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Be sure to watch 60 Minutes tonight to see the debut of the new CBS correspondent.
Nice side-by-side comparison of fake docs and real docs by the Washington Post. And, as Howie Kurtz reveals, the whole CBS fiasco is really the President's fault:
White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to "60 Minutes," but only on condition that the CBS program provide copies of what were being billed as newly unearthed memos indicating that President Bush had received preferential treatment in the National Guard. The papers were hand-delivered at 7:45 a.m. CBS correspondent John Roberts, filling in for Rather, sat down with Bartlett at 11:15.
Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.
At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."
So CBS halted their own internal verification efforts since the White House communications director did not immediately dispute the documents which allegedly came from the private personal files of a man long since dead. CBS bosses were relieved and the story aired. OK, fine. I think we can all agree that CBS screwed up. It happens. But what they've done since that initial violation has been immeasureably worse. They've Stonewalled. They've made completely untenable arguments (ex. fake, but accurate) and they have consistently failed to admit that they were had. In fact, it's really worse than that. CBS continues to make the argument that they performed due diligence and that their solid investigation and objectivism was worthy. In other words, even with the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, CBS fails to see where their efforts have failed them. That speaks not only to past errors, but also indicates a culture of laxity and subjectivism at CBS that will lead to similar events in the future.
Avast, me hearties. 'Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day.
The Game: Rams @ Atlanta
The Time: 12: 00 p.m. (Central)
The Line: Atlanta by 2 1/2
Ok. I think I've got it. CBS says that they have been investigating this story for 4 or 5 years. They have done in depth reporting and have interview those in a position to know. Yet, they haven't talked to the wife. They haven't talked to the son. They only recently (after the fact) talked to the secretary. And they haven't talked to Col. Staudt. And they're sure the documents are legit even though two of their four called-upon experts said that they expressed serious doubts . The third has basically said that his authentication is impossible. Yet, CBS continues to stand by its story. And now the fourth said that his opinions on the matter have only been preliminary. Meanwhile, nearly every other credentialed expert has said that they are certain (or very nearly certain) that the documents are forged. Even the secretary (upon whose testimony CBS seized) claims that she didn't type them and she thinks they're fakes. In fact, nearly everyone involved in the story has distanced themselves from CBS. And yet, CBS continues to stand by its story. And now, while the CBS ratings are plunging, some affiliates are unhappy with the whole fiasco and others in the media are grumbling.
Here's an excellent primer from Human Events on the whole CBS fiasco.
Paul Krugman is on vacation, alas. Fortunately, The Times has a deep bench of like-minded liberals who can seamlessly fill in the gaps. This piece, by Bob Herbert tries (once again...ugghhh, do they never tire?) to equate our operations in Iraq to, can you guess...Vietnam. (Before I get into crass discussions of numbers of casualties, let me first acknowledge that each death of a soldier is both a personal tragedy and a national sorrow. But we all must recognize that military casualties are a necessary consequence of keeping this nation free, safe and secure. May God bless them and their families.) Of course the recent cumulative death toll of 1000 gives all those who opposed the war since inauguration day a chance to berate the President. Here's Herbert:
Richard VandeGeer was not the last American serviceman to die in the Vietnam War, but he was close enough. He was part of the last group of Americans killed, and his name was the last of the more than 58,000 to be listed on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. As I stood at his grave, I couldn't help but wonder how long it will take us to get to the last American combat death in Iraq.
God only knows when the last combat death in Iraq will be, but this I do know: it will come sooner if the left in this country would stop constantly denouncing the war and giving the terrorists in Iraq the hope that their actions will sway public opinion and cause us to change our course. To be fair, though, our previous responses to terrorism have also bolstered the hopes of the fanatics. But to answer Herbert's question, at the current rate of casualties in Iraq (roughly 1000 in 18 months) it would take 87 years to reach the number of American deaths in Vietnam. I would argue that even Herbert agrees that this is unlikely to last that long. Iraq is not Vietnam. Say it again, Iraq is not Vietnam. Why does the left have this perpetual fixation with Vietnam?
Herbert goes on to say:
Three more marines were killed yesterday in Iraq. Kidnappings are commonplace. The insurgency is growing and becoming more sophisticated, which means more deadly. Ordinary Iraqis are becoming ever more enraged at the U.S.
Did Herbert come up with this all by himself? This parrots the meme from Monday's Times story by Sabrina Tavernise:
American forces appear to be facing a guerrilla insurgency that is more sophisticated and more widespread than ever before.
Is the insurgency really growing? Herbert doesn't give any supporting facts. The Belmont Club has this to say:
If one considers three months of casualties in detail, April, June and September 2004 from the table in Global Security Org listing the circumstances under which individual American soldiers died, clearly the overwhelming percentage of men perished fighting in the same places, namely the Sunni triangle, notably near Fallujah and in certain neighborhoods of Baghdad. Even operations against Moqtada al Sadr did not change the pattern .
The reader is invited to examine the listed casualty details of every month for himself. But like the listing above, they will confirm that the American casualties have occurred in a limited number of places....While these figures do not address all of its dimensions, I hope they provide some objective basis for bounding claims that are made. Based on the pattern of casualties, it is hard to reach the conclusion that Iraq is descending into anarchy or that the resistance is spreading uncontrollably. If that were true we would be seeing a different distribution of casualties.
As to the question of increasing sophistication Jason van Steenwyk points out what level of sophistication is now being employed by the insurgents:
I don't think the Times would know what "increasing sophistication" was if it bit them on the ass. The insurgents took out a Bradley, yes. But they had to use a suicide bomber to do it. Shades of the Kamikazes of 1945. It's not a sign of "increasing sophistication." It's a sign of increasing desperation. The mortar strikes appear to have been ineffective. None launched more than a dozen rounds. Yeah, it sucks. But it's hardly the Somme all over again. Coming from American guns, it would simply be called "harrassment and interdiction fire."Not very effective stuff.
Van Steenwyk explains what increasing sophistication would actually look like:
American armored vehicles are being damaged or destroyed not with suicide bombers--which are by definition a "fire and forget" weapon system--but with volley-fired RPG-18s supported by skillfully employed automatic weapons covering their flanks and withdrawal routes.
American convoys running into modern anti-tank mines on a regular basis (as opposed to mortar shells set up as IEDs.) These mines are made more effective by an obstacle plan, and the IED ambushes are supported by automatic weapons and Dragonov sniper fire. Reinforcement units are hit.
Mortar fire is not random, but somehow manages to consistently land close to US mortar and artillery positions, headquarters buildings, and fuel and ammo storage areas. When an American convoy is attacked, insurgents manage to drop a curtain of mortar rounds along the withdrawal routes between the Americans and the insurgents.
The enemy begins to seek direct fire engagements with Americans from positions of advantage, finds them, and sustains them for more than 15 minutes. American tanks are destroyed by Milan, Dragon, Sagger, or similar 2nd generation anti-tank missiles, from the flanks or rear. Insurgents are able to gather in units larger than platoon or company strength and surprise US or Iraqi forces. They can do so again, in a different place or the SAME place, the next day.
Herbert wraps up his piece with this:
George W. Bush is now trapped as tightly in Iraq as Johnson was in Vietnam. The war is going badly. The president's own intelligence estimates are pessimistic. There is no plan to actually win the war in Iraq, and no willingness to concede defeat.
I sincerely hope willingness to concede defeat is a minority view, although, it's clearly not a minority view at The Times.
“If they were done in Word™, your defense is absurd."
Regarding RatherGate, the much anticipated statement from CBS. Here's the portion that has many shaking their heads:
We established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate or we would not have put them on television. There was a great deal of coroborating [sic] evidence from people in a position to know. Having said that, given all the questions about them, we believe we should redouble our efforts to answer those questions, so that's what we are doing.
David Hogberg dissects it in the Spectator and comes to this conclusion:
The statement reflects an organization that is arrogant, bullheaded, and in denial. It is an organization whose credibility is shot, and whose reputation will soon lie in ashes.
And elsewhere, from the blogosphere and beyond (hey I like that, it's Captain Lightyearesque) the pajamahadeen respond. The good Captain translates the statement thusly :
We presented America with fraudulent materials, for which Dan Rather personally vouched. Having spent the past four days desperately seeking anyone to back us up, we've now given up, but you should still believe us when we tell you that these forgeries accurately support our smear on George Bush. The search for better forgeries will continue.
The folks at Powerline have this translation :
CBS has played its cards; it holds none. CBS now undertakes efforts to discover evidence bolstering a story that has blown up in its face. Its efforts should be redirected to facing reality and acknowledging culpability. It is now at the least complicit in a fraud of monumental proportions.
James Lileks (a.k.a. Forehead Boy) has this:
. In any case, the whole “fake but accurate” line shows how tone-deaf these people are; it’s like saying a body in a pine box is “dead but lifelike.” It boggles, it really does: the story is true, the evidence is faked, but the evidence reflects the evidence we have not yet presented that proves our conclusion – ergo, we’re telling the truth...Translation: the issue isn't whether the memos are fake. The issue is what the faked memos prove to be true. You want that to be your standard for accuracy?
Some have suggested that Fake, But Accurate should be the new slogan at CBS and Dan Rather seems to be promoting that idea. Here is what he said to USA Today (emphasis added):
No one, Rather said repeatedly in an interview, has yet disputed "the heart" of his report. But, he said, a "thick partisan fogging machine seeks to cloud the core truth of our story by raising questions about the messenger, methods and techniques."
As the New York Post points out:
The use of "accurate" instead of "authentic" suggests CBS may be preparing to argue the memos are somehow legit even if forged.
Most interesting is what Danny Boy had to say regarding Marian Carr Knox. She's the lady who would have typed up the documents in question. She says she didn't type them and that they're fakes. She also said, however, that she typed similar documents and that these fake documents expressed true sentiments. Rather says this: (again, emphasis added)
Rather, in the 30-minute telephone interview with USA TODAY, seized on Knox's confirmation of those details. "She confirmed everything in our report where our attention was focused," he said.
So it's pretty clear that their attention was not focused on the authenticity of the documents, since Knox didn't confirm that. Their attention was focused on the content of the documents above all else. That, to me, is the essence of the whole problem. To Rather and the folks at CBS it's FAKE BUT ACCURATE. To me, it's YOUR IDEOLOGY HAS CLOUDED YOUR JUDGEMENT.
Questions from the pajamahadeen:
But in context, her interview makes Rather's fact-checking team look worse, not better. Rather claims that the best people in the business have been working this story for five years. Have they never spoken with Knox before? If they were speaking with Knox before, why didn't they ask her if the memos they had were forgeries? She was obviously in a position to know, and could have told them what she told the nation tonight: they are forgeries. If Rather's people weren't speaking with Knox before, why not? Were they afraid what she might tell them about the memos?
Laughably, Dandy Dan had this to say to the Boston Globe:
In an interview last night, CBS anchor Dan Rather acknowledged for the first time that there are serious questions about the authenticity of the documents. "If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story," Rather said. "Any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.' "
Break that story. Absurd. That story was broken a week ago by bloggers, Dan. The story has now moved well beyond the if to the who and it seems like there are some good clues as to the who:
Documents allegedly written by a deceased officer that raised questions about President Bush's service with the Texas Air National Guard bore markings showing they had been faxed to CBS News from a Kinko's copy shop in Abilene, Tex., according to another former Guard officer who was shown the records by the network. ...
There is only one Kinko's in Abilene, and it is 21 miles from the Baird, Tex., home of retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, who has been named by several news outlets as a possible source for the documents.
Robert Strong, who was one of three people interviewed by "60 minutes," said he was shown copies of the documents by CBS anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes on Sept. 5, three days before the broadcast. He said at least one of the documents bore a faxed header indicating it had been sent from a Kinko's in Abilene.
Bill Burkett is definitely a man with a grudge. Here's a portion of what he wrote in March 2003:
In January of 1998 and what seems like a full lifetime ago, I was stricken by a deadly case of meningoencephalitis. I was returning from a short duty trip to Panama as a team chief to inspect the hand over of Ft. Clayton to the Panamanians. I had been 'loaned' from the senior staff and state planning officer of the Texas National Guard to the Department of the Army for a series of these special projects after angering George W. Bush by refusing to falsify readiness information and reports; confronting a fraudulent funding scheme which kept 'ghost' soldiers on the books for additional funding, and refusing to alter official personnel records [of George W. Bush].
George W. Bush and his lieutenants were mad. They ordered that I not be accessed to emergency medical care services, healthcare benefits I earned by my official duty; and I was withheld from medical care for 154 days before I was withdrawn from Texas responsibility by the Department of the Army, by order of the White House. I was a pawn then caught in a struggle for right and wrong, but also caught within a political struggle between a man who would do anything to be 'king' of America and an institution of laws that we knew as America.
But there were times when Dan Rather was much, much more careful. In May, 2001, when by Bill O'Reilly about the Juanita Broaddrick rape claim, the Man-Who-Called-Clinton-an-Honest-Man had this to say:
What you've got is you have the Republicans trying to bring down Bill Clinton. I think it was an organized campaign. And unfortunately for Bill Clinton and the country some of it turned out to be true. Now, in that environment we're going to be careful. We're going to be very, very careful…. My attitude is always, show me, you bring me documented evidence, you bring me some eyewitness testimony and by the way I'll be out there trying to find some on my own if it's a serious charge. We'll be sending our reporters out trying to find it. But I'm not going to be party to reporting the news the way somebody with a special political or ideological pleading wants it to be reported.
While watching Fox News this morning (I know, right-wing extremist TV)I heard a reporter for NewsWeek (or was it News Day??) express a point that I'm sure is fairly widespread. Roughly, his point was that there are "experts" on both sides of the RatherGate issue. Some say one thing and some say another. It's hard to tell where the truth falls. This is from a reporter who you would expect would be fairly cognizant of the myriad problems with the documents. The vast majority of Americans have been following the story much less closely than this chap. So what does that say? While many people may have an opinion on the matter, they don't know (nor do they care to know) all the facts. Experts disagree and the whole issue is muddied. Technical terms such as proportional spacing, kerning, superscripts add to the confusion. At this point, it's fair to say that CBS is counting on this "eye glaze" factor and using completely disingenuous arguments to further obfuscate. No matter how many facts accrue to the "partisans", CBS is not going to admit error (or worse). This was made abundantly clear last night when Dan Rather mounted his third public defense. For an excellent breakdown of the breakdown see RatherBiased. Excerpt:
Richard Katz, the "software designer" of unnamed employer clearly is not familiar with Microsoft Word. To disable its automatic superscripting, all one has to do is put a space after a word before typing the "th". What kind of software expert is not aware of that?
Rather's response also failed to respond to critics who raised finer points about the font issues, including one point about kerning raised by Stephan Braddy, a software engineer who appears to have launched a new blog with a first post on Memogate stating that all available evidence suggests that "it is a mathematical certainty that the CBS Bush National Guard documents are fraudulent."
"The fact that the CBS Bush National Guard overlay matches perfectly and shows no signs of compounding deviation makes it a mathematical certainty that the two documents were both created by Microsoft Word, and therefore not in 1973. It is nearly impossible to create two documents with two different kerning systems that can survive the overlay test, especially if those two kerning systems are separated by 30 years in technology and design."
It's also worth noting that the two "experts" used to support its evidence Monday night were not involved with the original authentication and had merely looked at the online copies of the documents, something which Rather on Friday said he had a problem with, given that "deterioration occurs each time a document is reproduced and the documents being analyzed outside of CBS have been photocopied, faxed, scanned and downloaded and are far removed from the documents CBS started with which were also photocopies." Strangely, Dan did not repeat this assertion Monday night.
Also, for a professional analysis of the various technical issues check our Dr. Newcomer's site.
John Podhoretz, writing in the New York Post, has it exactly right. To those who are paying attention, it's not even arguable that these are forgeries:
IF you've been following the story, you know this already. If you haven't been follow ing the story, then I'll cut to the chase: Four documents used by CBS News last week in a story about George W. Bush's National Guard service are forgeries.
When I first wrote about this on Thursday, in a column that appeared on Friday, it seemed likely but not certain they were phony. We called the column "CBS' Big Blunder?" with a question mark just to be careful. There's no need to pull any punches now. I'm going to be blunt here: Anybody who spends an hour reviewing the evidence and the expert testimony knows they're forgeries. The discrediting has gone on now for five straight days. The conclusion isn't just overwhelming, it's inarguable.
The documents aren't just forgeries, they're bad, blatant, ludicrous forgeries. They're forgeries so easily detected that in the space of a few hours after CBS released computer photographs of them on the Internet, they had already been pegged and deconstructed. Mainstream news organizations are still granting CBS the benefit of the doubt because CBS still maintains they're not forgeries. People are still writing stories and doing televised reports saying that there are experts on both sides arguing every which way about the legitimacy of the documents. The truth is, no there aren't. CBS unveiled one expert who now says he only authenticated the signature on one of the four documents. Last night it found two others to offer unconvincing testimony on their behalf. And that's about it.
Now, surely many people at those organizations have spent an hour looking at the case against CBS. And I will say this even more bluntly: If you do spend that hour and at the end say you're not convinced, you're either stupid or blind or insanely partisan. Or you're guilty of wishful thinking to an extreme degree.
A Tale of Two Countries, with differing responses to terrorism:
TWO TERRORIST dramas began in Iraq on the same day, Aug. 19 when jihadists separately seized 12 Nepalese workers and two French reporters. Although their fates may end differently — the former were murdered and the latter remain alive in captivity — it is striking how similarly impotent both victim populations felt and how differently they responded.
...Nepalese responded to this atrocity by venting their anger and assaulting the Muslim minority in Nepal. Hundreds of infuriated young men surrounded Katmandu’s one mosque on Aug. 31 and heaved rocks at it. Violence escalated the next day, with five thousand demonstrators taking to the street, yelling slogans like “We want revenge,” “Punish the Muslims,” and “Down with Islam.” Some attacked the mosque, broke into it, ransacked it, and set fire to it. Hundreds of Korans were thrown onto the street, and some were burned.
...The French response could not have been more different. Threats to murder the two reporters met with a massive governmental effort to save their lives, not by targeting French Muslims but by cultivating them. Paris strenuously pushed local Islamists to condemn the kidnappings, hoping that their voice would convince the terrorists to release the two men.
...[T]he abhorrent Nepalese violence reflected an instinct for self-preservation — hit me and I will hit you back. In contrast, the sophisticated French reaction was supine — hit me and I will beg you to stop. If history is a guide, the Nepalese thereby made a repetition of atrocities against themselves less likely. And the French made such a repetition more likely.
John Fund writes, CBS stonewalls as "guys in pajamas" uncover a fraud and says: I'd Rather Be Blogging refering to some snarky comments by a former CBS guy on Tony Snow's show:
A watershed media moment occurred Friday on Fox News Channel, when Jonathan Klein, a former executive vice president of CBS News who oversaw "60 Minutes," debated Stephen Hayes, a writer for The Weekly Standard, on the documents CBS used to raise questions about George W. Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service.
Mr. Klein dismissed the bloggers who are raising questions about the authenticity of the memos: "You couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of check and balances [at '60 Minutes'] and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing."
Clear and obvious forgeries--and not even particularly good ones. This the general consensus, or, as William Safire terms it, there is a preponderance of doubt. It is also the opinion of this guy. Here are his bona fides:
I am one of the pioneers of electronic typesetting. I was doing work with computer typesetting technology in 1972 (it actually started in late 1969), and I personally created one of the earliest typesetting programs for what later became laser printers, but in 1970 when this work was first done, lasers were not part of the electronic printer technology (my way of expressing this is “I was working with laser printers before they had lasers”, which is only a mild stretch of the truth). We published a paper about our work (graphics, printer hardware, printer software, and typesetting) in one of the important professional journals of the time (D.R. Reddy, W. Broadley, L.D. Erman, R. Johnsson, J. Newcomer, G. Robertson, and J. Wright, "XCRIBL: A Hardcopy Scan Line Graphics System for Document Generation," Information Processing Letters (1972, pp.246-251)). I have been involved in many aspects of computer typography, including computer music typesetting (1987-1990). I have personally created computer fonts, and helped create programs that created computer fonts. At one time in my life, I was a certified Adobe PostScript developer, and could make laser printers practically stand up and tap dance. I have written about Microsoft Windows font technology in a book I co-authored, and taught courses in it. I therefore assert that I am a qualified expert in computer typography.
Jim Geraghty has parsed Dan Rather's lame defense and rebuts it point for point.
Some in the MainStreamMedia (MSM) don't seem to be paying attention. From the I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE PROVENANCE OF THE DOCUMENTS, IT'S THE CONTENT THAT MATTERS department comes this article by the Cincinnatti Post. Not even a mention that the "newly discovered documents" are bogus. Seems like the Cincy Post is suffering the same chronic illness that has infected the New York Times and led to its ultimate demise. Here's the obit:
The New York Times, which was affectionately referred to as the “Grey Lady,” has died after a long illness. The paper, begun in 1851, was 153.
The world was notified on the Internet over two months ago on numerous blogs, talk radio, and websites such as the Drudge Report, as well as on 24-hour cable news outlets such as CSPAN and FOX News.
Interestingly enough, the New York Times did not find out about its own death until today because it had stubbornly refused to acknowledge the various just mentioned sources as credible. This tendency in fact turned out to be the leading cause of the paper’s demise, which was further complicated by a Democratic Presidential candidate who has been so aggressively incompetent that his continued support by the Times proved an untreatable situation from which the paper could not recover.
The New York Times, which also had been known for a well-regarded Arts section and cerebral Sports section, leaves behind a Sunday edition that had received much acclaim for weighing in-depth on some of the most important issues facing our nation. In recent years however, the Sunday Times was known mostly for just weighing a lot and was regarded primarily as a good, reliable source of packing material to secure fragile items like martini glasses and those dipping bird thingies people sometimes have on their desks...
Dan Rather and CBS have been afflicted too.
Here's how conflict resoultion is taught at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana:
Professor Wolfe had no tolerance for those who disagreed with his points of view and philosophies. For example, Professor Wolfe explained that violent responses to violent aggression are never acceptable. A student spoke up to confront him, asking, “What if a group of armed gang members were to come to Ball State. What if they started shooting up the school, killing students who were peacefully walking by and traveling around campus?” If I or another student had a gun available and could defend myself and others, should I?” Professor Wolfe’s response was shocking to even the most peaceful in the group. “No” he replied. The student asked, “why not,” and asked for him to explain. He said, “Well, the gang would eventually run out of bullets, and you can always hide.” “What if no shelter was available to hide or it was clear that some students couldn’t make it to shelter.” “Well regardless of how many students would be lost in the shooting there is no good reason to fire back.”
Actually, the EU and the UN subscribe to this position.
But this Nobel prize winning author is significantly less than dovish.
John Kerry slams Bush on his policy on North Korea:
Kerry said that during Bush's presidency, North Korea has advanced its nuclear program. "A potential route to a nuclear 9/11 is clearly visible," Kerry said. "North Korea's nuclear program is well ahead of what Saddam Hussein was even suspected of doing -- yet the president took his eye off the ball, wrongly ignoring this growing danger. What is unfolding in North Korea is exactly the kind of disaster that it is an American president's solemn duty to prevent."
Yes, Korea is a disaster and a looming threat--but it was long in the making. Clearly, the "Agreed Framework", which the North Koreans violated from its inception, was a complete failure. But what, Mr. Kerry, is your plan? Here's what he says:
In a June 1 speech, Sen. Kerry said the United States should continue with the six-party talks with North Korea. But, he added, "We must also be prepared to talk directly with North Korea. This problem is too urgent to allow China, or others at the table, to speak for us. And we must be prepared to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that addresses the full range of issues of concern to us and our allies." In their "Plan for America," Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards said they would "work toward negotiating a comprehensive agreement with North Korea that will completely, irreversibly, and verifiably end North Korea's nuclear weapons program."
Does anyone really, seriously think our problem with the DPRK is that we haven't had enough diplomacy and negotiations?