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ABC Covers 40 Masters Protesters But Ignores Pro-Troops Rally -- 04/14/2003 CyberAlert


1. ABC Covers 40 Masters Protesters But Ignores Pro-Troops Rally
ABC found a lot of protests newsworthy, but not a rally for the troops/victory celebration. ABC News had time over the weekend to highlight "about 40 demonstrators" outside the Masters golf tournament, a few hundred marchers against the IMF who "said the United States wants to dominate and exploit Latin America" and to showcase a pre-teen girl at an anti-war march who saw the rain "as a metaphor" as she explained: "Like all the rain like could have represented all the tears that were being shed for dead sons and daughters, relatives and friends that were dying in the war."

2. Stephanopoulos Presses Franks About "Massacre" of "Innocent"
George Stephanopoulos pressed Operation Iraqi Freedom commander Tommy Franks about a soldier's angst about committing a "massacre" in killing "innocent" Iraqis. The soldier maintained: "It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?" Stephanopoulos demanded: "How do you answer that soldier?"

3. Rumsfeld and Franks Reject Premises of Russert and Blitzer
In Sunday interviews, Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks rejected the premises behind questions they were asked. When NBC's Tim Russert wanted to know "how did we allow" an Iraqi "museum to be looted?", Rumsfeld marveled at Russert's gall: "'How did we allow?' Now, that's really a wonderful, amazing statement." When CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Franks if he was "surprised that almost a month into this war you haven't come across some really hard evidence" of WMD, Franks reminded Blitzer of the media's misguided predictions about the strength of the Iraqi military: "Are you surprised that this regime, after everything that was said about it, has no army, has no navy, and has no air force today?"

4. Fox News Sunday Panel Castigates CNN's Eason Jordan
The Fox News Sunday panel, from left to right, castigated CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan for his confession on Friday that he had covered up knowledge he had about Saddam Hussein's brutality. NPR's Juan Williams called Jordan's decision an "outrage," Weekly Standard Publisher Bill Kristol described Jordan's behavior as "just craven" and even NPR correspondent Mara Liasson was troubled: "I think that raises some crucial questions about how media organizations behave in totalitarian governments."

5. No More Richard Engel on ABC? Only He Finds Hatred for America
Have we heard the last from ABC's freelancer in Baghdad, Richard Engel. With Dan Harris back in Baghdad, World News Tonight on Saturday and Sunday carried stories from Harris, but not Engel. In contrast to Engel's reporting on a city full of anger toward the U.S., NBC's Chip Reid found that "most people in Baghdad are enthusiastically welcoming U.S. forces."

6. Washington Times Documents Media's Doomsaying Predictions
"Television, newspapers wrong on war in Iraq," announced a front page headline over a Sunday Washington Times story by reporter James G. Lakely who recounted several examples of media doom from a couple of weeks ago which were highlighted in the April 9 CyberAlert Extra, "Special Gloat and Quote Edition: Media's Erroneous Predictions."

7. Washington Post Stands by its Quote, Sans "a Bit"
The Washington Post stands by its reporting sans "a bit." Last week the New York Times ran a correction about how a story misquoted Lt. General William Wallace as telling reporters in late March that "the enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against," when he actually said "the enemy we're fighting is a bit different..." Picking up on complaints that the Washington Post has failed to make such a correction, ombudsman Michael Getler on Sunday relayed how Post editors and the reporter involved stand by their original quote sans "a bit."


ABC Covers 40 Masters Protesters But
Ignores Pro-Troops Rally

ABC found a lot of protests newsworthy, but not a rally for the troops/victory celebration. ABC News had time over the weekend to highlight "about 40 demonstrators" outside the Masters golf tournament, a few hundred marchers against the IMF who "said the United States wants to dominate and exploit Latin America" and to showcase a pre-teen girl at an anti-war march who saw the rain "as a metaphor" as she explained: "Like all the rain like could have represented all the tears that were being shed for dead sons and daughters, relatives and friends that were dying in the war."

The pro-troops rally/victory celebration rally in Washington, DC on Saturday featured former Senator Fred Thompson and was sponsored by Citizens United. Sunday's Washington Post pegged attendance at 4,000 to 5,000 according what "police estimated."

But it became the second pro-troops march within two days that ABC's World News Tonight refused to acknowledge. As the April 11 CyberAlert reported: No anti-war protest has been too small to earn coverage from ABC's Peter Jennings who in recent months has highlighted anti-war events involving just a few hundred people, a "virtual" protest and even one guy who jumped off a bridge, but on Thursday night, while CBS and NBC noted a pro-troops rally featuring 15,000 in New York City, Jennings could not manage to mention it on World News Tonight. For details and a rundown of some of the very small anti-war events which ABC highlighted see the April 11, 2003 CyberAlert.

Fast forward to World News Tonight/Saturday anchored by Terry Moran and he didn't have time for the thousands at a pro-troops rally, but did have time to squeeze in an item about barely three dozen people: "About 40 demonstrators gathered outside the Masters golf tournament underway in Augusta, Georgia. The all-male club has been under pressure by the National Council of Women's Organizations and other groups to accept a woman member."

ABC's Peter Jennings The next night, Peter Jennings pulled rare Sunday duty and anchored World News Tonight/Sunday. He acknowledged that "those people who said it [the war] would be short and successful, at least in the military phase, have proven to be right." Jennings then set up "A Closer Look" segment on the anti-war movement: "And yet this weekend, in more than 50 countries overseas, and here, there were people still demonstrating against the war."

Maybe because they know that no matter how few turn out ABC News will always cover them.

From San Francisco, Judy Muller explained how the no war slogans have been replaced by calls against occupation. After showing a few protesters with various complaints, including one man who preposterously claimed the U.S. has "no money" for health care, Muller contended that the lack of focus may explain the dwindling numbers of protesters. She then trumpeted the cause of a San Francisco march: "Here in San Francisco the rain dampened turnout somewhat, but not the passions of those who did turn out. One girl, who comes from a family of peace activists, saw the horrible weather as a metaphor."
Marie Yrastorca, anti-war protester, probably around 11 or 12 year-old: "Like all the rain like could have represented all the tears that were being shed for dead sons and daughters, relatives and friends that were dying in the war."
Muller championed: "Leaders of the peace movement say that is the sort of consciousness they hope to instill in future generations."

Minutes later Jennings announced over video of a few marchers: "In Washington this weekend the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. There are always demonstrators. This year, they said the United States wants to dominate and exploit Latin America."

A Sunday AP story numbered those marchers in the "hundreds," not thousands.

CNN and NBC also showed a preference for those who want millionaire women to be able to join a golf club over those supporting the troops.

On Saturday night, for instance, CNN noted the Masters protest during its 10 and 11:30pm EDT "At This Hour" news updates, but between 10pm and midnight EDT didn't mention the pro-troops event in DC.

Saturday's NBC Nightly News dedicated a full story to the Masters protest after having given a few seconds to anti-war protesters and to another pro-troops event. Anchor John Seigenthaler noted: "In Washington, 20,000 turned out for a rally calling for U.S. troops to be brought home. The organizers of the protest say a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq is an occupation not liberation. Similar rallies were held around the world. But in Milwaukee strong support for the war at a rally for U.S. troops."

Stephanopoulos Presses Franks About
"Massacre" of "Innocent"

George Stephanopoulos pressed Operation Iraqi Freedom commander Tommy Franks about a soldier's angst about committing a "massacre" in killing "innocent" Iraqis. The soldier maintained: "It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?" Stephanopoulos demanded: "How do you answer that soldier?"

Stephanopoulos posed his question during an interview taped in Doha, Qatar for Sunday's This Week. He asked:
"You now have a lot of soldiers under your command who've killed for the first time, about to go home, and I want to read you something that one of them told the Christian Science Monitor after a battle near Najaf, where wave after wave of Iraqis were killed. This is what he said: 'For lack of a better word, I feel almost guilty about the massacre. We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost.' How do you answer that soldier?"
General Franks replied: "I don't think you give a discreet answer that says anything more than you've done your duty, you have proven one more time for the world to see that we are a humanitarian people above everything else. Not only do we have an incredibly powerful military, and George we do, but we also have case after case after case of the American soldier, who's been in a heck of a firefight, take the first prisoner and the first thing he does with the prisoner is hand him a bottle of water, maybe hand him a pair of socks. And so to this specific soldier, what I would say is, you've done your duty and your nation thanks you."

Stephanopoulos and/or ABC staffers must have really dug around for that quote. Who reads or even sees the Christian Science Monitor anymore?

Rumsfeld and Franks Reject Premises of
Russert and Blitzer

Firing back at the network interviewers. In Sunday interviews, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks rejected the premises behind questions they were asked.

When NBC's Tim Russert wanted to know "how did we allow" an Iraqi " museum to be looted?", a dumbfounded Rumsfeld marveled at Russert's gall: "'How did we allow?' Now, that's really a wonderful, amazing statement."

And when CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Franks if he was "surprised that almost a month into this war you haven't come across some really hard evidence" of weapons of mass destruction, "what the inspectors used to call the smoking gun?", Franks reminded Blitzer of the media's misguided predictions about the strength of the Iraqi military: "Are you surprised that this regime, after everything that was said about it, has no army, has no navy, and has no air force today?"

During the April 13 Meet the Press, Russert inquired of Rumsfeld: "Let me turn to the situation, the non-military situation, if you will, in Iraq and that is the whole issue of looting. This was the scene with the Museum of Antiquities, which housed treasures dating back thousands and thousands of years from the beginning of civilization. And it was ransacked and destroyed, about 170,000 items. The head of the museum said, 'Our heritage is finished.' What happened there? How did we allow that museum to be looted?
Rumsfeld: "'How did we allow?' Now, that's really a wonderful, amazing statement. No, let me-"
Russert and Rumsfeld tried to yell over each other: "But, how are we-"..
Rumsfeld: "-just say a word, here."
Russert: "No, no. Wait, wait."
Rumsfeld: "Wait a minute. Wait a minute."
Russert: "No, let me be precise, 'cause it's an important point."
Rumsfeld: "But we didn't allow it. It happened. And that's what happens when you go from a dictatorship with repressed order, police state, to something that is going to be different. There's a transition period, and no one is in control. There are periods where, there was still fighting in Baghdad. We don't allow bad things to happen. Bad things do happen in life and people do loot. We've seen that in the United States. It's happened in every country. It's a shame when it happens. I'll bet you anything that if they, when order is restored, and we have a more permissive environment, that there will be opportunities to ask people to return some of those things that were taken. We've already found people returning supplies to hospitals."
Russert: "What the heads of the museum will say is that they actually asked for the U.S. to help protect it, and that the U.S. declined. Is that accurate?"
Rumsfeld: "Oh, my goodness. Look, I have no idea. We've got troops on the ground, and who do you know who he asked, and whether his assignment that moment was to guard a hospital instead? Those kinds of things are so anecdotal. And it always breaks your heart to see destruction of things."

Over on CNN during the noon EDT hour on Sunday, Blitzer in Doha with Franks asked the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom: "Are you surprised that almost a month into this war you haven't come across some really hard evidence, what the inspectors used to call the smoking gun?"
Franks: "Not surprised at all. Let me ask you a question, are you surprised that this regime, after everything that was said about it, has no army, has no navy, and has no air force today?"
Blitzer: "I'll ask the questions. You give the answers."

They both laughed.

Fox News Sunday Panel Castigates CNN's
Eason Jordan

The Fox News Sunday panel, from left to right, castigated CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan for his confession on Friday that he had covered up knowledge he had about Saddam Hussein's brutality for fear that reporting such stories would cost the lives of Iraqis working for CNN, though maintaining access was clearly also an interest.

NPR's Juan Williams called Jordan's decision an "outrage," Weekly Standard Publisher Bill Kristol described Jordan's behavior as "just craven" and even NPR correspondent Mara Liasson was troubled: "I think that raises some crucial questions about how media organizations behave in totalitarian governments."

For a full rundown of what Jordan revealed in a Friday New York Times op-ed, other reaction to it, how it contradicted what he assured in an earlier interview and how, despite what Jordan knew, last fall CNN reporter Nic Robertson proclaimed, "Iraqi reverence for President Saddam Hussein is rarely more expressive than when their leader calls a referendum," see Saturday's CyberAlert.

On Fox News Sunday, Tony Snow read from a passage of Jordan's op-ed: "I knew that CNN could not report that Uday Hussein told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting."

Williams responded: "Well, to me, this is an outrage. It doesn't, I don't understand how you can make a judgment about what seems, appears to me, on the surface it -- going soft, not telling people about the depth of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, when, in fact, now, Eason Jordan says, you know, he thought the American people knew about it, no one was hiding it. But he wanted access for CNN, and I think that's what he made the predominant issue in his mind. The consequence being that, to the way I look at it, he wasn't being forthcoming with CNN's viewers. That CNN's viewers should have known exactly, exactly how tyrannical, how awful, how despotic Saddam Hussein was.
"And here's the other point, Tony. CNN's continued reporting lent some credibility, made it seem to the American people as if, 'Well, this is an ordered society. CNN, other news networks can go in there, operate freely and with some sort of, you know, First Amendment protections and freedoms.' That was never the case."

Bill Kristol observed: "Well, what it means is that any tyranny threatens to kill someone who works for any news network, and the news network doesn't tell the truth about the tyranny. It's totally unacceptable.
"If this man was in danger, they should have flown him out of Baghdad, they should have flown his family out of Baghdad. They should have gone to the U.S. government and tried to get the president of the United States to say, 'If you start killing people who are cooperating with American media, that's in effect an act of war against, virtually, against American citizens or American employees.' This is just craven."

Brit Hume pointed out: "It is clear that reporters who wanted to stay in Baghdad had to be very careful what they said. That doesn't apply to people who have left Baghdad, which is what's so striking to me about this."

NPR White House reporter Mara Liasson also expressed concern: "I think that raises some crucial questions about how media organizations behave in totalitarian governments."

Jordan may deserve the condemnation, but at least he's now admitted that he suppressed what he knew. When will other news executives have the integrity to come forward to disclose what they kept quiet about in order to stay on the good side of the Hussein regime?

No More Richard Engel on ABC? Only He
Finds Hatred for America

Have we heard the last from ABC's freelancer in Baghdad, Richard Engel? With Dan Harris back in Baghdad, World News Tonight on Saturday and Sunday carried stories from Harris, but not Engel.

Engel went out stressing how Iraqis hate America. As documented in the April 12 CyberAlert, barely 48 hours after U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad, Engel decided that chaos in the streets meant "time may be running out" for the Americans. "There is a growing sense of disillusionment" amongst Iraqis Engel contended on Friday's World News Tonight. Engel showcased the views of Iraqis who denounced the U.S. One woman demanded: "Did the Americans come to protect us or to kill us?" And Engel quoted a man who charged: "Now we know that America came to occupy us. They came to steal our oil and our riches and then to leave." CBS's Dan Rather, in contrast, arrived in Baghdad and found the people glad to have been liberated and appreciative of the U.S.

Add NBC's Chip Reid to those who saw a capital city full of people happy to see the U.S. arrive. On Saturday's Today, Reid reported that in the wake of looting, "many blame the American military for not doing more to protect them, but most people in Baghdad are enthusiastically welcoming U.S. force. Those troops are now authorized to crack down on looters, but their top priority is still fighting the war, routing out fierce pockets of resistance."

As I incisively observed in the Saturday CyberAlert, Engel may be the only non-Arab reporter in Baghdad to have managed to find both universal love for Saddam Hussein up until last week and universal hatred of the U.S. since his regime fell.

For details about Engel's Friday story see the April 12, 2003 CyberAlert.

Washington Times Documents Media's
Doomsaying Predictions

"Television, newspapers wrong on war in Iraq," announced a front page headline over a Sunday Washington Times story by reporter James G. Lakely who recounted several examples of media doom from a couple of weeks ago which were highlighted in the April 9 CyberAlert Extra, "Special Gloat and Quote Edition: Media's Erroneous Predictions."

Lakely also recounted some other examples from the Washington Post and featured expert quotes from your humble editor of the CyberAlert. An excerpt from the April 13 Washington Times story:

Television screens, newspapers and magazines across the globe this week featured images of a joyously liberated Baghdad....

It was a scenario wholly contrary to a future many of those very same media outlets predicted just days before.

The Washington Post published a front-page story on April 4 with the unsourced assertion that "the U.S. invasion force, built around one tank-heavy Army division and one lighter Marine division, is not large or powerful enough to take Baghdad by force, especially with tens of thousands of heavily armed fighters believed loyal to Hussein still inside the sprawling city."

A front-page story in The Washington Post on April 1, titled "Rumsfeld's Design for War Criticized on the Battlefield," stated that "raw nerves were obvious" as officers compared the war planning of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld with that of maligned Vietnam War-era Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara.

The story's sole quoted source of active battlefield complainers was an anonymous colonel who said Mr. Rumsfeld "wanted to fight this war on the cheap" and "he got what he wanted."...

In a front-page analysis piece for the March 30 editions of the New York Times bearing the headline "Bush Peril; Shifting Sand and Fickle Opinion," R.W. Apple Jr. wondered if President Bush's "luck" was "about to turn in the winds and sands of Iraq?"

Failure to obtain permission from Turkey to stage American troops on the northern front was a "debacle" and "with every passing day, it is more evident that the allies made two gross military misjudgments in concluding that coalition forces could safely bypass Basra and Nasiriyah."

Mr. Apple warned on March 27 in a piece titled "Iraqis Learn the Lessons of How U.S. Fights Wars," that "Saddam Hussein had learned a lot since his forces were routed in the Persian Gulf war in 1991." He predicted that Saddam would bog down the coalition forces' march to Baghdad through guerrilla warfare.

"As Mao famously said, the populace constitutes the water in which the guerrillas can swim like lethal fish. In city after city, they are swimming," Mr. Apple wrote.

Brent Baker, vice president for research and publications for the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group, said such analysis was rampant because reporters began to believe their own negative reporting -- giving virtually no weight to explanations that a single day of battlefield difficulties did not constitute a failed plan.

"I think the news media love to see failure," said Mr. Baker. "In the months leading up to the war, liberal opponents said it would be awful, and that the Iraqis wouldn't love us, and there would be blood in the streets.

"So when the actual war started, they actually believed their own fear-mongering," he said. "When anything went even a little bit wrong, they said, 'Aha. We were right.' But that kind of negative reporting couldn't last long because reality outran it."

The morning after coalition troops secured Baghdad on Wednesday, Mr. Apple's analysis was markedly sunnier. He called recent developments "the high-water mark for a new American determination to use the nation's military might to project its power around the world" and lauded U.S. troops who have continued a 20-year trend of "usually but not invariably achieving their immediate goals in short order."

Mr. Baker said such reversals of analysis are justified by the notion that what was previously said "was right at the time." Thus, "nobody has acknowledged how they were wrong," he said...

Television anchors also beat the drums of doom prior to the liberation of Baghdad.

Ted Koppel, reporting from the front lines for ABC's "Nightline" on March 25, told viewers to "forget the easy victories of the last 20 years. This war is more like the ones we knew before."

A graphic beneath a report by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Feb. 25 asked: "If War Happens, Another Quagmire?"

On "Good Morning America" on March 26, ABC's Diane Sawyer wondered: "What happened to the flowers expected to be tossed the way of the Americans? Was it a terrible miscalculation?"

CBS' Lesley Stahl told Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on the March 26 edition of "48 Hours" that the supply lines to quickly advancing U.S. forces were overstretched, its "rear was exposed" and these problems were endangering the needed humanitarian aid in southern Iraq.

"It's nonsense," replied Mr. Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first Bush administration. "It's the usual chatter. Every general who ever worked for me is now on some network commenting on the daily battle and, frankly, battles come and wars come and they have ups and downs, they have a rhythm to it."

John McWethy, a correspondent for ABC's "World News Tonight," told viewers on April 4 that his "intelligence sources are saying that some of Saddam Hussein's toughest security forces are now apparently digging in, apparently willing to defend their city block by block."

"This could be, Peter, a long war," Mr. McWethy told "World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings.

"As many people had anticipated," replied Mr. Jennings.

On the Jan. 24 edition of CBS' "60 Minutes II," Dan Rather warned that "to win this time" the Iraqis say that coalition troops "will have to wage a perilous battle in the streets of Baghdad." And if it comes to that "the civilians we spoke with said they will fight, too," he said. Mr. Rather also warned that Baghdad's narrow streets and dark alleys are "a perfect place for Saddam to ambush the invaders."

Failing to note, as other news outlets had, that Saddam's regime was based on fear and severe brutality -- where even mild criticism of the Iraqi dictator was grounds for rape, torture and death -- Mr. Rather stated that from what he could tell, Iraqi women "are all Saddam supporters."

Newsweek magazine's "Conventional Wisdom" column in the April 7 edition (which hit newsstands on March 31) gave out three "down arrows" -- one each to Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Cheney's "down arrow" was for stating on NBC's "Meet The Press" that U.S. troops would be greeted in Iraq as liberators. Newsweek called it an "arrogant blunder for the ages."

Mr. Bush received a down arrow for "his war" that "cluelessly flings open the gates of hell, making any sort of victory Pyrrhic." And Mr. Rumsfeld was criticized for "taking fire from TV retired generals for a flawed war plan. And how did you miss the Fedayeen?" - referring to the Fedayeen Saddam, suicide guerrillas loyal to the Iraqi dictator.

One of the three praiseworthy "up arrows" went to Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace for being "honest enough to admit the U.S. misjudged the enemy. But bosses not honest enough to admit he's right."

That referred to a quote by the commander of the 5th Corps in a New York Times story in which Gen. Wallace said: "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we war-gamed against." The New York Times ran a correction a few days later in which it informed readers it left out the words "a bit" before the word "different."...

END of Excerpt

Read the article in full as posted on www.washtimes.com.

Read the "Special Gloat and Quote Edition: Media's Erroneous Predictions."

Washington Post Stands by its Quote, Sans
"a Bit"

The Washington Post stands by its reporting sans "a bit." As noted at the end of the excerpt in item #6 above, last week the New York Times ran a correction about how a story misquoted Lt. General William Wallace as telling reporters in late March that "the enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against," when he actually said "the enemy we're fighting is a bit different..."

Picking up on complaints that the Washington Post has failed to make such a correction, ombudsman Michael Getler on Sunday relayed how Post editors and the reporter involved stand by their original story sans "a bit."

Getler wrote: "On March 28, [Rick] Atkinson, in a front-page Post story, quoted the Army's senior ground commander, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, as saying, 'The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against.' A New York Times reporter, who was in the same interview, reported the statement as, 'The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against.' This difference has become a bit of an issue for some readers. On April 1, two other Times reporters picked up the general's quote and used a version similar to the one that had been in The Post, namely without the words 'a bit.' Two days later, the Times published a correction to restore its original construction. Some readers want The Post to correct its account. But Post editors, after checking with Atkinson, say that they are confident their version is correct and that none of the principals involved has complained. Assistant Managing Editor Phil Bennett adds that 'nobody contests the substance of the observation at the time that the Army found itself fighting irregular forces instead of Republican Guard armor.'"

Indeed, Bennett is correct. The bottom line, like it or not and the media definitely overplayed it, is that Wallace was saying that Iraqis were fighting back in a way different than anticipated.

Read Getler's entire column, about how the Pulitzer Prizes did not award any pre-war reporting on the build-up to war.

> Tom Brokaw is scheduled to appear Tuesday night on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

-- Brent Baker