Friday, January 18, 2008

What About John Edwards?

God love him, John Edwards smacks the media who insist on making the Democratic presidential race a two person one and treating him as if he doesn’t exist:

You go, John!

In related news, Edwards had taken jabs at Obama and Clinton (maybe then the press will mention him, you think?) but set his most pointed comments to Bill “There are no homeless vets” O’Reilly:

Tonight, 200,000 brave veterans will be homeless, and they will sleep in shelters, on the streets, under bridges, and on grates - and Bill O’Reilly doesn’t think there is a problem. For someone who spends a lot of time shouting about patriotism, you would think he would be outraged by the treatment of our homeless veterans. How many more will it take before we wake up and solve this crisis?

While George Bush and Bill O’Reilly continue to ignore our homeless veterans, the American people, whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, must speak out and stand up for those who have stood up for us. We must do everything we can to solve this terrible problem - and we must begin by reaching out to these men and women who are suffering - not pretending they do not exist. After our veterans have served our country honorably, isn’t one homeless veteran one too many?

Paul Rieckhoff from IAVA wants you to know that Edwards got it right and Billo is just plain wrong. He has an open letter/petition that we’d like for you to sign telling O’Reilly to learn more about this serious issue. Kudos to Edwards for leading this awareness.

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Huckabee equates homosexuality with bestiality.

TPM’s Greg Sargent notes that in a recent interview with Beliefnet, Mike Huckabee equated homosexuality with bestiality. Asked whether he wanted to bring the Constitution into conformity with the Bible, the former Arkansas Governor answered this way:

Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal.

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Reporter Gets Into Fight With Mitt Romney Over Lobbyist Ties

Romney and an AP reporter had words over the candidate's statement that lobbyists aren't running his campaign at an event in Columbia, S.C. The reporter interupted to point out that Ron Kaufman, a senior advisor, is a lobbyist.

Read more about the incident.

Watch the video:

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Blow to Hillary: Court Allows Union Workers to Vote

By Adam Tanner

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday allowed Nevada Democrats to hold presidential voting in casino hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, potentially helping Sen. Barack Obama in the next round of the campaign on Saturday.

For the first time, Nevada Democrats planned to set up nine locations for Saturday's vote so casino shift workers, who are largely represented by a union that endorsed Obama, could attend caucuses and vote for a presidential candidate.

A teachers' group filed a lawsuit saying the fact that only workers around the casinos could vote at their workplaces was unfair, but Judge James Mahan of the U.S. District Court for Nevada rejected their request for an injunction.

"The Democrats can set up their own rules just as the Republicans can," the judge said. "It is not up to some federal judge to come along and say, I don't like that."

As to any confusion in the rules, Mahan quoted U.S. humorist Will Rogers: "I'm not a member of any organized group. I'm a Democrat."

A large turnout of casino workers could boost Obama, of Illinois, in his tight race against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton because he is backed by the Culinary Union, which represents 60,000 hotel service workers.

"I think the judge was clear that you can't change the rules six days before the caucus, and any alterations would have disenfranchised the maids, dishwashers, bellhops who work on the Strip," Obama said in San Francisco.

Other Nevadans will meet in locations near their homes to vote in the next in a series of state-by-state contests to choose Democratic and Republican nominees.

Similar to Iowa, the voting in Nevada is done in caucuses, or gatherings, rather than by individual polling.

"The Obama campaign got the endorsement of the Culinary Union so I think that will help them at the at-large (casino) precincts," said Jill Derby, chair of the Nevada State Democratic Party.


Obama, who like Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards has actively campaigned across Nevada in recent days, may need the boost. According to a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll to be released later on Thursday, Clinton leads Obama by nine points in a new survey. They did not release the margin of error.

Yet the Culinary Union is the state's most influential labor group and its activists are talking to members in workers' cafeterias in the famed Strip hotels and knocking on doors urging its members to turn out for Obama.

On Wednesday, the Review-Journal gave a tepid endorsement to Obama, noting that although Clinton frequently cites her experience for the job "in fact she's a one-term-plus-a-year senator ... Obama is, at least, likable."

Unlike presidential primary elections in most U.S. states, the Nevada Democratic caucus requires participants to stand in the open in groups to support the candidates.

Any member not backing the union choice would be visible, especially those voting together with co-workers on the Strip instead of locations near homes.

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have in recent days voiced concern about the fairness of the Strip caucuses, while Obama was displeased by the lawsuit that came almost immediately after he won the Culinary Union endorsement last week

Republicans are also holding caucuses in Nevada on Saturday but will not have any sites at the casino hotels.

Some members of the culinary union suspected the case was motivated by Clinton supporters after the Obama endorsement, but Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, denied that and said she only learned of the details of the casino voting plan last week.

(Additional reporting by Amanda Beck in San Francisco; Editing by Alan Elsner)

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Bush's Legacy Must Not be Passed to the Next U.S President

President Bush is discussing a new agreement with Baghdad that would govern the deployment of American troops in Iraq. With so many Americans adamant about bringing our forces home as soon as possible, a sentiment we strongly share, Mr. Bush must not be allowed to tie the hands of his successor and ensure the country’s continued involvement in an open-ended war.

Given what’s at stake in Iraq in terms of American and Iraqi lives lost, national treasure and broad national security interests, the negotiations on any new agreement must be fully transparent — which they are not. The national debate must be vigorous and thoughtful, and then Congress must vote on whatever deal results.

The White House and the Iraqi government decided in December to pursue the pact as a way to define long-term relations between the two countries, including the legal status of American military forces in Iraq. The ostensible goal is a more durable political, economic and security relationship than is possible under a United Nations resolution, the current international legal basis for the American military presence in Iraq.

Iraqi officials, increasingly unhappy with restrictions on sovereignty because of the presence of 160,000 foreign troops, have said that they won’t extend the United Nations mandate beyond this year. A Washington-Baghdad deal would have to take its place for the troops to stay.

Formal negotiations won’t start until February and few details are known, but already the two sides are laying down markers. The Iraqi defense minister, Abdul Qadir — apparently tone-deaf to the American political debate — told The Times’s Thom Shanker that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012 or be able to defend its own borders from external threat at least until 2018.

That is far too long for most Americans, but not for Mr. Bush, who is quite comfortable leaving American troops fighting in Iraq for another decade.

A related issue concerns whether the agreement would grant assurances that America would help Iraq defend against foreign aggression — something a senior White House official says has not been ruled out. That’s a worrying prospect. Such guarantees could further encourage Iraqi dependence on the American military and might draw the United States into a regional conflict.

Among other questions still to be answered are how long the United States wants basing rights in Iraq and how it might assuage Iraqis demanding the right to try American troops and contractors accused of killing civilians and other misdeeds. (The United States almost always brings troops home for trial.)

Mr. Bush is rushing to complete a deal before he leaves office in January 2009. That is just as reckless and irresponsible as most of his decisions regarding Iraq. America’s interests demand that his successor has maximum flexibility to plot a course, which we hope includes a quick and orderly withdrawal of troops.

One way to ensure that flexibility is to make sure that Congress approves any deal with Iraq, as leading Democrats, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, are insisting. The time for Congressional intervention is now.

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Bush's contempt for the law

There is much cause for outrage over the White House's brazen disregard for federal public records law, which may well have resulted in the destruction of millions of official e-mails. But today's focus on the recycling of backup tapes may actually be a bit of a red herring.

The law is clear that e-mails sent and received by anyone in the White House -- just like all official White House documents -- should be instantaneously and automatically archived.

So someone in the White House should have been making sure the law was being followed, and that all e-mails were indeed being properly stored for posterity.

That same someone also should have been making sure White House staffers weren't circumventing archive requirements by using outside e-mail addresses. But the White House legal counsel's office remained silent as top aides, including Karl Rove, fired off possibly hundreds of thousands of official-business e-mails from Republican National Committee accounts, where most data is routinely deleted after 30 days.

The matter in the news today relates not to those e-mails, but to as many as several million others -- these actually on the accounts -- that seem to have vanished.

The best information we have about those e-mails comes from an Aug. 30, 2007 letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, outlining what congressional investigators had discovered so far.

"On May 29, 2007, Keith Roberts, the Deputy General Counsel of the White House Office of Administration, and Emmet Flood, Special Counsel to the President, briefed Committee staff on the White House e-mail system and the missing e-mails," Waxman wrote. "At the briefing, Mr. Roberts informed Committee staff that the White House had discovered in 2005 that an unknown number of e-mails may not have been preserved in the White House archive, as required by the Presidential Records Act. According to Mr. Roberts, the Office of the Chief Information Officer then conducted a review of the e-mail system to determine the scope of the potential loss. He said that this review apparently found some days with a very small number of preserved e-mails and some days with no e-mails preserved at all. He also stated that a report summarizing these findings had been presented to the White House Counsel's office.

"In addition, Mr. Roberts informed the Committee that an unidentified company working for the Information Assurance Directorate of the Office of the Chief Information Officer was responsible for daily audits of the e-mail system and the e-mail archiving process. Mr. Roberts was not able to explain why the daily audits conducted by this contractor failed to detect the problems in the archive system when they first began."

Waxman requested more information. He's still waiting.

As soon as White House officials determined that e-mails might be missing from the archives, it was their responsibility to launch a search-and-rescue mission. And they should have starting going through the emergency backup tapes -- which provide snapshots of the entire network at a given point in time and allow you to fish specific things out if need be.

But the White House took no immediate action. It only recently launched a full-scale investigation -- an investigation that is conveniently still underway.

And, as the White House explained in a court filing late Tuesday night, those backup tapes were regularly overwritten until October 2003.

It seems unconscionable that the tapes were not preserved. But the underlying failure -- the apparently complete disregard for the law -- is considerably more serious than that.

It took a federal court order for the White House to tell us even as much as it did on Tuesday. But the new filing raises many more questions than answers.

Hopefully, reporters and congressional investigators will be asking those questions with renewed ferocity in the days to come.

For background, see my April 12 column, Countless White House E-Mails Deleted, my June 19 column, Casual Lawbreaking at the White House, and my Nov. 13 column, Where Are the E-mails?

The Coverage

Elizabeth Williamson and Dan Eggen write in The Washington Post: "E-mail messages sent and received by White House personnel during the first three years of the Bush administration were routinely recorded on tapes that were 'recycled,' the White House's chief information officer said in a court filing this week.

"During the period in question, the Bush presidency faced some of its biggest controversies, including the Iraq war, the leak of former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson's name and the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes.

"White House spokesman Tony Fratto said he has no reason to believe any e-mails were deliberately destroyed.

"From 2001 to October 2003, the White House's practice was to use the same backup tape each day to copy new as well as old e-mails, he said, making it possible that some of those e-mails could still be recovered even from a tape that was repeatedly overwritten. 'We are continuing to analyze our systems,' Fratto said last night. . . .

"Two federal statutes require presidential communications, including e-mails involving senior White House aides, to be preserved for the nation's historical record, and some historians responded to the court disclosure yesterday by urging that the White House's actions be thoroughly probed.

"'There certainly could have been hugely important materials there . . . and of course they're not owned by President Bush or anybody in the administration, they're owned by the public,' said presidential historian and author Robert Dallek. 'Given how secretive this administration has been, it of course fans the flames and suspicions about what has been destroyed here. I hope we'll get an investigation.'"

Pete Yost writes for the Associated Press: "The White House started preserving backup tapes in October 2003, which would have been shortly after the start of the probe into who outed CIA operative Valerie Plame in July of that year.

"The backup tapes, which also contain electronic documents in addition to e-mail, are the last line of defense for saving electronic records. . . .

"Two years ago, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald first disclosed a White House e-mail problem, which the White House says it discovered in October 2005.

"'What has the White House been doing for two years?' said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, one of two groups suing the White House over the e-mail issue. 'The White House still doesn't seem to have a clue.'

"White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that 'as we have repeatedly stated, we do not know that there is actually a problem' with missing e-mail."

Anne Weismann, chief counsel for the other group suing the White House, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, "pointed to previous White House statements suggesting there was missing e-mail and to the fact that the White House is refusing to turn over numerous documents about the problem. . . .

"'It appears that the White House has now destroyed the evidence of its misconduct,' Weismann said.

"Fratto, the White House spokesman, said that 'there is no basis to say that the White House has destroyed any evidence or engaged in any misconduct.'"

Writing in Government Executive, Jill R. Aitoro provides some background on archiving obligations and notes: "By Feb. 1, the National Archives and Records Administration and the White House must provide congressional watchdogs with an update on preparations for the transition of all presidential records to the National Archives by January 2009."

Mark your calendars.

Back From the Middle East

Scott MacLeod writes for Time: "Seldom has an American President's visit left the region so underwhelmed, confirming Bush's huge unpopularity on the street and his sagging credibility among Arab leaders he counts as allies. Part of the problem was the Administration's increasingly mixed message, amplified by the intense media coverage of his trip. For example, in Dubai he gave what the White House billed as a landmark speech calling for 'democratic freedom in the Middle East.' But during his last stop in Sharm el-Sheikh Wednesday, he lauded President Hosni Mubarak as an experienced, valued strategic partner for regional peace and security and made no mention of Cairo's ongoing crackdown on opponents and critics -- and the continuing imprisonment of Mubarak's main opponent in the 2005 presidential election. . . .

"Commenting on the two main purposes of the tour, even the most liberal Arab press questioned the sincerity of Bush's efforts to establish a Palestinian state and criticized his campaign to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. On occasion, senior Arab officials contradicted or disputed Bush's pronouncements even before he left their countries. . . .

"Bush's efforts to rally an Arab coalition to isolate Iran in the Gulf seemed to fall flat. Only days after he visited Kuwait, liberated in 1991 by a coalition led by the President's father, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah was standing beside Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran, declaring: 'My country knows who is our friend and who is our enemy, and Iran is our friend.' . . .

"'We ought to be celebrating President George Bush's declaration that a Palestinian state is 'long overdue,'' said the Arab News in Jidda. 'It is impossible to feel any excitement about Bush's words, because no Palestinian, no Arab believes he will, or can, deliver. We have the Bush record with its damning testimony of failure and disaster. That is the reason for the skepticism and the cynicism.'"

USA Today's Richard Wolff reviews the highlights:

"Bush sought to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by shuttling along the checkpoint-studded roads between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Even as he praised both sides for being willing to compromise, 11 members of the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu Party withdrew from the Israeli government to protest Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's handling of the peace negotiations, and Arab newspapers denounced Bush for refusing to push Israel on Jewish settlements.

"The president sought to unite the region against Iran by stressing that U.S. policy on Tehran had not changed despite a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran's nuclear program was shelved in 2003. Israel disputed the intelligence report and refused to rule out military action, while Saudi Arabia said it has no problems with Iran.

"Bush's lone policy speech promoted human rights reforms and democratization in the Middle East. On Wednesday here, he praised Egypt for helping to lead 'the freedom and justice movement' in the Middle East ? even though the nation has backtracked on reforms in the past few years.

"On oil prices, Bush failed to convince Saudi officials that supplies should be increased to drive down gas prices."

Ellen Knickmeyer writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush on Wednesday ended a Middle East tour that political activists saw as lacking the strong calls for democratization made earlier in his administration, disappointing those once encouraged by the statements of American leaders. . . .

"On Wednesday, after discussions with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Bush commended him for progress. 'You have taken steps toward economic openness . . . and political reforms,' Bush said.

"But Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian political activist who last year received a U.S. National Endowment for Democracy award, was left dispirited by Bush's tour. The year 2005 'was the best year in my life, politically . . . . Our hopes were way up there,' Kassem said. 'But -- it was just another story.'

"Anger grew in his voice. 'Bush, as far as American foreign policy vis-a-vis democracy, civil rights, is right back to square one,' Kassem added. 'This trip marks it.'"

Steven Lee Myers writes in the New York Times that Bush "spoke passionately at times about the birth of liberty and justice in countries that restrict them and the role of women in societies that still largely sequester them.

"And yet he avoided public disputes with monarchical leaders widely accused of limiting freedoms as he sought Arab support for the peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the war in Iraq, diplomatic efforts to isolate Iran and easing the strain on the American economy caused by high oil prices."

Dion Nissenbaum writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "It didn't take long for President Bush's ambitious Middle East peace initiative to collide with a sobering reality. . . .

"Six days after Bush personally appealed for his support, conservative Israeli lawmaker Avigdor Lieberman abandoned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition government on Wednesday.

"'All negotiations based on territory for peace are a fateful error, an incomprehensible mistake,' Lieberman said Wednesday.

"Wednesday also was the second straight day of stepped-up Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which began hours after Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators began their first substantive round of peace talks."

Newsweek's Michael Hirsh found it hard to distinguish between Bush and Alysheba, the aging Derby and Preakness winning horse that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia paraded around his farm outside Riyadh.

"Like Bush, Alysheba was the scion of a proud lineage (in the stallion's case, the famed Alydar). And like Bush, the 24-year-old bay was still proud but more than a little broken down--in the horse's case, so far past his prime he looked swaybacked.

"There's one big difference, of course. Alysheba has long since given up on winning (in fact, he's not even used for stud anymore). George W. Bush, with just 12 months to go before he's put out to pasture, still thinks he can win the big ones: a Mideast peace deal, an Iranian surrender on nukes, a functioning Iraqi government."

Iraq Watch

The New York Times editorial board writes: "President Bush is discussing a new agreement with Baghdad that would govern the deployment of American troops in Iraq. With so many Americans adamant about bringing our forces home as soon as possible, a sentiment we strongly share, Mr. Bush must not be allowed to tie the hands of his successor and ensure the country's continued involvement in an open-ended war. . . .

"Mr. Bush is rushing to complete a deal before he leaves office in January 2009. That is just as reckless and irresponsible as most of his decisions regarding Iraq. America's interests demand that his successor has maximum flexibility to plot a course, which we hope includes a quick and orderly withdrawal of troops.

"One way to ensure that flexibility is to make sure that Congress approves any deal with Iraq, as leading Democrats, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, are insisting. The time for Congressional intervention is now."

Stimulus Watch

Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum write in The Washington Post: "A rush by President Bush and Democratic leaders to assemble an economic stimulus package to stave off a recession is being complicated by a potentially debilitating brew of presidential politics, ideological differences and special interest lobbying. . . .

"Republican contenders and GOP leaders are warning the White House not to compromise too much with Democrats on an economic stimulus they are not even sure is warranted."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "As President Bush weighs a stimulus package to jump-start the sagging economy, a debate has broken out inside the White House over how hard to push Congress to make Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent -- a priority for the president, but one that Democrats say would kill the plan before it is even considered.

"On one side, according to people familiar with the deliberations, is a powerful group of pragmatists, including Henry M. Paulson Jr., the treasury secretary; Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff; and Ed Gillespie, counselor to Mr. Bush. They argue that the need for a stimulus is urgent, but have expressed concern that the administration may have to scale back its ambitions for permanent tax cuts to get a package through Congress.

"On the other side, these people say, are staunch economic conservatives like Keith B. Hennessey, the new director of Mr. Bush's National Economic Council. They have reservations about the need for an economic rescue package and maintain that if the White House proposes one, it should use the plan as leverage to press lawmakers into making the tax cuts permanent.....

"Vice President Dick Cheney has also been a strong supporter of the tax cuts, although it is not clear what role he is playing in the current debate."

Maura Reynolds and Richard Simon write in the Los Angeles Times that "senior congressional Republicans said Wednesday they would put aside demands to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent if that was what it took to get quick action on a stimulus package."

Reynold and Simon also write: "Some Republicans acknowledged that the emerging shape of the stimulus legislation made it more likely that the president -- who mentions the issue at every opportunity -- would not get his tax cuts extended before he left office."

Torture Tapes Watch

Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick write in The Washington Post: "The CIA's destruction of videotapes containing harsh interrogations of detainees at secret prisons drew bipartisan criticism from House lawmakers who attended a closed hearing yesterday at which the agency's acting general counsel testified about the matter.

"Intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) said afterward that he remained convinced that the CIA did not meet its obligation to fully inform congressional overseers about the tapes and their destruction."

One anonymous source present at the hearing told The Post "that White House officials did not seem as involved 'as they might have or should have been' in 2005 decision making about the tapes."

Padilla's Complaint

The Washington Post editorial board urges Congress to investigate Jose Padilla's allegations that he was tortured while being held as an enemy combatant for years: "Congress has launched an investigation of the destruction of CIA tapes that allegedly depicted two al-Qaeda suspects undergoing harsh interrogation. Lawmakers have an even greater interest in determining whether a U.S. citizen was tortured on U.S. soil and, if Mr. Padilla is telling the truth, in ensuring that it never happens again."

Bush v. Whales

Marc Kaufman writes in The Washington Post: "The White House has exempted the Navy from two major environmental laws in an effort to free the service from a federal court's decision limiting the Navy's use of sonar in training exercises.

"Environmentalists who had sued successfully to limit the Navy's use of loud, mid-frequency sonar -- which can be harmful to whales and other marine mammals -- said yesterday that the exemptions were unprecedented and could lead to a larger legal battle over the extent to which the military has to obey environmental laws.

"In a court filing Tuesday, government lawyers said President Bush had determined that allowing the use of mid-frequency sonar in ongoing exercises off Southern California was 'essential to national security' and of 'paramount interest to the United States.'

"Based on that, the documents said, Bush issued the order exempting the Navy from provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality granted the Navy a waiver from the National Environmental Protection Act."

Kenneth R. Weiss writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The battle pits concerns over injuries to marine mammals against troop readiness and national security. But with Bush's latest action, it took on overtones of a struggle between the administrative and judicial branches of government."

Bush does not "have the legal power to overturn a federal court order. So Justice Department lawyers followed his move with legal papers asking the federal courts to remove the order, which was a preliminary injunction that imposed an array of restrictions on the use of sonar, including its shutdown when marine mammals ventured within 2,200 yards of sonar devices."

Here is competing information on sonar and whales from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Navy.

Pocket Veto Redux

David M. Herszenhorn writes in the New York Times: "The House on Wednesday approved a sweeping $696 billion military policy measure after revising a single provision in the 1,300-page bill that had prompted a surprise veto by President Bush.

"Mr. Bush had strongly supported the original bill, which included pay raises for the military and was approved by wide margins in both the House and the Senate. But he vetoed it last month after the Iraqi government raised objections to a provision allowing American victims of state-sponsored terrorism under Saddam Hussein to sue and to collect judgments by seizing foreign assets in the United States.

"The Iraqis had threatened to withdraw $25 billion from American banks if the president signed the measure."

Megan Scully writes for Congress Daily: "House leaders had been weighing whether to hold a veto override vote to publicly challenge the White House's assertions that its actions constituted a pocket veto, an absolute rejection that cannot be overturned by Congress.

"Ultimately, lawmakers opted to avert a constitutional showdown with the White House over the bill."

Karl Rove Watch

Ralph Z. Hallow writes in the Washington Times: "Karl Rove yesterday reprised one of his favorite post-September 11 campaign themes for Republicans, saying Democrats have an outdated -- but not unpatriotic -- view of national security." Rove was speaking at a Republican National Committee gathering.

Sam Youngman writes in The Hill: "Rove, the man President Bush called 'the architect,' might have retired from the White House, he is clearly still very much engaged in the day-to-day mechanics of the presidential contests on both sides. . . .

"The Bush confidant also trotted out one of the lines of attack the RNC has already been working feverishly against [Hillary] Clinton, questioning why she and former President Bill Clinton will not release records from their time in the White House. This, according to Rove, 'raises legitimate questions about what she's hiding.'"

Faiz Shakir writes for "As the subject of a contempt resolution for hiding documents, Rove is hardly one to talk. Just last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-7 to approve a contempt citation against Rove for withholding information relating to the firing of U.S. attorneys."

May Wedding

David Caplan and Sandra Sobieraj-Westfall write for People: "Jenna Bush and her fiancé Henry Hager will marry in a ceremony on May 10, two sources confirm to People.

"One of the sources says the wedding will be held at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"'It's going to be a small wedding,' the source tells PEOPLE, adding that Jenna has already selected her bridesmaids."

Cartoon Watch

Steve Sack, John Sherffius, Mike Keefe and MStreeter on Bush's trip; Joel Pett on Bush's new motto.

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473 days of White House email missing

Sixteen days of email missing from Cheney's office

A White House chart shown to Congress indicates no e-mail was archived on 473 days for various units of the Executive Office of the President, a House committee chairman says.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., says a White House spokesman's comments suggesting no e-mail had disappeared conflicted with what congressional staffers were told in September. He also said the White House has refused to make the chart public.

On Thursday night, Waxman said he was scheduling a hearing for Feb. 15 and challenged the White House to explain spokesman Tony Fratto's remark that "we have absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing."

Fratto based his comment on the contents of a White House declaration filed in federal court casting doubt on the accuracy of a chart created by a former White House employee that points to a large volume of e-mail gone from White House servers.

The brief description of the chart in the sworn declaration appears to match Waxman's description of what White House officials showed his staff at a Sept. 19 briefing.

There are 16 days of no archived e-mails from Sept. 12, 2003, to May 23, 2005, for the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, according to Waxman's letter announcing the hearing. There are a dozen days of no archived e-mails for the White House Office inside the EOP, starting Dec. 17, 2003, and ending on Feb. 8, 2004, Waxman's letter added.

"Archived e-mails were missing from even more days in other parts of the White House, the analysis found," according to the Washington Post. "The Council on Environmental Quality and the Council of Economic Advisers, for example, showed no stored e-mails for 2 1/2 months beginning in November 2003. The Office of Management and Budget showed no messages for 59 days -- including the period from Nov. 1, 2003, to Dec. 9, 2003 -- and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative showed no e-mail for 73 days."

"The administration has so far refused to release the study and a number of documents related to it, including a large summary chart used in a closed-door briefing conducted for Waxman and other lawmakers last September by Emmet T. Flood, special counsel to the president," the Post added.

The briefers took the chart with them when they left, Waxman said, but committee staffers had copied many of the details.

Waxman said the White House officials took the chart on which the information is based with them, while indicating the White House was doing an additional analysis to determine whether the information in the chart was accurate.

Asked to testify are White House Counsel Fred Fielding; Alan Swendiman, director of the White House Office of Administration, and Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States.

Waxman called the hearing after Fratto tried to tamp down the growing e-mail controversy.

Fratto's comments shifted away from White House statements last spring that expressed uncertainty over whether the allegations were true or not.

"We tried to reconstruct some of the work" in the chart and "could not authenticate the correctness of the data," said Fratto. "We have no evidence and we have no way of showing that any e-mail at all are missing."

The existence of the chart surfaced Tuesday night in the White House declaration filed in lawsuits brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the private National Security Archive.

The declaration, which the White House was forced to file pursuant to court order, disclosed that before October 2003, the White House recycled computer backup tapes containing e-mail. Such a process would overwrite large numbers of e-mails. The White House said it began preserving backup tapes in October 2003, but recycled them before then.

If the chart of e-mail missing from archives turns out to be accurate, the backup tapes should contain substantially all e-mails sent or received in the 2003-2005 time period, the White House court declaration said.

"We have no reason to believe that there is any data missing at all" from White House computer servers, said Fratto. "And we've certainly found no evidence of any data missing."

The court declaration said the White House was undertaking an independent assessment of a chart to determine whether any e-mail is missing.

The White House's latest statements represent a shift from what it was saying last spring when it seemed uncertain whether e-mail was missing from the archives or not. The latest statements also represent a shift from what the White House apparently told prosecutors over two years ago in the probe into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name.

In January 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald reported that "we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."

The White House says the e-mail matter arose in October 2005 in connection with the Justice Department's CIA leak probe. Fitzgerald revealed it to the public three months later in preparations for the trial of Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was later convicted of four felonies in the Plame affair. President Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison term.

With AP.

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Bush considering $800 tax rebate to boost US economy

President George W. Bush's administration is considering an individual tax rebate of up to 800 dollars as a short term measure to help boost the sagging US economy, a media report said Friday.

The Republican leader was to unveil a fiscal stimulus plan later Friday, amid grim economic news that has united lawmakers and the Federal Reserve chief on the need to revive flagging US growth.

The White House has said Bush would propose policies, not dollar amounts, because details of the plan must be hammered out with the Democratic-controlled Congress.

"Privately, the White House has discussed its support for a tax rebate of as much as 800 dollars for individual taxpayers, more than double the 300 dollar rebate featured in a 2001 effort to spur economic growth," the Wall Street Journal said.

In a key concession to Democrats, the US administration appeared willing to accept stimulus legislation that does not include an extension of Bush's tax cuts, the Journal said.

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are suggesting they would be willing to suspend their own budget rules and accept a tax break without first figuring out how to pay for it, the Journal said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would have an economy-boosting package ready by January 28, when Bush delivers his annual agenda-shaping State of the Union speech.

The two sides have been jolted into a bipartisan mood by the latest round of weak economic news and a downward spiral on Wall Street that prompted Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and others to talk up the need for swift action.

Bush and US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson held a conference call Thursday with top lawmakers from both parties to discuss the issue, a spokesman said.

"Tomorrow, he'll call for effective, temporary, growth measures and will lay out his principles for what an effective approach should be," said spokesman Tony Fratto.

In remarks expected around noon (1700 GMT), the US president will "let the American people know that he does believe that short-term temporary measures are needed to help the economy through this period," said the spokesman.

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Olbermann slams O'Reilly for downplaying homeless veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 195,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. But this official statistic is not good enough for Fox pundit Bill O'Reilly, who recently mocked presidential candidate John Edwards for making it an issue in his campaign.

When O'Reilly's guest, radio host Ed Schultz, said of Edwards that "he's got tremendous conviction," O'Reilly replied jovially, "We're still looking for all the veterans sleeping under the bridges, Ed. So if you find anybody, let us know. ... If you know where one is ... you call me immediately and we will make sure that man does not do it."

Keith Olbermann asked Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to comment on O'Reilly's remarks, saying, "Well, we know what we want to say here, and it involves suggesting Mr. O'Reilly should go and do something anatomically impossible to himself with that attitude." However Rieckhoff appeared far more interested in reaching out for support on the issue, even to Bill O'Reilly, than in offering crude insults.

Rieckhoff emphasized there are at least 1,500 homeless veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars alone and that his organization is in touch with them every day. "All you have to do," he stated, "to be honest with you, if you're Bill O'Reilly, is go downstairs and look out in the streets of New York."

"You have to deliberately try to avoid seeing this problem," Olbermann agreed. "Is that what he's doing?"

"I don't know what his agenda is here, but we hope that he uses it as an opportunity to focus on a very critical issue," Rieckhoff replied. "We need everybody's help, and we need folks to support our veterans. This isn't a partisan issue. It's not about John Edwards. It's about taking care of the people when they come home."

Rieckhoff cited mental health issues, financial difficulties, and the lack of low-cost housing as contributing to the homelessness problem. "This is an after-effect of the war that's predictable," he said, "and we need the entire country to rally behind. And I hope Bill O'Reilly will join our outreach folks in a van that goes out to Skid Row just about every day."

Rieckhoff indicated that the cost of housing and supporting one vet for a year is about $15,000, which means we could take care of every homeless vet for "$2.6 billion, which is a drop in the bucket compared to what we're spending in Iraq every day."

"Okay, Billy, put your money where your mouth is," Olbermann concluded. "House every homeless vet tonight, just tonight. That'll be about $6,435,000." has issued an open letter to Bill O'Reilly urging him to set the record straight on homeless vets.

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast January 17, 2008.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story quoted Paul Rieckhoff as saying there were 15,000 homeless veterans when in fact he said 1,500. The story has been corrected. Raw Story regrets the error.

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Amid troubling report, lawmaker calls for paper ballots

As new reports are emerging about vote-counting problems and potential conflicts of interest regarding handling of ballots, a Democratic congressman has introduced new legislation that would make it easier for states to audit their election results.

Rep. Rush Holt's bill was introduced the same day that Maryland voters learned the security of their electronic voting machines would be entrusted to a high-profile Republican operative, and as activists were documenting irregularities in last week's New Hampshire primary.

Brad Friedman, who has been following the New Hampshire primary vote recount reports his latest findings of problems being disovered with the Diebold machines:

"Disparities being found during hand-counts of ballots, in many wards, many candidates. Diebold op-scan memory cards unaccounted for at the moment, Secretary of State (SoS) doesn't track them after elections, doesn't track error reports during elections. LHS Associates (see below) handles all of it instead, according to reports on the ground. Public records request reveals hundreds of ballots in one area scanned as blank due to incorrect ink used on ballots, and other problems on LHS problem report forms."

The rest of Brad's report can be read at BradBlog.

If election officials do not track memory cards after votes are cast it becomes more difficult to maintain the integrity of each machine when it leaves polling stations.

This report from Wired gives more possible reason to be concerned:

"A family-owned trucking firm that has a contract to deliver Diebold electronic voting machines to 14 voting districts in Maryland is headed by the former chairman of Maryland's Republican party, Wired News has learned.

Office Movers, which is owned by The Kane Company in Elkridge, Maryland, received the contract from Diebold Election Systems to transport the company's machines from warehouses to the polls for the state's Feb. 12 primary and November general election.

John M. Kane, president and CEO of The Kane Company, was chairman of the Maryland Republican Party from the end of 2002 until December 2006. He is also a member of the statewide steering committee for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. According to one news report, Kane has been tasked since last month with raising money for Romney in Maryland, a Democratic stronghold. His wife is a delegate on the Republican primary ballot for Romney rival Rudy Giuliani." The voting machine in Maryland also produce no paper trail, and have experienced 'glitches' in previous election cycles.

Mary Kiraly of the Maryland Election Integrity Coalition, expressed concern:

"Twenty thousand voting units leave the custody of Board of Elections officials, and they are placed in the hands of a third-party private company responsible, not to the state Board of Elections, but to the vendor," Kiraly says. "How was this company chosen, and who vetted the employees who handle and deliver these vulnerable voting units?"

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator with the Maryland state Board of Elections isn't concerned, and feels secure with knowing the machines are sealed and "tamper-taped." A spokesman for Diebold said that Office Movers has had government and local board of election contracts going back for years, and David Paulson, spokesman for Maryland's Democratic Party believes that Mr. Kane of Office Movers is an "honest person" who wouldn't "do something illegal or unethical in service of a contract like this." He further states "because Democrats control local boards of elections across the state, he expects that "these contracts and this delivery service will be closely watched and monitored to ensure that nothing untoward occurs."

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Is it Genocide Yet? 2,000,000 Iraqis Have Died Since 2003

So far two million innocent Iraqis have died because of years of sanctions and the 2003 Iraq War.

I would have to say that this presidential campaign to date has jaded me. The catch phrase that is being thrown around by so many of these candidates is that they want to change things, but as we begin to see the results of both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, I do believe that things will stay the same.

The only change I do see is another name coming after the title president.

While the war in Iraq is beginning to poll at the bottom of how Americans will vote, it still remains the single most important factor for me. Yet, many of the candidates who are polling at the top and who are beginning to win these races have either voted for this war and/or continue to vote for any war funding.

While Mike Huckabee did not cast any vote since he is not and was not in the Senate, still he favors this war. McCain was even a backer of President Bush’s ‘surge strategy’.

It leaves me to wonder if Americans do want real change or just a change in name. Do Americans want to really chart a new course for this country or continue the current road in which we all travel? If it is the latter; then God save America from its citizens.

In watching the CNN feed where Marianne Pernold-Young questioned Sen. Hillary Clinton, it brought Clinton to tears. Her display of said tears sickened me beyond belief.

Clinton stated in that feed that this race was personal instead of political in which she said, “I see what’s happening and we have to reverse it.” To this I would love to ask Sen. Clinton: Do you wish to reverse it back to when your husband was our president in which we sanctioned the Iraqi people thereby killing one million of its citizens?

I keep on harping on this, but former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright --when asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl if it was worth over 500,000 innocent Iraqi children dying -- said, “It was worth it.”

As an American citizen, my eyes are wide open and their deaths are personal to me, Sen. Clinton.

Many supporters of Sen. Clinton will state that she was President Bill Clinton’s true partner, so she must be held responsible for these Iraqi deaths. He saw fit to hold Iraq accountable due to their non-compliance of U.N. resolutions, yet no one is holding Israel accountable for their non-compliance of 71 U.N. resolutions.

As we all know, Sen. Clinton voted for the Iraq Resolution in which I have written consistently does not hold any constitutional and legal powers and does not invoke the war powers act. She also failed to read the intelligence report proving President Bush wrong, yet folks still voted for her in these races. I just do not understand this.

Ms. Pernold-Young voted for Sen. Obama after questioning Sen. Clinton, stating his message was “electric”, yet he too has consistently voted to fund this abhorrent war.

In a past column written by me in which Obama spoke in front of those gathered at an AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), Obama had this to say of any military action against Iran, “We should take no option, including military action, off the table, and show strong support for Israel’s actions in last summer’s war against Hezbollah.”

I have written scathing articles against the State of Israel for launching that attack and have even seen through photos our support of that terrorist attack upon Lebanon in this previous article asking who are the terrorists.

You may be saying to yourselves: Why am I really targeting the Democratic candidates? Well, to be honest, I expected better from them being of the opposite party if one believes they are truly different than the Republicans.

I would blast the Republicans and have, but I do not see any change of course only the same should a Republican become our next president.

In a past article commending Rep. Pete Stark embedded are some of the most horrific photos, but not nearly the worst I have seen as I have consistently written and spoken out against this war.

I want every single Democratic voter to take a look at those no longer with us, namely our soldiers and innocent Iraqi citizens and shed tears for them. I ask that you reject the tears shed by Sen. Clinton in which she tried to show her human side forgetting humans were killed in Iraq.

Do so if you are truly in wish of a change. As Obama rails against this war, he has consistently voted to fund it and remember that too.

Yes, the war still is the most important issue for me and I do suspect for many more out there. It is not a right vs. left issue, but a holocaust that is taken place over in Iraq.

Even the L.A. Times reported that one million Iraqis have been killed during this war in which I wrote a scathing column asking Speaker Pelosi when impeachment would be back on the table in relation to President Bush.

If you add up those killed in Iraq during the sanctions to the ones killed during this Iraq War, so far two million innocent Iraqis have died and yes, it is a holocaust. Please tell me what issue is more important.

The other night, I was in midstream of writing my thoughts down concerning the Iowa Caucuses, but stopped. I just did not understand how Obama came out on top in that race and I cannot even understand how Clinton came out on top after New Hampshire.

It just seems to me that Americans do not really want change. That is the only way I can explain the outcomes of both races and that includes those who were the winners on the Republican side.

This column is dedicated to all of our soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq and who have come home maimed. This column is also dedicated to the countless innocent Iraqis who have been killed at the hands of the United States government.

-- Mary MacElveen is a Long Island-based writer whose work appears at her blog Her e-mail address is


Source: Middle East Online

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Why does Congress outsource its work?

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group proposed a bold, far-reaching and controversial solution to the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure and clogged highways. After two years of research and negotiations, the panel recommended up to a 40-cent increase on the gas tax.

How did a collection of politicos find the courage to suggest such a politically hot solution? Quite easily, in fact: They’re not up for reelection. It was the work of a Blue Ribbon Commission.

Beginning in the 1970s and increasingly in the last decade, Congress has taken a pass on handling many complicated or controversial issues — from Medicare to veterans’ benefits to war — preferring instead to appoint a handful of retired, moderate statesmen to make recommendations that it will promptly ignore.

If Congress today was tasked with drafting the Bill of Rights, said frequent Blue Ribboner and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, “they’d probably set up a commission.”

We’re in the thick of the Blue Ribbon Commission Era, which presents a quintessential Washington Mystery: Who are all these commissioners? What in the name of Congress are they doing? And what does it say about government that it now routinely outsources the governing process?

The traffic commission report is illustrative. Faced with crumbling roads and bridges and maddening traffic congestion in 2005, Congress decided that rather than hold hearings and work on legislation, it would establish the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

The commission lost control early and ended with a 10-car pileup. Hamilton, who’s been doing the Blue Ribbon shuffle since the Carter administration, said that “the stature of the people who serve is terribly important.” The transportation committee could boast of no former senators or ambassadors and was stocked with unknown business leaders whose industries stood to benefit. The chairwoman, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, didn’t have the necessary quality of having retired.

Commissioners go to great lengths, said Hamilton (Iraq Study Group; 9-11 Commission) and former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey (9/11 Commission), to prevent a dissenting report. In Peters’ unusual case, she was the author of a dissent, signed by two other Republicans, meaning her own committee out-voted her.

Even commissions that don’t go this far off the rails, however, generally don’t end up arriving anywhere, leaving their recommendations lost in transit. Often, that’s just fine with the Congress that established it. Within hours, Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, whose Congress had originally created the transportation commission, was ripping its 40-cent tax proposal in a press release.

The icy congressional greeting differed markedly from the one given the much-heralded Social Security commission from the 1980s. “It was almost guaranteed to get attention,” said Hamilton, citing its chairmen, future Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, a former Democratic senator and ambassador to the United Nations. Their stature and bipartisan regard gave both Democrats and Republicans the cover needed to make difficult reforms.

That effort is the envy of Blue Ribboners and was cited as a model of success by every serial commissioner spoken to for this article. That’s because it’s one of a kind. In general, commissions are little more than a symptom of government overwhelmed.

“[President Herbert] Hoover did a commission on how you restructure the federal government, but I think in recent years we’ve seen more commissions. Part of the reason is the dysfunction within the system,” said Leon Panetta (Iraq Study Group), another member of the commission circuit. “There’s a lack of willingness on both sides to find consensus, to sit down and try to figure out what needs to be done. Normally that’s how government is supposed to work.”

In the past, said Hamilton, “I don’t really recall commissions like the Iraq Study Group or 9/11. It does raise questions about the capacity of Congress to do oversight, and maybe even disturbing questions. You would think that looking into intelligence failures surrounding a terrorist attack would be something Congress would handle.”

Of course, Hamilton’s been there and understands the complexity of congressional work. And, they say, it’s only increased since he first arrived on the Hill. “Let’s just take agriculture,” he said of his time in Congress in the ’60s. “I had three or four groups that lobbied you with regard to the Farm Bill. Today you’ve got 50.”

Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University, dated the rise of commissions to the collapse of the committee system in the ’70s. “In the ’50s and ’60s, congressional committees served the role that Blue Ribbon Commissions do now. There was bipartisan compromise and a certain amount of secrecy. Then the committee system broke apart in the ’70s, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that in the ’80s you had the Social Security commission,” he said.

“I’m not sure how effective [commissions] are,” he added. “Ultimately, a commission is not a committee.” In other words, it doesn’t have the power to mark up legislative language and move it to the floor.

Kerrey and the other commissioners were quick to point out the limits of the exercise. “Commissions can be one of two things: a way to avoid a problem, or a mechanism to address a problem that couldn’t be addressed otherwise,” Kerrey said.

The problem with solving a problem through a commission is that the report can melt under the political heat. “The reality is that knowledge is powerful in politics, but politics is much more powerful than knowledge,” Zelizer said. He pointed to the health care task force that then-first-lady Hillary Rodham Clinton led and a 2001 Social Security commission as examples of commission compromises that wilted under the political light of day.

Often, there’s nobody left to shade it from the heat. “It requires significant follow-through,” Panetta said. “Everybody gets out of town. Nothing happens. There are few funds made available to try to say to the chairman and some staff, ‘We’re going to keep you in place for a year to implement this, to lobby Congress.’” When that happens, as it did with an oceans commission Panetta was on and with the 9/11 Commission, results are achievable. But it’s hard work for no pay and little reward.

Often, it involves reading classified documents in secure locations, which means travel and time away from home. For somebody like Panetta, who lives in California, it requires a lot of cross-country flights in coach seating (though he said he often uses his frequent flier miles to upgrade).

It’s difficult to explain to someone not deeply ingrained in the capital’s culture why anyone would bother to take part. “It’s a standing joke with my wife that if I come home with one more commission without pay, she’s going to take drastic action — divorce or something,” Hamilton said.

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Canada puts U.S., Israel on torture watchlist

(Adds U.S., Israeli reaction, Amnesty quotes) By David Ljunggren OTTAWA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Canada's foreign ministry has put the United States and Israel on a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured and also classifies some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Thursday. The revelation is likely to embarrass the minority Conservative government, which is a staunch ally of both the United States and Israel. Both nations denied they allowed torture in their jails. The document -- part of a training course on torture awareness given to diplomats -- mentions the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where a Canadian man is being held. The man, Omar Khadr, is the only Canadian in Guantanamo. His defenders said the document made a mockery of Ottawa's claims that Khadr was not being mistreated. Under "definition of torture" the document lists U.S. interrogation techniques such as forced nudity, isolation, sleep deprivation and blindfolding prisoners. "The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. "The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government," he said. The government mistakenly provided the document to Amnesty International Canada as part of a court case the rights organization has launched against Ottawa over the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. Amnesty Secretary-General Alex Neve told Reuters his group had very clear evidence of abuse in U.S. and Israeli jails. "It's therefore reassuring and refreshing to see that ... both of those countries have been listed and that foreign policy considerations didn't trump the human rights concern and keep them off the list," he said. Khadr has been in Guantanamo Bay for five years. He is accused of killing a U.S. soldier during a clash in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15. Rights groups say Khadr should be repatriated to Canada, an idea that Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejects on the grounds that the man faces serious charges. "At some point in the course of Omar Khadr's detention the Canadian government developed the suspicion he was being tortured," said William Kuebler, Khadr's U.S. lawyer. "Yet it has not acted to obtain his release from Guantanamo Bay and protect his rights, unlike every other Western country that has had its nationals detained in Guantanamo Bay," he told CTV television. Other countries on the watch list include Syria, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. "If Israel is included in the list in question, the ambassador of Israel would expect its removal," said Israeli embassy spokesman Michael Mendel. The awareness course started after Ottawa was criticized for the way it handled the case of Canadian Maher Arar, who was deported from the United States to Syria in 2002. Arar says he was tortured repeatedly during the year he spent in Damascus prisons. An inquiry into the case revealed that Canadian diplomats had not received any formal training into detecting whether detainees had been abused. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

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