Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's Chicago! - USOC tabs Midwest metropolis to bid for '16 Games

It's Chicago! - USOC tabs Midwest metropolis to bid for '16 Games
Posted: Saturday April 14, 2007 4:22PM; Updated: Saturday April 14, 2007 4:28PM
Copyright by The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Chicago beat Los Angeles on Saturday in a U.S. Olympic Committee vote to pick a candidate for the 2016 Summer Games.

Chicago, which has never held an Olympics, now will try to persuade the International Olympic Committee that it deserves to be the host, joining a group of bidders expected to include Madrid, Prague, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

"It was a very tough decision," USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said before opening a sealed envelope and revealing the winning city. "If I had all the power -- and sometimes people accuse me of that -- I would take the map and merge the two cities, because I'll tell you what: If you could take the mayors of these two communities and have them run our country, we would all be better off."

The USOC had said beforehand it would not release Saturday's vote count.

By choosing Chicago instead of Los Angeles, the 11-member USOC board of directors went with a city that does not have major venues already in place. Los Angeles held the Summer Games in 1984 -- when the Olympics were run by Ueberroth -- and in 1932.

Chicago, meanwhile, offered a bid that hinges on building new facilities, mostly situated around the downtown lakefront and nearby parks. The centerpiece would be an 80,000-seat, $366 million temporary Olympic stadium that would be built in historic Washington Park. Chicago's plans also call for a $1.1 billion lakefront village that would be built near the convention center just south of downtown.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Boston Globe Editorial - Read the signals in Iraq

Boston Globe Editorial - Read the signals in Iraq
Copyright By The Boston Globe
Published: April 13, 2007

Even by Baghdad standards, Thursday's bombings were shocking. Mayhem in the Parliament building and the disabling of a key bridge over the Tigris River illustrated the dim prospect of a purely military solution to Iraq's civil war.

Earlier in the week, a peaceful event delivered an equally potent message. Tens of thousands of Iraqis turned out Monday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to protest the U.S. occupation. As the Bush administration's continual floundering in Iraq ought to make clear, policymakers must seek to understand the motives of key players in Iraqi politics.

The Najaf demonstration was above all a show of influence by the demagogic young cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

Just before the Najaf event U.S. forces clashed with some of Sadr's militia, who call themselves the Mahdi Army, in Diwaniya, a town near Baghdad. One signal sent by the crowds in Najaf was that the Americans should not push too hard against the Mahdi Army.

Sadr's lieutenants pointedly boasted that his militia has grown at least threefold since being routed by the Americans in Najaf in 2004. By including a smattering of Sunni Arab clerics and even some Kurds in Monday's demonstration, and by stressing a nationalist rather than a sectarian theme, Sadr was warning the Americans that a serious attack on his forces would be tantamount to attacking all patriotic Iraqis who were happy to be free of Saddam Hussei's dictatorship.

Sadr, whom senior ayatollahs have scorned as an unlearned hothead, was also sending a message to the Shiite clerical establishment that he is too powerful to be ignored. By making a show of his mass base and his Iranian backing, Sadr is seeking to be recognized as first among his peers.

Sadr's street theater in Najaf offers a lesson for U.S. policymakers: a tolerable exit from Iraq will require that they learn to play the complex, many-sided game of Iraqi politics.

Democrats push for tax overhaul - Their target: A levy aimed at rich that hits middle class

Democrats push for tax overhaul - Their target: A levy aimed at rich that hits middle class
By William Neikirk
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published April 14, 2007

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats said Friday the alternative minimum tax has turned into a "parent penalty" weighing heavily on middle-class families and that overhauling it has become their top tax reform priority.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in the Democrats' weekly radio address, taped for airing on Saturday, that "now is the time for a middle-class tax cut" built around reform of the controversial levy.

Emanuel's address, parts of which were released Friday by Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, signaled a major effort by Democrats to lay claim to the tax-cut issue that has been a key part of Republican economic orthodoxy since Ronald Reagan's presidency.

In addition to ensuring that only the wealthiest Americans pay the tax, known as the AMT, Democrats are considering additional tax relief for the middle class that could involve tax simplification, a senior House Democratic aide said. About 80 million people could see lower taxes if the bill passes this year, the aide said.

It is not yet clear how Democrats would offset the cost of this middle-class tax relief, although a clear target is higher taxes on wealthier people. One idea reportedly being considered is to deny the current preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends to taxpayers subject to the AMT. But there are other proposals as well.

Tax not adjusted for inflation

Wall Street is anxiously waiting to see if well-to-do investors would be forced to pay higher taxes, said William Beach, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. If they have to, he said, the stock market could take a steep slide.

The alternative minimum tax, enacted in 1969 to prevent wealthy people from escaping any tax liability, is increasingly ensnaring the middle class because it was never indexed for inflation.

Over the next three years, without congressional action to stop it, the AMT would hit nearly 30 million people, Emanuel noted.

The AMT is a parallel tax. Americans must first figure out their income taxes by calculating their taxable income after claiming deductions, such as those for mortgage interest and personal exemptions. Then those who may be subject to the AMT must do taxes a second time without taking most of these deductions. There are exemptions for singles and couples, but they are not indexed for inflation.

In his radio remarks, Emanuel called it a "parent penalty" because denial of personal exemptions for dependents could force many middle-class families to owe the tax.

Emanuel said Democrats "will work with our Republican colleagues to identify bipartisan solutions that help middle-class families avoid this tax that was never intended for them. This is one thing on which Democrats and Republicans should agree."

Both parties have indicated that the AMT is a major problem. Rather than try to reform it, however, they have adopted "patches" over the years so that more Americans don't have to pay the tax, generally by raising the AMT's exemptions.

Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute, predicted that Congress would not be able to pass AMT reform this year, saying the Bush administration would likely object to raising taxes on upper-income taxpayers.

Tax reform is a hot topic in Congress now as complaints about the complexity of America's tax system increase. But Beach said that while overhauling the AMT is desirable, "I don't think anyone has the political courage to do it" with lobbyists having such influence on Congress.

Reform bill to be resurrected

Emanuel plans to reintroduce a tax reform plan next week that he and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sponsored in 2005. Among other things, that proposal would have repealed the alternative minimum tax and reduced the number of tax brackets from six to three. It would have repealed Bush's 2003 dividend tax cut and a number of business-tax breaks.

Len Burman, a former Treasury Department official in the Clinton administration and a scholar at the Urban Institute, said many middle-class tax breaks would be popular with Democrats, such as a permanent child-care tax credit.

One of the political and economic problems with overhauling the AMT is that the taxes raise so much money -- roughly $1 trillion over 10 years. In an effort to keep the deficit under control, Democrats have pledged to offset any proposals that would increase the deficit with either spending cuts or tax increases. These offsets could be extremely unpopular.

Top aide proposed replacements a year before firings

Top aide proposed replacements a year before firings
By David Johnston and Eric Lipton
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published April 14, 2007

WASHINGTON -- A Justice Department e-mail message released on Friday shows that the former chief of staff to Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales proposed replacement candidates for U.S. attorneys nearly a year before they were fired in December 2006, contradicting repeated statements by department officials that no successors had been selected before the dismissals.

The Jan. 9, 2006, message, written by Kyle Sampson, who resigned last month as the top aide to Gonzales, identified five Bush administration officials, most of them Justice Department employees, whose names were sent to the White House for consideration as replacements.

The e-mail and several related documents provide the first evidence that Sampson, the Justice Department official in charge of the dismissals, had focused on who would succeed the ousted prosecutors. Justice Department officials have said repeatedly that seven of the eight prosecutors were removed without regard to their successors.

The e-mails were among more than 2,000 pages of documents released by the Justice Department as part of a continuing outpouring of more than 6,000 pages of e-mails and other internal records produced in the past month in response to requests by House and Senate committees as the furor over the dismissals has grown.

Gonzales is scheduled to appear Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Some of the new documents show the department's acute awareness of individual U.S. attorneys' political and ideological views. A spreadsheet attached to an e-mail message on Feb. 12 listed the federal prosecutors who had served under President Bush along with their past work experience.

List said to be 'initial thoughts'

The chart included a category for Republican Party and campaign work, showing who had been a delegate to a Republican convention or had managed a GOP campaign. The chart had a separate category indicating who among the prosecutors was a member of the Federalist Society, a Washington-based association that serves as a talent pool for young conservatives seeking work in GOP administrations.

Taken together, Democrats asserted, the e-mails supported their contention that the fired attorneys were dismissed to make room for favored candidates who were chosen on the basis of political qualifications.

The Justice Department said that Sampson's e-mail message did not contradict either his sworn testimony or the department's past statements. Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department, said: "We have consistently stated that, with the exception of [Timothy] Griffin, individuals were not preselected for any of the eight U.S. attorney positions prior to asking the U.S. attorneys to resign. The list made public today had previously been shared privately with Congress, and it in no way contradicts the department's prior statement. The list ... reflects Kyle Sampson's initial thoughts, not preselected candidates by the administration."

Sampson's lawyer, Bradford Berenson, also denied that the e-mail contradicted Sampson's testimony last month.

The electronic messages, some written as recently as March, offer a rare and almost contemporaneous account of the tactics used by a sitting administration attempting to manage a political firestorm.

Rove's e-mail trail

The possible replacements selected by Sampson -- with the exception of Griffin, an aide to Bush adviser Karl Rove -- never materialized, at least in part because the controversy pushed aside consideration of who will fill the vacancies. But it is clear from actions taken over the past two years that agency officials had placed lawyers from department headquarters, who were known to be loyal to Gonzales and the president, into open posts.

Meanwhile, a lawyer said that Rove did not intentionally delete e-mail to avoid creating a paper trail detailing his work. Rather, Rove mistakenly thought that the messages were being preserved by the Republican National Committee.

"Karl has always understood that his RNC e-mails were being archived," Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in an interview.

In addition to their government e-mail addresses, Rove and 21 other White House officials maintain e-mail accounts with the national committee that are supposed to be used for political business only.

The White House has said some e-mail messages from the political accounts are missing and it is working to recover them.

Study pans abstinence programs

Study pans abstinence programs
By Kevin Freking
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press
Published April 14, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, says a study ordered by Congress.

Also, those who attended one of four abstinence classes studied reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not. They first had sex at about the same age as other students, too -- 14.9 years, says Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

The federal government spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education.

The Mathematica study involved 2,057 youths from Miami and Milwaukee and rural Virginia and Mississippi.

Students averaged 11 to 12 years old at the start of the study in 1999 and took part for one to three years. Mathematica then did a follow-up survey in late 2005 and early 2006 and found that about half of the abstinence students and about half from the control group reported that they remained abstinent.

"First, there is no evidence that the programs increased the rate of sexual abstinence," said Chris Trenholm, a senior researcher at Mathematica who oversaw the study. "However, the second part of the story that I think is equally important is that we find no evidence that the programs increased the rate of unprotected sex."

A trade association for abstinence educators emphasized that the findings represent less than 1 percent of the abstinence-education projects funded by federal Title V block grants.

"This study began when [the programs] were still in their infancy," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Associa

Bush seeks expansion of wiretaps

Bush seeks expansion of wiretaps
Plan allows U.S. to spy on more non-citizens, intercept messages
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published April 14, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration on Friday asked Congress to make more non-citizens subject to intelligence surveillance and authorize the interception of foreign communications routed through the United States.

Under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, individuals must be associated with a foreign terrorism suspect or a foreign power to fall under the auspices of the FISA court, which can grant the authority to institute federal surveillance.

The White House proposes expanding potential targets to include non-citizens believed to possess, transmit or receive important foreign intelligence information, as well as those engaged in the United States in activities related to purchase or development of weapons of mass destruction.

The proposed revisions to the FISA law would also allow the government to keep information obtained "unintentionally," unrelated to the purpose of the surveillance, if it "contains significant foreign intelligence." Now, such information is destroyed unless it indicated threat of death or serious bodily harm.

And the suggested revisions provide for requiring telecommunications companies and e-mail providers to cooperate with investigations, while protecting them from being sued by their subscribers. The legal protection would be applied retroactively to companies that cooperated with the government after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The White House draft offered the first specifics of what Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said Tuesday is needed to respond to "dramatic" changes in communications technology used by intelligence targets in this country.

The proposed changes do not address the controversial intelligence program, initiated in October 2001 and first disclosed in December 2005, of monitoring communications between the United States and another country in which one party is suspected of having terrorist connections, according to senior administration officials.

While the administration contends the proposed changes are intended to help the government better address national security threats, civil liberties groups see the government's effort as a needless power grab.

The administration wants to allow government lawyers to decide whether a FISA court order is needed for electronic eavesdropping based on the target of the monitoring, not the mode of communication or the location where the surveillance is being conducted.

One effect of such a change: The National Security Agency would have the authority to monitor foreigners without seeking court approval, even if the surveillance is conducted by tapping phones and e-mail accounts in the United States.

Most often used by the FBI and the NSA, the 1978 FISA law has been updated several times since it was first passed, including in 2001 to allow government access to certain business records.

Among other tools available now, the government can break into homes, hotel rooms and cars to install hidden cameras and listening devices, as well as search drawers, luggage or hard drives.

President Bush has been under fire for the program that allows the NSA to monitor international calls and e-mails coming into this country, when one party in the communication had suspected links to international terrorism. Earlier this year, Bush asked a federal court to oversee the operations, known as the terrorist surveillance program.

"This legislation is important to ensure that FISA continues to serve the nation as a means to protect our country from foreign security threats, while also continuing to protect the valued privacy interests and civil liberties of persons located in the United States," the Justice Department said in a fact sheet released Friday.

But civil liberties advocates at the American Civil Liberties Union and elsewhere see the changes as a sweeping overhaul that would undermine long-standing protections. Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies said the changes are "poorly conceived" and "not justified," given a lack of oversight on the government's current powers.

A crucial Republican senator, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said in an interview that he believed Congress might be reluctant to take significant action on the issue soon, because of legal challenges to the constitutionality of the domestic surveillance that are in the courts. Last year, a federal judge in Detroit ruled the program unconstitutional.

The administration has appealed to an appeals court in Cincinnati.

Among other things, the proposed legislation would:

*Clarify the standards the FBI and NSA must use to get court orders for basic information about calls and e-mails -- such as the number dialed, e-mail address, or time and date of the communications. Civil liberties advocates contend the change will make it too easy for the government to access this information.

*Triple the life span of a FISA warrant for a non-U.S. citizen from 120 days to one year, allowing the government to monitor much longer without checking back in with a judge. The Justice Department says this would allow the government to focus its resources on cases involving U.S. citizens because it wouldn't have to get as many time-consuming renewals on warrants for cases involving foreigners.

*Extend from 72 hours to one week the amount of time the government can conduct surveillance without a court order in emergencies.

Financial Times Editorial Comment: Why Bush should let a damaged Wolfowitz go

Financial Times Editorial Comment: Why Bush should let a damaged Wolfowitz go
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 14 2007 03:00 | Last updated: April 14 2007 03:00

Should Paul Wolfowitz leave the World Bank? The answer to that question is "yes". Will Mr Wolfowitz leave the World Bank? The answer to that question is murkier. The US put Mr Wolfowitz in his job and the US will decide whether he is to stay. George W. Bush will hate to abandon a loyal henchman. He should do so, none the less.

It would be absurd to leave the decision to the bank's executive directors. True, they promised yesterday to "move expeditiously to reach a conclusion on possible actions to take". If the board did indeed exercise effective oversight, it would be welcome. But it would also be most surprising. These mid-level bureaucrats are not going to reach such a decision on their own.

In practice, national capitals will make the choice, unless Mr Wolfowitz himself takes it out of their hands. The US will be decisive: it is the bank's largest shareholder; it has always appointed the bank's president; and the president himself chose Mr Wolfowitz.

Who would want to take the US on if it decided to defend Mr Wolfowitz to the bitter end? However unhappy they may be with him, the other high-income countries are unlikely to want a big fight with the US over what most governments would consider a relatively unimportant matter. Many developing country members may even find the presidency of a now de-fanged anti-corruption campaigner quite appealing.

Mr Bush tends to be loyal to those he regards as loyal to himself. It is not surprising, therefore, to hear Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, declare that Mr Wolfowitz continues to have "our full confidence". That then would seem to be the end of the matter: Mr Wolfowitz will survive because the US president has decided he should.

Yet this ought not to be the end of the matter. To place loyalty above all other virtues is the ethics of a mafia boss not of the leader of a great country. The US president also needs to consider what is both right and in the interests of his own country.

That the US has in recent years lost a great deal of moral credit around the world is undeniable. But one area where the present administration has been relatively forward-looking has been aid and development. It has raised the share of gross domestic product spent on official aid to a still low 0.17 per cent, but that is well above the mere 0.1 per cent in 1999. It has supported ambitious debt cancellation for the world's poorest countries. It has also, rightly, put much weight on the need to tackle corruption and improve governance in aid recipients.

The best justification for placing Mr Wolfowitz at the bank was his determination to give this last objective overriding priority. It is possible to debate the wisdom of this, since the quality of governance, albeit hugely important, is not the sole determinant of development. But one point nobody can debate: if the US has decided that this is what it wants the World Bank to achieve, it cannot sustain a president who is no longer a credible spokesman for that cause. To do so can only destroy yet more of its own battered moral capital. It would be worse than a crime; it would be a blunder.

Loyalty is indeed a virtue. But loyalty is not the overriding virtue. The US needs to perceive its true interests in having an effective and credible bank. It needs also to preserve its own credibility as a campaigner for good governance. Mr Wolfowitz now needs to go if the aim of his presidency is to survive. The choice for Mr Bush has become as simple and as stark as that.

Subprime woes take toll on GE results

Subprime woes take toll on GE results
By Francesco Guerrera in New York
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 13 2007 13:26 | Last updated: April 13 2007 18:21

The US subprime mortgage crisis hit General Electric on Friday, wiping $373m from the industrial conglomerate’s first quarter profits and prompting its executives to warn of an incipient “bubble” in global credit markets.

GE said it had replaced the senior management team at its mortgage unit, and would reduce its workforce by around 1,000 people, or 40 per cent.

GE will also cut by half the loans it makes to less than $15bn this year - a sign of its belief that the subprime market has yet to hit the bottom.

Asked whether GE would invest more in the subprime market, Keith Sherin, GE’s chief financial officer, told the Financial Times the company had to first restructure its mortgage unit and evaluate market conditons.

“We have got to get our house in order,” he said.

Mr Sherin said the problems in the subprime sector, which targets borrowers with weak credit histories, were being replicated in the market for “Alt-A” loans for borrowers with slightly better credit scores.

Mr Sherin sounded a broader warning on the health of the global credit markets.

He said he was concerned at the rise in the level of high-yield debt, which has fuelled the boom in leveraged buyouts by private equity groups, and the growing use of “no covenant” deals, which strip lenders of the right to force borrowers to repay the debt.

“The levels of debt assumed in LBO activities and the lack of covenants . . . to me those are sign of a bubble,” he said.

GE is in talks with a number of buyout groups over the $8bn-$10bn sale of its troubled plastics business, which it expects to clinch by June.

GE, whose WMC mortgage division is the fifth-largest US subprime lender, is the latest blue-chip company to be wrong-footed by the abrupt downturn in the industry, which has been hit by a sharp rise in defaults and delinquencies.

GE saw a reduction of $373m in the profits of its GE Money division in the first quarter of 2007 and took a $500m markdown to reflect the lower value of its assets.

Mark Begor, chief executive of GE Money, Americas, told Wall Street analysts the subprime woes would have smaller impact, about $50m, on second quarter results.

Despite problems in the subprime unit and the plastics business, GE reported net earnings from continuing operations of $4.5bn in the three months to March.

The 8 per cent increase over a year ago was in line with analysts’ forecasts.

Profits were driven by a strong performance in the infrastructure unit, which has been powered by strong orders in the Middle East and Asia. Revenues were up 6 per cent to $40.2bn.

Net earnings, including discontinued operations, were up 2 per cent at $4.5bn.

Barclays bid for ABN Amro in jeopardy

Barclays bid for ABN Amro in jeopardy
By Peter Thal Larsen in London
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 13 2007 18:34 | Last updated: April 13 2007 20:37

Barclays’ efforts to vault itself into the top echelon of world banking through a friendly merger with ABN Amro were on Friday night in serious jeopardy after three of Europe’s largest banks approached the Dutch lender with a rival break-up proposal.

Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander of Spain and Fortis, the Belgo-Dutch banking and insurance group, on Friday wrote to ABN Amro seeking exploratory talks about a deal that would effectively carve up the bank’s operations. They said they had “requested access to the same due diligence information given to Barclays”.

The approach could pit those determined to maximise shareholder value against those seeking to keep the 183-year-old bank largely intact.

The proposal is an audacious attempt by Sir Fred Goodwin, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, and Emilio Botín of Santander to maintain their position as Europe’s leading bankers and see off a challenge by Barclays, which has for the past four weeks been negotiating a deal with ABN Amro that would create the world’s fifth-largest bank.

The proposed approach - likely to be worth around €65bn (£44bn, $88bn) - by the three banks would see each seize roughly a third of ABN Amro’s operations. Royal Bank of Scotland would buy ABN Amro’s US subsidiary and its investment banking business, which is largely based in London. The bank’s operations in Brazil and Italy would be sold to Santander, while Fortis would take control of its Dutch retail bank, as well as its private banking and asset management operations.

According to people familiar with the matter, the consortium suggested in its letter that its proposal would be likely to deliver more value to ABN Amro shareholders than an offer from Barclays, though it did not set out a specific price.

ABN Amro activist shareholder The Children’s Investment Fund welcomed the announcement of an invitation to the Dutch banking group to exploratory talks by the RBS consortium. “As ABN Amro shareholders, we believe that the fiduciary duties of the supervisory and management boards require that the Royal Bank of Scotland consortium is allowed to proceed immediately with due diligence on a basis equivalent to Barclays for there to be a fair and transparent process which maximises shareholder value,” TCI managing partner Christopher Hohn said in a statement.

Analysts have calculated that RBS and Santander could afford to offer more than €40 per share for ABN Amro, and the involvement of Fortis – which already has extensive operations in the Benelux – is likely to increase that target even further. By comparison Barclays, which has limited overlap with ABN Amro, is expected to offer no more than €35 per share.

However, no bank of ABN Amro’s size has ever been broken up before and the consortium’s bid is expected to be extremely complex. It will also face intense scrutiny from politicians and regulators.

The three banks, which are being advised by Merrill Lynch, are expected to argue that they have more experience of executing large takeovers. Sir Fred has built his career on large deals such as the hostile takeover of Natwest, while Mr Botín has also carried out a string of successful deals, including the takeover of the UK’s Abbey National in 2004.

RBS, Santander and Fortis all declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Ian Bickerton in Amsterdam and Leslie Crawford in Madrid

Google pays $3.1bn for DoubleClick

Google pays $3.1bn for DoubleClick
By Richard Waters in San Francisco
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 14 2007 00:06 | Last updated: April 14 2007 00:48

Google on Friday pulled off the biggest in a lengthening line of acquisitions as it won a bidding war with rivals Microsoft and Yahoo over DoubleClick, one of the early pioneers of online advertising.

The $3.1bn cash purchase, almost double the amount it paid in its all-stock acquisition of YouTube, will turn the search engine company overnight into one of the biggest sellers of online display advertising, a field in which it has until now been only a small player.

However, the deal represents a high price given DoubleClick’s revenues, which one person familiar with the deal put at $300m-$400m, and reflects a sharp intensification of the competition between some of the internet’s biggest companies as they jostle for leadership in the fast-growing online advertising markets.

One of the first companies to develop an automated network for delivering adverts to targeted groups of users online, New York-based DoubleClick was a star of the dotcom boom, but crashed when internet advertising went into reverse in 2001. It was eventually taken private in a $1.1bn leveraged buy-out two years ago by a private equity consortium led by Hellman & Friedman.

Recent reports suggested that the private equity firms were carrying out an informal auction of the company starting at about $2bn, and one person close to the deal described the heated bidding of recent days as “extraordinary”.

Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, defended the high price based on the potential to cross-sell DoubleClick’s services to Google’s existing search advertising customers. Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, he said: “There’s no question in our mind that we’ll get this money back, and more.”

For Google, the purchase opens up a big new advertising market at a time when its core search advertising business is starting to slow, though at the cost of eating into a cash hoard that stood at $11bn at the end of last year. The company has indicated that it has also earmarked a large amount of that cash for content deals that it hopes to reach with traditional media companies to bring more video to YouTube and its other sites.

Many of the advertisers who use DoubleClick’s network to place display, or “branded”, advertising on a variety of websites also use Google’s network to distribute text-based search adverts, Mr Schmidt said.

“The integration [of search and display advertising] is what people have been asking us for for a very long time,” he added, making it possible to sell the two side-by-side.

By combining the analytical and other tools used by the two networks, Google would also make it easier for advertisers to manage and track their online campaigns, and assess the financial returns from both classes of advertising alongside each other, company executives said.

For DoubleClick’s private equity owners, meanwhile, the sale will bring a sizeable profit from a company that was still widely thought of two years ago as a victim of the dotcom bust. According to one person familiar with the deal, the sale price amounted to an eight-fold return on the equity portion of the original investment in DoubleClick, after also taking account of an earlier sale of part of the business.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Leading By Example

Leading By Example
04/12/2007 Copyright by Gay City

Dr. Charles R. "Chuck" Middleton, and Ralph Hexter of Hampshire College in Massachusetts are the only university presidents in the U.S. who are openly gay.

Dr. Charles R. "Chuck" Middleton is one of two openly gay university presidents in the United States. Since July 2002, he has served as the fifth president of Roosevelt University, with campuses on South Michigan Avenue, just west of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, in downtown Chicago and in northwest suburban Schaumburg.

"I'm actually six months older than the university," said Middleton, who earned a B.A. degree with honors in history from Florida State University and holds both an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Duke University. "I think I'm the only university president who can say that. Maybe I should keep that to myself."

Middleton's academic expertise is 18th and 19th century British history. A fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is the author of "The Administration of British Foreign Policy, 1782-1846."

Beginning his career as a university professor 36 years ago, Middleton has served as an administrator in recent years at an array of institutions. Prior to joining Roosevelt, he was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Bowling Green State University in Kentucky, and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Maryland.

"I really enjoy working in higher education," he said. "Today's colleges challenge individuals to look at the world and learn about its complexity and they help students evolve along with it."

Roosevelt University ( was founded in 1945 as an independent, non-sectarian, co-education institution of higher learning. Its founders were determined to make higher education available to all students who could qualify academically. Considerations of social or economic class, racial or ethnic origin, sex, or age were from the start irrelevant in determining who was admitted - a policy still not widespread at that time. Originally named Thomas Jefferson College, the new school was renamed Roosevelt College in recognition of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's democratic ideals and values.

As president of Roosevelt University, Middleton takes great pride in serving one of the most diverse private universities in the U.S.
"We welcome everyone who's here and who wants to be here," he says of Roosevelt, which currently has 7,400 students and more than 500 faculty members. "It's important to provide an atmosphere that will help maintain that passion in students who want to learn. We provide the best education for everyone who's there."

Building on Roosevelt's historic commitment to social justice and student success, Middleton is proudest of his successes in working closely with faculty, staff, and the board of trustees to develop and implement a comprehensive university plan that focuses on providing quality education to its students and a healthy work environment for its faculty and staff.

Middleton and Ralph Hexter of Hampshire College, a small liberal arts institution in Massachusetts, are the only university presidents who are openly gay.

"For whatever reason, fear of getting fired or fear of total acceptance, it's a shame more academic leaders can't take that step," Middleton said.
Middleton and his partner John Geary have been together for more than 25 years. Geary is a professor of Spanish and Portuguese and chair of the department of foreign languages at Northeastern Illinois University, also in Chicago.

"We met at the University of Colorado, Boulder, when we were both on the faculty there," he said. "Times were different then. Gay issues were not discussed as openly as they are now. That's not to say things are great in today's world. I think we as a community are just beginning to be heard."

Gay discrimination in professional fields vary; however, said Middleton, "It's not easy to compare levels of difficulty and struggle between groups with any certainty, especially when everyone wonders at some level whether they personally have the ability to succeed or even get a job in their field of expertise."

In higher education, Middleton said, there are still challenges presented to openly gay professionals who want to move up in the administrative ranks.

"Despite their liberalism on so many issues, and despite a more accepting atmosphere on campus than exists in many other places, the fact is that there still are many people who are uncomfortable with or even hate LGBT individuals," he said. "This too often leads to subtle unacceptance of a sort that is analogous to that faced by other groups, even in these generally progressive places called campuses. Some of it is based upon discomfort with us...but some is just outright hostility that makes its way into both subtle and covert comments and resistance to giving opportunity to members of our community."

To illustrate, Middleton presents the following example: "A candidate for a job, a gay man, is politely interviewed, and many like his work, on a non-gay topic, though they are a bit uncomfortable with his personal manner of presentation, which is expressive in ways not normally found in such interviews. In the hiring discussion, held in confidence, there is a discussion of his sexual orientation as a factor in his being a colleague in the unit and how students might respond to his lecturing style. There are many disclaimers on why that is not important. Then in a secret ballot the other candidate is hired instead."

"I have heard these conversations with regard to both gay men and lesbians, but I have never heard them with regard to people of color or straight women," Middleton said. "Or perhaps, I should state that when I was closeted I heard them a lot; now, at least in my presence, they don't happen. What always surprised me when fear kept me silent was how many people who are progressive in every way, or so I thought, could be so harsh to another human being for these reasons."

Middleton's contributions since coming out as a gay man and engaging in community work were acknowledged in November 2006, when he was inducted into Chicago's Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame.

As an out gay man, Middleton is active both in professional academic circles and in community organizations throughout Chicago. He serves as a Fellow of the Institute for International Education, a group founded in 1919 to increase ties between American universities and high education institutions worldwide, and a member of the American Council on Education. He is involved with the American Historical Association and the North American Conference on British Studies and is active in the National Association - as well as Illinois Federation - of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Middleton serves on three leading city planning organizations - the Chicago Loop Alliance, the Chicago Central Area Committee, and the Near South Planning Board - and is also a member of leading civic groups, including the city's Rotary One, the Economic Club, and the Executives' Club. He is on the board of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York.

Middleton is also active with the Chicago LGBT community's Center on Halstead, the Point Foundation, which provides scholarships to promising LGBT college students who lack family support, and at the Chicago Historical Society is on the Community Advisory Council for "Out at CHS."

"I think it's important to serve as a mentor to members of our community," he said, "especially when you are shaping the lives of future leaders. College campuses serve as training ground for the real world. Unfortunately, the real world can be even more challenging and less accepting of us. That's why it's important to get involved."

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Four years since Saddam came tumbling down

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Four years since Saddam came tumbling down
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: April 12, 2007

Four years ago this week, as American troops made their first, triumphant entrance into Baghdad, joyous Iraqis pulled down a giant statue of Saddam Hussein.

It was powerful symbolism - a murderous dictator toppled, residents of Baghdad taking to the streets without fear, American soldiers hailed as liberators.

After four years of occupation, untold numbers killed by death squads and suicide bombers, and searing experiences like Abu Ghraib, few Iraqis still look on American soldiers as liberators.

Instead, thousands marked this week's anniversary by burning American flags and marching through the streets of Najaf chanting, "Death to America."

Once again, tens of thousands of American troops are pouring into Baghdad. On Wednesday the Pentagon announced that battle-weary United States Army units in Iraq would have to stay on for an additional three months past their scheduled return dates.

President George W. Bush is desperately gambling that by stretching the Army to the absolute limits of its deployable strength, he may be able to impose some relative calm in the capital.

He seems to imagine that should that gamble succeed, the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki will, without any serious pressure from Washington, take the steps toward sharing political power and economic resources it has tenaciously resisted since the day it took office a year ago.

Unless Maliki takes those steps - eliminating militia and death squad members from the Iraqi army and police, fairly sharing oil revenues, and rolling back laws that deny political and economic opportunities to the Sunni middle class - no lasting security gains are possible.

More Iraqi and American lives will be sacrificed.

Even among Shiites, who suffered so much at the hands of Saddam Hussein and who are the supposed beneficiaries of Maliki's shortsighted policies, there is a deep disillusionment and anger.

This week, a Washington Post reporter interviewed Khadim al-Jubouri, who four years ago swung his sledgehammer to help knock down the dictator's statue.

Jubouri said that ever since he watched that statue being built he had nourished a dream of bringing it down and ushering in much better times. Now, with friends and relatives killed, kidnapped or driven from their homes, the prices of basic necessities soaring and electricity rationed to four hours a day, Jubouri says the change of regimes "achieved nothing" and he has come to hate the American military presence he once welcomed.

Maliki's supporters can be even more frightening to listen to.

This week's demonstration in Najaf was organized by the fiercely anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose political party and militia helped put Maliki in power and are still among his most important allies.

Two months into the Baghdad security drive, the gains Bush is banking on have not materialized. More American soldiers continue to arrive, and their commanders are talking about extending the troop buildup through the fall or into early next year. After four years, the political trend is even more discouraging.

There is no possible triumph in Iraq and very little hope left.

Import price rise surprises experts

Import price rise surprises experts
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News
Published April 13, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Prices of U.S. imports rose last month by the most in almost a year, led by gains in crude oil and natural gas that are likely to prevent the Federal Reserve from cutting interest rates anytime soon.

The 1.7 percent increase was more than twice economists' forecasts and followed a 0.1 percent gain in February, the Labor Department said Thursday. Imports account for about 17 percent of all goods and services purchased in the U.S.

Separately, the department said first-time jobless claims rose last week to the highest level in nearly two months.

The import figures were released a day after Fed policymakers released minutes of their March meeting in which they said higher fuel prices cause some firms to pass costs on to their customers. The Fed added that higher rates might even "prove necessary."

"It's a pretty inflation-unfriendly piece of data," said Ethan Harris, chief U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in New York. The recent gain in energy costs "is one of a number of factors that has made the Fed more nervous."

The import-price index is the first of three monthly price gauges from the Labor Department. The government is scheduled to release its measure of producer prices Friday and the consumer price index Tuesday.

"The recent increases in prices for energy and some non-energy imports likely would boost overall inflation in the near term and might put upward pressure on prices of some core goods and services," Fed policymakers said at their March 20-21 meeting, according to minutes of the meeting.

The Fed, which kept interest rates unchanged at the last six meetings, has been counting on a slowing economy and declines in energy prices to limit inflation.

The price of imported petroleum and its products jumped 9 percent in March. The average price of a barrel of crude oil traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose to $62 on March 1 from $57.30 on Feb. 1. The Labor Department bases its import-price calculations on the first day of the month. Imported natural gas prices increased 4.7 percent in March.

Weakness in the dollar has made imported goods more expensive. The dollar weakened 4 percent through March from a year earlier on a trade-weighted basis and has fallen about 18 percent since early 2002.

The government said the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week was swollen by the Easter holiday and school spring recess. Initial jobless claims rose by 19,000, to 342,000, the Labor Department said.

Holidays such as Easter occur in different weeks each year, making it difficult to adjust the data for seasonal variations, said a Labor Department spokesman. It might take a week or two for the underlying trend in firings to re-emerge, economists said.

"The claims numbers tend to get volatile around this time of year," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Conn.

Financial Times Editorial Comment: Wolfowitz must be told to resign now

Financial Times Editorial Comment: Wolfowitz must be told to resign now
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 13 2007 03:00 | Last updated: April 13 2007 03:00

The president of the World Bank has one asset: his credibility. The Bank's capacity to make a difference lies not in its money and ideas but in its ability to be the world's voice for development. This includes, as Paul Wolfowitz, the current president, has insisted, being the voice for good governance. Recent revelations have, however, demonstrated such serious failures that the Bank's moral authority is endangered. If the president stays, it risks becoming an object not of respect, but of scorn, and its campaign in favour of good governance not a believable struggle, but blatant hypocrisy.

It is important to understand what is not at issue here. It is not Mr Wolfowitz's unpopularity, even though his role as an architect of the Iraq war made him disliked from the start. It is not failures of management, even though his reliance on a group of outside appointees made him mistrusted by many inside and outside the Bank. It is not disagreements over development doctrine, where some convergence of views has occurred. It is not a romantic relationship with a subordinate, itself hardly a rarity in today's world.

The issue is whether the failures of corporate governance are serious enough to damage the Bank's moral authority. In a world where curtailing corruption and improving governance have become central to the practice of development, the world's premier development institution must, like Caesar's wife, stand above suspicion.

What then is the story? When Mr Wolfowitz became president of the World Bank he also became the boss of his girlfriend, Shaha Riza. To resolve this situation - inconsistent, rightly, with Bank rules - Ms Riza was seconded to the US State Department.

So far, then, so unproblematic. Yet, it is alleged, the terms of the appointment, which appear astonishingly generous, violate a number of Bank protocols. Worse, it now appears Mr Wolf-owitz personally directed the Bank's head of human resources to offer his girlfriend these exceptional terms. Worse still, this has come out after misleading claims by a senior official that the ethics committee of the board, in consultation with the general counsel, approved the agreement.

What then do we see here? The answer is: an apparent violation of Bank rules; favouritism that borders on nepotism; and a possible cover-up. It is true Mr Wolfowitz and Ms Riza were put in a difficult position. Even so, what has come out would be bad in any institution. In an institution that spear-heads the cause of good governance in the developing world, it is lethal.

The World Bank has moved from being a self-proclaimed exemplar of best practice in corporate governance to an example of shoddiness. As long as Mr Wolfowitz stays, this can be neither repaired nor forgotten, be it outside the Bank or inside it. In the interests of the Bank itself, he should resign. If he does not, the board must ask him to go.

Common gene causes obesity, says study

Common gene causes obesity, says study
By Clive Cookson in London
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 13 2007 03:00 | Last updated: April 13 2007 03:00

The first clear-cut evidence of a common gene that explains why some people get fat and others stay lean is published today. A British study of 38,000 people shows one-sixth of the population carries a 70 per cent higher risk of being obese as a result of variants in the so-called FTO gene.

"Even though we have yet to understand the role played by the FTO gene in obesity, our findings are a source of great excitement," said Mark McCarthy of Oxford University, one of the study leaders. "By identifying this genetic link, it should be possible to improve our understanding of why some people are more obese, with all the associated implications such as increased risk of diabetes and heart disease."

Although other genetic links to obesity had been identified, these caused severe obesity in extremely rare cases - typically one person in 10,000 - said Andrew Hattersley of Peninsular Medical School, Exeter. FTO mutations, in contrast, were very common.

About half the population carries one copy of the FTO variant, which leads on average to a weight gain of 1.2kg compared with those without the variant. People who carry two copies - one inherited from each parent - will gain 3kg.

FTO is one of many human genes whose biological role is still a mystery. It produced a protein unlike any other known to science, said Prof McCarthy, though there might be a clue in the fact FTO was very active in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain involved in appetite and satiety.

Today's online publication of the study by the journal Science is likely to trigger a large international research effort to understand what FTO does. Scientists hope it will lead to a biological understanding of the reasons why some people put on weight and others do not under the same conditions - and the pharmaceutical industry will be looking for leads to potential drugs.

Prof McCarthy said the researchers and their main funding body, the Wellcome Trust, "thought long and hard" about patentingthe discovery and decided not to. The immediate reason was scientific competition: they knew other researchers were on the track of FTO and did not want to risk delaying publication while they were tied up in the intellectual property debate.

Independent scientists hailed the study as a landmark in understanding obesity although some were concerned about the psychological impact on the public health campaign against the "obesity epidemic" that is sweeping the industrialised world and spreading to developing countries.

There was a risk of people reacting to news of a "gene for obesity" in a fatalistic way, Prof McCarthy conceded, and imagining wrongly that fatness was determined by their DNA.

But Susan Jebb, head of the Medical Research Council's Human Nutrition unit in Cambridge, hopes it will have the opposite effect.

"People who know they are carriers may be more motivated to adopt a prudent diet and healthy lifestyle to decrease their risk," she said.

Suicide bomb hits Iraq parliament

Suicide bomb hits Iraq parliament
By Steve Negus, Iraq Correspondent
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 12 2007 12:10 | Last updated: April 12 2007 18:49

A suicide bomber on Thursday blew himself up inside the heavily guarded Iraqi parliament building, killing at least eight people including three legislators, and dealing a blow to the new US security plan for Baghdad.

The brazen lunchtime attack in the parliament cafeteria, inside the fortified Green Zone, cast doubt on the ability of even the most stringent security measures to provide a safe, neutral space in the Iraqi capital for politicians to meet.

The building which houses parliament is more accessible to the public, and not as secure as prime ministerial offices or the homes of various political leaders. But the attack is probably the most serious breach of security to date in the Green Zone, the swathe of the city guarded by the US and allied militaries, private security contractors and Iraqi troops.

Parliamentary sources have so far identified three legislators killed in the blast – two from the two main Sunni blocs and one from the Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance.

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, condemned an attack she said was perpetrated by those wishing to stop Iraqis from “having a future that would be based on democracy and stability”.

She insisted the Baghdad security plan – launched earlier this year and seen as a last-ditch American effort to control the city’s sectarian violence – was still in its early stages. “We have said there will be good days and bad days,” she said.

The Green Zone is regularly hit by mortars fired from the outside, usually ineffectively. Security measures make bomb attacks inside comparatively rare, although six people were killed in October 2004 in an attack on a cafe.

Most Iraqis who wish to enter it must pass through multiple checkpoints run by troops of the US-led coalition, private security firms and Iraqi security forces, and include body-scanners, pat-downs and sniffer dogs.

Legislators themselves, however, can circumvent some of the checkpoints and some Shia have accused Sunni parliamentarians of co-operating with insurgents.

Thursday’s violence could deter deputies from coming to Iraq’s already sparsely- attended parliamentary sessions and delay the implementation of a government legislative platform aimed at national reconciliation.

In other violence, at least 10 people were killed when insurgents managed to partially destroy a major bridge across the Tigris with a car bomb. The death toll may rise from cars which plummeted into the river from the broken structure.

The al-Sarafiya bridge, one of nine major spans across the Tigris, links a predominantly Sunni neighbourhood in north-east Baghdad and a Shia district across the river.

The blast marks one of the first times that insurgents have been able to seriously damage part of the country’s transport infrastructure.

Chicago, LA race for 2016 Olympics

Chicago, LA race for 2016 Olympics
By Doug Cameron and Matthew Garrahan
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 12 2007 19:53 | Last updated: April 12 2007 19:53

Pat Ryan, chairman of insurance group Aon, took a long hard look at the T-shirt handed to him amid a crush of reporters in a cramped corner of the Macy’s department store in downtown Chicago.

Wisely, Mr Ryan did not attempt to pull the limited edition “Chicago 2016” shirt over his neat suit, but there are few things the city’s business community will not do to help bring the summer Olympics to the Midwest for the first time.

Chicago will square off against Los Angeles on Friday at a meeting of the US Olympic Committee in Washington DC to decide which – if any – US city will front a bid for the 2016 games.

The two cities have taken markedly different approaches in the run-up to this weekend’s decision, with Chicago boasting experience of hard work and LA – a two-time Olympic host – focusing on glitz and its past experience.

Chicago has been unashamed in promoting the potential economic benefits of hosting the games, using it as a springboard to revitalise parts of its lakefront and south side.

The focus of a Los Angeles bid will be to reignite interest in sport, rather than the economic regeneration which has fired Chicago’s mayor, Richard M Daley, to galvanise the local business community. “We want to bring audiences back to the Olympics,” says Barry Sanders, executive counsel at law firm Latham & Watkins and chairman of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games.

“I think that Chicago, being a city of celebration and celebrating sport, there will never be an Olympics with so many people involved,” countered Mr Ryan this week, as both teams put the finishing touches to their presentations.

The Californian committee was formed in 1939 – seven years after LA hosted its first games – and its 60-member board cuts across business, politics, sports and the arts.

The bid has secured support from prominent companies based in the city, such as Walt Disney and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns London’s Millennium Dome and the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Chicago responded last June by naming its own bid panel, headed by Mr Ryan and including the sort of heavyweight business and civic leaders who have been instrumental in previous public-private partnerships, such as the modernisation of O’Hare airport and the building of Millennium Park.

Mr Ryan leads a panel that includes Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney and John Madigan, the former Tribune Company chief now running the Madison Dearborn private equity group. It has established a $30m war chest to fight the international round of the battle if it wins approval from the US Olympic Committee.

“In my experience living in several cities in the US and overseas, I have never seen a business community as united as that in Chicago,” says Mark Angelson, chief executive of RR Donnelly, the world’s largest printing group, and a member of the organising committee.

The USOC is headed by Peter Ueberroth, who is credited with reinventing Olympics economics by successfully turning a profit from the Los Angeles games in 1984.

The US is likely to face opposition from Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and at least five other cities for the 2016 games, with a final decision not due until 2009.

World Bank pledges action on Wolfowitz

World Bank pledges action on Wolfowitz
By Krishna Guha in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 13 2007 13:53 | Last updated: April 13 2007 13:53

Paul Wolfowitz’s future as president of the World Bank was in jeopardy on Friday after the bank’s board issued a damaging finding of facts on his role in the Shaha Riza affair and pledged to ”move expeditiously to reach a conclusion on possible actions to take.”

The board said that its ”consideration of the matter” would ”focus on all the relevant governance implications for the Bank”.

The promise of further action will intensify pressure on Mr Wolfowitz to step down of his own accord, ahead of possible censure by the board.

As of Friday morning, though, there was no indication that Mr Wolfowitz – who issued a public apology Thursday morning – was ready to give up the fight.

Much will now depend on the position of the US, which is more nuanced than yesterday’s reaffirmation by the White House of confidence in Mr Wolfowitz suggests.

The decision came after a marathon emergency session of the 24-member board, made up of representatives of the Bank’s shareholder governments, which began around midday on Thursday and ran late into the night.

Overnight reports suggest European nations took the lead in driving for a tough board statement, overcoming reluctance from some other states. However, there was no consensus to call for Mr Wolfowitz’s resignation.

The controversy relates to Mr Wolfowitz’s personal involvement in securing a promotion and a pay rise far in excess of the normal maximum associated with such a promotion for Ms Riza, a bank official with whom he was romantically involved, as part of a secondment package.

The board statement – hammered out after tough negotiation between board members – states that Mr Wolfowitz ”sent the vice-president, human resources, a written memorandum directing him to reach agreement with the staff member and specifying in detail the terms and conditions.”

The existence of this memorandum, dated August 11 2005, was first revealed by the Financial Times.

The statement further notes that the then ethics committee ”had not been involved in the discussions with the concerned staff member. Neither did it find that the terms and conditions of the agreement had been commented on, reviewed or approved by the ethics committee, its chairman or the board.”

However, the statement does acknowledge that the ethics committee originally advised Mr Wolfowitz to consider a secondment for Ms Riza as one of a number of possible ways to comply with Bank rules that prohibit employees from working under the authority of a colleague with whom they are romantically involved.

It also states that the board suggested that Ms Riza could be offered a promotion as compensation for the disruption to her career.

The board released the full report of the subcommittee that investigated the Riza secondment and promised to release all relevant documents.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Iacocca: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Iacocca: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
American Empire | Books
Excerpt: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
By Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney

04/11/07 "ICH" -- -- -Had Enough? Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course." Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out! You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies.Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.
I've had enough. How about you? I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to, as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us. Who Are These Guys, Anyway? Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them, or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy. And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?
The Test of a Leader.

I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points, not ten (I don't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choose wisely.

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush,"Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't. Leadership is all about managing change, whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths. For what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION, a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President, four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake. It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that's not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn't look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don't go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.
You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee, the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know, Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush. Former President Bill Clinton once said, "I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world, and I like it here." I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down. On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day, and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero. That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq, a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you,I don't know what will.

A Hell of a Mess.

So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened. Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it? Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change? Had Enough? Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough

A conversation with Larry Kramer by Rex Wockner

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
A conversation with Larry Kramer
Copyright by Rex Wockner
From his Blog

He wrote the novel "Faggots," the play "The Normal Heart" and the screenplay for "Women in Love," among other works. He's been a longtime gay thorn in the side of New York Times reporters, bourgeois gay activists and his alma mater, Yale. In 1987, he launched ACT UP. And now he's trying to do it again. Rex Wockner talks with gay legend Larry Kramer.
Rex: Speaking at New York City's gay center March 13th, commemorating ACT UP's 20th anniversary, you called for a resurgence of gay street activism -- and the audience promptly organized a Times Square recruiting station demo against the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's recent anti-gay slurs. Do you think gay America is ready to act up again?

Larry: We'll see. The initial response to my speech was kind of overwhelming. The room was packed, and mostly young folks, which surprised me because I thought a lot of the old ACT UP crew would show up, which they didn't. They loved the speech, and the energy quickly turned into deciding to march two days later on the Army recruiting station. It was just like the first ACT UP speech I made in 1987. Great turnout, great energy, our first demo two days later on Wall Street. Very spontaneous both times. We'll have to see if the energy will sustain. These are the delicate first weeks to see if the troops coalesce or drop by the wayside. Like the Sondheim song, we are "putting it together, bit by bit, piece by piece." Again, that is how it was in the beginning. We didn't know where we were going, we just figured it out. The needs are different now. Then it was AIDS and now it is utter sheer hate hurled at us right and left, the latest example of this being Gen. Peter Pace.
Rex: Let's talk about your reference to hate from the left. You took a strong jab at Hillary Clinton during that speech at the gay center. Our enemies come from all parts of the political spectrum?

Larry: I say that hate is an equal-opportunity employer. I say over and over again that we must realize that gay people are hated. Period. And we don't realize this. We think they just don't like us. Or that bullshit about "love the sinner, hate the sin." When the Supreme Court rules against us, as always happens, it is because of hate. The recent New York state ruling handed down on gay marriage contained some of the most bigoted reasoning I have ever heard.

I want this new ACT UP to be an army confronting this hate in every way we can, whether it is Hillary and her constant waffling -- which, of course, isn't hate, yet -- or the judges ruling against us. Gen. Pace's disgusting talk is hate. As I say in the speech, there is not one elected official or candidate for president who, given half the chance, would not sell us down the river. Bill Clinton was the prime example of that, with his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and his support of the hateful Defense of Marriage Act. Gays at HRC and elsewhere lining up to give [Hillary] big bucks is a big mistake. We demand now, and pay off later -- after they show us the beef, not before.
Rex: I do feel hate sometimes from courts and politicians, but I only very rarely feel it living my daily life in San Diego. Some days I think they wish we'd just all disappear from the face of the Earth, but most days I feel like we're all accepted and integrated, at least in the cities. Aren't we, culturally, kind of in a supremely schizo phase? Also, what straight people do one-on-one with the gay people in their lives seems very different from what slimy politicians do in public. My ex and I were good friends with the fundamentalist Christians who lived next door. Perhaps they didn't like gays, I don't know, but they liked me and Bob, as a gay couple, just fine. In other words, schizo. Discuss.

Larry: It is seeing your life through such rose-colored glasses as you describe that is so dismaying to me. Yes, life is better for the blinded. Leave San Diego and go to northern Idaho, or to parts of Queens in New York City, and you would not live as you describe. Indeed, I am sure there are portions of San Diego where you could get seriously mugged. I am actually kind of sick and tired of palaver -- hot air -- as you just passed. I am also sick and tired of those who say that everything is better now than the old days. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't; this is an irrelevant argument. It is the today that we have to contend with. Every action that I describe in my ACT UP speech is an action of hate -- by judges, by our government, by our elected officials, by government bureaucrats. And until gays start facing up to this fact, that this is hate, not just, say, difference of opinion, then we continue to live in the doggy do-do that we do.
Rex: Yes, I've been scolded for this hot air, or optimism, by others, too; and you're right that we still lack equality in many, many areas and that homophobia is the reason for it. You mentioned the Human Rights Campaign. They've taken a lot of flak lately. I've seen them under attack from blogger Michael Petrelis; writers Andrew Sullivan, Paul Varnell and Chris Crain; and from others who still dare to have a controversial opinion. Has HRC become useless?

Larry: HRC is almost worthless and has been since the day it was born. I totally agree with Andrew that it is a cash cow milking gullible gay men and women and providing scant evidence that it is money well-spent. Every once in a while they manage a minor victory in Washington but hardly one to merit their existence. I say this sadly. I'll tell you one thing: that they are able to corral so much money every year is scary. It's scary that so many of us believe they are doing good stuff. What are they seeing that I can't see? We are in worse shape in Washington than we have ever ever ever ever ever been. Washington is HRC's turf. I shudder.
Rex: If what has been dubbed ACT UP ARMY takes off, it likely will do such things as shout down waffling presidential candidates and homo-hating senators, throw pies at homo-nasty cultural figures and such. That will drive media coverage, and media coverage sometimes fixes things. So that's all good. Apart from that, what alternative form of activism would you suggest for people whose current style of activism is sending money to HRC and GLAAD? Besides interrupting Hillary's speeches and throwing pies at Ann Coulter, what should gay Americans be doing to diminish the hate?

Larry: Would that someone would only throw pies at Ann Coulter! If ACT UP ARMY takes off is a major "if." All of this getting-us-off-the-ground-again stuff is delicate and tenuous, as I said. There is no consensus yet about anything, including the name of ACT UP ARMY. Some don't like the army word and some no longer even want the ACT UP words, preferring something more like RAGE, which is not available for Web registration, or who knows what else. One of the suggestions that got out is the Queer Justice League, which I hate; it sounds too fascistic. So far, few of the old-time ACT UPers have showed up, which was surprising and disappointing to me. Who has appeared have been young people, which is fine but which requires new getting-to-know-you's for us all.
Once again, forgive me if I carp but I am tired of people asking me for what suggestions I have for activism. We are a fantastically gifted population of people with strong imaginations and creative powers. What the fuck do you -- meaning each individual -- want to do? If you don't want to storm barricades or boo Hillary or McCain at every whistlestop and you don't have spare money for our gay organizations, which are not worth it anyway, please realize that it only takes one person to do an action, if you are of the mind to do it.
Donna Shalala once made a speech before a huge hall when she was Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services and I stood right beside her holding up a sign saying "Donna Do Nothing." Sure, I felt funny, but if you hold the sign up in front of your face, no one sees it, and I sure felt good after it was over. My point is that we all have to find ways that are commensurate with our courage and belief in our validity of ourselves as equal Americans who are being dumped on royally and constantly. If you don't feel that in your bones, then I guess you are never going to be an activist and we are all going to continue to be dumped on royally and constantly.
Please don't wait for others to do anything! There once were ACT UP chapters in dozens of American cities. People just got together and did stuff. All across America. Do it again, for all our sakes! Just call a Tupperware party and say to your friends, "OK, what can we do this week?" It's like Mickey and Judy putting on a show, if that reference isn't too obscure now.

Rex: I'll guess Rooney and Garland. If I weren't a reporter -- we have to watch and take notes and can't join in -- you'd have me sold. There's so much going down in the public sphere every week that more than justifies acting up and fighting back. Thanks, Larry.

Why do straights hate gays? - An 72-year-old gay activist isn't hopeful about the future.

Why do straights hate gays? - An 72-year-old gay activist isn't hopeful about the future.
By Larry Kramer, LARRY KRAMER is the founder of the protest group ACT UP and the author of "The Tragedy of Today's Gays.
Copyright by The L. A Times
March 20, 2007


Why do you hate gay people so much?

Gays are hated. Prove me wrong. Your top general just called us immoral. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is in charge of an estimated 65,000 gay and lesbian troops, some fighting for our country in Iraq. A right-wing political commentator, Ann Coulter, gets away with calling a straight presidential candidate a faggot. Even Garrison Keillor, of all people, is making really tacky jokes about gay parents in his column. This, I guess, does not qualify as hate except that it is so distasteful and dumb, often a first step on the way to hate. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama tried to duck the questions that Pace's bigotry raised, confirming what gay people know: that there is not one candidate running for public office anywhere who dares to come right out, unequivocally, and say decent, supportive things about us.

Gays should not vote for any of them. There is not a candidate or major public figure who would not sell gays down the river. We have seen this time after time, even from supposedly progressive politicians such as President Clinton with his "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military and his support of the hideous Defense of Marriage Act. Of course, it's possible that being shunned by gays will make politicians more popular, but at least we will have our self-respect. To vote for them is to collude with them in their utter disdain for us.

Don't any of you wonder why heterosexuals treat gays so brutally year after year after year, as your people take away our manhood, our womanhood, our personhood? Why, even as we die you don't leave us alone. What we can leave our surviving lovers is taxed far more punitively than what you leave your (legal) surviving spouses. Why do you do this? My lover will be unable to afford to live in the house we have made for each other over our lifetime together. This does not happen to you. Taxation without representation is what led to the Revolutionary War. Gay people have paid all the taxes you have. But you have equality, and we don't.

And there's no sign that this situation will change anytime soon. President Bush will leave a legacy of hate for us that will take many decades to cleanse. He has packed virtually every court and every civil service position in the land with people who don't like us. So, even with the most tolerant of new presidents, gays will be unable to break free from this yoke of hate. Courts rule against gays with hateful regularity. And of course the Supreme Court is not going to give us our equality, and in the end, it is from the Supreme Court that such equality must come. If all of this is not hate, I do not know what hate is.

Our feeble gay movement confines most of its demands to marriage. But political candidates are not talking about — and we are not demanding that they talk about — equality. My lover and I don't want to get married just yet, but we sure want to be equal.

You must know that gays get beaten up all the time, all over the world. If someone beats you up because of who you are — your race or ethnic origin — that is considered a hate crime. But in most states, gays are not included in hate crime measures, and Congress has refused to include us in a federal act.

Homosexuality is a punishable crime in a zillion countries, as is any activism on behalf of it. Punishable means prison. Punishable means death. The U.S. government refused our requests that it protest after gay teenagers were hanged in Iran, but it protests many other foreign cruelties. Who cares if a faggot dies? Parts of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. are joining with the Nigerian archbishop, who believes gays should be put in prison. Episcopalians! Whoever thought we'd have to worry about Episcopalians?

Well, whoever thought we'd have to worry about Florida? A young gay man was just killed in Florida because of his sexual orientation. I get reports of gays slain in our country every week. Few of them make news. Fewer are prosecuted. Do you consider it acceptable that 20,000 Christian youths make an annual pilgrimage to San Francisco to pray for gay souls? This is not free speech. This is another version of hate. It is all one world of gay-hate. It always was.

Gays do not realize that the more we become visible, the more we come out of the closet, the more we are hated. Don't those of you straights who claim not to hate us have a responsibility to denounce the hate? Why is it socially acceptable to joke about "girlie men" or to discriminate against us legally with "constitutional" amendments banning gay marriage? Because we cannot marry, we can pass on only a fraction of our estates, we do not have equal parenting rights and we cannot live with a foreigner we love who does not have government permission to stay in this country. These are the equal protections that the Bill of Rights proclaims for all?

Why do you hate us so much that you will not permit us to legally love? I am almost 72, and I have been hated all my life, and I don't see much change coming.

I think your hate is evil.

What do we do to you that is so awful? Why do you feel compelled to come after us with such frightful energy? Does this somehow make you feel safer and legitimate? What possible harm comes to you if we marry, or are taxed just like you, or are protected from assault by laws that say it is morally wrong to assault people out of hatred? The reasons always offered are religious ones, but certainly they are not based on the love all religions proclaim.

And even if your objections to gays are religious, why do you have to legislate them so hatefully? Make no mistake: Forbidding gay people to love or marry is based on hate, pure and simple.

You may say you don't hate us, but the people you vote for do, so what's the difference? Our own country's democratic process declares us to be unequal. Which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you. You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you.