Detainees Flushed Koran, But NYT Hardly Notices
Saturday's prominent Page One story by Eric Schmitt opens with the Pentagon report released Friday by lead investigator Brigadier General Jay Hood and details Koran "abuse" findings: "A military inquiry has found that guards or interrogators at the Guantnamo Bay detention center in Cuba kicked, stepped on and splashed urine on the Koran, in some cases intentionally but in others by accident, the Pentagon said on Friday. The splashing of urine was among the cases described as inadvertent. It was said to have occurred when a guard urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into a detainee's cell. The detainee was given a fresh uniform and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded and assigned to guard duty that kept him from contact with detainees for the remainder of his time at Guantnamo, according to the military inquiry. The investigation into allegations that the Koran had been mishandled also found that in one instance detainees' Korans were wet because guards on the night shift had thrown water balloons on the cellblock."
The allegations, several "incidents" spread out over several years, dont add up to much, argues Ed Morissey of the Captain's  Quarters  blog: "All of this hue and cry over how we treat printed material - and even the steps that the Pentagon put in place to treat it 'respectfully,' such as requiring gloves and such - demonstrate a complete lack of perspective about who and what our enemy is.Can you imagine our grandparents having this kind of debate had an American guard pissed on Mein Kampf at a POW camp for German POWs?"
And Schmitt fails to detail perhaps the most enlightening part of the report, as Gen. Hood outlined  Friday and which is noted by the Washington Post: Fifteen instances of inmates desecrating the Koran themselves.
Among the findings of Hood's report left almost unmentioned by the Times (but not the Post): "These included using a Quran as a pillow, ripping pages out of the Quran, attempting to flush a Quran down the toilet and urinating on the Quran." In other words, as CNN notes in a surprising headline : "Detainees, not soldiers, flushed Quran."
Yet Schmitt glides over that in a one-sentence paragraph buried at the back of the story: "The report also found 15 incidents in which detainees had mishandled the Koran."
For the rest of Schmitt on Koran "abuse," click here: 
"Thousands" Sent to Stalin's Gulag?
Saturday's story from Lizette Alvarez focuses on Bush's criticism of recent report from Amnesty International, the left-wing human rights group under fire for likening Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where many captured in battle in Afghanistan are being held, to the Soviet gulag, where millions of innocents were worked to death through slave labor.
Under the headline "Rights Group Defends Chastising of U.S," Alvarez writes: "An official of Amnesty International said Friday that the term gulag in its annual report to describe the United States prison camp at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, was chosen deliberately, and she shrugged off harsh criticism of the report by the Bush administration.The report, released May 25, placed the United States at the heart of its list of human rights offenders, citing indefinite detentions of prisoners at Guantnamo Bay, prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and secret renditions of prisoners to countries that practice torture. But it is the use of the word gulag, a reference to the complex of labor camps where Stalin sent thousands of dissidents, that has drawn the most attention."
Thousands? That's off by about a thousand-fold.
On Sunday, Stephen Lee Myers gets closer  to the truth, calling the gulag "the vast networks of camps that swallowed millions during the Great Terror of the 1930's and afterward, often for little more than offending the man in charge."
Alvarez gives Amnesty the benefit of the doubt in the PR wars: "Long used to biting criticism, the group said this was the first time one of its reports had drawn the public wrath of the United States president and vice president, its secretary of defense, its secretary of state and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ms. Gilmore said the response was telling. 'When we see a government at this level engaging in rhetorical attacks and avoiding dealing with the details or the facts,' she said, 'we interpret that as being a sign that we are starting to have an impact.'"
More PR: "There has been no internal discussion about the wisdom of having used the term and certainly no sense of regret, Ms. Gilmore said, although the group has found the unrelenting focus on the word, and not the contents of the report, irritating. 'On the other hand,' she added, 'we're getting more airing of our message than we would have otherwise.' So far, Washington's reaction has galvanized support for Amnesty International, she said. In the past week, the United States branch of the group has reported an increase in memberships, donations and volunteers."
Even her passive critique of Amnesty is angled toward assuming the group is in the right: "While the substance of the report was defended by human rights organizations and others, several said Amnesty International had erred in using the word gulag, if only because it allowed the Bush administration to change the conversation."
Near the end, Alvarez does note criticism from Sir Nigel Rodley, AI's legal adviser from 1973-1990: "Sir Nigel, who said that having been Amnesty International's legal adviser from 1973 to 1990 he represents the old guard, also said that the organization should have avoided using an inflammatory term that did not precisely apply. He also said the 'lapse' lent credence to a growing chorus of concerns that Amnesty, which was founded in 1961 to lobby for political prisoners and has since expanded into the areas of poverty, domestic violence and AIDS, had overextended itself and lost focus."
Sunday's lead editorial, "Un-American by Any Name," also tackles Bush's response to the Amnesty report. Unlike the Washington Post editorial  page, which found the use of the term 'gulag "dramatic, overwrought and, yes, outrageous," the Times sniffs: "What Guantnamo exemplifies - harsh, indefinite detention without formal charges or legal recourse - may or may not bring to mind the Soviet Union's sprawling network of Stalinist penal colonies. It certainly has nothing in common with any American notions of justice or the rule of law."
For the full article form Alvarez, click here: 
For the editorial, click here: 
None Dare Call It "Derision"
Conservative beat reporter David Kirkpatrick files a sympathetic report Monday on Republican Sen. George Voinovich, under fire from some in his party for a tearful speech on the Senate floor where he teared up in opposition to Bush's United Nations nominee, John Bolton: "Senator George V. Voinovich, the only Republican to speak out on the Senate floor against the president's nomination of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, brought an unusual show of emotion to his case. Mr. Voinovich choked up."
Kirkpatrick rediscovers  a common Times' recipe, "ire of conservative": "In a news conference on Tuesday, the president affirmed his commitment on both fronts, mocking the judicial compromise and castigating the Democrats for delaying Mr. Bolton's nomination. And in Ohio, where a social conservative groundswell helped Mr. Bush win the 2004 election, the rebellions of its senators combined to draw considerable ire from Mr. Bush's conservative base."
Then he argues: "Other conservatives have made him a target of derision. 'Weepy Voinovich Begs for 'No' Vote on Bolton' the headline read on a Web site run by the conservative Media Research Center for radio hosts and others."
That's a strange quibble, given that the headline over Kirkpatrick's very own story on Voinovich reads, "A Teary-Eyed Rebel Defies Party Leaders." Of course, "weepy" and "teary-eyed" mean the same thing, and Microsoft Word's thesaurus delivers up "tearful" as its top synonym for "weepy."
Is the Times making Voinovich a "target of derision" as well?
To read more of Kirkpatrick on Voinovich, click here: 
Madonna, Bono to Africa's Rescue
"U.S. Challenged to Increase Aid to Africa," reads the headline of Celia Dugger's Sunday story on foreign aid: "A powerful consensus is building for a doubling of aid to Africa among the world's heavyweight donors, except the United States, a divide that is likely to come into sharp relief this week when Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain arrives in Washington to meet with President Bush. Mr. Blair, America's closest ally, hopes to shake loose more American aid for Africa. He is expected to ask Mr. Bush on Tuesday to join the leaders of other rich nations in forging a kind of Marshall Plan for Africa; Mr. Blair has called the continent's deepening poverty 'the fundamental moral challenge of our time.'"
Dugger uses elevated language to describe the plan: "Britain is far from alone. The European Union has found its collective voice on global poverty, too. Its 25 member nations agreed unanimously on May 24 to almost double assistance to poor countries over the next five years."
Later she recites misleading  (but for Times readers, familiar) statistics to portray America as a global skinflint as opposed to the world's biggest donor: "In the longer run, if Europe does rapidly accelerate aid, it will intensify a trend, more than a generation in the making, that has left European nations the world's dominant donors. While the United States is still the single largest donor, giving about a quarter of the total, it is next to last in the share of national income it gives - 16 cents of each $100. On average, major European nations give more than twice as much - 36 cents of each $100. And they plan to raise that level to 51 cents of $100 by 2010."
On the same theme is Monday's lead editorial, which reads like a liberal primal scream from the early 70s, from the knee-jerk liberal headline ("Just Do Something") to the worship of gaudy good intentions over historical results: "The leading nations of Europe have pledged long-term financial support. Leading entertainers like Madonna, Bono, Will Smith and Elton John have announced a set of simultaneous concerts to take place in London, Rome, Berlin and Philadelphia to mobilize grass-roots enthusiasm."
The paper doesn't mention that the upcoming concerts, dubbed "Live Eight" by impresario Bob Geldof, are a follow up to Geldof's 1985 Live Aid concerts, which raised money for famine victims in Ethiopia but made little  impact .
Yet the Times positions the U.S. as the only thing in the way of a happy future for Africa: "Only one crucial element is still missing - the wholehearted support of the United States government. Unless President Bush joins this effort in the five weeks remaining before the summit meeting to be held in July in Scotland, Africa's hopes will be disappointed and America's image in the eyes of a world that once looked to it for enlightened leadership will be further diminished. Mr. Blair will be in Washington this week trying to persuade Mr. Bush to do the right thing."
For Dugger's full article, click here: 
For the full editorial, click here: