Wednesday, May 30, 2007

IBM cutting another 1,570 positions totalling 3,720 for the year so far

Yahoo! News
IBM cutting another 1,500 positions
By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer

IBM Corp. laid off 1,570 people Wednesday, primarily from an ongoing overhaul of operations in its giant technology services unit.

The company carried out a similar level of job cuts at the beginning of the month, for a total of 3,023 in this quarter and 3,720 for the year, according to IBM spokesman Edward Barbini.

That amounts to roughly 1 percent of the company, which employed 355,000 people at the beginning of the year. But even these small numbers reflect a big project inside IBM to transform its business.

Services is IBM's biggest division by revenue, but the advent of lower-cost competition overseas has forced IBM to work harder to improve the unit's profit margins. In the first quarter, pretax income for IBM's tech services fell 19 percent, even as revenue rose 7 percent.

Wednesday's job cuts were largely part of the company's response. Although IBM did not disclose where the layoffs were being made, the company had blamed the first-quarter profit shortfall on problems in its U.S. outsourcing business.

IBM executives say they expect no more layoffs this quarter. But other shifts like this — IBM calls it "rebalancing" — figure to follow from time to time.

That's because IBM's services overhaul not only involves cheaper labor — IBM's work force in India rose from 9,000 in 2003 to 52,000 last year — but also a quest to use less labor. That means rethinking and sometimes automating the ways that services contracts are carried out. IBM launched a program called LEAN last year to find such opportunities.

Robert Moffat, the IBM executive overseeing LEAN, acknowledges it will reduce the need for some services labor, but he contends that it will also create new work for the company overall because customers will be getting more for their money.

To some degree, that dynamic could explain another figure disclosed Wednesday: that even as it has laid off 3,700 people this year, IBM has hired 19,000 others. Barbini would not provide a geographic breakdown.

IBM shares were down 36 cents at $105.55 in Wednesday morning trading.


The entire government has failed us on Iraq

By Keith Olbermann

A Special Comment about the Democrats’ deal with President Bush to continue financing this unspeakable war in Iraq—and to do so on his terms:

See the full text, or better yet, watch the video


Cheney visitor logs not recorded; destroyed

Yahoo! News
Lawyer: Cheney visitor logs not recorded
By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states. The Sept. 13, 2006, letter from Cheney's lawyer says logs for Cheney's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory are subject to the Presidential Records Act.

Such a designation prevents the public from learning who visited the vice president.

The Justice Department filed the letter Friday in a lawsuit by a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking the identities of conservative religious leaders who visited Cheney at his official residence.

The newly disclosed letter about visitors to Cheney's residence is accompanied by an 18-page Secret Service document revealing the agency's long-standing practice has been to destroy printed daily access lists of visitors to the residence.

Separately, the agency says it has given Cheney's office handwritten logs of who visits him at his personal residence.

Because of pending lawsuits, the Secret Service says it is now keeping copies of all material on visitors to Cheney's residence. According to the Secret Service document, Cheney's office has approved the agency's retention of the records, while maintaining they are presidential records subject to Cheney's control.

"The latest filings make clear that the administration has been destroying documents and entering into secret agreements in violation of the law," said Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel.

Regarding visitor information, the Secret Service "shall not retain any copy of these documents and information" once the material is given to the office of the vice president, says the September 2006 letter by Shannen Coffin, counsel to the vice president.

"If any documents remain in your possession, please return them to OVP as soon as possible," the letter added.

The vice president's lawyer wrote the letter as The Washington Post sought copies of Cheney's visitors at his residence. The Post requested the records under the Freedom of Information Act. The newspaper subsequently dropped a lawsuit seeking the information.

The letter regarding the vice president's residence was in addition to an agreement quietly signed between the White House and the Secret Service a year ago when questions were raised about visits to the executive compound by convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff.

That agreement, which didn't surface publicly until late last year, said White House entry and exit logs were presidential records not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the agreement was signed in May 2006, a number of private groups and news organizations had filed FOIA requests with the Secret Service in an effort to identify how many times Abramoff or members of his lobbying team visited the White House.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Failure By Democratic Congress To Protect Troops by Bringing Them Home Final Straw For Sheehan

Yahoo! News
'It's up to you now': Sheehan quits
By ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press Writer

Cindy Sheehan, the soldier's mother who galvanized an anti-war movement with her monthlong protest outside President Bush's ranch, said Tuesday she's done being the public face of the movement.

"I've been wondering why I'm killing myself and wondering why the Democrats caved in to George Bush," Sheehan told The Associated Press while driving from her property in Crawford to the airport, where she planned to return to her native California.

"I'm going home for awhile to try and be normal," she said.

In what she described as a "resignation letter," Sheehan wrote in her online diary on the Daily Kos blog: "Good-bye America ... you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can't make you be that country unless you want it.

"It's up to you now."

Sheehan began a grass roots peace movement in August 2005 when she camped outside Bush's Crawford ranch for 26 days, demanding to talk with the president about her son's death. Army Spc. Casey Sheehan was 24 when he was killed in an ambush in Baghdad in 2004.

Cindy Sheehan's protest started small but swelled to thousands and quickly drew national attention. Over the next two years, she drew huge crowds as she spoke at protest events. But she also drew criticism for some actions, such as meeting with Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's leftist president.

"I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement," Sheehan wrote in the diary.

Kristinn Taylor, spokesman for, which has held pro-troop rallies and counter-protests of anti-war demonstrations, said dwindling crowds at Sheehan's Crawford protests since her initial vigil may have led to her decision. But he also said he hopes she will now be able to heal.

"Her politics have hurt a lot of people, including the troops and their families, but most of us who support the war on terror understand she is hurt very deeply," Taylor said Tuesday. "Those she got involved with in the anti-war movement realize it was to their benefit to keep her in that stage of anger."

When Sheehan first took on Bush, she was a darling of the liberal left. "However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the 'left' started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used," she wrote in the diary.

She said she sacrificed a 29-year marriage and endured threats to put all her energy into stopping the war. What she found, she wrote, was a movement "that often puts personal egos above peace and human life."

She said the most devastating conclusion she had reached "was that Casey did indeed die for nothing ... killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think."

Sheehan told the AP that she had considered leaving the peace movement since last summer while recovering from surgery.

She decided on Memorial Day to step down and spend more time with her three other children. She said she was returning to California on Tuesday because it was Casey's birthday. He would have been 28.

"We've accomplished as much here as we're going to," Sheehan said, saying she was leaving to change course. "When we come back, it definitely won't be with the peace movement with marches, with rallies and with protests. It will be more humanitarian efforts."

Last year, with $52,500 in insurance money she received after her son's death, Sheehan bought 5 acres near downtown Crawford as a permanent site for protests.

"Camp Casey has served its purpose," she wrote in the diary. "It's for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford, Texas?"


Monday, May 28, 2007

Flags replaced with swastikas in Washington

Yahoo News
Flags replaced with swastikas in Washington

Vandals burned dozens of small American flags that decorated veterans' graves for Memorial Day and replaced many of them with hand-drawn swastikas, authorities said Monday.

Forty-six flag standards were found empty and another 33 flags were in charred tatters Sunday in the cemetery, authorities said. Swastikas drawn on paper appeared where 14 of the flags had been.

Members of the American Legion on this island off Washington's northwest coast replaced the burned flags with new ones Sunday afternoon.

The vandals struck again on Memorial Day after a guard left at dawn, the San Juan County sheriff's office said. This time, the vandals left 33 of the hand-drawn swastikas.

"This is not an act of free speech. This is a crime," Sheriff Bill Cumming said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

Investigators believe there's more than one culprit, based on the number of flags that were vandalized, Cumming said in a telephone interview. But authorities have no suspects, he said.

The sheriff said deputies were trying to lift fingerprints off what little physical evidence they were able to recover.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Should I Resign?


Not going to pull the lever


I'm just here for a book signing


I wouldn't mind running....but....


The Prophet


Edwards's Rejection of 'War on Terror' Draws GOP Retorts
Edwards's Rejection of 'War on Terror' Draws GOP Retorts

A day after former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) derided the term "war on terror" as nothing more than a "bumper sticker" that should be replaced with a comprehensive plan to fight terrorism, Republican presidential candidates slammed him.

"The Democrats -- or at least some of them -- are in denial," former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said in a visit to New Hampshire, according to the New York Daily News. "In case you missed it -- and I guess this Democratic candidate doesn't remember it -- bin Laden declared war on us.

He added: "I don't get fuzzy and romantic about it. I understand that there are people in this world who want to come here and kill us."

In a visit to Jacksonville, Fla., former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said, "Remember that old Edmund Burke quote -- it's a famous quote -- 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' And that, I am afraid, is the boiled-down version of what John Edwards said, is that good men should do nothing."

And in a news conference, President Bush implicitly attacked Edwards's argument, saying: "This notion about how this isn't a war on terror, in my view, is naive. It doesn't -- it doesn't reflect the true nature of the world in which we live."

Edwards responded yesterday by saying that "George Bush has made America less safe and less respected in the world. The Republican candidates are now trying to double down on his failed foreign policy. They just don't get it. George Bush's strategy is a failure -- the threat of terrorism has increased. We don't need more political huffing and puffing, we need a smart strategy that uses American power to stop terrorists from hurting us and to stop people from becoming terrorists in the first place."


Why Are Men Today Earning Less Money Than Their Fathers Did 30 Years Ago?

ABC News
Wages Through the Ages: Men Earn Less Than Fathers at Same Age
Why Are Men Today Earning Less Money Than Their Fathers Did 30 Years Ago?

A new report finds that men in their 30s make less money than their fathers did at the same age, raising questions about deeply held notions of social mobility and the realities of the American Dream.

It's not just because they're typical Generation X slackers either.

In 2004, the median income for a man in his 30s was $35,010, the study found. Adjusted for inflation, that's 12 percent less than what men the same age were making in 1974.

The study, "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?," conducted by economists at the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Brookings Institute and several other think tanks, found that absolute mobility -- or the economic growth rate that allows a generation to improve relative to a previous generation -- has fallen.

Despite the downturn in men's wages, family incomes for most of the past 30 years have risen.

"The big picture here is that over a 30-year period, from 1974 to 2004, the median income of men in their 30 fell 12 percent," John Morton of the Pew Charitable Trusts and one of the report's primary authors told ABC News. "But there are several other substories. One of those is that family incomes -- families with men in their 30s -- in the same period rose by 9 percent. & The picture may be gloomy for men but it's generally positive for families."

In the 1990s, median income for men in their 30s was $32,901, 5 percent more than three decades earlier. Since 2000, and in one of the few instances since World War II, family incomes have lagged behind productivity growth, the report said.

The authors of the report were reluctant to speculate as to why men's wages are weaker today, but suggested the decline might be attributed to more women in the work force, a generally weaker economy and men working less hard than they did a generation ago.

"We don't know all the reasons for the decline," Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institute and a principal author, told ABC News. "It could be because economic growth has slowed in the U.S., despite all the talk about how rapidly the economy grew in the 90s."

The report used the data to examine the current reality of the American Dream, or as Morton put it: "The popular belief that there is an economic meritocracy."

"We try to make the case that the American Dream, the idea that successive generations will do better based on hard work and skill actually requires absolute mobility -- strong economic growth -- and relative mobility, movement from being poor to being rich," he said.

Michael Scotto, a 34-year-old mover from Queens, N.Y., said he thought he probably earned more than his father did as a bricklayer in the 1970s. Scotto wouldn't say how much he earned but said there was little difference in his class now and when he was growing up.

"I still live in the same middle class neighborhood I grew up in," Scotto told ABC News. "But when my father was a kid, he had nothing. His parents were immigrants and he worked to make something of himself."

"I might make more than he did at 34, but he was the real American Dream," he said. "You have to be an immigrant or the children of an immigrant to get that for real."

According to Sawhill, "Each generation expects to be better off than previous generations."

"In a growing economy everyone is on an up escalator, and that's one reason children do better than parents, but the elevator may not be working as well," she said.


Engulfed by Climate Change, Town Seeks Lifeline

The New York Times
Engulfed by Climate Change, Town Seeks Lifeline

NEWTOK, Alaska — The sturdy little Cessnas land whenever the fog lifts, delivering children’s bicycles, boxes of bullets, outboard motors and cans of dried oats. And then, with a rumble down a gravel strip, the planes are gone, the outside world recedes and this subarctic outpost steels itself once again to face the frontier of climate change.

“I don’t want to live in permafrost no more,” said Frank Tommy, 47, standing beside gutted geese and seal meat drying on a wooden rack outside his mother’s house. “It’s too muddy. Everything is crooked around here.”

The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest, is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. Sea ice that would normally protect coastal villages is forming later in the year, allowing fall storms to pound away at the shoreline.

Erosion has made Newtok an island, caught between the ever widening Ninglick River and a slough to the north. The village is below sea level, and sinking. Boardwalks squish into the spring muck. Human waste, collected in “honey buckets” that many residents use for toilets, is often dumped within eyeshot in a village where no point is more than a five-minute walk from any other. The ragged wooden houses have to be adjusted regularly to level them on the shifting soil.

Studies say Newtok could be washed away within a decade. Along with the villages of Shishmaref and Kivalina farther to the north, it has been the hardest hit of about 180 Alaska villages that suffer some degree of erosion.

Some villages plan to hunker down behind sea walls built or planned by the Army Corps of Engineers, at least for now. Others, like Newtok, have no choice but to abandon their patch of tundra. The corps has estimated that to move Newtok could cost $130 million because of its remoteness, climate and topography. That comes to almost $413,000 for each of the 315 residents.

Not that anyone is offering to pay.

After all, climate change is raising questions about how to deal with drought, wildfires, hurricanes and other threats that affect so many more people and involve large sums of money.

“We haven’t sat down as a society and said, ‘How are we going to adapt to this?’ ” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University and a lead author of a recent report by a United Nations panel on the impacts and vulnerability presented by climate change. “Just like we haven’t sat down and said, ‘How are we going to reduce emissions?’ And both have to be done.”

Amid the uncertainty, the residents of Newtok hear the skeptics, who question the price tag for moving such a small, seemingly inconsequential place. But residents here emphasize that they are a federally recognized American Indian tribe, and they shudder when asked why they cannot just move to an existing village or a city like Fairbanks.

They say their identity is rooted in their isolation, however qualified it has become over the last century by outside influences. It was the government, they say, that insisted decades ago that they and so many other villages abandon their nomadic ways and pick a place to call home. The current village site was once only a winter camp, and the people of Newtok say they are not to blame just because they are now among the first climate refugees in the United States.

“The federal government, they’re the ones who came into our lives and took away some of our values,” said Nick Tom Jr., 49, the former Newtok tribal administrator. “They came in and said, ‘You aren’t civilized. We’re going to educate you.’ That was hard for our grandparents.”

Newtok’s leaders say the corps’ relocation estimates are inflated, that they intend to move piecemeal rather than in one collective migration, which they say will save money. But they say government should pay, no matter the cost — if only there were a government agency charged with doing so. There is not a formal process by which a village can apply to the government to relocate.

“They grossly overestimate it, and that’s why federal and state agencies are afraid to step in,” said Stanley Tom, the current tribal administrator and the brother of Nick Tom Jr. “They don’t want to spend that much money.”

Still, Newtok has made far more progress toward moving than other villages, piecing together its move grant by grant.

Through a land swap with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, it has secured a new site, on Nelson Island, nine miles south. It is safe from the waves on a windy rise above the Ninglick River. They call it Mertarvik, which means “getting water from the spring.” They tell their children they will grow up in a place where E. coli does not thrive in every puddle, the way it does here.

With the help of state agencies, it won a grant of about $1 million to build a barge landing at the new site. Bids go out this summer, and construction could be complete next year, providing a platform to unload equipment for building roads, water and sewer systems, houses and a new landing strip.

Village Safe Water, part of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, plans to use money budgeted for repairs at the existing village to drill for water this summer at the new site. The corps is drafting a plan to build initial roads and an emergency center that would serve as a base of operations during construction. But the plan, for which the corps has not yet released a budget, needs financing from Congress.

There is no plan yet for how the village would move entire buildings, such as the Newtok School, which is relatively new and serves the village’s 125 children, preschool through high school.

So far, said Sally Russell Cox, a planner with the state division of community advocacy, “This is all on sticky notes.”

Senator Ted Stevens, the lion of Alaska politics, is now the ranking minority member on the Senate’s new Disaster Recovery subcommittee.

His aides say that, while he has yet to push for money to move specific villages, he was instrumental in passing legislation in 2005 that gave the corps broader authority to help. Despite the state’s past success at winning federal money, they say Alaska lawmakers are hemmed in by new scrutiny of so-called earmarks for special projects, Mr. Stevens’s status in the minority of the new Congress, public detachment from issues facing rural Alaska and needs in other places, like New Orleans.

And village relocation in Alaska is not a priority at the White House. The president’s proposed budget includes $1 million that could go to that purpose, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Saturday.

Bruce Sexauer, a senior planner with the corps in Alaska who wrote a report assessing the needs of various villages, said the residents of Newtok are descendants of the people who came across the land bridge from Asia. “They are the very first of the people that were inhabiting North America thousands of years ago. Talk about a rich and unique American culture. Is it worth it? There’s more to it than just economics.”

The administrative leaders of Newtok are mostly men in their 40s, nearly all of them related. They are widely praised by outsiders for their initiative and determination to relocate.

Yet nearly any place would seem an improvement over Newtok as it exists today, and not all of its problems are rooted in climate change. Some are almost universal to Alaskan villages, which have struggled for decades to reconcile their culture of subsistence hunting and fishing with the expectations and temptations of the world outside.

Excrement dumped from honey buckets is piled on the banks of the slow-flowing Newtok River, not far from wooden shacks where residents take nightly steam baths. An elderly man drains kerosene into a puddle of snowmelt. Children pedal past a walrus skull left to rot, tusks intact, in the mud beside a boardwalk that serves as a main thoroughfare. There are no cars here, just snow machines, boats and all-terrain vehicles that tear up the tundra.

Village elders speak their native Yupik more often than they speak English. They remember when the village was a collection of families who moved with the seasons, making houses from sod, fishing from Nelson Island in the summer, hunting caribou far away in the winter.

But, said Agnes Tommy, “It’s getting hard to remember.”

On a recent afternoon, Ms. Tommy, 84, watched a DVD of “The Day After” while her 17-year-old granddaughter, Nicole, a high school dropout, sat across the room with Eminem’s “Encore” thumping in her headphones. Nicole mused about moving to Anchorage, although she has never been there.

Many men still travel with the seasons to hunt and fish. Some will take boats into Bristol Bay this summer to catch salmon alongside commercial fishermen from out of state. But the waterproof jacket sewn from seal gut that Stanley Tom once wore is now stuffed inside a display case at Newtok School next to other relics.

Now Mr. Tom puts on a puffy parka to walk the few hundred feet he travels to work. He checks his e-mail messages to see if there is news from the corps or from Senator Stevens while his brother, Nick, sketches out a budget proposal for a nonprofit corporation to help manage the relocation, presuming the money arrives.

Nick Tom said the move could bring jobs for young people who may otherwise be tempted to leave. Other young people talk only of leaving for the new village.

“They’re going to move us to a mountain,” said Annie Kassaiuli, 11, eating a burrito in the school cafeteria. “We can pick berries.”


For Democrats, Debate on Fox Reveals Divide

The New York Times
For Democrats, Debate on Fox Reveals Divide

WASHINGTON, May 26 — Four years ago, the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus began looking for a television outlet to co-sponsor and broadcast a presidential debate to address the concerns of minority voters.

Only one news channel made an acceptable proposal, and an unlikely channel at that: Fox News, in what some Democrats viewed as an effort to associate itself with a group that could help it make good on its claim of presenting “fair and balanced” news coverage.

But now that relationship is being shaken by the decision of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina to shun the debate, a move that has exposed fault lines among two major constituencies of the Democratic Party. While the withdrawal by the candidates frustrated members of the black caucus, it mollified liberals who had objected to the involvement of Fox News, whose programming includes some of the most conservative and pro-Republican commentary on the air.

The sensitivities surrounding the issue were evident this week when a spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said Mr. Richardson would not participate in the debate, which is scheduled for September. But only a few hours later, the spokeswoman phoned the reporter to say that she had misspoken, and that Mr. Richardson had yet to decide. In the interim the reporter had sought a response from the caucus on Mr. Richardson’s apparent withdrawal.

Meanwhile, members of the caucus have been pushing back, with press secretaries for caucus members getting “talking points on how to cast the debate in a positive light,” as one staff member explained it.

The caucus is bent on salvaging what remains of the debate, and of a relationship that has produced other benefits. Not only has Fox given over precious air time for the debate, but an examination shows that its parent company, News Corporation, has also taken other steps to reach out to the group’s constituency, including making campaign donations to the caucus and its members and creating internship programs at predominantly black colleges.

By design or not, News Corporation also gained currency among black and Hispanic leaders by helping orchestrate a campaign to increase the participation of minority viewers in the television ratings system, a task it entrusted to a consulting firm with strong ties to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, in turn, has established a relationship with Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, who, for example, held a fund-raiser for her last year during her Senate re-election campaign.

But the fragility of those alliances, and Fox’s efforts to cultivate them, was cast into the open last month, when Mr. Edwards, Mr. Obama, and Mrs. Clinton announced that they would not participate in the latest debate co-sponsored by Fox and the caucus.

Mr. Edwards, at least, cited what many Democrats had long said privately but had been unwilling to say aloud, given Fox’s large megaphone: that the network is neither fair nor balanced, but tilts right. Neither Mr. Obama nor Mrs. Clinton chose to characterize Fox in withdrawing.

Still, the relationship between the black caucus and Fox News remains beneficial enough to both sides that the caucus continues to insist the show will go on in September, even if the candidates who remain are unlikely to capture either the public’s imagination or the nomination.

While Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware said this week through a spokesman that he would be there, he may not have much company; representatives for two other Democratic candidates, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, did not respond to messages asking whether they were in or out.

Despite a fierce debate within the 43-member caucus over whether to sever ties with Fox News, those representing the caucus in its dealings with Fox have thus far held firm. The network itself has apparently urged the caucus to do just that. There was, for example, a meeting for caucus press secretaries attended by representatives of News Corporation and Fox News, where talk turned to how to publicly present the merits of the debate. (Also working in Fox’s favor is that the debate is to be held in Detroit, the home city of Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kirkpatrick, the caucus chairwoman.)

Democratic advocates, meanwhile, especially with those affiliated with, have sought to drive a wedge between the caucus and Fox News.

But all of these machinations may ultimately prove moot. “If the candidates are not going to participate, then you don’t have a debate worthy of viewership,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel, one of the most prominent members of the caucus, whose district includes Harlem. “They made the decision for us, and for Fox.”

A Fox News spokeswoman declined to comment for this article, or to make available anyone else at the channel, including Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of Fox News.

The partnership between Fox News and the caucus began in earnest in 2003, when the news channel responded to the caucus’s request for a broadcast partner for its debates for the 2004 presidential election. (Technically, the caucus was sponsoring the debate through an affiliate group, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute; the use of the institute gives the caucus itself some distance, even though several prominent caucus members are on the institute board.)

Fox’s proposal included broadcasting the debates in prime time, giving the caucus a say in selecting moderators and covering much of the production cost, said one former caucus staff member close to the negotiations. The Fox proposal beat out at least one other offer, made by Black Entertainment Television, the former staff member said.

Months after joining forces with the caucus, Fox News created internships for students at Morgan State University, a black college in Baltimore, in the Congressional district of Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who was then chairman of the caucus.

In June 2003, its political action committee, known as News America-Fox, made a $1,000 contribution to Mr. Cummings’s political committee.

The Fox group later made contributions of at least $1,000 each to other caucus members, including Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, and Gregory W. Meeks and Edolphus Towns of New York. The political arm of the caucus itself received a $5,000 contribution from the Fox group, in May 2006. And on the Web site of its foundation, the caucus lists News Corporation among several dozen corporate sponsors.

Though Howard Dean and Senators John Kerry, John Edwards and Joseph I. Lieberman appeared in 2003 at the Fox-caucus debate, the absence of the leading candidates this time around, including Mr. Edwards, underscores the change in the political climate.

Among the reasons Democrats have been willing to take on Fox News more stridently than before is the galvanizing of the left around its opposition to the Bush White House, especially its handling of the Iraq war. Meanwhile, Fox’s viewership declined last year, perhaps emboldening Democrats who may no longer see it as having quite the reach it once did, especially with Congress now in the control of the Democrats.

In this atmosphere, some Democrats have begun to question the news channel’s motives for courting the caucus.

James Rucker, executive director of a group that has tried to mobilize opposition to the partnership between Fox News and the caucus, said that the news channel was using its association with the caucus to inoculate itself against criticism that its coverage of Democrats in general and blacks in particular was biased.

“This is Fox’s brilliance,” said Mr. Rucker, whose group is known as the Color of Change. “In ’03, they made a brilliant investment. On the one hand, they got to be aligned with the brand of the Congressional Black Caucus. On the other hand, they got to proceed with business as usual.”

Mr. Meeks acknowledged that Fox, in partnering with the caucus on the debates, seemed to be trying to do a little image-building. But he said at least Fox was willing to sponsor the debate, when no other network would.

“Fox was trying to at least give the appearance they could be what their slogan is: fair and balanced,” he said. “I would have to give them their due.”

Mr. Meeks said that he had yet to decide whether to advocate canceling the debate. Fox’s supporters within the caucus have moved quickly to close ranks, even taking the unusual step of sending a letter to candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, urging them to participate in the debate and noting “the importance to African-Americans and others to hear from you.”

While 26 members of the caucus signed the letter, it is also notable who did not, including Representative Maxine Waters of California, a prominent and powerful member of the group.

Asked about the debate in a brief telephone interview, Ms. Waters said only, “I’m opposed to it.”

It is perhaps telling that the last of three candidates to spurn the debate was Mrs. Clinton. Her top communications adviser, Howard Wolfson, helped run News Corporation’s campaign seeking more black representation in the Nielsen television ratings. He did so in his capacity as a partner in the Glover Park Group, the consulting firm hired by News Corporation.

For now, at least, the caucus and Fox News can count on having at least one participant, Mr. Biden. Luis Navarro, Mr. Biden’s spokesman, said in an interview that Mr. Biden would be there because the caucus represented “an important base” and Fox offered an unparalleled forum for a candidate “to hold the Bush administration’s feet to the fire on their handling of Iraq.”

Raymond Hernandez reported from Washington, and Jacques Steinberg from New York.


Iran 'uncovers US spy networks'

Iran 'uncovers US spy networks'
Iran says it has uncovered several spy networks run by the US and its allies - the occupying forces in Iraq.

The intelligence ministry said it had "succeeded in uncovering, identifying and striking blows" at infiltrators organised by those forces.

The statement said the networks had been detected in western, south-western and central parts of Iran.

The allegations come two days before the Iran and US ambassadors meet in Baghdad to discuss the crisis in Iraq.

The statement, which was broadcast on state-run television, gave no further details.

"These spy networks were operating under the guidance of the occupiers' intelligence services and with the support of some influential Iraqi groups and factions," it said.

The White House said it did not confirm or deny allegations about intelligence matters.

"We urge Iran to play a positive role in Iraq... and stop blaming everyone else for problems they are only bringing on themselves," a White House spokeswoman is quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Paul-Giuliani, al Qaeda and the Logic of Withdrawal

The Huffington Post
Gareth Porter
Paul-Giuliani, al Qaeda and the Logic of Withdrawal

Ron Paul's exchange with Rudy Giuliani in the second Republican candidates' debate over what motivates al Qaeda highlights an issue that ought to be at the center of the next presidential election campaign: What is the relationship between U.S. policy in Iraq and the ability of Osama bin Laden to recruit jihadists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East?

The specific point at issue was Paul's assertion that the al Qaeda attack on 9/11 was motivated by resentment of U.S. policies toward and military presence in Islamic countries. Giuliani's response that Paul's view was unacceptable is not much different from virtually all of the other Republican and Democratic candidates. That orthodox view is that those who are attracted to al Qaeda hate America for its freedom.

The truth, as the former chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit, Michael Schuer, has just reminded us in a letter to, is that "our Islamist enemies do not give a damn about the way we vote, think or live." It is not our freedom that has motivated the jihadists to want to attack us, Scheuer says, but the blundering policies of the United States in the Middle East.

The right-wing has an automatic response to that argument, which is to accuse the critics of wanting to shift the responsibility for the terror attacks from al Qaeda to the United States itself. But that is a non-sequitur --a crude way of changing the subject. The issue at stake is not whether al Qaeda terrorists are responsible for their own atrocities, and certainly not whether they are justified. It is whether there is a predictable cause and effect relationship between U.S. policies in the Middle East and the motivation of the Islamic jihadists who might threaten the United States.

The Bush administration's occupation of Iraq is based on the premise that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is the answer to rather than problem of al Qaeda's recruitment of jihadists. In the newest installment in the White House campaign to exploit the al Qaeda issue in Iraq, Fran Townsend, President Bush's adviser for homeland security, cited "newly declassified intelligence," that bin Laden had ordered al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to form a cell in 2005 to plot attacks against the United States. Townsend asserted that this two-year old intelligence supports the administration's assertion that U.S. troops must stay in Iraq for now to prevent it from becoming a "terrorist sanctuary."

Obviously no one wants al Qaeda operatives using Iraq as a "terrorist sanctuary" to plan attacks on the United States. But it was only the U.S. occupation of Iraq that had created that opportunity. "The U.S. invasion of Iraq is Osama bin Laden's gift from America," wrote Michael Scheuer in his book Imperial Hubris, published in 2004 as "anonymous" because he was still head of the CIA's bin Laden unit.

Scheuer observed that bin Laden must have ardenly desired such a U.S. occupation but never expected it. After all Iraq without Saddam "would obviously become what political scientists called a 'failed state', a place where al Qaeda or al Qaeda-like organizations would thrive." But even more to the point, he wrote, bin Laden knew that a U.S. invasion would "sharply deepen anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world...."

A non-Muslim army invading and occupying a Muslim country was bound to invoke the fundamental Muslim doctrine of defensive jihad. Scheuer quoted the president of the world's oldest university, al-Azhar University in Cairo, as saying, on the very eve of the U.S. invasion, "Once an enemy lands in Muslim territory, jihad becomes the individual duty of every Muslim man and woman."

The intelligence coming into the CIA in 2003 and 2004 showed that the occupation of Iraq was driving al Qaeda's recruitment efforts in Iraq and other Muslim countries. CIA Director Porter Goss testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February 2005, that "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists." And although Goss didn't state explicitly that it was U.S. policy in Iraq that was fueling the recruitment, Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby did. "Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment," he testified. "Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the U.S. has a negative policy toward the Arab world."

Never mind the past, says the Bush administration, in effect; the only thing that matters now is the necessary to destroy the al Qaeda sanctuary in Iraq. But the cause and effect relationship that caused the problem doesn't suddenly become irrelevant to the question of what to do about it. If it was the U.S. occupation that facilitated the recruitment of new jihadists both in Iraq and elsewhere, then how can continuation of the status quo be the answer? Military withdrawal from Iraq is the only way to deprive al Qaeda of its political support.

Significantly, most Americans already understand what the political elite still refuses to grasp. In an opinion survey done last October by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, 60 percent of respondents believed the Bush administration's policies have actually increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks against the United States. That is why a national debate on the issue before the next election is so important.