CNN's Terror Tapes Under Scrutiny

And now the most fascinating two minutes in television, the latest from the wartime grapevine:

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Pleading Ignorant?
CNN is now finding itself on the defensive over those Al Qaeda videotapes it has been airing this week at length and with much fanfare under the heading "Terror on Tape." After first denying it to the AP and New York Times, CNN now admits it paid an undisclosed sum of money — The Miami Herald says it was $30,000 — to unnamed sources in Afghanistan for the tapes. CNN says as far as it knows the money did not go to Al Qaeda, but Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, who has his own show on CNN, said he would like to know more about who was paid and how much. And he said CNN had "gone overboard in hyping them."

Doesn't Want to Play the Blame Game ...
The nation's largest teacher's union, the National Education Association, seems to be getting a cool reception to its recommendation to teachers that they should not "blame any group for the Sept. 11 attacks." The NEA suggested further that teachers include "instances of American intolerance" in discussing the terrorist atrocities. The Washington Times reports that "teachers nationwide say they will develop lesson plans about Sept. 11 based on students questions and the facts" and not the NEA recommendations.

Using Power for Pull
Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee are reported to be using their power over the national purse to help incumbent colleagues in close elections this fall. Roll Call even quotes Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who chairs a powerful appropriations subcommittee,  as saying to Minnesota's Paul Wellstone, "Paul, let's talk pork. We like you and we want you back." Roll Call notes that the Senate version of the Housing and Urban Development funding bill, which came through Mikulski's panel, set aside $38 million in grants for Minnesota, Missouri, Georgia, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota — all states represented by Democrats in tough races.

Facing Crossover Republican Voters?
Georgia Republicans were expected to cross over in large numbers to vote against the left-wing Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in that state's primary today. Yesterday, voters received phone calls in which a recorded man's voice warned "This is an official notice for Republican voters. It is a violation of state and federal law to attempt to vote in a Democratic primary without proper documentation." In fact, Georgia has an open primary and crossover voting is legal. The McKinney camp said she knew nothing about the message.