In America: Reporter in false ID case linked to smear campaign

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The Independent Online

* Was Jeff Gannon, the "reporter" at the centre of a faux journalist scandal, somehow involved in the smearing of Ambassador Joe Wilson?

* Was Jeff Gannon, the "reporter" at the centre of a faux journalist scandal, somehow involved in the smearing of Ambassador Joe Wilson?

Gannon, real name James Guckert, resigned after it was revealed he used a false name to obtain a White House press pass to represent Talon News, a right-wing news site owned by a Texan Republican.

Gannon was famous for asking soft questions. Now it emerges that he may have had a role in the smear campaign against Ambassador Wilson, who famously revealed President Bush's claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger was false. In the aftermath, the White House launched a campaign to discredit Wilson, falsely claiming that he was only sent to Africa because of his wife, a CIA agent.

It now emerges that in late 2003 Gannon indicated to Wilson that he possessed a classified CIA memo which "proved" the claim that Wilson got the job on his wife's recommendation.

Wilson tells Pandora he wants to know why Gannon - only a "White House reporter" for a few months - had access to such documents. "You know how long it takes to build up sources in Washington," he said. Democrats have demanded an investigation into Gannon's links to the White House.

* EVERYONE knows Country music has steadily been rebranding itself to the extent that what was once an embarrassing mainstay of white rednecks now has stars as cool and hip as a New York cocktail.

But Pandora was unaware how many of these stars are also pin-ups. Thanks, therefore, to Playgirl magazine, for its puffery-dressed-up-as-a-press-release which reveals that the forthcoming edition will feature a country star on its cover. The star in question is Bill Currington one of Nashville's "25 Most Beautiful People".

It's one way to attract new listeners. Indeed, in a recent interview Currington admitted: "I am not looking to do something someone else has already done. By the time this is over, I hope many different kinds of people will have related to my music."

* NEWS IN from Minnesota, where the comedian Al Franken has announced that he will not be running for the Senate, saying he wants to spend more time with his listeners.

"I believe in honouring my commitments," said Franken, a presenter for Air America radio.

Franken, pictured, who grew up in Minneapolis, had talked about challenging the Republican Senator Norm Coleman in 2008. But when Senator Mark Dayton recently announced his intention to stand down next year, Franken was tempted to make his bid a little earlier.

"I've been involved in politics ... for a long time," said Franken. "And being involved in politics in a different way is something that I've been thinking about."

* THANKS TO the blogger Ari Berman for pointing out a recent headline in the Washington Post that appears to suggest that Americans do after all understand irony. The headline read: "Iran-Contra Figure to Lead Democracy Efforts Abroad."

The story detailed how the White House official Elliott Abrams had been tasked with heading President Bush's purported strategy for advancing democracy.

Readers might be forgiven for forgetting that Abrams was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress about his role in illegally selling arms to Iran to fund the Contras' effort to oust the democratically elected government in Nicaragua.

But the Post should know better. In 2001, its columnist, the late Mary McGrory, reminded readers of "Abrams's snarling at committee hearings, defending death squads, denying massacres, lying about illegal US activities".

* Film-maker Morgan Spurlock, who ate nothing but McDonald's food for a month, is offering a slimmed-down version of his documentary for schools. An edited version of Super Size Me contains lesson plans and interviews with nutritionists. "We'll never make every parent a perfect parent. But we can make every school really close," he said.

Quite how the film will go down remains to be seen. It is critical not just of the fast-food industry for targeting children but also of schools that allow junk food for lunch. He added: "We're educating kids in the classroom, but we're abandoning them in the lunchroom."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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