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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Options Open, Top Graduates Line Up to Teach to the Poor - New York Times

Options Open, Top Graduates Line Up to Teach to the Poor - New York TimesOctober 2, 2005
Options Open, Top Graduates Line Up to Teach to the Poor
By TAMAR LEWIN

Lucas E. Nikkel, a Dartmouth graduate, wants to be a doctor, but for now he's teaching eighth-grade chemistry at a middle school in North Carolina, one of nearly 2,200 new members of Teach for America.

"I'm looking at medical school, and everybody says taking time off first is a good idea," he said. "I think I'm like a lot of people who know they want to do something meaningful before they start their careers."

For a surprisingly large number of bright young people, Teach for America - which sends recent college graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years for the same pay and benefits as other beginning teachers at those schools - has become the next step after graduation. It is the post-college do-good program with buzz, drawing those who want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open, building an ever-more impressive résumé and delaying long-term career decisions.

This year, Teach for America drew applications from 12 percent of Yale's graduates, 11 percent of Dartmouth's and 8 percent of Harvard's and Princeton's. The group also recruits for diversity, and this year got applications from 12 percent of the graduates of Spelman College, a historically black women's college in Atlanta.

All told, a record 17,350 recent college graduates applied to Teach for America this year. After a drop last year, applications were up nearly 30 percent. Teach for America accepted about a third of this year's Ivy League applicants, and about a sixth of all applications.

Teaching doesn't pay much. It isn't glamorous. And the qualifications of most young people going into the field are less than impressive. A report by the National Council on Teacher Quality last year said the profession attracts "a disproportionately high number of candidates from the lower end of the distribution of academic ability."

But then there's Teach for America, whose members typically have top academic credentials - the average G.P.A. is 3.5 - experience with children and determination to get results.

Teach for America officials see their recruiting success as a sign of the post-9/11 generation's commitment to public service, and to improving the quality of education for low-income children. "The application numbers we're seeing reflect college students' belief that education disparities are our generation's civil-rights issue," said Elissa Clapp, Teach for America's vice president of recruitment and selection.

Many corps members talk passionately about the importance of education, and the need to close the achievement gap between white and minority students. But part of Teach for America's allure is that it's only a two-year commitment and a way to put off big life decisions, like where to live and what career to choose, decisions that people in their 20's are delaying ever later in life.

"I don't think very many of my peers know what they want to do," said Nathan Francis, who graduated from Yale last spring, was accepted to Teach for America, but declined the offer because he was unsure that he could be a good teacher for disadvantaged students after nothing more than the group's summer training. "A lot of people who just graduated are looking for things to do, so it seems very appealing to have something to do that's worthwhile and short term and gives you two more years to think about your career."

In fact, Yael Kalban, who helped organize campus recruiting as a senior at Yale last year and now teaches second grade in the Bronx, said that even a two-year commitment was daunting to many of her classmates.

"We'd tell people we thought they'd be great, and they'd say they didn't know if they were ready to commit two years," she said. "So we would get alums to come in and say they'd done Teach for America, and now they were in medical school, law school or architecture school, and that those two years weren't that much, and had actually helped them get into those schools."

Although more than half the Teach for America alumni remain involved with education, often in administrative or policy positions, many of the applicants do not plan a long-term teaching career. In fact, many also interview for competitive jobs with investment banks and management consulting firms.

"This is a generation that thinks a lot about keeping their options open," said Monica Wilson, assistant director for employer relations at Dartmouth. "For students who want to look for an alternative to the corporate world, Teach for America offers a high-profile alternative. They put on a real strong marketing blitz, and they are very much a presence on campus."

Rachel Kreinces first heard of Teach for America as a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. She had been thinking of going straight to law school, but after starting a writing program for middle-school students in Philadelphia, she was intrigued by the prospect of teaching for two years.

After taking a five-week training program over the summer, Ms. Kreinces is teaching sixth-grade special education students at P.S. 123 in Manhattan, arriving at 7:30 a.m., prepared to offer as many tutoring hours and after-school meetings and gimmicks as it takes to help them learn. Before school started, she bought gold envelopes and cut out round "I'm a champion" medals for each student.

"In training this summer, we watched videos of this incredible teacher," she said. "He had this 'Mission Impossible' theme going, and his kids were clamoring for more homework and we were all sitting there thinking, 'How can I be this kind of teacher?' and my idea was this Classroom of Champions. I want so much for these kids to do well."

Teach for America grew out of a senior thesis by Wendy Kopp, a Princeton student, proposing a national teacher corps. Ms. Kopp quickly got seed money from Exxon Mobil, then, with a small staff, began a grass-roots recruitment campaign that yielded 500 fledgling teachers, who were placed in six regions in 1990. Teach for America has grown rapidly, with backing from corporate partners, philanthropists interested in education reform and Americorps, which provides the teachers with $9,450 after two years, to repay education loans or to pay for future schooling. Since 2001, the group has benefited from the same surge of interest that has brought record numbers of applications to long-established groups like the Peace Corps.

Teach for America is a growing presence in many school districts, including New York City, which has about 800 Teach for America members this year, twice as many as last year. All told, Teach for America has about 3,700 teachers - 2,190 in their first year and 1,520 in their second - teaching in 22 areas, from Los Angeles and Baltimore to the Arkansas Delta and the Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The group only operates in regions certified as high need by the federal government and willing to employ teachers who have not yet earned certification.

As much as anything, Teach for America is a triumph of marketing. The group, based in Manhattan, recruits on more than 500 campuses nationwide and spends about a quarter of its nearly $40 million budget on recruitment and selection. The vast bulk of its members come from 141 top schools where it hires students, at about $500 a semester, to help organize recruiting events and act as headhunters.

"It's very intensive recruiting, to meet the goals Teach for America sets for us," said Mike Kalin, who was one of the Harvard recruiters his junior and senior years, and now teaches in the South Bronx. "Some of my friends might have thought I was a little too intense my first year. There were some individuals we really wanted to go after because we thought they'd be great. It helped that the class president, for the previous two years, had joined Teach for America."

It has also helped, on all campuses, that Teach for America now has a track record: An evaluation last year by Mathematica Policy Research found that Teach for America members produce slightly higher math achievement and no worse English results, than other teachers. And a June 2005 evaluation by Kane Parsons & Associates found that 63 percent of the principals in the schools where they work regarded Teach for America teachers as more effective than the overall faculty.

However, a study of Houston student achievement released earlier this year by Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University and others found that although Teach for America teachers performed as well as other uncertified teachers, their results did not match those of certified teachers. Teach for America officials contend that the study was flawed.

While most parents do not know that their children are being taught by Teach for America members, some New York City principals say, they love having Teach for America members assigned to their schools.

These days, Mr. Kalin's intensity is being poured into his American history classes.

"I'm having trouble sleeping, but I'm really enjoying it," he said. "It's frantic but fun. Classroom management is the hardest thing for me. I've learned that the minute I turn my back, it's a volcano in the classroom, so I won't be turning my back anymore. There's three other T.F.A. teachers in my school, and we're getting through it together."

BBC NEWS | Africa | Life for S Africa lion murderer

BBC NEWS | Africa | Life for S Africa lion murderer Life for S Africa lion murderer
A South African man convicted of murdering a man whose remains were found in a lion enclosure has been sentenced to life in prison.

White farmer Mark Scott-Crossley and an employee beat up black former worker Nelson Chisale, and threw him to lions.

Scott-Crossley had earlier sacked Mr Chisale, who was murdered when he went back to the farm to get his belongings.

The case has highlighted race tensions that still exist in the South African countryside 11 years after apartheid.

Court proceedings on Friday were delayed while Scott-Crossley was married to Sim Strydom, whom he reportedly first met when she visited him in jail.

Crowds outside the court in the town of Phalaborwa celebrated when the sentence was announced.

"Let him rot in jail," someone shouted as they left the courtroom, reports the South African Press Agency, Sapa.

'Extreme punishment'

Judge George Maluleke said he was satisfied that Scott-Crossley deserved the strongest punishment he was allowed to impose, which was reserved for "monstrous" crimes.

"No crime fits this description more than the one before me and there is no doubt it would warrant this extreme punishment," the judge said.

Scott-Crossley's accomplice, Simon Mathebula, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with three years suspended.

"We did expect a heavy sentence," Scott-Crossley told journalists.

"We are sorry that the family didn't accept our offer of financial compensation. It was not an effort to try and bribe them, but we really feel sorry for them and we are going to fight the sentence," he said.

Mr Chisale's niece Fetsang Jafta said: "I'm satisfied with the outcome."

Mr Chisale was sacked late in 2003. In January 2004, he returned to pick up his belongings at the farm near the Kruger National Park in the north-east of the country.

There he was beaten up by Scott-Crossley and Mathebula, his employee.

They tied him up and then took him to a nearby lion breeding centre, where they threw him into an enclosure.

The court was unable to establish whether Mr Chisale was already dead when he was thrown into the enclosure, as Scott-Crossley claimed during his defence.

The only remains recovered were a few bones and some shredded clothing.

The death penalty was abolished in South Africa in 1996, and life imprisonment is the maximum sentence for murder.

Story from BBC NEWS:

White House Condemns Bennett's Remark - New York Times

White House Condemns Bennett's Remark - New York TimesOctober 1, 2005
White House Condemns Bennett's Remark
By THE NEW YORK TIMES

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - President Bush believes that recent comments by William J. Bennett, who served in two Republican administrations, about the abortion of black babies "were not appropriate," a White House spokesman said Friday.

Mr. Bennett, a secretary of education in the Reagan administration and drug czar in the first Bush administration who has become an author and radio host, said in a broadcast this week that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." He said that would be a "morally reprehensible thing to do."

Under fire from Democrats and civil rights groups, Mr. Bennett defended his remarks on Thursday as a hypothetical argument that moral questions like the abortion debate could not be linked to pragmatic issues like the crime rate.

"One could just as easily have said you could abort all children and prevent all crime to show the absurdity of the proposition," he said in his broadcast.

Democratic leaders of the House and Senate condemned Mr. Bennett's initial statement and called on the administration to do so as well.

Japan Today - News - China to wrap up monthlong war games - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - China to wrap up monthlong war games - Japan's Leading International News Networkjapantoday > asia
China to wrap up monthlong war games

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Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 07:09 JST
BEIJING — About 16,000 Chinese troops are finishing a monthlong mock war that has involved planes, helicopters and surface-to-air missiles plus more than 80 pieces of artillery, an observer said Friday.

From early September through early October, the People's Liberation Army troops have divided into red and blue teams at the 1,000-square-kilometer Zhurihe military training base in the rugged Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to test the performance of equipment and the ability of commanders in "combined combat" circumstances, said the observer, one of a group of foreign observers to be briefed on the exercise by Chinese officials earlier this week.

Phone Call With Source and Deal Led Reporter to Testify - New York Times

Phone Call With Source and Deal Led Reporter to Testify - New York TimesOctober 1, 2005
Phone Call With Source and Deal Led Reporter to Testify
By ADAM LIPTAK

Two developments drove the decision of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to testify about conversations with a confidential source, to appear before a grand jury in Washington yesterday in exchange for her freedom, she and her lawyers said yesterday.

One was a long phone call with the source. The other was a deal with the special prosecutor in the case.

But three recent letters from people involved in the case debate whether a similar deal may have been available for some time and raise questions about why Ms. Miller decided to testify now.

In essence, the dueling letters give sharply divergent accounts of what was said a year ago when lawyers for Ms. Miller and her source, I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, discussed the possibility of Ms. Miller's testimony before a grand jury investigating the possibly unlawful disclosure of the identity of a C.I.A. officer.

Mr. Libby's side says he gave Ms. Miller unequivocal permission to testify about her conversations with Mr. Libby concerning his role, if any, in the disclosure of the identify of the officer, Valerie Wilson, also known as Valerie Plame.

In a letter from Mr. Libby to Ms. Miller this month, he expressed surprise that her lawyers had asked him to "repeat for you the waiver of confidentiality that I specifically gave to your counsel over a year ago." He added that he expected her testimony to help him.

One of Ms. Miller's lawyers, Floyd Abrams, wrote a letter to Mr. Libby's lawyer on Thursday in what he said was an effort "to set the record straight." Mr. Abrams acknowledged that the lawyer, Joseph A. Tate, had told him in the summer of 2004 that Mr. Libby had no objection to Ms. Miller's testifying about a meeting with him a year earlier. But Mr. Abrams also said Mr. Libby's lawyer had said that a blanket form waiver Mr. Libby signed at the request of investigators in January 2004 had been "coerced and had been required as a condition for Mr. Libby's continued employment at the White House."

"The message you sent to me was viewed by Ms. Miller as inherently 'mixed,' " Mr. Abrams wrote.

He said Mr. Libby's failure to contact Ms. Miller as the case proceeded had also led her to conclude that he did not want her to testify.

In a third letter, Mr. Tate wrote to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the leak, about his conversations with Mr. Abrams. "Over a year ago, I assured him that Mr. Libby's waiver was voluntary and not coerced and she should accept it for what it was."

He added that he understood from his conversations with Mr. Abrams that Ms. Miller's "position was not based on a reluctance to testify about her communications with Mr. Libby" but on journalistic principle and an effort to protect "others with whom she may have spoken."

At least four other reporters have testified in the investigation, which has repeatedly reached into the White House. They all testified wholly or partly about conversations with Mr. Libby, and one, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, testified about a conversation with Karl Rove, the president's chief strategist. Only Ms. Miller, who never wrote an article about the C.I.A. operative, was jailed in an effort to force her to testify.

The second factor in Ms. Miller's decision to go before the grand jury was a change in the position of the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, concerning the scope of the questions she would be asked, according to Mr. Abrams. Mr. Fitzgerald only recently agreed to confine his questions to Ms. Miller's conversations with Mr. Libby concerning the identification of Ms. Wilson, Mr. Abrams said.

But other reporters struck deals with Mr. Fitzgerald last year that also limited the questions they would be asked. For instance, Glenn Kessler, a reporter for The Washington Post, testified in June 2004 on ground rules essentially identical to those Ms. Miller obtained, according to an article in The Post at the time.

Mr. Kessler, The Post said, testified that the subject of Ms. Wilson had not come up in his conversations with Mr. Libby.

A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment yesterday.

Ms. Miller expanded her legal team as the prospect of jail loomed, and it was a new lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, who initiated the recent negotiations in late August.

Bill Keller, The Times's executive editor, said that it was Ms. Miller's decision to resist the subpoena from Mr. Fitzgerald and to testify after the latest developments.

"It wasn't the paper's decision," he said. "It was hers. We supported her in her decisions. If we thought her decision in either case was frivolous, she wouldn't have had the kind of support she had."

One of her lawyers, George Freeman, an assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company, said the phone call between Ms. Miller and her source had been crucial.

"This was a call," he said, "that lasted about 15 minutes, and Judy could measure the timbre and tone of the source's response and real feelings regarding whether or not he was being coerced and whether or not he really wanted her to testify."

Ms. Miller said nothing about the substance of her testimony after court yesterday and has not publicly named her source. Ms. Miller declined to discuss her grand jury testimony on the advice of her lawyers.

Mr. Abrams said that she provided the grand jury with an edited version of her notes.

"The notes were redacted to omit everything but the notes taken concerning discussions with Libby about Plame," Mr. Abrams said.

"At its core," Mr. Abrams said, "a time had come when it was possible to resolve this. Judy had no desire to continue to endure life in the detention center."

Audit Assails the White House for Public Relations Spending - New York Times

Audit Assails the White House for Public Relations Spending - New York TimesSeptember 30, 2005
Audit Assails the White House for Public Relations Spending
By ROBERT PEAR

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Federal auditors said today that the Bush administration had violated the law by purchasing favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.

In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" inside the United States, in violation of a longstanding, explicit statutory ban.

The contract with Mr. Williams and the general contours of the administration's public relations campaign had been known for months. The report today provided the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities.

Lawyers from the G.A.O., an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress, found that the Bush administration had systematically analyzed news articles to see if they carried the message, "The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education."

The auditors declared: "We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes. Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds."

The G.A.O. also assailed the Education Department for telling Ketchum Inc., a large public relations company, to pay Mr. Williams for newspaper columns and television appearances praising Mr. Bush's education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act.

When that arrangement became publicly known, it set off widespread criticism. At a news conference in January, Mr. Bush said: "We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

But more recently the Education Department defended its payments to Mr. Williams, saying his commentaries were "no more than the legitimate dissemination of information to the public."

The G.A.O. said the Education Department had no money or authority to "procure favorable commentary in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition" in federal law.

In the course of its work, the accountability office discovered a previously undisclosed instance in which the Education Department had commissioned a newspaper article. The article, on the "declining science literacy of students," was distributed by the North American Precis Syndicate and appeared in numerous small newspapers around the country. Readers were not informed of the government's role in writing of the article.

The auditors also denounced a prepackaged television news story disseminated by the Education Department. The news segment, a "video news release" narrated by a woman named Karen Ryan, said that President Bush's program for providing remedial instruction and tutoring to children "gets an A-plus."

Ms. Ryan also narrated two videos praising the new Medicare drug benefit last year. In those segments, as in the education video, the narrator ended by saying, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

The prepackaged television news segments on education and on Medicare did not inform the audience that they had been prepared and distributed by the government.

The public relations efforts by the Education Department came to light a few weeks before Margaret Spellings was sworn in as secretary in January. SA spokeswoman for the secretary, Susan Aspey, said Ms. Spellings regarded the efforts as "stupid, wrong and ill-advised." She said Ms. Spellings had adopted procedures "to ensure these types of missteps don't happen again."

The investigation by the Government Accountability Office was requested by Senators Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats.

Mr. Lautenberg expressed concern about a section of the G.A.O. report in which federal investigators said they could not find records to confirm that Mr. Williams had performed all the activities for which he billed the government.

The Education Department said it had paid Ketchum $186,000 for services performed by Mr. Williams's company. But it could not provide transcripts of speeches, copies of articles or records of other services performed by Mr. Williams, the G.A.O. said.

In March, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel said that federal agencies did not have to acknowledge their role in producing television news segments if they were purely factual. The inspector general of the Education Department reiterated that position earlier this month.

But the Government Accountability Office said today: "The failure of an agency to identify itself as the source of a prepackaged news story misleads the viewing public by encouraging the audience to believe that the broadcasting news organization developed the information. The prepackaged news stories are purposefully designed to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public. When the television viewing public does not know that the stories they watched on television news programs about the government were in fact prepared by the government, the stories are, in this sense, no longer purely factual. The essential fact of attribution is missing."

The G.A.O. said that Mr. Williams's work for the government resulted from a written proposal that he submitted to the Education Department in March 2003. The department directed Ketchum to use Mr. Williams as a regular commentator on Mr. Bush's education policies. Ketchum had a federal contract to help publicize the law, signed by Mr. Bush in 2002.

The Education Department flouted the law by telling Ketchum to use Mr. Williams to "convey a message to the public on behalf of the government, without disclosing to the public that the messengers were acting on the government's behalf and in return for the payment of public funds," the G.A.O. said.

The Education Department spent $38,421 for production and distribution of the video news release and $96,850 for the evaluation of newspaper articles and radio and television programs. Ketchum assigned a score to each article, indicating how frequently and favorably it mentioned specific features of the new education law.

Congress tried to clarify the ban on "covert propaganda" in a spending bill signed by Mr. Bush in May. The law says that no federal money can be used to produce or distribute a prepackaged news story unless the government's role is openly acknowledged. Congress said the law "confirms the opinion of the G.A.O." on this issue.

For Victims, Repairing ID Theft Can Be Grueling - New York Times

For Victims, Repairing ID Theft Can Be Grueling - New York TimesOctober 1, 2005
For Victims, Repairing ID Theft Can Be Grueling
By TOM ZELLER Jr.

Paul Fairchild, a 34-year-old Web developer in Edmond, Okla., has never spent $500 on fine tobacco. He has never slaked a shoe fetish with $1,500 charges at Manolo Blahnik and Neiman Marcus, nor has he ever bought diamonds online, furs in SoHo, or anything at e-Luxury.com. He has never owned an apartment building in Brooklyn, and he has never peddled flesh.

Over the last two years, however, his credit report has suggested otherwise.

In retelling his ordeal with identity theft, Mr. Fairchild has developed the acid sarcasm and droll nonchalance of a standup comic - a defense mechanism, his wife, Rachel, says, that belies two years of hell.

"Once this happens, you can't believe how deep the rabbit hole goes," Mr. Fairchild said.

Indeed, in a year of prominent cases of stolen or lost consumer information - from the hacking of university computers and the disappearance of backup tapes at Citigroup, to fraudulent downloads from the databases of companies like ChoicePoint and LexisNexis - the rabbit hole seems to be getting deeper.

About 10 million Americans fall victim each year to identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And in about a third of those cases, victims see far more than their existing credit card accounts tapped. Their private information is used by thieves to open new accounts, secure loans and otherwise lead parallel and often luxurious lives.

For victims like Mr. Fairchild - and two others who recounted their troubles and shared their sometimes vast paper trails - it can be an unnerving, protracted whodunit, with collection agents demanding payment for cars they have never driven, credit card accounts they never opened, loans they never obtained, and myriad other debts accrued by shadowy versions of themselves.

Prosecutions are rare, and police investigations - when they do happen - are time-consuming, costly and easily stymied. A 2003 study by the Gartner Inc. consulting firm suggested that an identity thief had about a 1 in 700 chance of getting caught.

"It's a crime in which you can get a lot of money, and have a very low probability of ever getting caught," Mari J. Frank, a lawyer and author of several books on identity theft, said in an interview. "Criminals are now saying, Why am I using a gun?"

Just how many of the millions of new cases each year stem from the widely reported cracks in the nation's electronic data troves is impossible to know. A study by Javelin Strategy and Research indicated that the most frequently reported source of stolen information, at least among those who knew how it happened, was decidedly low-tech: a lost or stolen wallet or checkbook. And some experts have suggested that consumers are much more likely to fall victim to a rogue employee - at a doctor's office, say, or a collection agency - than to a gang of hackers infiltrating a database.

But however their information is obtained, victims are still left with the unsettling realization that the keys to their inner lives as consumers, as taxpayers, as patients, as drivers and as homeowners have been picked from their pockets and distributed among thieves.

"Once it happens, you can never be certain that it won't happen again," said Beth Givens, the director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy group. "You can never let your guard down."

Mr. Fairchild, Kenneth Wasserman and Toshka Cargill - each from different parts of the country and from varying economic backgrounds - know precisely what Ms. Givens means. Their experiences with identity theft follow.

Grand Theft Identity

It was at his sister's wedding in Portland, Ore., in the summer of 2003 that Mr. Fairchild first received a hint that something was wrong. His American Express card was declined at a tuxedo rental shop, and when he called the card company, a customer service agent told him why: he was delinquent, she said, on the corporate cards issued to his business, Ebony Passion Escort Service, in Brooklyn.

"I remember her telling me I was the 'sole proprietor,' " Mr. Fairchild recalled in an interview at the rented ranch-style house outside Oklahoma City where he and his wife now live with their two children, Cole, 4, and 9-month-old Mikayla. "I had this woman on the phone telling me that I was not only a deadbeat, but a pimp, too."

The Fairchilds had lived in Brooklyn in the early 1990's, but at the time of the Amex incident, they had been living in Santa Monica, Calif., for nearly eight years.

After returning from the wedding, Mr. Fairchild called the major consumer reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - requesting that they send him copies of his credit report and place fraud alerts on his account. When the report from Experian came a few days later, the couple were stunned.

In all, they estimate there were about $500,000 in bogus debts attached to Mr. Fairchild's name - including several thousand dollars in unpaid or partly paid cellphone and credit card accounts, rental cars that were never returned, store accounts with jewelry wholesalers, and a delinquent $315,000 mortgage for a small apartment building at 8 Stuyvesant Avenue in downtown Brooklyn.

"It's the same way you feel after you come home from vacation and find your house has been burglarized," Mr. Fairchild said.

He filed a report with the Santa Monica police, began calling the companies listing debts he did not recognize - American Express, Citibank, Jewelry Express - and prepared notarized affidavits for each company, attesting that he had not opened these accounts. He sent them copies of the police report.

"For the first four months, there's no doubt in my mind that I dedicated 40 hours a week to this," Mr. Fairchild said, reflecting the blunt reality that victims must painstakingly prove - often to disbelieving creditors - that debts are not their own.

Meanwhile, because his credit rating had been severely damaged, the interest rates on some of Mr. Fairchild's legitimate cards began climbing, while the credit limits he had been extended on his cards suddenly began to drop - even though his payments were on time.

"It seemed so unbelievably unfair," Mrs. Fairchild said, recalling one charge on the Amex account belonging to Ebony Passion Escort Service - $750 at Manolo Blahnik shoes. A pair of dress shoes she had bought for her son at about the same time, for the wedding in Portland, had cost $12 at Payless, and given the family's budget at the time, she had considered returning them.

"I think it just infuriated me that someone else was living this life, under this name, and having those kinds of insane luxury items, while we could barely afford shoes for our kid," she said.

After two years, hundreds of phone calls and reams of paperwork, the couple have managed to clear most of the debts from Mr. Fairchild's name - although new ones still crop up. Two weeks ago, SBC Communications called, asking Mr. Fairchild why he had not paid his bill for two phone numbers in Wisconsin.

Untangling themselves from the building mortgage - for which Mr. Fairchild was at one point sued by Wells Fargo Bank, one of many institutions that had bought and sold the debt - required the help of a lawyer. And Mr. Fairchild said that repeated attempts to follow up on his case with the Santa Monica police have been unsuccessful.

A Santa Monica police spokesman said in an e-mail message that the department would not discuss the matter publicly.

After inquiries from The New York Times in August, the New York State Banking Department requested copies of the original mortgage application from U.S.A. Mortgage Bankers of America of Long Island, which issued the loan in 2002. Those documents revealed that the applicant had provided a Social Security number and a New York State driver's license in securing the loan.

The Social Security number was Mr. Fairchild's. So, too, were the birth date and the physical description on the phony ID. The photograph, however, was not.

To date, the real proprietor of Ebony Passion Escort Service remains a mystery, but a former employee, Kymberlea Durant, who said she worked there as a dispatcher, was found in Brooklyn. She said that at some point in mid-2003, the man who ran Ebony Passion - who bragged of owning buildings, and who gave her a credit card so she could buy, among other things, Manolo Blahnik shoes for the escorts - simply disappeared.

"He owes me two weeks' pay," Ms. Durant said.

Schemes Old and New

Dr. Kenneth Wasserman, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Drexel University and the chairman of the skin-cancer screening program for Major League Baseball, considers himself a conscientious consumer. He never shops on the Web, keeps his Social Security card at home, and refuses to use online banking.

"It's my belief that for every system set up to prevent fraud, there's going to be a system created by some smart person to bring it down," he said during an interview in his South Philadelphia office, where he recalled the afternoon of Thursday, April 21.

He was driving to meet a friend for a Phillies game that day when his accountant called his cellphone with some curious news. The electronic tax return they had filed - the first time they had used electronic filing - had bounced back from the Internal Revenue Service. The message was: already filed.

"I was thinking identity theft," Dr. Wasserman said. "I did also think back to my wallet."

Dr. Wasserman said he had lost his wallet about a year and a half ago. He got it back the next day, and everything was still there, but he said it had been rifled through.

Calls to the I.R.S. quickly revealed that someone had used Dr. Wasserman's name and Social Security number - and an address in Atlanta - to prepare a phony electronic tax claim, seeking a refund of nearly $7,000. The I.R.S., however, had flagged the bogus claim immediately, noting, among other anomalies, that it had been filed for "Kenneth Wasserman" as an individual, even though Dr. Wasserman has filed jointly with his wife, Anais, for over 15 years.

The agency did not issue a refund to the impostor, and advised Dr. Wasserman to refile a paper claim and send it by registered mail.

"So we were like 'Wow, the I.R.S. caught it, they didn't give a refund. We're O.K.,' " Dr. Wasserman said. "In my mind, I thought, 'I hope it's fine, but I'm not sure.' "

On a Saturday in early June, Dr. Wasserman's lingering worries were validated when he received a bill from HSBC Taxpayer Financial Services. He owed $6,407.98 for a "refund anticipation loan" - a short-term, high-interest loan issued to a taxpayer against an expected tax refund. The bill included a $95 late charge.

Neither HSBC, which immediately ceased attempts to collect the debt after Dr. Wasserman called, nor the I.R.S. were willing to discuss the particulars of Dr. Wasserman's case, citing privacy restrictions.

But it is clear, based on general conversations with the bank and the tax agency, as well as on documentation Dr. Wasserman received from HSBC, that his name and Social Security number were among many used in an increasingly common scheme that takes advantage of the refund anticipation loans that many tax preparers now offer.

An independent tax preparer in Atlanta, operating under the name H&L Tax Service, had registered with HSBC's Taxpayer Financial Services division as a loan facilitator - a designation that an HSBC spokesman, James E. Pieper, said required background checks and other safeguards.

"It is rare that anything like this would happen," Mr. Pieper said.

Using stolen names and Social Security numbers, including Dr. Wasserman's, the thief created phony tax returns and sent them through the I.R.S. electronic filing system. To do that, the fraud artist would have also had to gain status as an Electronic Return Originator, for which the I.R.S. requires its own set of background checks.

With the electronic returns filed - ostensibly in the names of real taxpayers - the tax preparer was able to generate loans through HSBC, with funds placed on a sort of debit card. In repeated withdrawals of $402 each on March 20 and 21, the loan associated with Dr. Wasserman's name was drained from two automated teller machines in the Philadelphia area.

It was by no means an original scheme.

In April, the Justice Department announced the arrest of two people- Rae Beavers of St. Louis and Joseph Milligan of New York - who are charged with numerous fraud counts, including 13 counts each of filing fraudulent tax claims and 13 counts of identity theft. The scheme, according to the indictment, involved stealing the names and Social Security numbers of elderly patients at an eye-care center where they both worked. According to the indictment, the information was then sent to a third conspirator, Terrence Edwards of Brooklyn, who filed the fraudulent claims and generated refund anticipation loans.

Mr. Edwards was sentenced in August 2004 to 30 months in federal prison.

Mark E. Matthews, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement at the I.R.S. and the former head of the agency's Criminal Investigative Division, said the I.R.S. had counted about 8,000 instances this year of the information of legitimate taxpayers being used by impostors trying to defraud the tax system. He also said the agency was beefing up its oversight of professional tax preparers.

The Last Word

When she's not working long hours at a local bank branch, Toshka Cargill, 47, is the sole person providing care to her 86-year-old mother, who suffered a stroke last year. They live together on the South Side of Chicago, in a modest, tidy home where the mantle is lined with family photographs and angel statuettes keep vigil.

Ms. Cargill does not own a computer. She does not have a cellphone.

But by the end of January, she found herself deeply in debt to Sprint PCS and delinquent on car payments for a $23,000 Pontiac Grand Am that the bank said she purchased in August of last year.

"I felt like I was going to cry," said Ms. Cargill - not least because she had spent years taking the bus to work, paying her bills on time and trying to build up her credit, so that she could buy the car that she does own. "I couldn't believe it."

A bulging file of paperwork and correspondence - most of it handwritten - now bears testament to her determined effort to set things right.

She called the Federal Trade Commission for advice.

She also filed a police report, which landed, in early March, on the desk of Cindy Serafini, a nearly 20-year veteran of the force and one of about 20 detectives assigned to cases of identity theft in Chicago.

Ms. Cargill herself demanded title documents from New Rogers Pontiac on South Michigan Avenue, which sold the car to the fraudster. Those revealed photocopies of a driver's license with Ms. Cargill's name, but a different picture.

Detective Serafini, meanwhile, used a reverse directory to get names associated with the phone numbers listed on the bills Ms. Cargill had received from Sprint. She then crossed those names with a database of arrests. One name, with at least three previous arrests for identity theft, jumped out - and the mug shot matched the picture on the fake driver's license.

On Aug. 10, Tabitha Nash, 39, pleaded guilty to two charges: possession of a stolen vehicle and financial identity theft. She was sentenced to four years for each, to be served concurrently.

The judge asked Ms. Nash if she had anything to say.

"I'm sorry," she replied.

When the judge said she should tell that to the victims, Ms. Nash replied that she was sorry she had hurt them and sorry, too, that she would be leaving her children behind as she went to prison.

"This is stupid," she said.

According to Detective Serafini, Ms. Nash had said that she got Ms. Cargill's personal information from a rogue salesman at Rogers Pontiac. When the police inquired with the owners, the detective said, they were told that the salesman had been fired for "questionable sales practices."

With Ms. Nash behind bars - and with roughly 800 identity-theft cases expected to cross her desk in the next year - Detective Serafini said she considered the case closed.

And yet in August, as Ms. Nash was being processed at the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois, a man with a tow truck arrived at Ms. Cargill's home seeking to repossess the Pontiac. Ms. Cargill pressed her handwritten affidavit, stating that she had never had the car in the first place, against the glass until he went away.

Ms. Cargill did not get a chance to face Ms. Nash in the courtroom, but she read her victim's impact statement to a reporter from her living room sofa, her voice rising with indignation.

"For years, I had to walk and catch the bus before I was able - O.K.? - able, to buy a car," she said. "Not before then."

"If you can't afford something, then you don't get it," she continued. "You don't buy it and you don't steal it. And you damn sure don't steal someone's identity to get it either."

David Bernstein contributed reporting from Chicago for this article.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify - New York Times

Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify - New York TimesSeptember 30, 2005
Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify
By DAVID JOHNSTON and DOUGLAS JEHL

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - Judith Miller, the reporter for The New York Times who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, was released Thursday from a Virginia detention center after she and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor in which she would testify before a grand jury investigating the case, the publisher and the executive editor of the paper said.

Ms. Miller was freed after spending more than 12 weeks in jail, during which she refused to cooperate with the inquiry. Her decision to testify was made after she had obtained what she described as a waiver offered "voluntarily and personally" by a source who said she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she had made to him. Ms. Miller said the source had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.

That source was I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, according to people who have been officially briefed on the case. Ms. Miller met with Mr. Libby on July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week, they said.

Discussions between officials and journalists that week that may have disclosed the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative, Valerie Wilson, have been a central focus of the investigation.

Ms. Miller said in a statement that she expected to appear before the grand jury on Friday. Ms. Miller was released after she and her lawyers met at the jail with Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in the case, to discuss her testimony.

The publisher of The Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said in a statement that the newspaper supported Ms. Miller's decision, just as it had backed her refusal to testify.

"Judy has been unwavering in her commitment to protect the confidentiality of her source," Mr. Sulzberger said. "We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify."

For more than a year, Mr. Fitzgerald has sought testimony from Ms. Miller about conversations she had with Mr. Libby. Her willingness to testify now was in part based on personal assurances given by Mr. Libby this month that he had no objection to her discussing their conversations with the grand jury, according to those officials briefed on the case.

Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation has centered on whether anyone in the Bush administration illegally disclosed to the news media the identity of Ms. Wilson, a C.I.A. employee. The first published reference to Ms. Wilson was in July 2003 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who referred to her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame.

Another important question has been whether officials were truthful in their testimony to investigators and the grand jury.

Ms. Miller never wrote an article about Ms. Wilson. Mr. Fitzgerald has said that obtaining Ms. Miller's testimony was one of the last remaining objectives of his inquiry, and the deal with her suggests that the prosecutor may soon end the long-running investigation. It is unknown whether prosecutors will charge anyone in the Bush administration with wrongdoing.

The agreement that led to Ms. Miller's release followed intense negotiations among her; her lawyer, Robert Bennett; Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate; and Mr. Fitzgerald.

The talks began with a telephone call from Mr. Bennett to Mr. Tate in late August. Ms. Miller spoke with Mr. Libby by telephone this month as their lawyers listened, according to people who have been briefed on the case. It was then that Mr. Libby told Ms. Miller that she had his personal and voluntary waiver.

The discussions were at times strained, with Mr. Libby and Mr. Tate's asserting that they communicated their voluntary waiver to another lawyer for Ms. Miller, Floyd Abrams, more than year ago, according to those briefed on the case.

Other people involved in the case have said Ms. Miller did not understand that the waiver had been freely given and did not accept it until she had heard from Mr. Libby directly.

Ms. Miller authorized her lawyers to seek further clarification from Mr. Libby's representatives in late August, after she had been in jail for more than a month. Mr. Libby wrote to Ms. Miller in mid-September saying he believed that her lawyers understood during discussions last year that his waiver was voluntary.

On Sept. 16, Mr. Tate wrote to Mr. Fitzgerald saying his conversations with Mr. Abrams last year were meant to assure Ms. Miller that a broad waiver that Mr. Libby signed in late 2003 was not coerced and applied specifically to Ms. Miller.

On Thursday, Mr. Abrams wrote to Mr. Tate disputing parts of Mr. Tate's account. His letter said although Mr. Tate had said the waiver was voluntary, Mr. Tate had also said any waiver sought as a condition of employment was inherently coercive.

Mr. Tate said in an interview on Thursday, "Her lawyers were provided with a waiver that we said was voluntary more than a year ago." Mr. Abrams would not discuss the question in a brief telephone conversation on Thursday.

As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett gave Mr. Fitzgerald edited versions of notes taken by Ms. Miller about her conversations with Mr. Libby.

In statements on Thursday, Ms. Miller and executives of The Times did not identify the source who had urged Ms. Miller to testify. Bill Keller, the executive editor, said Mr. Fitzgerald had assured Ms. Miller's lawyer that "he intended to limit his grand jury interrogation so that it would not implicate other sources of hers."

Ms. Miller's lawyers had sought such an assurance as a condition of her testimony.

Mr. Keller said Mr. Fitzgerald cleared the way to an agreement by assuring Ms. Miller and her source that he would not regard a conversation between the two about a possible waiver as an obstruction of justice.

According to someone who has been briefed on Mr. Libby's testimony and who believes that his statements show he did nothing wrong, Ms. Miller asked Mr. Libby during their conversations in July 2003 whether he knew Joseph C. Wilson IV, the former ambassador who wrote an Op-Ed article in The Times on July 6, 2003, criticizing the Bush administration. Ms. Miller's lawyers declined to discuss the conversations.

Mr. Libby said that he did not know Mr. Wilson but that he had heard from the C.I.A. that the former ambassador's wife, an agency employee, might have had a role in arranging a trip that Mr. Wilson took to Africa on behalf of the agency to investigate reports of Iraq's efforts to obtain nuclear material. Mr. Wilson's wife is Ms. Wilson.

Mr. Libby did not know her name or her position at the agency and therefore did not discuss these matters with Ms. Miller, the person who had been briefed on the matter said. Ms. Miller said she believed that the agreement between her lawyers and Mr. Fitzgerald "satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources."

"I went to jail," she added, "to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. I chose to take the consequences, 85 days in prison, rather than violate that promise. The principle was more important to uphold than my personal freedom. "

Ms. Miller said she was grateful for the "unwavering support" shown by her husband, family and friends and The Times. She said that she would say nothing more publicly about the case until after her grand jury testimony.

Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment, a spokesman, Randall Samborn, said.

The case has been the most significant test in decades of whether reporters can refuse to disclose to prosecutors their discussions with confidential sources. Many journalists say those sources would refuse to provide information if their anonymity could not be protected.

At least four other reporters are known to have provided information to Mr. Fitzgerald. But Ms. Miller had until refused to do so. In July, the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal of a lower court order that she be jailed for contempt for her refusal to testify.

When Mr. Wilson emerged as a critic of the Bush administration in July 2003, administration officials questioned his credibility. The column by Mr. Novak said Mr. Wilson's wife, who worked for the agency, had suggested the trip.

New details about the case have emerged in recent months. Karl Rove, the president's senior political strategist, and Mr. Libby both discussed Ms. Wilson with reporters, according to testimony provided by Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter, and by others.

But neither White House official is known to have mentioned Ms. Wilson by name or to have mentioned her status at the C.I.A.

Mr. Cooper testified in August 2004 about a conversation with Mr. Libby conducted in 2003. But Mr. Cooper had resisted a subpoena to appear before the grand jury to discuss a conversation with Mr. Rove.

In July, after his employer, Time Inc., part of Time-Warner, complied with a subpoena seeking his notes from the period, Mr. Cooper agreed to testify, after seeking and obtaining what he called a specific waiver from Mr. Rove, releasing him from a pledge of confidentiality.

That decision left Ms. Miller alone in resisting the prosecutors' demand to testify. Much about Ms. Miler's role remains unclear. Mr. Keller, the executive editor, has declined to say whether she was assigned to report about Mr. Wilson's trip, whether she tried to write an article about it or whether she ever told editors or colleagues at The Times that she had obtained information about Ms. Wilson's role.

Under the terms of her jailing, Ms. Miller faced incarceration through the duration of the current term of the grand jury hearing the case, and that is due to expire on Oct. 28. Had Ms. Miller continued to resist, lawyers involved in the case said they believed that it was highly likely that Mr. Fitzgerald would have tried to keep her in jail by extending the grand jury term or convening a new grand jury.

Ms. Miller had been housed at the Alexandria Detention Center, a county jail in suburban Virginia. As a federal prisoner, Ms. Miller was an exceptional case. But a spokesman for the sheriff's office, which administers the center, said she had been granted no special privileges.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Roberts Overwhelmingly Approved as Next Chief Justice - New York Times

Roberts Overwhelmingly Approved as Next Chief Justice - New York TimesSeptember 29, 2005
Roberts Overwhelmingly Approved as Next Chief Justice
By DAVID STOUT

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - Judge John G. Roberts Jr. was confirmed as the 17th chief justice of the United States today in a formality that intensified speculation over who will be President Bush's next Supreme Court nominee.

The Senate confirmed Judge Roberts by a vote of 78 to 22, with unanimous support from Republicans and with many Democrats voting for him as well. Judge Roberts was to be sworn in at the White House this afternoon by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens amid expectations that the president will announce his next choice for the court very soon.

There has been widespread speculation that Mr. Bush will tap a woman or a member of a minority group. The president encouraged such speculation early this week when he commented on the need for diversity on the court. No one will be surprised if the president nominates a Hispanic, since there has never been one on the high court.

The new chief justice will preside over the Supreme Court term that begins on Monday, and in all likelihood over many terms thereafter, since he is only 50 years old. In moving up from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, John Roberts will succeed Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, for whom he was once a law clerk.

Judge Roberts and his wife, Jane, a lawyer, had lunch with President Bush at the White House today before the swearing-in. The judge watched the Senate vote from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

Judge Roberts was originally nominated to succeed the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But with the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist on Sept. 3, President Bush renominated Judge Roberts to be chief - leaving Justice O'Connor's post unfilled. She has said she will stay on the court until her successor is confirmed.

"With the confirmation of John Roberts, the Supreme Court will embark upon a new era in its history, the Roberts era," Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican majority leader, said before the vote. "For many years to come, long after many of us have left public service, the Roberts court will be deliberating on some of the most difficult and fundamental questions of U.S. law."Those issues include abortion and assisted suicide, issues that caused his Democratic opponents to view him with suspicion. During hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats pressed him on those topics and on whether his views on civil rights and women's rights had changed since his days as a young lawyer in the Reagan administration. The judge told his questioners that his Catholic faith would not determine how he rules on matters of law.

The Democrats who opposed Judge Roberts said he had not been frank enough during the hearings and had been downright evasive at times. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a member of the Judiciary Committee, was a leading opponent.

"I hope I am proved wrong about John Roberts," Mr. Kennedy said today. "I have been proved wrong before on my confirmation votes."

Even the judge's critics have conceded his intellectual brilliance and his accomplishments as a lawyer. And after the Judiciary Committee endorsed Judge Roberts, 13 to 5, one week ago, with three of the panel's eight Democrats backing him, any suspense about the nomination evaporated.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader and an opponent of Judge Roberts, said before the vote that he had not tried to twist the arms of any Democrats. "They will vote their conscience," he said.

Twenty-two Democrats voted for Judge Roberts today, and 22 voted against him. The Senate's lone independent, James Jeffords of Vermont, voted in favor. Vermont's other senator, Patrick J. Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, voted for confirmation.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he hoped that his opposition would turn out to be a mistake.

"I decided that while there was a very good chance that Judge Roberts would be a mainstream, very conservative but mainstream justice without an ideological agenda, that he was not convincing enough," Mr. Schumer said.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, also voted no. So did Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg, Democrats of New Jersey. Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Christopher Dodd, Democrats from Connecticut, voted for the nominee.

Democrats who opposed Judge Roberts made it clear early on that they would not try to block his confirmation through parliamentary moves. But they have signaled that they will consider such tactics if Mr. Bush nominates someone whom they consider a conservative ideologue.

"The curtain is about to rise on the nomination of a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor," Mr. Schumer said. "If ever there was a time that cried out for consensus, the time is now."

Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans - New York Times

Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans - New York TimesSeptember 29, 2005
Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans
By JIM DWYER and CHRISTOPHER DREW

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 25 - After the storm came the siege. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, terror from crimes seen and unseen, real and rumored, gripped New Orleans. The fears changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, drove police officers to quit, grounded helicopters. Edwin P. Compass III, the police superintendent, said that tourists - the core of the city's economy - were being robbed and raped on streets that had slid into anarchy.

The mass misery in the city's two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children.

A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations, the product of chaotic circumstances that included no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of the longstanding raw relations between some police officers and members of the public.

Beyond doubt, the sense of menace had been ignited by genuine disorder and violence that week. Looting began at the moment the storm passed over New Orleans, and it ranged from base thievery to foraging for the necessities of life.

Police officers said shots were fired for at least two nights at a police station on the edge of the French Quarter. The manager of a hotel on Bourbon Street said he saw people running through the streets with guns. At least one person was killed by a gunshot at the convention center, and a second at the Superdome. A police officer was shot in Algiers during a confrontation with a looter.

It is still impossible to say if the city experienced a wave of murder because autopsies have been performed on slightly more than 10 percent of the 885 dead.

[On Wednesday, however, Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state's medical incident commander for Hurricane Katrina victims, said that only six or seven deaths appear to have been the result of homicides. He also said that people returning to homes in the damaged region have begun finding the bodies of relatives.

[Superintendent Compass, one of the few seemingly authoritative sources during the days after the storm, resigned Tuesday for reasons that remain unclear. His departure came just as he was coming under criticism from The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which had questioned many of his public accounts of extreme violence.]

In an interview last week with The New York Times, Superintendent Compass said that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue. Asked about reports of rapes and murders, he said: "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault."

On Sept. 4, however, he was quoted in The Times about conditions at the convention center, saying: "The tourists are walking around there, and as soon as these individuals see them, they're being preyed upon. They are beating, they are raping them in the streets."

Those comments, Superintendent Compass now says, were based on secondhand reports. The tourists "were walking with their suitcases, and they would have their clothes and things taken," he said last week. "No rapes that we can quantify."

Rumors Affected Response

A full chronicle of the week's crimes, actual and reported, may never be possible because so many basic functions of government ceased early in the week, including most public safety record-keeping. The city's 911 operators left their phones when water began to rise around their building.

To assemble a picture of crime, both real and perceived, The New York Times interviewed dozens of evacuees in four cities, police officers, medical workers and city officials. Though many provided concrete, firsthand accounts, others passed along secondhand information or rumor that after multiple tellings had ossified into what became accepted as fact.

What became clear is that the rumor of crime, as much as the reality of the public disorder, often played a powerful role in the emergency response. A team of paramedics was barred from entering Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, for nearly 10 hours based on a state trooper's report that a mob of armed, marauding people had commandeered boats. It turned out to be two men escaping from their flooded streets, said Farol Champlin, a paramedic with the Acadian Ambulance Company.

On another occasion, the company's ambulances were locked down after word came that a firehouse in Covington had been looted by armed robbers of all its water - a report that proved totally untrue, said Aaron Labatt, another paramedic.

A contingent of National Guard troops was sent to rescue a St. Bernard Parish deputy sheriff who radioed for help, saying he was pinned down by a sniper. Accompanied by a SWAT team, the troops surrounded the area. The shots turned out to be the relief valve on a gas tank that popped open every few minutes, said Maj. Gen. Ron Mason of the 35th Infantry Division of the Kansas National Guard.

"It's part of human nature," General Mason said. "When you get one or two reports, it echoes around the community."

Faced with reports that 400 to 500 armed looters were advancing on the town of Westwego, two police officers quit on the spot. The looters never appeared, said the Westwego police chief, Dwayne Munch.

"Rumors could tear down an entire army," Chief Munch said.

During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department's sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.

"I think it was urban myth," said Lieutenant Benelli, who also heads the police union. "Any time you put 25,000 people under one roof, with no running water, no electricity and no information, stories get told."

Crimes of Opportunity

The actual, serious crime began, in the recollection of many, before the catastrophic failure of the levees flooded the city, and much of it consisted of crimes of opportunity rather than assault. On the morning of Monday, Aug. 29, in the half hour or so that the eye of Hurricane Katrina fell on the city - an illusory moment of drawn breath, sunshine and fair breezes - the looters struck, said Capt. Anthony W. Canatella, the police commander in the Sixth District.

Using a chain hitched to a car, they tore open the steel doors at the back of a pawn shop called Cash America on Claiborne Avenue. "Payday Advances to 350," read a sign where the marquee would have been.

"There was nothing in there you could sustain your life with," Captain Canatella said. "There's nothing in there but guns and power tools."

The Sixth District - like most of New Orleans, a checkerboard of wealth and poverty - was the scene of heavy looting, with much of the stealing confined to the lower-income neighborhoods. A particular target was a Wal-Mart store on Tchoupitoulas Street, bordering the city's elegant Garden District and built on the site of a housing project that had been torn down.

The looters told a reporter from The Times that they followed police officers into the store after they broke it open, and police commanders said their officers had been given permission to take what they needed from the store to survive. A reporter from The Times-Picayune said he saw police officers grabbing DVD's.

A frenzy of stealing began, and the fruits of it could be seen last week in three containers parked outside the Sixth District police station. Inside were goods recovered from stashes placed by looters in homes throughout the neighborhood, said Captain Canatella, most but not all still bearing Wal-Mart stickers.

"Not one piece of educational material was taken - the best-selling books are all sitting right where they were left," Captain Canatella said. "But every $9 watch in the store is gone."

One of the officers who went to the Wal-Mart said the police did not try to stop people from taking food and water. "People sitting outside the Wal-Mart with groceries waiting for a ride, I just let them sit there," said Sgt. Dan Anderson of the Sixth District. "If they had electronics, I just threw it back in there."

Three auto parts stores were also looted. In a house on Clara Street, Sergeant Anderson picked his way through a soggy living room, where car parts, still in their boxes, were strewn about. On the wall above a couch, someone had written "Looters" with spray paint.

"The nation's realizing what kind of criminals we have here," Sergeant Anderson said.

Among the evacuees, there was gratitude for efforts by the police and others to help them get out of town, but it was clear that some members of the public did not have a high opinion of the New Orleans Police Department, with numerous people citing cases of corruption and violence a decade ago.

"Don't get me wrong, there was bad stuff going on in the streets, but the police is dirty," said Michael Young, who had worked as a waiter in the Riverwalk development.

French Quarter Is Spared

As the storm winds died down that Monday, small groups that had evacuated from poor neighborhoods as far away as the Lower Ninth Ward passed through the historic French Quarter, heading for shelter at the convention center.

"Some were pushing little carts with their belongings and holding onto their kids," said Capt. Kevin B. Anderson, the French Quarter's police commander. He said his officers gave food, water and rides. "That also served another purpose," he said. "That when they came through, they didn't cause any problems."

The jewelry and antique shops in the French Quarter were basically left untouched, though squatters moved into a few of the hotels. Only a small grocery store and drugstores at the edge of the quarter were hit by looters, he said. From behind the locked doors of the Royal Sonesta hotel on Bourbon Street, Hans Wandfluh, the general manager, said he had watched passers-by who seemed to be up to no good. "We heard gunshots fired," Mr. Wandfluh said. "We saw people running with guns."

At dusk on Aug. 29, looters broke windows along Canal Street and swarmed into drugstores, shoe stores and electronics shops, Captain Anderson said. Some tried, without success, to break into banks, and others sought to take money from A.T.M.'s.

The convention center, without water, air-conditioning, light or any authority figures, was recalled by many as a place of great suffering. Many heard rumors of crime, and saw sinister behavior, but few had firsthand knowledge of violence, which they often said they believed had taken place in another part of the half-mile-long center.

"I saw Coke machines being torn up - each and every one of them was busted on the second floor," said Percy McCormick, a security guard who spent four nights in the convention center and was interviewed in Austin, Tex.

Capt. Jeffrey Winn, the commander of the SWAT team, said its members rushed into the convention center to chase muzzle flashes from weapons to root out groups of men who had taken over some of the halls. No guns were recovered.

State officials have said that 10 people died at the Superdome and 24 died around the convention center - 4 inside and 20 nearby. While autopsies have not been completed, so far only one person appears to have died from gunshot wounds at each facility.

In another incident, Captain Winn and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, the assistant SWAT commander, said they both shot and wounded a man brandishing a gun near people who had taken refuge on an Interstate highway. Captain Winn said the SWAT team also exchanged gunfire with looters on Tchoupitoulas Street.

The violence that seemed hardest to explain were the reports of shots being fired at rescue and repair workers, including police officers and firefighters, construction and utility workers.

Cellphone repair workers had to abandon work after shots from the Fischer housing project in Algiers, Captain Winn said. His team swept the area three times. On one sweep, federal agents found an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, Captain Winn said.

For military officials, who flew rescue missions around the city, the reports that people were shooting at helicopters turned out to be mistaken. "We investigated one incident and it turned out to have been shooting on the ground, not at the helicopter," said Maj. Mike Young of the Air Force.

Nathan Levy contributed reporting from Austin, Tex., for this article.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Trinidad seeks UK-US police help

BBC NEWS | Americas | Trinidad seeks UK-US police help Trinidad seeks UK-US police help
Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister says he has asked London's Metropolitan Police and the FBI for teams to help deal with a surge in violent crime.

There have been a record 275 murders this year, among a population of 1.3m.

On Wednesday, about 400 businesses took out full-page advertisements in newspapers, holding Prime Minister Patrick Manning personally responsible.

Mr Manning told the BBC crime on the islands was part of a global problem that needed international assistance.

He said the illegal trade in drugs had created a criminal elite with enough resources to corrupt public institutions.

Profits from drug trafficking were being used to buy weapons and ammunitions which were used by feuding gangs, pushing up the murder rate, Mr Manning said.

The prime minister also said criminals deported back to the Caribbean island from the UK, the US and Canada contributed to the crime problem.

Mr Manning's plans for tackling crime were announced in his 2005/2006 budget.

But the Trinidad and Tobago Express reported that business leaders were disappointed with the plans.

"We would have hoped, taking in consideration the deterioration of crime, [for] a more decisive and immediate plan for tackling crime," Christian Mouttet, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, was quoted as saying.

Police say more people have been murdered in the first nine months of this year than in the whole of 2004.

Story from BBC NEWS:

For G.O.P., DeLay Indictment Adds to a Sea of Troubles - New York Times

For G.O.P., DeLay Indictment Adds to a Sea of Troubles - New York TimesSeptember 29, 2005
For G.O.P., DeLay Indictment Adds to a Sea of Troubles
By ROBIN TONER
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 - This is not what the Republicans envisioned 11 months ago, when they were returned to office as a powerful one-party government with a big agenda and - it seemed - little to fear from the opposition.

The indictment of Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, on Wednesday was the latest in a series of scandals and setbacks that have buffeted Republican leaders in Congress and the Bush administration, and transformed what might have been a victory lap into a hard political scramble. Republicans are still managing to score some victories - notably, Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s expected confirmation as chief justice of the United States on Thursday - but their governing majority is showing signs of strain.

In the House, Mr. DeLay's indictment removes, even if temporarily, a powerful leader who managed to eke out, again and again, narrow majorities on some difficult votes. In the Senate, Republican ranks have been roiled this week by an investigation of Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, who is under scrutiny for his stock dealings from a blind trust.

Moreover, the string of ethical issues so close together - including the indictment and continuing investigation of the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was close to Mr. DeLay, and the arrest of David H. Safavian, a former White House budget official who was charged with lying to investigators and obstructing a federal inquiry involving Mr. Abramoff - is a source of anxiety in Republican circles.

"Even though DeLay has nothing to do with Frist, and Frist has nothing to do with Abramoff, how does it look? Not good," said William Kristol, a key conservative strategist and editor of The Weekly Standard.

At the same time, the White House is grappling with a criminal investigation into whether anyone leaked the name of a C.I.A. operative, an inquiry that has brought both Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, before a grand jury.

And the administration is struggling to steady itself after the slow response to Hurricane Katrina and defend itself against sweeping accusations of incompetence and cronyism in domestic security.

Joe Gaylord, a longtime Republican consultant and an adviser to Newt Gingrich when he was House speaker, said, "When you couple Iraq, Katrina, DeLay in the House, Frist in the Senate," and other ethical flaps, "it looks like 10 years is a long time for a party to be in power."

"And when you add to that gas prices and home-heating prices that are going through the ceiling this winter, it shouldn't give much comfort to the Republicans," Mr. Gaylord said. Such a wave of internal trouble is characteristic of a president's second term, particularly when his party controls Congress.

"We know that second terms have historically been marred by hubris and by scandal," said David R. Gergen, a former aide to presidents in both parties who is now director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

"We've seen the hubris," Mr. Gergen added, alluding to Mr. Bush's effort to restructure Social Security, now stalled. "And now we're seeing the scandals."

Ross K. Baker, an expert on Congress and a political science professor at Rutgers, argues that the lack of normal checks and balances, with each party controlling part of the government, is also a problem.

"What you're stuck with is oversight as a product of scandal, a product of catastrophe," Mr. Baker said. "It requires a blunder of major proportions, a calamity that is poorly addressed, before you get oversight."

Others say the intense competition of current politics - the ferocious ideological divisions combined with the narrowness of any majority - leads to a heightened emphasis on money and, perhaps, a bending of the rules to get it.

"We've constantly had leaders going down in the last 20 years for related issues," said Julian Zelizer, an expert on Congress at Boston University. "Those who are successful, there's a high chance they've pushed the boundaries of money in politics as far as they can go."

In recent months, conservatives have bemoaned the effects of power on their movement, like mounting deficits and ethics problems.

In the 10th anniversary issue of The Weekly Standard last month, Andrew Ferguson lamented the "ease with which the stalwarts commandeered the greasy machinery of Washington power."

"Conservative activists came to Washington to do good and stayed to do well," Mr. Ferguson said. "The grease rubbed off, too."

Eleven years ago, the Republicans took control of Congress - breaking a 40-year Democratic reign in the House - by campaigning as reformers out to derail a Democratic machine that Mr. Gingrich described as endemically, irredeemably corrupt. In fact, as the 1994 election approached, the Democrats endured several ethics scandals, including the fall of a speaker, a majority whip and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Now the Democrats are reaching for the reformers' mantle. More and more, they attack the Republicans as a party riddled with corruption and out of touch with the problems and concerns of ordinary Americans.

Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, telegraphed the assault in an interview on Wednesday. "Their party has run out of both legitimacy and intellectual steam," he said.

A year before the midterm elections, the polls show Congress with a strikingly low approval rating - 34 percent in the most recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, conducted from Sept. 9 to 13. One Republican strategist, who asked not to be identified because of his work with Republicans on Capitol Hill, said of the DeLay indictment: "When you pile it on top of everything else - Iraq, Katrina, gas prices - it's pretty grim. We're still waiting for some sign of good news, something our candidates can run on. This isn't it."

The strategist added: "The Democrats will make the case that Republicans are too busy dealing with their own ethical issues to care about the problems facing the country. And guess what? That charge worked pretty well for us in '92 and '94."

Whether Democrats will be able to make that case is another question; they have internal problems of their own, notably their chronic problem in unifying around a clear message , a challenge the Republicans met with the Contract With America.

But for the Republican majority, the problem in many ways is not the challenge from without, but the second-term problems within.

Constance Baker Motley, Civil Rights Trailblazer, Dies at 84 - New York Times

Constance Baker Motley, Civil Rights Trailblazer, Dies at 84 - New York Timeseptember 29, 2005
Constance Baker Motley, Civil Rights Trailblazer, Dies at 84
By DOUGLAS MARTIN

Constance Baker Motley, a civil rights lawyer who fought nearly every important civil rights case for two decades and then became the first black woman to serve as a federal judge, died yesterday at NYU Downtown Hospital in Manhattan. She was 84.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Isolde Motley, her daughter-in-law.

Judge Motley was the first black woman to serve in the New York State Senate, as well as the first woman to be Manhattan borough president, a position that guaranteed her a voice in running the entire city under an earlier system of local government called the Board of Estimate.

Judge Motley was at the center of the firestorm that raged through the South in the two decades after World War II, as blacks and their white allies pressed to end the segregation that had gripped the region since Reconstruction. She visited the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in jail, sang freedom songs in churches that had been bombed, and spent a night under armed guard with Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader who was later murdered.

But her métier was in the quieter, painstaking preparation and presentation of lawsuits that paved the way to fuller societal participation by blacks. She dressed elegantly, spoke in a low, lilting voice and, in case after case, earned a reputation as the chief courtroom tactician of the civil rights movement.

Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama and other staunch segregationists yielded, kicking and screaming, to the verdicts of courts ruling against racial segregation. These huge victories were led by the N.A.A.C.P.'s Legal Defense and Education Fund, led by Thurgood Marshall, for which Judge Motley, Jack Greenberg, Robert Carter and a handful of other underpaid, overworked lawyers labored.

In particular, she directed the legal campaign that resulted in the admission of James H. Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962. She argued 10 cases before the United States Supreme Court and won nine of them.

Judge Motley won cases that ended segregation in Memphis restaurants and at whites-only lunch counters in Birmingham, Ala. She fought for King's right to march in Albany, Ga. She played an important role in representing blacks seeking admission to the Universities of Florida, Georgia Alabama and Mississippi and Clemson College in South Carolina.

She helped write briefs in the landmark school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and in later elementary-school integration cases.

Judge Motley was a tall, gracious and stately woman whose oft-stated goal was as simple as it was sometimes elusive: dignity for all people. Her personal approach was also dignified. When a reporter wrote that she had demanded some action by the court, she soon corrected him:

"What do you mean 'I demanded the court'? You don't demand, you pray for relief or move for some action."

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, whose admission to the University of Georgia was engineered by Mrs. Motley's legal finesse, described her courtroom cunning.

"Mrs. Motley's style could be deceptive, often challenging a witness to get away with one lie after another without challenging them," she wrote in her book "In My Place," published in 1992. "It was as if she would lull them into an affirmation of their own arrogance, causing them to relax as she appeared to wander aimlessly off into and around left field, until she suddenly threw a curveball with so much skill and power it would knock them off their chair."

As a black woman practicing law in the South, she endured gawking and more than a few physical threats. A local paper in Jackson, Miss., derided her as "the Motley woman."

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York at the urging of Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, a Democrat, and with the support of Senator Jacob K. Javits, a Republican. The opposition of Southern senators like James O. Eastland, a Mississippi Democrat, was beaten back, and her appointment was confirmed. She became chief judge of the district in 1982 and senior judge in 1986.

Constance Baker was born on Sept. 14, 1921, in New Haven, the ninth of 12 children. Her parents came from the tiny Caribbean island Nevis at the beginning of the 20th century.

Her father worked as a chef for various Yale University student organizations, including Skull and Bones. She attended local schools in what was then an overwhelmingly white community.

One of her first experiences with discrimination came at 15, when she was turned away from a public beach because she was black.

She read books dealing with black history and became president of the local N.A.A.C.P. youth council. She decided that she wanted to be a lawyer, but her family lacked money to send their many children to college. After high school, she struggled to earn a living as a domestic worker.

When she was 18, she made a speech at local African-American social center that was heard by Clarence W. Blakeslee, a white businessman and philanthropist who sponsored the center. He was impressed and offered to finance her education.

She decided to attend Fisk University, a black college in Nashville, partly because she had never been to the South. In Nashville, she encountered a rigidly segregated society, and brought her parents a poignant souvenir: a sign that read "Colored Only."

After a year and a half at Fisk, she transferred to New York University. After graduation in 1943, she entered Columbia Law School, where she began to work as a volunteer at the N.A.A.C.P.'s Legal Defense and Education Fund, an affiliate of the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People that Mr. Marshall and his mentor, Charles Houston, had created in 1939.

After she graduated in 1946, she began to work full time for the civil rights group at a salary of $50 a week. She worked first on housing cases, fighting to break the restrictive covenants that barred blacks from white neighborhoods.

Also in 1946, she married Joel Wilson Motley Jr., a New York real estate broker. He survives her, as does their son, Joel III, who lives in Scarborough, N.Y.; three grandchildren; her brother Edmund Baker of Florida; and her sisters Edna Carnegie, Eunice Royster and Marian Green, all of New Haven.

Mr. Marshall had no qualms about sending her into the tensest racial terrain, precisely because she was a woman. She said she believed that was why she was assigned to the Meredith case in 1961.

"Thurgood says that the only people who are safe in the South are the women - white and Negro," she said in an interview with Pictorial Living, the magazine of The New York Journal-American, in 1965. "I don't know how he's got that figured. But, so far, I've never been subjected to any violence."

Mr. Meredith's admission to the University of Mississippi in September 1962 was a major victory for the civil rights movement. Mrs. Motley worked on the case for 18 months before Mr. Meredith's name was even seen in the papers.

She made 22 trips to Mississippi as the case dragged on. Judge Motley once called the day Mr. Meredith accepted his diploma in 1963 the most thrilling in her life.

She said her greatest professional satisfaction came with the reinstatement of 1,100 black children in Birmingham who had been expelled for taking part in street demonstrations in the spring of 1963.

In February 1964, Mrs. Motley's high-level civil rights profile drew her into politics. A Democratic State Senate candidate from the Upper West Side was ruled off the ballot because of an election-law technicality. She accepted the nomination on the condition that it would not interfere with her N.A.A.C.P. work and handily defeated a Republican to become the first black woman elected to the State Senate. She was re-elected that November.

She remained in the job until February 1965, when she was chosen by unanimous vote of the City Council to fill a one-year vacancy as Manhattan borough president. In citywide elections nine months later, she was re-elected to a full four-year term with the endorsement of the Democratic, Republican and Liberal Parties.

As borough president, she drew up a seven-point program for the revitalization of Harlem and East Harlem, securing $700,000 to plan for those and other underprivileged areas of the city.

After becoming a federal judge in 1966, Judge Motley ruled in many cases, but her decisions often reflected her past. She decided on behalf of welfare recipients, low-income Medicaid patients and a prisoner who claimed to have been unconstitutionally punished by 372 days of solitary confinement, whom she awarded damages.

She continued to try cases after she took senior status. Her hope as a judge was that she would change the world for the better, she said.

"The work I'm doing now will affect people's lives intimately," she said in an interview with The New York Times in 1977, "it may even change them."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DeLay Is Charged With Criminal Conspiracy in Texas - New York Times

DeLay Is Charged With Criminal Conspiracy in Texas - New York TimesSeptember 28, 2005
DeLay Is Charged With Criminal Conspiracy in Texas
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 1:11 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.

DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.

''I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today,'' DeLay said.

GOP congressional officials said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into those duties. Some of the duties may go to the GOP whip, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. The Republican rank and file may meet as early as Wednesday night to act on Hastert's recommendation.

The charge carries a potential two-year sentence, which forces DeLay to step down under House Republican rules.

''The defendants entered into an agreement with each other or with TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee) to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas election code,'' says the four-page indictment. ''The contribution was made directly to the Republican National Committee within 60 days of a general election.''

The indictment against the second-ranking, and most assertive Republican leader came on the final day of the grand jury's term. It followed earlier indictments of a state political action committee founded by DeLay and three of his political associates.

Kevin Madden, DeLay's spokesman, dismissed the charge as politically motivated.

''This indictment is nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat,'' Madden said, citing prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.

''We regret the people of Texas will once again have their taxpayer dollars wasted on Ronnie Earle's pursuit of headlines and political paybacks.''

The grand jury action is expected to have immediate consequences in the House, where DeLay is largely responsible for winning passage of the Republican legislative program. House Republican Party rules require leaders who are indicted to temporarily step aside from their leadership posts.

However, DeLay retains his seat representing Texas' 22nd congressional district, suburbs southwest of Houston.

DeLay has denied committing any crime and accused the Democratic district attorney leading the investigation, Ronnie Earle, of pursuing the case for political motives.

Democrats have kept up a crescendo of criticism of DeLay's ethics, citing three times last year that the House ethics committee admonished DeLay for his conduct.

Earlier, DeLay attorney Bill White told reporters, ''It's a skunky indictment if they have one.''

As a sign of loyalty to DeLay after the grand jury returned indictments against three of his associates, House Republicans last November repealed a rule requiring any of their leaders to step aside if indicted. The rule was reinstituted in January after lawmakers returned to Washington from the holidays fearing the repeal might create a backlash from voters.

DeLay, 58, also is the center of an ethics swirl in Washington. The 11-term congressman was admonished last year by the House ethics committee on three separate issues and is the center of a political storm this year over lobbyists paying his and other lawmakers' tabs for expensive travel abroad.

Wednesday's indictment stems from a plan DeLay helped set in motion in 2001 to help Republicans win control of the Texas House in the 2002 elections for the first time since Reconstruction.

A state political action committee he created, Texans for a Republican Majority, was indicted earlier this month on charges of accepting corporate contributions for use in state legislative races. Texas law prohibits corporate money from being used to advocate the election or defeat of candidates; it is allowed only for administrative expenses.

With GOP control of the Texas legislature, DeLay then engineered a redistricting plan that enabled the GOP take six Texas seats in the U.S. House away from Democrats -- including one lawmaker switching parties -- in 2004 and build its majority in Congress.