Archive for October 17th, 2006

GOP sources say party losing hope of victory

Republican sources in high-ranking Congressional offices are quietly acknowledging that the party has largely lost hope of retaining control of the House this November, RAW STORY has learned.

Aides currently in the employ of two different House committee chairmen have expressed to RAW STORY that they believe their party will become the minority after next month’s elections.

“I’ll probably be working for the ranking member this winter,” noted one staffer. “It just doesn’t look like there’s anything that’s going to prevent it.”
One sign of an impending shift, said another, is that staff members for Democratic congressmen have assumed an unusually confident posture. “[Democratic staffers] don’t even joke about it with us anymore. They just know.”

One pointed to rumors on the Hill that there is the possibility of a Democratic October surprise. “[Former Congressman Mark] Foley wasn’t their surprise. That just kinda happened, but people are saying they do have one of their own.”

The Foley scandal has been the dominant political story—and perhaps the prime mover—this election season, fueling conflict within the Republican party, evoking strong criticism from Democrats, and even prompting some right-wing critics to lay the blame at the feet of liberal bogeymen. But that tactic doesn’t seem to have resonated in opinion polls.

Earlier in the month, conservative websites began posting stories pointing to an assurance from Karl Rove that a Republican October surprise would rescue their party, but so far none has manifested. One Republican staffer even doubted whether any political maneuver by Rove would be enough to allow the GOP to retain the House, saying “I’m not even sure that’d work at this point.”


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Poll: Democrats lead in Republican-held districts

A bi-partisan poll of 48 congressional races believed to be competitive shows an even more uphill battle for Republicans in coming weeks than previously thought, RAW STORY has learned.

NPR commissioned the poll from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies.

With just three weeks until election day, the survey found Democrats running with a commanding lead in districts currently held by Republicans, and just 44% of voters planning to support the GOP.

In races for 38 seats currently held by Republicans, Democrats held a 4 point edge in named ballots. On a generic ballot, Democrats’ lead increased to 11 points. Independents say they plan to vote for Democrats by a 20 point margin.

Voter turnout could also negatively impact Republicans for the first time in years, with 59% of voters planning to vote Democratic reporting that they were enthusiastic about voting, but just 43% of likely Republican voters indicating the same.

Dissatisfaction with Bush Administration leadership seems to be one key to the poll’s findings. Even though 80% of those polled live in Republican districts, those who indicated that they “strongly disapprove” of the president led those who “strongly approve” by a two-to-one margin.

The war in Iraq seems to be driving discontent, with the subject being the primary concern of a clear plurality of voters. Three quarters of those naming Iraq as their top issue indicated that they will be voting Democratic.


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Second U.S. lawmaker faces misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional board which oversees a Capitol Hill internship program rocked by a sex scandal, discussed allegations on Monday involving a second lawmaker, said Rep. Dale Kildee (news, bio, voting record), a Michigan Democrat.

Kildee made the comment as he emerged from a closed-door meeting of a House ethics committee, which has been focused on the case of former Republican Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) of Florida, who resigned last month following disclosure he sent inappropriate electronic messages to male teenage interns, known as pages.

“It’s only been allegations made,” Kildee told reporters of the House page board’s discussion about a second lawmaker, who he declined to identify.

Kildee said he and other board members had a conference call earlier in the day about “other allegations, not about Mr. Foley.” Kildee also indicated the page board had talked about the matter with the second lawmaker.

Last week, a law enforcement official confirmed a report by NBC News that the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI in Arizona were conducting a “preliminary look” into a camping trip Rep. Jim Kolbe (news, bio, voting record) took with two teenage pages and others 10 years ago.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said federal investigators were responding to a “single allegation” about Kolbe of Arizona. The official refused to say who made the allegation or what was being alleged.

Kolbe’s office denied any wrongdoing.

“The rafting trip back in 1996 consisted of five current staff, two former pages and his sister,” a spokeswoman for Kolbe said. “There is absolutely no basis and no truth to any (allegations of) inappropriate behavior.”

As part of the ethics committee’s investigation of Foley, it is trying to determine if any other House members demonstrated troubling behavior toward teenage interns.

With reports that some Republican House members or staff were told about Foley’s troubling conduct months or even years ago, the panel is also trying to determine if there was a cover-up — who knew what and when about Foley and what, if anything, they did about it.


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Former F.D.A. Chief Is Charged With Conflict

Lester M. Crawford, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration, was charged yesterday with conflict of interest and lying about stock he and his wife owned in companies the agency regulates.

Dr. Crawford, who resigned abruptly in September 2005, just two months after his nomination had been approved by the Senate, is expected to plead guilty in federal court in Washington today, said his lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder.

Each of the two charges filed against Dr. Crawford, 68, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, but Ms. Van Gelder said she expected him to be fined and placed on probation.

“It’s his responsibility,” she said, “and he accepts it.”

Senior employees of the food and drug agency are prohibited from owning shares in companies the agency regulates, and when Dr. Crawford became a deputy commissioner in 2002, the government’s charging document says, ethics officials at the Department of Health and Human Services told him that he and his wife would have to sell stock in a dozen regulated companies. Those companies included several large pharmaceutical and medical device concerns, among them Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Medtronic and Boston Scientific.

Dr. Crawford and his wife, Catherine, sold their holdings in nine companies, the government says, but retained shares in three others: the food giants Sysco and Pepsico, and Kimberly-Clark, a maker of consumer health care and other products.

In addition, it says, Mrs. Crawford held shares in another regulated company, Wal-Mart, but her husband did not list those holdings in his 2002 financial disclosure.


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WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 /PRNewswire/ — President Bush will sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) on Tuesday. The administration claims that this law provides clear authorization for the CIA to conduct so-called “enhanced” interrogations. Credible media reports say these include waterboarding, extreme cold and sleep deprivation and prolonged stress positions. However, Republicans in both Houses said these techniques are “clearly prohibited” by the new law.

Please join nationally recognized experts for a telephone conference discussion of whether the new law authorizes or criminalizes brutal interrogations by calling: 1-800-210-9006, Passcode: 7848100 # on Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 12-noon EDT (9 a.m. PDT).

Speakers will include:
Fred Hitz, former CIA Inspector General and veteran CIA operations officer. Mr. Hitz, a 20-year career veteran of the CIA attended Harvard Law School and teaches at Univ. of Virginia Law School.

Neal Sonnett, one of the nation’s leading criminal trial lawyers and former prosecutor. Sonnet served as the chief of the criminal division of the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida, and a criminal defense lawyer, serving as President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He has 38 years of experience prosecuting and defending criminal cases and was appointed the official ABA observer for the Military Commission trials at Guantanamo.

Dr. Allen Keller, Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture. Dr. Keller is an award winning physician who has treated torture survivors for over a decade. He is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at NYU School of Medicine.

Moderated by:
Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of Human Rights First. Ms. Massimino is an attorney and has worked extensively with retired military officers opposed to the use of torture and other cruel interrogation techniques.

WHO: Elisa Massimino, Fred Hitz, Neal Sonnett and Dr. Allen Keller
WHAT: Press call on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) which
is being signed by President Bush on Tuesday.
WHEN: Tuesday, October 17, 2006, 12-noon EDT (9 a.m. PDT).
CALL IN: Call-in number: 1-800-210-9006, Passcode: 7848100 #

Source: Open Society Policy Center

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91 die in sectarian violence in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Four days of sectarian slaughter killed at least 91 people by Monday in Balad, a town near a major U.S. air base an hour’s drive north of the capital. Elsewhere, 60 Iraqis died in attacks and 16 tortured bodies were found.

The U.S. command said seven American troops died in fighting a day earlier. That raised the U.S. toll to 58 killed in the first two weeks of October, a pace that if continued would make the month the worst for coalition forces since 107 U.S. and 10 British soldiers died in January 2005.

Iraqi deaths also are running at a high rate. According to an Associated Press count, 708 Iraqis have been reported killed in war-related violence this month, or just over 44 a day, compared to a daily average of more than 27 since the AP began tracking deaths in April 2005.

A surge in sectarian bloodshed and jump in U.S. casualties coincide with the run-up to the American midterm elections in which the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war has become a key issue.

The U.S. military has kept a low profile in Balad, where violence began Friday with the slaying of 17 Shiite Muslim workers. Revenge-seeking Shiite death squads then killed 74 Sunnis, causing people to flee across the Tigris River to the nearby Sunni-dominated city of Duluiyah.

An American spokesman did not directly respond when asked if the Iraqi government had sought U.S. military assistance in quelling the violence.

“Coalition force units are partnering with Iraqi police and Iraqi army units involved in operations around Balad. We are also providing quick reaction assets to the Iraqi police and army. The IA and IP are in the lead with the operations around Balad,” Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said.

The two runways at the air base on the outskirts of Balad are among the world’s busiest, launching 27,500 aircraft a month, hundreds of them bomb-laden jets that support U.S. troops moving against insurgents. The base is also the supply hub for all U.S. military operations in Iraq.

President Bush, meanwhile, telephoned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to reassure him of American support as rumors swirled through Baghdad that Washington had lost patience with the Shiite leader during his little more than four months in office.

Bush spokesman Tony Snow said the president used the 15-minute conversation to tell al-Maliki there was no American deadline for the Iraqi government to be able to stand on its own.

Al-Maliki “said that rumors sometimes can undercut confidence in the government and also its ability to work effectively in fighting terror,” Snow reported. “And the president said, `Don’t worry, you still have our full support.'”


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