Friday, February 29, 2008

Beast of the Month - January 2008

Beast of the Month - January 2008
Trans Fats, Deadly Food Additive

"I yam an anti-Christ... "
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

A New Year is here, and with it comes New Year's Resolutions. And, as is always the case in the USA, topping the list for most Americans involves the results of having one too many servings of turducken over the holidays. And sure, maybe joining a gym (or putting some Tony Little, Tae Bo or P90X on the TV) helps, but ultimately, it's what you put in your body that has more to do with gain or loss of weight than any workout plan can ever hope.

Of course, obesity is just the most blatant side effect of the Standard American Diet (often called SAD by health critics.) Among the other wonderful health problems: heart disease, diabetes, liver problems, infertility and the big C. And while personal responsibility certainly can't be ignored in the resulting health crisis, it's a rigged game. Thanks to the processed food industry and korporate food konglomerates, the most common snacks and meals in the United States are dangerous nutrition filled with killer chemicals and additives. Among the greatest hits:

* Refined Sugars & Carbohydrates: From high fructose corn syrup to Wonder Bread, refined sugars and carbs are overloaded in American food products. It is because of the debilitating nature of America's carbo habit that the Atkins and Zone diets (which stress high protein, low carb diets) have become so popular and successful.

* Aspartame: Need that sweet sugar taste without the side effects? The most popular artificial sweetener, under the label of NutraSweet or Equal, is not the right answer. Among the documented side effects: headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and blindness, heart palpitations, brain lesions and tumors, memory loss, dizziness, seizures and insomnia. Originally, aspartame was categorized as a biochemical warfare weapon by the Pentagon in a list submitted to Congress. It is because of these health issues that sucralose and stevia have risen in popularity (though in the case of stevia, FDA stonewalling has blocked its usage as a food additive despite its extensive history in Japan.)

* Sodium Nitrate: Used in process meats such as bacon and bologna as both a preservative and for coloring, it is a cause of cancer in the colon, breast, prostate and pancreas. Suddenly, we don't wish we were an Oscar Mayer wiener.

* RBGH Milk: Cows juiced with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone have flooded the US market since Monsanto (the fine makers of noted nutrapoison NutraSweet) pushed it under the brand name Posilac. Despite the evidence linking it to cancer it is still legal to use it in the USA, though it is banned in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe. In 1997, a Florida Fox affiliate squelched a news expose on the dangers of rBGH milk and fired the journalists who did the story. Despite attempts to cover up the dangers of rBGH milk, the grocery chains Safeway, Kroger and Trader Joe's (along with, among others, tasty ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's) have rejected the usage of rBGH milk from their stores.

* Frankenfoods: rBGH is just one example of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Thanks to predictably lax regulation by the FDA, the US food market (particularly processed foods) are now loaded with GMOs, making the American public lab rats at the behest of American biotech corporations. Widespread concerns among Europeans over the dangers of GMOs has led to trade disputes over US food crop imports in the EU.

* Super Size Me!: The biggest culprit in obesity may be the "Bigger is better" trend in fast food marketing. Though the "Super Size" on fries and drinks was stopped at McDonald's after Morgan Spurlock's 2004 documentary exposed the health dangers of the Ronald McDonald diet, in a world where Carl's Jr. has a Double Six Dollar Burger, Wendy's the Baconator, Burger King the Cheese Double Whopper, McD's the Cheese Double Quarter Pounder and Hardee's it's Monster Thickburger (with an astounding 1420 calories) it certainly is hard to lose weight while visiting your favorite burger stand. And to think it all started with the now apparently modest sized Big Mac. (Thanks a lot, Mrs. Esther Rose!)

* Acrylamide: In 2002, this carcinogenic substance was discovered in fried and baked carbohydrates such as breads, cookies and chips thanks to the heating process. Six years later, there is still no labeling or regulation of it in the American food supply.

* Monosodium Glutamate: Found as a taste enhancer in foods ranging from Chinese food to Kentucky Fried Chicken, MSG is (like aspartame) an excitotoxin, which in animal studies have caused brain damage to consumers. Among the other health hazards of MSG: body numbness, chest pain, headaches, nausea and a rapid heartbeat.

* Salmonella & E. Coli: While foodborne illnesses due to bacteria are not put into food intentionally, it is the end result of lax enforcement of food laws by the USDA and industrial methods for producing mass quantities of food that decreases sanitary methods.

* Mad Cow Disease: The most lethal of food dangers, so far the US has been fortunate not to have a massive infection, but critics of the USDA and FDA believe it is only a matter of time due to shoddy enforcement of both laws involving feed and the care of bovine. In the meantime, legitimate fear of US cattle has curtailed US beef imports to Japan.

Still, with all due respect to the previous nominees, the biggest threat to US food integrity has come from trans fats, The Konformist Beast of the Month. It's dangers, and how it became such a part of the American food supply, is illustrative of how korporate profits rule American food production and how it trumps sound health policy.

Artificial trans fats were first introduced into the American diet in 1911, when Procter & Gamble (the korporate titan that includes the Mark of the Beast in its logo) began selling shortening under the brand name Crisco. This was only a decade after trans fats were first created artificially via the process of hydrogenation, where hydrogen atoms are added to non-saturated fats, extending their shelf life. (Perhaps the first sign that hydrogenated oils are not healthy to eat is the extended shelf life: it indicates that bacteria doesn't find it worthy nutrition.) Though there were indeed health dangers tied to trans fats from the start, it was minimized due to hydrogenated oils being consumed in small amounts, primarily through Crisco and margarine. It was during the two world wars, when butter was rationed to support the war efforts, that there were major spikes in trans fat consumption by the American public.

After WWII, trans fats steadily increased in consumption through the sixties, as food processors began realizing the benefits of adding trans fats to their products for increased profits. Coincidentally, as this rise in trans fat usage continued, it was backed by a campaign warning people of the supposed health dangers of consuming butter and other alternatives to hydrogenated oils. This created some strange alliances: the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has often been on the right side on health issues, pushed in the 80s for the removal of animal fats use for frying in restaurants, as well as coconut oil in popcorn at movie theaters during the 90s. (While the CSPI now is opposed to the usage of trans fats, it has never owed up to its responsibility in promoting it as part of the American diet in the first place.) CSPI may have been suckered into promotion of trans fats, but others may not have been so blind. One noted player would have to be Archer Daniels Midland, the food titan that is the major processor of soybeans, which were used to make eighty percent of all hydrogenated oils in processed foods. The promotion of trans fats literally had billions of dollars riding on the outcome.

Despite the pro-hydrogenation propaganda, most natural health advocates (such as Harvey and Marilyn Diamond in their Fit for Life book series, authors Paul and Patricia Bragg, and Julian Whitaker of the Whitaker Institute) were never fooled. They warned that artificial trans fats had no history of being consumed by humans, and thus our digestive system was unprepared for this foreign invader. The evidence has proved them correct: in 1994, it was estimated that 30,000 deaths were caused each year in the US due to heart disease caused from trans fat consumption, or ten times the deaths on 9/11 every year.

The good news is, thanks to the bad PR trans fats have received, they are rapidly being removed from the American food supply. (It's hard, after all, to defend using a deadly product in foods when it is inferior in taste to other options, as anyone who has consumed both butter and margarine can attest.) Most processed food products have reduced trans fats to under a half gram per serving due to publish pressure. Leading the charge: the all-American Oreo cookie, which now has no hydrogenated oils in its ingredients. Among the food servers who have removed or restricted trans fats from their foods are all Disney theme parks, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Arby's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King and, of course, McDonald's. This was fueled by New York City's banning of trans fats in all NYC restaurants. Joining the Big Apple are Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Montgomery County, Maryland with Chicago and the states of California and Vermont having proposals to enforce their own bans. Crisco itself has been reformulated to have less than one gram of trans fats per serving. Even the Indiana State Fair banned their usage in tasty snacks such as french fries, corn dogs and deep-fried Oreos, Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

In the end, how trans fats have gone from a household product to a dirty word is a story with a happy ending. If consumers vote with their dollars, food products can and will change. The downside to the story is the fact that trans fats even became an American food staple in the first place. Undoubtedly the list of food beasts will continue to have new additions, and the battle has just begun.

In any case, we salute trans fats (and those behind it) as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, dudes!!!


Enig, Mary and Fallon, Sally. Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.

Enig, Mary G. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol. Silver Spring: Bethesda Press, 2000.

Fallon, Sally and Enig. Mary G. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Winona Lake: New Trends Publishing, 1999.

The Weston A. Price Foundation <>.

Special thanks to Harvey & Marilyn Diamond for their Fit for Life and Fitonics for Life books,, and the film Super Size Me for help on this article.

Some cool things to look at for more about SAD dangers:

Aspartame & Aspartame Poisoning Information:
The Atkins Diet:
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream:
Bragg Live Foods & Health Books:
Center for Science in the Public Interest:
Dr. Whitaker:
Fox BGH Suit:
Trader Joe's:
The Zone Diet:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Smile Train

The Smile Train

It just might be the most effective, impactful donation to a charity
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100% of your donation will go towards programs that help children, 0% will go to overhead.

The free cleft surgery your donation will help provide, is a true, modern-day medical miracle: it costs as little as $250 and takes as little as 45 minutes.

That’s all it takes to give a desperate child not just a new smile, but a new life.

When you see the impact your donation has, you’ll end up smiling too.

100% of your donation goes toward programs.

We’re the world’s largest and most cost-effective cleft charity.

Meets extensive standards of America's most experienced charity evaluator.

One Charity. One Problem. One Goal.

Unlike many charities that do many different things, The Smile Train is focused on solving a single problem: cleft lip and palate.

Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation, pain and heartache.

The good news is every single child with a cleft can be helped with surgery that costs as little as $250 and takes as little as 45 minutes.

This is our mission:

-To provide free cleft surgery for millions of poor children in developing countries.

-To provide free cleft-related training for doctors and medical professionals.

Until there are no more children who need help and we have completely eradicated the problem of clefts.

What Makes The Smile Train Different:

Focused on a single problem: cleft lip and palate.

Teach a man to fish: we empower local doctors in developing countries.

100% of your donations used for programs.

The lowest cost per surgery of any cleft charity.

Best safety and quality record amongst cleft charities.

We bring your donations to the poorest countries on earth which magnifies the impact.

We help children in 71 of the world's poorest countries.

Over the past eight years, we have provided free cleft surgery for over 200,000 children.

These children were suffering not because they were born with a cleft, but because they were born too poor to ever afford surgery.

Being born with a cleft in a developing country is truly a curse. In fact, every baby born in Uganda with a cleft is given the name Ajok which means literally, “cursed by God.” And no one knows how many newborns with clefts are killed or abandoned right after birth.

And the ones who are lucky enough to find a Smile Train free cleft surgery program, not only survive, they thrive. After a 45 minute surgery hands them back their future, and a second chance at life that they never thought they'd get.

100% Of Your Donation Will Go Towards Programs,
0% Goes To Overhead.

Tired of charities spending too much on overhead?

We were too. So when we started The Smile Train, we decided ALL donations from the public would go towards programs: all non-program expenses are paid for by members of our Board.

Eight years later, The Smile Train is one of the best-managed, cost-effective charities in America. We’re a new breed of non-profit that is run like a for-profit. We manage and leverage every dollar we raise to help the absolute maximum number
of children possible.

We save millions of dollars a year by using innovative technology such as digital patient charts, virtual surgery software to train and the world’s first and largest digital cleft library.

And with a tiny staff of just 30 people, we manage thousands of partners and programs in 71 of the world’s poorest countries.

When you make a donation to The Smile Train, you will get not just a good feeling, but you will also get an amazing return on your investment.

Court Shields Medical Device Manufacturers

February 25 2008
Supreme Court Shields Medical Device Manufacturers from Consumer Lawsuits
by Mike Adams

(NaturalNews) The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that medical device manufacturers cannot be sued for injuries caused by their products if those products were pre-approved for use by the FDA.

The court ruled that Charles Riegel, who was injured in 1996 when a balloon catheter made by Medtronic Inc. burst while being inserted into one of his coronary arteries during an angioplasty, could not sue the company for damages. In doing so, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a U.S. appeals court and an earlier ruling by a trial court in New York.

I discuss the disastrous consequences of this issue in great detail in a new podcast (#11). Click here to listen:

Hiding behind a legal technicality

Medtronic, which no longer makes the balloon catheter in question, said that the fault was with the doctor, who used the device contrary to the operating instructions. The company also said that the doctor made an error in using that type of product for a patient in Riegel's condition. But rather than ruling in Medtronic's favor merely for the one specific instance, the court dismissed the case entirely, saying that federal law prohibits suing device manufacturers in state courts if the device was approved as safe by the FDA. The decision is expected to have ramifications for a large number of pending lawsuits against manufacturers of devices such as breast implants, defibrillators, artificial heart pumps and valves, drug-coated stents, spinal cord stimulators, and prosthetic hips and knees.

Because there is no federal law that allows consumers to sue medical device manufacturers for damages, state courts have become a common venue for such suits.

The legal reasoning behind the court's decision centered on the wording of the 1976 Medical Device Amendments law. The law, which set in place an FDA pre-approval process for medical devices, explicitly prohibited states from putting in place "any requirement" that is "different from, or in addition to" FDA requirements. In an 8-1 majority, the court ruled that allowing citizens to sue device companies in state courts amounts to "a requirement" that undermines the FDA approval process.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the FDA may approve devices "that present great risks if they nonetheless offer great benefits in light of available alternatives." In other words, there is no requirement that devices actually achieve any reasonable level of safety for all patients. To receive FDA approval and be immunized from lawsuits, medical devices merely have to keep alive slightly more people than they kill.

It would be inappropriate to empower juries second-guess these FDA decisions without full access to data about the benefits of technologies, Scalia said. This is the Supreme Court's way of saying that medical device safety is define solely by the FDA, and if the FDA says something is safe, the fact that such devices actually kill people does not in any way disprove the device's safety.

A jury "sees only the cost of a more dangerous design, and is not concerned with its benefits; the patient who reaped those benefits are not represented in court," he wrote. This is a clever way of saying that products that kill some consumers -- but not all -- are safe enough to be granted blanket immunity because there are some survivors. It's a ridiculous position, of course, and it's never applied to natural remedies.

Note that if an herb kills even ten people in the entire country, the FDA immediately leaps to the conclusion that the herb is "unsafe at any dose." (Google the history of the FDA's ephedra ban for details.) But medical devices and pharmaceuticals are held to an entirely different standard: They must only avoid killing more people than they kill! The fact that some people survived the treatment is apparently sufficient to justify all those who died! This is precisely what Justice Scalia is saying in this decision.

A whisper of sanity from Justice Ginsburg

Dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed with the logic that the ability to sue companies constitutes an unfair "requirement."

"Congress, in my view, did not intend [for the 1976 law] to effect a radical curtailment of state common-law suits seeking compensation for injuries caused by defectively designed or labeled medical devices," she wrote.

The purpose of the law, according to Ginsburg, was to prevent states from imposing confusing additional regulatory processes on top of the new federal standard. Prior to 1976, the absence of a federal regulatory process for medical devices had spurred many states to initiate their own.

Senator Edward Kennedy, one of the sponsors of the 1976 law and head of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, agreed with Ginsburg's analysis. "In enacting legislation on medical devices, Congress never intended that FDA approval would give blanket immunity to manufacturers from liability for injuries caused by faulty devices," Kennedy said. "Congress obviously needs to correct the court's decision. Otherwise, FDA approval will become a green light for shoddy practices by manufacturers."

The Supreme Court ruling applies only to medical devices pre-approved under the process set in place by the 1976 law, not to devices grandfathered in under a separate process, in which the FDA decides that a product is "substantially equivalent" to one that was already on the market prior to 1976. In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that manufacturers of those devices can indeed be sued by states.

Devices that undergo the FDA pre-approval process, and thus are exempted from lawsuits under the current ruling, tend to be more technologically advanced, expensive and risky than older devices.

Under the new ruling, device manufacturers that fail to follow FDA specifications can still be sued in state courts. In addition, lawsuits or prosecutions can be brought against companies for violations of state laws that are the same as federal laws, just not state laws with different requirements.

Supreme Court's decision will unleash a wave of shoddy medical devices that could kill tens of thousands

Allison Zieve, the lawyer who represented Riegel's family, said that the court's ruling will have a dangerous effect on the quality of medical devices. Because the threat of lawsuits is a primary incentive for manufacturers to make sure their products are as safe as possible, the removal of this threat will lead to more dangerous devices staying on the market.

"By minimizing the incentive, the Supreme Court's decision poses a risk to the safety of medical devices," she said.

This is crucial to understand: When medical device manufacturers are granted blanket immunity that protects them from all lawsuits, they no longer have any reason to make their products safe. They only need to seek FDA approval, not genuine product safety, and FDA approval is a political process, not a scientific one, so achieving such approval for unsafe medical devices is simply a matter of paying off the right people, fudging the right scientific studies, and filling out the paperwork. The FDA grants its approval to deadly products on a regular basis. (Just look at Vioxx, Rezulin, and all the other deadly drugs approved by the FDA...)

Remember: The FDA serves the interests of corporations, not the American people. When it comes down to a question of public safety vs. corporate profits, the FDA favors the corporations in nearly every case. Now, with the U.S. Supreme Court handing medical device manufacturers blanket immunity, the American public has absolutely no legal recourse for the harm caused by dangerous medical devices, even if they are defective!

What's next? Immunity for Big Pharma of course

The Bush administration, which supported Medtronic in the current case, has announced its intentions to seek similar lawsuit immunity for drug companies. This would make it impossible for consumers to sue drug companies for the harm caused by pharmaceutical side effects, unleashing a new era of blanket immunity for the very corporations that are now poisoning the American population with dangerous and deadly synthetic chemicals.

Drugs are regulated under a different law than medical devices: the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Unlike the 1976 medical device law, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act does not explicitly prohibit alternate state regulations. But according to the Bush administration, the ban is implicit.

The Supreme Court will consider whether to grant this immunity to drug companies on Monday, in the case of Warner-Lambert Co. V. Kent. (See ) If the drug companies win this case, it will unleash a chemical holocaust on the American people, where the most dangerous chemicals imaginable are patented, marketed and sold to unsuspecting consumers, with absolutely no legal recourse for those harmed or killed by such products. The American people will find themselves chemically and financially enslaved to the drug companies, poisoned by an evil conspiracy of greed between Big Pharma and the FDA while being stripped of their right to justice thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hint: The coming collapse of America is accelerating, and the people running this country will not stop until every right is stripped, every person is drugged, every dollar is stolen and every wage earner is forever indebted to a system of disease management that is intentionally designed to prevent health and keep the population in a state of chronic disease (and mental weakness).

The U.S. Supreme Traitors

That the U.S. Supreme Court would take away the rights of consumers to sue medical device manufacturers for the harm caused by their dangerous devices is not even the issue here: It's the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is WILLING to take away such consumer rights! It means the Constitution is deemed irrelevant, and its last-ditch protectors have now sold out to the corporations. The U.S. Supreme Court is now operating as a band of traitors who have surrendered the future of this nation to the corporations. Today, it's with medical device manufacturers, tomorrow it's with pharmaceuticals, and in another year, it could be for any product or service that is "approved" by a government regulator.

Essentially, the U.S. Supreme Court has announced its intent to enslave the U.S. population and grant total power to the corporations and the corrupt, centralized regulators (like the FDA and USDA) influenced by those corporations.

You've just lost your country, folks. Good luck trying to get it back. The corruption is now so deep that the U.S. Supreme Court no longer protects the People. The very concept of "We the People" is now history. The new message to the People is simple this: Take your medicine. Don't ask questions. Pay your taxes. Do what you're told, vote for who you're told, and don't demand any more rights.

And if you're killed by a medical device, rest in peace with the knowledge that someone else wasn't.

Questions remain about Rove's CIA leak email

Questions remain about Rove's CIA leak email
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Feb 26, 2008

It's been nearly five years since former White House political adviser Karl Rove sent an incriminating email to then Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley indicating that Rove had a candid conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's prewar Iraq intelligence.

Rove had insisted publicly and privately that he was not the source for a story Cooper wrote that unmasked Plame's affiliation with the CIA in July 2003 nor, Rove said, was he the source who provided syndicated columnist Robert Novak with the same information for a column that was published a few days before Cooper's. The email Rove sent to Hadley on July 11, 2003, just three months before the start of a federal probe into the leak clearly contradicted Rove's account.

Questions about Rove's email to Hadley resurfaced after the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) revealed last April that thousands of emails Rove sent over a four-year period via an email account maintained by the Republican National Committee might have been destroyed. Many of the emails Rove sent using his RNC account pertained to White House business and the fact that it was not archived is said to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Additionally, CREW said it conducted an investigation that discovered the White House lost as many as 10 million emails. The White House said in a court document that it erased backup tapes containing the email archives, some of which relate to a wide-range of administration scandals, including the role of White House officials in the Plame leak.

In late September 2003, three months after he told Hadley in an email that he spoke with Cooper, Rove and about 1,000 other White House staffers were ordered to turn over all email correspondence that contained references to Plame and Wilson to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales when the leak of Plame's undercover status was referred to federal investigators.

But the Hadley email was never turned over to Gonzales during the early stages of the Plame investigation.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, had long maintained that the email was never found during the initial search because the right "search words" weren't used. Some reporters and bloggers have opined the Rove/Hadley email did not turn up because Rove sent it using his Republican National Committee account. But according to a little known story published in The Washington Post in December 2005, Rove used his government account when he sent Hadley an email describing his conversation with Time's Matthew Cooper.

In an email exchange a couple of weeks ago requesting that he clarify his position, Luskin said he "speculated that the [Hadley] email was overlooked because of a gap in search terms, but I have no direct knowledge." That contradicts his previous statements to Newsweek in which Luskin stated unequivocally that the email was not found because the wrong search terms were used.

"Neither Mr. Rove nor I was involved in any manner in the collection of emails or other electronic documents in response to subpoenas from the Special Counsel [Patrick Fitzgerald]," Luskin said. "Mr. Fitzgerald's staff worked directly with the White House counsel and the IT folks from the White House. However, Mr. Fitzgerald did advise me that Mr. Rove had absolutely no responsibility for the oversight and that he has never regarded the failure to turn over the [Hadley] email as 'culpable' by anyone."

That statement, or at least part of it, does not appear to be entirely accurate. In a May 10, 2007, deposition before investigators working for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rove's former assistant, Susan Ralston, testified that during the leak investigation she and Rove were instructed "to go and do keyword searches based on the subpoena that we got, and search all of his folders for keywords." Ralston said during her deposition that there were "six or seven" subpoenas Rove received from Fitzgerald for documents in the Plame leak. Any documents that were found were turned over to Gonzales. Yet the email Rove sent to Hadley was never turned over to Fitzgerald.

Luskin would not provide a copy of that email, which has never been released publicly. He said the contents of the exchange have been "widely reported." Luskin added that he had no interest in providing either the Hadley email "or any other documents," including a copy of a letter Fitzgerald sent Luskin that purportedly cleared Rove of criminal exposure in the leak case, to me because of a story I reported two years ago that stated Rove was indicted by Fitzgerald. Luskin added that I "played a despicable role in circulating false allegations concerning an indictment of Mr. Rove and persisted with the story even after it was demonstrated to be false" and he, therefore, would not provide documentary evidence that could demonstrate his client's innocence.

Fair enough. But Luskin also refused to voluntarily provide Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the Hadley email and other electronic messages that Rove and Luskin turned over to Fitzgerald. Last May, Leahy issued a subpoena to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for the documents.

The subpoena covered a wide range of emails Rove sent over four years, some of which related to congressional investigations into the firings of nine US attorneys two years ago that Rove is widely believed to have played a hands-on role in.

Gonzales never met Leahy's May 15, 2007 deadline to turn over the emails. So on May 24, 2007, Leahy wrote to Luskin asking if he would forfeit the emails to his committee Luskin and Rove turned over to Fitzgerald. Luskin politely refused, according to a copy of a June 4, 2007, letter he sent to Leahy, obtained by this reporter.

"As you are aware, Mr. Rove cooperated fully with the investigation by the Special Counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, into the disclosure of the identity of a CIA employee. As part of that cooperation, in April 2004, Mr. Rove made available to Mr. Fitzgerald two personal computers, a Blackberry, and a computer furnished to Mr. Rove by the Republican National Committee," Luskin wrote. "Mr. Fitzgerald arranged for the FBI to image all of the data on these computers. Without any constraint by Mr. Rove, Mr. Fitzgerald reviewed all of this data and made and retained copies of any information relevant to his investigation. Because the computers also contained confidential personal information and attorney client communications, Mr. Fitzgerald returned to me for safekeeping the imaged copies made by the FBI."

"The electronic copies made by the FBI, which I retain in their sealed form, only contain information created before early April 2004, when the FBI made the copies," Luskin added. "I have reviewed the documents and testimony made publicly available by this and other congressional committees investigating the termination of the United States Attorneys. I am unaware of any evidence suggesting that Mr. Rove may have played any role whatsoever in this matter before April 2004. Accordingly, I have no reason to believe that the materials in my possession contain any information relevant to this Committee's inquiry."

So what happened? And why didn't investigators, who searched Rove's emails and computers during the early days of the leak probe, find a copy of the email Rove sent Hadley?

A fascinating new book provides some possible answers.

David Gewirtz, a former computer science professor, a former product management director for Symantec who also held the title of "Godfather" at Apple Computer, Inc., and has written more than 600 articles about email, is the author of "Where Have All the Emails Gone?," the definitive account about the circumstances that led to the loss of administration emails. A detective story that reads like a "Dummies" book for the technically challenged, "Where Have All The Emails Gone?" relied upon good old fashioned shoe-leather reporting to tell the story of the missing emails and using the public record in attempting to solve the mystery.

In an interview, Gewirtz said the one possibility that the Rove/Hadley email never surfaced was that it was sent during a time when the White House had switched its email over from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange, an issue in and of itself the author finds suspicious. The Rove/Hadley email may have been lost during the transition to the new email system.

"Why did they migrate at this time? The country was getting ready for war," noted Gewirtz, who said he has been speaking with Senate and House staffers probing the loss of White House emails. "It doesn't make sense that you would want to yank out your communications structure when you're building up toward war. It's crucial for our government to have qualified communications at a critical juncture. It's just mind bogglingly questionable that the White House would change its communication structure at that time period. Why did they need to do it then? It certainly provides a lot of plausible deniability for when emails are scrutinized."

"Another plausible reason, and this is the conspiracy theory, if you yank out an email system there goes your compliance with the Presidential Records act and there's the 'my dog ate it' excuse," Gewirtz said. "There's really no net loss other than a PR loss."

Gewirtz said his biggest concern about the loss of White House emails is the national security implications.

"There's a separate server for political activity. The server is not located or managed by security experts," Gewirtz said. "Emails are sent by White House staffers using an unsecured server. Hundreds of millions of emails are sent through the open Internet. An email message sent by a low level political employee says where the president is traveling. That can be seen by anyone and can put the president at risk. It's something of a disturbing experience talking to Washington politicians. Technical issue takes a back seat based on what the political goal is. The potential loss through homeland security is pretty profound."

In addressing Luskin's explanation that the Hadley email did not turn up because the wrong search terms were used, Gewirtz said that it's a possibility, but a poor excuse for not locating an email.

"You can type search terms that should but won't pick things up directly," he said. "You can choose to spell something wrong. Especially if there is no record of what you are searching."

Congressman Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been trying to unravel these complicated technical issues for the past seven months. Last July, Waxman wrote Fitzgerald seeking "transcripts, reports, notes, and other documents relating to any interviews outside the presence of the grand jury of" Rove, Hadley, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other former White House officials.

In addition to his search for documents and questions surrounding the Plame leak, Waxman is also investigating how the White House lost millions of emails and why steps were not taken to preserve the electronic messages earlier . . . His committee is scheduled to hold a hearing this morning on the matter.

Gewirtz says that if congressional investigators are serious about tracking down missing White House emails, particularly emails related to the US attorney purge, then they need to start looking in the right place.

"There is a vast amount of email that has gone through the Republican National Committee," Gewirtz said. "If they're looking for a smoking gun on the firing of US attorneys, then its most likely [White House officials who played a role in the dismissals] sent the emails through the RNC system and not the EOP [Executive Office of the President] system. Meanwhile, everyone is looking for emails on the EOP sever because it's sexier. I think they are looking in the wrong place. If I were a betting man, I would say it's in the RNC system."

Still, Waxman said in an interview at his office in late December that he is determined to get answers to some of the lingering questions about Rove's role in the Plame leak, why the Hadley email never turned up, and whether there is a direct connection between that and the loss of millions of White House emails.

In the first of two letters Waxman sent Attorney General Michael Mukasey in December, the congressman said, "Fitzgerald and his staff have cooperated with the Committee’s investigation and have produced a number of responsive documents to the Committee. Among the documents that Mr. Fitzgerald has produced to the Committee are 'FBI 302 reports' of interviews with CIA and State Department officials and other individuals. Unfortunately, the White House has been blocking Mr. Fitzgerald from providing key documents to the Committee."

I met with Waxman in late December during an interview conducted by Truthout Executive Director Marc Ash at Waxman's West Los Angeles office. Waxman said two of the key documents his staff had been trying to obtain were a copy of the letter Fitzgerald sent to Luskin that apparently indicated that Rove was no longer under investigation, as well as the email Rove sent to Hadley. At the time of our meeting, Waxman had already sent Mukasey a second letter because the attorney general never responded to his first request. Waxman set a deadline of January 8 for the Plame investigation documents to be turned over to his committee.

The documents have yet to be handed over, but an aide to Waxman said the congressman has been "working" with Attorney General Mukasey over the past several weeks in hopes that an agreement may be reached.

How To Keep A Porn Marriage Rock Hard

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Lowest Rated Oscars. Ever.

Lowest Rated Oscars. Ever.
By Joal Ryan

The Oscars made history Sunday night. But not the good kind.

The three-hour-plus ABC telecast averaged 32 million viewers, the smallest crowd on record—ever, per Nielsen Media Research estimates.

The show "topped" the 2003 ceremony, which, with 33 million viewers, was Oscar's previous low.

Even worse, if possible, the show was a shadow of its 2007 self, shedding more than 8 million viewers, or one-fifth of its audience, from last year to this. Even in an age where everything is the lowest rated something ever, that's a significant blood loss.

Oscar's main trouble seemed to be female trouble: Based on ratings of the show's prime-time hours, it struck out with the chicks.

Last year, with host Ellen DeGeneres at the helm, the Oscars was up across the board with women viewers.

This year, with male Jon Stewart dealing, the show looked to be down, a lot, in all the major female demographics.

The show's disconnect with its target audience might have stemmed not so much from Stewart, who generally won good reviews, but from the top nominees, a pack of films with nary a female touch, led by Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men, that Stewart himself jokingly described as "psychopathic killer movies."

Another ratings challenge cropped up when Hollywood's biggest night turned into another continent's crowning glory.

For the first time since the 1965 Oscar ceremony, all four acting awards went to residents of Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, the '65 show, honoring the international likes of Zorba the Greek, suffered the ceremony's third smallest audience share of the 1960s.

For whatever reason, this year's Oscars repelled viewers as it went on. What began as a show that averaged 32.3 million viewers in its first half-hour, devolved into a show that averaged 25.4 million in its final half-hour of prime time.

Stewart, who previously presided over the 2006 Oscars, now goes down as the host of two of the three lowest rated Academy Awards in TV history. And in defense of Steve Martin, who hosted the 2003 misfire, that ceremony competed for attention with the start of the Iraq War. Stewart, thusly, stands alone as the lowest-rated host of relatively peaceful Oscar nights.

ABC did its best to turn its frown upside down, noting that Sunday's telecast was far bigger than the rest of this year's crop of low-rated award shows, including NBC's Golden Globes debacle.

The network said the show rated highest in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, West Palm Beach, Florida, and Oscar's hometown of Los Angeles.

Stewart's notices were another bright spot. From Britain (the BBC called him "sparkling") to Los Angeles (the L.A. Times found the comic "cool and loose"), and back to Missouri ("Second time's the charm for Stewart," headlined the Kansas City Star), Stewart won over critics.

Unlike the show.

The telecast, both a celebration of the ceremony's 80th anniversary and, as the Hollywood Reporter pointed out, a reminder that Stewart's writing staff was only recently back from the picket lines, was dinged for being clip-heavy.

"This wasn't an Oscars," wrote Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke. "This was a slightly longer version of the Golden Globes announcement."

The Washington Post's Tom Shales said the show went "clip-clip-clipping along." "This is not a good thing," he decided.

Shales chided the telecast for waiting to get to the acting categories, and for waiting to present presenter Miley Cyrus until the unfriendly kid hour of nearly 10 p.m. ET.

Riffing on Oscar's birthday, Time's Richard Corliss said the ceremony "had the tone and pace suitable to an octogenarian's temper."

(Originally published Feb. 25, 2008)

Mayweather to get $20 million to wrestle

Mayweather to get $20 million to wrestle
By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
Tue Feb 26, 2007

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a champion boxer and has tested his moves on "Dancing With the Stars." Now the man many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is preparing to drop the gloves and do some wrasslin.'

A $20 million payday awaits the undefeated WBC welterweight champion when he takes on Big Show as part of WWE's "WrestleMania XXIV" at Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on March 30.

"It's entertainment. You have a chance to just be you and do what you want to do," Mayweather said Monday after a chaotic Staples Center event that masqueraded as a news conference.

The boxer nicknamed "Money" clearly likes the way WWE does business.

"Wrestling takes care of business right on the spot," Mayweather said. "Whatever they say they're going to do, they do it right on the spot. There's no waiting three, four, five months. Quick results, quick money. Quick big money, too."

His manager Leonard Ellerbee and WWE executive Shane McMahon confirmed Mayweather's eight-figure payday for the outdoor match to be shown on live on pay-per-view.

Mayweather incited the couple hundred of already hyped fans at Staples Center by whipping out a thick wad of cash and repeatedly tossing $100, $50 and $20 bills into the crowd that had nearly as many women as men.

A mad scramble ensued, with a light pole nearly getting knocked over and two small children caught in the chaos. One lucky man emerged from the pileup clutching six $100 bills.

Mayweather played to the frenzied crowd after appearing from behind a black curtain wearing a New York Yankees jacket and cap. Fans shouted insults and the name of hometown hero Oscar De La Hoya at Mayweather.

"I run Vegas and I run L.A. and I will run the WWE," he boasted.

At 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, Mayweather gives up big numbers to the bald Big Show, who stands 7-feet and weighs 430.

"I weigh three times as much as he does," Big Show crowed. "It's not fair, but I'm a businessman and I see an opportunity for business."

Then he picked up the wooden podium and tossed it to the floor, where it splintered and the attached two mics lay like broken sticks. Clearly, Staples Center officials hadn't expected the move.

Mayweather hopped onto a chair and exchanged glares with Big Show while WWE regulars Randy Orton, John Cena, Triple H and Edge looked on, witnessing a newcomer who clearly understands the theatrics of modern-day wrestling.

"WWE is the biggest it gets," Mayweather said. "This is going to be an event like none other."

Ellerbee scoffed that hard-core boxing fans won't take Mayweather seriously after his WWE antics.

"After March 30, when Floyd goes out and takes care of his business at WrestleMania, he's still going to be the best fighter in the world and the face of boxing," he said. "Tell me what changes about that? Nothing changes."

The wrestling gig is another part of Ellerbee's carefully crafted plan to expand Mayweather's fan base.

"Either I'm going to be a genius with this or I'm the biggest idiot," he said. "Boxers have such a short window of opportunity. He can't become any bigger in boxing."

That's why Ellerbee snagged Mayweather a spot on ABC's reality hit "Dancing With the Stars." Mayweather didn't win the disco ball trophy, but he wasn't the first one voted off, either.

"It crossed him over and took him into the households of many middle-aged Middle Americans and turned him into a mainstream superstar," Ellerbee said. "Now when Floyd goes into the grocery store, the first thing 65-year-old ladies say is, `You're Floyd from `Dancing With the Stars.'"

Mayweather plans to train with WWE Latino star Ray Mysterio, who wears a mask on his face.

"I'm outside the box," he said, lapsing into the third person. "Floyd Mayweather is not just a fighter, he's an entertainer. That's what the world must know."

But he hasn't forgotten his night job.

Mayweather alluded to a possible rematch with De La Hoya in September. De La Hoya lost a split decision in their last bout May 5.

The New Cult Canon: Donnie Darko

The New Cult Canon: Donnie Darko
by Scott Tobias
February 22nd, 2008

In embarking on the mammoth, open-ended project that is The New Cult Canon, I face the scary and exhilarating prospect of a journey with no set course and no planned destination, but there was never a question that I'd be leaving port with Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko. To my mind, Donnie Darko is the quintessential cult movie of the last 20 years: Here was a much-hyped washout at Sundance that fell to a second-tier distributor (Newmarket), which released the film to middling reviews and feeble arthouse box-office (barely half a million when all was said and done). The film was left for dead until, miraculously, word of mouth started to swell and an audience steadily grew and rallied around it. The Pioneer Theater in New York ran it as a midnight movie for two years—this at a time when the midnight movie itself had long been left for dead. And DVD sales were so robust that Newmarket attempted to re-release the "Director's Cut" theatrically. (It tanked a second time, too.) The movie has inspired a level of obsession that separates cult phenomena from the everyday hits that wither past opening weekend.

I saw Donnie Darko three times in the theater: Once at the press screening, where I was apoplectic to find many of my fellow critics shrugging their shoulders; a second time during its two-week run here in Chicago, where I saw it with maybe five or six other people in the theater; and a third time at the Gene Siskel Film Center, where it kept coming back month after month to packed houses, including the near-soldout showing I attended. (And on a weeknight, no less!)

Why did I and so many others keep shuffling, zombie-like, to see this movie again and again in the theater? It certainly isn't perfect—films this crazily ambitious, from a first-time director no less, are rarely flawless—but Donnie Darko accomplishes perhaps the one thing I value most in cinema: It creates a world to get lost in, so particular and full of life that other concerns (in this case, an overstuffed mind-bender of a plot that has never quite cohered for me) fall by the wayside. And though I'll probably be defining cult movies a million different ways in this column, that's likely the common denominator, because once you have the ins and outs of the story figured out, what's the point of seeing a movie a second or third or hundredth time? The world of the film is paramount. And sequences like this one help, too:

If Donnie Darko coasting through the suburb of Middlesex, Virginia on his bicycle as "The Killing Moon" plays on the soundtrack wasn't attention-getting enough already, the "Head Over Heels" sequence had me sitting bolt upright in my seat. In this mesmerizing five minutes, Kelly introduces many of the major characters (and wordlessly suggests the tension between them). More impressive still, he evokes the life of a late-'80s adolescent with a tone that hovers somewhere between nostalgia and dread. It's very hard, especially when the soundtrack is this irresistible, to revisit a period without making it seem like facile "I Love The '80s" nostalgia. (Just ask Richard Linklater, who intended Dazed And Confused—another New Cult Canon contender—to be suffused with melancholy, but doesn't always get that response from viewers who groove on the music and stoner comedy.) But Kelly maintains that ambivalent tone from start to finish, and for as much love as he displays for the popular music and movies of the period, the film is still sobering, hypnotic, and more than a little sad.

Back in 2001, when the film was first realized, a wise man (okay, me) summed up Donnie Darko thusly:

A dense and wonderfully stylized amalgam of genres and influences, Donnie Darko resists any clear definition, which is perhaps its most appealing quality. Is it the flip side of Blue Velvet, a blistering satire of Reagan-warped suburbia? Or is it an anarchic, Fight Club-style punk film about the impulse to tear down a corrupt world in order to build a new one? Is it mind-bending science fiction? An adolescent romance? Catcher In The Rye?

Of course, the film is all of these things and more. But it's also a case where the individual parts don't necessarily work that well until they're factored into the whole. As a satire especially, Donnie Darko takes a fairly broad, predictable indie-movie posture toward the Reagan '80s: Dad nearly spitting out his dinner when his daughter announces she's voting for Dukakis; liberal intellectuals (like the teachers played by Drew Barrymore and Noah Wyle) falling prey to narrow-minded conservatives looking to shake up the curriculum with guru Patrick Swayze's New Agey baloney; a cartoonish Supermom (and chief Sparkle Motion sponsor) who at one point dons a T-shirt that says "God Is Awesome." As for the Holden Caulfield angle, or the enormously sweet relationship between Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the new girl (Jena Malone, always terrific), the film can only strike a glancing blow, since Donnie's metaphysical journey overwhelms any deeper character-sketching.

And how about that journey anyway? One reason why people might rewatch Donnie Darko is to figure out all that mind-bending stuff about portals and wormholes and rabbit suits that twist up the story so intriguingly. For me, the science-fiction elements are mysterious and perhaps not altogether accountable, though I know I'm not alone in resenting Kelly's attempt to iron everything out on the DVD commentary for the film. (And on a related note: I have never seen the "Director's Cut" of the film, because I didn't care much for the deleted scenes I watched on the original DVD, and didn't want any more of the film spelled out for me.) For me, Kelly not tying up every loose thread and explaining away the film's mysteries is a major plus, though his fiasco of a follow-up, Southland Tales, proves just how easily a movie like this can devolve into a clutter of half-realized ideas and references masquerading as ambition and substance. Here, Kelly has the good sense to let the audience connect the dots and advance their own theories and meanings.

Perhaps we can hammer out the details in the comments section, but here's my general take on it: When Donnie and his girlfriend go to see Evil Dead at the town's single-screen theater, the other movie on the marquee is The Last Temptation Of Christ. To me, this is the skeleton key that puts the entire film in perspective: The whole of Donnie Darko is analogous to the infamous dream sequence in Last Temptation, where Christ is on the cross and fantasizes at length about the life he might have had if he rejected God's plan and embraced his human side. The temptation is appealing: marriage, a home, making love (gasp!) to his wife, having children, etc. Throughout the course of Kelly's film, Donnie comes to realize the tragic consequences of him not being in his room when the plane engine drops through the ceiling; as much as he endeavors to change the world and bend time in his favor, he eventually has to reconcile to his fate.

Or something to that effect, anyway. There are plenty of holes in that interpretation without question—for one, it would never have been revealed that Swayze is harboring a "kiddie-porn dungeon" in his house— but for me, figuring the film out on repeat viewings has always been secondary to simply returning to that world one more time, like a tourist. Kelly piles on the '80s signposts—the amazing soundtrack; the nods to Evil Dead, E.T., Blue Velvet, The Karate Kid, Back To The Future, and Stephen King's It; the reactionary tenor of suburbia in the Reagan era—yet they add up to a specific and deeply personal vision of what it was like to be a teenager in October 1988. And for a guy like me, who at that time was a 17-year-old living in Newt Gingrich's district (Cobb County, Georgia), that's pretty fucking resonant.

Is It Time for Clemens to Dial Nanny 911?

February 26, 2008
Sports of The Times
Is It Time for Clemens to Dial Nanny 911?
The nanny, it turns out, speaks English and speaks it well, idioms and all.

A reading of an online transcript and a telephone call to the press office of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform revealed that Roger Clemens, aided by political muscle, distorted the linguistic skills of a former employee and grandmother of two.

“And her English, as I understand it, is not that good,” Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican and ranking minority committee member, cued Clemens at the Capitol Hill hearing earlier this month.

“It is not that good,” Clemens replied, seizing the opportunity to make the masses understand why the nanny had to be summoned to his Houston Ponderosa before her interview with committee investigators — for her own good, of course.

But Steven G. Glickman, counsel to the majority and a participant in the telephone interview, indicated through a committee press officer that the unnamed nanny spoke English that was only accented, not deficient.

For instance, when told she had the right to representation, the nanny replied she didn’t have a lawyer before adding: “But I’m not afraid, I’m telling the truth, so bring it on.”

Make her day.

Sounds like an opening line scripted by Clint Eastwood, or Clemens, the cold-blooded gunslinger from 60 feet 6 inches away, but now closer than ever to staring down at Jeff Novitzky, the I.R.S. special agent and sultan of steroid-enforcement swat.

Monday came the news that a draft letter was drawn up last week by committee staff members for the purposes of referring the Clemens case to the Justice Department. Get those scorecards ready. The real game, not the exhibition spitting contest the Clemens and Brian McNamee camps have waged all winter, may be about to begin.

You wonder: Is Clemens finally seeing the big picture, fearing that a hastily stitched tapestry of tall tales dating to 1998 is about to unravel?

It should by now be fairly well established that he was at José Canseco’s place in South Florida when they visited with the Blue Jays that year in June to drop off his family, or to take a tour of the property or a performance-enhancement tutorial.

We also know that Canseco has said Clemens was not at the party, while the nanny said that Clemens was at the house but she did not recall a party, while a photograph that reportedly has surfaced places Clemens at the possible party, while Clemens has a golf receipt to prove that while he might have stopped by, he wasn’t there long enough to party or be party to any discussion of drugs.

Questioned about the dizzying timeline of Clemens’s appearance and exit, the nanny — again, not as verbally challenged as Davis understood her to be and Clemens agreed she was — cut to the heart of the matter, as it relates to the possibility of meaningful disclosure.

“Well, first of all, that’s kind of hard to tell because I wasn’t with him 24/7,” she said, speaking to the absurdity of the ongoing party dissection, 10 years after. With the exception of the Republican cheerleaders who allowed Clemens and his lawyers to set this smoke screen during the hearing, who actually believed it was ever germane to the McNamee claims of injecting Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone?

Surely not Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat and committee chairman, who made himself clear after the hearing that he did not think much of what Clemens had to say. Common sense tells us that Waxman is driving the bus and ready to hand Clemens, if not McNamee, off to Novitzky and the Balco bashers that brought down Marion Jones and brought perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Barry Bonds.

Obviously, an investigation by the Justice Department does not guarantee an eventual indictment on perjury charges, à la Jones and Bonds. It does mean that Clemens’s public relations campaign against McNamee and anyone whose version of events contrasted his own has failed. In the court of public opinion, and to the committee members who did not want his autograph, the more Clemens went on the attack, the less believable he was.

When he publicly aired a secretly taped telephone conversation with McNamee, his former trainer sounded distraught over having to give him up to George Mitchell, not like some deluded soul bent on destroying an all-time great. When Clemens was confronted with the damaging testimony of Andy and Laura Pettitte, his attempts to question his protégé’s comprehension skills made you wonder if Clemens comprehended the gravity of his denials, under oath.

Everyone’s reputation was deemed sacrificial to save his own. His agents took hits for his troubles. His wife, Debbie, was exposed as an H.G.H. user. The nanny, whose interview included an eloquent expression of affection seven years after she left Clemens’s employ, was made to sound like someone who had just slipped into the country in the back of a truck.

Bring it on, Clemens kept saying, while everyone around him took a hit. Now there is a draft letter that probably leads to a criminal investigation. No turning back now. No promise of relief up ahead. For his last act in baseball, he may have to go the distance.


Maybe Rocket was at Jose Canseco's party

Roger Clemens' attorney: Maybe Rocket was at Jose Canseco's party
Saturday, February 23rd 2008

Roger Clemens may be backpedaling on his long-time stance that he never attended a 1998 party at Jose Canseco's house.

In the wake of the Daily News' report Friday that a photograph exists of Clemens posing with a young man at Canseco's Florida home - a photo said to have been taken on June 9, 1998 - the Rocket's attorney issued a statement that seems to suggest Clemens may have attended the party after all.

Brian McNamee, Clemens' former trainer, has told federal investigators and Congress that Clemens was at the party and talked about steroid use with Canseco, while the seven-time Cy Young Award winner has vehemently disputed such claims. Clemens reiterated those denials before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week. Canseco likewise submitted an affidavit to the committee that corroborates the Rocket's version of events.

In his testimony before Congress, Clemens told ranking member Tom Davis (R-Va.), "So could I have gone by (Canseco's) house later that afternoon and dropped my wife or her brother-in-law, the people that golfed with me? Sure, I could have. But at the time of the day that I would have expressed it to be, I was on my way to the ballpark. I know one thing. I wasn't there having huddled up with somebody trying to do a drug deal. I know that for sure."

Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin issued a statement Friday that in part reverses course. "We know that baseball announcers broadcasting the games at the time said Roger was not at the party. Jose Canseco has said Roger was not at the party, as has Canseco's former wife. Roger was playing golf at the time of the party, and has stated that he may have stopped by the Canseco house after playing golf before heading to the ballpark for the game," read Hardin's statement.

The proof Clemens attended may also lie in photographs from the party. As The News first reported, McNamee attorney Richard Emery was informed of the existence of the photograph that allegedly shows Clemens and the young man at Canseco's home. Emery also told The News a second photograph exists, showing Canseco posing with the same boy on the same day.

"I don't know anything about it. No one's talked to me or Jose. No one's said anything about it. We don't know the validity of (the photos)," Robert Saunooke, the attorney for Canseco, told The News on Friday. "There's no doubt that Roger Clemens has been to Jose's house. But the question was (about) this particular date for a barbecue and that didn't happen. You can take a picture of me every day of the week and I can say, 'This is one day and that's another.' How are you going to tell which day you took the photo of me?"

According to Emery, the photos in question have been turned over to federal investigators and Congress. Emery told The News that McNamee's lawyers, including Earl Ward, were called by the father of the boy in the photo following the Feb. 13 hearing in which Clemens faced off against McNamee. The boy was about 11 at the time the photo was taken.

The father of the boy informed McNamee's lawyers that he was frustrated by the attacks on McNamee, particularly those of committee member Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who repeatedly called McNamee a liar. The man told the lawyers about the photo of his son, and also that he had contacted Hardin before the hearing.

"I find it interesting that it was offered to Hardin on Feb. 12 - and he walked away from it, probably because he didn't want any contradictory evidence that showed Clemens was at the party," Emery said.

Emery has not seen the photos himself, but gave the information he learned about them to Congress and to IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the BALCO steroids case. The Justice Department could investigate Clemens for perjury and any such photographic evidence could prove damning if it's valid.

According to Emery, the boy’s father told McNamee’s lawyers that he wants to keep his son, who is now a college baseball player and is draft-eligible, out of the controversy.

Photo could tie Clemens to Canseco's party

Feb. 22, 2008, 8:10PM
Photo could tie Clemens to Canseco's party
Houston Chronicle

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Brian McNamee's lawyers have informed the Justice Department that there is a picture that was supposedly taken of Roger Clemens at Jose Canseco's Miami home during a 1998 party that has become a central point of contention in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report.

"I think the Justice Department will get the picture or pictures," McNamee's New York-based attorney, Richard Emery, told the Chronicle via phone. "And perhaps the congressional (House Oversight and Government Reform) Committee will get them, too. I have not seen the picture. I do believe the people who have the picture are credible and acting responsibly."

In the Mitchell Report, which was prepared by former Sen. George Mitchell and released Dec. 13, McNamee, Clemens' former trainer, claimed he discussed steroids with the embattled pitcher not long after the June 1998 party at Canseco's home.

Clemens and Canseco were teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, and McNamee has claimed Clemens attended the party Canseco threw for his teammates while they were in town to play an interleague series against the Florida Marlins.

"This is a very respectful, decent upstanding family," Emery said of the family who reportedly have the picture.

According to Emery young man who was about 10 or 11 years old at the time attended the party and took a picture with Clemens.

"The boy remembers the party," Emery said. "He's 10 years older now, but it was the only time he was ever at Canseco's house. And all the baseball players were there. It was a big event in this kid's life. He has this picture on his wall, both pictures on his wall. He kept those pictures.

"The mother remembers dropping him off at 1:30 and picking him up two hours later. And Clemens was still at the party. It was very clear, but they didn't want to give us the picture because they were all concerned. Apparently he's a baseball player in college, draft-eligible perhaps. They were very worried about this picture affecting this kid's life."

According to a person who has spoken to the young man's family, he is from Florida and playing baseball in college. Emery declined to divulge the man's name.

McNamee claimed to Mitchell's investigators that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone multiple times. He also claimed he gave performance-enhancing drugs to Deer Park's Andy Pettitte and Bellaire High graduate Chuck Knoblauch, two of Clemens' former New York Yankees teammates who also trained with McNamee.

Pettitte and Knoblauch, who were called in for depositions by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, have admitted to McNamee's claims. Pettitte went a step further, admitting he also used HGH in 2004 with the Astros after receiving the drug from his father, Tom.

Pettitte also held a news conference in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, apologizing to his fans and former teammates for using HGH and for lying about the use earlier. Clemens has fiercely McNamee's claims, even denying that he took steroids or HGH while testifying under oath on Feb. 13 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Not long after the Mitchell Report was released, Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, questioned the methodology Mitchell used in preparing the report, which was commissioned by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Joe Householder, Hardin's spokesman on the Clemens matter, even chastised reporters from around the country often for not investigating McNamee's claims about Clemens being at Canseco's party.

On Friday, however, the New York Daily News first reported that the man has the picture of Clemens at that June 1998 party. Reached in Hawaii, where he was giving a speech to a trade group, Hardin didn't want to comment on the Daily News' report.

"It's impossible for us to intelligently comment on it until we see any photos that may exist," Hardin said. "I do know that TV baseball announcers at the time and Jose Canseco have all said that Roger was not at the party."

Canseco's party has been a central theme used by Clemens' supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mitchell Report and McNamee. Last week before the congressional hearing in which McNamee and Clemens testified, Hardin presented the House Oversight and Government Reform committee an affidavit from Canseco claiming Clemens wasn't at the party.

Clemens' lawyers also presented the committee with a receipt of greens fees showing Clemens golfed near Canseco's home that day. Moreover, they handed over video footage of announcers saying how the righthander had not attended the party.

McNamee stuck by his claims during last week's hearing, telling the committee that he remembered seeing Clemens' nanny run after one of the 11-time All-Star's children near Canseco's pool during that party. McNamee even described the bikini the nanny was wearing.

The committee asked Clemens' lawyers for the nanny's name and phone number on Feb. 8. Two days later, Clemens had her at his home even though the two hadn't seen each other in years. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., reprimanded Clemens during the hearing for inviting the nanny to his home in Memorial before giving the committee her number.

"Was it your idea to meet with her before forwarding her name to us, or did someone suggest that to you?" Waxman asked Clemens during the hearing, prompting Hardin and Clemens' D.C. lawyer, Lanny Breuer, to protest at the insinuation of possible witness tampering.

"Mr. Chairman, I was doing you all a favor," Clemens replied.

At those hearings, McNamee took the most vicious criticism from Dan Burton, R-Ind.

"I know one thing I don't believe, and that's you," Burton told McNamee at the hearings during one of his many statements implying that the former trainer was a liar.

Burton's comments may have helped inspire the young man's family to contact McNamee's lawyers about the photo. Emery also claims that the family with the picture first contacted Hardin on Feb. 12 to tell him about its existence.

"On the 12th of February when they read that Rusty Hardin and Roger Clemens were asserting that Roger Clemens wasn't at the party, they called Rusty Hardin," Emery said. "Then they watched the hearing. They weren't going to do anything. Then they watched the hearing.

"When Dan Burton started harassing Brian McNamee, they were offended by that. The day after the hearing or two days after, they contacted us, and we spoke to them extensively. They told us about the picture and said they felt bad about the way McNamee was treated."

Clemens filed a defamation suit against McNamee in early January. There remains a possibility that Waxman's committee could ask the Department of Justice to investigate whether Clemens perjured himself last week at the hearings and earlier in his deposition to the committee.

Hardin, who is expected to attend a wedding in Florida on Saturday, said he doesn't expect to be back at his Houston office until Tuesday.

Alleged Pic Puts Rocket at Canseco Party

Alleged Pic Puts Rocket at Canseco Party

NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Clemens' lawyer was told a photograph exists that shows the pitcher at a party hosted by Jose Canseco, an issue that was disputed in Congress this month.

A June 1998 party at Canseco's house in Florida was one of several topics discussed during Clemens' testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Feb. 13.

Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee, said the seven-time Cy Young Award winner was at the party. Clemens denied being there when he gave a deposition to congressional investigators on Feb. 5, then testified eight days later that it was possible he could have stopped by after playing golf.

In the Mitchell Report on doping in baseball, released in December, McNamee alleged that Clemens spoke with Canseco at the barbecue and soon after approached the trainer about using performance-enhancing drugs.

McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone at least 16 times, possibly more, between 1998 and 2001. Clemens has vehemently denied those accusations several times, including under oath before Congress.

Congress is deciding whether to ask the Justice Department to investigate the contradictory testimony given by Clemens and McNamee under oath. Whether Clemens attended Canseco's party could affect both his and McNamee's credibility.

Clemens and Canseco played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998.

Clemens' lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement Friday that on Feb. 12 he was contacted by a former neighbor of Canseco's.

"He said he had a photograph of his son with Roger in a pool at a party at Canseco's house. He said that friends who had seen the photograph were suggesting to him that he sell it. I expressed no interest in buying it, but urged him to let our investigator visit with him, view the photograph and interview him. He said he wanted to talk to his son first and would call me back that day. I gave him all of my phone numbers and urged him to call. Unfortunately, I never heard back from him," the statement said.

"It is impossible for us to comment on the photograph itself because we haven't seen it. We know that baseball announcers broadcasting the games at the time said Roger was not at the party. Jose Canseco has said Roger was not at the party, as has Canseco's former wife. Roger was playing golf at the time of the party, and has stated that he may have stopped by the Canseco house after playing golf before heading to the ballpark for the game."

McNamee's lawyer, Richard Emery, said Friday he didn't have the photo but thought at some point it would be obtained by the congressional committee and/or prosecutors.

The photo's existence was first reported by the Daily News.

Hunt continues for Nazi treasure

Hunt continues for Nazi treasure
Tue Feb 26, 2008

German treasure hunters were to begin digging Tuesday for what they claim to be plunder buried by the Nazis in a man-made cavern near the Czech border.

The area's mayor, Hans-Peter Haustein, and a man who found the coordinates for the buried booty in a notebook among his deceased father's belongings, maintain that a scan of the spot has revealed that a large quantity of metal is about 20 yards below the surface. They believe it to be either gold or silver, based on the scan with a sophisticated metal detector.

On Tuesday, a drilling company was to start work on the site, about 100 yards from the Czech Republic in the eastern German state of Saxony, boring a hole so that a camera can be snaked down to the find to determine exactly what it is.

Haustein — an amateur treasure hunter who is also a member of Germany's parliament for the opposition Free Democratic Party — said the process could take several days, depending on how much rock needs to be penetrated.

"We have no time pressure," he said. "Our top priority is safety — we can't allow anything to happen."

Haustein has been working with Christian Hanisch to find the suspected treasure for about eight weeks, after Hanisch found the notebook in the belongings of his father, a former Luftwaffe radio operator who died last year.

Haustein said last week that he was convinced they had found the storied Amber Room treasure, but later acknowledged that while there could be "cultural treasures" in the cavern, such as paintings or amber paneling, they are not things that show up with a metal detector.

The Amber Room — named for magnificent wall panels of golden-brown amber — was stolen by the Nazis from a palace outside St. Petersburg during World War II and has never been recovered in its entirety.

Experts have been skeptical of Haustein's claim, pointing out that stories of the Amber Room surface regularly, only to be proved wrong, and that the Amber Room had no significant amounts of gold or silver in it.

Obama and global trade

Obama and global trade
By Paul Craig Roberts
Online Journal Guest Writer
Feb 25, 2008

Unique among the contenders for the presidential nominations, Barack Obama has raised the issue of US job loss from US corporations moving operations abroad in order to lower their labor costs and, thereby, boost profits. As reported by the Financial Times, Obama proposed a lower tax rate for US companies that maintain or increase their US workforce relative to their overseas workforce. [Obama seeks Ohio’s blue-collar vote by Edward Luce, February 19, 2008]

Economists, who have crawled out on a limb in defense of offshoring jobs, quickly denounced Obama's plan. As the US economy continues to lose relative ground, economists hold more tightly to their misconception that a country benefits by moving high value-added, high income jobs abroad and replacing them at home with low value-added, low income jobs. This view, which places the rights of capital far above the rights of labor and the duties of citizenship, is economically nonsensical as well. Whatever the defects of Obama's plan, it shows more serious thought than can be found among Washington policymakers and the economics profession.

Obama's concern is shared by Ralph Gomory, one of America's most distinguished mathematicians and co-author with William Baumol, past president of the American Economics Association, of the most important book on trade theory in 200 years, Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests. Gomory has pointed out that corporations break the link between their interests and America's interest when they offshore their production for US markets. By producing abroad, they raise foreign GDP and lower US GDP. By producing abroad, they raise the productivity of foreign labor and lower the productivity of US labor. By producing abroad, they increase the productivity capabilities and trade position of other countries at America's expense.

What can be done? Gomory suggests that one solution would be to replace the US corporate income tax with a tax based on the value-added of a corporation's US employees. The higher the value-added of a corporation's US work force compared to its industry, the lower the tax rate. Such a tax system would encourage corporations to keep high productivity, high-value added jobs in the US and to increase them.

The aim would be to set the tax to counteract the advantage to the corporations of producing with less expensive labor abroad. Large underutilized labor forces in China and India permit US corporations to hire abundant labor at wages substantially less than the workers' contributions to profits, resulting in a shift of high value-added jobs abroad. Gomory's scheme would provide an incentive for corporations to increase the value-added component from the US workforce instead of capitalizing on cheap foreign labor.

Gomory's idea deserves thought. In the meantime, we are faced with pressures from a massive trade deficit that cannot be closed as long as US corporations are moving their production offshore. Offshored products for US markets reenter the US as imports, thus widening the trade deficit, already a world record. The continual widening of the trade deficit will eventually erode away the dollar's value and its role as world reserve currency. Currently we are covering our trade deficit by giving up the ownership of our existing assets.

Another smart man, Warren Buffett, has proposed a way to bring US trade into balance. Exporters would be awarded import certificates in the dollar value of their exports. The certificates would be sold in a market to importers, who could import goods in the dollar amount of the certificates. This way imports cannot exceed exports. Moreover, as the certificates would be profit to exporters, it encourages more exports. Free trade theory never intended for economies to be in permanent trade disequilibrium. The US experience of a worsening disequilibrium over a quarter century is outside the bounds of trade theory.

The US has serious economic problems and cannot afford to continue to pile up debts and to sell off its assets to pay its bills. David Walker, head of the US Government Accountability Office, has put the unfunded liabilities of the US government (principally Social Security and Medicare benefits) at between $50 and $60 trillion. Official statistics show no growth in real median family incomes in many years. The dollar's value has declined dramatically in relation to other traded currencies. The United States simply cannot afford to stand by blindly while its corporations shift US GDP growth to China, India, and elsewhere abroad.

The unfunded liabilities of the US government amount to $500,000 per American household. As no more than 1 or 2 percent of American households can come up with this kind of cash, the US government is essentially bankrupt. The bankruptcy will worsen as offshoring moves more US GDP abroad while simultaneously raising the trade deficit and indebtedness of the country.

American hubris produces gigantic delusion not only among the people and the politicians but also among the economists. President Obama and his Secretary of the Treasury, Ralph Gomery, are our last best hopes.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.

Study to Track All-Day Media Usage

Study to Track All-Day Media Usage
What better way to track people's video consumption than to have someone follow them around all day?
Steve McClellan, Adweek
FEBRUARY 25, 2008

What better way to track people's video consumption than to have someone follow them around all day -- literally from the time they wake up until they retire at night -- making detailed notes about when and how they watch, listen, surf, read, play video games, download, text and talk on the phone?

That's exactly how a new $3.5 million study--funded by the Nielsen Co.--will track the media usage habits of a panel of some 450 consumers in separate phases throughout this year beginning next month.

Ball State University--a pioneer in this type of shadow-the-consumer research--and Sequent Partners on behalf of the Committee for Research Excellence (CRE) are conducting the study. CRE, comprised of agency, media company and client executives, was formed in 2005 to develop studies that provide insights into consumer viewing habits and to help Nielsen sharpen the methodologies it uses to measure audiences across a growing array of media.

Results of the study will be released in stages beginning later this year. "We think this will be a landmark study with groundbreaking results," said Shari Anne Brill, svp, director of programming at Carat and chairwoman of CRE's media consumption and engagement committee. "It will give us a blueprint of consumers' access to media content across all screens, platforms and locations throughout their waking day."

In addition to funding the study, Nielsen Media Research (like Adweek, a unit of the Nielsen Co.) will help recruit the consumer panels, which will be comprised of former participants in Nielsen's national TV ratings panel.

A panel of 350 consumers across five markets--Philadelphia, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago--will be monitored for a full day in the spring and fall of this year by trackers who will record (via electronic handheld note-taking devices) the use of 17 different media as the people use them alone and in multiple combinations. A separate panel of 100 users will also be tracked in the spring and fall. Before the second phase, that panel will have the option to purchase Slingboxes, DVRs and other state-of-the-art media units at discounted rates. The idea is to use the second panel as a predictor of how new media devices will affect future viewing patterns.

Ball State and Sequent won the contract to conduct the survey after a review that included two other undisclosed finalists. The researchers conducted a pre-test last year to prove to the CRE that a panel would cooperate and provide usable data that could be projected nationally, said Mike Bloxham, director of insight and research at Ball State's Center for Media Design. "The findings will provide an important platform for analysis and debate as the committee pursues its mission to inform future best practices in cross-platform video measurement," he said.