Wednesday, March 17, 2004

New Bush Ad Assails Kerry on Iraq Vote

WASHINGTON - President Bush, trying to counter John Kerry's record as a decorated Vietnam War veteran, argues in a new campaign ad that his Democratic rival has turned his back on U.S. soldiers engaged in war.

"Though John Kerry voted in October of 2002 for military action in Iraq, he later voted against funding our soldiers," the Bush-Cheney campaign ad says.

The four-term Massachusetts senator backed the congressional resolution authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq. The 30-second commercial focuses on Kerry's vote last year against an $87 billion aid package for Iraq and Afghanistan, contending that the vote denied troops body armor and higher combat pay, and reservists better health care.

The Kerry campaign responded that the Democrat voted against "the failed Bush policy in Iraq" not against soldiers, and faulted Bush for "refusing to take responsibility" for the aftermath of the war.

"He has a mounting, widening and deepening credibility gap in his ability to take care of the troops," said Stephanie Cutter, a Kerry spokeswoman.

Bush's ad, which started airing Tuesday in West Virginia, is designed to counter Kerry's potential appeal — his Vietnam record — in the state that boasts more than 203,000 veterans. It's the first sign of a new strategy for the Bush team: ads targeted to specific states.

Bush is airing commercials criticizing Kerry in 18 states and nationally on cable networks. The new ad is running only in West Virginia, where Kerry was campaigning Tuesday, but Bush advisers said it may run elsewhere where polls and focus groups show it would be successful, if not nationwide.

In 2000, Bush's campaign primarily stuck to a single nationwide theme at a time in its TV advertising. This year, it will pair the global ads with spots crafted for specific states, according to campaign advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In this case, the officials said, criticizing Kerry's record on military issues both undercuts his appeal as a veteran and underscores the White House's argument that he says one thing and does another.

"He's accusing the president of things that his record actually says he did," said Matthew Dowd, Bush's chief strategist.

Kerry's campaign argues that Bush's foreign policies have meant extended deployments and delayed pay for soldiers, and cuts to health care benefits for veterans.

"He refuses to take responsiblity for his failed policies and as a result has no record to run on except attacking John Kerry," Cutter said.

Bush's new ad intersperses pictures of the Capitol building and the Senate floor with scenes of soldiers. The campaign said some of the soldiers are actors. Other scenes, from stock footage the campaign bought from companies, show real troops.

The military has rules limiting troops in ads to avoid the appearance of an endorsement by a certain branch or a service member. But a Pentagon official who reviewed the ad said it doesn't appear to violate any Army regulations or Defense Department directives because the commercial does not clearly show the identity of the soldiers or any insignias of a branch.

Kerry criticized Bush on Monday for using actors to pose as journalists and soldiers in Medicare ads and campaign commercials.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Bush open to more time with 9/11 panel

WASHINGTON -- Showing a new flexibility, the Bush administration indicated Tuesday that the president is willing to sit for more than one hour of questioning when he meets with a federal commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The change in posture came one day after the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, suggested Bush was impeding the investigation, which will look, in part, at intelligence surrounding the attacks.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president would "answer all the questions they raise" when he sits with the chairman and vice chairman of the panel in a private session.

In addition, a senior administration official said there is a new willingness by the president to go beyond the hour previously promised to the commission.

However, McClellan reiterated the president will speak only before the chairman and vice chairman -- former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a Republican, and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat -- not the full panel, as had been requested.

Kerry, in a stop in Florida on Monday, used Bush's visit to a Houston, Texas, rodeo and livestock show to criticize him about what some Democrats and families of 9/11 victims have described as his limited cooperation with the panel.

"If the president of the United States can find time to go to a rodeo, he can spend more than one hour before the commission," Kerry said.

McClellan insisted the administration has provided "unprecedented cooperation" with the commission, including already handing over 2 million documents, 60 compact discs and 800 audiocassettes; making 100 administration officials available for interviews; and providing four hours of testimony by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

McClellan and other administration officials argue that a limited amount of time before the panel by the president is justified because the questions would only cover the eighth-month period Bush was in office before the attacks, and that much of the information requested by the panel already has been provided.

The 10-member bipartisan panel is known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

The Bush administration initially opposed the commission's creation in November 2002, and the White House's commitment to the probe has been questioned by Democrats and some family members.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Cheney Says He Supports Gay-Marriage Ban

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday he supports President Bush's call for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, though one of his daughters is gay and he has said in the past the issue should be left to the states.

"The president's taken the clear position that he supports a constitutional amendment," Cheney said in an interview with MSNBC. "I support him."

Cheney said during the 2000 campaign, and again last month, that he prefers to see states handle the issue of gay marriage. His openly lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, is an aide in the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, but the vice president declined to discuss her.

"One of the most unpleasant aspects of this business is the extent of which private lives are intruded upon when these kinds of issues come up," he said. "I really have always considered my private — my daughters' lives private and I think that's the way it ought to remain."

John Aravosis, co-creator of a new Web site that seeks to pressure Mary Cheney into speaking out against a marriage amendment, called the vice president's position hypocritical.

"Now that's rich — the vice president wants to include the details of my private life in the U.S. Constitution yet laments a lack of privacy for his daughter?" Aravosis said. "The vice president can't have it both ways."

Cheney said he will be on Bush's re-election ticket in the fall, as the president himself has said, although there is speculation to the contrary. Cheney, who has had four heart attacks, said his health has been good and he couldn't think of any circumstances that would prompt to decline the role.

"He's asked me to serve again and I'll be happy to do that," Cheney said.

He dismissed talk that he has become a liability to Bush, with Democrats pounding the administration over allegations of profiteering in Iraq by oil services giant Halliburton, which Cheney once headed, and the vice president's frequent but now much-doubted claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"I think the fact that you become a lightning rod is, it goes with the turn," he said. "I'm not concerned about that."

Cheney's popularity with the public has dropped in recent weeks, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey. In October, 43 percent of the public had a favorable view and 26 percent had an unfavorable view. In the last two weeks of February, people were about evenly split, with 33 percent favorable and 36 percent unfavorable.

The vice president's popularity declined with most groups, with the biggest drop among Republicans. Seventy-four percent of Republicans saw him favorably in October and 58 percent viewed him that way in late February. Six in 10 in late February said Bush should keep Cheney as his running mate, while a quarter said Bush should pick someone else.

The Annenberg survey in late February of 2,700 people has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points

In his interview, the vice president also took a shot at the leading Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and his chief rival, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who have skewered Bush over lagging job growth even as the economy improves.

"If the Democratic policies had been pursued over the last two or three years, the kind of tax increases that both Kerry and Edwards have talked about, we would not have had the kind of job growth that we've had," Cheney said.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

AP: FBI Suspected McVeigh Link to Robbers

The FBI believed Timothy McVeigh tried to recruit additional help in the days before the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and gathered evidence that white supremacist bank robbers may have become involved, according to government documents never introduced at McVeigh's trial.

The retired FBI chief of the Oklahoma City investigation, Dan Defenbaugh, said he was unaware of some evidence obtained by The Associated Press and that the investigation should be reopened to determine whether the robbery gang was linked to McVeigh.

The evidence never shared with Defenbaugh's investigators or defense lawyers includes documents showing the Aryan Republican Army bank robbers possessed explosive blasting caps similar to those McVeigh stole and a driver's license with the name of a central player who was robbed in the Oklahoma City plot.

"If the evidence is still there, then it should be checked out," said Defenbaugh, who reviewed the documents at the request of the AP. "If I were still in the bureau, the investigation would be reopened."

The bombing killed more than 160 people and McVeigh was put to death for it in 2001. His co-defendant, Terry Nichols, will stand trial in Oklahoma next week on state charges that carry the death penalty.

Peter Langan, one member of the robbery gang, told the AP he plans to testify at Nichols' trial and that federal prosecutors several years ago offered and then withdrew a plea deal for information he had about the Oklahoma City bombing.

Langan said at least three fellow gang members were in Oklahoma around the time of the bombing and one later confided to him that they had become involved. The gang "had some liability problems as it related to Oklahoma City," Langan alleged in a phone interview from federal prison where he is serving life sentences for the robbery spree involving nearly two dozen Midwest banks in the 1990s.

McVeigh's ex-lawyer said the evidence obtained by the AP is the strongest to date to show what he has argued for years — that the bombing conspiracy may have involved more people than McVeigh and Nichols.

"I think these pieces close the circle, and they clearly show the bombing conspiracy consisted probably of 10 conspirators," attorney Stephen Jones said. "They (government officials) simply turned their backs on a group of people for which there is credible evidence suggesting they were involved in the murder of 160 people."

FBI and Justice Department officials declined comment, citing the upcoming trial.

Agents who worked both the McVeigh bombing and the bank robbery spree — two of the FBI's highest priority cases of the 1990s — said they suspected a link between the two because of physical evidence as well as statements made by the robbers and a girlfriend.

The agents said they ruled out a connection when the bank robbers denied their involvement and provided an alibi showing they left Oklahoma three days before McVeigh's bomb detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995.

That alibi, however, was contradicted by information Langan offered prosecutors and by car sales records showing the bank robbers were still in the Oklahoma area after they claimed to have left, FBI documents show.

Defenbaugh said his investigators never were told about the license, the blasting caps or problems with the robbers' alibi, and he first learned of them from the AP this year.

He and other agents said there could be plausible explanations for each — blasting caps are plentiful and the bank robbers were experts in identification fraud — but those questions needed to be answered.

FBI officials couldn't explain why certain information from the robbery investigation wasn't shared with Defenbaugh's team, even though the two teams worked together closely.

McVeigh in 1994 stole from a quarry hundreds of construction blasting caps, some which he used to explode the Oklahoma City bomb. The FBI spent months unsuccessfully trying to locate many of the other stolen caps.

Agents collected witness testimony that McVeigh had placed some of the extra caps in two boxes wrapped in Christmas paper in the back of his car along with mercury switches and duffel bags.

One electric and five non-electric blasting caps were found in the Aryan Republican Army robbers' Ohio hideout in January 1996, along with mercury switches, a duffel bag and two items described as a "Christmas package," FBI records show. Rather than analyze the caps as evidence, the FBI allowed firefighters to destroy them at the scene.

The destruction "in itself was in total violation of the FBI's regulations and the rules of evidence," Defenbaugh said. "If there was Christmas wrapping paper, that should really have been a key to people. That should have keyed interest, and caused them to be compared by the laboratory to see if these were from McVeigh."

The FBI took photos of the caps and kept the driver's license but refused repeated requests from AP to release them.

Defenbaugh said he also was concerned his investigation was never told the bank robbers had an Arkansas drivers' license in the name of Robert Miller, the alias name used by Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore.

The government contended at McVeigh's trial that Moore was robbed at his Hot Springs, Ark., home in November 1994, and the proceeds were used to fund the Oklahoma City bombing.

McVeigh was in Ohio the day Moore was robbed, staying in a hotel near a bank the robbers would hit just one month later.

FBI agents were so suspicious of a link they analyzed video footage of the robbery to see whether McVeigh participated, but the FBI lab reported the comparison of McVeigh's picture to the bank surveillance video was inconclusive. That video was destroyed in 1999 by the FBI despite rules to the contrary.

A few months after Moore's robbery, McVeigh and the gun dealer exchanged letters in which Moore went by the name Robert Miller, the same alias on the license bank robber Richard Guthrie possessed when he was arrested in 1996.

"If the license is the same as our Roger Moore, then I'm really concerned," Defenbaugh said.

Defenbaugh said he also was unaware that the government recovered a videotape from the robbers that included surveillance of several properties. Langan said he suspects the tape includes footage of Moore's home where the 1994 robbery occurred.

Adding to the intrigue, a death row inmate who has written a book about his experiences with McVeigh inside prison alleges the convicted Oklahoma City bomber told him the bank robbery gang assisted the bombing plot.

David Paul Hammer, a convicted murderer set to be executed in June, said he has no way of knowing whether McVeigh told him the truth but he kept notes from his conversations and believes prison officials surreptitiously recorded some conversations. His book, due out next month, details what McVeigh told him about the robbers.

"He (McVeigh) knew they were involved because he said he planned it with them," Hammer said. "He said they were part of what he called his security detail."

FBI agents acknowledged they investigated suspicions of a link between McVeigh and the bank robbers.

When bank robber Mark Thomas was indicted in January 1997 he told reporters that at least one gang member was involved in the Oklahoma bombing, according to a newspaper clip in FBI files. "Your young Mr. Wizard took out the Murrah building," Thomas was quoted as saying of one of his bank robbery colleagues.

Thomas' ex-girlfriend told FBI agents her boyfriend stated shortly before he traveled to a white supremacist compound at Elohim City, Okla., in spring 1995 that a federal building was about to be bombed.

"We are going to get them. We are going to hit one of their buildings during the middle of the day. It's going to be a federal building," Donna Marazoff quoted Thomas as saying during her FBI interview.

FBI agents also recovered a video tape from the bank robbers in which they vowed a war with the government and talked about a "courthouse massacre" while holding up a copy of an explosives manual.

Thomas could not be located for comment, but was quoted in FBI interview reports as saying "he could not recall ever saying anything to Donna Marazoff about blowing anything up or about taking part in any bombings."

The FBI agents said they dropped the inquiry after Thomas, Guthrie and other members of the ARA gang were captured in 1996 and 1997, denied their involvement in McVeigh's bombing and provided an alibi.

The alibi, according to FBI records, was that the bank robbers left Elohim City on April 16, 1995, and went to a house in Kansas to meet with Langan three days before the bombing. But the FBI's own records conflicted with that account.

Used car sales records gathered by the FBI showed the gang purchased a truck on April 17, 1995, on the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, then returned to Elohim City to sell an old vehicle.

Langan said he offered to tell prosecutors back in 1996 that the bank robbers' alibi was bogus. "They didn't return to the house until the morning of April 20," Langan claimed.

A January 1996 FBI teletype stated the FBI had received information from an informant that McVeigh had made repeated contacts with the Elohim City compound where the bank robbers frequently stayed.

The teletype said McVeigh called the compound April 5, 1995, on "a day that he was believed to have been attempting to recruit a second conspirator to assist in the OKBOMB attack." At the time, at least two banks robbers were present, FBI records show.

Defenbaugh said while the evidence was never introduced at McVeigh's trial, FBI agents did believe McVeigh was seeking to recruit additional help to facilitate his getaway. But he said the FBI failed to find any evidence McVeigh received help or made other contacts to Elohim City except for the one call.

The documents show FBI agents first suspected a possible link in summer 1995 when Guthrie left behind at the site of two bank robberies a newspaper article about the Oklahoma City bombing with McVeigh's picture circled.

Langan said the robbers became fearful Guthrie might recklessly implicate them in the Oklahoma City bombing, and in fall 1995 discussed killing Guthrie. Guthrie eventually committed suicide after his capture by authorities the following spring.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

White House downplays job predictions

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House backed away Wednesday from its own prediction that the economy will add 2.6 million new jobs before the end of this year, saying the forecast was the work of number-crunchers and that President Bush was not a statistician.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan, asked repeatedly about the forecast, declined to embrace the prediction which was contained in the annual economic report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Unemployment and the slow pace of job creation are political liabilities for Bush as he heads into a battle for re-election. Despite strong economic growth, the nation has lost about 2.2 million jobs since he became president.

The jobs forecast was the second economic flap in recent days for the White House. Last week, Bush was forced to distance himself from White House economist N. Gregory Mankiw's assertion that the loss of U.S. jobs overseas has long-term benefits for the U.S. economy.

Asked about the 2.6 million jobs forecast, McClellan said, "The president is interested in actual jobs being created rather than economic modeling."

He quoted Bush as saying, "I'm not a statistician. I'm not a predictor."

"We are interested in reality," McClellan said

He said the annual economic report was based on data from about three months ago. Since then, Bush has said that things are improving.

The issue arose at the White House after Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Commerce Secretary Don Evans declined to endorse the jobs prediction and said it was based on economic assumptions that have an inherent margin of error. They spoke during a tour through Oregon and Washington to promote the president's economic agenda.

"The number-crunchers will do their job. The president's job is to make sure we're creating as robust an environment as possible for job-creation," McClellan said. "That's where his focus is."

"This is economic modeling. ... some have said it would be lower," he said.

"The president has said he is not a statistician. He is most concerned about whether people are hurting and able to find jobs," McClellan said.

"The economy is moving in the right direction ... but there is more to do," he said.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

U.S. to Start Airline Background Checks.

WASHINGTON - Homeland Security officials say a government plan to check all airline passengers' backgrounds before they board a plane could be implemented by this summer.

It's such an urgent priority that the government will order airlines to provide background information on their customers to test the program, Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson said Monday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hutchinson said he wants to begin testing this spring. His spokesman, Dennis Murphy, said the plan could be fully operational by summer.

"The information that is given by a passenger to the airlines is important for us to have — in terms of name, address, date of birth — so we can properly assure the safety of a particular flight," Hutchinson said.

The Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS II, would screen all passengers by checking that information against commercial and government databases. Each passenger would be given one of three color-coded ratings.

Suspected terrorists or violent criminals would be designated "red" and forbidden to fly. Passengers who raised questions would be classified "yellow" and would receive extra security screening. Most would be "green" and simply go through routine screening.

Screening some foreigners after fingerprinting and photographing them already has resulted in 70 people being stopped from entering the country, although the foreigners-only program is only three weeks old, Hutchinson said.

Though none was a terrorist suspect, Hutchinson said the program, called US-VISIT, proved its ability to spot people trying to use fraudulent immigration documents to gain entry, he said.

US-VISIT is in place at 115 airports and a dozen seaports and allows U.S. authorities to check people instantly against terrorist watch lists and a national criminal database.

It's CAPPS II that has been criticized by privacy advocates, who contend it infringes on civil liberties and might wrongly label people as security threats.

U.S. airlines have been reluctant to cooperate with the government because of those concerns and possible backlash from passengers.

Northwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines already have come under fire for sharing passenger information with the government without letting customers know. They were criticized for voluntarily passing information in violation of their privacy policies.

Jim May, president of the Air Transport Association, the major airlines' trade group, said it's imperative that protections for passengers be in place before the government issues any directives to make the procedure mandatory. He questioned whether that can happen fast enough to allow full implementation this summer.
Top airline executives met at the Air Transport Association last week to discuss their misgivings about CAPPS II and agreed to work with the Homeland Security Department to ensure that traveler privacy is protected.

Hutchinson said the government will work with airlines to deal with their uneasiness but will compel them to participate.

"We expect at this point the airlines will want a clear rule or directive from the government before they'd release information," he said.

European airlines already have agreed to provide data, he said.

Testing would use old passenger data from the airlines' reservation systems, spokesman Murphy said. If it should happen to identify a terrorist suspect, Murphy said law enforcement officials would be notified.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Hutchinson said air cargo also is getting increased attention from federal security officials. Just before the national threat level was raised to orange, or high risk of terror attack during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the government required random physical inspections of cargo loaded into the bellies of passenger planes, he said.

Hutchinson also said the National Football League's Super Bowl has been designated a special security site, which means extra resources will be devoted to security for the game in Houston. Pilots already have been notified of temporary flight restrictions over the stadium.
Candidates Wait As Voting Begins in N.H.

CONCORD, N.H. - Wesley Clark won the initial votes cast Tuesday morning in New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary, but final pre-primary polls rated Sen. John Kerry the favorite.

The first state primary has upset more than its share of front-runners over the years. At stake are only 22 national convention delegates, but the hope of incalculable political momentum for the winner in the race to pick a Democratic challenger to President Bush.

The first votes were cast in ritual fashion shortly after midnight in the northern hamlets of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location. Clark had 14, Kerry eight, Sen. John Edwards and Howard Dean four each and Sen. Joseph Lieberman one.

All five of the major rivals arranged a last round of appearances during the day, capping a campaign that also included at least $9 million in television advertising.

"A few weeks ago this campaign was on the endangered species list," Kerry said Monday, referring to his startling comeback a week ago in the Iowa caucuses.

This time, it was Dean who campaigned for a surprise.

"I'm not sure it's a dead heat, but it's close and it's closing very fast," the former Vermont governor said, struggling to steady a campaign off balance since his third place finish in the Iowa caucuses and subsequent highly animated appearance before supporters.

After the heated exchanges of Iowa, the final eight days of the New Hampshire campaign were mild by comparison. Scarcely a jab was thrown in a debate last week, as if the candidates decided that Iowa voters had punished Dean and Rep. Dick Gephardt for an outbreak of attack politics.

Gephardt dropped out of the race on the day after the caucuses, and New Hampshire has historically sent also-rans to the sidelines as well.

Given the stakes, the civility wore thin in the last day or two of campaigning.

"Foreign policy experience depends on patience and judgment," Dean said on Monday. "I question Senator Kerry's judgment," he said in a continuation of his challenge to Kerry's support of last year's invasion of Iraq and his earlier opposition to the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Kerry left it to an aide, Stephanie Cutter, to respond.

"Howard Dean wouldn't know good judgment on foreign policy if he fell over it. Remember, this is the same man who has said that the nation was not safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein, said we shouldn't take sides in the Middle East, and that Osama bin Laden should get a jury trial," she said.

Dean also dismissively lumped Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman together. "I'm not here to pick a fight with" the three members of Congress, he said, "All I'm saying is Washington is a place where sitting on a committee is considered to be experience."

Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran, helicoptered his way around the state on Monday, making six stops before winding up at his Manchester headquarters late at night.

Dean has campaigned energetically for the votes of women in recent days, and Kerry wasn't conceding anything.

"I'm the only candidate running for president who hasn't played games, fudged around" on the issue of abortion, he said.
"If you believe that choice is a constitutional right, and I do, and if you believe that Roe v. Wade is the embodiment of that right ... I will not appoint a justice to the Supreme Court of the United States who will undo that right."

Aides to Dean and Edwards' both took exception to Kerry's claim.

"Edwards has had a 100 percent record supporting a woman's right to choose," spokesman Roger Salazar said.

Edwards, who finished a strong second in Iowa last week, jabbed at Kerry as part of what aides described as an effort to finish no lower than third.

"It's one thing to talk about special interests," he said. "It's something else to do something about it." He emphasized he was not attacking Kerry, a Massachusetts senator. "It's a difference between Senator Kerry and me."

Clark also sought to position himself as apart from Washington.

"I'm an outsider. I'm not part of the problem in Washington. I've never taken money from a lobbyist. I've never cut a deal for votes," he said.

His campaign said lobbyists have donated roughly $20,000 to Clark's candidacy.

Lagging in the polls, Lieberman sought support from independents who helped Sen. John McCain of Arizona to victory in the 2000 Republican primary.

"It matters a lot to me that a lot of McCainiacs in New Hampshire have become Liebermaniacs," he said at a rally at the statehouse in Concord.

"They don't give a damn about the polls in New Hampshire," he said, then laughed and added, "I do want to mention parenthetically we are going up in the polls.

McCain, meanwhile, campaigned as a surrogate for Bush, whom he defeated handily in the state four years ago.

Monday, January 26, 2004

'Rings' wins four Golden Globes.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" reigned Sunday evening at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The final installment of the trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasies won four Globes, including best picture/drama.

"Lost in Translation" ran a close second, as Sofia Coppola's culture-clash/unrequited romance won three Globes: best picture/comedy, best actor/comedy (Bill Murray) and for Coppola's screenplay.

Clint Eastwood's atmospheric drama "Mystic River" won two acting Globes: Sean Penn -- who didn't attend the ceremony -- for best actor/drama and Tim Robbins for best supporting actor.

HBO's "Angels in America" soared, dominating the TV portion of the Globes. The six-hour production based on playwright Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about AIDS in the '80s won every category in which it was nominated, including best miniseries or movie made for television.

Charlize Theron was named best actress/drama for her performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster." Clearly thrilled about receiving her trophy from Jack Nicholson, she announced, laughing, "He wants to know if I'm nice and relaxed," then let out a shriek not dissimilar to Howard Dean's at last Tuesday's Iowa caucuses.

Diane Keaton was named best actress/comedy for her role in the romantic comedy "Something's Gotta Give." Keaton read her speech word for word from notes (except for an extemporaneous expletive that wasn't quite bleeped out), referring to herself as "a rediscovered eccentric" and exulting in the fact that Hollywood had managed to make a romantic comedy starring "two people whose combined age is 125." Nicholson, her co-star, shook his head incredulously.

When asked backstage if there will be more nudity in her future because of her recent success, the 57-year-old Keaton, who had never appeared naked before in a film, joked, "Always. I'm always going to be doing nudity. I'm going to insist on it in all my contracts."

When Murray faced the press, he reflected on his career by noting, "I've gotten a little older, I guess. I don't get summer-camp movie scripts that often."

While this is the last film in the "Rings" cycle, Jackson seemed undaunted. "The challenge for me in the future is not to try to be better than 'The Lord of the Rings' or bigger. The challenge is to make good movies. I look forward to making lots of different films of different sizes," he said backstage.

For the second year in a row, Renee Zellweger took home a Globe, following last year's best actress win for "Chicago" with one for best supporting actress for "Cold Mountain." Though the film received eight nominations -- the most of any film -- Zellweger signaled its only win.

Other Globes won by "Lord of the Rings" included best director (Peter Jackson), best original score (Howard Shore), and best song ("Into the West").

Michael Douglas received the Cecil B. DeMille Award, honoring "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment." In introducing Douglas, his friend Danny DeVito declared, "We didn't know if Michael was going to become an actor or a gynecologist, and we're very happy that he chose both."

The Afghan film "Osama," about a young girl posing as a boy to escape oppression from the Taliban in pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan, was named best foreign language film.

The Hollywood Foreign Press scarcely has the same trepidation at giving awards to acclaimed TV-cable projects that plagues the Emmy Awards. Sunday night, it awarded the best TV series/comedy trophy to "The Office," which is seen on BBC America, the smallest network in the category. Still, series co-creator and star Ricky Gervais needed to be told that the event was sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press.

"I'm not from around these parts," he offered by way of explaining his ignorance. "I'm from a little place called England -- we used to run the world before you." Gervais also won the trophy for best TV actor/comedy.

HBO won in seven of the 11 television categories Sunday evening. NBC, the network broadcasting the event, went home empty-handed except for the advertising revenue for expected good ratings.

In addition to its trophy for best miniseries or movie made for television, "Angels in America" won Globes for best actor (Al Pacino), actress (Meryl Streep), supporting actor (Jeffrey Wright) and supporting actress (Mary-Louise Parker).

Streep, who was also a winner last year (for "Adaptation"), offered the evening's only vaguely political comment. In an otherwise playful acceptance speech, Streep got serious momentarily, referring to President George W. Bush's assailing gay marriage in his State of the Union speech, declaring, "I don't think the biggest (problem) in America (is) that people want to commit their lives to one another."

Parker was scarcely political, but made some dough on her acceptance speech. "Janel Maloney (Parker's former co-star on "The West Wing") told me she'd pay me $1,000 if I thanked my newborn son for making my boobs look so good in this dress," Parker said with a laugh, adding, "get out your checkbook!"

Fox's "24," the real-time terrorism thriller, was named best TV series/drama. Sarah Jessica Parker seemed flustered as she accepted her trophy for best actress in a TV series/comedy for HBO's soon-to-depart "Sex and the City." Frances Conroy of HBO's "Six Feet Under" was named best actress in a TV drama. Anthony LaPaglia of CBS's "Without a Trace" was named best actor/TV drama; after heading for the stage wings, he returned to the microphone and announced, "I'll get killed if I don't do this -- and thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press."

Apparent death threats to winners who don't thank them notwithstanding, this has been a challenging season for the HFPA. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pushed its own Oscar ceremony up a month in a pointed effort to blunt the influence of other awards, particularly the Golden Globes. Oscar nominees will be announced Tuesday, meaning Globe victories will have no effect on the nomination process. Moreover, a recent documentary by an Oscar-winning director on the cable network Trio attacked the HFPA and the validity of its awards program (in fact, Trio repeated the film during the ceremony).

The attending controversies certainly didn't dissuade any celebrities from participating in the proceedings. And unlike the bloated leviathan that is the Academy Awards show, the Globes actually finished before its scheduled time.

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