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Times Editor Chris Lopez's weblog

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Here today, gone tomorrow

This blog will not be updated for the next two weeks. Vacation time.

More on Downing memo

The reporter from the London Times who initially reported on the Downing Street memo discusses the story in this piece from the Washington Post.


There is growing movement in Washington to develop an exit strategy for Iraq and there is more and more attention being paid to the Downing Street memo and the President's efforts prior to invading Iraq. It will be interesting to see how these stories develop. Today, in Washington, Knight Ridder is reporting that Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Walter Jones, R-N.C., Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, are holding a news conference to discuss legislation calling on President Bush to phase out U. S. troops in Iraq. This follows polls showing public opposition to the war high and rising, and as the military is having trouble meeting its recruitment goals. Is America's support for U.S. involvement in Iraq near a tipping point? Could that force early withdrawal? This will be a story we look at this afternoon.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Sunday's comics

The newsroom learned today that Sunday's comic strips will be wrapped by an advertiser. Our concern is that readers won't be able to find their comics as easily as they ordinarily would on Sunday. As a heads up, look for the Sunday comics wrapped by Kraft, the advertiser. The comics will be inside the Kraft wrap. Our circulation division has alerted our call center to this to take reader phone calls on Sunday morning. When we have issues like this, we work across divisions in the newspaper company to make sure everyone is aware of the change and we're prepared to handle reader phone calls.

tsumani follows

Our science reporter Betsy Mason follows up in tomorrow's paper with a look at how Tuesday’s tsunami served as a reminder that the potential for a destructive wave to hit California is real. She reports that the warning gave coastal residents enough time to head for the hills, but scientists still have no way to predict when an earthquake large enough to trigger a tsunami will hit. Betsy's story appears on our front page on Thursday.

Late night news

The night crew in the newsroom called my home around 9 p.m. to let me know about the earthquake in Crescent City. We discussed the story, as much detail as we knew at that hour, and discussed what to move off the front page if the night crew felt the story warranted the front page. I left that decision to them to determine once they received more information. As it was, they felt comfortable with the story inside, where it played, since there were no injuries or damage to report.

Wood rescue

The rescue of Alamo resident Douglas Wood from insurgents holding him captive in Iraq will be our main focus for tomorrow's paper. That, of course, is subject to change if another major story breaks during the day. For now, the focus will be on Douglas Wood and the rescue effort by Iraq and U.S. military. We won't be able to interview him since he is not in the country and has requested that reporters not contact him for now as he reunites with his family and recovers from his ordeal. We respect those wishes. The focus of the story will be around the rescue and how it was accomplished.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Flag Day

We were criticized by one reader for failing to mention in this morning's newspaper that today is Flag Day. The reader's sentiment is that it’s bad enough that
an entire generation is coming up not knowing the meaning or significance of our National holidays, without having newspapers failing to mention them as well. He makes a good point. We knew it was Flag Day and shot some photographs today that represent Flag Day. We'll run one of those photographs in our local news section, as we do each year. His request, though, was to reflect Flag Day today, rather tomorrow after it's over. Likewise, we were criticized last week for failing to mention the D-Day anniversary on June 6. As I said in an earlier post, my father was part of D-Day as a glider pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling

With all the attention on the Michael Jackson verdict and the Arnold Schwarzenegger call for a special election, this story out of the U.S. Supreme Court that deals with a San Pablo case in Contra Costa County may have escaped your attention. It's a key ruling on juries.
Monday, June 13, 2005

Jackson verdict

The verdict in the Michael Jackson case is coming in. The judge has given Jackson an hour to get to court. Typically, the newsroom buzzes with anticipation. We're in debate about how the verdicts will go.

Tax mechanics

We introduced new content in our Saturday opinion pages. We expanded Saturday's opinion to two pages. Part of the content mix includes a column written by two of our readers called tax mechanics. The column is intended to educate readers on how taxes work. Another new segment on our Saturday opinion pages is a feature called YOUR TURN in which readers sound off on editorials, stories, items they read in the Times. If you would like to sound off, you can email us at We'd be glad to publish your turn.

Monday morning

Two events occupy the newsroom's mind on this Monday morning: 1)Will the Michael Jackson jury come back with a verdict this week? 2) What will Schwarzenegger say when he holds his press conference this afternoon to announce a special election. Both events are stories we need to plan for and anticipate.
Friday, June 10, 2005

Blogs good or bad?

The link I'm sending you to here gets into the debate about whether blogs are a good or bad thing. Weigh in if you want. Seems to me blogs can be done in a variety of ways and can't be characterized as just one method or one way of producing a blog.

Brad and Angelina

One of our front page stories and segment this morning, seen here was around Hollywood and the summer movie season. The commentary by our movie critic Mary Pols looked at today's release of Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I had four or five readers who didn't like it. The sentiment was they didn't want to see Hollywood on the front page.

Friday's schedule

I am in an all-day internal session on Friday. I'll check news developments during breaks to keep myself up to speed on the day's events.
Thursday, June 09, 2005

Education Q&A

Reporter Jackie Burrell reports on teachers in the Mt. Diablo School District taking action to bring attention to their cause. The teachers union and school district are negotiating a new contract. Jackie produced this Q&A to help readers understand this sensitive issue.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005

FBI's case

Here is some of what is in the federal government's arrest affidavit that resulted in the arrest of Hamid Hayat and Umer Hayat, who are accused of lying to the government. The parenthesis signal information taken verbatim from the FBI arrest affidavit: "On Sunday, 05/29/05 at approximately 5:30 am, the Sacramento Division of the FBI was notified, via FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ), that Hamid Hayat, a United States Citizen, was attempting to gain access to the United States via an inbound flight which was scheduled to arrive at San Francisco International Airport at approximately 1:50pm on 05/29/05. During his travel from Korea to the United States, while in flight, it was determined that Hamid was on the "No Fly" list. The plane was immediately diverted, and was ultimately allowed to land in Japan for refueling purposes. While in Japan, Hamid was interviewed by an FBI agent and denied having any connection to terrorism or terrorist activities. Based on Hamid's statements verbal authority was granted to downgrade Hamid from the "No Fly" list to the "Selectee list" so that Hamid could continue his planned travel to the United States. Immigration records indicate that Hamid had departed from the United States on 04/19/03, arriving in Islamabad, Pakistan on 04/21/03. Immigration records also indicate that he departed from Pakistan on 05/27/05, arriving in the United States on 05/29/05."
Interview of Hamid Hayat: "On June 3, 2005, Hamid Hayat was interviewed by special agents of the FBI. During that interview he was specifically asked if he had ever attended any terrorist training camps in Pakistan or in general. He was also asked if he had ever attended a jihadi madrassah (religious school). Hamid stated that he has never attended any type of terrorist training camp or school and is not a jihadi member. He stated that he would never be involved with anything related to terrorism.
"On June 4, 2005 Hamid Hayat voluntarily appeared at a Sacramento office of the FBI to take a polygraph examination that had been requested by the FBI. Hayat, who brought his father with him to the FBI, was informed in advance that the purpose of the polygraph examination was to resolve questions about his possible involvement with terrorist activities. After a brief interview with an FBI agent who showed Hamid some photographs, the polygraph examination was administered and his answers to the relevant questions were found to be indicative of deception. After approximately two more hours of questioning, Hamid admitted that he had, in fact, attended a jihadist training camp in Pakistan. Hamid admitted that he attended a jihadist training camp in Pakistan for approximately 6 months in 2003-2004. Hamid stated that Al-Qaeda supports the camp and provides instructors for the camp. Hamid later confirmed this camp was run by Al-Qaeda. Hamid described the camp as providing structured paramilitary training, including weapons training, explosives training, interior room tactics, hand to hand combat, and strenous exercise. Classroom instruction included ideological rhetoric detailing opposition towards the United States and other non-Muslim countries. Hamid stated that during his weapons training, photos of various high ranking U.S. political figures, including President Bush, would be pasted on their targets. Hamid further stated that he and others at the camp were being trained on how to kill Americans. Hamid stated that although he did not participate in all the available instruction, he was aware the other training was ongoing. Hamid advised that he specifically requested to come to the United States to carry out his Jihadi mission."
The affidavit goes on to detail the interview with Umer Hayat. The arrest affidavit was signed by Special Agent Pedro Tenoch Aguilar.

More on Downing

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's appearance in the U.S. is creating more coverage on the Downing Street memo. This morning, USA Today reported on the memo for the first time and explains why. Even with a bit of an awakening to the story, it still feels like a dying story in the U.S.

Story of interest

Here's a breaking story of interest to the state. The copy comes from the Associated Press: SACRAMENTO (AP) — Federal authorities arrested a father and son after the younger man allegedly acknowledged that he attended an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan to learn “how to kill Americans,” according to published reports.<
Hamid Hayat and his father, Umer Hayat, 47, were arrested over the weekend on charges of lying to federal agents, FBI agent John Cauthen confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday night.<
The men both made a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Tuesday and are being held in Sacramento County Jail.<
According to prosecutors, Hamid Hayat trained to use explosives and other weapons, using photographs of President Bush as targets. The Sacramento Bee reported his age as 22; the Los Angeles Times said he is 23.<
Umer Hayat was charged in the complaint with lying about his son's involvement and his own financing of the terror camp. His attorney, Johnny Griffin III, called the allegations “shocking” but said his client “is charged with nothing more than lying to an agent.”<
The detained men are both U.S. citizens. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski denied a bail request for the elder Hayat, saying he was “a flight risk and a danger to the community.”<
“He just returned from Pakistan where he built a new home and contributed financial assistance to an al-Qaida sponsored program training his son and others to kill Americans whenever and wherever they can be found,” the Bee quoted Nowinski as saying.<
Hamid Hayat's attorney was not present for the court hearing, and Nowinski set a bail hearing for him on Friday.<
Two other Lodi men, Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammed Adil Khan, are being detained on immigration violations, Cauthen said. He said he couldn't give any further details, citing an ongoing investigation.<
Ahmed is the current imam and Khan is the former imam of a mosque in Lodi, the Lodi News-Sentinel reported on its Web site. The men were detained after meeting separately with Umer Hayat on Saturday, the Bee reported.<
Hamid Hayat, who was born in California, recently returned to the state from Pakistan. After first denying any link to terrorist camps, Hayat reportedly told agents that he attended al-Qaida camps in 2003 and 2004.<
“Hamid advised that he specifically requested to come to the United States to carry out his jihadi mission,” according to the affidavit. “Potential targets for attack would include hospitals and large food stores.”<
FBI agents raided the Hayat home on Tuesday, family members told the Times. They seized videocassettes, photographs, fax machines, prayer books and other items.<
Hamid Hayat was on the federal “no fly” list and FBI authorities in Sacramento were alerted by headquarters on May 29 that he was attempting to fly from Korea to San Francisco, the newspapers reported.<
The plane was diverted to Japan, where Hayat was interviewed by the FBI and denied any connection to terrorism before being allowed to fly back to California.<
On June 3, he was interviewed by agents in Sacramento and denied attending any terrorist camps. After a polygraph test the next day showed deception in his answers, Hayat acknowledged spending six months at a training camp in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, the affidavit said.<
Umer Hayat also at first denied that his son went to a terrorist camp but later admitted that he provided a $100 monthly allowance to help his son attend the camp, according to the affidavit.<
Tuesday, June 07, 2005

More on Downing Street memo

Coincidentally, the issue of whether the U.S. press did due diligence in reporting on the Downing Street memo is the subject of this online chat at the Washington Post.

Downing Street memo

I've had two calls today from readers inquiring why we failed to publish a story on a classified government memo in Britain that indicates President Bush wanted to make sure intelligence fit his Iraq policy in 2002. The memo first came to light in the Sunday Times of London and was then reported by Knight Ridder on May 5. Knight Ridder is the corporate owner of the Contra Costa Times. The two readers who called indicated we failed to publish the story because we want to protect President Bush. I have not talked to our national wire desk on their thinking when they saw the story produced by Knight Ridder. Here is the Knight Ridder story that was produced on May 5:

What’s new: A classified government memo in Britain indicates President Bush wanted to make sure intelligence fit his Iraq policy in 2002.
By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON _ A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain’s just-concluded election campaign, indicates that President Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

The document, which summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, reports on a visit to Washington by the head of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence service. The visit took place while the Bush administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war.

“There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable,” the MI-6 chief said at the meeting, according to the memo. “Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD,” weapons of mass destruction.
The memo said that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

The White House has repeatedly denied accusations, made by several top foreign officials, that it manipulated intelligence estimates to justify an invasion of Iraq.

It has instead pointed to the conclusions of two studies, one by the Senate Intelligence Committee and one by a presidentially appointed panel, that cite serious failures by the CIA and other agencies in judging Saddam’s weapons programs.

The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, wasn’t completed until October 2002, well after the United States and United Kingdom had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Saddam’s regime.

The newly disclosed memo, which was first reported by the Sunday Times of London, hasn’t been disavowed by the British government. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington referred queries to another official, who didn’t return calls for comment on Thursday.

A former senior U.S. official called it “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired” during the senior British intelligence officer’s visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

A White House official said the administration wouldn’t comment on leaked British documents.

In July 2002, and well afterward, top Bush administration foreign policy advisers were insisting that “there are no plans to attack Iraq on the president’s desk.”

But the memo quotes British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a close colleague of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, as saying that “Bush had made up his mind to take military action.”

Straw is quoted as having his doubts about the Iraqi threat.
“But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran,” the memo reported he said.
Straw reportedly proposed that Saddam be given an ultimatum to readmit United Nations weapons inspectors, which could help justify the eventual use of force.
Powell in August 2002 persuaded Bush to make the case against Saddam at the United Nations and to push for renewed weapons inspections.
But there were deep divisions within the White House over that course of action. The British document says that the National Security Council, then led by Condoleezza Rice, “had no patience with the U.N. route.”
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is circulating a letter among fellow Democrats asking Bush for an explanation of the document’s charges, an aide said.
Monday, June 06, 2005

D-Day anniversary

My voicemail had two phones calls from readers disappointed we didn't do anything in Monday's paper on the anniversary of D-Day. Last year we made a big splash of it on the 60th anniversary. This year we were quiet. It's also an event my father participated in, so personally I would never forget about D-Day.

One of those days

One of those days of running from meeting to meeting in the newspaper office. The day began at 7 a.m. It is now 6 p.m. and this is the first I've sat at the computer.
Friday, June 03, 2005

Richmond Summit

Here is the agenda for Saturday's Black-on-Black crime summit in Richmond that we've been writing about: 9:00am Prayer Rev. Brenda Sharp
9:05am Selection Joe Sharkey
9:10am Welcome Rev. Andre Shumake, Sr.
9:20am Remarks Police Chief Terry Hudson

9:25am: Intro of Families Rev. Andre Shumake, Sr.
* Landrin Kelly
* Charline Harris
* Bennie Johnson

9:36am Intro. of Vision Statements Rev. Andre Shumake, Sr.
9:40am Rev. Charles Newsome (NAACP)
9:46am Jerrold Hatchett (National Brotherhood Alliance)
9:52am Rhonda Harris (BWOPA)
9:58am Minister David Muhammad (Nation of Islam)

10:04am Break for Morning Sessions (Facilitator/Commentator)

1. Crime & Violence Min. David Muhammad / Rev. Newsome
2. Spiritual Responsibility Rev. Mitchell Martinez / Rev. Don Jones
3. Cultural Awareness Omowale Satterwhite / Terrance Elliot

11:35am Report Backs Each Facilitator (5 Mins. each)

11:50am Break for LUNCH

12:10pm Capt. Cleveland Brown (Richmond Police Department)
12:15pm NOI Jr. Sisters Drill Team
12:20pm Bro. Khalid Elahi – The Four Brothers
12:15pm Frontline Performance and Discussion

1:05 Intro. of Keynote Terrance Elliot
1:10pm Keynote Address Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu

2pm-3:30 Break for Afternoon Sessions (Facilitator/Commentator)

Economic Development Walter Ross / Joe Gross
Political Action Joe Brooks / Ted Smith
Education & Youth Barbara Williams / Ray Muhammad

3:35pm Report Backs/Announcement of Committees

4:15pm-4:25pm Summation Rev. Mitchell Martinez
4:30pm-4:40pm Faces of Violence 9 minute Tape Collage

4:40pm-4:45pm Closing Rev. Mitchell Martinez
Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mayor's conference

On Thursday night I'll drive to Richmond to participate in a meeting with local mayors. It's an annual meeting of mayors. It'll be my first one with this group and it'll be interesting to hear their remarks.

Stuck with ethanol

Tomorrow we take a closer look at the ethanol mixture in California's gasoline after the U.S. EPA today denied California's request to be exempted from a federal gasoline requirement. Environmental reporter Mike Taugher dives into the subject, looking at what it means now that California is stuck with using ethanol.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tomorrow's paper

Some of what's in Thursday's newspaper includes a look at the sharp decline in worker's comp claims in the California and whether the Schwarzenegger administration can take credit. We also have a look at hydrocars and the push in California and the nation to use hybrid vehicles. In our features section we preview an exhibit at the Bedford Gallery in downtown Walnut Creek on clay arts, and in sports we stumble into today's water cooler topic of the day, that being the San Francisco 49ers and its ill-fated effort to bring sensitivity training to its players in a not so sensitive way. That story was displayed prominently in the SF Chronicle after a tape of the video was leaked to that newspaper. It's always fun when someone drops a dime on another person. Having been a pro football beat writer in Colorado, I can imagine the hootin' and hollerin' that went on inside the 49ers complex when the players were shown the video, and the embarrassment the organization feels now that the tape has been leaked.

Wash Post Newsroom

More here on what Tuesday was like inside the Washington Post newsroom. Also, the neighborhood in Santa Rosawhere Felt lives reacts to the news.