December 8, 2007

Inquiry into destroyed C.I.A. interrogation tapes

The Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency’s internal watchdog began a joint preliminary inquiry on Saturday into the spy agency’s destruction of hundreds of hours of videotapes showing interrogations of top operatives of Al Qaeda.
The videotapes, which were destroyed in November 2005, depict severe interrogation methods used on two Qaeda suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Questions are being asked about which officials inside the C.I.A. decided to destroy the tapes. The agency operative who ordered the destruction of the tapes was Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the head of the C.I.A.’s national clandestine service. The New York Times reported that on Saturday, a government official who had spoken recently with Rodriguez said that Rodriguez told him that he had received approval from lawyers inside the agency to destroy the tapes.
According to the New York Times: “Officials have acknowledged that the destruction of evidence like videotaped interrogations could raise questions about whether the C.I.A. was seeking to hide evidence of coercion.?
The BBC said that the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael Hayden, told fellow C.I.A. employees in an earlier internal memo that they had begun taping interrogations as an internal check in 2002 and decided to delete the videos because they no longer had “intelligence value? and posed a security threat.
Investigators will gather information to try to determine whether a full inquiry is needed. If they determine that any agency employees broke the law, the C.I.A. inspector general, John Helgerson, would issue a criminal referral to the Justice Department, according to standard procedure.

The New York Times:


December 7, 2007

AP releases details from Omaha shooter's suicide note

The gunman who killed eight people in a mall shooting wrote that he “just snapped? in his hand-written suicide note released Friday.
Nineteen-year-old Robert Hawkins left the note at the Bellevue house where he lived before randomly opening fire at Omaha’s Westroads Mall on Wednesday. He fatally wounded eight people before taking his own life.
Police released the three-page note, in which he shows love for his family and friends but contempt for his random victims, after The Associated Press made a Freedom of Information Act request.
Hawkins became a ward of the state and spent four years in a series of treatment centers, group homes and foster care after threatening to kill his stepmother in 2002.
People who knew Hawkins said he was a drug user and had a history of depression. According to court records, he underwent psychiatric evaluations.
About an hour before Wednesday’s shootings, Hawkins called Debora Maruca-Kovac, a woman who had taken him into her home, and told her he had written the suicide note, Maruca-Kovac said.
The Associated Press article has more details from the note and the names of the shoppers killed.
The Associated Press:

December 1, 2007

Estimate of H.I.V. rate likely to rise

The United States government’s estimate of the number of Americans who become infected with the AIDs virus each year is likely to rise as much as 50 percent, according to patient advocates. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that new technologies and statistical analyses show that 50,000 to 60,000 people were infected with the virus in 2005, said Walt Senterfitt, an epidemiologist with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and a former adviser for the centers. The agency has used an estimate of about 40,000 new HIV infections each year for the past decade.
The higher estimate is a result of a new method testing blood samples that can identify those who were infected within the previous five months. This enables epidemiologists to estimate how many new infections are appearing nationwide each month or year.
The newest estimate is based on data from 19 states and large cities that have been
Researchers are still uncertain whether the American H.I.V. epidemic is growing or is simply larger than anyone thought – it will take at least two more years to spot a trend and find the answer.
According to the Washington Post: “There is evidence, however, that at least some of the higher number may reflect an uptick in infections in recent years. Information from 33 states with the most precise form of reporting showed a 13 percent increase in HIV infections in homosexual men from 2001 to 2005.?
This newest estimate comes after world health officials last month decreased their estimate of the number of people infected with H.I.V. by about 16 percent, from 39.5 million to 33.2 million. The Washington Post said the “drastically reduced? estimate was a result of crude methods of counting being replaced by better ones.
Jennifer Ruth, a spokeswoman for the centers, said the data on H.I.V. infections was undergoing a review process for publication in a medical journal. Until that process is complete, the estimate of annual infections will remain unchanged, she said.
Patient advocates have been aiming for new figure since 2005, believing that it shows the need for stronger H.I.V. prevention measures, according to David Munar, the vice chairman of the National Association of People with AIDS, based in Silver Spring, Md.

The New York Times:

Washington Post:

November 14, 2007

Tranplant patients contract H.I.V.

Four transplant recipients in Chicago have contracted H.I.V. from an organ donor in the first known cases in more than a decade in which the virus was spread by organ transplants.
The recipients also were infected with hepatitis C, which health officials said was the first reported instance in which the two viruses were spread at the same time by a transplant.
Though cases like this are exceptionally rare, they call attention to a known flaw in the system for checking organ donors for infection: the most commonly used tests may not detect viral diseases if they are performed early in the course of the infection.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the incidents may lead to widespread changes in testing methods of transplants.
The cases were first reported on Tuesday by The Chicago Tribune. Two patients were infected at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and one each at Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
While officials would not say which organs were transplanted, no other tissues were taken from the donor.
The University of Chicago said that the transplants took place in January, and that the adult donor died in an Illinois hospital “three days after traumatic injury.?
The other hospitals confirmed that each had an infected patient but declined to discuss what happened.
When one of the recipients, who was being evaluated for a retransplant, tested positive for H.I.V. and hepatitis C, blood preserved from the donor was found to be infected after it was given a highly sensitive test for viruses. The Chicago Tribune said that the patients didn’t learn until the last two weeks that they were infected with H.I.V. and hepatitis C.
According to Dr. J. Michael Millis, the chief of transplantation at the University of Chicago, the diseases were treatable.
The New York Times reported that, according to the University of Chicago, the organ donor was identified as “high risk,? based on a risk factor revealed by a “close friend who provided a health and social history.?
The Chicago Tribune said that officials with the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donation, the Elmhurst agency that tested and approved the organs for donation said a screening questionnaire determined that the organ donor had engaged in high-risk behavior.
Infections can be missed by the typical tests if patients have contracted H.I.V. up to 22 days before being tested, with the window even longer for hepatitis.
Federal guidelines recommend against using transplant organs from high-risk people unless the recipients “are so likely to die for want of a transplant that H.I.V. seems a lesser threat? (The New York Times).
About 9 percent of organ donors qualify as high-risk because of behaviors like drug use with needle-sharing or prostitution.
The New York Times said, “It has always been known that this kind of transmission was theoretically possible, but it was considered highly unlikely. Considering that since 1994 nearly 300,000 transplants from cadavers have occurred without any reported cases of H.I.V. transmission, infections are very rare.

The New York Times:

The Chicago Tribune:,0,7359947.story

November 10, 2007

San Francisco Bay oil spill

A preliminary investigation found human error lead to San Francisco Bay’s worst oil spill in nearly two decades when a cargo ship crashed into the Bay Bridge, the U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday while rescue teams hurried to save hundreds of seabirds.
Coast Guard officials wouldn’t place blame on any particular individual or provide further information about the mistakes that were made during the midweek crash and spill.
Investigators were concentrating on issues surrounding the ship’s official protocol for safely navigating out of the bay, including possible communication problems between the ships crew, the pilot guiding the vessel and the Vessel Traffic Service, the Coast Guard station that monitors the bay’s shipping traffic.
The Cosco Busan was headed out of the bay when it sideswipped one of the supports of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Wednesday morning, creating a gash nearly 100 feet long on the side of the 926-foot vessel. After the crash, two ruptured fuel tanks leaked about 58,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay.
On Saturday, the Coast Guard increased the number of ships to 20 from 11 the previous day to work on skimming the oil from the bay, said Petty Officer Sherri Eng. Nearly 20,000 gallons of the liquid had been cleaned up by Saturday morning, according to figures released by the Coast Guard.
The cleanup job is expected to last weeks or possibly months, according to the Associated Press, and concentrated globules could possibly remain in the water for months and cause problems for seabirds.
At least 60 birds were found dead while 200 live birds were recovered and sent to a rehabilitation center in Solano County.
State wildlife officials said they have received hundreds of reports of oiled birds found in Bay area beaches, with two dozen of the beaches closed after tides carried the oil under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific Ocean.
According to the Star Tribune, researchers have already seen two dozen oiled murres, the penguin-like birds vulnerable to floating oil about 30 miles west of Golden Gate at the Farallon Islands, an ecologically important home for hundreds of thousands of seabirds, seals and sea lions.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday after meeting with state, federal and local officials overseeing the cleanup. The proclamation makes additional state personnel, funding and equipment available.

The Star Tribune:

The Associated Press:

November 4, 2007

Writers Guild plans to strike Monday

Movie and television writers are poised to picket on Monday unless an unlikely agreement is made with their studios, the first industrywide strike in Hollywood since 1988.
At a press conference in Los Angeles on Friday, leaders of the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East said they would demand their members to stop work after midnight Sunday. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Writers Guild represents about 12,000 TV and film writers.
On Friday, writers spread leaflets outside NBC’s offices in Manhattan at Rockefeller Center, explaining why they are asking for a larger share of the billions of dollars in revenue collected by the studios and networks.
Producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, have refused to meet guild writers demand for a sharp increase in what they are paid for the use of movies and TV programs on DVDs and online. The producers argue, according to the New York Times that the major studios and networks must use new revenue to cover rising costs. The Washington Post says that studios aren’t meeting demands because they think it is too early to “divvy up the still-small? profits that new technologies generate.
The result of the strike is likely to be a gradual halt in the production of all television shows, with the exceptions news and reality programs, along with new movies. The fallout will be noticeable first among entertainment talk shows, many of which say they will air repeats starting Monday.
The Los Angeles Times, which has comprehensive coverage on this issue, not surprising since Los Angles stands to be the hardest hit by a strike, said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa met with guild officials earlier this week in an effort to help mediate the dispute, but “the parties were so polarized that few were optimistic about the probability of an eleventh-hour deal.?
If the strike is a long one – with the New York Times reporting “nothing in the bitter negotiations so far signals otherwise? – the strike “may well realign the industry’s relationship with Hollywood’s creative class.?
The Washington Post reports that the 1988 writer’s strike lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry an estimated $500 million in lost revenue.

The New York Times:

The Washington Post:

The Los Angeles Times:,0,2443246.story?coll=la-home-center

October 23, 2007

Third day of California fires

Harsh winds, unstable thermal conditions and strained firefighting resources left firefighters in Southern California conceding defeat Tuesday to the blazes that continue to rage on.
The fires have displaced more than 500,000 people in the area, which continues to experience harsh Santa Ana winds that aren’t expected to subside for at least another day.
On Tuesday, more than 400 square miles in 7 counties had been overtaken by some 16 fires, with their flames driven by high desert winds and hot temperatures that overwhelmingly resisted air attacks, garden hoses and fire retardant.
On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Times reported 429, 862 acres burned, 1,235 homes destroyed and 1,682 structures (including homes) destroyed. This is the biggest evacuation in California history.
The fires, blazing from the Simi Valley north of Los Angeles to the Mexican border, caused two deaths, and possibly four others, related to evacuation in San Diego County, authorities said. At least 25 firefighters and civilians were reported to have suffered burns.
In San Diego County, authorities placed evacuation calls to 346,000 homes, according to Luis Monteagudo, a spokesman for the county’s emergency effort. The county estimates, based on census data, that about 513,000 people were told to leave.
The Los Angeles Times said the damage is likely to reach at least $500 million in insured losses, according to the Insurance Information Network of California.
Weather conditions only grew worse on Tuesday, with temperatures across Southern California about 10 degrees above average. Temperatures were in the 90s by mid-afternoon and wind gusts up to 60 mpg were expected in mountains and canyons.
The Los Angeles Times: “Officials said containment was days away at the earliest.?
President Bush, who planned to visit the area Thursday, declared a federal emergency for seven counties in a move that will speed disaster-relief efforts.
The Associated Press said the massive devastation brought to mind the blazes that ripped through Southern California in 2003, killing 22 and destroying 3,640 homes. But San Diego’s Union Tribune reports that the current winds are “far more powerful than the Santa Anas that fueled the historic Cedar and Paradise fires of 2003.?

The Associated Press:

The Los Angeles Times:,0,5795853.story?coll=la-home-center

(San Diego) Union Tribune:

October 20, 2007

Lawsuit reinstated for man wrongly suspected in Sept. 11 attacks

According to The Associated Press, a federal appeals court in Manhattan reinstated a lawsuit against the F.B.I. on Thursday that was brought five years ago by an Egyptian student wrongly suspected of assisting the hijackers from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ruling, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit by the student, Abdallah Higazy.
Higazy was detained for 34 days shortly after the terrorist attack, suspected of aiding the hijackers with a sophisticated aviation radio in his hotel room.
According to Higazy, an F.B.I agent coerced him into saying that the radio, which a security guard at the Millenium Hilton Hotel had said was in his room, was his when it was not during an interrogation.
Higazy came to New York from Cairo in August 2001 to study computer engineering at the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. The son of a former Egyptian diplomat, he was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development, which put him up in a 51st-floor corner room of the hotel, across the street from the twin towers.
When the towers were attacked, Higazy fled the hotel along with the other guests, taking only his wallet and the clothing he was wearing.
Three months later, he was arrested by the F.B.I. after he returned to retrieve his belongings. The F.B.I acted on a material witness warrant after the security guard said he had found the radio, capable of communicating with nearby airplanes, in Higazy’s hotel room.
Within days, Higazy was administered a lie-detector test and interrogated by Special Agent Michael Templeton of the F.B.I. According to Higazy, Templeton coerced him into claiming ownership of the radio by making threats against his family in Egypt.
During Higazy’s detention, an American airplane pilot returned to the Hilton to retrieve the radio, which he said he had unintentionally left in his 50th-floor room.
Higazy was released, and the security guard, Ronald Ferry, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the F.B.I. An internal inquiry cleared Agent Templeton and others of any wrongdoing connected to the false confession.
In December 2002, Higazy filed his lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan, claiming that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated. The suit was dismissed in a June 2005 decision by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.
It its own ruling, the appeals court sent the question of whether Higazy’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated back to Judge Buchwald for reconsideration and a potential trial.
According to The A.P., the F.B.I. declined to comment.

The Associated Press:

October 13, 2007

Truck pile-up in California freeway tunnel

According to The Associated Press, a rain-slicked Southern California freeway tunnel crash turned into a chain-reaction pileup on Friday that wrecked 15 trucks, killed at least two people and shut down the busy north-south route as the wreckage burned for hours.
Authorities warned more bodies might be found. One truck driver was still unaccounted for, and 10 people were injured.
The two dead were found in the tunnel after the flames died down.
While the tunnel is designed to carry truck traffic through a mountain pass area, passenger cars may also use it, causing concerns that some might be trapped inside, Fire Inspector Jason Hurd said.
Two trucks collided about 11 p.m. inside a southbound truck tunnel on Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita, California, triggering the pileup, according to Hurd.
Twenty people fled the tunnel on foot, including the 10 injured, Hurd said. The injured were taken to hospitals and treated mainly for burns and neck and back injuries.
Flames shot out of both ends of the tunnel, rising as high as 100 feet into the air, firefighters at the scene said.
The key route between Los Angeles and San Francisco remained blocked Saturday, and the wreckage was still smoldering more than 14 hours after the wreck. The highway is also a major commuter link connecting Los Angeles to its northern suburbs, and huge traffic jams are likely in the area if the route is still closed when the work week starts Monday.

October 7, 2007

Shooting rampage in Wisconsin

An off-duty sheriff’s deputy killed six young people and critically injured one person early Sunday at a gathering at a home in Crandon, Wisconsin before authorities brought him down, officials said.
The gunman, 20-year-old Tyler Peterson, worked full-time as a Forest County deputy sheriff and part-time as a Crandon police officer, said Police Chief John Dennee.
The survivor was hospitalized in nearby Marshfield, Denne said. A Crandon police officer who fired back at Peterson was treated for minor injuries and released.
Dennee said the state Department of Criminal Investigation will handle the case because the suspect was a deputy and officer.
The rampage happened in a white, two-story duplex about a block from downtown Crandon where the young people had gathered for pizza and movies, according to Denne. According to the Guardian Unlimited, a witness told local radio station WTMJ that the shooting happened just before 3 a.m.
Three of the victims were recent graduates of the small town’s high school, and three were students, Crandon High School Superintendent Richard Peters said.
Peterson was not working at the time of the shooting, Sheriff Keith Van Cleve said.
Gary Bradley, mayor of the city of about 2,000, said Sunday that the suspect had been taken down by a sniper, but Van Cleve would not confirm that officers shot the suspect.
According to The Associated Press, it wasn’t immediately apparent what the gunman’s motive was, but the mother of a 14-year-old victim said the suspect may have been a jealous boyfriend.
Crandon is about 225 miles north of Milwaukee. The Crandon School District called off classes Monday.

The Associated Press:

Guardian Unlimited:,,2185780,00.html

September 30, 2007

21.7 million pounds of beef recalled

Topps Meat Co. expanded a recall of ground beef from about 300,000 pounds to 21.7 million pounds on Saturday due to E. coli concerns, one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history.
The New Jersey company said in a statement that the hamburger patties may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7, a bacterium that can cause severe diarrhea, cramps and, in extreme cases, kidney failure. It can be fatal for the very young, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
According to CNN, a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 25 illnesses are under investigation in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Associated Press said three cases of E. Coli from Topps products are confirmed.
The company had announced a recall of about 331,000 pounds of hamburger meat on Tuesday, according to the USDA.
The products, all ground beef patties and hamburgers sold under various brand names, were distributed mainly in the northeastern United States, but went to retailers in many other areas of the country as well, said Topps spokeswoman Michelle Williams.
The recall represents all Topps products with either a “sell by date? or a “best if used by date? between Sept. 25 this year and Sept. 25, 2008, with all recalled products also having a USDA establishment number of EST 9748.
CNN reports that production in the ground beef area of the company’s plant has been shut down while the company works with the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in conducting an internal investigation, according to Williams. The Associated Press adds,
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday it had suspended the grinding of raw products at the Topps plant after inspectors found inadequate safety measures at the Topps plant,? which the USDA declined to detail the inadequate safety measures.
Two other companies have been involved in larger meat recalls. Pilgrim’s Pride recalled more than 27 million pounds of poultry in 2002, and in 1997, Hudson Foods recalled 25 million pounds of ground beef.


The Associated Press:

September 29, 2007

Sixth person dies from brain-destroying amoeba in lake waters

A 14-year-old Phoneix boy died September 17 after picking up a killer amoeba while swimming in the warm shallows of a lake, the sixth death this year, reports The Associated Press.
The microscopic amoeba, Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL’-erh-eye), enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain to feed, destroying brain tissue.
Attacks such as these are extremely rare but usually fatal. The Associated Press says six boys and young men have died this year in three states, with three cases in Florida, two in Texas and the most recent in Arizona.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Naegleria has killed 23 people in the United States from 1995 to 2004. The CDC knows of only several hundred cases globally since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.
Naegleria grazes off algae and bacteria in the sediment of lakes, hot springs, even dirty swimming pools, living almost everywhere.
People become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom, according to Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the CDC. If the stirred-up water shoots up the nose – by, for instance, doing a cannonball off a cliff – the amoeba can latch onto the olfactory nerve.
Infected people tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers, showing signs of brain damage such as behavioral changes in the later stages, said Beach.
There is no good treatment, and people who have been attacked rarely survive, said Beach.
“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,? Beach said.
Some health officials have put their communities on high alert, telling people to stay away from warm, standing water.

The Associated Press:

September 22, 2007

Bush plans to veto children's health bill

President Bush said on Thursday he would veto a bill that would expand a children’s health program, calling it a step toward government-run health care.
At stake is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a state-federal program that expires Sept. 30. It subsidizes health coverage for low-income people, mostly children, in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a proposal Friday that would add 4 million people to the 6.6 million already participating by adding $35 billion over five years to the program. The addition would be financed by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.
The Associated Press reports Bush as saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, and extends government-funded insurance to children in families who could afford private coverage. Instead, he has asked for an increase in funding for the program by $5 billion over the current $25 billion funding level for five years.
Bush’s threat of a veto drew criticism from Democrats and angered some Republicans who said his request was not sufficient, according to Reuters. The Associated Press reports that the bill’s backers reject Bush’s claim it would direct public money to families that can afford health insurance, with their goal to cover more of the millions of uninsured children. Financial incentives for states to cover their lowest-income children first would be part of the bill, they said.
While the bill has strong bipartisan support, Reuters reports that it is uncertain whether there are sufficient votes in both chambers to override a presidential veto.


The Associated Press:

September 17, 2007

Fed cuts interest rate half point

The Federal Reserve reduced its benchmark interest rate by an unusually large one-half percentage point on Tuesday in an effort to stop the slump in the housing and financial markets from bringing down the overall economy.
The interest rate change, to 4.75 percent from 5.25 percent, was the Fed’s first rate reduction of any kind in four years, the steepest in almost five years and its most abrupt reversal of course since January 2001, when policy makers sharply cut rates just before the last recession during an unscheduled emergency meeting.
For consumers, the rate cut could mean lower borrowing costs for mortgages and automobile loans. But the impact may be muted, because investors remain concerned about the credit quality of mortgages and other long-term loans.
The move, which analysts describe as a brazen attempt to restore confidence, is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s first major test since taking over from Alan Greenspan in early 2006.
According to the New York Times, policy makers warn that they still have lingering concerns about inflation, which would weigh against further stimulation of the economy with cheaper money. But CBS reports: “Analysts believe the Fed has room to cut rates even further because inflation pressures have been easing.? CBS mentions the Labor Department’s report Tuesday that wholesale prices fell by 1.4 percent in August, the biggest drop in 10 months and much larger than the 0.3 percent fall that had been expected.
The New York Times reports that, “Many Wall Street economists place the odds of a recession at about one-in-three or somewhat higher,? while Greenspan has placed the odds at slightly more than the one-in-three that he estimated earlier this year.


New York Times:

September 15, 2007

White House's latest report on Iraq shows lack of progress

According to CNN, the White House report released on Friday to U.S. lawmakers on progress in Iraq “showed meager gains on benchmarks that Congress established for the Iraqi government,? while the New York Times calls the report “decidedly mixed.?
The report found that Iraqi leaders had satisfactorily met nine of the 18 “benchmarks? mandated by Congress this year over whether to finance an increase in the U.S. force in Iraq.
According to the New York Times, “The White House report declared that eight other benchmarks had not been met or had only partly been met. Progress in two other areas could not be fully assessed,? with CNN noting that the two benchmarks “are not rated because the necessary preconditions are not yet present.?
CNN details more specifics of the benchmarks of the report. The report gave the Baghdad government mixed marks, saying that while military commanders were given more independence to effectively work with U.S. commanders, political intervention in the chain of command continued.
According to CNN, the report also shows improvement in ensuring the Iraqi security forces provide evenhanded enforcement of the law, although police forces continue to fall short.
The New York Times reports that “the Iraqi police ‘still act with a sectarian bias,’ that political leaders had interfered with efforts to crack down on Shiite militias and that those militias, not the government, controlled neighborhoods and even entire regions.?
CNN says the White House based the latest report on consultations with the State and Defense departments, Central Command commander Adm. William Fallon, Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker. Meanwhile, the New York Times says,? An administration official said on Friday that the White House hopes to scrap the benchmark exercise altogether and simply rely on the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker to make a new progress report to Congress in March.?
The New York Times notes that the administration has “repeatedly played down the significance of the benchmarks as it became clear they would portray Iraq’s central government as paralyzed? in the weeks leading up to the release of the report.


New York Times: