Saturday, April 5, 2008

Clinton Under Fire Over False Story Of Health Care Horror

ver the last five weeks, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has featured in her campaign stump speeches the story of a health care horror: an uninsured pregnant woman who lost her baby and died herself after being denied care by an Ohio hospital because she could not come up with a $100 fee.

The woman, Trina Bachtel, did die last August, two weeks after her baby boy was stillborn at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio. But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured.[...]

A Clinton spokesman, Mo Elleithee, said candidates would frequently retell stories relayed to them, vetting them when possible. "In this case, we did try but were not able to fully vet it," Mr. Elleithee said. "If the hospital claims it did not happen that way, we respect that."

Keep reading or watch a video of Clinton telling the story.

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Penn, Clinton, and Obama: The Colombia Backstory

The recent news that Hillary's campaign strategist Mark Penn had a meeting last week with the Ambassador of Colombia should come as no surprise, as the sovereign state of Colombia is one of his other clients:

Attendance by the adviser, Mark Penn, was confirmed by two Colombian officials. He wasn't there in his campaign role, but in his separate job as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, an international communications and lobbying firm. The firm has a contract with the South American nation to promote congressional approval of the trade deal, among other things, according to filings with the Justice Department.

Susan Davis - Clinton Aide Met on Trade Deal WSJ 4 Apr 08

The Clinton campaign was clearly unhappy with this news but was clear that Penn was meeting solely in his capacity of chief executive. The Colombian government apparently didn't get the memo as their rebuttal was more ambivalent and suggested a 'level playing field' defence involving other campaigns.

This statement seems at odds with the Clinton campaign explanation:

A spokesman for Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe said the ambassador met with Mr. Penn to discuss the bilateral agenda. "There have also been meetings with the advisers to the campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain," he said. "It's the embassy's job to explain Colombia's reality."

The spokesman said he didn't know if Mr. Penn was representing Sen. Clinton or Burson-Marsteller, which signed a $300,000, one-year contract with the Colombian Embassy in March 2007 to work on behalf of the trade deal and anti-drug-trafficking initiatives, according to the Justice Department filings.

Susan Davis - Clinton Aide Met on Trade Deal WSJ 4 Apr 08

They seem a bit confused. But wait, there is more to this story, as recently as Friday after the Penn meeting, President Uribe piled on to Senator Obama on his foreign policy credentials, sound familiar?:

In an interview with the Journal's Jose de Cordoba published Friday, Uribe said opposition to the trade agreement would deal a serious blow to U.S. relations with Colombia, one of Washington's strongest allies in South America where anti-American attitudes have been resurging in recent years. "I deplore that Sen. Obama, apparently because he wants to be president of the U.S., ignores all that Colombia has achieved," he said.

Labor unions have fought hard against the trade deal, arguing that the Bogota hasn't done enough to quell violence against trade union organizers. Uribe said that the country had made progress, and that the number of assassinated union members and teachers had fallen to 26 last year from 205 in 2001.

Nick Timiraos - Obama Refutes Colombian President WSJ 4 Apr 08

And here we go down the rabbit hole of surrealistic political statements, emphasising the disconnect between our political realities and some of our erstwhile geopolitical allies, the notion that the number of assassinated union members and teachers had fallen to 26 last year from 205 in 2001 was considered 'progress.'

Obama, quite understandably and to his credit, refuted this argument:

"I think the president is absolutely wrong on this," Obama told reporters on his plane Friday morning. "You've got a government that is under a cloud of potentially having supported violence against unions, against labor, against opposition." The Illinois senator has promised to rebuild America's reputation abroad.


"That's not the kind of behavior that we want to reward," Obama said. "I think until we get that straightened out its inappropriate for us to move forward."

Nick Timiraos - Obama Refutes Colombian President WSJ 4 Apr 08

Oh well, Hillary opposes this agreement too, right? It's just another misdeed on the part of Mark Penn which her campaign deplores? Right? Well, then why did Uribe single out Obama for criticism? There may be more to this story than meets the eye.

The history of Uribe's presidency and Colombia's role as US surrogate in Latin America, our bulwark against leftist governments like Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador, predates their current warm relationship with the Bush administration:

That Uribe singled-out Obama is revealing: the Illinois senator's rival for the Democratic nomination for president in the United States, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, also says she opposes the US-Colombia "free trade" pact. That clearly doesn't worry Uribe: the Clinton organization has a long history of backing - politically and economically - the Colombian far right, its narco-politicians and paramilitary death squads, of whom Uribe is supreme leader. In 2000, then-US president Bill Clinton went on Colombian national TV to announce "Plan Colombia," the multi-billion dollar US military intervention that keeps Uribe and his repressive regime in power to this day.

Al Giordano - Uribe's Attack on Obama Narco News Bulletin 3 Apr 08

Interesting. But these are issues of the past, even though they touch on her claim to foreign policy involvement in her husband's administration, and Hillary is committed to her campaign promises, isn't she? Let's assume so. Who is this guy, Uribe, anyhow?:

Uribe - the emblem of narco-corruption and violent repression of unions and other social movements in Colombia and, indeed, all of Latin America - clearly believes Obama is serious about his positions toward the region that, if implemented by a US president, would ring in a sea change in US policy toward its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.

The United States - under the Bush administration and the Clinton administration - turned a blind eye to the Colombian's government's tacit and explicit backing of paramilitary death squads, often funded by private sector companies and drug trafficking organizations, to break unions, farmer organizations, opposition political groups and assassinate leaders of all of them. As recently as last week, 24 leading religious and human rights groups signed a letter to the Colombian president denouncing statements by an official in his government that contributed to "a climate of political intolerance that fosters violence" toward union leaders.

More than 600 trade unionists have been assassinated under Uribe's watch. Attacks on reporters have made Colombia the most dangerous country in the hemisphere for journalists, too.

Al Giordano - Uribe's Attack on Obama Narco News Bulletin 3 Apr 08

Well, not a nice resume, to be sure, but he's one of our foreign policy stalwarts, isn't he? Why would we negotiate with 'dictators' when we have allies like that?:

His Democratic rival, Senator Clinton, and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, both cling to a failed status quo in the United States' anti-democracy policies of imposition toward its neighbors to the South. Clinton, last summer, went so far as to call Obama's willingness to meet with US-shunned world leaders like Chavez and then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro as "naïve and frankly irresponsible," and her campaign reiterated - after Obama's call last August to ease the Cuban embargo - that Senator Clinton, if president, would make no changes to US-Cuban policy.

Al Giordano - Uribe's Attack on Obama Narco News Bulletin 3 Apr 08

And why would we imagine that Hillary's relationship with Uribe was any different from any good, progressive Democrat's who sought justice, labour freedom and human rights worldwide?:

The Uribe regime, after all, continues a chummy friendship with Bill Clinton, granting him the government's "Colombia Is Passion" Award last June. That, during the same 2007 spring when former vice president Al Gore cancelled his appearance at a Miami environmental conference because he did not want to share a podium with Uribe, the hemisphere's poster boy for state-sponsored terrorism, narco-trafficking, and assassinations of opposition political, labor and social movement leaders. Angela Montoya, representing the awards committee, told AP that former president "Clinton is Colombia's best tourism minister because every time he opens his mouth to talk about the country he's helping to improve our country's image without even realizing it."

Bill Clinton returned the favor by hosting Uribe as a "featured attendee" at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York last September.

Al Giordano - Uribe's Attack on Obama Narco News Bulletin 3 Apr 08

Food for thought there gang. Maybe Obama isn't so 'naïve and frankly irresponsible' after all. Maybe we are.

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What Did Bill Clinton Do To Get $15M From Ron Burkle?

About Thomas B. Edsall

Thomas B. Edsall is the political editor of the Huffington Post. He is also Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. From 1981 to 2006, he was a political reporter at the Washington Post. He is the author of Chain Reaction and Building Red America. Tom can be reached at

The campaign press statement accompanying the release on Friday of Hillary Clinton's 2000 - 2007 tax returns includes some useful summary data for the media: Bill and Hillary Clinton's total income over the past 8 years, $109 million; her Senate salary, $1.1 million; his presidential pension, $1.2 million; her book royalties, $10.5 million; his book royalties, $29.6 million; and his speaking fees, $51.9 million.

One big line item is missing from the press summary however: the $15 million paid to Bill Clinton between 2003 and 2007 by Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Global Opportunities Fund.

In fact, the Burkle payments, buried deep in the income tax forms themselves, were the only real news in tax documents, which were made public for the first time.

The Clintons' huge book profits, her salary and his speaking fees, were all well known. Hillary Clinton has been required to disclose details on many of those sources of income in the annual financial disclosure statements she has to file as a member of the U.S. Senate.

But until the release of the tax returns on April 4, the only disclosure Hillary Clinton had made about her husband's financial relationship with Burkle was the fact that Bill Clinton earned "more than $1,000" annually from the partnerships.

Now that the Clintons have disclosed that the former president received from 250 to 500 times "more than $1,000" each year since 2002, the glaring question that remains unanswered is: What did he do for all this pocket change?

Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson provided a statement that did not reveal much:

"The President provides his best advice on potential investments, advocates generally on behalf of the funds, and seeks to create opportunities for investors to consider investing in these funds or in the investments the funds make."

In more common parlance, this translates to "rainmaker" and "door opener."

Burkle, who is worth at least $2.5 billion according to Forbes, and Clinton are business and social partners, often traveling the Los Angeles social circuit together.

Burkle specializes in putting together funds that invest in city and other businesses. Burkle and Magic Johnson are working together on creating an urban investment fund.

Burkle and Yucaipa have been involved in a number of controversies that have reportedly prompted concerns in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign that her bid might be damaged by resulting adverse publicity.

Bill Clinton was, according to sources close to both Burkle and Clinton, deeply angered by a September 26, 2007, front page Wall Street Journal article detailing some of Yucaipa's questionable dealings. The story, which broke on the same day that heads of state and business leaders convened in New York to discuss the Clinton Global Initiative, described plans to invest millions of dollars in a venture to buy up Catholic Church property.

Clinton, according to aides, intends to sever his financial ties with Burkle, although he may do so only if his wife wins the nomination, an increasingly unlikely prospect.

Tax returns, year by year:









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Why John Edwards Can't Endorse Hillary (In His Own Words)

McCain delays releasing medical records again, raising suspicion

Declined to provide files three times to New York Times

A little noticed remark in the press is generating heat for McCain's presidential campaign.

On Wednesday, McCain's campaign told CNN that the Arizona senator's medical file would be produced May 15. Trouble is, they previously said they'd be released April 15, and they've refused to turn the records over to the New York Times on at least three occasions.

This has led some on the left to question, "What's he hiding?" -- as is the banner headline on the politics section of liberal blog, The Huffington Post.

"Mr. McCain has yet to make his full medical records or his physicians available to reporters," the Times veteran medical correspondent Dr. Lawrence Altman penned in March. "At least three times since March 2007, campaign officials have told The New York Times that they would provide the detailed information about his current state of health, but they have not done so. The campaign now says it expects to release the information in April."

McCain's previous encounter with skin cancer

The Times has taken issue with McCain's health before.

In early March of this year, the paper ran a Sunday splash titled "On the Campaign Trail, Few Mentions of McCain's Bout With Melanoma."

"Along with his signature bright white hair, the most striking aspects of Senator John McCain's physical appearance are his puffy left cheek and the scar that runs down the back of his neck," Altman wrote. "The marks are cosmetic reminders of the melanoma surgery he underwent in August 2000. Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, sometimes tells audiences that he has 'more scars than Frankenstein.'"

The recent ducking of questions on his medical history stands in contrast to his release of detailed files in 1999,

"In 1999, during Mr. McCain's first race for president, he gave the public an extraordinary look at his medical history — 1,500 pages of medical and psychiatric records that were amassed as part of a United States Navy project to gauge the health of former prisoners of war," Altman wrote in March. "This reporter, who is a physician, interviewed the senator's doctors in 1999 with his permission."

The CNN report was featured in a blog post on their political ticker Wednesday. It was not picked up by news agencies or even the subject of a CNN report. The Carpetbagger blog, however, caught the CNN blog post and raised a storm.

McCain said he'd release files on 60 Minutes

The Times report "was the standard line in early March. McCain sat down for an interview with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes, and was asked about his health. McCain said it's 'excellent' (three times), and said his campaign would be 'doing the medical records thing' soon," Carpetbagger's Steve Bennen wrote. "Pelley followed up, "There has been some criticism that you have not released your medical records. You're saying in this interview that you're about to do that. McCain replied, 'Oh, yeah, we'll do it in the next month or so, yeah.'"

"For a candidate who has nothing to hide, he's acting like he has something to hide," he continued later. "And given that McCain is running to be the oldest president ever elected, and he has a history of medical problems including melanoma, this is a little unsettling.

"If McCain had a history of secrecy," he added, "it'd be easier to just chalk this up to a character flaw. But his previous disclosures actually make the problem worse. He was an open book during his first campaign, and now he can't even explain the delays in releasing his records.

"As I said," he concluded. "There's probably nothing to this. But the campaign's conduct on the issue raises questions, doesn't it?"

Original here

Ohio Hospital Contests a Story Clinton Tells

Over the last five weeks, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has featured in her campaign stump speeches the story of a health care horror: an uninsured pregnant woman who lost her baby and died herself after being denied care by an Ohio hospital because she could not come up with a $100 fee.

The woman, Trina Bachtel, did die last August, two weeks after her baby boy was stillborn at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio. But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured.

“We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,” said Rick Castrop, chief executive officer of the O’Bleness Health System.

Linda M. Weiss, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit hospital, said the Clinton campaign had never contacted the hospital to check the accuracy of the story, which Mrs. Clinton had first heard from a Meigs County, Ohio, sheriff’s deputy in late February.

A Clinton spokesman, Mo Elleithee, said candidates would frequently retell stories relayed to them, vetting them when possible. “In this case, we did try but were not able to fully vet it,” Mr. Elleithee said. “If the hospital claims it did not happen that way, we respect that.”

The sheriff’s deputy, Bryan Holman, had played host to Mrs. Clinton in his home before the Ohio primary. Deputy Holman said in a telephone interview that a conversation about health care led him to relate the story of Ms. Bachtel. He never mentioned the name of the hospital that supposedly turned her away because he did not know it, he said.

Deputy Holman knew Ms. Bachtel’s story only secondhand, having learned it from close relatives of the woman. Ms. Bachtel’s relatives did not return phone calls Friday.

As Deputy Holman understood it, Ms. Bachtel had died of complications from a stillbirth after being turned away by a local hospital for her failure to pay $100 upfront.

“I mentioned this story to Senator Clinton, and she apparently took to it and liked it,” Deputy Holman said, “and one of her aides said she’d be using it at some rallies.”

Indeed, saying that the story haunted her, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly offered it as a dire example of a broken health care system. At one March rally in Wyoming, for instance, she referred to Ms. Bachtel, a 35-year-old who managed a Pizza Hut, as a young, uninsured minimum-wage worker, saying, “It hurts me that in our country, as rich and good of a country as we are, this young woman and her baby died because she couldn’t come up with $100 to see the doctor.”

Mrs. Clinton does not name Ms. Bachtel or the hospital in her speeches. As she tells it, the woman was turned away twice by a local hospital when she was experiencing difficulty with her pregnancy. “The hospital said, ‘Well, you don’t have insurance.’ She said, ‘No, I don’t.’ They said, ‘Well, we can’t see you until you give $100.’ She said, ‘Where am I going to get $100?’

“The next time she came back to the hospital, she came in an ambulance,” Mrs. Clinton continued. “She was in distress. The doctors and the nurses worked on her and couldn’t save the baby.”

Since Ms. Bachtel’s baby died at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, the story implicitly and inaccurately accuses that hospital of turning her away, said Ms. Weiss, the spokeswoman for O’Bleness Memorial said. Instead, the O’Bleness health care system treated her, both at the hospital and at the affiliated River Rose Obstetrics and Gynecology practice, Ms. Weiss said.

The hospital would not provide details about the woman’s case, citing privacy concerns; she died two weeks after the stillbirth at a medical center in Columbus.

“We reviewed the medical and patient account records of this patient,” said Mr. Castrop, the health system’s chief executive. Any implication that the system was “involved in denying care is definitely not true.”

Although Mrs. Clinton has told the story repeatedly, it first came to the attention of the hospital after The Washington Post cited it as a staple of her stump speeches on Thursday. That brought it to the attention of The Daily Sentinel in Pomeroy, Ohio, which published an article on Friday.

Neither paper named the hospital or challenged Mrs. Clinton’s account.

Original here

Never Give Up (PIC)

Original here

Mexico reconquers California? Absolut drinks to that!

The latest advertising campaign in Mexico from Swedish vodka maker Absolut promises to push all the right buttons south of the U.S. border, but it could ruffle a few feathers in El Norte.

The billboard and press campaign, created by advertising agency Teran\TBWA and now running in Mexico, is a colorful map depicting what the Americas might look like in an "Absolut" -- i.e., perfect -- world.

The U.S.-Mexico border lies where it was before the Mexican-American war of 1848 when California, as we now know it, was Mexican territory and known as Alta California.

Following the war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo saw the Mexican territories of Alta California and Santa Fé de Nuevo México ceded to the United States to become modern-day California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. (Texas actually split from Mexico several years earlier to form a breakaway republic, and was voluntarily annexed by the United States in 1846.)

The campaign taps into the national pride of Mexicans, according to Favio Ucedo, creative director of leading Latino advertising agency Grupo Gallegos in the U.S.

Ucedo, who is from Argentina, said: “Mexicans talk about how the Americans stole their land, so this is their way of reclaiming it. It’s very relevant and the Mexicans will love the idea.”

But he said that were the campaign to run in the United States, it might fall flat.

“Many people aren’t going to understand it here. Americans in the East and the North or in the center of the county -- I don’t know if they know much about the history.

“Probably Americans in Texas and California understand perfectly and I don’t know how they’d take it.”

Meanwhile, the campaign has been circulating on the blogs and generating strong responses from people north of the border.

“I find this ad deeply offensive, and needlessly divisive. I will now make a point of drinking other brands. And 'vodka and tonic' is my drink,” said one visitor, called New Yorker, on

Reader Paul Green goes into a discussion on the blog Gateway Pundit of whether the U.S. territories ever belonged to Mexico in the first place, and the News12 Long island site invited people to boycott Absolut, with one user, called LivingSmall, writing: “If you drink Absolut vodka, you can voice your approval or disapproval of this advertising campaign with your purchases. I know I will be switching to Grey Goose or Stoli and will never have another bottle of Absolut in my house.

“Hey Absolut ... that's my form of social commentary.”

-- Deborah Bonello and Reed Johnson in Mexico City

*No time to compose a comment on the "In an Absolut World according to Mexico" ad? Tell us what you think by voting here:

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DOJ Sues Fox Over Indecency Fines

Fox Broadcasting Co. and another broadcaster Friday to collect $56,000 in fines for the broadcast of a raunchy reality show in 2003 that included scenes from bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Fox's "Married by America" included the "thrusting of a male stripper's crotch into a woman's face" in one show in addition to other scenes the agency found objectionable, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In October of 2004, the FCC issued a $7,000 fine against 169 Fox-affiliated stations totaling $1.2 million.

The fines were assessed regardless of whether a complaint was lodged against a particular station. Fox challenged the FCC's action and last month the FCC dropped the complaints against all but 13 stations, which were the subject of actual viewer complaints. The move lowered the total fine to $91,000.

Despite the decision, Fox, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., said it would not pay the fines because the FCC's decision in the case was "arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with precedent and patently unconstitutional."

The company appealed again, but on Friday, the FCC "returned without consideration" its claim, saying it was 14 pages over the limit. The agency said the company did not ask permission to exceed those page limits. Fox dubbed the FCC decision "offensive."

Since the FCC's February action, four stations have paid the fine and another station was dropped because no complaint was filed against it, leaving eight stations and $56,000 in fines. Five of the eight stations are owned by Fox, three are owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

The Justice Department brought suit in Washington, D.C., Iowa, West Virginia and Tennessee.

The action has been part of an aggressive campaign by the government to enforce indecency rules on television. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving Fox and the broadcast of fleeting expletives, the first such broadcast indecency case to be heard by the high court since 1978.

ABC, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., paid FCC fines totaling $1.2 million involving a 2003 airing of an "NYPD Blue" episode in which a woman's bare buttocks were shown. But the company decided it would challenge the agency's ruling in court.

"We have an obligation to protect our children by enforcing laws restricting indecent content on television and radio," said FCC spokeswoman Mary Diamond. "For four years, News Corp. has failed to take responsibility for airing indecent programming during 'Married by America.' It is long past time for the company to accept responsibility and pay its fines."

Fox spokesman Scott Grogin in a brief statement released Friday night said, "We look forward to the opportunity to present the full factual and legal arguments in the Married by America case to an impartial and open court of law."

It is unusual for an indecency fine to be challenged in federal court. Most cases are resolved at the administrative level within the agency. The case against Fox will essentially start from scratch in a "trial de novo."

The stations still subject to the fine are in Tampa, Fla.; Detroit, Mich.; Washington, D.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis, Minn.; Nashville, Tenn. and Charleston W.Va.

The six-episode "Married by America" series introduced a cast of single men and women and allowed viewers to match them up by popular vote. Five matched couples then went through dating rituals debauchery and whipped cream, but none married.


AP Business Writer Dibya Sarkar contributed to this report.

Original here

Ashcroft booed for Obama-Osama gaffe

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft drew the ire of students at liberal Skidmore College this week when he confused the name of Barack Obama with that of Osama bin Laden.

"All I'm saying about the Patriot Act," Ashcroft began, "is that the elected representatives of this country, including Osama ..."

His words were met with a roar of disbelief and disapproval, as he continued stammering, "uh ... you know ... not ... Obama."

Ashcroft attempted to say "I'm sorry" but was drowned out by prolonged boos. "I did not mean to ... I'm sorry about that ... I apologize publicly," Ashcroft went on as the boos gradually subsided.

Ashcroft's appearance at the highly liberal college, which was arranged by a small group of conservative students, had proved highly controversial even before his arrival.

Liberal blogs have been particularly skeptical of Ashcroft's characterization of his mistake as accidental. One suggested, "Hint to reporters: it's not an accident, it's a strategy." Another explained, "This is a purposeful mistake being done by conservatives to subliminally make the connections with not only the terrorist but with the notion that Obama is somehow 'foreign'."

This video is from, broadcast April 3, 2008.

Original here

How Hillary Is Worse Than Cheney

Need personal advice of a political nature? Or political advice of a personal nature? Send your question to Stumped. Questions may be edited.]

Dear Stumped:

Why do you think that Democrats get roasted for "memory lapses" while Republicans do not? For example, in his vice presidential nomination acceptance speech in August 2000, Vice President Cheney spoke of flying over Arlington by helicopter and being emotionally touched by its "crosses row on row." Headstones at Arlington aren't cross-shaped, but no one called him a liar. Yet when Hillary Clinton remembers her trip to Bosnia as being dangerous but gets the details wrong, she's a liar. I'm sure her trip to Bosnia was dangerous, and she probably was lectured about potential snipers in open spaces like airport runways.

I recently had the experience of being absolutely certain that an event happened a certain way, and would have sworn to it on a stack of Bibles. Yet when confronted with a record of the event in my own handwriting, it is clear my memory was inaccurate -- although somehow I still can't believe it. With the recent passing of my mother, my siblings and I have been reminiscing over old family times, and we have discovered significant variation in our memory of some events. I don't believe any of us is lying.

It appears to me that Republicans are free to have memory lapses while Democrats are held to to a standard that none of us could meet in our daily lives.


Too Young for Senior Moments

Dear Too Young,

I don't agree. I think we cut politicos of all parties plenty of slack when it comes to faulty memories. Your Cheney example is a case in point: That wasn't resume-pumping. It was not a huge deal. He probably saw rows of crosses at a different cemetery, or was moved flying over Arlington for a different reason. It's as if I told you I read a horrifying story about a car bombing in Baghdad in the New York Times when in fact I read the story in The Washington Post. That's an understandable lapse of memory.

Republicans do get in trouble when their supposed memory lapses stray into the realm of lying. Remember Mitt Romney early in the primary season getting roasted for claiming that he saw his father march alongside Martin Luther King in support of civil rights? Romney's father may have been sympathetic to King, but Romney looked ridiculous trying to spin a rather poetic definition of the verb "to see." And he got clobbered, justifiably.

Clinton's lie was far more serious -- and for all the brouhaha, I don't think she has been criticized enough for it. If Cheney claimed he'd come under fire sometime when he hadn't, there'd be no end to the media's relentlessness! To claim that you had to sprint to dodge bullets (with daughter and Sheryl Crow in tow) when you didn't -- and then to say you "misspoke" because of a lack of sleep? C'mon. We're veering into pathological territory here, something more serious than a faulty memory.

To your point, coming under fire and being briefed about potential dangers are not the same. I was warned about street crime in Rio de Janeiro before I went there, but wasn't mugged. If I told you I'd been shot at while there, and then took it back, saying I misspoke because I was tired and had been told Rio wasn't safe, what would you make of me? Would you hire me as your babysitter? Accountant? Lawyer? President?

Would you then want me picking up that phone at 3 a.m.? I wouldn't.

Dear Stumped,

If Hillary Clinton should win the presidency and visit the Middle East, would she be required to cover her head and face -- like many women in the Middle East, even though she's president of the United States?

Billy C. Turner

Dear Billy,

Certainly not. American executives and diplomats -- such as Condoleezza Rice -- do not submit to such backward practices when they travel in the region. One of the things that makes the prospect of a female president so exciting is the statement it will send: America is (or at least is becoming!) a society of equal opportunity and gender equality.

Then again, if that first female president is Hillary Clinton, she will probably come back from her Middle East tour claiming that a burqa was forced upon her when she arrived. When the videotape showed otherwise, she'd claim she "misspoke" on account of a lack of sleep, and because she had heard some women are forced to wear burqas....

Dear Stumped,

Please help me. I am about to lose my sanity. I honestly don't get it: Would Barack Obama quit the race if the situation were reversed and he trailed by 150 or so delegates? Why is everyone calling on Hillary Clinton to drop out?

It all drives me mad. Let the game play out!

James Angus Linney

Dear James,

I agree that calls for Hillary Clinton to withdraw are outrageously premature, and there is a double standard here. It all stems from expectations. It reminds me of the Wall Street earnings game. If a company is expected to post a profit of at least 55 cents a share but instead makes only 47 cents per share, its stock gets punished and everyone wants its CEO ousted. But if a scrappy competitor expected to make only 40 cents a share posts results of 49 cents a share, its CEO will be heralded as a visionary genius.

Convert those earnings-per-share numbers to popular-vote percentages and you have a rough idea of where Clinton and Obama stand today. But they started from very different places in terms of expectations -- and Clinton unwisely stoked expectations early on, with the result that she is being pummeled now with perhaps more glee than is called for. As close as this contest is, it is hard to see how she pulls it out, but with her proven resilience, 10 states still to vote, and all those uncommitted superdelegates, I see no reason for her to drop out now. And I don't think it is fair to claim she is doing any damage to the party by staying in till all states have voted. That argument may start making sense in July, if she is still considerably behind then, but for now, as her husband puts it, we should all just "chill out."

Of course I am not an unbiased observer here. If she drops out now, I won't be able to have any more fun with "Snipergate."

Original here

Clinton releases tax returns

Clinton had been under mounting pressure to release her tax records before the Pennsylvania primary.
Clinton had been under mounting pressure to release her tax records before the Pennsylvania primary.

(CNN) — Hillary Clinton released her tax returns for the years 2000 to 2006 late Friday afternoon, ending weeks of speculation over her delay in making them public.

“The Clintons have now made public thirty years of tax returns, a record matched by few people in public service,” spokesman Jay Carson said in a statement. “None of Hillary Clinton's presidential opponents have revealed anything close to this amount of personal financial information.”

The campaign said the records showed Bill and Hillary Clinton had paid more than $33.7 million in federal taxes on a joint income of $109 million and donated $10.2 million to charities over the past eight years.

The New York senator had initially said that she would not release them unless she was the Democratic nominee. But at a debate shortly before the March 4 primaries, she said she would consider releasing them "even earlier," though she did not name a precise date.

"I will certainly work toward releasing them, and we will get that done and in the public domain," said Clinton.

Later, she pledged to release the documents by this year's April 15 tax filing deadline. But ten days ago, following Obama's decision to release his tax returns of this decade, and attacks from his campaign over Clinton's delay in making her own public, she announced that she would release the returns within the week.

The Obama campaign's criticism centered on Clinton's decision to lend her campaign $5 million earlier this year, along with former President Bill Clinton's $20 million payout from supermarket holding company Yucaipa.

In conference calls with reporters, Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson accused the Obama campaign of unfounded negative attacks over the delay, noting that there were "20 years of Clinton tax returns in the public record."

The tax returns are the second of three batches of documents Clinton has come under pressure to release. Her scheduling records that date to her time as First Lady were released late last month. The list of major donors to the Clinton Presidential Library has yet to be released.

(Full statement below; complete returns are available here.)

McCain Booed At Martin Luther King Speech: Watch The Video

Senator John McCain, "who says he will court the African-American vote this year and campaign in places Republicans often shun," spoke in Memphis on Friday to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But his speech was met with boos and interruptions from many in the audience, as he apologized for repeatedly opposing the creation of a holiday to celebrate King's legacy.

(The image of a black man holding an umbrella over McCain's head while he gave the speech didn't exactly complement the moment.)

Take a look:

McCain voted against the creation of a holiday honoring King in 1983, a vote which was supported by a large number of Republicans. McCain claimed this week that he was largely unaware on the importance of King's work at the time, due to his Vietnam-era service overseas. Speaking on Thursday to reporters, he explained that his conversion occurred around 1990:

"I voted in my...first year in Congress against it and then I began to learn and I studied and people talked to me. And I not only supported it but I fought very hard in my home state of Arizona for recognition against a governor who was of my own party."

But McCain's voting record since 1990 doesn't support this explanation. In addition to voting to oppose a state holiday in 1987 (which he later supported) and a federal holiday in 1989, McCain voted in 1994 to cut funding for the commission that promoted King's holiday.

Original here

Richardson Denies Saying Obama Can't Win, Hillary Doesn't

Bill Richardson's office has released a statement responding to a charge from the Clinton campaign that it he said that Barack Obama "can't win" the general election:

Statement from Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley:

"Governor Richardson has never questioned Senator Obama's electability. He believes Barack Obama is the right person to lead this country and he will be America's next President.

In fact, the Governor endorsed Senator Obama based on his ability to bring this country together both domestically and internationally.

The Governor wants to move beyond this he said-she said nonsense. It's irrelevant and petty. The focus should be on ending the war in Iraq, improving the economy and passing universal health care, which is exactly what Senator Obama is talking about."

ABC News reported on Wednesday that it was Clinton who told Richardson that Obama couldn't win. Clinton appeared to deny that report today, but according to her aides, she misunderstood the question:

"That's a no," Clinton, D-N.Y., told reporters at the end of a press conference in Burbank, California, when asked if she made the comment in a private conversation with Richardson.

"We have been going back and forth in this campaign of who said what to whom and let me say this, that I don't talk about private conversations but I have consistently made the case that I can win," she said earlier in the press conference.

Clinton aides now insist the Senator misunderstood the question, asserting the candidate believed she was answering whether or not she would discuss a private conversation.

"I just double checked," Doug Hattaway, Clinton spokesperson told ABC News, "She was saying she was not going to tell (the reporter) about her private conversation."

Original here

Poll: 76 percent say U.S. ready for black president

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The number of Americans who believe that the country is ready for a black president is rising, a poll released Thursday suggested.

Sen. Barack Obama campaigns Thursday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

More than three quarters, 76 percent, of respondents in a CNN/Essence Magazine/Opinion Research Corp. poll said the country is ready to be led by an African-American, up 14 percentage points since December 2006.

Some of the rise can be attributed to the success of Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries, said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.

"We're not asking this question in a vacuum. In many cases, respondents must have had Obama in mind when giving their answer, even though he is not mentioned anywhere in the questionnaire," Holland said.

The senator from Illinois is locked in a battle with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York for the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama leads Clinton in states won, in delegates pledged and in the overall popular vote in the primaries and caucuses held.

The poll also indicates that more whites than blacks think the country is ready for a black president. Of the white Americans surveyed, 78 percent said the country is ready, as opposed to 69 percent of African-Americans polled. Both numbers are up substantially from December 2006.

"Drawing on their own life experience, blacks are a little more skeptical than whites. But blacks, too, have come around, particularly after the Iowa caucuses demonstrated that Obama could win in an overwhelmingly white electorate," said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst."Among blacks, the belief that the country is ready for an African-American president is highest among blacks who share traits with Obama," Holland said.

"Optimism about the country's acceptance of a black president is higher among black men than among black women, higher among college-educated blacks than among those with no college degree and higher among younger blacks than older blacks," Holland said.

The poll also suggested that more Americans think the country is ready for a black president than a female president. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed say the country is ready for a female president, 13 points lower than those who say the country is ready for a black president.

"Do Americans see more prejudice against a woman than an African-American? More likely, they see more negative feelings about this woman than about this African-American. Because it's true. More people have an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton than of Barack Obama," Schneider said.

The poll asked whether the country is ready for a black or female president, not whether respondents would vote for a black or female president.

Few people will acknowledge their own prejudices, but they will answer whether they think the country is ready to elect a black or woman president," Schneider said.

The poll was conducted by telephone from March 26 to April 2, with 2,184 Americans questioned, including 1,014 blacks and 1,001 whites.

The survey is being released on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Those polled were asked whether they felt that the U.S. has fulfilled King's vision spelled out in his "I have a dream" speech in Washington in 1963.

Thirty-four percent said yes; 41 percent said no but that they believe it's possible; and 19 percent said no, that it is impossible.

The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points for the overall sample and plus or minus 3 percentage points for the questions asked just to blacks or whites.

Original here

Radio Factor guest host Tony Snow offered false and misleading attacks on Obama

Summary: Guest-hosting The Radio Factor, Tony Snow falsely claimed that "since he's been in the United States Senate, [Sen. Barack Obama] has voted present more often than any other member of the Senate." Snow also asserted that Obama "has described Jeremiah Wright as one of his key political advisers, and he said that he didn't make any key political decision without consulting him." In fact, Obama has stated that Wright "has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor."

Guest-hosting the March 28 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, former White House press secretary Tony Snow distorted Sen. Barack Obama's voting record, falsely claiming that "since [Obama has] been in the United States Senate, he has voted present more often than any other member of the Senate." According to The Washington Post congressional vote database, Obama has never voted present during his time in the U.S. Senate, unlike other senators. Snow also claimed that Obama "has described" Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, who recently retired as pastor at Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, "as one of his key political advisers, and he said that he didn't make any key political decision without consulting him"; in fact, Obama has specifically stated that Wright "has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor."

A January 21, 2007, Chicago Tribune profile of Wright reported that Obama "does check with his pastor before making any bold political moves" -- not that Obama "said that he didn't make any key political decision without consulting" Wright -- and that "Obama says that rather than advising him on strategy, Wright helps keep his priorities straight and his moral compass calibrated." The Tribune added:

"What I value most about Pastor Wright is not his day-to-day political advice," Obama said. "He's much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible and that I'm not losing myself in some of the hype and hoopla and stress that's involved in national politics."

From the March 28 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

SNOW: Louie in Worcester, Mass. Louie, thanks for joining us. Welcome.

CALLER: Hello?

SNOW: Hey, Louie.

CALLER: Hi, I'm walking down the street, so just forgive me for a minute. What I wanted to discuss -- stepped in on real quick is this whole Jeremiah Wright thing. What people don't really understand is, I mean, myself, I'm a Christian. When I got baptized, before I could get baptized, I actually had to agree with my pastor on pretty much everything that he was saying. I had to agree with him theologically and in every other way. So, for Barack to stand up there and say that no, he doesn't agree, that he'd never heard these things, is a lie, a straight-out lie. He had to hear it -- hold on, I got an ambulance.

SNOW: OK, well, I'll tell you what, Louie. We'll cut back the sound here for a minute. I'll respond to that, and then after all the colorful sounds go away, we'll get you back on the line. I don't know if you know, but Barack Obama appearing -- was this on The View? I don't know if it was on The View. It was one of his appearances this week where he said that if Jeremiah Wright had stayed pastor of his church, he, Barack Obama, would have left.

Now, that's just a lie. That's just pure baloney. Barack Obama's been listening to this stuff for 20 years, and he never once raised a peep, but it gives you an indication of the way he handles stuff, which is if somebody becomes inconvenient, he throws them under the bus. But he never steps up and accepts personal responsibility for a position he's taken, or he never gets up and does the tough thing. It's like Bill Clinton. He never gets up and says, "Jeremiah Wright, I don't care if you're popular in the black community, if you're running a mega-church in Chicago, I just think it's time for you to stop this divisive rhetoric." He doesn't do it.

Now, he wanted Trent Lott to step away from the Senate when Trent Lott said something nice, although kind of inept, but said something nice about Strom Thurmond. He was one of the first to call for a number of people who have misspoken, for them to be sanctioned, and yet, when Jeremiah Wright says, "God damn the United States" and portrays white people as a bunch of KKK members, forget about it. He doesn't -- he didn't leave the church when it was putting terrorist literature -- terrorist literature, I'm not making this up -- terrorist literature in the Sunday bulletin for the people coming in.

Instead, what he's doing is just pretending that he wasn't there. Barack Obama, who, as a state senator in Illinois, in order to avoid casting tough or politically damaging votes, would always vote present. And since he's been in the United States Senate, he has voted present more often than any other member of the Senate. If this guy's so courageous, why won't he take a stand on the obvious stuff?

Louie, you there? Is it quieter? Can you hear me now?

CALLER: Yeah, I'm actually inside my insurance company right now, so I can hear you now.

SNOW: OK, good. Continue your point, my friend.

CALLER: No, just what I was saying is, I mean, he had to agree. I mean, there was no way he could actually get baptized if he didn't agree. There's also no way he would be able to get married there if he didn't agree.

SNOW: Well, you know, I'm not sure all churches work that way. I mean, when I was baptized, I didn't have to sort of take a plea that I would agree with the pastor on everything. On the other hand, you don't even have to go that far. He has described Jeremiah Wright as one of his key political advisers, and he said that he didn't make any key political decision without consulting him.


Original here

ABC anticipates Clinton tax returns to see offshore income

Welcome Digg fans! Want more? Get Raw headlines in your browser. Latest popular story: McCain withholds medical records for fifth time.

Sen. Barack Obama's tax returns have been online for a little more than a week now, but reporters, political rivals and opposition researchers are still licking their chops at the chance to dig into the IRS filings of his opponent Hillary Clinton.

Financial disclosure documents already filed by the New York senator show she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have made at least $50 million since leaving the White House in 2001. ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross takes an early crack at divining what details may be revealed from the Clinton's tax returns, which her campaign has said will be released within the next two weeks.

The tax returns, Ross says, "will answer a lot of questions about how they made so much and whether they paid their taxes like average Americans -- or like the super rich they've become."

Citing Hillary Clinton's campaign stump pledges to end tax breaks for wealthy Americans, Ross looks at the six-, seven- and eight-figure sums Bill Clinton has reaped since his term ended.

Among those are a reported $20 million payout Clinton is expected to receive for severing business ties with billionaire grocery store magnate Ron Burkle. The former president also has made $47 million on a speaking tour, raking in up to several hundred thousand dollars per speech, Ross reports.

Another source of mystery in the Clinton financial world is the Clinton Foundation, Bill Clinton's charity that has fought AIDS in Africa, promoted sustainable development, built the Clinton Presidential Library and sent the former president around the globe as a goodwill ambassador. USA Today, in an editorial distributed by the Obama campaign, called for the Clinton Foundation donors, who include foreign governments and have pledged more than $500 million, to be made public.

Whether the foundation's donor rolls ever see the light of day is another matter, but Clinton's campaign has said it is preparing her tax returns for imminent release. A spokesman tells Ross the former president and his wife "pay full US taxes at the ordinary income tax rates."

But, Ross observes, "with taxes, the devil is in the details, and the proof of what they really pay will come when the Clintons finally make public their tax returns."

This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast April 3, 2008.

Original here

Factor military duty into criticism

In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)

The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery. For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.

While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.

Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system? Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?

After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America's biggest cities.

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, who has been in the news for comments he made over the last three decades.

Since these comments became public we have heard criticisms, condemnations, denouncements and rejections of his comments and him.

We've seen on television, in a seemingly endless loop, sound bites of a select few of Rev. Wright's many sermons.

Some of the Wright's comments are inexcusable and inappropriate and should be condemned, but in calling him "unpatriotic," let us not forget that this is a man who gave up six of the most productive years of his life to serve his country.

How many of Wright's detractors, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly to name but a few, volunteered for service, and did so under the often tumultuous circumstances of a newly integrated armed forces and a society in the midst of a civil rights struggle? Not many.

While words do count, so do actions.

Let us not forget that, for whatever Rev. Wright may have said over the last 30 years, he has demonstrated his patriotism.

Lawrence Korb and Ian Moss are, respectively, Navy and Marine Corps veterans. They work at The Center For American Progress. Korb served as assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration.

Original here

Historians See Bush As Worst President Ever

A Pew Research Center poll released last week found that the share of the American public that approves of President George W. Bush has dropped to a new low of 28 percent.

An unscientific poll of professional historians completed the same week produced results far worse for a president clinging to the hope that history will someday take a kinder view of his presidency than does contemporary public opinion.

Original here

It’s Dangerous for Children To Know Atheism Exists, Says Illinois State Legislator

Outspoken atheist Rob Sherman, who (with his daughter) filed a lawsuit that eventually put a stop to the Mandatory Moment of Silence, was back in the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday.

He was there arguing Governor Rod Blagojevich’s $1,000,000 grant to the Pilgrim Baptist Church — which was given to them via the more secular Loop Lab School. (Shadiness all around.)

Anyway, he got into an exchange with Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago).

You won’t believe what she said (emphasis is mine):

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy — it’s tragic — when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.

I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous–

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court—

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

According to Davis, atheism is destroying the state.

Corrupt or misguided politicians have nothing to do with it, of course…

As Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune puts it, “consider what the outcry would have been if a lawmaker had launched a similar attack on the beliefs of a religious person.”

If that happened, you might have actually heard about this story by now. It would be playing on news stations everywhere. But since the attack is on atheists, this is likely the first time you’ve read anything about it.

Not enough for you? Listen to the audio of the exchange (MP3).

Infuriating, isn’t it?

(via Change of Subject)

Original here

81 percent of Americans think country on "wrong track"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four out of five Americans believe things are "on the wrong track" in the United States, the gloomiest outlook in about 20 years, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Thursday.

The poll found that 81 percent of respondents felt "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." That was up from 69 percent last year and 35 percent in early 2003.

Only 4 percent of survey respondents said the country was better off than it was five years ago, while 78 percent said it was worse, the newspaper said.

The Times said Americans were more unhappy with the country's direction than at any time since the survey started in the early 1990s.

The economy has emerged as the biggest issue in this year's U.S. presidential campaign. The country is struggling with a mortgage crisis and many economists forecast a recession this year.

Most of those surveyed said they were keeping their heads above water financially, but Americans were concerned about the country's financial footing.

According to The Times, only 21 percent of respondents said the overall economy was in good condition, the lowest number since late 1992, when the recession that began in the summer of 1990 had already been over for more than a year. In the poll, nearly two out of three people said they believed the economy was in recession.

When questioned about the mortgage crisis, Americans blamed government officials more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers for the turmoil, the newspaper said. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers, according to the poll.

Those surveyed said individuals, not financial institutions, should get government help. The paper said a clear majority told pollsters they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the severity of a recession.

The Federal Reserve last month engineered a rescue of investment bank Bear Stearns. Top U.S. regulators have said the collapse of Bear Stearns could have shattered confidence in financial markets and caused lasting economic damage.

The national poll, conducted March 28 through Wednesday, surveyed 1,368 adults. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

Original here


Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn "met with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. on Monday to discuss a bilateral free-trade agreement, a pact the presidential candidate opposes. Attendance by the adviser, Mark Penn, was confirmed by two Colombian officials. He wasn't there in his campaign role, but in his separate job as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, an international communications and lobbying firm. The firm has a contract with the South American nation to promote congressional approval of the trade deal, among other things, according to filings with the Justice Department."

“Penn declined to comment. Howard Wolfson, communications director for Sen. Clinton's campaign, said in an email that 'Mark was not there on behalf of the campaign' and referred further questions to Burson-Marsteller. 'Sen. Clinton's opposition to the trade deal with Colombia is clear,' Mr. Wolfson added."

Appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, NBC’s John Boxley reports, Clinton managed to joke about her Bosnia misspeak, saying: “It is so great to be here you know, I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it… Why? Yeah, I was pinned down by sniper fire.” The show also had a funny opening skit with Jay Leno calling Hillary at the White House at 3:00 am to ask her to come on show. Looking into the camera, Hillary replied, “I need caller ID.” Following her Tonight Show gig, Clinton also taped an appearance on Ellen. The show will air Monday.

Original here

Top Democrats demand Attorney General explain remarks about pre-9/11 phone call

(Update - Department of Justice responds to Mukasey controversy over 9/11 comments)

A letter has been sent by leaders of the House Judiciary Committee to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, demanding that he explain a recent public statement that federal authorities failed to intercept a call from suspected terrorists in Afghanistan prior to the 9/11 attacks, when doing so could have prevented the attacks from taking place.

Mukasey blamed that failure on a lack of the sort of warrantless wiretapping authority that the administration has now called on Congress to provide. However, there has never been any previous mention of such a call, and the Judiciary Committee letter -- signed by Chairman John Conyers and two subcommittee chairs -- points out that the law that existed at the time would have allowed the call to be intercepted immediately, with permission granted retroactively by the FISA court.

That letter has been noted by blogs, such as Talking Points Memo, but does not appear to have gained any attention from the mainstream media.

Blogger Glenn Greenwald, who has covered the Mukasey incident extensively, originally believed that "he just made this up out of whole cloth in order to mislead Americans into supporting the administration's efforts to eliminate spying safeguards and basic constitutional liberties and to stifle the pending surveillance lawsuits against telecoms."

However, Greenwald has now received an email from the Department of Justice's Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs, citing both a reference by a 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry to an untraced call between one of the 9/11 hijackers and "a known overseas terrorist facility" and a Feb. 22, 2008 letter from Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell blaming the failure to intercept that call on FISA restrictions.

With that clue, Greenwald found a mention in the Congressional report of a call from one of the 9/11 hijackers which could have easily been intercepted, except that "consistent with its focus on communications abroad, NSA adopted a policy that avoided intercepting the communications between individuals in the United States and foreign countries ... even though the collection of such communications is within its mission andit would have been possible for NSA to obtain FISA Court authorization for such collection."

The report added that NSA believed the FBI should be responsible for monitoring domestic calls but had not actually developed a plan for it to do so.

"The administration has no interest in improving its intelligence-gathering capabilities, its counter-terrorism strategies, or its ability to identify valuable information," Greenwald concludes. "Its only interest is to obtain greater and greater domestic spying powers with fewer and fewer oversights -- based on the premise that as long as they know Everything, we'll all be safe."

The Judiciary Committee letter also includes a reiteration of an earlier demand that the text of the so-called Yoo Memorandum -- a secret 2001 Office of Legal Counsel opinion suggesting that Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures do not apply in cases of terrorism -- be provided to Congress.

The letter, signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Subcommitee Chairmen Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Robert C. Scott (D-VA), appears below.

April 3, 2008

The Honorable Michael Mukasey

Attorney General of the United States

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We are writing about two disturbing recent revelations concerning the actions and inactions by the Department of Justice and the federal government to combat terrorism. These include a public statement by you that appears to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of the federal government's existing surveillance authority to combat terrorism, as well as possible malfeasance by the government prior to 9/11, and the partial disclosure of the contents of a secret Department memorandum concerning Executive Branch authority to combat terrorism, which has been previously requested to be provided to Congress. We ask that you promptly provide that memorandum and that you clarify your public statement in accordance with the questions below.

First, according to press reports, in response to questions at a March 27 speech, you defended Administration wiretapping programs and proposals to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by referring to a pre-9/11 incident. Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, you stated, "we knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn't know precisely where it went. You've got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn't come home, to show for that."1

This statement is very disturbing for several reasons. Initially, despite extensive inquiries after 9/11, I am aware of no previous reference, in the 9/11 Commission report or elsewhere, to a call from a known terrorist safe house in Afghanistan to the United States which, if it had been intercepted, could have helped prevent the 9/11 attacks. In addition, if the Administration had known of such communications from suspected terrorists, they could and should have been intercepted based on existing FISA law. For example, even assuming that a FISA warrant was required to intercept such calls, as of 9/11 FISA specifically authorized such surveillance on an emergency basis without a warrant for a 48 hour period.2 If such calls were known about and not intercepted, serious additional concerns would be raised about the government's failure to take appropriate action before 9/11.

Accordingly, we ask that you promptly answer the following questions:

  1. Were you referring to an actual pre-9/11 incident in the portion of your statement quoted above? If not, what were you referring to?

  2. Do you believe that a FISA warrant would have been required to intercept a telephone call from a known terrorist safe house in Afghanistan to the United States in 2001? If so, please explain.

  3. Even assuming that such a warrant would have been required, do you agree that even before 9/11, FISA authorized emergency interception without a warrant for a 48-hour period of phone calls from a known terrorist safe house in Afghanistan to the United States?

  4. Assuming that you were referring to an actual pre-9/11 incident in your statement, please explain why such phone calls were not intercepted and appropriately utilized by federal government authorities in seeking to prevent terrorist attacks.

Second, in the March, 2003 Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memorandum publicly released on April 1, 2008, the contents of a secret October, 2001 OLC memorandum were partially disclosed. Specifically, the 2003 memorandum explains that in an October 23, 2001 memorandum, OLC "concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations."3 On two prior occasions in letters of February 12 and February 20, 2008, Chairman Conyers requested that the Administration publicly release the October 23, 2001, memorandum.4 The memorandum has not been received despite these specific requests.

Based on the title of the October 23, 2001 memorandum, and based on what has been disclosed and the contents of similar memoranda issued at roughly the same time, it is clear that a substantial portion of this memorandum provides a legal analysis and conclusions as to the nature and scope of the Presidential Commander in Chief power to accomplish specific acts within the United States. The people of the United States are entitled to know the Justice Department's interpretation of the President's constitutional powers to wage war in the United States. There can be no actual basis in national security for keeping secret the remainder of a legal memorandum that addresses this issue of Constitutional interpretation. The notion that the President can claim to operate under "secret" powers known only to the President and a select few subordinates is antithetical to the core principles of this democracy. We ask that you promptly release the October 23, 2001, memorandum.

Please provide your responses and direct any questions to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel:202-225-3951; fax: 202-225-7680). Thank you for your cooperation.


John Conyers, Jr.

Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary

Jerrold Nadler

Chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Robert C. "Bobby" Scott

Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security

cc: Hon. Lamar S. Smith

Hon. Trent Franks

Hon. Louie Gohmert

Hon. Brian Benczkowski

Original here

Another KBR Rape Case

Editor's Note: Lisa Smith is a pseudonym used on request. Additional reporting by Te-Ping Chen. Research support provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.


It was an early January morning in 2008 when 42-year-old Lisa Smith*, a paramedic for a defense contractor in southern Iraq, woke up to find her entire room shaking. The shipping container that served as her living quarters was reverberating from nearby rocket attacks, and she was jolted awake to discover an awful reality. "Right then my whole life was turned upside down," she says.

What follows is the story she told me on Monday in a lengthy, painful on-the-record interview, conducted in a lawyer's office in Houston, Texas, while she was back from Iraq on a brief leave this week.

That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, she found a US soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: his gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand--but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth.

Over the next few weeks Smith would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp's military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says. And she would follow these instructions. "Because then, all of a sudden, if you've done exactly what you've been instructed not to do--tell somebody--then you're in danger," Smith says.

As a brand-new arrival at Camp Harper, she had not yet forged many connections and was working in a red zone under regular rocket fire alongside the very men who had participated in the attack. (At one point, as the sole medical provider, she was even forced to treat one of her alleged assailants for a minor injury.) She waited two and a half weeks, until she returned to a much larger facility, to report the incident. "It's very easy for bad things to happen down there and not have it be even slightly suspicious."

Over the next month and a half, she says, she faced a series of hurdles. She would be discouraged from reporting the incident by several KBR employees, she says. She would be confused by the lack of any written medical protocol for sexual assault (as the only medical person on site, she treated herself with doxycycline). She would wander through a tangled maze of interviews with KBR and Army investigators about the incident without any clear explanation of her rights. She would be asked to sign several documents agreeing not to publicly discuss the incident, she says. She describes having her computer--which she saw as her lifeline, her main access to the outside world--confiscated by KBR staff as "evidence" within hours of receiving her first e-mail from a stateside lawyer she had reached out to for help.

And eventually she would find herself temporarily assigned to sleeping quarters between two Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officials, who, she says, assured her that it was for her own safety, since her alleged assailants were at the same camp for questioning; they roamed freely. When she wanted to move about the camp to get meals etc., she was escorted.

Smith felt very alone. But she was not.

In fact, a growing number of women employees working for US defense contractors in the Middle East are coming forward with complaints of violence directed at them. As the Iraq War drags on, and as stories of US security contractors who seem to operate with impunity continue to emerge (like Blackwater and its deadly attack against Iraqi civilians on September 16, 2007), a rash of new sexual assault and sexual harassment complaints are being lodged against overseas contractors--by their own employees. Todd Kelly, a lawyer in Houston, says his firm alone has fifteen clients with sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation complaints (for reporting assault and/or harassment) against Halliburton and its former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC (KBR), as well as Cayman Island-based Service Employees International Inc., a KBR shell company. (While Smith is technically an SEII employee, she is supervised by KBR staff as a KBR employee.)

Jamie Leigh Jones, whose story made the news in December--when she alleged that her 2005 gang rape by Halliburton/KBR co-workers in Iraq was being covered up by the company and the US government--also initially believed hers was an isolated incident. But today, Jones reports that she has formed a nonprofit to support the many other women with similar stories. Currently, she has forty US contractor employees in her database who have contacted her alleging a variety of sexual assault or sexual harassment incidents--and claim that Halliburton, KBR and SEII have either failed to help them or outright obstructed them.

Most of these complaints never see the light of day, thanks to the fine print in employee contracts that compels employees into binding arbitration instead of allowing their complaints to be tried in a public courtroom. Criminal prosecutions are practically nonexistent, as the US Justice Department has turned a blind eye to these cases.

Jones's case was the subject of a House Judiciary hearing in December. Right now, Jones's lawyers are awaiting a decision on whether she will get her day in court or be forced to submit to binding arbitration, which KBR is insisting on. Likewise, the company is pressuring Lisa Smith into pursuing her claims against the company through its Dispute Resolution Program based on the contract she signed before she went to Iraq. Critics argue that the company's arbitration system allows it to minimize bad publicity and lets assailants off the hook.

Smith, who retained a lawyer only two weeks ago, is weighing her options.

KBR attorney Celia Ballí, responding to a letter from Smith's lawyer, wrote in a letter dated March 17, "The Company takes Ms. Smith's allegations very seriously and has and will continue to cooperate with the proper law enforcement authorities in the investigation of her allegations to the extent possible." Ballí noted that the matter has been turned over to the CID and said that Smith has been "afforded with counseling and referral services through the Company's Employee Assistance Program." Ballí wrote in the letter that there are "inaccuracies" in the description Smith has put forward regarding her treatment after the alleged sexual assault. "Therefore, the Company requests that you fully investigate all the facts alleged by Ms. [Smith] as the Company intends to pursue all available remedies should false statements be publicized."

Such "investigation" may prove difficult for her attorney. In the next sentence, the company says it is "not in a position to release any personnel or investigative records regarding Ms. [Smith's] allegations at this time." In response to a request for comment on this story, a company spokesperson wrote in an e-mail that Smith's "allegations are currently under investigation by the appropriate law enforcement authorities. Therefore, KBR cannot comment on the specifics of the allegations or investigation." The spokesperson added, "Any allegation of sexual harassment or assault is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly." It remains unclear, however, what law enforcement investigation is examining the KBR employee's role in the alleged assault, since Army CID is charged with investigating only cases that involve US military personnel.

For her part, Smith can't quite call herself a victim yet. In the course of several conversations over several days, she never once says the word "victim" out loud. Let alone "rape." Let alone "gang rape."

She simply describes what happened, moving through the course of events as if this had happened to someone else, as if the recitation of details were an act of contrition she was compelled to perform.

Like many rape survivors, she feels guilty. In this case, Smith confesses that she broke company policy the evening of the incident by having a drink (alcohol is expressly forbidden). She had landed at Camp Harper only a week earlier, when she returned from a stateside R&R with her family. Since arriving in Iraq six months earlier, she had been at a larger facility, Camp Cedar. But her new posting at Camp Harper put her in a smaller outpost of sixty people: part US military, part KBR employees, part SEII workers. When some KBR colleagues invited her to join them for a drink after work, she did.

Smith says she had only one drink--and she asked someone to hold it after a few sips while she went outside for a smoke. Smith's attorney, Daniel Ross, speculates that someone slipped the date-rape drug Rohypnol in her drink.

Smith's memory of the evening is fuzzy, and the only thing she remembers clearly about the events surrounding her assault is the aforementioned moment of oral and anal penetration. She also remembers screaming.

The morning after the incident, Smith says, she was called into the office of her supervisor, who was Camp Harper's KBR manager; he appeared to know--at least in part--what had happened. She would later learn from an Army investigator that her supervisor had been in the room where the drinking and alleged rape had taken place at least twice that evening. Smith, who appears to have blacked out, has no direct knowledge of his participation--or indeed of who else among the crowd initially gathered in the room may have been involved. "He was one of the people involved in saying, 'Don't say anything,'" Smith says of her conversation with the KBR camp manager the morning following the incident. "Then he said, 'This will never happen again.'"

Smith offered to pack up and go home. But he sent her back to work. First, though, he responded to Smith's plea to get the soldier she still had not been able to rouse out of her bed by contacting the military's Special Forces liaison at Camp Harper. The liaison, whom Smith knew only by his nickname, DJ, was direct. "He told me not to speak of this to anyone and that he would take care of it," Smith says.

Smith sat tight for a few days but then contacted a friend at Camp Cedar, where her permanent assignment was, and asked if the Employee Assistance person for KBR was back from her R&R yet. She was not. Smith was worried about even discussing the incident, since she knew that none of her conversations were confidential. "Camp Harper has only three phones," she says. "One is in the camp manager's office. One is in the Operations Office. And one is in a hallway." She wavered. A few days later, when she knew that the Employee Assistance person for KBR would be back, Smith called her on the phone. The Employee Assistance woman was a friend of hers and, without getting too specific about the details of the incident, Smith sought her advice. "We had worked other situations together in the past, and I talked to her and she was like, 'I don't know if I'd report that. You know what happens when you report things.' And I did. I'd seen it."

Despite Smith's silence, rumors were circulating at the camp. Two and a half weeks after the incident, she was questioned by someone from the KBR Employee Relations office, who appeared to be investigating a series of improprieties at the camp, Smith says. Fearful, she denied knowledge of any wrongdoing at the camp.

When Smith returned to her original posting at Camp Cedar, a larger facility with a human resources person and more friends she could approach for advice, she recontacted the man from Employee Relations who had been investigating "improprieties" and told him her story.

This set the wheels in motion for a series of interviews, most of which concluded with Smith being asked to sign a nondisclosure statement by representatives of the company, she says.

Eventually, shortly before she was slated to return to the United States for R&R, one of the investigators for KBR suggested that Smith get tested for STDs, hepatitis, HIV, etc. and took her to the nearby military Combat Support Hospital. "The doctor took me into her office, and we talked a long time before she did an exam," Smith says. "We talked about the assault and the details and she was actually very, very kind and encouraged me to report it to the military. She tried convincing me that it wasn't my fault [for having a drink]. She was just a really kind lady--and that was the first time I had given any of the whole details of all that had happened."

In fact, military protocol compelled the doctor to report the incident; Smith was immediately contacted by the Army Criminal Investigation Division and questioned. The CID had not responded to requests for comment by the time this article went to press.

A few days later, shortly after contacting an attorney in the United States to advise her on her rights, the attorney sent her a draft letter he was sending to KBR on her behalf, notifying the company that he was representing her and briefly summarizing her accusations. KBR came to her office within hours, she alleges, and confiscated her computer as "evidence," effectively limiting her access to the outside world.

Many victims of sexual assault find themselves without meaningful recourse when they work for US defense contractors that are powerful companies on foreign soil. "It's one big battle over where to fight the battle," said Smith's attorney Ross, who is considering if and how and against whom to file charges on behalf of his client.

Take Jamie Leigh Jones's case, for example.

Since Jones alleged she was gang raped in 2005, while KBR was still a Halliburton subsidiary, her case is covered by an extralegal Halliburton dispute-resolution program implemented under then-CEO Dick Cheney in 1997. The program has all the hallmarks of the Cheney White House's penchant for secrecy. While Halliburton declared the program's aim was to reduce costly and lengthy litigation (and limit possible damage awards in the process), in practice it meant that employees like Jones signed away their constitutional right to a jury trial--and agreed to have any disputes heard in a private arbitration hearing without hope of appeal. (While two lower courts declared the tactic illegal, in 2001, the Texas Supreme Court overturned those rulings.)

Accordingly, Jones faces two major roadblocks in the fight for justice. The first is the battle to have the perpetrators prosecuted in criminal court--which, because of Order 17, may be nearly impossible. According to the order, imposed by Paul Bremer, US defense contractors in Iraq cannot be prosecuted in the Iraqi criminal justice system. While they can technically be tried in US federal court, the Justice Department has shown no interest in prosecuting her case. In fact, for more than two years now, the DOJ has brought no criminal charges in the matter. Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican who has taken up Jones's cause, reports that federal agencies refuse to discuss the status of the investigation; meanwhile, in December, the DOJ refused to send a representative to the related Congressional hearing on the matter.

Even more appalling, the Justice Department, which can and should prosecute most of these cases, has declined to do so. "There is no rational explanation for this," says Scott Horton, a lecturer at Columbia Law School who specializes in the law of armed conflict. Prosecutorial jurisdiction for crimes like the alleged rape of Jones is easily established under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the Patriot Act's special maritime and territorial jurisdiction provisions. But somebody has to want to prosecute the cases.

Horton wonders what the 200 Justice Department employees and contractors stationed in Iraq do all day, noting that there has not been a single completed criminal conviction against a US contractor implicated in a violent crime anywhere in Iraq since the invasion.

"We have a complete process in place for solving military criminal violations when soldiers commit crimes, but for the 180,000 employees of private contractors over there, there is nothing," says Horton. "It's like Texas west of the Pecos in 1890 over there!" It's just common sense that you're going to have some violent crimes when you throw this many people together, he says. "Think about it. You have 180,000 people over there, you're going to have a few crimes. I don't know how anybody could fairly view this as a partisan issue. Crimes happen when you bring people together anywhere, and in a war setting, without adult supervision, crimes are going to increase. That is just a fact. And if you eliminate law enforcement, the crimes are going to get worse because people will quickly learn they can get away with it."

Things don't look a whole lot rosier when it comes to seeking relief in the civil courts.

For example, KBR is fighting tooth and nail to make sure Jones's case stays in private arbitration, as per her contract. And given that in February, a federal district court ruled that Tracy Barker--another KBR employee who says she was sexually assaulted--couldn't present her case in open court, prospects for the civil suit Jones brought last May look dim.

And that's particularly troubling, according to Jones's attorney Todd Kelly, because the clandestine nature of arbitration allows corporate malfeasance to go unchecked. Trials serve a purpose above and beyond pronouncing verdicts. "It's like the Enron trial here in Houston," he says. "Where every day in the Houston Chronicle there was a story exposing what egregious things go unchecked in the corporate culture. The United States got to peek into the corporate underwear drawer and saw it was not as pretty as it looked from the outside." Kelly argues that Halliburton and KBR ought to be similarly exposed to public scrutiny via jury trials. These civil remedies arranged in a secretive manner have repercussions beyond the dollar figures. "It allows for future rapes to occur," he says, arguing that these defense contractors have been able to quietly settle and compel victims to remain silent: the public remains oblivious to the crimes, no one is punished and a hostile and violent workplace continues unchecked.

In the future, the sole recourse for victims like Jones may be through Congress. Last October the House overwhelmingly passed legislation that requires the FBI to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and permits all US contractors to be tried under American jurisdiction. The Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.

For her part, Jones intends to persevere. "Part of the reason I'm going forward with this case is to change the system," she says. "Who knows how many of us rape victims are out there?"

Smith, who is now back in the United States on two weeks R&R, is uncertain what the future holds for her. "I don't think I've been able to make any decisions or plans or goals yet," she says. First of all, there is the fact that she arrived home from Iraq to learn that her husband had been rushed to the hospital earlier that day after a partial stroke. She needs her job with SEII because she is the one who gets health insurance--vital not only for the two teenage daughters still living at home but for her husband, with his health problems. She worries, "Human Resources made me sign statements saying that I'm supposed to be back in Dubai on April 7 at 10 p.m., and if I'm not there I will not be reimbursed my $1,600 airfare or for my two weeks' vacation."

And indeed, the March 17 letter her attorney received from KBR attorney Celia Ballí says that Smith can be placed on medical leave "pending resolution of the investigations related to this matter" but warns, "However, per Company policy, [her] leave will be unpaid." She is welcome to apply for workers' comp, the lawyer states.

Can she return to her old job as a paramedic in Lena, Illinois?

"Yes, my license is in good standing, and I've never had a problem," she says. "But it means a difference of about $6,000 a month in salary and no health insurance. My biggest reason for working for KBR in the first place was so I could get insurance for my husband and girls..." Smith's sentence trails off. She begins a new one. Stops midway. She tries again to organize her thoughts. "I've been trying to figure out how I'm going to go back to work. How am I going to make myself do this?" she says, manifesting the confused indecisiveness and sense of a "foreshortened future" that are hallmarks of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Has she seen a rape crisis counselor?

Not yet, Smith says. "Someone from KBR Employee Assistance gave me a flier to call someone in Houston," she says, but it turned out to be for general financial or emotional problems during deployment. They referred her to a website. "I'm 9,000 miles away in Iraq and the website says, 'Please put in your zip code and we'll refer you to a rape crisis counselor in your zip code area.'"

Smith, who says she cannot sleep, appears exhausted. She tells her story without affect, little inflection and tamped emotion. She only tears up twice, most visibly when speaking about one of her sons, a 22-year-old US soldier who served in the Middle East recently. While she was in the process of debating whether--and how--to go about reporting her assault, she contacted him to see what his feelings were on the matter. "I didn't want him upset with his mom," she says, explaining that she was very loyal to the mission in Iraq and that he was similarly loyal to his service. "I was assaulted by somebody who was wearing the same uniform as him, and I just didn't want him to think bad of me. My children are pretty much my world." Smith's eyes fill with tears, and she pauses to collect herself. "I didn't want him to be upset because I was calling out somebody who was wearing his same uniform. They're supposed to be proud of what they do. And I'm proud of my sons. And in my mind, I live that war every day. I can make all sorts of excuses under the sun for bad behavior."

Her son advised her to make the formal complaint.

"He was like, 'Of course you're going to talk to CID, Mom. Of course you are.'" Smith smiles. "He doesn't think people should be allowed to wear his uniform and act like that. He's been in the war too and says it's no excuse. They're better trained than that. That's what my son thought. And he's not angry at his mom."

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