Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cheerleaders. Soldiers. Booze. Sex.
A National Guard recruiting mission gone awry shakes a small South Carolina town to its core.

By Catharine Skipp, Updated by Michael V.
Updated: 11:53 a.m. PT Jan 30, 2007
Jan. 30, 2007 – This is what we called American Values? What kind of message do we send to our children’s. Rather than going to protect our Country Joining the Army, Navy, you can get drunk, and have sex with teenagers. Wrong Message.
It was supposed to be college day for the students of Ware Shoals High School in South Carolina, a chance to learn about educational prospects at a local institution. But according to police, two of the school’s cheerleaders ditched the event (the exact date hasn’t been made public) and instead headed to a motel with Jill Moore, their coach. There, they met up for a tryst with two National Guardsmen who recruited at their school. Moore loosened things up by allegedly providing the girls with vodka. Then, the cops say, she repaired to a room with one of the soldiers and set up a different room for the two cheerleaders and the other soldier to “hook up.” According to authorities, the second Guardsman and one of the girls later admitted that they had a sexual relationship.
The alleged incident is part of a wider scandal that has shaken Ware Shoals. With its titillating mix of cheerleaders, soldiers, booze and sex, the story has drawn national media to a tiny 2,300-person town that, until now, was best known for its annual Catfish Festival. On Jan. 18, the city of Ware Shoals charged her with transferring beer to a minor; the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office charged Moore with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Then, on Jan. 22, authorities charged the high-school principal, Jane Blackwell, with obstruction of justice, accusing her of impeding their investigation into Moore’s alleged misdeeds. Though the sheriff’s office isn’t bringing charges against the Guardsmen—since all parties involved were at least 16, the age of consent in South Carolina—the military is conducting its own investigation, one that could lead to a court-martial. Even the South Carolina Legislature may be prodded to action: some lawmakers are now talking of trying to raise the age of consent in the state.
Moore, who also worked as a guidance office clerk at the school, stands accused of a litany of inappropriate behavior. Authorities accuse her of regularly buying alcohol and cigarettes for members of her squad. They say she brought along a cheerleader to the National Armory, where the girl would distract other employees while Moore had sex with her Guardsman lover, Thomas Fletcher. And they allege that she also had a sexual relationship with a male high-school student who once accompanied her to a Clemson athletic event while she boozed it up. Investigators say that Fletcher and the male student have admitted to sexual affairs with Moore, who is married with two kids. (Fletcher is also married.) But she says she’s innocent of the charges. Her attorney, W. Townes Jones, says she’s utterly distressed. “She is almost catatonic,” he says. “She cries all the time and says she feels like a bomb went off inside her. She is barely existing.”
The accusations against Moore come as no surprise to many townspeople. One high-school student says Moore used to buy beer for his sister when she was on the cheerleading team. The parent of a current squad member says she had heard of Moore’s affair with the male student, but overlooked it because she considered Moore a good coach and believed the boy to be at least 18. But not all parents were as sanguine. Near the end of last year, several contacted police to complain about the coach’s behavior.
Cops began investigating a few weeks ago but say they quickly encountered resistance from the high-school principal, Blackwell. When they visited the school after Moore’s arrest, they say that Blackwell denied any knowledge of the coach’s reported improprieties. Yet, subsequent interviews with staff, and Blackwell’s own notes in a journal seized by police, indicated that she was indeed aware of some of the accusations. Moreover, authorities learned that immediately after their visit to the school, Blackwell summoned the cheerleading team and ordered the girls not to discuss Moore with “anyone.” Some of the cheerleaders later told cops that they felt intimidated; one girl left school that day due to “emotional distress.” Some students also reported that Blackwell instructed staffers to lock restroom doors between classes, so that none of the students could send out text messages about the Moore case. Authorities became incensed. “Nothing is more dangerous than mixing alcohol, teenagers and automobiles,” said Greenwood County Sheriff Dan Wideman. “To have a school official facilitating, that is bad, but for a school to cover it up versus doing whatever was necessary to protect those kids—that’s appalling.” (Blackwell’s attorney says she is “completely innocent of all charges.”)
The pedigrees of the accused women add another layer of drama to the story. Both reportedly come from well-established, influential old families. Moore’s father is the head of Mount Gallagher Baptist Church and a member of the school board (he resigned from the latter last week). Blackwell lives in a handsome brick colonial on a large wooded lot and is herself well-connected: her first cousin is the school superintendent. For that reason, some locals worry that the affair “will all get swept under the rug as soon as the publicity dies down,” as one puts it.
But the judicial machinery has now cranked into action. Moore and Blackwell have both been charged and released on their own recognizance. Moore resigned from her positions at the school the day she was arrested, and Blackwell has been suspended with pay, pending the results of the investigation. Meanwhile, school officials are seeking to reassure parents that their kids are safe. “Education is going to go on as usual,” Superintendent Fay Sprouse told The Observer, a weekly Ware Shoals newspaper. "We are taking steps to ensure our students are safe. That is our top priority right now.”
But some parents remain irate. Roxie Propst says her daughter, a cheerleader on the varsity squad, is now getting teased at school for being “wild and loose.” “Everyone is acting like it’s all the cheerleaders, but it’s only two that are involved,” says Propst. “The rest aren’t wild. They are victims.” Unfortunately, all it takes is a few carousers to give the whole squad a bad name.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

20 Stories That Made a Difference
For better or worse

By Steve Rendall and Peter Hart and Julie Hollar

FAIR was founded on the belief that journalism matters—that getting out the truth can improve the world, while news that distorts or denies reality can have terrible consequences.

To illustrate this conviction, we've compiled a list of 20 news stories published since FAIR's 1986 debut that had a major impact on society—for good or for ill. The list is not meant to be a comprehensive collection of the most momentous stories of the past 20 years, but rather to be illustrative of the power of media. Stories that should have led to serious changes, but were underplayed by corporate media, would be an entirely different list, of course.

1. The Contra Resupply Network

The Reagan administration's secret support for Nicaragua's Contras unraveled in 1986 when the Associated Press published stories (e.g., 10/8/86, 10/19/86, 10/27/86) revealing White House links to illegal resupply flights. The Contras, a rebel army created, funded and directed by the CIA, killed thousands of Nicaraguan civilians in a war to bring down the left-leaning, democratically elected Sandinista government. Through interviews and the examination of the log books from a CIA plane shot down by Sandinista forces in October 1986, AP reporter Robert Parry exposed the "Contra" side of the story that would soon be known as the Iran-Contra scandal.

2. The Iranian Arms-for-Hostages Deal

Days after AP's Contra revelations, the "Iran" side of Iran-Contra emerged as the Lebanese weekly Ash Shirra (11/3/86) revealed that the U.S. was secretly selling arms to Iran in hopes of getting U.S. hostages released by pro-Iran militants in Lebanon. The story infuriated President Ronald Reagan, who denied the U.S. was trading arms for hostages and lashed out at the press for spoiling what the White House depicted as an innocent diplomatic effort (Washington Post, 12/1/86): "What is driving me up the wall is that this wasn't a failure until the press got a tip from that rag in Beirut and began to play it up. . . . The press has to take responsibility for what they have done.''

But Reagan's defiance disappeared when digging by U.S. reporters, such as the Washington Post's David Hoffman (11/14/86, 11/16/86), contradicted the White House claims, ultimately revealing that the White House was funneling profits from the Iranian arms sales to the Contras. Iran-Contra, the largest of the Reagan White House's many scandals, would result in more than a dozen indictments and nine convictions.

3. Redlining

"Whites receive five times as many home loans from Atlanta's banks and savings and loans as blacks of the same income," the front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution declared on May 1, 1988, "and that gap has been widening each year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution study of $6.2 billion in lending shows."

So began Bill Dedman's lengthy Pulitzer Prize–winning series, which stands as a testament to the power of first-rate investigative journalism that sets out to measure and document social inequality.

Over four days, the paper detailed its community's discriminatory and illegal lending practices, known as "redlining." The local response was swift: "Within a week, Atlanta's nine largest banks and savings and loans announced they would lend $65 million at interest rates as low as the prime rate for home purchases and home improvements, mostly on the black Southside," the Austin Business Journal reported (2/19/90).

The stories reverberated throughout the country, eliciting calls for a Justice Department inquiry and a Senate Banking Committee investigation. As noted by the Columbia Journalism Review (3–4/95), Dedman's reporting changed the way lending institutions report loan data—a boon to investigators of all sorts, including other reporters.

But as Dedman noted in the documentary Fear and Favor in the Newsroom, some board members at Cox Newspapers, the Journal-Constitution's parent company, were unhappy with the series, feeling that it could harm the paper's advertising base—and the board members' own relationships with the local banking industry.

4. Civil Rights Era Crimes

Jerry Mitchell, a reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, began to seriously investigate unsolved civil rights crimes after watching the film Mississippi Burning. His subsequent reporting has led to criminal prosecutions in some of the most notorious crimes of the civil rights era.

Mitchell, for example, tracked down secret documents (10/1/89) that would eventually lead to the arrest of Byron De La Beckwith for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Mitchell's investigation (beginning on 12/27/98) into the famous 1964 murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner led to the indictment and arrest of Edgar Ray Killen, a key figure in the crime who, according to Mitchell's reporting, whould have been behind bars 30 years ealier on the basis of confessions from two of Killen's co-conspirators.

And Mitchell revealed (7/4/99) that a suspect in the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama church—which killed four young African-American girls—had provided authorities with a bogus alibi. "For three and a half decades, his alibi had gone unchallenged," Mitchell told American Journalism Review (4–5/05). "It was just Reporting 101."

5. The Kuwaiti Incubators

In the autumn of 1990, a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times (9/17/90) gave a harrowing report of the atrocities being committed by the Iraqi troops occupying Kuwait: "In one case, refugees reported that incubators for premature babies were confiscated by Iraqi troops and the babies inside were piled on the floor and left to die." The Times directly prefaced this with the information that "Western officials" were saying that many of the atrocities "appeared to be well-documented and supported by enough eyewitness accounts that they could be considered true."

A week later, Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland repeated the tale (9/25/90), but the story wouldn't reach its full potential until October 10, when a 15-year-old girl calling herself "Nayirah" told a U.S. congressional caucus: "I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor." Excerpts of Nayirah's address ended up on Larry King Live (10/16/90) and the incubator story flourished in the press (e.g., USA Today, 10/11/90; AP, 10/15/90). President George H.W. Bush cited the incubator claim at least 10 times in his successful attempt to rally Americans and prospective allies to war against Iraq.

There is no doubt that Iraqis committed atrocities in Kuwait, but the incubator story was a hoax. Reporting by Alexander Cockburn (The Nation, 2/4/91), ABC reporter John Martin (World News Tonight, 3/15/91) and John R. MacArthur (Second Front) would show that the incubator stories were fabricated, and Nayirah al-Sabah, in truth the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, was working with public relations giant Hill & Knowlton to agitate for a U.S. war against Iraq.

But a successful hoax it was. In a segment critical of the incubator claims, CBS's 60 Minutes (1/19/92) described Nayirah's story as the "one image, one presence [that] touched American hearts and minds like no other."

6. The Rodney King Video

If George Holliday hadn't shot home video footage of Los Angeles police officers beating an African-American motorist following a high-speed chase, Rodney King would be just another unknown victim of police brutality. But Holliday's oft-aired footage—first played in its nine-minute-plus entirety over local station KTLA (3/4/91)—turned the event into an iconic moment that focused widespread attention on King's mistreatment and the larger issue of police abuses. When the officers were acquitted on state charges despite the evidence of the tapes, the verdict sparked the L.A. riots (Extra!, 7–8/92) and provoked examination of racism in the criminal justice system. Holliday's video also encouraged an activist movement for grassroots newsgathering and monitoring of police agencies.

7. The Dili Massacre

Following the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, U.S. news media maintained a virtual blackout for over 15 years about the occupation and the atrocities occurring in the tiny island country (Extra!, 11–12/93). But in 1991, three journalists forced East Timor back on the media map and into the public consciousness.

On November 12, Allan Nairn of the New Yorker, Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio and British filmmaker Max Stahl attended a peaceful funeral procession in the East Timorese capital of Dili that turned deadly when Indonesian military opened fire on the crowd and killed more than 250. Nairn and Goodman were beaten but managed to escape, as did Stahl, and their eyewitness reports and video of the massacre alerted the Western world to the dire situation in East Timor, sparking a grassroots movement opposing U.S. support for the Indonesian occupation.

Though the mainstream media's newfound attention to East Timor was initially slight, Goodman and Nairn continued to doggedly pursue the story throughout the '90s, with Nairn repeatedly returning to East Timor to file reports despite an Indonesian order barring his entry. His reporting helped to keep the story on the radar, and in 1999, the U.S. finally suspended all military ties with Indonesia, which promptly pulled out from East Timor.

8. Whitewater

New York Times investigative reporter Jeff Gerth (3/8/92) broke the Whitewater "scandal" with the front-page report, "Clintons Joined S&L Operator in an Ozark Real-Estate Venture." The piece, long on insinuation and short on evidence, suggested that Bill and Hillary Clinton traded regulatory favors for a sweetheart deal on a piece of Arkansas real estate known as Whitewater.

The piece was notable for withholding exculpatory information, like the fact that the S&L regulator supposedly appointed as a favor to S&L executive Jim McDougal actually tried to shut down his business. (See Extra!, 11–12/96.) As Gene Lyons, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist and strong critic of the Times' Whitewater reporting, explained it in his book Fools for Scandal, the public never understood Whitewater because it was "a shaggy dog story"—a tale whose needless complexity conceals its pointlessness.

Nevertheless, Gerth's reporting spawned a cottage industry in Whitewater-related scandals that would eventually lead to Clinton being impeached on oral sex–related charges. As for Whitewater itself, the Clintons were cleared of any wrongdoing—after the Office of the Independent Council had spent 10 years and $73 million (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/27/02).

9. USAID Exporting Jobs

Conventional wisdom tells us that journalists should not be advocates. But sometimes great journalism is uncovered first by social justice activists. In 1992, Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee went to several corporate media outlets to share the story he'd uncovered: how the U.S. government was actively luring U.S. companies to move their manufacturing out of the United States.

The program was largely the work of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which provided tax breaks and low-interest loans to companies that would move jobs to Central America. The story broke on CBS's 60 Minutes (9/27/92), and included Kernaghan and two other men posing as officials from a bogus textile company. Their hidden cameras recorded a meeting with a USAID official who touted the many virtues of moving production to Honduras.

The story continued the next day in the Los Angeles Times (9/28/92), with the paper crediting Kernaghan ("an intense young union official") for much of the original research. A night later, the story was reprised on ABC's Nightline (9/29/92).

The timing of the story was key, as the country faced the lingering effects of recession and unemployment. As CBS reporter Ed Bradley asked a USAID official, "Do you think that it is in our national interest to create jobs in Central America through U.S. taxpayer money?" The USAID issue became part of the jobs debate that helped swing the 1992 presidential election. Kernaghan went on to generate another iconic moment for the anti-sweatshop movement when popular TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford cried on television (New York Daily News, 5/1/96) in response to his 1996 congressional testimony revealing that her clothing line was manufactured by children in Honduras.

10. The Bell Curve

Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein's 1994 book The Bell Curve did not burst into the public consciousness based on new information or scholarly merit—indeed, the book attempted to recast old, discredited eugenic theories about the inferiority of the poor and non-white—but rather because many prestigious media outlets embraced it. New York Times science writer Malcolm Browne gave it a near-rave review (10/16/94), insisting that the authors were "recognized by colleagues as serious scholars." The Bell Curve, wrote Browne, "makes a strong case that America's population is becoming dangerously polarized between a smart, rich, educated elite and a population of unintelligent, poor and uneducated people." (See Extra! Update, 12/94.)

Respectful treatment by the Times helped set the tone for other media coverage that would follow. And follow it did. The New Republic devoted nearly an entire issue to a debate about the book (10/31/94), with editor Andrew Sullivan justifying the decision by writing, "The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief." As Extra! pointed out at the time (1–2/95), "In fact, the idea that some races are inherently inferior to others is the definition of racism."

The Bell Curve received prominent and serious coverage on such public affairs programs as Nightline (10/21/94), the McLaughlin Group (10/21/94) and the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (10/28/94). The "controversy" also made the cover of Newsweek (10/24/94), while it took up nearly a full op-ed page in the Wall Street Journal (10/10/94).

These discussions were largely uninformed by the considered opinions of scientists in the field, and this was by design: Flouting scientific convention, the authors purposely avoided sending galleys to potentially critical readers. When The Bell Curve was finally scrutinized by scientific experts, it was nearly universally panned for shoddy and biased research (Slate, 1/18/97).

But it was too late to counteract the message put forth by the book's media supporters that racism is a legitimate intellectual position. As Murray wrote in a proposal for the book (New York Times Magazine, 10/9/94), there are "a huge number of well-meaning whites who fear that they are closet racists, and this book tells them they are not. It's going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say."

11. Death Row Exonerations

In 1996, four African-American men—two of whom were awaiting execution—were released from an Illinois prison after their wrongful convictions were overturned in court. The men had been found guilty of murdering a young couple in 1978. What made their story remarkable was the fact that the move to exonerate the Ford Heights Four was largely the work of journalism students (aided by an earlier investigation by the magazine Chicago Lawyer—7/92). The three students and their Northwestern University journalism professor, David Protess, would soon become the focus of worldwide media exposure.

About one year after Northwestern students were instrumental in exonerating yet another death row prisoner, Illinois Gov. George Ryan in February 2000 announced a death penalty moratorium. Similar hesitations about the death penalty among political elites across the country can be traced in part to the Northwestern students' work.

The fact that Protess was teaching his students about the real-world impact of investigative journalism was not universally appreciated. When several of Protess' students worked to prevent an earlier execution, a Chicago Tribune news article (5/11/95) questioned whether this was appropriate behavior, noting that "it might even give some parents pause about whether their stiff tuition is being appropriately invested."

12. "Saddam Must Go"

In the Weekly Standard's November 17, 1997 cover story, "Saddam Must Go," editor Bill Kristol and contributing editor Robert Kagan called for war against Iraq: "We know it seems unthinkable to propose another ground attack to take Baghdad. But it's time to start thinking the unthinkable." Kristol and Kagan, also the founders of the hawkish group Project for a New American Century, argued that Saddam Hussein had humiliated the United States by expelling U.S. officials from U.N. weapons inspection teams. The editorial cited unspecified sources about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capabilities, and concluded with this dark warning: "If you don't like this option, we've got another one for you: continue along the present course and get ready for the day when Saddam has biological and chemical weapons at the tips of missiles aimed at Israel and at American forces in the Gulf. That day may not be far off."

The article was the first installment in what would be a relentless crusade for war in the Standard's pages. Just two weeks after it was published, the magazine ran "Overthrow Him," by Zalmay Kahlilzad and Paul Wolfowitz (12/1/97), who would both have prominent jobs in the Bush administration. In an In These Times story looking back over the Standard's 10-year history (10/6/05), Craig Aaron reported that the "Saddam Must Go" piece "is widely credited with planting the seeds for the invasion and occupation of Iraq." Indeed, that article, along with the Standard's extended pro-war campaign, are often cited as influencing elite thinking on the decision to go to war (e.g., Washington Post, 1/12/03; New York Times, 2/1/03). The neo-conservative Standard's paleo-conservative rival, the American Conservative (11/21/05), has even referred to the Iraq War as "The Weekly Standard's War."

13. The Contra-Crack Connection

Ten years after Robert Parry and Brian Barger (AP, 12/20/85) exposed the role of the CIA-backed Contras in the cocaine trade—to relatively little public attention—San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb advanced the story, writing an explosive three-part series (8/18–20/96) that documented a connection between Contra-linked cocaine traffickers and the crack explosion of the 1980s.

Webb also cited U.S. law enforcement officials who said the CIA had prevented investigation of the Contra traffickers, effectively protecting the flow of cut-rate cocaine into vulnerable urban centers. The series, initially ignored by other mainstream media but reaching a national audience through the emerging Internet, ignited protests in African-American and progressive communities, eventually forcing a new internal investigation at the CIA.

14. Contra-Crack Backlash

Webb's success in exposing government misdeeds was soon undercut by another feat of journalism: the mainstream media's full-scale assault on Webb. Having spent the previous 10 years either ignoring the Contra-cocaine story or dismissing it as a conspiracy theory, major newspapers seemed furious that a reporter at a small regional paper would challenge their status as the arbiters of truth. The Washington Post (10/4/96), Los Angeles Times (10/20–22/96) and New York Times (10/21/96) devoted much ink to pooh-poohing Webb's story, citing spurious complaints like Webb's referring to the Contras as "the CIA's army" (Extra!, 1–2/97). Webb's own editor, Jerry Ceppos, eventually caved to the pressure, publishing a front-page climb-down (5/11/97) and taking Webb off his beat.

The internal CIA probe sparked by Webb confirmed the substance of his report—that the CIA had known about Contra drug connections from the beginning, and had worked to keep the trafficking under wraps and undisturbed. But the establishment papers managed to squelch both Webb's story and the CIA report, keeping the CIA's deeds from the majority of the public and destroying the career of an outstanding reporter. In 2004, a despondent Webb took his own life.

15. Matthew Shepard

Before Matthew Shepard was beaten and left for dead in Laramie, Wyoming on October 7, 1998, homophobic violence and discrimination received little serious attention in the news or the general public. But the attack on the 21-year-old gay man struck a media nerve—starting with an AP story (10/9/98) whose lead memorably described Shepard as having been "tied to a wooden ranch fence like a scarecrow"—marking the first time an anti-gay attack received extensive and sympathetic coverage.

His orientation aside, Shepard's story had many of the elements that commercial media look for in a crime story: a young, good-looking white victim with a dramatic death (whose crucifixion imagery added poignancy). But some outlets produced remarkably in-depth and reflective journalism that shone a harsh light on homophobia; the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (10/15/98, 1/20/99) singled out the Casper Star-Tribune and the Denver Post in particular for their coverage.

Such reporting did much to transform the rights of the gay and lesbian community into a serious topic of discussion in the media and the public; even President Bill Clinton addressed the attack in a public speech (10/10/98). As a Boston Globe news article remarked (3/7/02), "The homicide that ushered the phrase ‘hate crime' into mainstream parlance has become an emotional and political watershed, the kind of event that stirs strong feelings in people who know none of the parties involved."

16. Trent Lott

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's long-term ties to the racist Council of Conservative Citizens emerged into public view in 1998 because of the dogged reporting of Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall (12/16/98) and New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch (12/30/98), with help from independent researchers (including FAIR—Extra!, 3–4/99). But the rest of the press was slow to catch on to the story, and in the end, Lott managed to survive the scandal with his job.

Then, on December 5, 2002, Lott praised the 1948 segregationist candidacy of retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond at the latter's 100th birthday party: "I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of him. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Lott's retroactive endorsement of a racist campaign, whose chief planks were segregation and opposition to federal anti-lynching legislation, was a dramatic story, particularly in the context of the 1998 reporting. But despite the presence of 12 journalists at the party and its broadcast on C-SPAN, there was little mainstream mention of Lott's comments until five days later. While the press was snoozing, bloggers such as the left-leaning Joshua Micah Marshall (Talking Points Memo, 12/6/02) and right-leaning Andrew Sullivan (12/8/02) kept banging the drum, keeping the story alive until the mainstream media caught up. And when it did—on December 10, all three nightly network shows aired stories—Lott was forced by political pressure to step down from his job as majority leader (Washington Post, 12/16/02).

17. Weapons of Mass Destruction

In its push to sell a "pre-emptive" war against Iraq, the White House of George W. Bush had to convince the public that Iraq harbored dangerous weapons of mass destruction that might result in "a mushroom cloud" if military action were not taken quickly. Instrumental in making that case were mainstream media outlets that played up the Iraq WMD threat, lending credibility to administration claims. No reporter was more influential in that role than the New York Times' Judith Miller.

Miller's prominent stories hyping purported Iraqi weapons go back to 1998 (2/26/98), full of dramatic but unverified claims and unreliable sources. "All of Iraq is one large storage facility" for WMD, she credulously quoted one source (9/8/02). Miller played down skepticism and conflicting evidence, both of which were readily available to any reporter, and in so doing handed the Bush administration crucial support; with the "liberal" New York Times repeatedly trumpeting WMD claims on its front page, skeptics became increasingly marginalized in mainstream discussions.

The New York Times eventually published a lengthy editor's note (5/26/04) conceding that it botched its WMD reporting—but left unmentioned in that mea culpa was the fact that six of the nine faulty articles it examined were either written or co-written by Judith Miller. It took Miller's involvement in the vengeful leak of a CIA officer's name to finally goad the Times into letting her go—reportedly with a hefty severance package.

18. Niger Uranium

To hear former New York Times reporter Judith Miller's most passionate defenders tell it, anonymous sources are the key to breaking big stories. But the case of former diplomat Joe Wilson is an instructive counterexample. Wilson was a source for several reporters in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion (e.g., New York Times, 6/13/03), noting confidentially that the White House should have known that some of its claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were baseless. But it was only when Wilson emerged from the shadows on July 7, 2003, with an op-ed in the New York Times and an appearance on NBC's influential Meet the Press, that his dissenting information began to have an impact.

What Wilson had to say was certainly news—that he was the one sent to investigate rumors about an Iraq-Niger uranium deal, that he had deemed such a transaction unlikely and that his opinion had been shared by other intelligence analysts before his February 2002 trip. Wilson's on-the-record pronouncement caused a media firestorm, with White House officials advising reporters to keep a safe distance from Wilson's claims. Wilson's credibility was assailed by an assortment of pro–White House pundits, and his wife's classified CIA status was revealed by columnist Robert Novak (Washington Post, 7/14/03). The ensuing investigation has put some top administration officials in legal jeopardy; more importantly, the questions that Wilson raised about the White House's mishandling of intelligence have kept the story of how the country was misled into war on the media agenda.

19. Abu Ghraib

Though human rights groups had been sounding alarms since May 2003 (Wall Street Journal, 5/7/03; New York Times, 5/17/03), and allegations of mistreatment were reported in late 2003 by journalists such as AP's Charles Hanley (11/1/03), torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. personnel received little more than polite mention in U.S. media until April 2004. That's when CBS's 60 Minutes II (4/28/04) aired pictures of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison being sexually humiliated, threatened and attacked by dogs—and even the body of an Iraqi who had been beaten to death. Lamenting how long it had taken for the abuse story to get its due, Hanley told Editor & Publisher (5/13/04): "There seems to be a tendency at times to discount the statements of others—people like Iraqi former detainees—if they are not somehow supported by a U.S. source, or perhaps by some photographs."

Two days after the 60 Minutes II report, veteran reporter Seymour Hersh revealed on the New Yorker's website (4/30/04) the existence of a secret military report concluding that several instances of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuse" had transpired at Abu Ghraib. The report would later come to be known as the Taguba report, after its author, an Army general, who also suggested that ranking military and intelligence officers and private contractors were behind the abuse. Though the scandal has only resulted in low-level prosecutions so far, it has brought widespread condemnation and focused global attention on U.S. disregard for international law.

20. Hurricane Katrina

The first days after Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters swept through New Orleans brought out some of the most honest and affecting journalism the public had seen in a long time. Because officials were nowhere to be found on the ground, reporters were getting their information raw and unfiltered, and they experienced the ravages of the flood and the shocking lack of government response firsthand along with trapped residents.

NBC photojournalist Tony Zumbado was one of the first reporters to visit the New Orleans convention center, where thousands of people had seen no help arrive for over four days. Zumbado delivered an impassioned nine-minute report on MSNBC (9/1/05), with stark footage of the desperate and dying, and heart-wrenching commentary that pointed the finger at the failure of authorities: "There's no support here. There's no foundation. There's no plan B, plan A. These people are very desperate. I saw two gentlemen die in front of me because of dehydration. . . . I just tell you, I couldn't take it."

Zumbado's report and other powerful pieces (Extra! Update, 10/05) were played over and over around the country, arousing enormous public outcry against the government's incompetence, and relief efforts were soon stepped up as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, was forced to step down. Though as the situation normalized and officials regained their footing, journalists gradually shifted back into their usual modes of reporting (Extra!, 11–12/05), for a short time, at least, they doggedly did what journalism is supposed to: hold government officials accountable.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Middle-class woes? A letter to Lou Dobbs.America's trade deficit is evidence of its economic vigor and promise, not a cause for concern.

By Donald J. Boudreaux

Dear Mr. Dobbs, Congratulations on having a large new bloc of voters bear your name! Politicians ignore the "Lou Dobbs Democrats" at their peril.

Every night on CNN you claim to speak for these people. They are America's middle class: decent folks who work hard and play by the rules but who, you insist, are abused by the powerful elite. Free trade is one of the policies allegedly supported by the elite and for which you reserve special vitriol. You thunder that imports destroy American jobs, reduce wages, and make the economy perilously "unbalanced."

But you are mistaken.

First, some basic facts about the state of middle-class Americans. The US unemployment rate now is at a healthy 4.5 percent. This rate is lower than the average annual unemployment rate for the 1970s (6.2 percent), the 1980s (7.3 percent), and even the high-growth 1990s (5.6 percent). Inflation, meanwhile, is running below the average for the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Here's more good news for ordinary Americans. The percentage of Americans who own their own homes is higher than ever, even though the size of today's typical home is larger than ever. Workers' leisure time, too, is at historically high levels. And jobs are just as secure today as they were in the late 1960s, according to a research paper by University of California-Davis economist Ann Huff Stevens.

Perhaps you think that this prosperity exists only because so many of today's households require two income earners. But women started leaving homes for paid employment at least a century ago, with no jump since the end of World War II in the rate at which women enter the workforce, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Had worker pay truly deteriorated in the past 30 years, and had families reacted by sending moms to the workforce, the rate at which women join the workforce would have increased. It did not.

Today, the percentage of household expenditures used to buy nonessential items is at an all-time high - about 50 percent compared with about 45 percent in the mid-1970s. That undercuts your notion that two incomes are needed just to scrape by. Not only is America's middle class not disappearing - it's thriving.

Perhaps you miss this fact because you are misled by familiar trade jargon. In your book, "Exporting America," in your columns, and on your television show you complain vigorously and often about America's trade deficit. You call it "staggering," and wonder how long America can continue to run such deficits.

Admittedly, the word "deficit" sounds ominous. In fact, though, America's trade deficit is evidence of its economic vigor and promise. Here's why:

When Americans buy foreign-made goods and services, foreigners earn dollars. The only way America would run no trade deficit is if foreigners spent all of these dollars buying goods and services from Americans. Instead, though, foreigners invest some of their dollars in America. They buy American corporate stock, they build their own factories and retail outlets in the US, they lend dollars to Uncle Sam, and they hold some dollars in reserve as cash.

Aren't you proud that so many people the world over eagerly invest their hard-earned wealth in America?

[Read the whole article by clicking here]

As an American, I'm proud and optimistic. Foreigners invest in the US so readily because its economy is so strong. And even better, these investments strengthen the economy by creating more capital for American workers. These investments raise workers' productivity and wages.

Remember: A trade deficit is not synonymous with debt.

I'm writing this letter on a new Sony computer that I bought with cash. I owe Sony nothing. If Sony holds the dollars it earned from this sale, or if it uses these dollars to buy stock in General Electric or land in Arizona - that is, as long as Sony invests its dollars in America in ways other than lending it to Americans - the US trade deficit rises without raising Americans' indebtedness.

Americans go more deeply into debt to foreigners only when Americans borrow money from foreigners. Uncle Sam, of course, borrows a lot of money, from both Americans and from non-Americans. I share your concern about the reckless spending and borrowing practiced by politicians in Washington.

Foreigners, however, are not to blame for this recklessness. Indeed, I'm grateful that foreigners stand ready to help us pay the cost of our overblown government. Fortunately, Washington's spending binges are not serious enough to cripple America's entrepreneurial economy. If they were, foreigners would refuse to invest here.

If you're still skeptical that America's trade deficit is no cause for concern, perhaps you'll be persuaded by Adam Smith, who wrote that "Nothing, however, can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade."

Smith correctly understood that with free trade, the economy becomes larger than any one nation - a fact that brings more human creativity, more savings, more capital, more specialization, more opportunity, more competition, and a higher standard of living to all those who can freely trade.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics, George Mason University.

Military Surplus Parts Illegally Find Their Way to Iran, U.S. Officials Say

By Sharon Theimer
Associated Press
Monday, January 22, 2007; Page A17

Fighter-jet parts and other sensitive U.S. military gear seized from front companies for Iran and brokers for China have been traced in criminal cases to a surprising source: the Pentagon.

In one case, federal investigators said, contraband purchased in Defense Department surplus auctions was delivered to Iran, a country President Bush has branded part of an "axis of evil."

In that instance, a Pakistani arms broker convicted of exporting U.S. missile parts to Iran resumed business after his release from prison. He purchased Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran from a U.S. company that had bought them in a Pentagon surplus sale. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents say those parts reached Iran.

Sensitive military surplus items are supposed to be demilitarized or "de-milled" -- rendered useless for military purposes -- or, if auctioned, sold only to buyers who promise to obey U.S. arms embargoes, export controls and other laws.

Yet the surplus sales can operate like a supermarket for arms dealers.

"Right Item, Right Time, Right Place, Right Price, Every Time. Best Value Solutions for America's Warfighters," the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service says on its Web site, calling itself "the place to obtain original U.S. Government surplus property."

Federal investigators are increasingly anxious that a top priority on Iran's shopping list is within its easy reach: parts for the precious fleet of F-14 Tomcat fighter jets the United States allowed Iran to buy in the 1970s when it was an ally.

In one case, convicted middlemen for Iran bought Tomcat parts from the Defense Department's surplus division. Customs agents confiscated them and returned them to the Pentagon, which sold them again -- customs evidence tags still attached -- to another buyer, a suspected broker for Iran.

"That would be evidence of a significant breakdown, in my view, in controls and processes," said Greg Kutz, the Government Accountability Office's head of special investigations. "It shouldn't happen the first time, let alone the second time."

A Defense Department official, Frederick N. Baillie, said his Pentagon unit followed procedures.

"The fact that those individuals chose to violate the law and the fact that the customs people caught them really indicates that the process is working," said Baillie, the Defense Logistics Agency's executive director of distribution and revitalization policy. "Customs is supposed to check all exports to make sure that all the appropriate certifications and licenses had been granted."

Immigrants Mistreated, Report Says

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007; Page A08

U.S. authorities mistreated suspected illegal immigrants at five prisons and jails nationwide, violating federal standards meant to ensure safe and humane custody, according to a government report released yesterday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and contractors denied timely medical treatment to some of the immigrants, failed to disclose and justify disciplinary actions against them, and improperly limited access to relatives, lawyers and immigration authorities, according to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general.

The Immigration Debate
The Washington Post's coverage of the immigration issue, from the politics of revising the nation's immigration laws to the impact of illegal immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border and the Washington region.

Life Along 'La Linea'
The U.S.-Mexico border is at the forefront of a growing debate over U.S. immigration and border security reform.

Detention officers failed to establish a system to report abuse and violated health and safety rules by neglecting to monitor prisoners on hunger strikes or suicide watches and by serving undercooked food, the report said.

The report comes amid a sharp increase in illegal immigrants in U.S. detention as Congress and the Bush administration debate an overhaul of immigration laws and promise tougher enforcement of existing laws. Civil liberties and immigrant advocacy groups are stepping up scrutiny of conditions. Jorge Bustamante, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights of immigrants, has asked to visit U.S. detention centers next month.

Critics of the agency called the report disappointing, contending that it watered down recommendations and ignored the most serious allegations of abuse collected since June 2004, which they said included physical beatings, medical neglect, food shortages and mixing of illegal immigrants in administrative custody with criminals.

"It took two years for them to come out with this? It's incredibly disappointing," said Judy Rabinovitz, a lawyer with the ACLU immigrants rights project.

Eric Lerner, a spokesman for the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee, called the report a "whitewash" that was delayed to suppress controversy. Bryan Lonegan, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society in New York City, said that DHS has not designated 38 detention standards implemented since 2000 as federal regulations, making them unenforceable.

A spokeswoman for Richard L. Skinner, the DHS inspector general, said the report was delayed because its scope was reduced.

In a written response to the report, DHS Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers concurred at least partly with nine of 13 findings and promised changes. But she said they "do not indicate any systemic failure" at nearly 400 facilities where ICE is authorized to house as many as 27,500 people a night, because they were based on individual allegations at a small sample of sites.

ICE operations are "generally in compliance with its National Detention Standards," Myers said.

The audit examined the U.S.-owned and operated Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, a contract Corrections Corporation of American facility in San Diego, and local jails and prisons in Berks County, Pa., and Hudson and Passaic counties, N.J.

In December 2005, ICE ordered all suspected illegal immigrants removed from the Passaic jail in Paterson, N.J., after a string of critical news accounts, including the disclosure that guards used police dogs against prisoners. DHS has since barred that practice.

Although illegal immigrants are held on administrative grounds and are supposed to be segregated by high, medium and low risk, authorities often house them together with criminals, the report said.

Many contract and state and local correction officers were unaware of separate U.S. standards for detained immigrants, the 54-page report noted. ICE itself overlooks violations in annual inspections, the report said. "A final rating of Acceptable was given to all five detention facilities," the report said. "However, our review of the five facilities identified instances of non-compliance . . . that were not identified during the ICE annual inspection."

Wondering if you failing on compliance on the Declaration of principles on the conduct of Journalism just to gain some popularity, sell your books and increase your rating to your show Mr. Lou Doubbs.

Adopted by the Second World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists at Bordeaux on 25-28 April 1954 and amended by the 18th IFJ World Congress in Helsingör on 2-6 June 1986.
This international Declaration is proclaimed as a standard of professional conduct for journalists engaged in gathering, transmitting, disseminating and commenting on news and information and in describing events.
1. Respect for truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist.
2. In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the honest collection and publication of news, and of the right of fair comment and criticism.
3. The journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which he/ she knows the origin. The journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify documents.
4. The journalist shall use only fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents.
5. The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate.
6. The journalist shall observe professional secrecy regarding the source of information obtained in confidence.
7. The journalist shall be aware of the danger of discrimination being furthered by the media, and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on, among other things, race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins.
8. The journalist shall regard as grave professional offences the following:
- plagiarism
- malicious misrepresentation
- calumny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations
- the acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression.
9. Journalists worthy of that name shall deem in their duty to observe faithfully the principles stated above. Within the general law of each country the journalist shall recognize in professional matters the jurisdiction of colleagues only, to the exclusion of every kind of interference by governments or others.

Lou dobbs is a very clever person with a very racist agenda that he couches very effectively in a "national interest" cloak. his standard comment is that people without any valid arguments resort to calling him racist to cloud the "real" issues. maybe he hasn't read what's written next.

one of his major complaints is that a large majority of the illegal immigrants have less than high school education. at the same time, he says that they are taking away highly skilled jobs from the manufacturing and construction sectors (when asked if it is true that they are doing what americans won't do).

how can a person without even a high school education take away a job that requires skill and specialization? obviously this is a fallacy that his largely brain-dead followers choose to ignore.

the obvious answer to the above question is that these jobs do NOT require high skill, so that an uneducated person can perform them. under that condition, do you think that it is unreasonable to assume that americans, who are for the most part at least high-school educated, would want to do these jobs? and even if they wanted to, it is the law of economics that they will have to accept lower salaries for jobs that can be as easily done by lesser educated people.

i refuse to accept that illegal immigrants a burden on federal and state exchequer. i have spent significant time in this country and have yet to a see a hospital that pays other's bills. how about the government taking social security tax from temporary work permit holders that it has no intention to return when they leave the country?

this brings up the question that if his economic arguments do not hold any water, what can be the the real agenda behind his rantings? the answer's in the first paragraph.

a few days ago, lou dobbs was proudly reading an email from a lady who complained that she could not let her american children play in the neighborhood because of a few "illegal aliens" who had started living around the corner. do you honestly think this lady would change her views if those people got a sheet of paper tomorrow stating that they were "legal"? for that matter, how did that lady know that those people were "illegal"? did she ask for their papers? obviously not! she made her judgement based on their looks, and in my book that makes her a racist, and by association, lou dobbs.

lou dobbs is amazed at the arrogance of people who march for rights in the very country whose laws they broke to enter. the rest of the world is amazed at the country which has the arrogance to call other human beings "aliens".

over the last two weeks, the great american company lucent was quietly sold over to the french company alcatel ("a merger of equals"). lou dobbs did not care to even raise a squeak on this issue, compared to the hue and cry he raised over the ports deal a few days back. why? don't tell me lucent has nothing to do with national security or american jobs.

thinking of it, when was the last time before the ports deal that lou dobbs had even mentioned ports as a source of national insecurity on his program? has he ever been to a port?

lou dobbs appeals to that class of americans (and people at large) who take delight and comfort in blaming others for their own misery. if it's diseases, blame the immigrants. if it's gas prices, blame china. if it is bird flu, blame..(they'll find somebody- i assure you). i have a single word that describes these people- losers.

in the true spirit of lou dobbs, here a question to that class of people that i have been restless to ask-

"if you were in danger today of losing your job due to outsourcing, tomorrow of getting a disease due to immigration, and the day after of a terrorist attack, would you rather spend that hour of your day watching lou dobbs complain, or would you rather do something constructive about it such as study, get skills, get medicine or try to understand why people hate you?"

There’s always more room for fear and reactionary views…
Not everyone inside CNN feels that way. Although the network keeps a tight rein on what even former staff can say (former anchor Aaron Brown, for example, needed permission from CNN to speak to me, which was denied), one senior former Dobbs staffer told me, on condition of anonymity: “Lou went from straddling the line between journalist and pundit to becoming a full-blown pundit, shifting the debate very, very far to the right. People don’t get it. They trust that CNN is a reputable organization, so they trust that he’s a respected journalist. They think he won’t put anyone on who’s a right-wing nut. But he does.”
Glenn Spencer, for example, who heads the nativist American Patrol, deemed a hate group by both the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League, was portrayed as a hero for running a “shadow border patrol” with “a handful of committed friends” using technology that rivals the federal government’s. The reporter didn’t mention that Spencer has also predicted a war with Mexico; his popular website, which often quotes Dobbs and links to his show, spreads rumors that immigrants are plotting to overthrow the Southwest United States. There’s also Protect Arizona Now (PAN), which successfully pressed a ballot initiative that denies state services to illegal aliens and requires state employees to report them. Dobbs ran glowing features on the group and its campaign, never mentioning what many news outlets had reported: that Virginia Abernethy, a self-described “white separatist” and former editorial adviser to the white-supremacist CCC, headed PAN’s national advisory board.
Dobbs has used material directly from the CCC—in the process spreading and adding legitimacy to some of that group’s more bizarre views. In an almost surreal segment in May, Dobbs reporter Casey Wian described the US visit of Mexican President Vicente Fox as a “Mexican military incursion.” As Wian spoke, a full-screen graphic appeared, with seven Southwestern states in darker color, portrayed as a map of “Aztlan,” a mythical nation of the Aztec people comprising part of the territory Mexico lost to the United States 150 years ago. According to Wian’s report, Mexico and “militant Latino activists” secretly aim to take it back. The map was provided by the CCC, which has called blacks “a retrograde species of humanity” and warned that immigration is turning the US population into a “slimy brown mass of glop

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Commentary: Social Security is about math, not Mexicans
POSTED: 9:37 a.m. EST, January 15, 2007
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
Adjust font size:

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- For more than a decade, I've written about the need to reform Social Security. And I've blamed older generations of Americans for not fixing a program they know is unsustainable into the future.

My bad. It turns out, if I wanted to get everyone up in arms, all I needed to do was blame illegal immigrants.

Ah, yes. The folks who, we are told, wrecked our schools, ruined our environment and lowered our wages are now poised to steal our Social Security.

Oh, there's some stealing going on all right, but it doesn't have anything to do with illegal immigrants.

Here's the drill: Social Security is an intergenerational shakedown. Every generation pays for the preceding one. Sixty-nine million baby boomers have no problem paying for the World War II generation because, well, there are 69 million of them. But imagine the burden on younger workers of having to keep legions of aging flower children in a comfy retirement.

In 1946, the cost of supporting one retiree was split between 42 workers. Now, we're approaching the point where two workers will support each retiree. The trouble begins in 2016 when -- according to experts -- more will be going out in benefits than will be coming in as payroll taxes.

This is what I worry about -- the math. But, for others, the worry is about something altogether different -- the Mexicans.

Immigration restrictionists are apoplectic over the news that the United States has entered into a "totalization" agreement with Mexico. Under these agreements, which the United States has with 21 other countries, workers who work in two countries during their careers can combine what they earned in both places to qualify for retirement benefits under one or both systems. The restrictionists insist that the U.S. government has conspired with Mexico to let illegal immigrants loot the Social Security system.

That would be quite a charge, if true. But these pacts apply only to people who are working legally.

The worry is that, if Congress passes guest-worker legislation that gives some number of illegal immigrants a "work-authorized" Social Security number, the worker might be in a position, if he met eligibility requirements, to apply for Social Security benefits, including those earned while in the country illegally.

Supporters of totalization point out that current U.S. law bans illegal immigrants from collecting Social Security benefits.

They're right about that. But there is no law prohibiting illegal immigrants with bogus Social Security numbers from paying into the system, something they and their employers do to the tune of more than $7 billion per year in payroll taxes.

That's money the illegal immigrants will never see again, and it has for years helped to keep the entitlement program afloat. So Social Security lives off ill-gotten goods -- the stolen taxes of millions of people, and the assumption that they'll never be claimed.

How odd that the closed-border, closed-mind crowd isn't nearly as troubled by this part of the equation.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who's Drainning the social services Lou Dobbs? The Illegal or Our own Citizens?
Just look at this information. This is only one of many cases that have not been transpose to the public. Couple with 11 foster kids arrested
Teenagers allege sexual, physical abuse in homeParents receiving over $100 grand a year to care for children, officials say
Katherine Rosenberg January 14, 2007
VICTORVILLE — A report of sexual molestation led to the discovery of a large foster family with an equally large government-supplied bankroll, raising suspicions with local law enforcement.

Eleven adopted and foster children were removed from a Skipper Lane address in Brentwood this week after two teenage girls reported being molested by a 23-year-old man living in the house, sheriff’s officials said.

The parents, Barbara Taylor and her unnamed husband were also arrested, as they are suspected to have physically abused the children and had knowledge of the sexual abuse taking place in the home, said Detective James Wiebeld of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Victorville station.

While detectives shook their heads over the crime, they were further surprised to find that the family has been receiving a reported $130,000 from various state agencies to care for the children.

Documents obtained from the Sheriff’s Department also show that the family was receiving a monthly Section 8 housing subsidy to help pay their rent.

Detectives suggest that neither Barbara Taylor nor her husband were working at the time of their arrest, another violation of the Child Protective Services agreement in order to take in foster children.

Case agents from Child Protective Services would not comment on the funding, citing privacy laws.

According to CPS’ Web site, “You must have some way to support your family. California State Regulations require that foster families must be able to meet all their family’s financial needs. ... Foster Care cannot be used as income for this purpose.”

Wiebeld said that CPS agents told him that the family was getting as much as $1,500 a child per month, in which case the family would be receiving closer to $200,000 a year.

Karen Hill of Department of Children’s Services said that there is a monthly rate of pay that follows the children, not the adoptive or foster parents. And while she said the most a child could receive at the age of 18 is $597 a month, the CPS Web site adds that there is an additional specialized care increment that can go as high as $169 a month, as determined by the child’s social worker. At maximum, that would top out around $100,000 a year for the Taylor family.

“The money the foster parents get is paid to them just for the care of the kids. That’s all it’s supposed to be used for allowance, schooling, school supplies, medical care,” Hill said. “If we or somebody else believes that a family is abusing that, they can call the hotline and report it, then that’s a licensing issue.”

Sheriff’s Department officials said that they are unable to disclose the amount Barbara Taylor has been receiving from Section 8, but added that “the local housing authority... is a victim too.”

While officials suggest that this type of fraud is not entirely uncommon, all agree that the real victims in this case have been the abused children.

Tim Cole, 23, was arrested on suspicion of continuing sexual molestation of a child under the age 14, Wiebeld said.

Officials believe he began molesting a now 15-year-old when she was 13, and also began molesting a second 13-year-old one year ago. The first victim also witnessed the second victim’s abuse, Wiebeld said.

“Thirteen is the ripe age for this guy. He was 21 when he started molesting the first victim. When the second victim turned 13, he started molesting her,” Wiebeld said. “According to both girls independently, they told the mother a while back and she didn’t do anything about it. Both were also victims of or witnessed physical abuse of the other kids — being hit by belts, et cetera.”

Wiebeld said the man, who denies living at the home full time, is a relative of the Taylors. Cole calls the pair mom and dad, Wiebeld said, but he is some other type of family member, not their son.

Cole also said that he told Mr. Taylor about the molestation.

“For that reason, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor were also arrested for child endangerment — failure to provide a safe environment for children,” Wiebeld said.

All 11 children were taken into protective custody and subsequently placed into different foster homes within the local area, Wiebeld said

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Technology, not globalization, is driving wages down.
By Jagdish Bhagwati

Published: January 4 2007 02:00 | last updated: January 4 2007 02:00

We have recently witnessed a flurry of comment in the US on the long-running stagnation of wages. Many believe that the future livelihood of the "middle class" is also at risk.
Lou Dobbs of CNN, the labor groups' think-tank Economic Policy Institute and nearly all the Democrats newly elected to Congress believe that globalization has much to do with the economic distress of the working and middle classes. Therefore they have coherence on their side when they want to lean on the door - even to close it - on trade with poor countries and occasionally on unskilled immigration from them.
Proponents of globalization, however, find themselves in a politically implausible position: they typically skirt around and hence accept this "distributional" critique of globalization - yet nonetheless propose that those adversely affected should accept globalization but be aided so as to cope with their affliction in other ways.
As it happens, globalization's supporters are on firmer ground than they fear. Examine the common arguments linking globalization to the distributional distress and little survives.
First, all empirical studies, including those done by some of today's top trade economists (such as Paul Krugman of Princeton and Robert Feenstra of the University of California, Davis), show that the adverse effect of trade on wages is not substantial. My own empirical investigation concludes that the effect of trade with poor countries may even have been to moderate the downward pressure on wages that rapid unskilled labor-saving technical change would have caused.
Second, the same goes for the econometric studies by the best labor economists regarding the effects of the influx of unskilled illegal immigrants into the US. The latest study by George Borjas and Larry Katz of Harvard also shows a virtually negligible impact on workers' wages, once necessary adjustments are made.
Can it be that globalization has reduced the bargaining ability of workers and thus put a downward pressure on wages? I strongly doubt this. First, the argument is not relevant when employers and workers are in a competitive market and workers must be paid the going wage.
As it happens, fewer than 10 percent of workers in the private sector in the US are now unionized.
Second, if it is claimed that acceleration in globalization has decimated union membership that is dubious. The decline in unionization has been going on for longer than the past two decades of globalization, shows no dramatic acceleration in the past two decades and is to be attributed to the union-unfriendly provisions of the half-century-old Taft-Hartley provisions that crippled the ability to strike.
Has the outflow of direct foreign investment reduced the amount of capital that might have helped to employ unskilled labor at home and hence contributed to a decline in wages? As I look at the data, the US has received about as much equity investment as it has lost over the past two decades. One cannot just look at one side of the ledger.
The culprit is not globalization but labor-saving technical change that puts pressure on the wages of the unskilled. Technical change prompts continual economies in the use of unskilled labor. Much empirical argumentation and evidence exists on this. But a telling example comes from Charlie Chaplin's film, Modern Times. Recall how he goes berserk on the assembly line, the mechanical motion of turning the spanner finally getting to him. There are assembly lines today, but they are without workers; they are managed by computers in a glass cage above, with highly skilled engineers in charge.
Such technical change is quickly spreading through the system. This naturally creates, in the short-run, pressure on the jobs and wages of the workers being displaced.
But we know from past experience that we usually get a J-curve where, as increased productivity takes hold, it will (except in cases where macroeconomic difficulties occur and aren’t addressed by macroeconomic remedies) lead to higher wages.
So why has there been no such significant effect in the statistics on wages for almost two decades?
I suspect that the answer lies in the intensity of displacement of unskilled labor by information technology-based change and in the fact that this process is continuous now - unlike discrete changes caused by past inventions such as the steam engine. Before the workers get on to the rising part of the J-curve, they run into yet more such technical change, so that the working class gets to go from one declining segment of the J-curve to another.
The pressure on wages becomes relentless, lasting over longer periods than in earlier experience with unskilled labor-saving technical change. But this technical change, which proceeds like a tsunami, has nothing to do with globalization.
The writer is university professor at Columbia University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of In Defense of Globalization, to be reissued with an afterward, he is finishing a new book entitled Terrified by Trade