January 2006 Archives

January 31, 2006

Comments on the Death of Corretta Scott King

The Associated Press has "Comments by friends and admirers of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., following her death on Tuesday," January 31, 2006. I offer condolences to the King family.

I think the best tribute the King children could pay to their mother is to publicly address questions surrounding alleged mismanagement at the "M.L. King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc." in Atlanta.

According to press reports, the children are also engaged in a dispute over the proposed sale of the King Center. If this is true, why not take the matter to binding arbitration?

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The Race to Replace Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader

The Associated Press (AP) reported January 30, 2006 that, "In the race to replace scandal-scarred Representative Tom DeLay as House majority leader, one contender claims 120 votes, another boasts 90 and the third says he has about 50."

"They can't all be right, since the totals claimed by Republican Representatives Roy Blunt, John Boehner and John Shadegg far exceed the 232 lawmakers eligible to vote when the rank and file selects a new leader for an era of political peril," the AP said. See "Race To Replace DeLay Up In Air."

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January 29, 2006

Mr. Bush's Upcoming State of Union Address

"A weakened George W. Bush faces the nation in his 5th State of the Union address beset by war fatigue, persistent discontent on the economy and other domestic issues, ethics concerns and rising interest in Democratic alternatives in this midterm election year," contends ABC News. See "Poll: Weak Ratings Confront Bush Ahead of State of Union."

According to The New York Times, Mr. Bush's speech has gone through 20 drafts. The paper quoted "William McGurn, the director of White House speechwriting," as saying: "It's never done until it's done." Why not just wing it?

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Woodruff and Crew Knew the Risks of Reporting From Iraq

Bob Woodruff, co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight," and his crew knew the risks of reporting from Iraq. Yet, they probably were surprised to get hit by "a roadside bomb attack in Taji, north of Baghdad." Thankfully, Woodruff and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, a Canadian living in Paris, escaped with their lives despite injuries to the head and, in Woodruff's case, the shoulders. Hopefully there will be no brain damage.

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January 28, 2006

If New Orleans Could Swap Status With an Iraqi City

Washington Post staff writer Linton Weeks contends in a January 28, 2006 article that: "It has been an especially disheartening week for the people of New Orleans as they struggle to rebuild." Why?

One reason is that, according to Weeks:

President Bush announced he would not support a popular plan for a government buyout of damaged houses. Word leaked that the White House had ignored e-mail warnings of Hurricane Katrina's potential danger in the 48 hours before the storm, including predictions of breached levees and massive flooding,
He noted that, "Administration officials said they would not provide information to a Senate inquiry into the government's response to the hurricane."

Since the administration seems to stonewalls on most things Congress asks for, why change now?

Also the administration wants money for war, not housing. If New Orleans could swap status with an Iraqi city the administration probably would buy those houses.

Now, I know billions supposedly have been earmarked for the Gulf Coast of the United States. That's well and good. But the question is: Who is getting it? Will it be the people of the Gulf Coast? Stay tuned.

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Houston Reportedly Having Promlems With New Orleans Gangbangers

Alatheia Bryant and Roma Khanna of the Houston Chronicle reported January 28, 2006 , that "Houston police on Friday [January 27, 2006] identified 11 Hurricane Katrina evacuees as suspects in a string of homicides, robberies and kidnappings since November." They said the "wave of violence rooted in turf battles back in New Orleans," according to police.

See "New Orleans gang wars spill into area."

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The Blogging Journalist

I've been spending more time than I should over at The Blogging Journalist, which was launched on December 23, 2005.

Since the site has successfully launched, is carrying advertising, and is rapidly gaining a worldwide following, I have no excuse for neglecting Opinion Gazette and Diplomatic Times Review readers. The goal is from now on is to put up a few posts here every day and refer you to posts at my other sites.

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January 24, 2006

A Look at Canadian Election Results Through Blogs

If, like me, you are interested in what goes on among our neighbors to the north, here are a few Canadian blogs with coverage of the last nights Canadian election:(1) Progressive Blogger (2)The Blogging Tories (3) Liblogs (4) The Blogging Alliance (5) The Blogging Dippers

Note: The list was borrowed from CTV.ca. I hope they don't mind. Go on over there for a more complete list.

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January 18, 2006

'GOP Has a Plan to Restrain Llobbying', But Will It Work?

Zachary Coile, a staf writer in the San Francisco Chronicle's Washington Bureau, reported January 18, 2006 that:

Republican congressional leaders, stung by charges of corruption and worried that influence-peddling scandals could hurt the party in November's elections, announced proposals they say will rein in lobbyists and check unscrupulous lawmakers.

The package is not finished, but GOP leaders said the party probably will attempt to ban lawmakers from accepting privately funded travel, more strictly limit gifts to members of Congress and their staffs, and force greater disclosure of lobbying activities.

Coile said, "The legislation also is expected to require lawmakers and senior staff members to wait two years after leaving office before they can lobby Congress, double the current waiting period."

I suspect this is just a stop gap measure. See "GOP has a plan to restrain lobbying..."

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January 16, 2006

Gore Suggests Bush Broke the Law by Wiretapping Americans

Joe Gandleman over at The Moderate Voice reported January 16, 2006 that, "Former Vice President Al Gore has come out and flat declared what many Democrats, independents and some Republicans have suggested perhaps a bit more diplomatically: that President George W. Bush's unrepentant warrantless wiretapping broke the law and is part of a power-grab on the part of the executive branch — one that has sparked a constitutional crisis."

See "Gore Assails Bush Domestic Wiretapping As "Power Grab."

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Tom DeLay's Long Road to November

Houston Chronicle columnist Cragg Hines, who is based in Washington, D.C., wrote January 14, 2006 that, "In the walk-up to [Texas Representative] Tom DeLay's November showdown with voters, some days will be more important than others." Read "Could independent matter in DeLay race? You betcha" to learn why.

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Representative Bob Ney's Politcal Career is All But Over

Is Representative Robert Ney (R-Ohio) close to being indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for allegedly accepting bribes from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who recently pleaded guilty to fraud and other charges? Rumor out of Washington says he is.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is trying to strip Ney of post as "chairman of the House Administration Committee, a week after Justice Department documents linked Ney to a bribery scheme involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff," The Associated Press reported January 13, 2006..

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Is That Really Samuel Alito Jr Blogging?

If satirical blogging is your cup of tea, then browse on over to The Right Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr. It's New York City employee and playwright Andrew Case pretending to be Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito, Jr .

As Amy Klein of The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey, noted in a January 13, 2006 article, "Case has been posting pretentious, stream-of-consciousness insights several times a day to http://samuelalito.blogspot.com/, imagining the nominee mocking Democrats and secretly surfing the Web during long-winded speeches."

For more, see "This just in from 'Alito': Put a cork in it, senator!"

By the way, I wish reporters would link to sites with the frequency of bloggers. It would make their publications more user friendly.

Note: This post can also be found at The Blogging Journalist.

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Washington Post: Alito Won't Be Confirmed This Week

Amy Goldstein reports in the January 17, 2006 Washington Post Online that, "The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee reached an agreement yesterday evening [January 16, 2006) to wait until next Tuesday [January 24, 2006) to vote on the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court."

For more, see "Senate Panel's Vote on Alito Delayed Until Next Week."

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The Blogging Journalist and TechNewsNotes.com

If you're interested in what goes on in the Blogosphere, The Blogging Journalists, one of my other blogs, has a number of interesting posts. I also blog on technology. See TechNewsNotes.com.

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Is There a 'Conservative/Libertarian Blogosphere Schism'?

Stephen Van Dyke over at Hammer of Truth wants to know if there is a 'Conservative/Libertarian Blogosphere Schism." He wrote January 16, 2005:

I’m not sure what exactly to make of this, but there’s obviously some disgruntled rumblings over the amount of scandal and corruption that’s been plaguing Republicans in recent months. An open letter from some top-level republicans and libertarians may be enough for a solid move towards reform.
Question: Should bloggers of a certain political persuasion be expected to show solidarity on all issues?

Note: This post can also be found at The Blogging Journalist.

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January 8, 2006

The Debate Over Shrinking New Orleans' Residential Area

"From the day the notion of shrinking New Orleans' residential area to accommodate a smaller population was injected into the post-Katrina public dialogue, the idea has been radioactive," writes New Orleans Times-Picayune reporters Gordon Russell and Frank Donze. Read why.

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Is Schwarzenegger Embracing Reality-Based Politics?

Carla Marinucci, the San Francisco Chronicle's political writer, thinks California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to rewrite his political script in the state.

She noted that he "unveiled Thursday [January 5, 2006] for California voters an ambitious marketing campaign for a decidedly more consumer-friendly political product -- an improved elected official and candidate who is "wiser'' and focused solely on "the needs of the people.''

What's wrong with that? See "ANALYSIS: Governor rewrites script to star again as hero."

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Who Will Be the GOP's New Enforcer?

The Christian Science Monitor's Gail Russell Chaddock says by losing former House Majority leader Tom DeLay's leadership, "Republicans also lose his fundraising prowess and peerless talent for enforcing party discipline on key bills."

"As importantly," she wrote, "they marginalize the architect of a alliance between House members and lobbyists - a network that strengthened the party's hand in moving legislation, but left it open to charges of influence peddling."

I wonder whether this Congress will go down as the best that money can buy. See "Republicans scramble to pick new leader after Tom DeLay bows out."

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'Wall Street Loves Bulls and Bears, But Not Hogs'

Chicago Tribune Columnist Clarence Page writes In a January 8, 2006 article:

"Wall Street loves bulls and bears, but not hogs," a stockbroker friend once told me. As the scandal now unfurling around superlobbyist Jack Abramoff illustrates, something similar might well be said of the busy boulevard at the center of Washington's lawyer-lobbying activities: K Street loves hawks and doves, but not turkeys.
See "A lobbyist's wretched excess." May require registration.

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The Battle for House Majority Leader is Underway

According to United Press International, "a battle for the House Republican leadership is under way after Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said he would not seek to regain the position."

The question is: Will the next GOP House majority leader have clean hands?

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DeLay's Resignation Didn't Fix Gop's Problems

Janet Hook, a Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, contends in a January 8, 2006 news analysis that, "Rep. Tom DeLay's decision to stop battling for his former House leadership job helps remove a huge distraction from Republican efforts to recover from a stormy 2005 that put President Bush and the party on the defensive."

"But," she wrote, "DeLay's Saturday [January 7, 2006] announcement that he was giving up his bid may create as many problems as it solves." For more of Hook's analysis, see "1 Fix, More Problems for GOP."

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'A Review of the FBI's Handling of the Brandon Mayfield Case'

The Justice Department should release the entire 273-page report prepared by Glenn A. Fine, it's Inspector General, instead of only the 21-page executive summary of its investigation into how the FBI tried to frame Muslim lawyer Brandon Mayfield of Portland, Oregon, in the Madrid Spain train bombing in 2004. Here's how Washington Post reporter Dan Eggen summarized efforts by FBI zealots to link Mayfield to the bombings:

On March 11, 2004, terrorists later linked to al Qaeda detonated bombs on several commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people. The FBI assisted Spanish police by comparing latent prints found on a bag of detonators nearby against its massive fingerprint database, which includes prints from former U.S. soldiers.

On March 19, the FBI lab identified 20 possible matches for one of the prints; two examiners and a unit chief narrowed the match down to Mayfield. Spanish police conducted their own fingerprint analysis and informed the FBI on April 13, 2004, that its result was negative for Mayfield. The FBI disputed that finding, even dispatching an examiner to Madrid to press its case.

Reuter's reported January 6, 2005 that, "The FBI's sense of superiority over its Spanish counterparts was partly to blame for a U.S. lawyer's detention after a fingerprint match erroneously linked him to the 2004 Madrid train bombings, a Justice Department audit showed on Friday," January 6, 2005.

See "A Review of the FBI's Handling of the Brandon Mayfield Case," in which it is acknowledged that part of the reason the FBI was adamant about Mayfield was because he is a Muslim. I suspect that some Muslims have been convicted on false evidence since the so-called war on terror began in 2001. The FBI apologized to Mayfield after the case was dismissed in 2004. But an apology is no excuse for what was done to him simply because he is a Muslim

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January 7, 2006

Arkansas Lobbyists Say Scandals Leaving Taint on Lobbying, Politics

Alison Vekshin, a Washington correspondent for the Arkansas News Bureau, reported January 7, 2006 that, "Former Arkansas members of Congress turned Washington lobbyists say the Jack Abramoff scandal is tainting both professions." Hell, they were already tainted.

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DeLay's Letter to Hastert on Decision to Give Up Majority Leader Post

Here is the text of the Letter former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Republican of Texas) sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Republican of Illinois) "decision to permanently step aside as majority leader, and of my belief that the best interests of the conference would be served by the election of a new leader as soon as possible." The letter was distributed by the AP.

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The Offer Tom DeLay Couldn't Refuse

Representative Tom DeLay (Republican of Texas) did the right thing January 7, 2005 by abandoning efforts to regain his former job of House Majority Leader. Why did he do it?

Because enough of his fellow Republicans trying to save their careers and reputations turned on him and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Then there is Jack Abramoff's January 3, 2005 guilty plea to Federal charges of "fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials." DeLay and Abramoff were practically joined at the hip in politics and fundraising by any means necessary. Under Abramoff's deal with the Feds, he has to divulge information on U.S. Senators and Representatives he bribed.

And the way things look to this observer, out here in the Midwest, DeLay benefitted from Abramoff's largesse. Of course, DeLay is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But I suspect he has already been convicted in the court of public opinion.

See "DeLay Quits Top House Post."

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January 6, 2006

Capitol Hill's Oldest Profession

Scott Lehigh, writing in the January 6, 2006 edition of the Boston Globe, said "Rogue lobbyist Jack Abramoff's plea bargain with federal prosecutors has sent shivers through Washington akin to those that rippled through Tinseltown when Hollywood madame Heidi Fleiss was arrested back in 1993."

"There is a key difference, of course," he said, "This time, it's the man with the money who has been busted, and not those who may have offered up, um, personal services for cash or favors." See "Purging Capitol Hill's oldest profession."

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Alexander Strategy Group and the Washington Scandals

Bloomberg.com reported today that, "Representative Tom DeLay's campaign to get Republicans to dominate Washington lobbying may have worked too well for Alexander Strategy Group. The firm has links to no fewer than three of the scandals convulsing the U.S. capital."

For more, please see "'DeLay Inc.' Lobbying Firm Has Links to Three Capital Scandals."

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Is Newt Gingrich's Revolution Going Up in Flames?

Rolling Stone's National Affairs Daily reports that, "Newt Gingrich, the original architect of the Republican Revolution, is obviously dismayed to see his handiwork going up in flames. Even so, the force with which Newt is blasting his party's corruption woes is surprising." Read it here.

Also see "Newt on the Abramoff Scandal."

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January 4, 2006

'One Terrible Lesson of the West Virginia Mine Tragedy'

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine says,

One terrible lesson of the West Virginia mine tragedy is that you can’t trust the news. You never could; it has always taken time to see whether stories pan out, to get all the facts, to find out the truth. But now, in our age of instant news and ubiquitous communication, the public sees this process as it occurs.
See "Tragic error" for Jarvis' entire post.

Note: This item is cross posted at The Blogging Journalist.

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King Coal and Queen Safety

In a commentary on the West Virginia mining tragedy that left 12 coal miners dead this week, The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) said "Coal is king but its queen is safety."

"Americans rarely glimpse their troubling dependency on an inexpensive but dirty and dangerous energy source, coal," the paper said. "This week's mine disaster in West Virginia that killed 12 workers points to a need for greater care to justify a rising US reliance on coal." The CSM raises several important points in the commentary.

Finally, we send our condolences to those who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

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CS Monitor: 'How Far Will Abramoff Scandal Reach?'

The Christian Science Monitor wants to know: "How far will Abramoff scandal reach?"

That's a pivotal question. I think we'll have answers soon that will influence the 2006 midterm elections. This is too big not to have an impact. Couple the corruption scandal with growing opposition to the war in Iraq and you have makings of a political hurricane.

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Newsweek Takes a Look at Winners and Losers in the Abramoff Scandal

Newsweek's Howard Fineman takes a look at the "Winners and losers in the Abramoff scandal." Newsweek contends that the "GOP could suffer, opening the way for a third-party movement."

I doubt a third party movement will get political traction out of this scandal. Besides, who's going to lead it?

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Fear and Loathing in Washington, D.C.

Mary Curtius, Janet Hook and John-Thor Dahlberg, staff writers for the Los Angel Times, tried to put into perspective what former lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty pleas in Washington, D.C. yesterday and Miami today "in fraud and corruption cases" mean for certain powerful political figures in Washington. Reports say Abramoff greased the palms of powerful Republicans. Democrats shouldn't start gloating just yet, if at all. I suspect there are some dirty hands on that side the aisle too.

Significantly, The Times reporters said January 4, 2005 that, "From the Oval Office to Capitol Hill, prominent Republicans scrambled today to rid themselves of campaign contributions"from Abramoff, "as his guilty pleas in fraud and corruption cases opened a painful debate within the party over its leadership and direction."

The Times noted that, "President Bush, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, his temporary successor in that post, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, the fourth-ranking House Republican, joined a list of nearly two dozen lawmakers who have returned or donated to charities the money Abramoff and his clients gave them during his decade as an influential mover-and-shaker on Capitol Hill."

As might be expected, there is a lot of fear and loathing in Washington since Abramoff's guilty pleas. A lot of careers are at stake, and somebody besides Abramoff may do the jailhouse rock in a Federal Country Club. People will get desperate when Washington's ultimate influence peddler really starts talking and sharing the contents of his Blackberry and E-mails with the Feds. So, don't be surprised if someone makes an attempt to take him out to keep him from singing like a canary.

For more, please see "GOP Leaders Seek Distance From Abramoff."

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January 3, 2006

Abramoff's Guilty Plea May Spell Trouble for the GOP

Washington Post staff writers Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Dan Balz report in the January 4, 2006 edition of The Post that:

The biggest public corruption scandal in a generation took down one of the best-connected lobbyists in Washington yesterday. The question echoing around the capital was what other careers -- and what other familiar ways of doing business -- are endangered. Jack Abramoff represented the most flamboyant and extreme example of a brand of influence trading that flourished after the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives 11 years ago. Now, some GOP strategists fear that the fallout from his case could affect the party's efforts to keep control in the November midterm elections.
Birnbaum and Balz quotes former representative Vin Weber (R-Minn.), "now a lobbyist for Clark & Weinstock," as saying:
In the short run, members of Congress will get allergic to lobbyists. They'll be nervous about taking calls and holding meetings, to say nothing of lavish trips to Scotland. Those will be out. For a period of time now, members of Congress will be concerned about even legitimate contact with the lobbying world.
Abramoff's fall reminds me of the fall of mobster John Gotti. Hubris is a dangerous thing.

For more of Birnbaum and Balz's analysis, see "Case Bringing New Scrutiny To a System and a Profession."

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CIA: 'Every Chapter of 'State of War' Has Inaccuracies'

CNN says CIA Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Millerwise Dyke issued the following statement January 3, 2006 about "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, a controversial book by New York Times Reporter James Risen:

Readers deserve to know that every chapter of 'State of War' contains serious inaccuracies. The author's reliance on anonymous sources begs the reader to trust that these are knowledgeable people. As this book demonstrates, anonymous sources are often unreliable.
Dyke said, "It is most alarming that the author discloses information that he believes to be ongoing intelligence operations, including actions as critical as stopping dangerous nations from acquiring nuclear weapons. Setting aside whether what he wrote is accurate or inaccurate, it demonstrates an unfathomable and sad disregard for U.S. national security and those who take life-threatening risks to ensure it."

I would have been disappointed if she hadn't said what she did about the book. It's her job to lie and protect the agency at all cost. See "Officials: Error tipped Iran to CIA agents."

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Lets Hope Rescuers Reach Miners in Time

Washington Post staff writers Ann Scott Tyson and Shanar Vedantam have a very detailed article today at Washington Post Online on the 13 miners trapped underground in Tallmansville, West Virginia.

The Post said, "Rescue workers penetrated ever-deeper into the earth here [in Tallmansville] Tuesday morning in a desperate, methodical and so-far unsuccessful attempt to make contact with the 13 coal miners who have been trapped below for more than 24 hours now."

Many of us urban dwellers probably don't think about coal miners until there is a disaster. I sincerely hope they come out alive. For more, please read "13 W. Va. Miners Still Trapped."

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January 2, 2006

'State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration'

"State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," a "new book " by New York Times Reporter James Risen "on the government's secret anti-terrorism operations," describes, among other things, how the CIA recruited "an Iraqi-American anesthesiologist in 2002 to obtain information from her brother, who was a figure in Saddam Hussein's nuclear program," according to The Associated Press (AP). The book, the AP reports, says "some 30 family members of Iraqis made trips to their native country to contact Iraqi weapons scientists, and all of them reported that the programs had been abandoned." The CIA didn't believe them.
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January 1, 2006

New Year Greetings

Happy New Year to Opinion Gazette readers who follow the Christian Calendar.

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DeLay's Spokeman Says His Boss Not Influence by Donors

Mr. DeLay [that's embattled U.S. Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas] makes decisions and sets legislative priorities based on good policy and what is best for his constituents and the country, " contends DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden in response to a December 31, 2005 Washington Post report that said:

The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.
Madden said, "Any suggestion of outside influence is manipulative and absurd. Mr. DeLay has very firm beliefs and he fights very hard for them." See "DeLay rep says boss not swayed by donors.

One can have firm beliefs and still be a crook. But Mr. DeLay is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

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