Friday, September 22, 2006
The Cafferty File: Better under Saddam?
On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

Was Iraq better off under Saddam Hussein?

I don't think Iraq was necessarily better off with Saddam, but the U.S. definitely was! He kept Iran in check and focused their attention on fighting each other, not the U.S. I guess Iraqis did have schools, hospitals, electricity, running water and a police force under Saddam, however.
Elie, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Yes. With Saddam in power, we had him to keep Iran in check, to keep the Shias from turning the country into a theocracy, to keep al Qaeda out of Iraq, and to keep his citizens from killing each other. He was a bad guy to be sure, but we traded one bad guy for thousands of bad guys.
Jenny, New York

Iraq was not better off under Saddam Hussein. The people of Iraq had no hope, no choices and no freedom. Now they have all the above. The U.S. is not better off now than when Saddam ruled Iraq, but someone had to pay the price for freedom.
Maurice, Wisconsin

Though Saddam Hussein's method of governance was reprehensible, it's become evident that he was the glue that held Iraq together.
Karla, East Wenatchee, Washington

It does not matter if you are killed under the rule of a dictator or self proclaimed "liberators." But under Saddam, at least you knew where the threat came from; now you face wholesale random killing.
Andre

What does it mean if the U.S. threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" unless it cooperated in the war on terror?

It means that Pakistan just peeled back another layer of this administration's tactics exposing our elected officials as ruthless, ego-maniacal, world-invasive bullies. Is there anything more the Bush administration can do to tarnish our image?
Nikki, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What does it mean? It means this administration thinks it rules the world! How sad for America we let this continue.
Pat, Butte, Montana

"Bomb them back to the Stone Age" sounds like it fits right in with Texas gunslinger diplomacy. It's kind of like we're "gonna get 'em dead or alive." I have no problem believing this was an ultimatum given to Pakistan.
Gary, Yuba City, California

Would you give up sex if you could live to be 100?

Jack, What kind of question is that? I am married you idiot!
Richard, La Belle, Florida

Jack. The sex thing. Do you need to know right now, or can I decide when I'm 80?
Jim, Wilmington, North Carolina

I thought I gave up sex at 25, when I got married.
Shane, Ontario

Too easy, Jack. I'm married so I don't get to have sex anymore. Although I will not live to be 100 years old, it sure will seem like it.
Craig, Tampa, Florida

What a delightful change from your usual questions. As for me, Jack, I still plan to be having sex when I'm 100.
Bill, Casa Grande, Arizona
Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 9/22/2006 05:44:00 PM ET | Permalink
Pentagon rejects claim program ID'd 9/11 hijackers
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A military data-mining program produced no useful intelligence and did not identify any of the future September 11 hijackers, despite the claims of a former participant, the Pentagon's inspector-general concluded.

In a report released Thursday, the agency determined that the program, code-named Able Danger, "did not identify Mohammed Atta or any of the 9/11 hijackers before the 9/11 attack." It also found that participants in the program were not barred from sharing intelligence that could have prevented attacks -- as a former member, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, has told Congress.

"Able Danger members were not prohibited from sharing information with lawenforcement authorities or other agencies that could have acted on that information," the report concludes. "In fact, Able Danger produced no actionable intelligence information."

The report also found that Defense Department officials did not retaliate against Shaffer for taking his allegations to members of Congress and the independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks.

Shaffer's claims have been championed by Rep. Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican. In a statement, Weldon said the report's timing -- less than two months before the November congressional elections -- "raises serious questions about the IG's motivations."

Weldon said investigators did little to answer his questions about Shaffer's treatment by the Defense Department or the handling of documents created during the program and the circumstances under which it was shuttered.

"I am appalled that the DOD IG would expect the American people to actually consider this a full and thorough investigation," he said. "I question their motives and the content of this report, and I reject the conclusions they have drawn."
Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 9/22/2006 11:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
White House, GOP senators reach deal on detainee treatment
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House and dissenting GOP senators settled a disagreement Thursday on a bill setting out procedures for interrogating terror suspects and trying them in front of military tribunals. (Full story)

While the agreement does not redefine the Geneva Conventions, as the White House originally proposed, national security adviser Stephen Hadley said it would provide enough "clarity" to allow the CIA's interrogation program to go forward.

In another concession, detainees prosecuted by military commissions in some cases would be allowed to see classified information used against them. And the deal puts limits on prosecutors' ability to use statements made by detainees under coercion.

But the agreement explicitly gives the president "the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."
Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 9/22/2006 11:00:00 AM ET | Permalink
Over 1,000 Commerce Dept. laptops missing
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Some 1,137 laptop computers -- almost a quarter of them containing "personally identifiable" information -- used by Commerce Department personnel have gone missing since 2001, the department said late Thursday.

However, there is no evidence any data has been improperly accessed, and most of the missing computers used passwords, encryption technology or complex software that's difficult to access. Such practices limit "the potential for misuse of data," the department said.

"While we know of no instances of personal information being improperly used, we regret each instance of lost material and believe the volume of lost equipment is unacceptable," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement. "We are moving to institute better management, accountability, inventory controls, 100 percent encryption and improved training."

About half of the missing laptops with personal data were stolen, often from employees' vehicles, while most of the rest were simply not returned by former employees.

The Census Bureau -- a unit of the Commerce Department -- had 672 missing computers. Of those, 246 contained some degree of personal data, 107 of which were fully encrypted. Some 325 laptops went missing at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, although only three contained personal data. In July, a laptop containing personal information on 146 employees and government contractors was stolen from a NOAA office in Seattle after a fire, the department said. All of them were notified and offered credit counseling.
Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 9/22/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
Judge backs ex-Cheney aide on classified documents
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense attorneys for Vice President Cheney's former top aide do not need to meet stringent requirements, requested by prosecutors, to use classified White House documents, a judge ruled Thursday.

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby will go to trial in January, facing charges he lied to investigators and a grand jury regarding his knowledge of onetime CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose husband, a former ambassador, had published a 2003 essay critical of the White House's pre-war justification to invade Iraq. He is not charged with leaking any classified material in the case. (Special Report)

Lawyers for Libby hope to use top-secret notes from meetings involving Cheney, Libby and President Bush to convince the jury Libby may have been distracted by urgent national security matters when he testified regarding Plame.

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had requested classified information only by released if it met three conditions: relevance, whether it would help the defense, and if it would take into account the government's need to protect information.
Posted By Paul Courson, CNN Washington Bureau: 9/22/2006 10:44:00 AM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
(A first look at today's political news)

  • President Bush met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at 8:45 am ET at the White House. The two leaders will hold a joint press availability 10:10 am ET.

    At 10:45 am ET, the President and Mrs. Bush will take part in a photo-op for the 2006 National Spelling Bee Champion. You'll recall Katharine Close of Asbury Park, NJ, won the Bee this year with "ursprache."

    The first couple then smile for the cameras at 11 am ET with the 2006 Boys and Girls Clubs of America Regional Finalist and Youth of the Year.

    At 1:55 pm ET, another photo op with the recipients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

  • The House Government Reform Committee holds a hearing today, "CSI Washington: Does the District Need its Own Crime Lab?"

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • "More than 1,100 laptop computers have vanished from the Department of Commerce since 2001, including nearly 250 from the Census Bureau containing such personal information as names, incomes and Social Security numbers," reports the Washington Post.

  • Plummeting gasoline prices and a buoyant stock market may be weakening the power of the economy as an issue for Democrats less than seven weeks before U.S. congressional elections," reports Bloomberg.

  • As several polls show an uptick in President Bush's approval ratings, the Washington Times asks "Could [Tony] Snow be responsible for the surge?"

  • And Kinky Friedman says he was just following "in the footsteps of Richard Pryor" and he was an "an equal opportunity offender" after a blog posted an audio clip of him using a racial slur during a standup routine in 1980. How is his defense playing in Texas? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    *****

    Political Hot Topics
    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    COMMERCE LOST 1,100 COMPUTERS SINCE '01: More than 1,100 laptop computers have vanished from the Department of Commerce since 2001, including nearly 250 from the Census Bureau containing such personal information as names, incomes and Social Security numbers, federal officials said yesterday. This disclosure by the department came in response to a request by the House Committee on Government Reform, which this summer asked 17 federal departments to detail any loss of computers holding sensitive personal information. Of the 10 departments that have responded, the losses at Commerce are "by far the most egregious," said David Marin, staff director for the committee. He added that the silence of the remaining seven departments could reflect their reluctance to reveal problems of similar magnitude. Washington Post: 1,100 Laptops Missing From Commerce Dept.

    BUSH "PLAYING MIDDLE MAN" BETWEEN MUSHARRAF, KARZAI: President Bush is playing middle man in a thorny foreign policy problem that has bubbled up between two U.S. allies in the war on terrorism who accuse each other of not doing enough to crack down on extremists. Bush was to meet Friday with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He's following up that meeting with talks on Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Then, they'll have a three-way sit down on Wednesday. Bush is working to find a way to defuse the dispute between Pakistan, which is helping the United States track Osama bin Laden and restrain bin Laden's al-Qaida organization, and the struggling democratic government in Afghanistan. Karzai's government is suffering its heaviest insurgent attacks since U.S.-led troops toppled the Taliban in late 2001. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush aims to calm fray between 2 allies

    MUSHARRAF: U.S. THREATENED TO BOMB PAKISTAN "TO THE STONE AGE" IF THEY DIDN'T HELP TERROR EFFORT: President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan tells Steve Kroft that after 9/11, the U.S. threatened to bomb his country if it didn't help America's war on terrorism... Musharraf says the threat came from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and was delivered to Musharraf's intelligence director. "The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,'" recalls Musharraf. It was insulting, he says. "I think it was a very rude remark." But he reacted to it in a responsible way, he tells Kroft. "One has to think and take actions in the interests of the nation, and that's what I did." Armitage disputes the language but doesn't deny that the message was strong. CBS News: Musharraf: U.S. Threatened Pakistan

    BOTH SIDES "ACHIEVED THEIR AIMS" AS ACCORD REACHED ON TERROR SUSPECTS: The White House and dissident Senate Republicans reached a tentative accord yesterday on legislation that President Bush said would provide for continued tough interrogations of terrorism suspects by the CIA at secret detention sites. The accord, which includes a plan for future military trials of alleged terrorists, also spells out rules for the use of classified evidence as well as information obtained through coercion of some detainees. While the deal is subject to further discussion with House Republican leaders, it resolved the most contentious issues in the Bush administration's high-profile drive to gain congressional backing for its detainee policies before Congress adjourns next week. It also could help settle an intraparty fracas that worried GOP leaders in the run-up to the November elections. Washington Post: White House, Senators Near Pact on Interrogation Rules

    TONY SNOW RESPONSIBLE FOR JUMP IN BUSH APPROVAL? Former talk show host Tony Snow took over as President Bush's communications point man four months ago, beefing up the press office staff, honing internal operations and deploying a quick-response strategy. Now, polls show, the president's approval rating has jumped to its highest level since January. Could Mr. Snow be responsible for the surge? "We're just busy going out and trying to be as aggressive as we can in getting the message out," Mr. Snow says. "Part of the challenge is to explain what we are doing and why. ... Sometimes you have to let people know very clearly what the policy is and that is one of our key aims." Washington Times: Presidential ratings rise with new message man

    BUSH BEGINS TAX BLITZ, CALLING DEMS "THE PARTY OF HIGH TAXES": President Bush began a blistering new political offensive on Thursday, asserting that if Democrats won control of Congress from Republicans it would mean higher taxes, less money in the pockets of working families and damage to the economy. The speech by Mr. Bush here, in which he belittled Democrats as "the party of high taxes," signaled what Republicans described as a new phase of the White House's fall campaign, as Republicans begin to combine their emphasis on national security with a tough new emphasis on the issue that unites them more than any other, taxes. Mr. Bush's offensive was backed up by a flood of television advertisements on behalf of Republican candidates. New York Times: Bush Leads New Offensive Featuring Economy and Linking Democrats to High Taxes

    AS GAS PRICES FALL, DEMS LOSE A CAMPAIGN ISSUE: Plummeting gasoline prices and a buoyant stock market may be weakening the power of the economy as an issue for Democrats less than seven weeks before U.S. congressional elections. A majority of Americans -- 54 percent -- say the U.S. economy is doing well, according to a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll. That's up 4 percentage points from the beginning of August, when the price of a gallon of gasoline was an average of 54 cents higher and the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index was 4 percent lower. President George W. Bush's approval ratings on handling the economy also rose. Almost 1 in 3 poll respondents said lower gasoline prices have enabled them to spend more on other household items. Bloomberg: Economy Fades as Issue for Democrats on Falling Gasoline Prices

    GREAT NYDN HEADER: "ANTI-SEMITIC? ME? PSHAW, IRAN PREZ SAYS": Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad poured on the patronizing charm again yesterday, scoffing at suggestions he's anti-Semitic and insisting his country has no plans to build a nuclear bomb. "I'm not anti-Jew," he said during an hour-long talk with reporters at the United Nations. "Jews are respected by everyone, like all human beings. And I respect them very much." Yet the polarizing president later referred to the state of Israel as "an imposition on humanity" and bizarrely dismissed as a flop the pro-Israel rally that drew tens of thousands of people to the UN's doorstep on Wednesday. "After a few days of heavy propaganda... a hundred people, maybe more or less, gathered to support perhaps the Zionist agenda," he said. "I don't even know, were these people paid?" New York Daily News: Anti-Semitic? Me? Pshaw, Iran prez sez

    "WHAT MATTERS IS NOT SO MUCH MR. ALLEN'S BLOODLINES BUT HIS HANDLING OF THE NEWS": What may ultimately distinguish [George] Allen from politicians like Madeleine K. Albright and Senator John Kerry, who both learned the full extent of their Jewish histories on the public stage, is the manner in which his narrative has unfolded. It is occupying a place in a campaign that has already left him on the defensive over racial sensitivity and his efforts to incorporate his newly discovered background into a political identity as a Christian conservative. After initially sidestepping questions about his Jewish roots, Mr. Allen played them down and then had his campaign accuse his Democratic rival of anti-Semitism. Only on Wednesday did his mother confirm that she had hidden the family history from her son for decades. New York Times: Volatile Mix: Campaigning and Religions

    BUSH RAISES $2 MILLION IN ORLANDO... HARRIS "MISSING FROM THE STAGE": President Bush swept through Central Florida on Thursday night, mingling with the Republican faithful at the Ritz and raising about $2 million for gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and the Florida GOP... During his 40-minute appearance, Bush was joined on stage at the Ritz-Carlton in south Orange County by Crist and the president's brother Gov. Jeb Bush. Missing from the stage was U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, who on Sept. 5 won the U.S. Senate nomination with less than 50 percent of the GOP primary vote. Orlando Sentinel: He came. He spoke. He raised $2 million

    CLINTON AND SPENCER WILL HOLD TWO DEBATES: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has agreed to two debates with her long-shot GOP Senate challenger, John Spencer, next month, campaign aides said yesterday. The face-offs will be almost back to back. The first will be hosted in Rochester by cable news station NY1 on Oct. 20. The next will be two days later, Oct. 22, at WABC's Manhattan studios. The debates are the only ones planned between Clinton and Spencer in their lopsided race, which has the senator, a potential 2008 White House hopeful, outpolling her rival by almost 30 points. New York Post: HILLARY AGREES TO DEBATE FOE

    CASEY HOLDS LEAD OVER SANTORUM: U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is still within striking distance of challenger Bob Casey Jr., but remains burdened by high negative ratings, according to the latest Daily News Keystone poll. Casey, the Democratic state treasurer, holds a 45 percent to 38 percent lead over Santorum among registered voters, with 5 percent favoring Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli and 12 percent undecided. Among likely voters, Casey's lead is 5 points, 46 percent to 41 percent. In the governor's race, Democratic Gov. Rendell maintains a commanding lead over Republican challenger Lynn Swann, 52 percent to 34 percent. Philadelphia Daily News: Poll: Bob leads Rick by 7 points

    IA'S VILSACK IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: Among the throngs of "leaf-peepers" here to enjoy the changing colors of a New England autumn is an Iowa politician with a different quest. Gov. Tom Vilsack arrived Thursday in New Hampshire, as he winds down the last months of his term as Iowa's chief executive and possibly begins a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. It is Vilsack's second trip to the state that hosts the nation's first presidential primary in January 2008. New Hampshire is attracting the same early crush of potential candidates in the wide-open presidential race as Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. Des Moines Register: Vilsack resumes courting N.H. votes

    MA DEM PARTY CHAIRMAN TAKES BACK "RACE BAITING" REMARK: The chairman of the state Democratic Party said yesterday that Republican Kerry Healey has come "perilously close to race baiting" by raising immigration issues in the campaign for governor, a remark that prompted Democratic nominee Deval Patrick to distance himself from his own party's chairman. Healey's campaign demanded that Patrick seek the resignation of Democratic Party chairman Philip Johnston over the remarks. Patrick refused, but said, "Phil Johnston speaks for himself." Shortly after 8 p.m., Johnston repudiated his own remarks. The unusual exchange took place on the second full day of the general election campaign, which pits Patrick, the state's first African-American gubernatorial nominee, against Healey, who is seeking to become the first woman to be elected governor in Massachusetts. Boston Globe: Race remark draws campaign barbs

    BLAGOJEVICH HAVING A LITTLE TROUBLE EXPLAINING $1500 CHECK: Gov. Rod Blagojevich acknowledged Thursday he helped get a state job for a friend whose husband wrote a $1,500 check to the governor's daughter, but said it was "ludicrous" to suggest the job and gift were connected. Blagojevich also offered a new, contradictory explanation for the check in his first detailed comments since the Tribune reported two weeks ago that the FBI is investigating the woman's allegation that the gift may have come in return for her job... Blagojevich's office earlier this month said the $1,500 check from Michael Ascaridis was solely "a birthday gift that Mike gave to Amy." In a prepared statement delivered through his attorney almost two weeks ago, Michael Ascaridis also said the gift was only for Amy Blagojevich's 7th birthday. But on Thursday, the governor said he wasn't sure what the money was for and suggested it could have been a christening present for his youngest child, Annie, who was born in April 2003. Chicago Tribune: A new reason for $1,500 gift

    KINKY'S USE OF N-WORD IN 1980 ROUTINE CAUSES "FIRESTORM" IN TX: Kinky Friedman's use of a racial slur in his outrage-humor stage show in 1980 caused a firestorm Thursday in the governor's race as critics said the satirist too frequently engages in racially charged comments. The controversy has been smoldering for two weeks, ever since Friedman said many of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees remaining in Houston are "crackheads and thugs." Most of the evacuees are black. On Thursday, a Democratic-leaning Internet site, The Burnt Orange Report, poured fuel on the fire by airing the outtake from Friedman's April 16, 1980, appearance at Rockefeller's in Houston. Friedman said the controversial comment should not be taken seriously because it was part of a stage show meant to offend everyone in the audience. Houston Chronicle: Friedman says use of slur was joke
  • Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 9/22/2006 08:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, September 21, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Prez & the polls
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    What's causing President Bush's rise in the polls?

    It's obvious that Bush's numbers are rising as prices fall at the pump. If anyone seriously believes that the current falling oil and gas prices are merely coincidental going into the current election cycle, they need to listen to Toto and check out that man behind the curtain.
    Roy, Alpharetta, Georgia

    The pollster must have contacted every sheep herder in America, because only someone with the wool pulled over their eyes could give any positive answers regarding the president.
    Bill, Manassas, Virginia

    Fear. I mean let's face it, Bush is making more and more Americans fearful of another terrorist attack, thus psychologically making us all want to hide behind his "protective cloak." Obviously the fear of what we voters can do in November is prompting Bush's latest rise in the polling.
    Tim, Boulder, Colorado

    Is it time for the Iraqis to replace Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki?

    I think they should put Saddam Hussein back in power. The death rate was a lot lower when he was in charge. He will be the only one that can restore order in that country.
    Donald, Southington, Connecticut

    It isn't my say or my right to determine if the Iraqi prime minister should be replaced. If they are a democracy, let them decide that for themselves. If they aren't, then a coup will take care of that just as well.
    John, Savoy, Texas

    Jack, we should not be telling Iraq when and what to do with their prime minister. We should simply state that we don't see progress being made and the U.S. remaining in Iraq is tied to that progress.
    Gail, Brea, California

    There's a thought! Replace Prime Minister Al-Maliki! As if there isn't enough confusion and instability, let's throw some more at them, see how they handle it!
    Scott

    What's your biggest complaint about Congress?

    What is there to complain about? Congress hasn't done a thing throughout their term until now, days before the session ends and weeks prior to elections. It is pathetic and I hope the American people can see through it.
    Holly, Everett, Washington

    They all spend too much time and money worrying about getting re-elected. If they did half of what they said they would when they got elected, I'd vote for them regardless of which party they bash (I mean represent).
    Norman, Lewiston, Idaho

    The biggest problem I have with Congress is partisanship. When a person is elected (whether it be president, senator, or representative) and takes office, they are supposed to put the partisan nonsense aside and represent the will of their constituents. All of their constituents.
    Paul, Niantic, Connecticut

    My biggest complaint about Congress? Gosh, Jack, there are so many. And on both sides of the aisle. I've pretty much decided to just throw the bums out and start over. Anything and anybody would be an improvement.
    Susan, Colorado
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 9/21/2006 05:48:00 PM ET | Permalink
    FDA traces spinach-E. coli outbreak to California


    The FDA advises consumers to not eat fresh spinach or products that contain fresh spinach until further notice.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The tainted spinach leaves that sparked an outbreak of E. coli bacteria originated in three California counties -- Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara -- the FDA said Wednesday.

    Investigators narrowed the source Tuesday to the Golden State, and are now focusing on five farms, said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

    "Ultimately, the goal here is to get down to a field, if not to a spinach leaf," he said. "[Investigators] are going to be looking at all aspects of what could have
    gone wrong here."

    As of Wednesday, 146 people in 23 states had been affected by the 0157:H7 strain of E. coli, he said -- up from 131 people in 21 states on Tuesday. Of those, 76 had been hospitalized, Acheson said, and 23 have hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure. Seventy-one percent of the victims are female, he said, and the majority are between the ages of 20 and 64.

    In addition, Acheson said, investigators have obtained a bag of the tainted spinach from the home of an E. coli victim in New Mexico.

    Farms being investigated all had contacts with Natural Selection Foods LLC of San Juan Bautista, California, which last week issued a recall of its products containing spinach in brands with "Best if Used By" dates of August 17 through October 1. (Full story)

    The sample from New Mexico had a UPC code matching that covered by the Natural Selections recall, Acheson said. It had a "Best if Used By" date of August 30.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 9/21/2006 10:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Air marshals discount account of widespread illness


    The air marshal program began after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Air Marshal Service on Wednesday slammed as "erroneous" and "irresponsible" a Washington Times report claiming that half the agency's workforce had been "sidelined" by on-the-job illnesses and injuries and implying the agency was indifferent to the health concerns of sky marshals.

    The article said "nearly 2,100" air marshals had been grounded by ailments, and quoted an internal memo saying health problems were resulting in a "large amount of missed missions."

    But a FAMS official said only 48 claimants remain off work while receiving workers' compensation benefits -- not affecting the agency's effectiveness or security, in general. The official did not know how many are working at ground jobs because of ailments.

    And John Adler, vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association -- the union that represents about 1,300 air marshals called the article "absolutely ridiculous." Medical issues did not even rank among the top five concerns expressed by members during a recent survey, Adler said.
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 9/21/2006 09:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    (A first look at today's political news)

  • The President heads to the Sunshine State today where he'll campaign and fundraise for two Republican candidates and the FL GOP. At 1:10 pm ET, Bush will attend a Gus Bilirakis for Congress reception at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. At 5:35 pm ET, POTUS appears at a Charlie Crist for Governor and Republican Party of Florida Reception at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando.

    The GOP may face some "awkward choreography" when Florida Senate candidate Katherine Harris, who "has been shunned by the state's Republican leaders," shows up at the Orlando event, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

    For more details, check out local media coverage of the events in Political Hot Topics below!

  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld goes to Capitol Hill today with JCS Chairman Peter Pace and General John Abizaid for closed door, members-only briefings on Iraq. The trio will brief members of the House at 2pm ET and the Senate at 4pm ET.

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • Just 25 percent approve of the way Congress is doing its job, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Bush's job approval stands at 37 percent, "virtually unchanged" since the last NYT/CBS News poll in August.

  • A new Bloomberg/LA Times poll shows President Bush's approval rating at 45 percent, "a jump of 5 percentage points since July." Dems lead 49-39 among RVs asked which party they'll support for Congress in November.

  • And call it "the peril of wading into 'festive' environments"... what is the Kerry press shop saying about this photo?

  • Find out in Hot Topics below!

    *****

    Political Hot Topics
    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    BUSH: EVEN IF IT MEANS ENTERING PAKISTAN, "WE WOULD TAKE THE ACTION NECESSARY" TO CATCH OBL: President Bush said Wednesday he would order U.S. forces to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan if he received good intelligence on the fugitive al Qaeda leader's location. "Absolutely," Bush said. The president made the comments Wednesday in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Although Pakistan has said it won't allow U.S. troops to operate within its territory, "we would take the action necessary to bring him to justice." CNN: Bush would send troops inside Pakistan to catch bin Laden

    AHMADINEJAD "SQUARES OFF" WITH CFR: Over the objections of the administration and Jewish groups that boycotted the event, [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, the man who has become the defiant face of Iran, squared off with the nation's foreign policy establishment, parrying questions for an hour and three-quarters with two dozen members of the Council on Foreign Relations, then ending the evening by asking whether they were simply shills for the Bush administration. Never raising his voice and thanking each questioner with a tone that oozed polite hostility, he spent 40 minutes questioning the evidence that the Holocaust ever happened... The decision by the council's president, Richard N. Haass, to invite Mr. Ahmadinejad to the session touched off a rare outcry protest in an organization whose meetings are usually as staid as the portraits of long-forgotten diplomats on its walls. New York Times: Iran's Leader Relishes 2nd Chance to Make Waves

    "CLASS CLOWN" HUGO CHAVEZ: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez drew laughs and gasps at the UN yesterday by mocking President Bush as "the Devil himself" who acts like "he owned the world." Chavez's taunts came a day after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against Bush - but the Iranian was downright diplomatic compared with Chavez. "Yesterday, the Devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today," Chavez said, blessing himself with the sign of the cross, and folding his hands as if in prayer and glancing heavenward. The gesture drew laughter from the assembled heads of state... Chavez's attempt at being the class clown was one of the most outrageous UN performances since Yasser Arafat, the late head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, wore a pistol into the General Assembly and Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on a desk. New York Daily News: 'Devil' of a tirade at Bush

    NYT/CBS NEWS POLL: JUST 25% APPROVE OF CONGRESS: With barely seven weeks until the midterm elections, Americans have an overwhelmingly negative view of the Republican-controlled Congress, with substantial majorities saying that they disapprove of the job it is doing and that its members do not deserve re-election, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll... Two-thirds said Congress had accomplished less than it typically did in a two-year session; most said they could not name a single major piece of legislation that cleared this Congress. Just 25 percent said they approved of the way Congress was doing its job. But for all the clear dissatisfaction with the 109th Congress, 39 percent of respondents said their own representative deserved re-election, compared with 48 percent who said it was time for someone new. New York Times: Only 25% in Poll Approve of the Congress

    COMPLETE POLL RESULTS (pdf via NYT)

    BLOOMBERG/LAT POLL: BUSH APPROVAL JUMPS TO 45 AFTER SECURITY BLITZ: President George W. Bush's latest political offensive, centered on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has given him and fellow Republicans a measurable boost in public support a month and a half before congressional elections. The president's job approval rating rose to 45 percent in a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll, a jump of 5 percentage points since July. The gains follow a string of high-visibility presidential speeches, visits to terrorist targets and a congressional debate designed to cast anti-war Democrats as wobbly on national security... Republicans widened their lead among registered voters, to 17 points from 9 points, over Democrats on handling the war on terror and national security. They now hold a 41 percent to 39 percent lead, within the poll's margin of error, on the question of which party can best handle the situation in Iraq -- a reversal from June, when Democrats narrowly led. Bloomberg: Bush, Republicans Gain in Poll From September Push on Terrorism

    COMPLETE POLL RESULTS (pdf via LAT)

    AFTER "PARLIAMENTARY GYMNASTICS," TRIBUNAL PLAN PASSED IN THE HOUSE: President Bush's supporters in the House narrowly defeated yesterday efforts to sidetrack his proposal for questioning and prosecuting terrorism suspects, but the issue continues to divide Congress in its final workdays before the November elections. In an afternoon animated by switched votes, parliamentary gymnastics and protest cries from Democrats, the House Judiciary Committee barely managed to reject a rival proposal and endorse the administration's version of the legislation. Even if the chamber takes up the bill next week -- its last scheduled period of action before the elections -- the matter remains mired in the Senate, where a majority opposes the White House approach. Washington Post: House Panel Supports Tribunal Plan, 20 to 19

    700-MILE FENCE WILL BE THE FOCUS BEFORE NOVEMBER: Senate Republicans formally put aside a broad immigration overhaul sought by President Bush on Wednesday and decided instead to press ahead with narrower bills to require building 700 miles of fence on the southwestern border. Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said the fate of millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States had become a "fundamental sticking point" in trying to reach agreement with the House on a broad bill. Mr. Frist said the fence proposal, which the House has passed, was the best alternative if lawmakers wanted to salvage some immigration changes before the Nov. 7 elections. New York Times: G.O.P. in Senate Narrows Immigration Focus to 700-Mile Fence

    HOUSE PASSES "VOTER ID" BILL: The House yesterday passed legislation that would require voters to show a valid photo identification in federal elections over the overwhelming objections of Democrats who compared the bill to segregation-era measures aimed at disenfranchising Southern blacks. The Federal Election Integrity Act was approved on a nearly party-line 228-196 vote... The so-called "Voter ID" bill, aimed at stamping out voter fraud, would require voters in federal elections to provide picture identification by 2008 and provide proof of U.S. citizenship by 2010. It was among the recommendations made last year by the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a Republican. Washington Times: House bill to require voter ID

    DREIER, PRYCE CALL FOR NEY'S RESIGNATION: With three weeks still left before Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) officially pleads guilty to a pair of federal charges, House Republican leaders on Wednesday stepped up their public calls for the embattled lawmaker to resign from the chamber immediately. While House Majority Leader John Boehner (R) remained reluctant to pressure his fellow Ohioan to step down from his post - and Democrats so far have stopped short of pushing an expulsion resolution on the House floor - Boehner's fellow leaders were far more definitive in their statements. "I do, as a member from Ohio, believe very strongly that Bob Ney should resign," House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce told reporters Wednesday. "It's a tragedy that's happened to his family but he has betrayed the trust of his constituents and his colleagues here in the House." When asked if Pryce's view was the position of leadership, House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) responded, "Yep, absolutely." Roll Call: Leaders Boost Pressure on Ney

    FLAG-SHOP EMPLOYEE BEAT CAPITOL POLICE TO THE PUNCH, SAYS COCHRAN: A flag-shop worker, not the U.S. Capitol Police, first subdued an armed intruder in the Capitol this week, according to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). "A guy who worked in the flag shop grabbed him," Cochran said yesterday. "[The worker is] a big guy." Cochran said his staff told him the intruder was near the flag shop and "looked suspicious." The still-unidentified flag-shop worker "just assumed [the intruder] didn't belong in the Capitol," seized him and held him until Capitol Police arrived on the scene. It was "an act of courage," Cochran said. The Hill: Flag-shop hero nabbed armed Hill intruder

    SPECTER PUSHING FOR MEDIA SHIELD LAW: An influential Republican senator said Wednesday that it's time for Congress to approve a law that would protect journalists from having to choose between jail time and revealing their confidential sources in court cases. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chastised a top Justice Department official who testified that a proposed bill to shield journalists from revealing their sources was a "solution in search of a problem." "I disagree with you," Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor, told Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. "My view is that it's something that must be addressed legislatively." Despite opposition by the Bush administration, Specter said he has asked Republican leaders for a vote in the Senate this year on the proposed federal shield law he is co-sponsoring, most likely during a planned lame-duck session after the Nov. 7 elections. The House is moving more slowly on its version of a media shield law. San Francisco Chronicle: Senator leads drive for federal media shield law

    ABRAMOFF AND ASSOCIATES' WH VISITS SHOWN IN USSS LOGS: Anti-tax advocate and lobbyist Grover Norquist visited the White House at least 74 times over the last five years, according to Secret Service logs released yesterday that illustrate the access that he and other Bush administration allies enjoyed. Norquist was one of nine people with links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff who were listed in the 1,646 pages of documents showing dates and times of appointments registered with the Secret Service. Lobbyists who worked with Abramoff, including Tony Rudy, Neil Volz, Kevin Ring and Shawn Vasell, had among them at least 70 appointments at the White House from 2001 to 2005, according an administration official who briefed reporters on the documents. Records released earlier this year show Abramoff had at least seven White House appointments from 2001 to 2004. Bloomberg: Lobbyist Access to White House Revealed in Secret Service Logs

    FEDERAL GOVERNMENT "TARGETING" THE WEALTHY: Warning to the wealthy: The cash-strapped federal government is targeting you. Having already gone after people with higher incomes through the federal tax code and the Social Security system, the government next year will begin charging wealthier seniors more for doctors' care under Medicare. The Bush administration, members of Congress and outside experts are all looking at other ways to raise new revenue from the rich... The answer, according to many Democrats and Republicans, is those with greater ability to pay. Democrats generally are in favor of higher taxes, such as eliminating President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers. Republicans are more likely to favor raising the price for government benefits, such as Medicare and Social Security. USA Today: Uncle Sam leaning more heavily on the better-off

    ALLEN LEARNED IN AUGUST OF JEWISH ROOTS: Henrietta "Etty" Allen said Wednesday that she concealed her upbringing as a Jew in North Africa from her children, including Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), until a conversation across the dining room table in late August. She said Allen asked her directly about his Jewish heritage when he was in Los Angeles for a fundraiser. "We sat across the table and he said, 'Mom, there's a rumor that Pop-pop and Mom-mom were Jewish and so were you,'" she recalled, a day after Allen issued a statement acknowledging and embracing his Jewish roots as he campaigns for a second term in the U.S. Senate. At the table in Palos Verdes, Calif., Allen's mother, who is 83, said she told her son the truth: That she had been raised as a Jew in Tunisia before moving to the United States. Washington Post: Allen's Mother Revealed Jewish Heritage to Him Last Month

    EHRLICH WANTS TO SCRAP $106 MILLION CHANGEOVER TO E-BALLOTS: A week after the primary election was plagued by human error and technical glitches, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called yesterday for the state to scrap its $106 million electronic voting apparatus and revert to a paper ballot system for the November election. "When in doubt, go paper, go low-tech," he said. Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, quickly denounced the plan to swap voting systems just seven weeks before the general election as "crazy." And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said it "cannot happen. It will not happen." Ehrlich said that, if necessary, he would call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to change the law to allow paper ballots. Washington Post: Ehrlich Wants Paper Ballots For Nov. Vote

    BILIRAKIS GETTING $450K BOOST FROM BUSH: President Bush will be swinging through Tampa on Thursday to campaign for Gus Bilirakis, the Republican congressional candidate hoping to take over the reins from his father, Rep. Mike Bilirakis. Bush is scheduled to attend a midday reception at Raymond James Stadium with about 300 people who pay $1,000 a ticket, or $2,100 for a one-on-one photo opportunity. Bilirakis' staff expects the event will add $450,000 to campaign coffers that currently exceed $1.1-million. Bilirakis already has a considerable cash advantage over Phyllis Busansky, his Democratic opponent for the District 9 seat. The president's trip will mark the second recent White House visit on behalf of the candidate. Vice President Dick Cheney visited in July. St. Petersburg Times: President due in Tampa to tout Bilirakis

    "AWKWARD CHOREOGRAPHY" IN ORLANDO: President Bush will sweep through Orlando today in the powerful role of fundraiser-in-chief for Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and the state GOP, kick-starting the party on its drive to raise a record $30 million for the November election... Crist, whose moderate politics separate him from the president on key social issues, says he's happy to share the Ritz-Carlton stage with Bush at a $500-per-person event expected to raise $3 million. Crist said he is not looking to take the money and duck out of camera range when standing by the president... The Republicans might face more awkward choreography with controversial U.S. Senate nominee Katherine Harris expected at the presidential event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Harris has been shunned by the state's Republican leaders, who actively sought to push her out of the race against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Orlando Sentinel: State GOP is counting on Bush

    KERRY DID NOT TRY THE BEER BONG: U.S. Sen. John Kerry's tailgating adventures at the Iowa-Iowa State football game have caused quite a buzz since this photo of the 2004 presidential nominee was first published on DesMoinesRegister.com. U of I student Kasie Ver Schuure, left, said she was celebrating her 21st birthday with her friend Erika Tahmasebi, right, at the tailgate when she spotted the Massachusetts Democrat and posed for the shot holding up the "beer bong" - basically a funnel designed for speedy alcohol consumption. Kerry didn't partake, but the photo was referred to in a New York Times article this week, as well as hitting political blogs galore. "I think it's hilarious," Ver Schuure said, although she acknowledged her dad, in Oskaloosa, wasn't too thrilled about the beer bong... The Times said Kerry's spokesman, David Wade, stressed that Kerry did not try the beer bong and joked, "Actually, since we were in Iowa, it was probably filled with ethanol." Des Moines Register: Iowa Ear: Kerry 'beer bong' picture sparks media buzz
  • Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 9/21/2006 09:04:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, September 20, 2006
    The Cafferty File: The Hunt for bin Laden
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Should the U.S. go into Pakistan to catch Osama bin Laden?

    We should go wherever we have to go to capture or kill this animal. We should have gotten him over 3 years ago in Tora Bora, but "The Decider" decided it was more important to go into Iraq than to capture the world's #1 terrorist.
    Jim, Livonia, Michigan

    What makes you think this administration would have any better success there than they have had in the past five years?
    James, Folsom, California

    No I don't think the U.S. should just "go in and get him." That would prove the statement that Hugo Chavez said that Bush "thinks he rules the world."
    Jeff, Alabama

    That's all we need & that's all Musharraf needs... More war on his borders...
    Patricia, California

    Is Congress' voting to build a fence along the Mexican border 7 days before adjourning for the election campaign an empty political gesture?

    Of course this is an empty gesture, "Don't blame us, we passed legislation." For years, I was an accountant and the term "Cover your assets" was in vogue. I think that this is the case here.
    George, Roanoke, Virginia

    Let's see Jack, they voted to build the fence along ONE THIRD of the border - what does that tell you? How about all U.S. citizens paying ONE THIRD of our taxes?
    D., Allentown, Pennsylvania

    Of course the offer to construct the fence is a gesture and nothing more. Without funding the "fence" won't stop any more illegals or drugs than the unarmed, untrained National Guard troops that still have not arrived.
    Don, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Referring to this as an "empty gesture" suggests that anything else they've done this year had any substance. It's more of the same – just closer to the midterms.
    Pete, Orlando, Florida
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 9/20/2006 05:50:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    (A first look at today's political news)

  • POTUS meets with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at 9:30 am ET at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

    ***PROGRAMMING NOTE: President Bush will sit down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer today for an interview airing in The Situation Room at 4pm and 7pm ET.*** The wide-ranging interview will be taped in New York City today at 11:30 am ET, and will cover Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, U.S. interrogation policy and the upcoming mid-term elections.

  • On the Hill today, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing at 2:30 pm ET to consider the nomination of Mary Peters to be Secretary of Transportation.

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • Political newcomer Deval Patrick "swept to victory" in yesterday's Democratic gubernatorial primary in Massachusetts, "becoming the first African-American to win a major party's nomination for the top job in the state," reports the Boston Globe. "Patrick had 50 percent of the vote, [Christopher] Gabrieli 27 percent, and [Thomas F.] Reilly was a distant third with 23 percent of the vote."

  • The Hill reports former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, the "top money man in Democratic politics," "has told business associates and Democratic donors that he will chair Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign next year."

  • Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) "acknowledged his Jewish ancestry, a day after angrily ducking a question about possible Jewish forebears in a debate with his Democratic challenger," reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Allen said in a statement, "I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line's Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed."

  • And why are some of Ned Lamont's latest campaign ads leaving some political analysts "perplexed?" Find out in Hot Topics below!
    *****

    Political Hot Topics
    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    BUSH TO IRANIANS - "YOUR RULERS HAVE CHOSEN TO DENY YOU LIBERTY": President Bush yesterday told Iranians they deserve a better government than they are getting, and he told Muslims worldwide to ignore radical "propaganda and conspiracy theories" that incite them to killing and terrorism. But just hours later, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the U.N. General Assembly that the world's conflicts are the result of aggression by the U.S., Israel and other wealthy nations, and said the set-up of the United Nations is fundamentally unfair. The biggest security crisis in the world took center stage as the two leaders spoke in the diplomatic version of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Mr. Ahmadinejad called out the U.S. and Britain by name, and taunted Mr. Bush, saying "the occupiers are incapable of establishing security in Iraq." Washington Times: Bush warns Iranians of 'liberty' denied

    TEXT OF BUSH'S SPEECH (via WhiteHouse.gov)

    BUSH MEETING "A SHOW OF SUPPORT FOR ABBAS' MODERATE POLITICS": President Bush, who says peace in the Middle East is one of the prime objectives of his presidency, is sitting down with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for some of the hard work it will take to turn those words into action. Bush's meeting Wednesday was a show of support for Abbas' moderate politics and his standing in the peace process, even though Abbas was weakened by the victory of rival Hamas militants in parliamentary elections earlier this year. The Bush-Abbas meeting comes on the same day that the United States and other would-be Mideast peacemakers hold their first session since this summer's fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush to meet with Palestinian leader

    "ANTI-HILLARY" BECOMES MAJOR INTERNATIONAL PLAYER: On Monday, Laura Bush convened an international conference on literacy. Tuesday, she hosted a roundtable aimed at prodding the United Nations into action on the humanitarian crisis in Burma. Wednesday, she will address the Clinton Global Initiative. And Thursday, she is to receive a major international award. By any measure, it is a busy week. It is particularly so for a first lady praised by some admirers as the "anti-Hillary" for her seeming preference for eschewing controversy and for embracing a more traditional role as first lady... [H]er sustained presence at the center of the world stage is unprecedented, which White House aides are promoting in the belief that her emerging profile can only help bolster President Bush's sagging popularity. Washington Post: First Lady Is Playing a Major Role on the World Stage

    "DOUBTS" ABOUT AL-MALIKI: Senior Iraqi and American officials are beginning to question whether Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has the political muscle and decisiveness to hold Iraq together as it hovers on the edge of a full civil war. Four months into his tenure, Mr. Maliki has failed to take aggressive steps to end the country's sectarian strife because they would alienate fundamentalist Shiite leaders inside his fractious government who have large followings and private armies, senior Iraqi politicians and Western officials say. He is also constrained by the need to woo militant Sunni Arabs connected to the insurgency. New York Times: Doubts Increase About Strength of Iraq's Premier

    COUP D'ETAT IN THAILAND: The army commander Gen Sonthi Boonyarataglin staged a coup d'etat Tuesday evening (Thailand time) and ousted the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A so-called "Democratic Reform Council" declared itself in control and declared martial law nationwide. Terse announcements said it included the commanders of all three armed forces and the police. It said the coup was necessary to correct "unprecedented division in the country." The Council said there seemed to be widespread corruption, and independent agencies were subverted by politicians, apparently a reference to the Thaksin government. "The national government through the current administration has caused conflicts and undermined the harmony of the people as never before in history." Bangkok Post: COUP D'ETAT IN THAILAND

    WH DROPS KEY PROVISION IN NEGOTIATIONS ON DETAINEES: Seeking a deal with Senate Republicans on the rules governing the interrogation of terrorism suspects, the White House has dropped its insistence on redefining the obligations of the United States under the Geneva Conventions, members of Congress and aides said Tuesday. The new White House position, sent to Capitol Hill on Monday night, set off intensified negotiations between administration officials and a small group of Republican senators... The two sides were said to be exchanging proposals and counterproposals late Tuesday in a showdown that could have substantial ramifications for national security policy and the political climate heading toward Election Day. New York Times: White House Drops a Condition on Interrogation Bill

    FRIST SIGNALS FILIBUSTER IF THEY CAN'T STRIKE A DEAL: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist signaled yesterday that he and other White House allies will filibuster a bill dealing with the interrogation and prosecution of detainees if they cannot persuade a rival group of Republicans to rewrite key provisions opposed by President Bush. Frist's chief of staff, Eric M. Ueland, called the dissidents' bill "dead." With Congress scheduled to adjourn in nine days, delaying tactics such as a filibuster could kill the drive to enact detainee legislation before the Nov. 7 elections, a White House priority. Washington Post: Dissidents' Detainee Bill May Face Filibuster

    NEY WOULD BE 4TH HOUSE MEMBER IN PRISON: With Rep. Bob Ney's (R-Ohio) guilty plea on federal corruption charges last Friday and a stint in prison looming for the lawmaker, the House suddenly finds the ranks of its alumni behind bars growing to a level not seen in a decade. When Ney heads off to prison, likely sometime next year, he will become the fourth Member to be locked up for criminal behavior, and the Ohio Republican may not be the last. Ney will join ex-Reps. James Traficant (D-Ohio), Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Frank Ballance (D-N.C.), all of whom currently are being held in federal correctional facilities. Ney will appear in front of a federal judge on Oct. 13 to formally plead guilty to conspiracy and making false statements. Roll Call: House to Big House

    DEVAL PATRICK EASILY WINS IN MA'S DEM GOV PRIMARY: Deval L. Patrick, who rose from poverty in Chicago's South Side to corporate boardrooms and a top post in the Clinton administration, swept to victory in the Democratic Party primary for governor yesterday, becoming the first African-American to win a major party's nomination for the top job in the state. Patrick won half the primary votes cast yesterday, far outpacing his two better known rivals, businessman Christopher Gabrieli and Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly. He made strong showings in blue-collar urban enclaves, in liberal and conservative suburban towns, and in Western Massachusetts. He also carried Cape Cod. With 98 percent of the state precincts reporting, Patrick had 50 percent of the vote, Gabrieli 27 percent, and Reilly was a distant third with 23 percent of the vote. Boston Globe: Patrick roars to nomination

    CANTWELL VS. McGAVICK IN WA: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell was cruising toward an easy win against four primary rivals Tuesday, ending speculation that strong anti-war sentiment might hobble her campaign. Her best-known Republican rival, former insurance executive Mike McGavick, was beating five opponents in the early returns, setting up the final showdown between the two. Seattle Times: Cantwell, McGavick heading to Round 2 in clash for Senate

    McAULIFFE WILL CHAIR HILLARY'S '08 CAMPAIGN: Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has told business associates and Democratic donors that he will chair Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign next year, according to several Democratic sources. Together, Clinton, the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, and McAuliffe, the top money man in Democratic politics, have a good chance of raising $100 million before the first official contest, the Iowa caucuses in January 2008. While Clinton and her staff insist she is focused solely on winning reelection in New York this November, the decision over who will be in charge of getting her elected to the White House is already settled. The Hill: McAuliffe to join Clinton

    BLOOMBERG HEARS '08 WHISPERS IN CALI: As Mayor Bloomberg arrives in California today for a two-day trip, many [CA] voters said they want to see him make a run for the White House. Bloomberg is [in L.A.] to meet with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and attend a San Jose fund-raiser for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rumors that Bloomberg is considering a presidential run dog him everywhere he goes... A recent New York Post/Fox News Channel poll found that 81 percent of Americans would consider voting for a qualified independent White House contender. New York Post: MIKE 'RUNS' - TO CALIF.

    GOP GOVERNORS TAKING "A LIBERAL TURN": Across the nation's 36 races for governor, Republican candidates in states heavy with moderate or Democratic voters are playing up their liberal positions on issues including stem cell research, abortion and the environment, while remaining true to their party's platform on taxes and streamlining government. In Massachusetts, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who is seeking to fill the seat that will be vacated by Gov. Mitt Romney, has openly split with Mr. Romney on abortion rights and stem cell research; her views are shared by the Republican candidate for governor in Illinois, Judy Baar Topinka, who also supports civil unions for same-sex couples. In Maryland, the Republican incumbent, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., is pushing for increasing state aid for programs for the disabled and imposing tighter restrictions on coal-fired plants; the Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, opposes the death penalty. In Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell also parts ways with the Republican Party on civil unions and financing for stem cell research. New York Times: For Governors in G.O.P. Slots, a Liberal Turn

    GEORGIA JUDGE THROWS OUT VOTER ID LAW: A state judge has thrown out the latest version of Georgia's law requiring voters to show photo ID, ruling that it violates the constitutional rights of the state's voters. Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. issued the ruling Tuesday, nearly three weeks after lawyers argued both sides of the issue, which is likely headed for the Georgia Supreme Court before the Nov. 7 general elections. Bedford said the photo ID requirement disenfranchises otherwise qualified voters and adds a new condition to voting that violates the state constitution. AP via AJC: Judge voids voter photo ID law

    TIED IN JERSEY...: The Senate race in New Jersey, which a Republican hasn't won in 34 years, remains virtually tied with less than two months before Election Day, a poll released Wednesday shows. Among likely voters, including those leaning toward a candidate, Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. holds a 48-45 percent edge over Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, the Quinnipiac University poll showed. Six percent remain undecided. This survey of 688 likely voters has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Among the 1,233 registered voters surveyed, Menendez has a 41-38 percent edge. This survey has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. AP via Yahoo! News: Poll shows N.J. Senate race a dead heat

    ... AND NECK-AND-NECK IN RHODE ISLAND: Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record) and Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse are neck-and-neck two months before an election that could help decide the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, according to a new Brown University poll. If the election were held Tuesday, 40 percent of voters said they would select former attorney general Whitehouse, compared to 39 percent for Chafee. That lead is negligible because the telephone poll, conducted between Saturday and Monday, questioned 578 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. AP via Yahoo! News: Poll: R.I. Senate race neck-and-neck

    ALLEN CONFIRMS HE IS PART JEWISH AFTER CRITICIZING REPORTER FOR ASKING: U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., yesterday acknowledged his Jewish ancestry, a day after angrily ducking a question about possible Jewish forebears in a debate with his Democratic challenger. Allen said in a written statement that his mother, Etty, confirmed he is part Jewish after he read an Aug. 25 article by the Jewish Daily Forward exploring his roots. The article followed the controversy over Allen's alleged racial remark to an Indian-American volunteer for Democrat Jim Webb. He said in an interview that he was aware of his heritage when asked about it during the nationally televised debate Monday with Webb sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. Allen did not directly answer a panelist's question on his lineage but sternly criticized her for asking about religion. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Allen tells of his Jewish heritage

    ALLEN STATEMENT: "I was raised as a Christian and my mother was raised as a Christian. And I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line's Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed." (via GeorgeAllen.com)

    LAMONT'S "TURNCOAT" ADS A SURPRISING STRATEGY: On the ground, Ned Lamont is focused this week on the costs and availability of health care - and votes Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman has missed on the issue. But on the air, Lamont is delivering a different message with two television commercials branding Lieberman a "turncoat" for pursuing an independent candidacy since losing the Democratic primary in August. The ads indicate that Lamont, who defeated Lieberman in the primary, 52-48 percent, still is chasing the Democrats who didn't vote in August. Turnout was 43 percent. Some analysts are surprised at Lamont's strategy, saying they expected he would be using his paid media by now to court the largest segment of the Connecticut electorate: unaffiliated voters. Hartford Courant: Lamont's Approach Leaves Some Perplexed

    OPRAH NOT HOT ON DRAFT CAMPAIGN: If nominated, Oprah Winfrey will serve...a cease and desist letter. Lawyers for the talk show host are threatening legal action against a retired Kansas City teacher who has mounted a one-man campaign urging the star to run for president in 2008. The entertainer does not want Patrick Crowe, 69, to use her name and image, according to a letter from Winfrey attorney Jerry Glover, a copy of which you'll find below. Through counsel, Winfrey contends that Crowe's use of the Oprah name "falsely implies" that she and her firm, Harpo, Inc., sponsor or endorse the campaign. Along with a self-published book urging a Winfrey White House bid, Crowe has established a web site--Oprah08.net--to push her candidacy. The Smoking Gun: Oprah Seeks To Avoid 2008 Draft
  • Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 9/20/2006 08:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, September 19, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Homegrown terrorists
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    What does it mean if Islamic extremists are recruiting terrorists in U.S. prisons?

    What does it mean if Islamic extremists are recruiting in U.S. prisons? It means Al Qaeda is pretty smart. The largest prison population in the world, conveniently located inside enemy territory? It's the perfect opportunity. What an easy sales pitch: You are in prison because of infidel oppressors.
    Mac, Riverside, California

    It means bad news. Some of these "converts" will one day be paroled, only to leave the prison with a whole new mindset. These were criminals to begin with. Now, they're criminals with a reason, endorsed by a god to commit even more horrendous crimes.
    Joel, Festus, Missouri

    Foreign terrorists who recruit violent prison inmates haven't been told that the prisoners are being watched by the guards. Where else would we rather have violent Al Qaeda converts than in prison where they belong? We have the de facto means to keep them there.
    Richard, Seattle, Washington

    I can tell you from experience as a former correctional officer that this is a huge problem. Prisons are ideal recruiting and training grounds for radical Islam. Most inmates have contempt for authority to begin with. If you compound that contempt with a radical spin on religion you produce an extremely dangerous individual or in the worst case scenario, groups of individuals. The first line of defense would not be Congress. Prison authorities can handle this situation better than a politician could.
    Salvatore

    It means they're using the same tactics here as they use elsewhere in the world. By picking the "ripest" fruit...the poor, the uneducated, and the indignant, they ensure their own survival.
    Heath, Frankfort, Indiana

    How long should the U.S. keep its current troop levels in Iraq?

    Unless there is some new idea or plan for our troops to bring some sort of peace to Iraq, there is no reason to keep them there. I cannot see a future where there won't be even larger slaughter in Iraq once we leave; it seems unavoidable. We have consigned thousands to death in Iraq but we can prevent the deaths of more of our soldiers by withdrawing.
    Chris, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    We should get out as soon as possible and let them govern their own country. That would show good faith to the rest of the world that we are not there for our interests. Let the Islamic nations send peacekeeping troops into the country to stop any civil war from developing.
    Tom, Tampa, Florida

    You can't set a timeline for withdrawal. Similar to climbing a hill, you don't know what's on the other side until you're on top. Leave now and risk losing the advances you've gained? Not likely. The Iraqi people don't deserve just a sampling of freedom.
    Wayne, Winchester, Virginia

    For as long as it takes to coordinate the transportation to send them to Afghanistan.
    Walter

    Why won't the United States talk to Iran?

    If we start talks with Iran, we might by some chance come to an agreement! Then how would Bush explain why he is going to war with Iran?
    S., Bakersfield, California

    Why is it that the U.S. seems to feel the most threatened by the Iranian nuclear development program? Why aren't other countries expressing similar concerns?
    Bruce, Grover Beach, California

    The Bush administration refuses to speak with Iran because as long as they avoid diplomacy, they can use speculation and conjecture to bolster the same kind of nonsense they used to get us into Iraq.
    Danso, Ithaca, New York

    Why won't the U.S. talk to Iran? Probably for similar reasons that I don't discuss geo-politics with the squirrels frolicking in my front yard.
    J., Clemons, North Carolina
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 9/19/2006 05:50:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Cheney: Terror suspects deserve harsh treatment


    GOP senators disagree with the White House about how terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay should be handled.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As senators and the White House continued talks on CIA interrogation techniques, Vice President Dick Cheney held firm in touting the importance of intelligence and favoring harsh treatment for terror suspects.

    Speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual meeting, Cheney said the best intelligence comes from terrorists themselves -- calling intelligence, surveillance and financial tracking the three keys to defeating terrorists.

    "The terrorists have laid out these ambitions time and time again in their own words," he said.

    While not discussing specific treatment of detainees, the vice president said information gleaned from interrogations "helped us prevent attacks against the United States."

    Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain, and Lindsay Graham have led the charge against the White House plan to reinterpret part of the Geneva Conventions regarding CIA interrogation techniques, saying that doing so could put U.S. soldiers captured themselves at inordinate risk and hurt America's moral standing in the world. (Full story)

    The White House won't confirm that the CIA has used any specific methods in questioning terror suspects, such as disorientation, forced nakedness and water boarding, in which a person is made to think he is drowning.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 9/19/2006 01:50:00 PM ET | Permalink
    General: No U.S. troop cuts until spring
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- There is likely to be no reduction in American forces in Iraq until at least spring 2007, and troop levels are expected to remain the same until then, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Tuesday.

    About 147,000 U.S. troops are now in the Middle East nation.

    Army Gen. John Abizaid told reporters that the troop strength is needed because of continuing sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad.

    The military had hoped to bring two Army brigades, or about 10,000 troops, back to the United States, but that appears to be on hold.
    Posted By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Bureau: 9/19/2006 01:47:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Source: Senators don't accept W.H. offer on interrogation
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Leading Republican senators apparently have opted not to accept a White House compromise proposal on whether to allow the CIA to continue using "alternative" interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a Republican source close to the negotiations told CNN Tuesday.

    The source, who is familiar with the White House offer made Monday that the senators considered, said, "It was a serious offer on their part," but the Senate Armed Services Committee "is not accepting in its current form."

    The White House proposal aims to break deadlock with Republican senators who have led the fight against the Bush administration's plan to "clarify" what U.S. law considers acceptable treatment of prisoners under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

    The opposition --led by Sen. John Warner of Virginia, committee chairman, and panel members Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona -- are "cautiously optimistic," the source said, that an agreement can be reached. (Full story)

    The senators planned to send another version of the measure to President Bush and his staff sometime Tuesday.
    Posted By Kathleen Koch, CNN Washington Bureau: 9/19/2006 01:42:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Official: Navy planning for possible Iran conflict
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top Navy official has asked his staff to update assessments on how the Navy would supply warships and troops if military action was ordered against Iran, a senior Navy official told CNN.

    Over the past four to six weeks, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Mullen, has held a series of internal meetings to review the plans, according to the offical.

    The official emphasized that Mullen's work is aimed at ensuring Navy plans are up to date given U.S. concerns about Iran, but it does not indicate the Navy has any word about future military action.

    Indeed, Pentagon officials continue to say all planning for possible military action in Iran falls under the category of prudent -- and routine -- contingency planning. And any possibility of a ground invasion remains especially remote, given the current U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    One scenario being examined by Mullen's group is how to blockade Iranian oil facilities in the Persian Gulf, while keeping the Gulf open to international shipping, the Navy official said.

    In an interview Monday with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Situation Room," Gen. John Abizaid -- head of U.S. Central Command -- declined to discuss war plans for Iran.

    "Wolf, I'm not going to confirm or deny any planning that we're doing with regard to war plans. You know that I couldn't ever disclose that whatsoever," Abizaid said.

    -- CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.
    Posted By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Bureau: 9/19/2006 01:28:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    (A first look at today's political news)

  • It's another busy day of diplomacy in New York for President Bush. He'll meet with French President Jacques Chirac at the Waldorf-Astoria at 9:10 am ET, and then make his way to the United Nations, where he'll meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at 10:15 am ET, and make remarks to the General Assembly at 11:30 am ET.

    In his 15-minute address, Bush "will discuss the positive steps that have occurred and begun to occur in terms of the Freedom Agenda, in particular in the Middle East," says the White House in a release.

    At noon, POTUS participates in a roundtable on democracy, followed by a Secretary-General luncheon.

    Later, he'll meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at the Waldorf at 3:30 pm ET.

  • On the Hill today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will appear at 10 am ET at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on combating child pornography.

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • "President Bush's approval rating has risen to 44% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. That's his highest rating in a year," reports USA Today. The poll was conducted September 15-17.

  • Acting Capitol Police Chief Christopher M. McGaffin called yesterday's incident on the Capitol grounds "unacceptable" and said it was "an unfortunate breach of our security, but it wasn't a total breach... We isolated this individual. We subdued him. No one was hurt," reports the Washington Post.

  • It's primary day in MA and WA. The spotlight is on Mass. Dems, who will nominate a candidate to challenge GOP nominee Lt. Gov Kerry Healey, with hopes to "break the Republicans' 16-year hold on the governor's office," reports the Boston Globe.

  • And now you can learn how to grow marijuana plants and see anti-drug PSAs at the same internet destination. Find out more about the U.S. government's new online effort to fight drugs in Hot Topics below!
    *****

    Political Hot Topics
    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    BUSH TO FOCUS ON MIDDLE EAST IN UNGA SPEECH: President Bush is trying to persuade skeptical world leaders to embrace his vision for the Middle East in a speech before the United Nations on Tuesday where he is calling on the world to "stand up for peace" in the face of violent extremism... Bush's speech was the last in a series on the war on terror, timed to surround last week's fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to set the tone for the final weeks of the U.S. midterm elections. Bush was allotted 15 minutes for his annual address to the general assembly, and White House aides said he planned to use the time to call on the world to support moderate governments and help build up weak democracies in Iraq and Lebanon, as wells as the Palestinian Authority. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush to engage skeptical U.N. on Mideast

    BUSH GETS HIGHEST APPROVAL RATING IN A YEAR: Amid falling gas prices and a two-week drive to highlight his administration's efforts to fight terrorism, President Bush's approval rating has risen to 44% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. That's his highest rating in a year. The poll also showed likely voters evenly divided between Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress, 48%-48%. Among registered voters, Democrats had a 51%-42% advantage... Bush's approval rating has edged up largely on the strength of Republicans coming back to the fold - 86% with him now compared with 70% in May. USA Today: Poll finds rebound in Bush approval

    ARMED MAN BREAKS THROUGH CAPITOL SECURITY BARRIERS, ENTERS BUILDING: A man drove past security and onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol yesterday morning and then ran deep inside the building, leading police on a wild chase covering all four main floors before he was cornered in the basement. More than 25 officers pursued the man, and some managed to wrestle him to the floor outside a room where flags are stored. It was only after they searched him that they found a loaded gun in his waistband. No shots were fired, and no one was injured. The man, identified as Carlos Greene, 20, also was carrying crack cocaine and cash, authorities said. He suffered a seizure after his arrest and was hospitalized last night. Washington Post: Armed Man Bursts Into Capitol, Leads Police on Four-Floor Chase

    POWELL DETAILS STANCE ON TERROR DETAINEES: Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he decided to publicly oppose the Bush administration's proposed rules for the treatment of terrorism suspects in part because the plan would add to growing doubts about whether the United States adheres to its own moral code. "If you just look at how we are perceived in the world and the kind of criticism we have taken over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and renditions," Powell said in an interview, "whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we're following our own high standards." Washington Post: Bush Detainee Plan Adds to World Doubts Of U.S., Powell Says

    WH WILL "SEND NEW LANGUAGE TO THE HILL" TO "QUELL REPUBLICAN REVOLT": President Bush yesterday offered to compromise on his hard-line stance that Congress curb rights for terrorism suspects, as the White House announced it will send lawmakers a revised proposal intended to overcome increasing resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill. White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the administration would send new language to the Hill in hopes of reaching an agreement and quell a Republican revolt. Last week, four Republicans, led by Chairman John W. Warner of Virginia, joined all Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, voting 15-9 to expand the rights of terror suspects. Washington Times: Bush offers concession on terror suspects' rights

    IMPASSE "MAY POSE RISK" FOR McCAIN'S '08 PLANS: Sen. John McCain's bid to position himself as the natural heir to President Bush as a wartime commander in chief and to court conservative leaders in advance of his likely 2008 presidential campaign has threatened to run aground in recent days, as the two men clash over how to detain and try terrorism suspects. For months, McCain has been wooing Bush's donors, hiring his former advisers and standing by him in the Iraq debate. But the fragile rapprochement between two men who were once bitter rivals for the presidency is facing a sharp new test over McCain's rejection of Bush's pleas to let the administration interpret the Geneva Conventions as it sees fit... McCain's willingness once again to confront Bush raises questions about how he will position himself toward the Republican Party's conservative base, which he has aggressively cultivated over the past year as he pursues the presidency. Washington Post: McCain's Stand On Detainees May Pose Risk For 2008 Bid

    LAT AGREES: "Battling Bush over rules for detainee treatment, senator jeopardizes his courtship of the right." Los Angeles Times: McCain Stand Comes at a Price

    SENATE WILL TAKE UP 700-MILE FENCE BILL: The Senate, which has been the major obstacle to strict border-security legislation this year, will take up a bill this week that calls for constructing 700 more miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. "It's time to secure the border with Mexico," Majority Leader Bill Frist said last night before filing the parliamentary motions to force the House-passed bill onto the Senate floor in a final effort to get a major immigration bill on the president's desk before the elections. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid, said the move "smacks of desperation" and was a "clear repudiation of President Bush's call for comprehensive legislation." Washington Times: Senate set to consider fence bill

    MA VOTERS TO CHOOSE DEM GOV NOMINEE: Massachusetts voters go the polls today to choose a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who party leaders hope will break the Republicans' 16-year hold on the governor's office. Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, venture capitalist Christopher F. Gabrieli, and former federal civil rights chief Deval L. Patrick yesterday exhorted supporters to get to polling places, while wooing undecided voters as they crisscrossed the state... The vote today will end a campaign that has been relatively civil in its tone, largely lacking attack ads and personal acrimony. The candidates and their strategists hope that two recent debates, which at times were heated, have sparked voter interest. Still, election officials were predicting a low turnout, far less than the 760,000 Democrats and independents who voted in 2002, despite the millions the candidates have spent this year to blitz the television airwaves. Boston Globe: Last campaign day is push to win

    CANTWELL LOOKING TO HOLD ON IN WA: Even as Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington has faced frequent criticism for having voted for the war in Iraq, her re-election campaign appears to be benefiting from a cold dose of pragmatism among many of her fellow Democrats. After looking east to Connecticut, where another supporter of the war, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, lost the Democratic primary last month, many Democrats here say attacking Ms. Cantwell in Tuesday's primary seems flat-out foolish because it could benefit the well-financed Republican challenger in November... Unlike in Connecticut, the question here is not whether another Democrat will unseat Ms. Cantwell. Instead, the wild card is whether antiwar opponents will peel away enough support to leave her vulnerable to the Republican opponent, Mike McGavick, a former insurance executive who recently put $2 million of his own money into his campaign. New York Times: Critics of War Spare Senator in Close Race

    AIG FINDS WAY AROUND DONATION LIMIT: New York law prevents corporations from contributing more than $5,000 a year to candidates for state office, but one of the world's largest insurance companies has skirted those limits in giving almost 20 times that amount to some of New York's most prominent politicians, according to a review of contribution data. The company, American International Group, has enlisted dozens of obscure subsidiaries to distribute contributions, all drawn from a common A.I.G. bank account and often through sequentially numbered checks, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. A.I.G. defends the contributions, which seem to comply with the law as interpreted by the State Board of Elections. New York Times: Campaign Gifts From Big Insurer Elude the Limit

    USING YOUTUBE TO FIGHT DRUGS: The Bush administration is taking its fight against illegal drugs to YouTube, the trendy Internet video service that already features clips of wacky, drug-induced behavior and step-by-step instructions for growing marijuana plants. The decision to distribute anti-drug, public service announcements and other videos over YouTube represents the first concerted effort by the U.S. government to influence customers of the popular service, which shows more than 100 million videos per day. The administration was expected to announce the decision formally on Tuesday. It said it was not paying any money to load its previously produced videos onto YouTube's service, so the program is effectively free. "If just one teen sees this and decides illegal drug use is not the path for them, it will be a success," said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the drug office. AP via Yahoo! News: U.S. uploads anti-drug videos to YouTube

    KERRY SPEAKS ON FAITH - "MOST EXTENSIVE ATTEMPT" TO DESCRIBE RELIGIOUS VIEWS SINCE '04 DEFEAT: Senator John F. Kerry yesterday called for a new national commitment to reduce the number of abortions, saying that both sides on the abortion debate can reach "common ground" on the sharply divisive cultural issue that was prominent in his defeat in the 2004 presidential election. In an intimate speech laced with references to his Catholic upbringing, Kerry chastised abortion-rights supporters and anti-abortion activists for the "overly partisan" tone that has polarized the nation... The speech is Kerry's most extensive attempt to describe his religious views and define where he stands on so-called "values issues" since President Bush defeated him for the presidency in 2004. Boston Globe: Kerry urges cooperation to reduce abortions

    "THE KERRY CAMPAIGN MISSED SOMETHING," SAYS WARNER IN IA: Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said in Iowa on Monday that Democrats have taken the wrong approach in arguing against tax cuts enacted under President Bush, singling out former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's campaign as a reason the message did not resonate in 2004. In order to appeal to more voters, the party ought to avoid alienating wealthier Americans, Warner told members of the Greater Des Moines Partnership in Des Moines at the outset of a day of meetings in the lead-off caucus state. "I think the Kerry campaign missed something," Warner, who is weighing a 2008 presidential campaign, told about 50 local business leaders. Des Moines Register: Warner: Kerry wrong on tax cuts

    CUOMO LEADS PIRRO BY 17 IN NY AG POLL: Andrew Cuomo has widened his lead over Jeanine Pirro in the race for attorney general to 17 percentage points, according to a poll released yesterday. The Siena College survey - the first taken since Cuomo defeated Mark Green in last Tuesday's Democratic primary - found former federal Housing Secretary Cuomo tops Pirro, a Republican, 53 to 36 percent. Cuomo is leading Pirro by 59 to 30 percent in heavily Democratic New York City and 53 to 35 percent among traditionally Republican upstate voters. The race was tied at 47 percent in the suburbs, former Westchester DA Pirro's political base. New York Post: ANDY GIVES PIRRO POUNDING IN POLL

    REP. KENNEDY FINDS A FRIEND AND SPONSOR IN FELLOW CONGRESSMAN: In the precarious course of his recovery, [Rep. Patrick] Kennedy (D-RI), the 39-year-old son of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, has come to rely heavily on [Rep. Jim] Ramstad (R-MN), 60. He has served as Patrick Kennedy's sponsor, his primary source of advice and support in what he calls "the daily fight for my life" against addiction. The day after the accident, Mr. Kennedy received a phone call from Mr. Ramstad, a recovering alcoholic who has been an evangelist in Congress for addiction treatment and 12-step recovery programs. The men did not know each other well. But in battling their addictions, the two built a fast kinship that flouts the partisan divisions of Congress, their own divergent politics and the conditional nature of so many friendships in Washington. New York Times: Struggle for Sobriety That Knows No Party Lines
  • Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 9/19/2006 08:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, September 18, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Who do you trust?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Whom do you trust when it comes to Iran's nuclear program: the U.S. or the International Atomic Energy Agency?

    If I'm a patriot, I guess I'm supposed to say I believe the U.S. If I'm an educated, intelligent citizen, I'll believe the IAEA, thank you very much.
    John, Fountain Hills, Arizona

    The USA! Are you out of your mind?
    Todd, Los Angeles, California

    We could not trust this president on anything at this point. Bush needs to use reverse psychology. If he wants us to believe Iran is a threat he should say they are not. Then I'd start worrying about Iran.
    Len, Cedarhurst, New York

    Neither, but if I have to choose it would be the International Atomic Energy Agency.
    Carol, Coulterville, California

    Should electronic voting machines be outlawed?

    When I voted in my primary on an electronic machine, I asked the poll worker, "How do I know my vote will be counted as I intend after I press that button?" He couldn't give me an answer. I walked away NOT knowing if my vote was sent to the central tabulator accurately.
    Michelle, San Antonio, Texas

    No they shouldn't be outlawed. We are in the computer age so we should be voting electronically. The problem is that we need uniformity in these voting machines. We need to make sure they are working correctly and consistently. The problem is who do we get to oversee this?
    Jeffrey

    Without a verifiable paper trail, electronic voting machines are an open invitation to election fraud and manipulation of the democratic process.
    Hunter

    Let's make this simple: Would you do business with an ATM that didn't give you a paper receipt?
    Karl, Wagoner, Oklahoma

    How can France help the U.S. end the war in Iraq?

    They can help by doing what they do best: nothing.
    Rich, Midland Park, New Jersey

    France can help end the war in Iraq by having French troops replace American soldiers as clay pigeons on the boulevards of Baghdad. Of course, their real reason to want to "help" America is to move in and help themselves to a piece of the war profiteering that's now going to mostly American companies.
    Dee, Torrance, Calif.

    France has a history with Iraq that the United States does not have and it would be in the administration's interest to allow someone with historical roots in the region to set in motion peace-generating events. The Bush administration should be quiet and listen to other voices of reason.
    Curtis
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 9/18/2006 05:39:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Ney resigns chairmanships of House committees
    From CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who has pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and making false statements, Monday resigned his chairmanships of two House committees.

    Ney, who had already announced plans to retire at the close of the 109th Congress, informed House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) in separate letters that he was stepping down as head of the subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity of the Financial Services Committee as well as chairman of the Franking Commission, which oversees mailing procedures in the House.

    Earlier this year, Hastert asked Ney to stepped down from the House Administration Committee chairman earlier this year when the House was debating ethics reform.

    Ney is the first lawmaker to admit wrongdoing in the Jack Abramoff influence peddling investigation. Abramoff, a former high powered GOP lobbyist, has also been convicted and is cooperating with federal authorities.

    Ney could face up to 10 years in prison, but the Justice Department and Ney's lawyers agreed on a sentencing recommendation of 27 months in prison, provided Ney continues to provide truthful information. The final sentence will be determined by a federal judge. Ney could also be fined up to $500,000, according to the agreement.

    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 9/18/2006 02:45:00 PM ET | Permalink
    FDA extends warning to all spinach, bagged or not


    Natural Selection Foods is one of several companies to recall its spinach products.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration recommended Monday that consumers should not eat fresh spinach -- whether its bagged or not -- as investigators continue to look for the source of E. coli bacteria that has sickened at least 109 people.

    The FDA's Dr. Robert Brackett justified the wider warning by explaining that firms that produce bagged spinach also sell other forms, and that grocery stores sometimes use bagged spinach in salad bars or bulk bins. (Full story)

    "We want to make sure consumers are aware that they [shouldn't] consume any of the fresh spinach," Brackett told CNN. "We don't know whether it came from the bag or another state. We just don't have the focus down that much yet."

    Spinach producers, some working with the FDA, are voluntarily recalling their products. Investigators have blamed one death, in Wisconsin, on the outbreak, which has been identified in 19 states, said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

    Of the 55 people hospitalized, 16 had a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. Acheson said the number of reported cases could increase Monday, when public health departments -- many closed over the weekend -- reopen.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 9/18/2006 10:35:00 AM ET | Permalink
    White House hints at compromise on interrogations


    National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley stressed that CIA interrogators need "clarity" and legal protections.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration hinted Sunday its openness to compromise with rebellious Republican senators over its plan to "clarify" aspects of the Geneva Conventions, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said.

    Key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- including its chair, John Warner of Virginia, and former prisoner of war John McCain of Arizona -- oppose the White House's effort to define acceptable conduct under Article 3, arguing that such a step would undermine protections for U.S. troops.

    Hadley told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that both sides should agree that the CIA's interrogation is "very important" and that agents "deserve clear legal standards and clear congressional support.

    "But then ... we need to find a way so that we can do this without changing or modifying" Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, Hadley said. "The challenge before us, in the days ahead, is to find a way through language to [reach a resolution]. I think it can be done."

    President Bush had steadfastly refused to budge, threatening to end CIA interrogations of terror suspects unless senators back his plan -- saying changes are needed to give clear guidelines and legal protections to interrogators. The dissenting senators, joined last week by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, say that redefining the pact's language on "humiliating treatment and outrages on personal dignity" would open the door for ohter countries to redefine their standards for captured Americans.

    The administration bill, passed overwhelmingly last week by the House Armed Services Committee, would allow evidence to go to the military tribunal without the defendant seeing it and allow coerced statements to be admitted. Neither provision is in the Senate measure.

    "This is a matter of conscience," Sen. McCain said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "Are we going to be like the enemy, or are we going to be the United States of America?"
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 9/18/2006 10:18:00 AM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    (A first look at today's political news)

  • The President spends a busy day in Manhattan on the eve of his address to the United Nations General Assembly. At 12:15 pm ET, he and Mrs. Bush make remarks at the White House Conference on Global Literacy at the New York Public Library.

    Bush will meet with the Prime Minister of Malaysia (2:05 pm ET) and the Presidents of El Salvador (3:05 pm ET), Honduras (3:30 pm ET), and Tanzania (4:05 pm ET) - all at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

    Tonight, Bush attends a Republican National Committee fundraiser at a private residence in New York. The event is expected to draw 80 people and raise $1.4 million, reports the RNC.

    Programming note: RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman joins Wolf Blitzer today in The Situation Room, 4pm-6pm ET and 7pm ET.

  • The Senate convenes at 2pm ET. The House is not in session today.

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • Heads up! There are just 50 days until Election Day, Tuesday, November 7, 2006.

  • "Sen. Barack Obama's [D-Illinois] first trip to Iowa on Sunday had all the glow of a presidential campaign visit," reports the Des Moines Register today. Attending Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) annual "steak fry," the freshman senator said he's just "focused on helping the party win in 2006."

    Programming note: CNN's Dana Bash was in Iowa with Obama and reports on his visit for The Situation Room, 4pm-6pm ET and 7pm ET.

  • The Pentagon's top special ops policy-maker, Thomas W. O'Connell, is resigning, reports the Washington Times - "a move that several Bush administration sources say is the first negative fallout from a major reorganization of advisers in the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld."

  • And what is former James McGreevey aide Golan Cipel saying about the account of their affair in McGreevey's new book, The Confession? Find out in Hot Topics below!
    *****

    Political Hot Topics
    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    BUSH KICKS OFF BUSY WEEK IN NEW YORK: The spotlight returns to Iraq and other problem areas of the Middle East as President Bush heads to the United Nations to address a host of global issues facing his administration. The president's three-day trip includes bilateral meetings with six foreign leaders, including the presidents of Iraq and the Palestinian Authority, and a speech to the U.N. General Assembly that will focus on his vision for the Middle East. The three days of diplomacy come as the president prepares for a busy political schedule. Bush, who lately has been trying to turn the election-year debate away from the unpopular war in Iraq and toward a broader war on terrorism, plans to spend much of the next seven weeks campaigning for fellow Republicans. And he isn't leaving politics behind while he's in New York: Monday night he headlines a fundraiser for the Republican National Committee at the Manhattan home of billionaire financier Henry Kravis. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush to head to U.N. with host of issues

    "IT'S THE ISSUES" THAT DIVIDE GEORGE AND KOFI: President Bush and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan say they get along fine on a personal level. It's the issues, from the Iraq war to nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, that divide them. These foreign policy challenges are on the agenda this week as Bush makes his annual trek to New York City to address the U.N. General Assembly. Bush's three-day trip, starting today, includes meetings with at least nine world leaders. He plans to discuss efforts to promote democracy in Iraq, the greater Middle East and beyond. "The civilized world must stand with moderate, reformist-minded people and help them realize their dreams," Bush said at a news conference Friday. USA Today: Annan, Bush on 2 sides of policy divide

    "CAMPAIGN-STYLE BLITZ" ON TERROR APPEARS TO HAVE HELPED BUSH'S NUMBERS: Public confidence in President Bush's leadership appears to be rising since last week's campaign-style blitz touting his record in fighting terrorism, generating optimism among Republican lawmakers and operatives that they will be able to avoid losing control of Congress in the fall... The concerted effort, which also included new plans for bringing terrorists to trial and conducting surveillance to disrupt terrorist plots, appears to have had an effect on his approval ratings. A series of recent polls shows Bush's approval inching back into the low 40s -- a level at which many pollsters say he won't be a significant drag on candidates in House and Senate races. Boston Globe: 9/11 anniversary events boost White House

    "PENTAGON SHAKE-UP LOOMS": The Pentagon's top special operations policy-maker is quitting in a move that several Bush administration sources say is the first negative fallout from a major reorganization of advisers in the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Thomas W. O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (SOLIC), has told Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, that he will leave in several months. Administration officials said the generous lead time is partly political. The Pentagon does not want to be without its top special operations adviser during the November elections at a time when covert warriors are playing a leading role in hunting and capturing al Qaeda terrorists. Washington Times: Rumsfeld adviser resigns as Pentagon shake-up looms

    '06 ELECTION WILL BE MAJOR TEST FOR ELECTRONIC BALLOTS: In the Nov. 7 election, more than 80 percent of voters will use electronic voting machines, and a third of all precincts this year are using the technology for the first time. The changes are part of a national wave, prompted by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 and numerous revisions of state laws, that led to the replacement of outdated voting machines with computer-based electronic machines, along with centralized databases of registered voters and other steps to refine the administration of elections. But in Maryland last Tuesday, a combination of human blunders and technological glitches caused long lines and delays in vote-counting. The problems, which followed ones earlier this year in Ohio, Illinois and several other states, have contributed to doubts among some experts about whether the new systems are reliable and whether election officials are adequately prepared to use them. Washington Post: Major Problems At Polls Feared

    EX-AIDE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST McGREEVEY'S ACCOUNT OF AFFAIR: In his new book, Jim McGreevey vividly recalls his first, magical kiss with Golan Cipel. Cipel does not remember the 2001 encounter so fondly. The former aide calls it a failed sexual assault that followed shots of Jagermeister. After he pushed New Jersey's governor away, Cipel said, he asked McGreevey why he assumed he was gay. "And McGreevey said, 'Everybody is a little gay,' "Cipel recalled yesterday in his first extended interview. "I was completely in shock." Cipel, 37, told The Inquirer that he wanted to speak out to rebut what he called lies in McGreevey's new book, The Confession. He spoke by phone and said he was in his native Israel, where he works for a firm... "I didn't have sex with him - ever," Cipel said. "In his book, he talks about love, but I never heard anything from McGreevey that was affectionate. The only thing I experienced from him was sexual harassment. Everything else is not true." Philadelphia Inquirer: Cipel: McGreevey assaulted me

    OBAMA'S IA DEBUT - "ALL THE GLOW OF A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN VISIT": U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's first trip to Iowa on Sunday had all the glow of a presidential campaign visit. Scores from the news media flocked around the freshman Democrat from Illinois as he met the crowd at Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry in Indianola. "I really tried to get Bono this weekend," Harkin said in introducing Obama to the roughly 3,000 people in attendance. "I couldn't get him so I settled for the second-biggest rock star in America today." But Obama said he is focused on helping the party win in 2006, despite the speculation about his much-hyped debut in Iowa, home of the leadoff presidential nominating caucuses. Des Moines Register: Obama insists he's focusing on party in '06

    McCAIN TALKS INTERROGATION TACTICS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., yesterday defended his views on how to properly interrogate and try captured terror suspects, making his case first on national television and later here in New Hampshire at a gathering of Republican Party activists. McCain also touched on federal spending, the state of affairs in Iraq, and immigration reform during his talk at the West Parish Road home of Steve and Susan Duprey, but the key matter was his opposition to President Bush's ideas about how to interrogate and try terror suspects. McCain said Bush's plans would not be received well abroad and would potentially endanger American military personnel should they be captured... The house party, whose guests included former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, and U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, wasn't McCain's only stop in New Hampshire yesterday. He also attended the Sylvania 300 NASCAR race at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. New Hampshire Union-Leader: McCain makes case for gentler interrogation of captured terrorists

    ALLEN, WEBB SQUARE OFF ON "MEET": Democratic challenger Jim Webb and Republican Sen. George Allen squared off over Iraq as the increasingly unpopular war dominated their nationally televised debate yesterday. Webb called the Iraq war "an incredible strategic blunder of historic proportions." Allen said he stood by his support for authorizing military force in Iraq, which he said is now a "fledgling representative democracy." The candidates in what has become a close, nationally watched Senate contest also battled over rules for interrogating terrorism suspects and past statements involving race and women in the military. Regarding a hot topic before the Senate, Allen declined to take sides with President Bush or Sen. John W. Warner in a GOP split over rules for CIA interrogations of terrorism suspects... "This was Webb's debate," said political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Webb, Allen spar in TV debate

    REPUBLICAN BLOOMBERG TO CAMPAIGN FOR LIEBERMAN: Mayor Bloomberg will host a fund-raiser for Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut at his upper East Side townhouse on Nov. 1, aides confirmed yesterday. Bloomberg, a Republican, will serve as co-chairman of the event, along with two other prominent New Yorkers: former Sen. Al D'Amato, a Republican, and former Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat. Bloomberg also will headline a fund-raiser on Lieberman's behalf in Chicago on Oct. 25... Dan Gerstein, Lieberman's communications director, said of Bloomberg: "The mayor is renowned as a leader who puts people ahead of politics and gets things done for his constituents, and his support and validation mean a lot to our campaign." New York Daily News: Bloomy books fund-raiser for Lieberman

    TRIB: BLAGOJEVICH ADMIN. MANEUVERED TO "SYSTEMATICALLY SUBVERT" HIRING PROCESS: Skirting state hiring rules, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration gave jobs to at least 360 people whose applications were sent through back channels by the governor's office and other political heavyweights, a Tribune investigation has found. More than 70 workers with political pedigrees were hired through internships meant for college students--even though all were older than 35 and a few were in their 60s. In addition, Blagojevich's administration nearly doubled--to more than 740--the number of high-level state jobs he can fill without following hiring rules. In a broad examination of hiring across state agencies, the Tribune found that these maneuvers and others were used to systematically subvert a process that is supposed to be free from political influence. Chicago Tribune: Hiring law? What hiring law?

    HARRIS' VICTORY IGNORED BY RNC, NRSC... LEFT "TO FEND FOR HERSELF": When Charlie Crist won Florida's gubernatorial primary, the Republican National Committee dashed off a note of congratulations and posted it on the party Web site. "Charlie Crist," wrote Chairman Ken Mehlman, "has the character and credentials to successfully lead Florida as Governor." Mehlman did the same for 10 other GOP congressional and gubernatorial candidates. But U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, once a rising Republican star, got nothing. In fact, her victory in the Senate primary wasn't mentioned by the RNC or the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Though that may seem like an oversight, there are few accidents in politics. Orlando Sentinel: GOP leaves Harris to fend for herself
  • Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 9/18/2006 08:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
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