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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Monty Python comic John Cleese backs Barack Obama

It's no joke ... Monty Python legend John Cleese is to offer his services as a speechwriter to Barack Obama if he wins the Democratic nomination to become US president.

MONTY Python legend John Cleese is to offer his services as a speechwriter to Barack Obama if he wins the Democratic nomination to become US president, he told a British newspaper today.

The British comedian, who lives in California, told the Western Daily Press regional paper that his jokes could help the Illinois senator get into the White House.

"I am due to come to Europe in November but I may be tied up until then because if Barack Obama gets the nomination I'm going to offer my services to him as a speechwriter because I think he is a brilliant man," the 68-year-old said.

"I live in California now and only come back to England in May or June when my personal assistant tells me it is safe to do so," he added.

"I moved here for health reasons because I get terrible chest infections during the English winter, sometimes two a winter, and I have suffered from diverticulitis."

Cleese shot to international fame in the 1970s as a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

In 1987, Cleese recorded a party political broadcast for the SDP-Liberal Alliance, the centre-left third-biggest party in British politics, now known as the Liberal Democrats.

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John McCain Repeats Al-Qaida Shiite Confusion

John McCain again confused Shiites and Sunnis during today's Senate Armed Services hearing, undermining suggestions that the conflation is simply a "McCain moment."

In the past month, the veneer of Sen. John McCain's foreign policy expertise has been muddied by his repeated confusion of Sunnis and Shiites. During his Middle East tour, McCain repeatedly claimed that al-Qaida, a Sunni terrorist organization, was receiving funding and training from Shia Iran. Only later, after Sen. Joe Lieberman whispered a correction in his ear, did McCain acknowledge his error. Nevertheless, MCain has since repeated the mistake.

Lieberman's lesson has not quite sunk in, it seems. While questioning Gen. David Petraeus about the presence of foreign fighters, McCain referred to al-Qaida in Iraq as a Shia organization. Realizing his error, he quickly added a reference to Sunnis:

JOHN MCCAIN: "There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view al-Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?"


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: "It is a major threat. Though it is certainly as not as major a threat as it was say, 15 months ago."

MCCAIN: "Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shias overall?

PETRAEUS: "No, sir."

MCCAIN: "Or Sunnis or anybody else then?

Read HuffPost's full coverage of the Petraeus hearing.

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Obama scores 2 more Montana superdelegates

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Two more Montana superdelegates are backing Barack Obama following weekend visits by the Illinois senator and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama now has commitments from 4 of Montana's eight superdelegates - party insiders allowed to vote for whichever candidate they prefer at the Democratic National Convention in August.

In a tight race, both candidates have been wooing the superdelegates who may end up deciding the nomination.

Margaret Campbell, a state lawmaker from Poplar who is vice-chair of the Montana Democratic Party, says she will use her key vote for Obama. In addition, Jeanne Lemire Dahlman - a national committeewoman - says she is backing Obama. However, Dahlman said she may reconsider if Montana voters pick Clinton in the state's June 3 primary.

The four undecided superdelegates have said they will wait until after the primary to make a decision.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Senator Straight Talk Won't Go on the Record with Project Vote Smart


Washington Dispatch: With no response from John McCain on its survey of issue positions after nine months, the voter-education nonprofit is poised to boot the Arizona senator off its board. By Jonathan Stein







For an advocate of straight talk and government transparency, John McCain has been less than clear with a voter-education nonprofit, on whose board he serves, about why he hasn't responded to its survey of issue positions. Now, after nine months, 17 phone calls, and 8 emails asking McCain to state exactly where he stands on key issues, Montana-based Project Vote Smart is poised to kick McCain off its board later this week.

McCain has served on PVS's board since the late 1990s, when he replaced a different Arizona Republican, Senator Barry Goldwater, after Goldwater's death. Richard Kimball, the group's president and, incidentally, the Democrat who ran against McCain during his first race for Senate, says the Arizona senator has filled out the survey, called the Political Courage Test, in every campaign since its inception in 1992. (Kimball counts McCain as a friend, and has tried to reach the Arizona senator personally three times.)

According to call records provided by PVS, the organization first contacted McCain's presidential campaign regarding the test late last June. After the senator failed to return the survey, PVS staffers were told that due to tumult within the campaign—money was running low and staff turnover was high—the test had gotten lost in the shuffle.

Since then, however, 16 more phone calls have been made to the campaign, the most recent in late February, and eight emails have been sent. Currently, this message appears when you look for McCain's response to the Political Courage Test on the PVS website:

Senator John Sidney McCain III repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball, and Project Vote Smart staff.

The Political Courage Test tries to pin down candidates to hard and fast answers about critical issues. Among other things, it asks them to state whether they aim to support funding increases or cuts, and to what degree, on a variety of spending issues, from defense to the arts to highway infrastructure. It is sent to state and federal candidates every time they run for office. The point of the exercise is to push candidates to be as detailed in their answers as possible—a prospect that may be unnerving to many politicians who like to preserve wiggle room for future political maneuvering.

According to Kimball, PVS has a rule that prohibits any nonrespondents from serving on its board. And, after more than seven months with no response from McCain, the organization's executive committee voted in February to remove the senator from the board on April 9 unless he submits his answers to the survey or a fellow board member objects to his removal by that date. "Assuming that John McCain doesn't change his mind or there's not some objection from board members, which hasn't happened, effectively on April 9 he will not be a member of our board," says Kimball.

Kimball has known McCain since he ran against him in 1986. "It wasn't a very pleasant race for either us," he says. "But we became friends after that. He was always a big supporter of the Project. It's personally very disappointing to me. I was surprised that he didn't do it."

Board members have been removed for this reason before. Former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) served on PVS's board until 2000, when he ran for president and refused to fill out the survey. Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has also been removed for not responding.

Among the remaining presidential candidates, McCain is not alone in snubbing the Political Courage Test. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have done the same. Kimball says that ignoring the survey is a worsening trend. "Every year we have measured that candidates are less and less likely to provide information out of their pollster-approved safety boxes," he says. "Since we started keeping close track of [the response rate] in 1996, it started with 72 percent of the candidates for Congress taking it and most of the candidates for president taking it. Every year it has gone down a few percentage points, with a slight aberration in 2002. Currently, it's down to 48 percent."

The McCain campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Jonathan Stein is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington, D.C, bureau.

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Mark Penn Speaks (In Private): Will Still Advise Clintons, Calms Nervous Aides

About Sam Stein

Sam Stein is a Political Reporter at the Huffington Post, based in Washington, D.C. Previously he has worked for Newsweek magazine, the New York Daily News and the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. He has a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. Sam can be reached at stein@huffingtonpost.com.


Mark Penn, who resigned over the weekend as the Clinton campaign's chief strategist, went into full damage control mode on Monday, hosting a conference call with Burson Marsteller's managing directors to persuade them that the fallout from his resignation was both overblown and would soon pass.

Peppered with questions from colleagues -- one mentioned her "pretty panicked client," another asked bluntly, "Ultimately did you think that it was the best thing for the company [to work for Clinton's campaign]?" -- Penn insisted that "the situation has played itself out."

But he confirmed that while his title with the campaign had changed -- and his work load would undoubtedly decrease -- he still would play a direct advisory role for Clinton.

"I think you've heard that I made the decision to step down as chief strategist of the Clinton campaign. Penn Schoen and Berland is going to continue to poll for it and I'll continue to play a role advising Senator Clinton and former President Clinton as well as the rest of the leadership of the campaign," he said.

Later, he added: "The title, the position of chief strategist tended to be one that drew a tremendous amount of attention. And, number two, yes, I will have more time. We will continue - Penn and Schoen will continue to do the polling and I will be advising, but the net of it will still be that I will have more time than I otherwise would have had so that definitely is going to be the case."

The Huffington Post was able to listen to the roughly 25 minute call, in which Penn defended his decision to meet with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. to discuss a free trade agreement that Sen. Clinton opposes. Told that junior staff members were wondering why he would risk the appearance of a conflict of interest, the Burson CEO responded by saying the meeting was merely a "courtesy call," and indicated that he had held similar meetings before.

"It's an interesting question," he said. "As I said, it was someone I worked for -- remember, we had the contract for a year before it was even about the free trade agreement, and periodically, maybe, I would have a check-in breakfast every six months. So it did not catch - it's interesting, because somebody working on the account was well versed in politics and it just didn't occur to anybody. I would have to say that it just didn't get flagged."

Suggesting that he had been the victim of a double standard, Penn cited Charlie Black's presence on Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. Black had served as chair of BKSH & Associates, a lobbying firm associated with Burson-Marsteller, up until leaving the post in March 2008.

"It is interesting Charlie Black was the chief strategist for McCain and he left only after McCain got the nomination. So I have to look back and see whether or not - in the end, hindsight is foresight, but I think it's a question," said Penn. "If you look at the McCain-Charlie Black experience versus mine - obviously, the press just gave considerable more attention to what goes on overt at the Clinton campaign."

On Sunday evening, the Clinton campaign announced that Penn would be stepping down from his role as the campaign's chief strategist following the fallout from his meeting with the Colombia ambassador. Since then, however, there had been debate over exactly what involvement the pollster would have with the campaign. On Monday, Marc Ambinder reported that Penn would "remain a key member of the campaign's senior staff."

Later in the day, Ben Smith quoted an anonymous Clinton aide saying: "Its a change. He went from being in charge to being one of the important voices."

On the conference call, Penn addressed this issue early on, not deviating much from the campaign's talking points.

"While I will continue to advise the Clintons on the campaign, I obviously will have in this other role more time for what I do best, working here," said Penn

The call was meant to address "particularly, I think, what the message should be in our conversations with our clients, our prospects, [and] our staff." Saying he had three call this morning from prospective clients now eager to sign up with the firm, Penn pledged that the controversial meeting would "cycle through the news as these things do."

"There will probably be another day," he said, "but there really is only a one two three to the story but not really much more."

Original here


In Superdelegate Count, Tough Math for Clinton

The hill that Hillary Rodham Clinton must climb to beat Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination will grow a little steeper on Monday, as it has most days lately.

Margarett Campbell, a Montana state legislator, plans to declare her support for Senator Obama, of Illinois. She becomes the 69th superdelegate he has picked up since the Feb. 5 coast-to-coast string of primary elections and caucus votes. (Note: After this column was published, Ms. Campbell said she would be remaining neutral, citing state party rules that prevent its members from endorsing a candidate during a contested primary.)

In the same period, Senator Clinton, of New York, has seen a net loss of two superdelegates, according to figures from the Obama campaign that Clinton aides do not dispute. That erosion may dim Mrs. Clinton’s remaining hopes even more than internal campaign turmoil, which led to the ouster on Sunday of the campaign’s chief strategist, Mark Penn.

Trailing by more than 160 pledged delegates — those chosen in state primaries or caucuses — Mrs. Clinton has counted on superdelegates to help her overtake Mr. Obama with a late surge before the party’s convention in August. The party’s rules for proportional allocation make it highly difficult for her to erase Mr. Obama’s pledged delegate lead, even if she sweeps the final 10 contests.

So her aides have lobbied to persuade those still uncommitted superdelegates to back her — or to continue holding out so her campaign has the chance to demonstrate momentum and superior electability in primaries from Pennsylvania’s on April 22 through Montana’s on June 3.

Yet Mrs. Clinton’s once formidable lead among superdelegates who have announced preferences has shrunk to 34 by the Obama campaign count. The pool of remaining uncommitted superdelegates for her to draw from has dwindled to around 330, fewer than half the overall total of 795 superdelegates.

Mrs. Clinton tried again this weekend to stem the erosion, speaking to Ms. Campbell on a campaign swing through Montana. But Ms. Campbell declined to hold out any longer, saying, “Senator Obama reminds me of why I’m a Democrat.”

Even if Mrs. Clinton narrows Mr. Obama’s delegate lead to 100, and if no further superdelegates make commitments through the end of the primaries, she’d wake up June 4 needing to win over two-thirds of the still-uncommitted superdelegates.

That group now includes 120 Democratic National Committee members, 74 House members, 19 senators and 6 governors, among others. In the last two weeks, however, Mr. Obama picked up support from Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Senator John Melcher of Montana and Gov. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming.

Aides said time was actually in Mr. Obama’s favor. The longer he demonstrates he can withstand the heat of a national campaign, they say, the more willing party leaders seem to be to embrace him. “What we’re seeing now is a trickle of people making that final decision to publicly commit,” says Jeffrey Berman, Mr. Obama’s chief delegate tracker.

His counterpart for Mrs. Clinton, Harold Ickes, directs 10 staffers working full time to forestall further defections. Mr. Ickes says the campaign can preserve a large enough pool of holdouts for her to rally before the Denver convention.

“Based on what we’re seeing,” Mr. Ickes said, “most of them are waiting and watching and holding their powder.”

Mrs. Clinton’s strategists were heartened by the negative publicity that followed the inflammatory criticism of the United States by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. They saw the episode as a fresh argument for Democratic superdelegates to stay off the Obama bandwagon.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign, backed by recent opinion polls, argues that his speech rejecting those remarks while calling for dialogue on race relations has prevented fallout among superdelegates.

“Most people think he passed that test,” said Mr. Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand.

Some, in fact, said they were drawn to Mr. Obama precisely because of that speech.

Especially in some of the states that have yet to vote, the Wright affair “is a big vulnerability,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a Clinton superdelegate. And “all of this delegate stuff is artificial,” she added, alongside the reality that the party’s nominee must be able to carry big states like hers, where Mrs. Clinton won a disputed victory; Ohio, where she triumphed last month; and Pennsylvania, where she leads in polls.

Such reasoning didn’t dissuade Ms. Campbell, who also spoke to Mr. Obama over the weekend. His handling of the Wright episode showed “his strong points” at racial reconciliation, she concluded, to the benefit of her fellow Native Americans as well as other groups.

“I think he can win a general election,” Ms. Campbell said. “He gives me that belief that America can be united.”

Original here

Clinton man's Obama moment


by Frank James

Was Terry McAuliffe, chairman of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, engaging in his own sort of hedging strategy at a recent meeting of Washington State Democrats? Or was the former Democratic National Committee chair engaging in a kumbayah, all-us-Democrats-are-in-this-together moment?

McAuliffe attended the regional caucuses of the Washington State Democrats over the weekend and graciously posed with some grass-roots Democrats.

What's really interesting, as you can see from these photos, is that McAuliffe posed with supporters of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign and that a beaming McAuliffe helped them hold up their large Obama signs for the camera. McAuliffe is wearing his Clinton button but it's dwarfed by the Obama sign he's holding.

We don't want to read too much into these photos. But it's definitely striking to see the chairman of the Clinton campaign smiling broadly into the camera while holding up a campaign poster for Obama with whom Clinton is currently engaged in a fight to the death.

These are certainly not the kind of photos Clinton would want to see on the heels of the Mark Penn controversy.

Original here

Bill Clinton's Ties To Colombia Trade Deal Stronger Than Even Penn's

About Sam Stein

Sam Stein is a Political Reporter at the Huffington Post, based in Washington, D.C. Previously he has worked for Newsweek magazine, the New York Daily News and the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. He has a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. Sam can be reached at stein@huffingtonpost.com.



On Sunday evening, Sen. Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, resigned from his post after it was revealed he was working (on the side) for the passage of a Colombia Free Trade Agreement that his candidate opposed.

But within the Clinton campaign, Penn is not the highest-ranking adviser with financial ties to groups and individuals supporting the passage of the measure.

Former President Bill Clinton has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking on behalf of a Colombia-based group pushing the trade pact, and representatives of that organization tell The Huffington Post that the former president shared their sentiment.

In June 2005, Clinton was paid $800,000 by the Colombia-based Gold Service International to give four speeches throughout Latin America. The organization is, ostensibly, a development group tasked with bringing investment to the country and educating world leaders about the Colombia's business opportunities.

The group's chief operating officer, Andres Franco, said in an interview that the group supports the congressional ratification of the free trade agreement and that, when Clinton was on his speaking tour, he expressed similar opinions.

"He was supportive of the trade agreement at the time that he came, but that was several years ago. In the present context, I don't know what his position would be. It is not only about union trade rights. It is about what benefit or damage it can do to the US economy," said Franco. "Events with the Clinton campaign [concerning Mark Penn] are not good at all for the trade agreement... Right now it became a campaign issues and that is sad, because it needs to go through."

The comments were supported by a June 23, 2005 article from the news portal Terra (uncovered by Ben Smith at Politico) in which Clinton offered unambiguous support for the free trade agreement with Colombia.

They appear to be the first public indication that Clinton has, at least in the past, supported the trade deal. But evidence that the former president has been sympathetic to Colombia's position is widely known. In 2007, Clinton met personally with and accepted an award from Colombia's controversial president, Alvaro Uribe, during a time when the country was attempting to improve its image within the United States. Subsequently, Clinton urged Congress to view the country in a more favorable light.

Moreover, Clinton has helped Frank Giustra, one of the biggest donors to the Clinton Global Initiative, score meetings with high-ranking Colombian officials. Giustra has several business interests in the country, and both he and Clinton have collaborated on an effort to fight poverty in developing world by partnering up with mining companies in Colombia and elsewhere.

What significance these ties have on the current presidential campaign is debatable. The former president was also a proponent of free trade agreements like NAFTA while in the White House. However, Sen. Clinton, as her campaign has repeatedly noted, has a long-standing opposition to the Colombia deal. And her acceptance of Penn's resignation (although he will still serve as a campaign adviser) was indicative that she did not approve of his meeting with the Colombia ambassador to the U.S.

"Senator Clinton's position is clear and unequivocal: She is opposed to the deal," said campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson.

But the former president is a different type of adviser; one with even more influence than Penn, and one who cannot be pushed out of the campaign. In a hypothetical Clinton administration, his voice would likely hold large sway in policy debates. As such, it is important to note that his ties to the Colombia trade agreement have on several occasions put him at odds with his wife's stated positions.

And while his take on the trade deal certainly may have changed over the past few years, as recently as ten months ago, the former president was meeting with key players pushing for the trade deal's passage.

In June 2007, Clinton received an award from President Uribe for his efforts to reverse the country's image in the United States. But there may have been more of a public relations purpose to the event. At the time, ABC News reported that "the Colombia government [was] trying to counter its negative image among Washington Democrats and secure congressional passage of a free trade agreement."

And, indeed, at the ceremony Clinton urged Congress to reconsider its perceptions of the country.

"We need to remember that we are friends," said the former president. "We need to remember that we want to share a common future. We need to remember that for the first time in over three decades there is a law enforcement presence representing the elected government of Colombia."

Certainly, the award ceremony was not without political touchiness. Other Democratic officials had previously declined to be seen alongside Uribe. In May, former Vice President Al Gore backed out of an environmental conference to avoid appearing alongside Uribe, concerned about his countries poor humanitarian practices.

And critics of Colombia's human rights and labor policies took great exception with the former president's willingness to ally himself with Uribe.

"It's clear that President Clinton has a chummy relationship with the Colombian president," said Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch at Public Citizen, "someone whose administration is under a cloud and under investigation for associations with murderous paramilitaries, and whose administration has seen hundreds of labor unionists assassinated but not prosecuted these crimes, and whose administration has been involved in the forced displacement of thousands of Afro-Colombians. Having President Clinton be chummy with such a person, and having him be the closest adviser of Senator Clinton, is extremely disconcerting."

This was not the only time Clinton and Uribe met. According to the Wall Street Journal, the former president hosted a "philanthropic event" with the Colombian leaders in September 2005. The purpose, the paper reported, was to introduce Uribe to Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining tycoon who was interested both in mineral rights and Colombian oil, a position that lent itself to a more open-trade environment.

Months earlier, Bloomberg News reported, Giustra had lent Clinton his private jet for Clinton's four day peaking tour in Latin America - the same tour in which Clinton received $800,000 from Gold Service International. And at some point in time, Giustra - who, the New York Times reported, won a Kazakh uranium deal with Clinton's help (again putting the former president at odds with his wife's positions) - donated more than $31 million to Clinton's charitable fund.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Uribe and Giustra "sat in the hallway speaking for about ten minutes. A Clinton aide later told Giustra the meeting had gone well." And indeed, last year a Canadian company that Giustra's investment firm advised successfully acquired oil fields in Colombia.

Update: Sen. Clinton's spokesperson, Jay Carson, notes that Bill Clinton has supported the Colombia trade deal since 2000, but that his wife has been consistent in her opposition.

"Senator Clinton is the candidate for president and she is a clear and firm opponent of the Colombian free trade agreement," he said. "Like other married couples who disagree on issues from time to time, she disagrees with her husband on this issue. President Clinton has been public about his support for Columbia's request for U.S. trade preferences since 2000."

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McCain ‘Very Honored’ By Support Of Pastor Preaching ‘End-Time Confrontation With Iran’»

Yesterday, hard-line conservative Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, endorsed John McCain. Hagee said that McCain “is a man of principle, [who] does not stand boldly on both sides of any issue.” McCain, who had been courting the endorsement for over a year, said that he was “very honored by Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement.”

Demonstrating how wildly out of the American religious and political mainstream Hagee’s views are, McCain’s acceptance of Hagee’s endorsement was condemned today by conservative William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. Calling Hagee a “bigot,” Donahue said the right-wing pastor has waged “an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church” by “calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’”

Hagee holds many other radical beliefs. In a 2006 address to CUFI, Hagee declared:

The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.

Speaking to the 2007 AIPAC conference, Hagee compared supporters of a two-state solution in the Middle East to Nazis. Hagee also echoed right-wing Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu, telling the audience that “Iran is Germany and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler.”

Paging Tim Russert: Someone should ask John McCain if, unlike Hagee, he supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and whether he believes that a military strike against Iran would “fulfill God’s plan for…a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation” as Hagee does.

UPDATE: Faith in Public Life has more.

UPDATE II: Hagee’s tv show, “John Hagee Today,” is also broadcast on Cornerstone Television. In 1999, McCain wrote to the FCC on behalf of campaign contributor Lowell “Bud” Paxson, urging a deal that would have made $17.5 million for Cornerstone.

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The great Google News conspiracy?

Get your tinfoil hats ready, people - there's something strange afoot. A reader has got in touch to point out the strangeness of today's UK Google News seems weirdly devoid of any mention of the Olympic torch protests that took place yesterday.

You know, the ones that are on the front page of every newspaper, leading most of the TV and radio bulletins and prominently featured on news websites such as the BBC and the Guardian.

As our tipster points out "You could be looking at Google's news page for the UK and not have any idea it was going on (though you would know Keith Allen thinks Diana's death wasn't an accident!)."

The story actually features on the sports pages, and there is currently a mention of China in the third story on the World news page "China faces long-term risks from tough Tibet stance" from our very own site. So this might indicate an algorithmic cockup - perhaps all stories about the Olympics are deemed sports, not hard news.

At best, it's a horrible inadequacy of Goog's news ranking system. At worst? Well, let's see what Google's explanation is first.

Original here

Obama Didn't Want My Money - Updated w/link to letter

I just had the strangest experience. A presidential candidate gave me back my donation, told me he would not accept it because of what I do for a living, and it left me more committeed to the candidate and conviced that he is the person that must be the next president.

I went to the mailbox and found a letter from the Obama Campaign. Enclosed was a check for $100, the return of my contribution from earlier this month along with a letter explaining why it would not be accepted.

You see, I am a registered lobbyist for a non-profit organziation. We are a non-partisan, non-political membership organziation, we do not have a political action committee and strictly observe a policy of non-particpation in any event that even remotely appears political. I serve as their legislative rep, trying to ensure that expertise of our membership is heard by public officials on issues related to their area of expertise (public safety).

I guess given the fact that I was not a corporate/industry lobbyist, I never really considered that Obama's no-lobbyist money ban would apply to me, but it did! The letter thanked me for my interest in the campaign, but stated flately that my donation was not acceptable.

It's not often you get told that you are persona non grata and end up praising the person who exiled you. But that's what I am doing. Obama actions are living up to his words. Through the actions of his campaign he is demonstrating that his values are real and his commitment is certain.

Another aspect that is quite impressive to me is that the Obama campaign has a mechnism set up to check each donation, even one as small as mine, against the lobbyist database, and then return it.

If I ever doubted the sincerity of the Obama Campaign, this action removed any questions.

I know my donation is not going to make a difference one way or another, and I hope that I am not the type of "corrupt lobbyist" that has infested washington.

Obama, and his campaign, are committed to bringing about change. They are doing this in both large and small steps. Refusing my money is a small step, but it spoke volumes to me. It showed me Obama means what he says and backs it up with action. It shows me that no detail is to small and that his organization is top notch. It strengthened my commitment to see him elected President.

I guess I just can't use my money to do it:).

p.s.: As a side note, last year my spouse had set up automatic monthly payments to Hillary (nothing big $10/month) but after switching to Obama, had to battle with the Clinton campaign to cancel the automatic payment. I find it ironic that one campaign won't take my money, the other won't give it back!

Updated to add: I though we had finally stopped the payments to the Clinton Campaign, but after checking with my spouse, it turns out they are still taking the payments 3-4 months after we asked them to stop.

Updated: Couldn't figure out how to post the image of the letter on the site. So below is a link. If anyone can figure out how to post in the comments, pls feel free. Thanks

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