Monday, January 02, 2006

Other Items

A Pentagon contractor that paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles written by American soldiers has also been compensating Sunni religious scholars in Iraq in return for assistance with its propaganda work, according to current and former employees.
The Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations company, was told early in 2005 by the Pentagon to identify religious leaders who could help produce messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar Province to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency, according to a former employee.
Since then, the company has retained three or four Sunni religious scholars to offer advice and write reports for military commanders on the content of propaganda campaigns, the former employee said. But documents and Lincoln executives say the company's ties to religious leaders and dozens of other prominent Iraqis is aimed also at enabling it to exercise influence in Iraqi communities on behalf of clients, including the military.

The above is from David S. Cloud and Jeff Gerth's "Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda" in this morning New York Times and was noted by Brenda in an e-mail this morning.

Eli notes John M. Broder's "States Take Lead in Push to Raise Minimum Wages:"

Despite Congressional refusal for almost a decade to raise the federal minimum wage, nearly half of the civilian labor force lives in states where the pay is higher than the rate set by the federal government.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have acted on their own to set minimum wages that exceed the $5.15 an hour rate set by the federal government, and this year lawmakers in dozens of the remaining states will debate raising the minimum wage. Some states that already have a higher minimum wage than the federal rate will be debating further increases and adjustments for inflation.
The last time the federal minimum wage was raised was in 1997 - when it was increased from $4.75 an hour. Since then, efforts in Congress to increase the amount have been stymied largely by Republican lawmakers and business groups who argued that a higher minimum wage would drive away jobs.

Zach notes Anthony Fenton & Dennis Bernstein's "Denial in Haiti" (Consortium News):

The following story was first published by Flashpoints! and is also available at
A by-lined freelancer for the Associated Press, who is also a stringer for the New York Times in Haiti, is moonlighting as a consultant for the US Government funded National Endowment for Democracy, according to an official at the NED, and several of the agency's grantees.
NED is funded annually by grants from the US Congress and State Department, with a 2006 global budget of $80 million, an increase of $20 million from 2005. For years the group has played a controversial role-with lopsided funding of elections in foreign countries-in promoting pro-US candidates and policies friendly to US interests. Most recently, the NED has been accused of attempting to destabilize the Venezuelan government.
Regine Alexandre, whose name appears as an AP by-line at least a dozen times starting in May of 2004, and appears as a contributor to two NY Times stories, is a part of an NED "experiment" to place a representative on the ground in countries where the NED has funded groups.
"This is almost like an experiment for us," said Fabiola Cordova, a Haiti program officer with the NED in Washington D.C. on December 6th. "The NED usually doesn't have a field presence and most of the work from our side takes place here in D.C. Then once the grants are approved it's really very much on the grantees' leadership and initiative to 'implement their programs.'"
Cordova said the NED tries to monitor the programs from DC and to provide some financial oversight, but "a lot of the organizations in Haiti really need a lot of hand-holding, so we hired this person to be part-time NED staff on the ground, and she's helped us, well, both identify new grantees and to respond to any specific questions they're going to have on the ground."
Cordova said the relationship between NED and Alexandre has worked out well. "I think it has been very helpful, and over time as they get more used to having her there, they will use her more effectively too. It works out well for us," said the NED program officer, "because we don't need a full time person. Like I said, it's an experiment, NED has never had like a field presence like this before, but we really wanted to expand our Haiti program so we thought it was really necessary to do this."

Remember that Democracy Now! airs part two of their look back at 2005 today. Listen, watch or read. And our year-in-review? Lori e-mailed this morning to ask if I had slept through Sunday as a result of the all nighter? No. I've been working for ten hours now on the year-in-review that will go up here. When? I wish it were done already myself. We'll have that today, Kat's look and Ruth's look at 2005 as well. They'll go up when I get the year-in-review done done (at which point, I'll go to sleep.) (Kat and Ruth's entries are done, I just have to copy and paste them from the e-mails.) And the first entry is still publishing (for the first time) on the other screen. After twenty minutes. Ugh. We'll get something up within an hour. If it's the year-in-review, great. If not, it'll be Ruth or Kat (or both). But I am going to have to crash soon. (And didn't realize this was an all nighter until I started going through the e-mails. I told Elaine last night I figured that in three hours tops, the whole thing would be done and up.)

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