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Michael Calderone at Politico has gotten comment from the New York Times Washington bureau chief, Dean Baquet, about the paper's changes -- sans correction -- to the online version of a story on freed Guantanamo detainees engaging in terrorism that was on the front page of the print paper Thursday.

At issue were changes to the headline and lead of the story that amounted to a walk back of its original claim that one in seven Gitmo detainees "returned" to terrorism. The headline shifted from "1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds" to "Later Terror Link Cited for 1 in 7 Freed Detainees."

The difference is between a story about the government blundering by letting hardened terrorists free, only to rejoin the fight against America, and a more complicated story in which some Gitmo detainees may have become radicalized while imprisoned.

Baquet thinks the changes, which would seem to speak to basic assumptions about the nature of Guantanamo, were no big deal, and therefore did not warrant notifying Times readers in a correction or editor's note.

Here's what he told Calderone:

Reading some of the criticism it seems that people are saying it undercut the story. It did not. The story was about the estimate of the number of people who ended up, by DOD"s account, as being engaged in terrorism or militant activity after leaving Gitmo. That still stands. The change was an acknowledgment that some assert that not everyone in Gitmo is truly a terrorist. Some critics have said that Gitmo is also filled with people who aren't truly terrorists.

Anyone who is reading a significant retreat in the story, or as us somehow saying the story is wrong is looking for politics where it ain't.


The problem here is that the use of variations on the word "return" throughout the original story was wrong and significant. And keep in mind that the story was pounced on by right-wing media and picked up on cable, where the "returned to jihad" phrasing was endlessly parroted. (Others have pointed out the credulousness of the piece on other fronts.) As we said above, the use of this phrasing speaks to important assumptions about what happened at Guantanamo -- and, potentially, how we deal with detainees there in the present. Which is presumably the same reason why the Times rewrote the headline and lead of the piece.

WaPo: White House To Steer G.M. Into Bankruptcy The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is preparing to send General Motors into a planned bankruptcy as the end of next week, with the intention to give the company nearly $30 billion more in aid to help them restructure.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will sign the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, at 9 a.m. ET in the Rose Garden. At 10 a.m. ET, he will deliver the commencement at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. At 3 p.m. ET, he will return to the Rose Garden to sign the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act.

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The American Clean Energy and Security Act--also known as the Waxman-Markey bill--was reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last night. The vote was split almost perfectly down party lines, with 33 in favor and 24 opposed.

Now Democratic leaders faces a dilemma. Normally they would move the bill on to the floor of the House and it would receive an up or down vote (subject to various stall tactics, and so forth). But yesterday, The Hill reported that Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)--House Agriculture chairman--is threatening to whip all of the Democrats on his panel into voting no on passage unless that committee is given equal jurisdiction over the legislation and is allowed to mark it up on its own. If he gets his way, the legislation could lose yet more of its teeth. If he doesn't (and if he's able to make good on his threat) then it may not pass at all.

We'll see how this shakes out.

President Obama talks with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward at a community service event on the South Lawn of the White House with the Superbowl champions, May 21, 2009.

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Steelers President Art Rooney II presents President Obama with a team jersey.

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President Obama joined the team to fill care packages for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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May 21, 2009

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TPMDC's daily update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Climate Change: The marathon mark up of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill continued today, with at least one moment of levity as a speed reader, hired by Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats to motor through Republican delay tactics, was called before the panel to read part of an amendment. Incidentally, if you want to track changes to the bill amendment by amendment, you can do so here. The committee's work may be done as soon as tonight.


  • Defense Spending: The Senate invoked cloture on the supplemental war-spending bill, now bereft of funds for closing down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It's unclear why cloture had to be filed--the final tally was 94-1, the lone dissent being a protest vote by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)--but I guess if the GOP didn't insist on cloture, government might get things done quickly, and that would be dispositive of the whole philosophy of conservatism

That GOP effort to get a congressional investigation into Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA lied to her about torture? Looks like it didn't get too far.

The Associated Press reports that the House voted by 252-172 to block the measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah. Two GOPers, Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina, joined Democrats in voting against it.

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When the California government decided to address his state's budget crisis by slashing pay for home health care workers, and cutting three-quarters of a billion dollars in Medi-Cal healthcare programs for the poor, the White House was furious. So was the SEIU. This is a recession, they reasoned, and those are poor and working class people. Citing the terms of the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, the Obama administration threatened to withhold $6.8 billion in federal stimulus funds unless the California legislature revoked the wage cut.

Obama "went straight for the most direct way to leverage California from the federal government," writes a source with knowledge of deliberations, "it was a big play, no question."

The right was furious about SEIU's involvement in negotiations, as were California government officials. But their concerns were laid to rest today when Washington decided to back down.

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