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Olbermann Rues "News Blackout" of "Cascade" of Voting Problems --11/11/2004


1. Olbermann Rues "News Blackout" of "Cascade" of Voting Problems
For the third straight night on Wednesday, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted a major portion of his show to exaggerating the importance of a few voting glitches and to complaining about the lack of media attention to the subject: "Why has the cascade of irregularities around this country occurred virtually in a news blackout?" He noted how CNN had picked up on the subject and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter bucked up Olbermann: "Don't give up on it, Keith." Olbermann highlighted how Ralph Nader "said the national vote had made this country, quote, 'the laughing stock of the world,' that, quote, 'this election is not over,' that the outcome in Ohio had been, quote, 'hijacked from A to Z,' and that John Kerry should demand a recount there." Olbermann ruminated about the possibility which is "more heart-stopping still, one that threatens the democracy in the way 100 terrorist rings could not, that the President or the district 90 dog catcher or other Republicans or other Democrats were elected because a series of insufficiently sophisticated, insufficiently secure computer voting machines were affected by bad design, bad use, damp ballots, power surges, and/or static cling." Later, on CNN's NewsNight, anchor Aaron Brown took the allegations seriously.

2. Some Repeat Canard Ashcroft "Ordered Nude Statues Covered"
NBC News and Reuters passed along the canard that Attorney General John Ashcroft, who announced his resignation on Tuesday, had, in the words of NBC's Norah O'Donnell on Wednesday's Today, "ordered nude statues covered so he would no longer be photographed in front of them." Reuters asserted that Ashcroft "once even ordered the robing of two partially nude statues in his department." But National Review's Jay Nordlinger recounted how, though the media delighted in embarrassing conservative AG's by angling photos to show the nude statues behind them, Ashcroft had nothing to do with hanging a TV-friendly blue background cloth in front of the Department of Justice's dingy walls.

3. Dan Rather Delivers Powerful Tribute to Marines in Iraq
No matter how obnoxious of a conservative-bashing liberal crusader Dan Rather is much of the time, when he returns to his patriotic Texas roots, he does so powerfully -- as he did Wednesday night in concluding the CBS Evening News with an emotional tribute to U.S. Marines. With a photo on screen of a grizzled Marine in Fallujah, Rather urged viewers: "Study it, absorb it, think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride. And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I. Where such men come from and what will happen to our country when they cease to come, we can wonder with worry. But for now, we have them, and they are there in that brown hell known as Iraq. Whatever you may think of the war, they went for the right reason: They loved their country."


Olbermann Rues "News Blackout" of "Cascade"
of Voting Problems

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann For the third straight night on Wednesday, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted a major portion of his show to exaggerating the importance of a few voting glitches and to complaining about the lack of media attention to the subject: "Why has the cascade of irregularities around this country occurred virtually in a news blackout?" He noted how CNN had picked up on the subject and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter bucked up Olbermann, "Don't give up on it, Keith," and praised his efforts: "You are absolutely right to be like a dog with a bone on this story." Olbermann highlighted how Ralph Nader "said the national vote had made this country, quote, 'the laughing stock of the world,' that, quote, 'this election is not over,' that the outcome in Ohio had been, quote, 'hijacked from A to Z,' and that John Kerry should demand a recount there."

Olbermann ruminated about the possibility which is "more heart-stopping still, one that threatens the democracy in the way 100 terrorist rings could not, that the President or the district 90 dog catcher or other Republicans or other Democrats were elected because a series of insufficiently sophisticated, insufficiently secure computer voting machines were affected by bad design, bad use, damp ballots, power surges, and/or static cling."

He bizarrely contended that "it seems to me that a lot of the skepticism about the presidential results and other results in the election seems to boil down to this one question: Would it be easier to broadly fix the election electronically or to broadly fix the exit polling?"

Interviewing Alter, Olbermann actually seemed befuddled as to why the national media are not excitedly pursuing the false claim about nation security, used by a few self-important county commissioners in one single Ohio county as an excuse to block the media from viewing the vote-county:
"If I said to you, a county in the decisive state of Ohio kept the media out, even briefly kept out one of the official ballot count watchers from the ballot count, announced it had been warned by the FBI and Homeland Security that there was this terror threat, a 10 on the scale, and a week later, the FBI and Homeland Security say we never warned anybody about anything, if you're are reporter -- magazine, TV, radio, Internet, you're the town crier -- don't you just say, regardless of the long-term impact, don't you say, 'What a story, I'm heading out there to find out what the hell happened'?"

Earlier in the day, on CNN's Inside Politics, Dan Lothian set up a look at some of the same claims Olbermann has obsessed over: "The cry has been heard all across cyberspace in college campuses, conspiracy theories of rigged voting machines, a stolen election, even corrupt officials. Now, six Democratic members of Congress, including Robert Wexler, are calling on the General Accountability Office, of GAO, to look into voting irregularities."

Later, on CNN's NewsNight on Wednesday evening, anchor Aaron Brown took the allegations seriously as he introduced Lothian's piece: "One of the hangovers of the presidential election last week is the belief, unshakable to some especially on the Internet, that there was widespread vote fraud. Several cases have surfaced. There could be more. Will they ever reach the level of problems found in the 2000 election? Some will argue yes. Some already are arguing yes. Others looking closely say for now at least not even close."

Following Lothian's piece which dismissed the credibility of the claims about Ohio and Florida, Brown asked Lothian: "I've probably only gotten 2,000 e-mails on this particular one. One of the things that people say is that in those counties where e-machines were used, electronic voting machines were used, tended for one reason or another to favor President Bush, as opposed to counties where paper ballots or punch card ballots or old style voting machines were used. Is there, in fact, any evidence if that is true?"
Lothian: "There's no widespread evidence of that. There's sort of anecdotal evidence. There were some places in Florida, for instance, where people complained that they went up, touched the screens, tried to vote for Senator Kerry and instead all of their votes were switched to Republicans. Those behind the machines, the companies that put out those machines said that those were sort of isolated incidents not widespread -- Aaron."
Brown gave credence to the conspiracy theorists: "I suppose one person's isolated incident is another person's widespread."

Back to the November 10 Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, he teased his program: "The voting mess: No big deal. North Carolina may have to have a second election. Other than that, not much news. Oh, Ralph Nader had a news conference about it and did his Richard Nixon bit."

At 8:24pm he hyped his upcoming segment: "The Ohio county that locked down its vote count because of warnings from the FBI and Homeland Security, remember them? Turns out the FBI and Homeland Security know nothing about that warning. Oh, and the glitch in another state is so bad they may have to have another election there."

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth compared the closed-captioning to the video for Olbermann's story #3 elongated rant which started a half hour into his show: "Seven little words in a headline in a major metropolitan daily newspaper, a sentence that could encapsulate all of the fears of the age of electronic voting. 'Glitch Could Force State to Vote Again.' Another Internet aluminum foil hat nightmare scenario? Nope. The actual headlines screaming from the pages of the Charlotte Observer. Our third story on the Countdown, North Carolina may have to hold a second election for some or all statewide offices because of one failed computer voting apparatus. Professor David Dill on e-voting and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter covering the coverage.
"But first, it's your tax dollars in action. Day nine of the 2004 election irregularities investigations. Possible do-over in North Carolina owes to a Unilect Corporation machine in Carteret County. It ate 4,532 votes. It just stopped counting at 3005. There are two statewide races that could be decided by less than that number of votes, and the losing candidate would be entitled to a new election. But state law appears to prevent North Carolina from just holding a second vote in the affected county, Carteret. It reads, quote, 'The new election shall be held in the entire jurisdiction in which the original election was held.' Does that mean the whole state? The head of North Carolina's board of elections isn't sure, and he does not know if North Carolina has ever had to conduct such a second vote. If it happens, though, it apparently will not impact the presidential vote from North Carolina. Same state, different problem. Gaston has become the sixth North Carolina county to revise its vote totals from Election Day. Turnout was not 45 percent there. It was 57 percent. They were off by nearly 12,000 votes. Someone, said county elections director Sandra Page, forgot to follow the point-and-click procedure.
"Speaking of forgetting procedures, somebody forgot something in Ohio. That mysterious lockdown in Warren County outside Cincinnati has gotten even stranger. The county commission president had said officials of the FBI and Homeland Security had repeatedly warned them in person that they faced a terrorist threat that ranked a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, so they walled off the vote count there last Tuesday night. Now, officials at both the FBI and Homeland Security say they never notified anybody in Warren County of any such terrorist threats, raising the question anew: Why did they seal that building off?
"One Ohio mystery has been cleared up, however. The infamous Cleveland area precincts which appeared to have more votes than voters. It was absentee ballots. Specifically ballots where, say, a congressman is shared among several precincts. All the absentee ballots would be assigned to just one of those precincts, making it look as if more than 100 percent of voters had voted in that precinct. Boulder County, Colorado, an optical scanning system may cost an election official her job. County Clerk Linda Salas now says, 'I am sure they will want to recall me or get rid of me, and that's fine,' after it took three days for her office to produce vote totals for the local congressional race, and which party was in charge of the state legislature. The optical scanners stretched or squashed thousands of paper ballots in Boulder County, rendering their bar codes unreadable and causing Ms. Salas and her staff to have to count those ballots by hand.
"Prospects for a recount in New Hampshire dimmed when Assistant Attorney General Bud Fitch told Countdown today that not only would Ralph Nader have to pay a $2,000 filing fee, but he would also be liable for the entire cost of a recount, perhaps $50,000. At a news conference today, Nader demanded recounts in four voting districts in that state. And he said the national vote had made this country, quote, 'the laughing stock of the world,' that, quote, 'this election is not over,' that the outcome in Ohio had been, quote, 'hijacked from A to Z,' and that John Kerry should demand a recount there."
Ralph Nader: "I want him to say that he conceded too quickly and that subsequent information that has come out indicates that there needs to be a thorough recount and a thorough investigation. And second, he should say that even if it doesn't change the outcome, he wants to fulfill his promise to the American people."
Olbermann: "There are really only three possible explanations for all of this. The first is hoped for virtually unanimously by supporters of every candidate and every party, namely that all those elected last Tuesday got in because that's the way the people voted. The second is that some of them got in through the manipulation of a series of insufficiently sophisticated, insufficiently secure computer voting machines that might be hacked into by the nearest nine-year-old. But the third possibility is actually more heart-stopping still, one that threatens the democracy in the way 100 terrorist rings could not, that the President or the district 90 dog catcher or other Republicans or other Democrats were elected because a series of insufficiently sophisticated, insufficiently secure computer voting machines were affected by bad design, bad use, damp ballots, power surges, and/or static cling. To talk about those computers, I'm joined now by an expert in the field. David Dill is a professor of computer science at Stanford University, founder and board director of the nonpartisan group Verified Voting Foundation....I didn't make that up about the static cling. One of the big glitches has been attributed to static electricity. Which of the overall explanations seems likelier to you? A combination of malfunction and misuse? Or deliberate hacking to alter the results?"
David Dill, Verifiedvoting.org: "Malfunctions usually, or the incompetence sometimes is usually the better explanation when you have a choice. There's a big difference between the Carteret County story where the votes are just lost and maybe they have to hold a new election, and the stories of static cling or wet ballots. With the wet ballots, you can do a manual recount, and we can eventually get the answer without holding a new election. With electronic voting, there's no safety net. And so, if you lose the votes, all you can do is hold a new election."
Olbermann: "If there had been hacking, would there be evidence of it? Or are all these stories getting out about these disasters with the computers, in fact, evidence that there hasn't been hacking because we found out about it?"
Dill: "We don't know whether there's hacking or not. I haven't seen convincing evidence that there's been any kind of hacking. I know that there are a lot of different ways to hack the machines. And the auditing that we ought to be doing to catch it is, in many cases, not being done. I, yeah, so basically I don't know."
Olbermann: "You say that the auditing we need to be doing is not being done. Can you be specific? What needs to be done that isn't being done?"
Dill: "Well, first of all, you need audit records, right, you need paper ballots, I think, with the current technology we have. And you need to do the audits....
Olbermann: "I know this is an apples and oranges question, and I'm asking you as an expert in one of the fields, but not necessarily both, but it seems to me that a lot of the skepticism about the presidential results and other results in the election seems to boil down to this one question: Would it be easier to broadly fix the election electronically or to broadly fix the exit polling?"
Dill: "I think accidental error is the most likely explanation if there's a problem with the exit poll. But I'm pretty upset about this whole exit poll problem. And I think that the American people should be. If they're Bush supporters, they should be angry that the election has been called, the legitimacy of the elected person has been called into question. If they're Kerry supporters, maybe they're suspicious. I think that those exit poll companies owe an explanation to the American people, and they owe us the release of the data so that independent experts can check their claims."

Olbermann complained about the lack of media coverage: "As you know, our reporting on the election irregularities began on the Internet Sunday and on Countdown Monday. Last night, ABC News did a brief and dismissive report on the subject. Today, the subject appeared in the Boston Globe, late this afternoon on a CNN political program, and that remains about it for the coverage."

See above for a little bit on CNN's interest in the grand conspiracy. For the November 10 Boston Globe article: www.boston.com

And see the latter part of item #1 in the November 10 CyberAlert for how ABC's Jake Tapper undermined several of Olbermann's claims: www.mediaresearch.org

Olbermann brought aboard Newsweek's Jonathan Alter to commiserate: "Joining me to try to figure out why and whether or not the media can help influence the fixing of the manifold problems, I'm joined again by Newsweek Senior Editor and columnist and NBC News political analyst Jonathan Alter....Even assuming there is nothing nefarious about the national election, why has the cascade of irregularities around this country occurred virtually in a news blackout?"
Alter: "Well, I'm not justifying this, but by way of explanation, I think it's that there's no sense that with a three-and-a-half-million-vote difference, that this would affect the outcome, even if there were widespread irregularities found. So right off the bat, a lot of news organizations are going to say, well, this is a local story about problems here or problems there, but nothing that would turn this into a 2000 election repeat."
Olbermann: "So if it's a local story, though, you're throwing not spotlights on problems but flashlights. And if that's the case, how is anything about the Rube Goldberg voting process of ours and our individual state by state Rube Goldberg processes ever going to be fixed? Because, obviously, the politicians are not going to volunteer to fix it because the system, as it is, benefits incumbents of any party."
Alter praised Olbermann's agenda: "Well, it's a problem. I think we have to look to the political process here to fix it. Congressman Rush Holt has a bill in the House that would require a paper trail. They have legislated nationally already on elections. Remember, these provisional ballots that we've heard about a lot this year, they were mandated by a federal law in the year 2002. If they can mandate provisional ballots, they can mandate other things nationwide to make these elections cleaner and make the voters feel as if their votes have been counted. It's crazy that we're going to have elections soon in Iraq and we can't get our act together here in the United States. So this is about the press and the people starting to exert political pressure. Your program is a great example of it in action so that Congress takes some responsibility and we don't know, if the next election is close, we won't have confidence in it. The only reason we dodged a bullet this time is because the margin was 3.5 million."
Olbermann: "But as a last point, I guess this is, sort of, the journalistic thumb sucking thing here, but if I said to you, a county in the decisive state of Ohio kept the media out, even briefly kept out one of the official ballot count watchers from the ballot count, announced it had been warned by the FBI and Homeland Security that there was this terror threat, a 10 on the scale, and a week later, the FBI and Homeland Security say we never warned anybody about anything, if you're are reporter -- magazine, TV, radio, Internet, you're the town crier -- don't you just say, regardless of the long-term impact, don't you say, 'What a story, I'm heading out there to find out what the hell happened'?"
Alter: "Absolutely. And they should be. And you are absolutely right to be like a dog with a bone on this story. And I think you'll see, over the next few days, other reporters starting to get their act together. Remember, some of them are coming back from vacation. They're pretty exhausted after the election. And you'll hear more about this story in the days and weeks to come."
Olbermann: "Yeah, this is twice in two nights that I've kind of pounded other people in this profession, and I don't mean to do that because it's the longest, I mean, on top of everything else, it was the longest campaign we had, and people just saw John Kerry conceded, and they saw an opportunity to get four days off in a row."
Alter: "Don't give up on it, Keith."
Olbermann: "Thank you, Jon. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. And thanks also for joining us as always, sir."


-- The November 10 CyberAlert item on Olbermann: For the second straight night on Tuesday, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted more than a fourth of his 8pm EST Countdown show to indulging his fantasies about how a few supposed voting glitches, none of which would alter the results, justify contesting the presidential vote outcome. He complained about "the deafening silence from the mainstream media on this story" and denounced his journalistic colleagues as "wimps" for not joining his cause. Olbermann trumpeted how he received 7,500 e-mails about his Monday show with "the ratio of positive to negative holding at about 22 to 1," a sign his program is mainly watched by conspiracy-minded blue-staters. Interviewing Craig Crawford, Olbermann yearned: "Is there in Ohio a case for a recount, a formal contesting, something?" And he wondered: "Did ultimately, did John Kerry concede too soon?" Turning to law professor Jonathan Turley, Olbermann wanted to know: "Do you think there is enough evidence to justify legal action, recount, a contested election?" Meanwhile, on Tuesday's World News Tonight, ABC's Jake Tapper took on and undermined Olbermann's premise. See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- November 9 CyberAlert item on Olbermann: With "Did Your Vote Count? The Plot Thickens" as his on-screen header, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Monday night led his Countdown program with more than 15 straight minutes of paranoid and meaningless claims about voting irregularities in states won by President Bush. Olbermann contended: "There is a small but blood curdling group of reports of voting irregularities and possible fraud -- principally in Ohio and Florida." He began with how, citing "homeland security," one of Ohio's 88 counties blocked media observers from watching the vote-counting, a county whose importance he elevated: "Warren County's polls were among the last in Ohio to close, thus among the last to report and thus among the votes that clinched the state and the election for President Bush." Moving on to Florida, Olbermann recited the results in five small counties "with decided Democratic margins" which used optical scan devices and "suddenly voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Bush." In fact, all the counties Olbermann listed voted for Bush in 2000. Olbermann asked left-wing Democratic Congressman John Conyers: "Do you think that what happened...altered the outcome of the presidential election?" www.mediaresearch.org

Some Repeat Canard Ashcroft "Ordered
Nude Statues Covered"

Attorney General John Ashcroft NBC News and Reuters passed along the canard that Attorney General John Ashcroft, who announced his resignation on Tuesday, had, in the words of NBC's Norah O'Donnell on Wednesday's Today, "ordered nude statues covered so he would no longer be photographed in front of them." Reuters asserted that Ashcroft "once even ordered the robing of two partially nude statues in his department." But National Review's Jay Nordlinger recounted how, though the media delighted in embarrassing conservative AG's by angling photos to show the nude statues behind them, Ashcroft had nothing to do with hanging a TV-friendly blue background cloth in front of the Department of Justice's dingy walls.

On Wednesday's Today, the MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed, O'Donnell reported: "Supporters praised his aggressive use of the Patriot Act. Critics charged his sweeping anti-terror crackdown eroded civil liberties. A devout Christian, early on he ordered nude statues covered so he would no longer be photographed in front of them. He resigned in a five page handwritten letter arguing 'the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.' It was dated over a week ago, November 2nd. But two days after that, the President gave no hint of the resignation."

James Taranto, in his "Best of the Web" column on Wednesday for OpinionJournal.com, picked up on this lead to an unbylined Tuesday Reuters dispatch: "U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a lightning rod of criticism by civil liberties groups for his anti-terror policies after the Sept. 11 attacks and who once even ordered the robing of two partially nude statues in his department, resigned on Tuesday." For the Reuters article in full: news.yahoo.com

Nordlinger discredited the media myth in a May 24, 2002 National Review Online article. An excerpt:

....The war aside, this AG has been swimming in bad raps. Maybe the baddest of them all has been Breastgate. Surely you are familiar with the statues that live in the Great Hall of the Justice Department: the Spirit of Justice (a lady) and the Majesty of Law (a gent). (Spirit has a nickname, by the way: Minnie Lou.) Because these statues are partially nude, they are noticed only during conservative Republican administrations. Minnie Lou and her one exposed breast became famous when photographers gleefully took their picture with Ed Meese, as he announced President Reagan's report on pornography back in the mid 1980s. The presence of the Breast was thought to have "stepped on" the administration's "message." Washington liberals are still yukking about that one today.

The Breast was pretty quiet during the eight years of Janet Reno. As one peeved administration official puts it, "No cameraman was ever at Reno's feet, trying to get a shot of her with that thing." But Minnie Lou's outstanding feature stormed back with Ashcroft. When President Bush visited the Justice Department to rededicate the building to Robert Kennedy, his advance men insisted on a nice blue backdrop: "TV blue," infinitely preferable to the usual dingy background of the Great Hall. Everyone thought the backdrop worked nicely - made for "good visuals," as they say. This was Deaverism, pure and simple. Ashcroft's people intended to keep using it.

An advance woman on his team had the bright idea of buying the backdrop: It would be cheaper than renting it repeatedly. So she did -- without Ashcroft's knowledge, without his permission, without his caring, everyone in the department insists.

But ABC put out the story that Ashcroft, the old prude, had wanted the Breast covered up, so much did it offend his churchly sensibilities. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, ever clever, wrote that Ashcroft had forced a "blue burka" on Minnie Lou. Comedians had a field day (and are still having it). The Washington Post has devoted great space to the story, letting Cher, for example, tee off on it - as she went on to do on David Letterman's show.

And yet the story is complete and total bunk. First, Ashcroft had nothing to do with the purchase of the backdrop. Second, the backdrop had nothing to do with Breast aversion. But the story was just "too good to check," as we say, and it will probably live forever. Generations from now, if we're reading about John Ashcroft, we will read that he was the boob who draped the Boob. The story is ineffaceable....

END of Excerpt

For Nordlinger's 2002 piece in full: www.nationalreview.com

Dan Rather Delivers Powerful Tribute
to Marines in Iraq

CBS Evening News No matter how obnoxious of a conservative-bashing liberal crusader Dan Rather is much of the time, when he returns to his patriotic Texas roots, he does so powerfully -- as he did Wednesday night in concluding the CBS Evening News with an emotional tribute to U.S. Marines. With a photo on screen of a grizzled Marine in Fallujah, Rather urged viewers: "Study it, absorb it, think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride. And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I. Where such men come from and what will happen to our country when they cease to come, we can wonder with worry. But for now, we have them, and they are there in that brown hell known as Iraq. Whatever you may think of the war, they went for the right reason: They loved their country."

At the end of the November 10 newscast, Rather asked: "Now, if I may, with your indulgence, this is personal."

Up on screen, CBS displayed a picture, by Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco, of a Marine in Fallujah with dirt of his face, blood on his nose and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

As the photo enlarged and CBS zoomed in, Rather asserted: "The picture, did you see it? The best war photograph of recent years is in many newspapers today, front page in some. Taken by Luis Sinco of the Los Angeles Times, it is this close-up of a U.S. Marine on the front lines of Fallujah. He is tired, dirty and bloodied, dragging on that cigarette, eyes narrowed and alert, not with the thousand-yard stare of a dazed infantryman so familiar to all who have seen combat firsthand up close. No, this is a warrior with his eyes on the far horizon, scanning for danger. See it, study it, absorb it, think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride. And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I. Where such men come from and what will happen to our country when they cease to come, we can wonder with worry. But for now, we have them, and they are there in that brown hell known as Iraq. Whatever you may think of the war, they went for the right reason [Rather back on screen in place of the picture]: They loved their country. May these men and women of honor, valor, integrity and loyalty know that they, their deeds and their sacrifices are not forgotten. That can be validated by every schoolchild in America being shown the picture and having it explained to them, lest they, and we, forget. For the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Good night."

To view the photo, as posted by the Seattle Times: seattletimes.nwsource.com

In a Flash Player series of photos posted by the LA Times, Sinco narrates descriptions of that picture and others he took: www.latimes.com

To watch CBS Evening News stories, including this one: www.cbsnews.com

We'll also put up, with the posted version of this item, a still shot of the picture as shown by CBS.

-- Brent Baker