The Morning News is an Open Thread
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1 Rather: Government influencing newsrooms
By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 21 minutes ago
|NEW YORK – Dan Rather said Thursday that the undue influence of the government and large corporations over newsrooms spurred his decision to file a $70 million lawsuit against CBS and its former parent company.
“Somebody, sometime has got to take a stand and say democracy cannot survive, much less thrive with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in news,” he said on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
“They sacrificed support for independent journalism for corporate financial gain, and in so doing, I think they undermined a lot at CBS News,” he told King.
2 Pentagon probes $6 billion in contracts
By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 20, 9:17 PM ET
|WASHINGTON – Federal investigators are examining allegations of criminal misconduct related to $6 billion worth of contracts for equipment and services needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.
The financial scope of the inquiries was provided during a congressional hearing at which Defense Department representatives were criticized for moving too slowly to deal with a growing number of cases of contract fraud and abuse.
Following the testimony from Thomas Gimble, the Pentagon’s deputy inspector general, members of the House Armed Services Committee questioned whether a “culture of corruption” had consumed the military’s system for buying the gear the troops need to fight.
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3 Democrats proceed with Iraq legislation
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 19 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats defiantly charged ahead Thursday with legislation ordering troops home from Iraq, still lacking the votes to win but armed with the mantra that Republicans, along with President Bush, now own the war.
“They want this war more than they want to protect our soldiers,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters. “When I say they want the war, they want to protect their president more than they want to protect our troops.”
Reid spoke minutes after Republicans successfully pushed through, by a 72-25 vote, a resolution condemning an advertisement by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org. Displayed in The New York Times, the ad taunted Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, as “General Betray Us.”
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4 FBI tapes Stevens calls as part of sting
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
59 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – The FBI, working with an Alaska oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public corruption sting, according to people close to the investigation.
The secret recordings suggest the Justice Department was eyeing Stevens long before June, when the Republican senator first publicly acknowledged he was under scrutiny. At that time, it appeared Stevens was a new focus in a case that had already ensnared several state lawmakers.
The recorded calls between Stevens and businessman Bill Allen were confirmed by two people close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. They declined to say how many calls were recorded or what was said.
5 Bush defends Iraq troop plan, slams Democrats
By Matt Spetalnick, Reuters
Thu Sep 20, 2:20 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush on Thursday defended his plan for limited U.S. troop cuts in Iraq and denounced Democrats for not taking a stronger stand against an anti-war group’s attack on the credibility of his top Iraq commander.
Bush was speaking at his first news conference since delivering a televised address backing Gen. David Petraeus’ proposal to withdraw about 20,000 troops by July. But as in his speech last Thursday, he defied calls for a dramatic change of course in Iraq.
“Progress will yield fewer troops (in Iraq),” Bush said. “In other words, return on success is what I said.”
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6 Why the Tough Talk on Iran?
By TONY KARON, Time Magazine
2 hours, 13 minutes ago
|President Bush must serve up a pretty convincing hamburger: Ever since his Kennebunkport cookout with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, the French have been rattling sabers at Iran with a ferocity that must please even the most Francophobe hawks within the Administration.
Recent tough talk by Sarkozy was ratcheted up last weekend by his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who urged the world to prepare for war against Iran. He later insisted that he meant simply that war was the worst possible outcome but that the failure of diplomatic pressure to dissuade Iran from enriching uranium would make war inevitable. To underscore the point, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon added Monday, “The Iranians must understand that tension has reached an extreme point … in the relationship [with] its neighbors.”
7 Kurds denounce U.S. detention of Iranian
By Jay Price and Yaseen Taha, McClatchy Newspapers
Thu Sep 20, 6:42 PM ET
|SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq – U.S. troops arrested an Iranian man during an early morning raid on a hotel in this northern Iraqi city Thursday and accused him of helping to smuggle a deadly type of roadside bomb into Iraq .
But the Kurdistan Regional Government in a statement called the arrest “illegitimate,” said the man was a member of a trade delegation that had been invited to Sulaimaniyah by the local government and demanded that he be released.
“Actions like these serve no one,” the statement said.
8 U.S. calls meeting to prepare new sanctions against Iran
By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy Newspapers Thu Sep 20, 5:45 PM ET
|VIENNA, Austria – After 18 years of concealing a nuclear program from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and four years of fruitless talks with the international community, Iran has pledged to come clean with facts to back up its claim that it isn’t seeking to build a nuclear weapon.
But the Bush administration, wary of any Iranian moves short of an immediate halt to its nuclear enrichment program, will attempt to convince other major powers Friday to impose tougher United Nations sanctions on Tehran .
The question of whether Iran will have the time it seeks to clear the air over its nuclear program will be central at the Washington talks, which the State Department announced even as the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “work plan” to reconstruct Iran’s past activities.
9 Myanmar under international pressure over protests
1 hour, 38 minutes ago
|YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s military junta came under growing international pressure Friday as it faces the most sustained challenge to its rule in nearly two decades, led by Buddhist monks.
Britain and the United States said they were “appalled” at its handling of peaceful protests which have spread across the country.
More than 1,300 monks took to the streets Thursday in Myanmar’s main city Yangon, drawing thousands of supporters in the largest anti-junta rally there since the protests first erupted.
10 Pakistani Islamists rally against Musharraf
14 minutes ago
|ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Hundreds of Islamic hardliners chanting “Al-Jihad” protested outside Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday against President Pervez Musharraf’s plan to be re-elected in uniform.
Around 800 members of opposition fundamentalist parties, waving green and white flags and banners with Islamist slogans, called on military ruler Musharraf to step down.
Several dozen supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan held a separate protest outside the court, a day after the election commission set October 6 as the date for the presidential election.
11 Iraq’s Maliki to look into Sunni political demands
56 minutes ago
|BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has agreed to look into political demands of the main Sunni Arab political bloc which pulled out of his Shi’ite-led government last month, his office said.
Maliki held “positive” talks late on Thursday with members of the Sunni Accordance Front, led by Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie, an official in Maliki’s office said.
“The prime minister ordered the formation of a committee to look into the demands of the Accordance Front regarding the government,” the official said.
12 French soldier dies in attack in Kabul
By Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters
3 minutes ago
|KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide car bomber targeted a convoy carrying NATO troops on Friday in the Afghan capital, killing one French soldier of the alliance and wounding several Afghan civilians, police said.
The attack in the western outskirts of Kabul city came hours after some 40 militants were killed in Garmsir district of southern Helmand province in an operation by Afghan government and U.S.-led troops, according to the U.S. military.
In Kabul, senior police official Ali Shah Paktiawal said of the convoy blast: “It was a suicide car attack against NATO, and one of its French soldiers has been killed.”
13 Afghan general cautious on peace talks
By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writers
1 hour, 15 minutes ago
|BAZARAK, Afghanistan – An anti-Taliban general who fought alongside U.S. forces during the 2001 invasion predicted Thursday that a proposal for peace talks will be snubbed by the Islamic militia’s hard-liners and foreign fighters but may entice some insurgent factions.
Gen. Bismillah Khan, now chief of the Afghan general staff, said efforts to bring about negotiations would be a “long and complex process.”
His comments, made during a visit by the most senior U.S. military chief for the region, appeared to reflect a more cautious view by some in the Afghan military toward a push by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to open talks with the Taliban.
14 Survivor recalls Blackwater shootings
By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer
22 minutes ago
|BAGHDAD – Lawyer Hassan Jabir was stuck in traffic when he heard Blackwater USA security contractors shout “Go, Go, Go.” Moments later bullets pierced his back, he said Thursday from his hospital bed.
Jabir was among about a dozen people wounded Sunday during the shooting in west Baghdad’s Mansour neighborhood. Iraqi police say at least 11 people were killed.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the shooting as a “crime” by Blackwater, a N.C.-based company that guards American diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq.
15 Bin Laden urges Pakistanis to rebel
By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 20, 4:35 PM ET
|CAIRO, Egypt – Osama bin Laden called on Pakistanis to wage holy war on their president Thursday, saying in a new recording that it was their religious duty to overthrow Gen. Pervez Musharraf for his alliance with the U.S. against Islamic militants.
The message was the third from bin Laden this month after a long lull, coming in a flurry of al-Qaida propaganda marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
Joining in, bin Laden’s chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, issued a video Thursday seeking to galvanize Islamic fighters from North Africa to Afghanistan.
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16 FEMA chief touts agency’s progress
By F.N. D’ALESSIO, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 20, 9:04 PM ET
|CHICAGO – The Federal Emergency Management Agency is now prepared to handle a disaster the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina, and those seeking evidence need look no further than catastrophes that hit the nation this year, agency Administrator R. David Paulison said Thursday.
Proof of FEMA’s reforms were in its rapid response to a killer tornado in Kansas, its preparedness for Category 5 Hurricane Dean and its efficient processing of disaster declaration requests after torrential rains in Illinois, said Paulison, making his remarks in an interview with The Associated Press as he visited Chicago as part of National Preparedness Month.
“We’re trying to deal with 30 years of bureaucracy that’s been built up and to streamline all the processes,” said Paulison, a former Miami-Dade fire chief named to the FEMA post after his predecessor, Michael Brown, resigned following the agency’s bungled response to Katrina two years ago.
17 Bush, Dems draw battle lines over health care
By Donna Smith, Reuters
Thu Sep 20, 3:46 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush vowed on Thursday to veto a plan to expand health insurance for children in low-income families, drawing criticism from Democrats and some fellow Republicans and setting the stage for a major battle with Congress.
Democratic leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives are moving toward agreement on a bill that would increase funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program by $35 billion and raise tobacco taxes to cover the cost. The federal tax on cigarettes would rise by 61 cents a pack to $1.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, accused Bush of “going back on his word” on a campaign promise to enroll millions of kids in the program.
18 The Dems’ Best Chance on Iraq?
By MICHAEL DUFFY/WASHINGTON, Time Magazine
1 hour, 29 minutes ago
|Can five times be the charm?
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed certainly hope so. In this week’s congressional tug of war over Iraq policy, their amendment to the defense spending bill – the latest version of one they’ve introduced four times before – has the best chance of ultimately winning the 60 votes required to give it a fuller Senate consideration. Finding 60 votes this time around is unlikely. But it is steadily gaining support.
Levin-Reed, which reached the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, is the most carefully engineered measure designed by Democrats to limit the scope of the war. It directs the Secretary of Defense to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq and alter the remaining forces’ mission to three smaller roles: force protection, training of Iraqi forces and counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda.
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19 McCain to criticize Giuliani on guns
By LIBBY QUAID, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 20, 11:05 PM ET
|WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain lobbed a thinly veiled attack at fellow rival Rudy Giuliani, describing the former mayor’s “devious” attempt with a lawsuit “to bankrupt our great gun manufacturers.”
Giuliani said he preferred to focus on the lion’s share of issues on which he and the National Rifle Association agree.
Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., and the former New York mayor are among several officials speaking Friday at a National Rifle Association conference.
20 Thompson shrugs off Dobson criticism
By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 20, 9:00 PM ET
|DALLAS – Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson on Thursday shrugged off harsh criticism from James Dobson, saying he has friends who likely know the influential Christian leader and they hold him in high regard.
In a private e-mail obtained by The Associated Press, Dobson accuses the former Tennessee senator and actor of being weak on the campaign trail and wrong on issues dear to social conservatives.
“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson wrote.
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21 House prices to drop much lower: Greenspan
5 minutes ago
|VIENNA (Reuters) – A big overhang of property will bring U.S. house prices down further, but it is too early to say if the economy will plunge into recession, former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan was quoted as saying on Friday.
Greenspan said in an interview with Austrian magazine Format that low interest rates in the past 15 years were to blame for the house price bubble, but that central banks were powerless when they tried to bring it under control.
“It’s a difficult situation, there is an enormous overhang on the real estate market,” Greenspan was quoted as saying. “Many buildings which just have been finished can’t be sold …”
22 GM, UAW to resume talks later Friday
By Jui Chakravorty, Reuters
2 hours, 1 minute ago
|DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Corp (GM.N) and the United Auto Workers union broke off negotiations early on Friday and agreed to return to the bargaining table later in the day, as 73,000 GM workers returned for another day of work without a new contract.
Talks adjourned around 12:45 a.m. EDT on Friday, GM spokesman Tom Wickham said, as the two sides adjourned a bargaining session of more than 14 hours.
The largest U.S. automaker and its major union have been locked in intensive labor negotiations since last Friday, when the UAW’s past contract expired.
23 Canadians find better bargains in US
By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 10 minutes ago
|TORONTO – Canadians are expressing pride in their economy but might be more inclined to go on shopping sprees in the U.S. after the Canadian dollar reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1976.
Thanks to a sinking U.S. dollar and soaring commodities prices that benefit oil-rich Canada, the “loonie” – named for the Canadian bird depicted on the one-dollar coin – could be exchanged 1-for-1 with the greenback Thursday.
“It makes me feel very proud. It’s a signal that our economy is doing well,” said Toronto freelance writer Ayah McKhail. “Everywhere you go in the world, the American dollar is just seen as the strongest one (currency). So to feel that, as a Canadian, our dollar is finally there, it’s very exciting.”
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24 ‘Jurassic Park’ dino had feathers: study
2 hours, 29 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – The velociraptor, the fierce scaly-skinned dinosaur made popular by the film “Jurassic Park,” actually had feathers, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.
Scientists have long been aware that many dinosaurs had feathers, but scientists who made a fresh examination of a collection of velociraptor bones found indications of quill knobs where feathers may have been anchored.
Paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum of Natural History made the discovery while examining fossils of a forearm bone that was dug up in Mongolia in 1998.
25 Chinese seabird on verge of extinction
By ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press Writer
Fri Sep 21, 12:05 AM ET
|BEIJING – The Chinese crested tern, a rare sea bird whose eggs are prized by some as a delicacy, is likely to be extinct in five years if authorities do not step up protection efforts, a conservation group said Friday.
The bird looks set to be the latest ecological victim of China’s rapid 30-year economic expansion and industrialization, which has raised the standard of living for hundreds of millions of Chinese but ravaged the environment. Late last year, scientists declared that a rare Chinese river dolphin was effectively extinct after conducting a fruitless six-week search for the creature in its Yangtze River habitat.
26 Astronomers: Neptune’s south pole warmer
Fri Sep 21, 12:46 AM ET
|PARIS – Scientists say that Neptune, one of the coldest planets in the solar system, has a surprising warm spot – relatively speaking. An international team of astronomers has found that Neptune’s south pole is warmer than other parts of the planet.
Temperatures at its south pole are about 18 degrees warmer than elsewhere on the planet – not much for a planet with an average temperature colder than 320 degrees below zero.
The apparent reason is that the south pole has been in the summer sunlight for about 40 years.
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27 Gettysburg Cyclorama getting facelift
By MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 20, 3:36 PM ET
|GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Slowly but surely, a 123-year-old oil painting designed to place viewers in the middle of the climactic, ill-fated Confederate assault on Union Army troops during the Battle of Gettysburg is returning to its former glory in a new home.
A team of conservators has begun installing the 14 original sections that comprise French artist Paul D. Philippoteaux’s 360-degree canvas inside a museum and visitor center under construction at Gettysburg National Military Park.
The canvas has been cleaned and is being mended before each section is hoisted into place with a system of ropes and pulleys. The conservators work atop a temporary platform in the gallery, kneeling on rubber mats and leaving their shoes off to protect the material.