he always gives the commanders the troop levels they believe they need?

Do you not admit that at the very beginning of this unfortunate venture, grave damage was done to this mission by ignorant words and ignorant policies by a smirking President and arrogant Secretary of Defense when they spoke of Old Europe, when they made snide and condescending comments about NATO, when they guaranteed that this mission would never have the support that President George Herbert Walker Bush, who they also demeaned in the media at that time, achieved for the first Gulf War.

Do you not now admit with humble apologies you committed a grave injustice, and did real harm to our troops, when those with zero combat experience insulted a long list of retired generals as "armchair generals", when they spoke truth to power, and in fact spoke for a majority of active duty generals, despite false statements by ideologues and partisans to the contrary.

Did not our commanders warn against the failure to provide equipment that was so extreme and so dangerous that the Marine Corps pathologist found that up to 70% of our casualties were preventable, meaning their serious injuries and deaths were not caused by their mistakes, or the enemy's success, but by derelictions of duty on a massive scale by those who sent them to war but disrespected the advice of commanders.

Is it not true that our commanders time and again sought help, which was denied, to provide body armor, fortified vehicles, helmets, bandages and other equipment that civilian officials failed to provide, despite repeated, and false, claims that they always gave the commanders what those commanders sought.

Did our commanders not unanimously and aggressively oppose the use of torture which they unanimously and aggressively believe creates danger for our troops, tarnishes our reputation around the world, creates new terrorists and violates cardinal rules of war that they hold sacred?

Is it not 100% true that the torture practices advocated by this President directly disrespect two centuries of good advice and military ethics and directly violate the advice and good judgment of commanders today?

Is it not true that our commanders were repeatedly and aggressively subject to abusive interference, and pressure from civilians that would be grounds for court martial, if it did not come from the President, Vice President and Secretary of Defense?

Is it not true that every commander is appalled and sickened by proposals to cut spending for brain injuries for wounded troops?

Is it not true that commanders and enlisted men are disgusted that civilian leaders have allowed a situation to continue that almost 20% of active duty troops face such extreme financial hardship they are forced to pay predatory lenders interest rates from 300% to nearly 800%?

Do you not confess that it is an unpardonable dereliction of duty that this is ever allowed to happen, to even one man or woman who wears the uniform of our country?

Is it not true that commanders were disgusted and appalled that they were ordered to never again say our leaders needed a post war plan for Iraq, and privately disgusted that they were threatened and bullied and told they would be fired by those who started a war with too few troops, and continued an occupation with too much corruption, and then demeaned the commanders who proposed a plan?

Is it not true that our commanders were appalled by the misuse and misrepresentation of intelligence that is so essential in deciding whether to wage war, and how conduct it, once it begins?

Do you deny that our commanders urgently requested reinforcements at Tora Bora when we could have killed Bin Laden and were outraged when the cavalry did not come to finish the kill, but were sent to Iraq instead by a President who always claimed, falsely, that he followed his commanders advice and now claims, falsely, that his political opponents offer nothing but cut and run which he, himself, did at Tora Bora?

Do you dispute that from day one commanders urged a far more visionary and serious effort for reconstruction of Afghanistan and warned, correctly, that if this were not forthcoming, which it was not, that the Taliban would come back, and the war lords and drug lords would triumph, which they have?

Do you not admit that our commanders were appalled that Republican operatives and Republican contributors were chosen for lucrative Iraq Reconstruction projects that saw at least $10 billion wasted, stolen and lost?

Do you not confess that our troops were gravely hurt by stolen money in corrupt contracts and crony deals, when that money should have gone to protect our troops, and help Iraqis who's hearts and minds we need to win?

Do you not admit that our commanders are appalled by scandal and negligence so rampant that the Iraqi police academy will have to be torn apart because urine and feces drip down on recruits, while corruption runs rampant among Iraqi police where many do not do their jobs, others shoot to kill Americans, and our troops suffer casualties doing the jobs that Iraqi police have refused to do, for all these years of the misbegotten venture?

Do you not confess that our commanders are appalled that Iraqi politicians are unwilling and unable to deal with murdering militias, who have stepped into the void created by the failure of Iraq police to stand up, and who spend half their time committing sectarian murder against each other, and the other half planning the murder of American troops?

Do you believe it serves democracy, our commanders or our troops when more than 60% of Iraqis support the killing of American troops, and more than 70% want our troops to leave within range of a year?

Do you question my assertion that time and time again, on issue after issue, at great cost to the mission and the troops, commanders faced political pressure and abuse, and were threatened not to speak their minds, while civilian leaders put on their American flag pins and went to their 4 of July picnics and stated, falsely, shamefully, that the commanders agree with every decision the civilians made, and get everything they privately ask for?

Is it not true today, that our commanders believe we need more American and NATO forces in Afghanistan?

Is it not true today, that our commanders will be forced to even greater distortions of troop rotations in Iraq, and that if the status quo continues unabated, some of the ten year old children we see on playgrounds today, will someday serve in Iraq based on the "stay the course" contingency plans that remain active today?

Do you not admit that the Senate Intelligence Committee report that you want covered up until after the election will countless false statements by high level officials who failed to tell the truth, about what was in the true interest of our troops?

Do you not agree that because of the stresses and distortions of our global force structures from this misbegotten and mismanaged venture our commanders believe there are major dangers in trouble spots around the world, that we could be unable to address under current conditions?

Do you concede that our current Chief of Staff of the Army is courageously resisting political pressures and refusing to support a budget he believes is bogus, and is fighting with honor for what he believes our troops in fact need?

Do you not admit that our commanders are asking for far more money than you have told the public, to replace outworn and often destroyed equipment that must urgently be replaced to protect the security of the Nation, and maintain a credible military deterrent, around the world.

Do you not accept the incontrovertible fact that our entire American intelligence community believes that the current Iraq war strategy is creating new terrorists, more terrorists, and great dangers and that our commanders have long been fighting like hell for policies that address political, diplomatic, economic and humanitarian issues that have been so devastatingly neglected by civilian leaders, over the objection of our commanders?

Do you not agree that our commanders are deeply offended by the spectacle of the leader of one our major "allies", Pakistan, making a deal that gives sanctuary to terrorists in parts of his nation, and then comes to Washington, and refuses to answer questions, because he has a book deal with his publisher, which takes priority over American lives?

Do you admit that the commanders and officer corps who have long advocated more effective reconstruction for Afghanistan are disgusted to see a Presidential dinner where leaders of two of our most important "allies" insult and demean each other, while our President sits at the table between them, five years after 9-11, looking like a pitiful and helpless spectator?

And do you not confess and admit that our commanders are appalled that ideologues run to talk shows and political speeches, and blow the winds of war from the lips of those who have done enough damage to our military for a lifetime, who have no experience in war themselves, but talk of a new war here, and a new war there, as though war is a dinner party discussion, or cheap talk show talk?

Do you not admit that it would be better for our commanders, for our troops, for our security if our entire nation was asked to contribute to whatever war effort we undertake together?

Do you not agree is it shameful that 1% of our country makes close to 100% of the sacrifice, that some are asked to die in Arabia while others guzzle gas in their cars, that some give their lives and limbs for our country while others enjoy tax cuts, discuss housing bubbles, and watch oil executives pocket hundreds of millions of dollars of personal wealth?

I am madder than hell because on issue after issue, the commanders have been right, the civilians have been wrong, the commanders have been ignored or disrespected, while the civilians use the troops as partisan weapons, then fail to provide the troops what they need, an inexcusable dereliction.

I dare any conservative, I dare any Republican, I dare any neoconservative to put pen to paper, and stand up with honor, and put your name and reputation behind it, and tell me which of these assertions you claim is not true.

Therefore: to initiate the long overdue debate and end these shameful derelictions of duty, Congress should call nationally televised hearings that would bring our Joint Chiefs of Staff, our commanders and representative enlisted men and women to public testimony to tell the country what they really believe.

With no more political influence, no more spin and no more pressure, no more partisan abuse and no more threats, no more lies and no more speeches by our president that demean the presidency, and divide the Nation, and further endanger the troops, and further alienate and anger the free world.

Now with the intelligence estimate made public for all the world to see, we know the facts they truly believe. With a new book coming out by Bob Woodward, which will add to the tales of misrepresentation, failure and abuse. With a country that hungers for leadership and for integrity and honor in Washington, let us end this dereliction of duty that has gone on, for far too long, at too great a cost, with too much blood, with too many dead, with too much damage done to our country.

We owe a debt to every man and woman who has ever served our country, to every man and woman who serves anywhere in the world today, and to every man and woman who will ever serve as guardian of our freedom to be the best that we can be ourselves, and to be the best that we can be, for them.

We must not be remembered as a generation that fell to dereliction, we should aspire to be a generation that will pay the price to reach for greatness, to leave the young who follow us, the world that they deserve.