Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Your Homeland Security dollars hard at work...harassing intellectually curious college students!

UMass student visited by Feds for requesting Mao's Little Red Book from library
Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior
By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federalagents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tomeon Communism called "The Little Red Book."

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams andRobert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the bookthrough the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism forProfessor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled outa form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number andSocial Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in NewBedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, theprofessors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book ison a "watch list," and that his background, which included significanttime abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said."Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoringinter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."

Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times.

The professors had been asked to comment on a report that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to spy on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country. The eavesdropping was apparently done without warrants.

The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung. In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.

The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that theHomeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.

Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that someof his calls are monitored. "My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.

Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk. "I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Websites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tungis completely harmless."

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com From http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12-05/12-17-05/a09lo650.htm.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Citizens Push FCC to Improve TV, Then and Now
By Stephen Macek and Mitchell Szczepanczyk

In 1961, Newton Minow, then chair of the Federal Communications Commission,
famously decried television programming at the time as a "vast wasteland."
Many citizens including area educators, religious groups, community
organizations, and unions agreed and complained that our TV stations were
consistently ignoring local issues.

In 1962, the FCC responded to these concerns by convening a landmark series
of hearings in Chicago to determine if television stations were fulfilling
their legal obligations to serve the public interest.

While the hearings didn't forge any key policy changes, they did reaffirm
the FCC's commitment to require TV broadcasters to reflect community
concerns and showcase community voices in at least some programming.

After more than four decades of rampant commercialism and lax FCC oversight,
television today is much worse than it was in the early 1960s.

Exhibit A: Chicago TV stations' horribly inadequate coverage of nonfederal
elections in 2004. The Center for Media and Public Affairs, a media research
group, found that the five highest-rated TV stations in the Chicago market
devoted less than 8 percent of their newscasts to election coverage in the
month before Election Day 2004.

Some 66 percent of that coverage dealt exclusively with the presidential
campaign, while less than 1 percent covered state legislative races. This
mirrors a pattern in local media across the country; the Lear Center's local
news archive at the University of Southern California studied 11 media
markets during this same time and found that a given half-hour of local news
averaged a mere 2.4 minutes devoted to local electoral coverage.

Exhibit B: Chicago's TV stations consistently ignore news about and
perspectives from communities of color. Chicago's population is 37 percent
African-American and 26 percent Latino, yet no person of color hosts any
locally-produced public affairs shows on the city's English-language
stations. A study of the guests appearing on one flagship news show found
that more than 79 percent of guests were white, only 12 percent were African
American, and less than 3 percent were Latino. Multiple studies also confirm
that local TV news coverage of predominately African-American and Latino
neighborhoods in Chicago overwhelmingly focus on crime and social
dysfunction and exclude all other topics.

Clearly, another FCC investigation into the inadequacies of television is
long overdue.
Fortunately, media reform activists may provide a glimpse of hope. TV
broadcasters must renew their broadcast licenses every eight years, at which
time citizens can file objections with the FCC. All of the TV licenses in
the state are up for renewal in 2005, and the growing media reform movement
has seized on this opportunity to force broadcasters to pay attention to
their concerns.

On November 1, Chicago Media Action -- the city's leading media reform group
-- petitioned the FCC to deny the license renewals of nine English-language
TV stations in Chicago. The petition pointed to the paucity of TV coverage
of local elections as its basis for complaint.

At the same time, Third Coast Press, a Chicago-based community newspaper and
web-site, filed its own petition asking the FCC to revoke the licenses of
nearly 20 Chicago-area stations. Their filing addressed a number of
concerns, including scant and dismissive news coverage of antiwar protests
and increasing violence against women on TV.

The FCC should take these petitions seriously. The performance of the
stations in question has been deplorable and their license renewal
applications should be closely scrutinized. Moreover, the problems with
Illinois' TV broadcasters are symptomatic of the shortcomings of American
television in general. Acting on the complaints raised by media reform
groups would send a powerful message to TV stations around the country.

If the FCC accepts either or both of these petitions, the license renewal
applications of the affected stations would be subject to a hearing.
Ultimately, the issues raised in these petitions deserve to be discussed in
an open and public forum so that area residents can finally weigh in on the
dismal service they receive from their TV outlets.

Forty-three years have elapsed since those 1962 hearings and the public has
been forced to endure a continuing "vast wasteland" with nary an oasis in
sight. It is high time citizens were given a chance to talk back to their TV
sets again.
Macek is an assistant professor of speech communication at North Central
College. Szczepanczyk is an organizer with Chicago Media Action and a
frequent contributor to assorted Chicago-area independent media efforts in
print, web, radio and television.
Copyright (C) 2005 by the Illinois Editorial Forum. Letters should be sent
to the Forum, P.O. Box 82, Springfield, IL 62705-0082 11/05

Wednesday, November 02, 2005




CONTACTS:Washington, DC:Andrew Jay Schwartzman (President, Media Access Project)202-232-4300andys@mediaaccess.org Chicago:Mitchell Szczepanczyk (Chicago Media Action)773-753-0818mitchell@chicagomediaaction.org Steve Macek (Chicago Media Action)630-995-6374 (cell)shmacek@noctrl.edu

Washington, DC -- On Tuesday, November 1st, lawyers for media reform group Chicago Media Action (CMA) filed a formal petition with the Federal Communication Commission requesting that it deny the pending license renewal applications of nine Chicago television stations. The petition charges that the stations in question -- WBBM, WMAQ, WLS, WGN, WCIU, WFLD, WCPX, WSNS and WPWR -- fell far short of their obligations to serve the public interest by failing to provide adequate coverage of local and state elections during the 2004 campaign.

Under the terms of their licenses, television broadcasters are required to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. Stations must renew their licenses every eight years, at which time citizens can file objections with the FCC. All of the television licenses in the state of Illinois are up for renewal this year. If the FCC grants CMA's petition, the license renewals for the nine stations would be subject to a hearing, at least part of which would be held in or near Chicago.

Chicago Media Action's petition cites a study of locally produced news programming conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs in support of its claims about the lack coverage of local elections in 2004. Based on a systematic review of all news and public affairs programming aired by the five highest-rated stations in the Chicago media market, the CMPA study found that just 7.8 percent of the station's newscasts during the last month of the 2004 campaign focused on elections. Some 79 percent of that election reporting dealt exclusively with the Presidential and Senate races. By contrast, U.S. House races accounted for just four percent of the stations' election coverage and Illinois House races accounted for less than one percent.

CMA's lawyer, Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Washington, DC-based public interest law firm Media Access Project, remarked, "The FCC has repeatedly affirmed the importance of broadcasters' service to the local community. It's impossible to reconcile this emphasis on localism with the paucity of local election coverage available to Chicago voters."

"These broadcasters get to use the public airwaves for free and rake in millions of dollars every year in advertising revenue," explained CMA board member Mitchell Szczepanczyk. "The least they can do in return is provide us with the news and information we need as citizens. Yet television news in Chicago consistently ignores state and local politics. Last year, for instance, WGN-TV did not air a single story about the many hotly contested races for the Illinois State Legislature. It's a disgrace. They simply don't deserve to stay on the air."

The document filed by CMA was not the only complaint the FCC received this week against Chicago's television outlets. Also on Tuesday, Third Coast Press, a Chicago-based community newspaper and website, submitted a "petition to deny" of its own one that challenged the license renewal applications of the city's commercial television stations as well as public broadcasters WTTW and WYCC on the grounds that, among other things, the stations' news programming marginalized the voices of anti-war activists in the lea—up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

ABOUT CHICAGO MEDIA ACTION. Chicago Media Action (CMA) is a Chicago area-group dedicated to analyzing and broadening Chicago's major media and to building Chicago s independent media. In 2004, CMA issued a widely-covered study of bias on WTTW's nightly news show, "Chicago Tonight." For more information about CMA, visit www.chicagomediaaction.org

For a copy of the CMA's petition, complete with supporting documents, please visit www.chicagomediaaction.org/pdffiles/2005petition.pdf


Friday, September 09, 2005

Top Censored News Stories of 2004-05.
Project Censored at Sonoma State University announces the annual release of the most important under-covered stories of 2004-05. For full postings see: http://www.projectcensored.org/
For Interviews with Project Censored Spokespersons contact: Peter.Phillips@sonoma.edu

1. BUSH ADMINISTRATION MOVES TO ELIMINATE OPEN GOVERNMENT Common Dreams, September 14, 2004, New Report Details Bush Administration Secrecy, by Karen Lightfoot http://www.commondreams.org/news2004/0914-05.htm;

The Bush administration has been working to make sure the public - and even Congress - can't find out what the government itself is doing. In the Fall of 2004, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) released an 81-page report that found that the feds have consistently "narrowed the scope and application" of the Freedom of Information Act, the Presidential Records Act, and other key public information laws. At the same time the government expanded laws blocking access to certain records - even creating new categories of "protected" information and exempting entire departments from public scrutiny.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives citizens the ability to file a request for specific information from a government agency and provides recourse in federal court if that agency fails to comply with FOIA requirements. Over the last two decades, beginning with Reagan, this law has become increasingly diluted and circumvented by each succeeding administration.

Under the Bush Administration, agencies make extensive and arbitrary use of FOIA exemptions such as those for classified information, privileged attorney-client documents and certain information compiled for law enforcement purposes.

Bush administration has even refused to release records to Congressional subcommittees or the Government Accountability Office. A few of the potentially incriminating documents being held secret from Congress include records of contacts between large energy companies and Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force; White House memos pertaining to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction; and reports describing torture at Abu Ghraib.

The Critical Infrastructure Information Act of 2002 (CIIA) as part of Homeland Security exempts from FOIA any information that is voluntarily provided to the federal government by a private party, if the information relates to the security of vital infrastructure. But under the act, even "routine communications by private sector lobbyists can be withheld from disclosure if the lobbyist asserts that the changes are related to the effort to protect the nation's infrastructure. Such a broad interpretation of CIIA could hide errors or misconduct by private-sector companies working with the Department of Homeland Security.

In March 2002, the Bush Administration reduced public access to information through FOIA by mandating that agencies safeguard any records having to do with "weapons of mass destruction." This included "information that could be misused to harm the security of our nation and the safety of our people," according to a memo by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. However, the memo did nothing to define these terms and agencies were left free to withhold virtually any information under the vague charge of "national security." In 2003, the Bush Administration won a new legislative exemption from FOIA for all National Security Agency "operational files." The Administration's main rationale for this new exemption is that conducting FOIA searches diverts resources from the agency's mission. Congressman Waxman describe the government secrecy moves as "an unprecedented assault on the laws that make our government open and accountable,"

Peacework, December 2004-January 2005, The Invasion of Fallujah: A Study in the Subversion of Truth" By Mary Trotochaud and Rick McDowell World Socialist Web Site, November 17, 2004, US Media Applauds Destruction of Fallujah, by David Walsh, The NewStandard, December 3, 2004, Fallujah Refugees Tell of Life and Death in the Kill Zone, by Dahr Jamail, The Lancet, October 29, 2004, Mortality Before and After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, By Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi and Gilbert Burnham, The Lancet, October 29, 2004, The War in Iraq: Civilian Casualties, Political Responsibilities, by Richard Horton, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 4, 2005, Lost Count, by Lila Guterman, Asheville Global Report, April 15, 2004, CNN to Al Jazeera: Why Report Civilian Deaths?"

Les Roberts, an investigator with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, conducted a rigorous inquiry into pre- and post-invasion mortality in Iraq, sneaking into Iraq by lying flat on the bed of an SUV and training observers on the scene. The results were published in the Lancet, a prestigious peer-reviewed British medical journal, on Oct. 29, 2004 - Roberts and his team (including researchers from Columbia University and from Al-Mustansiriy University in Baghdad concluded that the death toll associated with the invasion and occupation of Iraq is about 100,000 civilians, and may be much higher. 95% of those deaths were caused by helicopter gunships, rockets, or other forms of aerial weaponry and more than half of the fatalities were women or children.

The study was done before the second invasion of Fallujah in the Fall of 2004. More than 83 percent of Fallujah's 300,000 residents fled the city. The people had nowhere to flee and ended up as refugees. Many families were forced to survive in fields, vacant lots, and abandoned buildings without access to shelter, water, electricity, food or medical care.

The 50,000 citizens who either chose to remain in the city or who were unable to leave were trapped by Coalition forces and were cut off from food, water and medical supplies Men between the ages of 15 and 45 were refused safe passage, and all who remained were treated as enemy combatants. Coalition forces cut off water and electricity, seized the main hospital, shot at anyone who ventured out into the open, executed families waving white flags while trying to swim across the Euphrates or otherwise flee the city. US forces shot at ambulances, raided homes and killed people who didn't understand English, rolled over injured people with tanks, and allowed corpses to rot in the streets and be eaten by dogs.

Medical staff and others reported seeing people, dead and alive, with melted faces and limbs, injuries consistent with the use of phosphorous bombs. As of December of 2004 at least 6,000 Iraqi citizens in Fallujah had been killed, and one-third of the city has been destroyed.

The International Committee for the Red Cross reported on December 23, 2004 that three of the city's water purification plants had been destroyed and the fourth badly damaged.

Not long after the "coalition" had embarked on its second offensive, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called for an investigation into whether the Americans and their allies had engaged in "the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons, and the use of human shields," among other possible "grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions ... considered war crimes" under federal law.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists, has noted that the U.S. invasion of Fallujah is a violation of international law that the U.S. had specifically ratified: "They [US Forces] stormed and occupied the Fallujah General Hospital, and have not agreed to allow doctors and ambulances to go inside the main part of the city to help the wounded, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions." Updates: English Al-Jazeera website at http://english.aljazeera.net/HomePage, and website at www.dahrjamailiraq.com, The World Tribunal on Iraq at www.worldtribunal.org

In These Times, 02/15/05, A Corrupted Election, by Steve Freeman and Josh MitteldorfSeattle Post-Intelligencer, January 26, 2005, Jim Crow Returns To The Voting Booth, by GregPalast, Rev. Jesse Jackson www.freepress.org, Nov. 23, 2004, How a Republican Election Supervisor Manipulated the 2004 Central Ohio Vote, by Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman

On Nov. 2, 2004. Bush prevailed by 3 million votes despite exit polls that clearly projected Kerry winning by a margin of 5 million. The 8-million-vote discrepancy was well beyond the poll's recognized, less-than-1-percent margin of error. And when Freeman and Mitteldorf analyzed the data collected by the two companies that conducted the polls, they found concrete evidence of potential fraud in the official count.

The overall margin of error should statistically have been under one percent. But the official result deviated from the poll projections by more than five percent-a statistical impossibility of over a 100,000 to one.

"Exit polls are highly accurate," Steve Freeman, professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Organizational Dynamics, and Temple University statistician Josh Mitteldorf. "They remove most of the sources of potential polling error by identifying actual voters and asking them immediately afterward who they had voted for."

"Only in precincts that used old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots did the official count and the exit polls fall within the normal sampling margin of error. And "the discrepancy between the exit polls and the official count was considerably greater in the critical swing states.

Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the two companies hired to do the polling for the Nation Election Pool in a final report stated that the discrepancy was "most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters."

The corporate media widely reported that this proved the accuracy of the official count and a Bush victory. The body of the report, however, offers no data to substantiate this position. In fact, the report shows that Bush voters were more likely to complete the survey than Kerry voters. The report also states that the difference between exit polls and official tallies was far too great to be explained by sampling error, and that a systematic bias is implicated.

In precincts that were at least 80 percent for Bush, the average within-precinct error (WPE) was a whopping 10.0 percent-the numerical difference between the exit poll predictions and the official count.

Also, in Bush strongholds, Kerry received only about two-thirds of the votes predicted by exit polls. In Kerry strongholds, exit polls matched the official count almost exactly.

Greg Palast reported how in June 2004, well before the election, his co-author of "Jim Crow" Rev. Jesse Jackson brought him to Chicago to have breakfast with Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards. The Reverend asked the Senator to read Palast's report of the "spoilage" of Black votes-one million African Americans who cast ballots in 2000 but did not have their votes register on the machines.

Edwards said he'd read it over after he'd had his bagel. Jackson snatched away his bagel. No read, no bagel. A hungry Senator was genuinely concerned-these were, after all, Democrats whose votes did not tally, and he shot the information to John Kerry. A couple of weeks later, Kerry told the NAACP convention that one million African-American votes were not counted in 2000, but in 2004 he would not let it happen again. But he did let it happen again. More than a million votes in 2004 were cast and not counted

For the rest of the top 25 see: http://www.projectcensored.org/

Monday, August 29, 2005

Peter Rachleff -- labor history professor at Macalester College in St. Paul and a leader of the progressive wing of the Minnesota labor movement-- wrote the following statement of solidarity with Northwest workers who are on strike. Please sign and encourage others to sign. Reply to Peter at rachleff@macalester.edu.


As union leaders and activists, we want to make it clear that we stand against the behavior of Northwest Airlines management and with the workers of Northwest Airlines and their unions as they seek economic justice.

For too many years, the management of Northwest Airlines -- and other U.S. corporations -- has demanded that workers give more hours, more effort, and more of their lives to their jobs while receiving reduced compensation, less security, and less respect. At the same time, management has taken home fat compensation packages, stock options, bonuses, and golden parachutes.

NWA management is now in the midst of spending, by their own admission, more than $100 million to bust the mechanics' union. They are recuiting hastily trained scabs and employing the infamous union-busting Vance Security company to intimidate the hard-working men and women who have given decades of their lives to Northwest.

NWA management has demanded that mechanics allow the contracting-out of the 53% of their work that remains since management already contracted out 38% of it. Fewer than one-fourth of the mechanics employed in 2000 will continue to have jobs. For those who remain, management demands a 26% wage cut and the emptying of their underfunded defined-benefit pensions into 401K plans tied to the stock market.

NWA management has demanded that flight attendants undergo a 40% cut in their overall compensation. They are seeking similar cuts from other workers and, if they are able to force the mechanics and the flight attendants to accept these cuts, these other workers -- pilots, baggage handlers, ticket agents, clerical workers, and others -- will have little base from which to resist. The flying public will also have many reasons to question the safety of NWA flights.

NWA management's behavior is all too familiar. It mirrors the actions of Hormel, the Detroit newspapers, Caterpillar, Staley, Delphi Auto Parts, Enron, and United Airlines. It also sets the stage for other corporate employers to demand that their workers and unions allow expanded outsourcing of work, accept slashed wages and benefits, and give up the pensions that they have sacrificed for over many years.

This must stop. These actions by NWA management, combined with their abuse of the trust of Minnesota citizens, tax-payers, and state government, make them a suitable poster child for the labor movement's renewed efforts to educate, organize, and mobilize all Americans -- native-born and immigrant, blue collar and white collar, manufacturing and service, women and men, union members and non-union members.

All of us need to say "NO!" to this kind of behavior. NO to union-busting! NO to corporate greed! NO to a race to the bottom of the economic ladder!We union leaders and activists stand against Northwest Airlines' behavior and we stand with Northwest's workers and their unions in their struggle for economic justice.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Happily, Pat Robertson's crazy demand that the U.S. murder Hugo Chavez has-- much to my suprise-- actually gotten the attention it deserves. It is all over the papers and has been the focus of quite a lot of debate on TV talk shows, talk radio and in the blogosphere. Granted, the corporate media continue to ignore the Bush administration's repeated and illegal efforts to destabilize the Venezuelan government (including, of course, its backing for the failed 2002 coup which breifly ousted Chavez from power). But at least they seem appropriately outraged at the open suggestion that the U.S. state should just start killing foreign leaders they don't like. Yeah!

Even more encouraging, the American Library Association Council just endorsed a strongly worded resolution calling for the immediate withdrawl of American troops in Iraq. Here's the text:

Resolution on the Connection Between the Iraq War and Libraries

WHEREAS, The justifications for the invasion of Iraq have proven to be
completely unfounded; and

WHEREAS, The war already has taken the lives of more than 100,000 Iraqis
and more than 1700 U.S. soldiers; and

WHEREAS, These numbers will continue to mount as long as the U.S.
remains in Iraq; and

WHEREAS, During the current occupation, many of Iraq's cultural
treasures, including libraries, archives, manuscripts, and artifacts,
have been destroyed, lost, or stolen; and

WHEREAS, As long as U.S. forces remain in Iraq, the inevitable
escalation of fighting threatens further destruction of Iraq's cultural
heritage; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. is spending billions of dollars every month for the
occupation; and

WHEREAS, Even a small fraction of these resources would be more than
sufficient for rebuilding and greatly enhancing the libraries and
educational institutions of both Iraq and the U.S.; now, therefore, be

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association calls for the withdrawal
from Iraq of all U.S. military forces, and the return of full
sovereignty to the people of Iraq; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association urges the United States
government to subsequently shift its budgetary priorities from the
occupation of Iraq to improved support for vital domestic programs,
including United States libraries; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association calls upon the United
States government to provide material assistance through the United
Nations for the reconstruction of Iraq, including its museums,
libraries, schools, and other cultural resources; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That this resolution be sent to all members of Congress, the
Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the President of the
United States, and the press.

Adopted by the Council of the American Library Association

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
In Chicago, Illinois


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Who Would Jesus Assassinate? (WWJA)

The contempt of the American religious right for democracy has been evident to rational observers for quite some time and exhibits clear parallels with the authoritarian passions of the Islamic fundamentalists they supposedly abhor. That Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson-- longtime freind and business associate of bloodthirsty Zairian dictator Mobuto Sese Seko -- has called for the assasination of Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected President of Venezuala, is thus hardly surpising. What is shocking, though, is that other than AP, few news organizations have seen fit to report on his comments.

Pat Robertson calls for assassination of Hugo Chavez
By Gene Puskar, AP

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) - Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called on
Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,
calling him a "terrific danger" to the United States.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former
sidential candidate, said on "The 700 Club" it was the United States'
duty to stop Chavez from making Venezuela a "launching pad for communist
infiltration and Muslim extremism."

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President
Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government
and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have
called the accusations ridiculous.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he
thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to
go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than
starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Electronic pages and a message to a Robertson spokeswoman were not
immediately returned Monday evening.

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil
to the United States. The CIA estimates that U.S. markets absorb almost
59% of Venezuela's total exports.

Venezuela's government has demanded in the past that the United States
crack down on Cuban and Venezuelan "terrorists" in Florida who they say
are conspiring against Chavez.

Robertson accused the United States of failing to act when Chavez was
briefly overthrown in 2002.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that
we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know,
strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have
some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

That the military and the U.S. government is attempting to suppress further evidence of the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib is perhaps understandable. What is surprising, though, is that they are arguing that releasing the photos would violate the prisoner's rights under the Geneva Conventions. This is a tacit admission that the people detained by U.S. troops in Iraq are, in fact, prisoners of war. And that , in turn, could provide more fuel for the human rights law suits against Rumsfeild and Co.

RIGHTS:New Abuse Photos Could Spark Riots, US General Warns
William Fisher

NEW YORK, Aug 16 (IPS) - Civil libertarians and the Pentagon appear headed for yet another trainwreck in the ongoing dispute over the so-called second batch of photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and a number of medical and veterans groups demanding release of 87 new videos and photographs depicting detainee abuse at the now infamous prison, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said the release would result in ”riots, violence and attacks by insurgents.”

In court papers filed to contest the lawsuit, Gen. Myers said he consulted with Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the United States Central Command, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq. Both officers also opposed the release, Gen. Myers said.

He believes the release of the photos would ”incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers and officials at risk,” according to documents unsealed in federal court in New York. ”The situation on the ground in Iraq is dynamic and dangerous,” Myers added, with 70 insurgent attacks daily. He also said there was evidence that the Taliban was gaining ground because of popular discontent in Afghanistan.

Gen. Myers cited the violence that erupted in some Muslim countries in May after Newsweek published an item, which it later retracted, saying that a Koran had been thrown in a toilet in the United States detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He also said the images could fuel terrorist disinformation campaigns.

"It is probable that Al Qaeda and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill, which will result in, besides violent attacks, increased terrorist recruitment, continued financial support and exacerbation of tensions between Iraqi and Afghani populaces and U.S. and coalition forces,” he said.

The 87 ”new” photos and four videotapes taken at Abu Ghraib were among those turned over to Army investigators last year by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, a reservist who was posted at the prison.

In legal papers unsealed last week, the ACLU and its allied groups urged the court to order the release of photographs and videos, and also asked the court to reject the government's attempt to file some of its legal arguments in secret. It said that until the first photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib were made public in April 2004, the government had consistently denied that any wrongdoing had taken place, despite news reports to the contrary. Since then, the ACLU has obtained, through a court order, more than 60,000 pages of government documents regarding torture and abuse of detainees.

At a court hearing on Monday, the judge said he generally ruled in favour of public disclosure and ordered the government to reveal some redacted parts of its argument for blocking the release of pictures and videotapes. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said his rulings pertained to arguments by Gen. Myers. ”By and large, I ruled in favour of public disclosure,” he said.

The judge said he believes photographs ”are the best evidence the public can have of what occurred” at the prison. He scheduled arguments on the question of whether the photographs and videos should be released for Aug. 30, saying a speedy decision is important so the public's right to know isn't compromised.

The ACLU has also called for an independent counsel with subpoena power to investigate the torture scandal, including the role of senior policymakers, and has filed a separate lawsuit to hold Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and high-ranking military officers accountable. Reed Brody, head of international programmes for Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS, ”The problem is not the photos but the policy of abuse. The release of the first photos last year led us to the revelations that senior U.S. officials had secretly sidelined the Geneva Conventions, re-defined 'torture', and approved illegal coercive interrogation methods.”

”The release of new photos showing crimes perpetrated on detainees could create new impetus to expose and prosecute those ultimately responsible and hopefully prevent these practices from being repeated.” Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, noted that, ”The administration's response to the release of the photos is to kill the messenger, rather then to investigate and prosecute the real culprits: Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, Generals Miller and Sanchez, and others.”

He agreed that ”the photos will be upsetting to anyone who cares about humane treatment and particularly to those in the Muslim world, but the photos reflect the reality of the type of treatment detainees were subjected to.”

”Rather than suppress the best evidence of widespread torture of Muslim detainees, the Administration ought to launch a fully independent investigation and ought to see that an independent prosecutor is appointed,” Ratner told IPS. He added, ”Ensuring accountability for the torture conspiracy is the best way of demonstrating to the Muslim world that this outrage has come to an end and will not be repeated.”

The government initially objected to the release of the images on the grounds that it would violate the Geneva Conventions rights of the detainees depicted in the images. That concern was addressed by court order on Jun. 1 directing the government to redact any personally identifying characteristics from the images. The ACLU did not object to those redactions.

The ACLU said the government has repeatedly taken the position that the detainees themselves cannot rely on the Geneva Conventions in legal proceedings to challenge their mistreatment by U.S. personnel. In a court declaration, former U.S. Army Colonel Michael E. Pheneger, a retired military intelligence expert, responded to the government's ”cause-and-effect” argument that release of the images would spark violence abroad.

”Our enemies seek to prevent the United States from achieving its objectives in the Middle East,” he said. ”They do not need specific provocations to justify their actions.” Attacks by insurgents ”will continue regardless of whether the photos and tapes are released,” he added.
The case arose from a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the ACLU, the Centre for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. (END/2005)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Finally, Bob Novak gets kicked off the air and is accurately labeled "inexcusable and unacceptable" by CNN. Maybe there really is a God...

CNN Suspends Novak After He Walks Off Set

The Associated Press
Friday, August 5, 2005; 12:42 AM

NEW YORK -- CNN suspended commentator Robert Novak indefinitely after he swore and walked off the set Thursday during a debate with Democratic operative James Carville.

The live exchange during CNN's "Inside Politics" came during a discussion of Florida's Senate campaign. CNN correspondent Ed Henry noted when it was over that he had been about to ask Novak about his role in the investigation of the leak of a CIA officer's identity.

A CNN spokeswoman, Edie Emery, called Novak's behavior "inexcusable and unacceptable." Novak apologized to CNN, and CNN was apologizing to viewers, she said.

"We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off," she said.

A telephone message at Novak's office was not immediately returned Thursday.

Carville and Novak were both trying to speak while they were handicapping the GOP candidacy of Katherine Harris. Novak said the opposition of the Republican establishment in Florida might not be fatal for her.

"Let me just finish, James, please," Novak continued. "I know you hate to hear me, but you have to."

Carville, addressing the camera, said: "He's got to show these right wingers that he's got a backbone, you know. It's why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em that you're tough."

"Well, I think that's bull---- and I hate that," Novak replied. "Just let it go."

As moderator Henry stepped in to ask Carville a question, Novak walked off the set.

Only two weeks ago, CNN executives defended their decision to keep Novak on the air during the ongoing probe into the revelation of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. In a July 2003 newspaper column, Novak identified Plame, the wife of administration critic and former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, as a CIA operative.

Wilson has said the leak of his wife's name was an attempt by the administration to discredit him. Two other reporters connected to the case openly fought the revelation of their sources, and Judith Miller of The New York Times has been jailed for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors.

Novak has repeatedly refused to comment about his role in the federal investigation.

After Novak walked off on Thursday, Henry said that Novak had been told before the segment that he was going to be asked on air about the CIA case.

"I'm hoping that we will be able to ask him about that in the future," Henry said.

Novak has been a longtime contributor to CNN, taking the conservative point of view during the just-canceled "Crossfire" show.

© 2005 The Associated Press

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


David Horowitz's Battlefield Academia

Sixties lefty turned right wing activist, provocateur, and GOP
political consultant is leading a McCarthy-like charge on college
campuses across the country

Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange

07.14.05 - A specter is again haunting U.S. colleges and universities.

At the beginning of the Cold War in the early 1950s, Joseph McCarthy,
the infamous Republican Senator from Wisconsin, stalked the political
landscape hurling reckless charges that hordes of Communists had
infiltrated the U.S. government before, during and after World War II.

Sen. McCarthy and his band of self-proclaimed patriots also trained
their guns on the creative community -- writers, directors and actors
working in Hollywood and on Broadway -- as well as public school
teachers and academics on college campuses across the country.

The hysteria these men stirred up through largely unsubstantiated
charges caused thousands of people to lose their jobs. Some committed

Flash forward 50 years: David Horowitz, the 1960s left-wing radical
turned right-wing activist/provocateur and Republican political
consultant, has picked up McCarthy's baton. Disguised as an attempt
to broaden free speech on campus, Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights
-- which aims to stifle the speech of liberal academics -- has been
making the rounds of state houses and college campuses during the
past year or so.

In Florida, State Representative Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) has
introduced an Academic Freedom Bill of Rights after he "attended a
conservative conference in St. Louis last summer where Horowitz spoke
about academic freedom," the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Baxley's legislation, which in late March passed out of the House
Choice and Innovation Committee by an 8-to-2 vote (the only two
Democrats on the committee voted against it), was a broad assault on
academic freedom.

In addition to guaranteeing that students would "not be punished for
professing beliefs with which their professors disagree," the bill
would have advised professors "to teach alternative 'serious academic
theories' that may disagree with their personal views."

"Some professors say, 'Evolution is a fact. I don't want to hear
about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don't
like it, there's the door,'" Baxley maintained.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, students who
felt their views were disrespected in the classroom or thought they
were singled out for "public ridicule" by their professors would have
the right to sue them and the university.

"Despite the state Senate's decision not to consider Baxley's bill, I
have heard that he hasn't given up and may reintroduce the House bill
next session," Susan Greenbaum, the president of the Faculty Senate
at the University of South Florida, told IPS.

"Baxley also appealed directly to the state's university presidents
to implement his proposals administratively. As chair of the
Education Council and as a member of the Education Appropriations
Committee, a very important House committee, Baxley certainly has
their attention."

"The real test," Greenbaum pointed out, "will come in whether there
is an escalation in student grievances at Florida universities, and
what happens to those complaints. However, what seems to be lacking
in this whole issue is real student dissatisfaction. They have
garnered almost no action among students on these campuses; David
Horowitz presented a pitiful array of dubious anecdotes when he
testified in Tallahassee."

In addition to Florida, legislators in 13 other states have
introduced some type of "Academic Freedom" legislation. California
and Maine are considering "an academic bill of rights [containing] an
eight-point credo designed to increase political diversity in the

In early June, the Christian Science Monitor reported that "four
state universities in Colorado... [had] adopted the principles under
legislative pressure in 2004."

In Minnesota, right-wing state senator Michelle Bachman, a vocal
opponent of gay rights, introduced two bills modeled on Horowitz's
complaints, one targeted at state colleges and universities and one
at state high schools.

Horowitz, who operates a number of projects -- including the online
magazine Frontpagemag.com -- out of the well-funded offices of his
Los Angeles, California-based Center for the Study of Popular
Culture, set up Students for Academic Freedom in 2003 to do the grunt
work. Since then, the Washington-based outfit has been making headway
on college campuses across the nation.

Students for Academic Freedom is not only involved with lobbying
state legislatures; on some campuses, they and similarly minded
groups have launched an all-out assault on liberal professors, using
classic McCarthyite tactics.

At Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) in Santa Rosa, California, the
struggle over academic freedom took a particularly ugly turn earlier
this year. Conservative students, supporting a California version of
a Student Bill of Rights, issued "leaflets quoting Section 51530 of
the [California] Education Code," and then "anonymously posted [them]
on the doors of ten faculty members" at the College, veteran
journalist David Bacon reported.

The leaflet quoted the code:

"No teacher... shall advocate or teach communism with the intent to
indoctrinate, inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for
communism." Such "advocacy," the statute says, means teaching "for
the purpose of undermining patriotism for, and the belief in, the
government of the United States and of this state."

Claiming responsibility for the action, SRJC Republicans issued a
press release stating that they "did this because we believe certain
instructors at SRJC are in violation of California state law."

At the same time, a news release with the headline "Operation 'Red
Scare,'" appeared on the website of California College Republicans.
In McCarthyite cant, the organization's chair, Michael Davidson, told
reporter John Gorenfeld "a lot of the college professors are
leftovers from the Seventies -- and Communist sympathizers."

Meanwhile, in Florida, Horowitz's local partner, Rep. Dennis Baxley,
appears to see himself as a modern-day Daniel fighting the lions of
liberal academia. During the debate over his legislation, Baxley
claimed he was called a McCarthyist by "leftist critics [who]
ridicule me for daring to stand up for students and faculty."

Then, similar to a tactic used by Sen. Joseph McCarthy himself,
Baxley claimed that he "had a list of students who were discriminated
against by professors," but, the St. Petersburg Times reported, he
"refused to reveal names because he felt they would be persecuted."

Horowitz's efforts at campuses across the country, and Rep. Baxley's
work in Florida "represents an inversion of the original intent of
academic freedom, which is to protect the right of professors to
express controversial ideas without fear of retaliation," Susan
Greenbaum maintains.

"This protection is designed to shield free inquiry and encourage
innovation. It enables the creation of new knowledge and secures the
basis to challenge old ideas," she continued.

"In Baxley's bill -- which is really the Horowitz bill -- students
are customers, whose tastes and prejudices must be accommodated.
Professors are likened to vendors who must take care not to offend or
disturb those who have come to purchase their wares."

"It's like the Wal-Mart model: Maybe they can import holographic
images of professors made in China, attractive classroom automatons
who can be programmed to present marketable and politically
acceptable material," she said dryly.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

This is an important and welcome development. Read on...

By David Bacon

CHICAGO, IL (7/26/05) - On the second day of its convention inChicago, the AFL-CIO took an historic step, calling for the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and an end to the country's occupation. Public attention has focused largely on the split in US labor, and the decision by two of the federation's largest unions to leave. Yet the impact of this call will reverberate for years, with asprofound effect on the future of US workers and their unions.
Brooks Sunkett, vice-president of the Communications Workers of America(CWA), started a train of passionate speeches on the convention floor,saying that the government had lied to him when it sent him to war inVietnam three decades ago. "We have to stop it from lying to a newgeneration now," he implored. Henry Nicholas, a hospital union leaderin the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,told delegates that his son, who has served four tours of duty in Iraq,is now threatened with yet another.
Speaker after speaker rose to condemn the war and occupation, and todemand the return of the troops. No one dared defend a policy that hascaused revulsion throughout US unions. Watching from the visitors' gallery was a handful of Iraqi unionleaders. One of them had traveled to the US two months ago, with fiveother union activists, to plead the case of Iraqi workers. For 16 daysthey traveled to more than 50 cities, often speaking before hundreds ofangry workers, demanding an end to the occupation. The Iraqis urgedtheir US union counterparts to take action.
The resolution at the convention was the answer to this call. It wasthe culmination as well of an upsurge that has swept through US unionssince before the war started two years ago. From the point when itbecame clear that the Bush administration intended to invade Iraq,union activists began organizing a national network to oppose it, USLabor Against the War. What started as a collection of small groups,in a handful of unions, has today to become a coalition of unionsrepresenting over a million members.
The network organized the tour of the Iraqi unionists, to provide thema chance to speak directly to US workers. "We believed strongly thatif unions in our country could hear their Iraqi brothers and sistersasking for the withdrawal of US troops, they would respond in a spiritof solidarity and human sympathy," said Gene Bruskin, one of USLAW'snational coordinators. "We were right."
Resolutions calling for troop withdrawal poured in from unions, laborcouncils, and state labor federations across the country. But as theconvention began, AFL-CIO national staff tried to substitute anotherresolution that called for ending the occupation "as soon aspossible." This was the same position as that put forward by the Bushadministration.
Delegates at the convention, who belong to the USLAW network thencalled for using instead the phrase "rapid withdrawal" of the troops. At a strategy-planning session attended by over 150 delegates, US andIraqi unionists joined together to plan a fight on the convention floorto win that language. Before it could take place, however, CWAVice-president Larry Cohen went to the AFL-CIO executive council, thefederation's ruling body, and asked them to accept the change.
Knowing that a fight was in store, and suddenly unsure of their abilityto win it, the council agreed.
The resolution was put on the floor of the convention Tuesday afternoon, two days before the scheduled debate on Iraq. When the proposal for rapid withdrawal was introduced by Fred Mason, head of theAFL-CIO in Maryland, it was obvious what he meant by the words. Hiscall to "get out now" became a chorus thundering from speaker afterspeaker. The new language was adopted with the votes of an overwhelming majority.
The resolution marks a watershed moment in modern US labor history. It is the product of grassroots action at the bottom of the US labormovement, not a directive from top leaders. The call for bringing thetroops home echoes the sentiments of thousands of ordinary workers andrank-and-file union members, whose children and family have been calledon to fight the war. A growing number, who now form a majority in US unions, believe the best way to protect them is to bring them home.
The resolution represents a deeper understanding that is making its wayinto thousands of discussions in workplaces and union halls. The warin Iraq never had much credibility as an effort to find weapons of massdestruction, since none were ever found. The administration's claimthat it is fighting to bring democracy to Iraqi people inspired asimilar disbelief. After five years of administration attacks on USworkers and unions, none but the most diehard of its supporters havemuch faith left in its pro-democracy pronouncements.
Over the last year, however, the Iraqis themselves have provided a newunderstanding of the occupation's anti-democratic impact. Americanmilitary authorities, they told US union members, have banned labororganization in oil fields, factories and other Iraqi publicenterprises. Meanwhile, Bush political operatives have begun toengineer the sell off of those enterprises to foreign corporations,with a potential loss of thousands of jobs and the income needed torebuild the country.
"This is not liberation. It is occupation," said Ghasib Hassan, aleader of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, one of the unions thatsent its members to speak in the US. "At the beginning of the 21stcentury, we thought we'd seen the end of colonies, but now we'reentering a new era of colonization."
In the many meetings and discussions that finally led to the resolution, union members understood the purpose of the occupation in anew way - as the imposition, at gunpoint, of Bush administration freemarket policies on Iraq. After the resolution's passage, the Iraqiscalled on delegates to act on that understanding, and asked the AFL-CIOto bring its members out to coming national demonstrations against thewar.
Rapid withdrawal means more than just bringing US soldiers home. Calling for it puts American workers on the side of Iraqis, as theyresist the transformation of their country for the benefit of a wealthy global elite. Brooks Sunkett, Vietnam vet turned union leader, spokepowerfully for this renewed unwillingness to wage wars based on liesand greed. His call for rapid withdrawal breathes new life into theVietnam syndrome - so feared by US administrations intent on militaryintervention to defend their free market policies around the world.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Finally, a well financed, politically progressive challenge to the hegemony of the big (American) media conlomerates. It'll certainly be an experiment worth following....

New Regional Network of the South is BornHumberto Márquez
CARACAS, May 24 (IPS) - Telesur, a regional public TV network envisioned as a Latin American version of the Arab world's Al Jazeera broadcasting group, was officially launched Tuesday at a ceremony in the Venezuelan capital. The fledgling broadcasting company is jointly owned by Argentina, Cuba, Uruguay and Venezuela.

"After 513 years of looking at ourselves through foreign eyes, we Latin Americans are beginning to see ourselves through our own eyes," said the director of the new regional network, Aram Arahonian, a Uruguayan journalist based in Venezuela for the last 18 years, at the official ceremony. Venezuelan Information Minister Andrés Izarra, the chairman of Telesur, reported that the new network has already invested roughly 10 million dollars in facilities, equipment, and the leasing of a satellite.

The first brief broadcast on Monday consisted of a 10-minute video reflecting what Telesur aims to be, nationally televised in Venezuela and aired on TV networks in other countries of the region. These first images emphasised the social struggles and progressive movements of Latin America, including statements from indigenous organisations, scenes of street protests against free-market economic policies and U.S. meddling, and footage of students attending schools in poor, working-class neighbourhoods. Also shown were photographs of leftist icons like legendary Cuban-Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and former Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende, overthrown in a 1973 military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.

Telesur "will indeed be biased, towards promoting Latin American integration, diversity and plurality, and against the uniform point of view imposed through the privately owned media's control of information," Aharonian told IPS. The Telesur director added that the new network is a response to the current "media latifundia", an allusion to the system of land ownership in which enormous areas are controlled by a single private owner.

Left-leaning Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been a driving force behind Telesur. He has promoted the initiative at numerous international forums over the past year, asking, "Why do we have to be told everything we know about ourselves by a network from the North, like CNN? Why this media dictatorship?"

When former Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutiérrez was removed by Congress, Chávez admitted he found out about it on CNN. In response to a reporter's question of whether the new network will be fully devoted to spreading the messages of state TV networks in the participating countries, Aharonian stressed that if it were only used to broadcast speeches by Chávez and other presidents, "we would have to take it for granted that no one would watch it. If this were to turn into a propaganda tool, we would all leave."

The brief promotional segment that premiered Monday will be repeated in a number of countries until Jul. 24 - the anniversary of the birth of Simón Bolívar, founding father of South American independence and fervent proponent of the integration of the region's nations - when full-length programmes will begin to be aired, followed by 24-hour broadcasting as of mid-September.

News and current affairs will account for 40 percent of all programming, according to the Telesur board of directors, which includes Beto Almeida from Brazil, Jorge Botero from Colombia and Ovidio Cabrera from Cuba. In addition to a full-length newscast, a morning news and analysis show and other current events programming, brief news updates will be aired every half hour. Other regular segments will include a showcase of Latin American filmmaking, past and present, entitled Memories in Development (a play on the title of the classic Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment), and another featuring movies from non-Latin American countries other than the United States, called Nojolivud (the Spanish phonetic spelling of "No Hollywood").

Another segment, Memories of Fire, will be entirely devoted to documentaries. "Last year, there were 646 documentaries filmed in Latin America, according to the figures we have gathered, but only 21 of them have ever been shown. We will be providing a space for all of these productions," said Aharonian. There are also plans for regularly scheduled shows dedicated to music, regional travel and tourism destinations, agriculture, and survival in the large urban centres of Latin America.

Telesur plans to air programming produced by both privately owned and national and local public TV stations, as well as community, university and independent producers. The network will also have a branch devoted to promoting regional TV production dubbed the Latin American Content Factory. But while the programming directors will be open to submissions from all sources, their decisions will be based on high standards of quality in terms of both content and form, said Aharonian. When Telesur is fully functioning at the end of the year, viewers will be able to tune in throughout the Americas, in western Europe, and in the northwest tip of Africa, according to the network management.

"This is a challenge we have always dreamed of pursuing," said Gabriel Marotto, the Argentine media undersecretary. "We are counting on providing a different vision of our reality, and on the fact that this will be a TV network run by states, and not by governments," he added.

Venezuela owns 51 percent of the shares in the Empresa Multiestatal Telesur, Compañía Anónima, as the Telesur broadcasting company is officially known, while Argentina owns 20 percent, Cuba 19 percent, and Uruguay 10 percent. "But more than a financial or commercial operation, the participating states are taking part in Telesur for a political purpose, which is to foster the integration of our peoples," stressed Izarra.

In view of the notable absence of Brazil - which has come to play a leading role in regional integration - Izarra noted that the project is still open to the incorporation of all other Latin American nations. Venezuela provided the start-up financing for the network, while the other shareholding partners are contributing programming, equipment and staff, he added. Botero, the head of news and current affairs programming, reported that local bureaux have already been opened in Brasilia, Bogota, Caracas and La Paz, and will soon be followed by others in Buenos Aires, Havana, Mexico City, Montevideo and Washington, D.C.


Friday, June 03, 2005

While I'm a fan of the 'Daily Show,' McManus, of the fine watchdog group Grade the News, is absolutely on the money here. As a college professor, I encounter evidence that young people are "tuning out" the news every damn day. It has gotten to the point where I actually had to explain to some students exactly what Bush's Social Security reform proposal was so that I could proceed to criticize the news media's coverage of it. Of course, as our collective quality of life deteriotates in the coming years thanks to the misrule of the plutocrats, maybe some of them will develop an interest in current affiars. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

When the 'Daily Show' Becomes Your News
By John McManus, Grade the News. Posted June 2, 2005.
What does it say about journalism when young people use “fake news” as their primary source of information?

So many people -- particularly young people -- tell me they now get most of their news from Comedy Central’s "Daily Show," I decided to record it for analysis.
Jon Stewart is a brilliant comic. Watching his show I learned more about national stories like the confirmation hearings for John Bolton, the Bush administration’s proposed United Nations ambassador, than I read on the front pages of some American newspapers.

But the "Daily Show" makes no pretense of being real news. It skims the events of the day for the comic or ironic. It pokes fun at journalism’s hallowed conventions of accuracy, objectivity and fairness. And while you may learn something about national and international events, it doesn’t cover local news.

What does it say about journalism when intelligent people claim a program that prides itself as “fake news” is their primary source of information about current events?
Turning away from real news makes no sense. Not for those interested in democracy’s promise of self-government, certainly. Not even for those seeking more entertaining alternatives to news.

It defies economic logic.

When a product becomes more useful, more available and cheaper, you would expect its popularity to soar. It happened with automobiles, television, computers and cell phones.
But oddly, not journalism. News has never been so valuable, so accessible and so inexpensive. Yet study after study shows Americans under the age of 40 have never valued it less.
News is about change

The purpose of journalism is to help people make sense of change. Driven by technology, the world around us has never changed so rapidly.

A hundred years ago, if you knew little about the world you got along fine. Then, what labor was paid in China didn’t affect workers in California. Only the most cataclysmic distant events mattered at home.

Today ignorance of world affairs can take food off your table as corporations hire globally and fire locally. What’s being discussed by militants half a world away today may take more than your job tomorrow. The radius of news that matters now spans the planet. Distance is obsolete.
The reach of government has also expanded from 100 years ago, making political news more valuable. Government decisions now affect almost every aspect of life – from the quality of air and water to schools, transportation, job availability, public safety, even spotted owls.

Technology has also exponentially increased the volume of news available. On cable, satellite, and the Web, a world of news outlets has bloomed – from main stream media to bloggers -- almost all offering information for free.

Yet polls, circulation numbers and Nielsen ratings show unmistakably that Americans under 40 are following current events less than their parents. Even less than their parents and grandparents did when they were young.

Eighteen to 24-year-olds may be the Internet Generation, but a recent poll found only 11 percent use the ‘net to learn of current events. Not surprisingly, other polls show those under 40 know less and care less about politics.

A democracy, more than other forms of government, is a continuous contest for power among many constituencies. Nearly everything not nailed down by the Constitution is up for grabs.

Groups that don’t know what’s going on are sure losers in our system.

Young people at risk
The effects of youthful disengagement from news may already be evident. Arguably, young people are the least likely to benefit from the Bush administration’s policies.
• The burdens of war always fall hardest on the young, who risk life, limb and psyche.
• The proposed privatization of Social Security won’t change the system for those about to retire, but it raises risks for younger workers.
• The Medicare drug benefit is aimed at the elderly. The federal health program helping the most young people is Medicaid. The administration proposes to cut billions from its budget.
• And the growing federal budget deficit is shifting debt from current to future tax-payers.
Madison's warning
When you abandon the news, you don’t lose your vote. But you may lose its effectiveness.
Unaware of their records and policies, you may elect politicians indifferent or hostile to your interests. And when people organize to promote their agenda before school boards, city councils, county supervisors, state legislatures and congress, your place at democracy’s table will be taken by someone else.

Almost 200 years ago, James Madison warned that “knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

In the information age, Madison’s words ring truer still.

John McManus is director of Grade the News — a media research project focusing on the quality of the news media in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The conservative flak-machine is apparently once again in attack mode, this time targeting Newspaper Guild president Linda Foley for suggesting that the U.S. military has a "cavalier" attitude toward the slaughter of journalists in Iraq. Given the evidence, Foley's criticisms were, if anything, too mild. Steve Weissman of Truthout last year wrote a four part series, Dead Messengers: How the U.S. Military Threatens Journalists, that makes a good case that it is U.S. military policy to attack independent reporters covering the occupation (which would certainly explain the whole Giuliana Sgrena incident). Since the right-wing media have no reporters in Iraq who aren't "in bed" with the military, it is hardly surprising that they haven't taken up the issue. Read more below....

Guild chief under fire for comments about attacks on journalists in Iraq
From Editor & Publisher, May 20, 2005
By Joe StruppNEW YORK

Linda Foley, national president of The Newspaper Guild, drew criticism Thursday from some conservatives for comments she made last Friday about the killing of journalists in Iraq. Foley said, among other things, that she was outraged by “the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq. I think it’s just a scandal.”

Last month, Foley sent a letter to President Bush criticizing the U.S. investigation into the deaths of journalists in Iraq.The backlash became so severe Thursday that staffers at Guild headquarters in Washington, D.C., stopped answering the phone because of abusive phone calls and “people screaming at us,” Foley said. Instead, callers were required to leave messages on voice mail and await a return call.

“We don’t want people to be subjected to that kind of abuse,” Foley said, adding that the angry calls began early Thursday. “It is annoying, but it isn’t deterring us from doing what we have to do.”

The calls were apparently in reaction to comments Foley made during a panel discussion at the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis on May 13. There she offered a lengthy commentary on corporate ownership of media, and she refuted certain criticism of journalists. During that session, she also briefly discussed deaths of journalists covering the war.

Foley’s comments, which she says have been distorted, have drawn the ire of several conservative news organizations, including NewsMax.com, The Washington Times, and Sinclair Broadcasting, charging that she accused the U.S. forces of deliberately targeting journalists.

According to a video of the session available on the conference’s Web site, her only comments on this specific subject were:“Journalists are not just being targeted verbally or politically. They are also being targeted for real in places like Iraq. And what outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there’s not more outrage about the number and the brutality, and the cavalier nature of the U.S. military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq. I think it’s just a scandal.”

“It’s not just U.S. journalists either, by the way. They target and kill journalists from other countries, particularly Arab countries, at news services like Al Jazeera, for example. They actually target them and blow up their studios, with impunity. This is all part of the culture that it is OK to blame the individual journalists, and it just takes the heat off of these media conglomerates that are part of the problem.”

A NewsMax.com story charged that Foley had accused U.S. soldiers of “committing atrocities without offering any evidence to back the charge up.” Mark Hyman, a Sinclair commentator, called her comments “irresponsible” and “horrible allegations.” Several critics immediately compared her criticism to the case of Eason Jordan, the former CNN executive who resigned after suggesting that the U.S. military may have targeted some journalists in Iraq.

Foley told E&P Thursday that her words were taken out of context by critics and said her original intent was to discuss how journalists are often scapegoated for their coverage.

“This was almost an aside,” she said. “But it is true that hundreds of journalists are killed around the world, and many have been killed in Iraq.”

When asked if she believed U.S. troops had targeted journalists in Iraq, she said, “I was careful of not saying troops, I said U.S. military. Could I have said it differently? There are 100 different ways of saying this, but I’m not sure they would have appeased the right.”

She did point out that those who bombed the Al Jazeera studios in Baghdad in 2003 had the coordinates of the television station, “because Al Jazeera had given it to them and they bombed the hell out of the station. They bombed it knowing it was the Al Jazeera station. Absent any independent inquiry that tells the world otherwise, that is what I believe.”

Her comments at the conference followed the letter she sent last month to President Bush criticizing the U.S. investigation into the deaths of journalists in Iraq, including several during an attack on the Palestine Hotel in 2003. In that attack, two journalists — one from Spain and the other from Ukraine — were killed. She also noted the bombing of the Al Jazeera office the same day, in which a reporter died.

“Neither of these attacks has been independently investigated nor have the deaths been properly explained to the satisfaction of the victims’ families, their friends and their colleagues,” the letter said, in part.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

The relentless right-wing campaign to eliminate all independent and critical voices from the public sphere continues unabated. First, they forced Howard Stern -- no hero of mine but a defender of free speech and a thorn in the side of the hated Bushies nonetheless-- off commercial radio. Then they got CBS anchor Dan Rather to resign (just for practicing semi-hard-hitting journalism). Now, they're hellbent on ousting even the lukewarm liberals at CPB and PBS. Scary stuff.

New Scrutiny of PBS Has Raised Political Antennas

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2005; Page C01

Liberal commentator Bill Moyers is out on PBS stations. Buster the
animated rabbit is under a cloud of suspicion. And right-wing yakkers
from the Wall Street Journal editorial page have been handed their own
public-television chat show.

Some observers, including people inside the Public Broadcasting
Service, see these recent developments as troubling. PBS, they say, is
being forced to toe a more conservative line in its programming by the
Republican-dominated agency that provides about $30 million in
federal funds to the Alexandria-based service.

Officials at the agency, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, say
they are merely seeking to ensure balance and fairness in the
network's presentation of political news and ideas.

Under its mandate from Congress, which created the agency in 1967,
CPB is required to act as an independent buffer between lawmakers
and public broadcasters, although it can set broad programming
goals. Appointees of President Bush currently control the majority of
seats on CPB's eight-member board. Each board member serves a
six-year term.

Typically one of the quietest bureaucracies in Washington, the
quasi-governmental CPB has been unusually active in recent weeks.
CPB this month appointed a pair of veteran journalists to review public
TV and radio programming for evidence of bias, the first time CPB has
sought such oversight in its 38-year history. PBS officials were
unaware that the corporation intended to review its news and public
affairs programs, such as "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" and
"Frontline," until the appointments were publicly announced.

In negotiations with PBS earlier this year, the corporation also insisted,
for the first time, on tying new funding to an agreement that would
commit the network to strict "objectivity and balance" in each of its
programs -- an idea that PBS's general counsel described in an
internal memo as amounting to "government encroachment on and
supervision of program content, potentially in violation of the First

Late last week, CPB's board declined to renew the contract of its chief
executive, Kathleen Cox, a veteran administrator at the agency. She
was replaced by Ken Ferree, a Republican who had been a top adviser
to Michael Powell, the former chairman of the Federal Communications
Commission. The Ferree appointment followed the dismissals or
departures in recent months of at least three other senior CPB officials,
all of whom had Democratic affiliations.

"We don't want to be alarmist, but I would be less than honest if I said
there wasn't concern here," said one senior executive at PBS, who
insisted on anonymity because CPB provides about 10 percent of its
annual budget. "When you put it all together, a pattern starts to

A senior FCC official, who would not speak for attribution because he
must rule on issues affecting public broadcasting, went further, saying
CPB "is engaged in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but
to impose a right-wing agenda on PBS. It's almost like a right-wing
coup. It appears to be orchestrated."

In an interview yesterday, CPB board chairman Ken Tomlinson called
such comments "paranoia," and said critics of CPB's initiatives should
"grow up."

"We're only seeking balance," said Tomlinson. "I am concerned about
perceptions that not all parts of the political spectrum are reflected on
public broadcasting. [But] there are no hidden agendas."

Asked for specific examples of slanted or unfair programming,
Tomlinson declined to name any. "You've heard the same complaints
of bias that I have in congressional hearings year after year," he said.

In fact, congressional Republicans have been generally critical of
public broadcasting's news and informational programming for years,
saying it favors liberal ideas. These criticisms fueled a movement led
by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to "zero out" CPB's federal
funding a decade ago. Those efforts failed; federal appropriations to
CPB have grown 40 percent since then, to some $386.8 million this
year. About 90 percent of this money is passed directly to public radio
and TV stations, which then pay fees to PBS and National Public Radio
for programming such as "Nova" and "All Things Considered."

However, conservatives recently were exercised that Moyers -- an
outspoken liberal -- was involved in hosting a weekly newsmagazine
called "Now." (Moyers left the show in December, citing personal
reasons.) PBS responded, in part, by trying to recruit Gingrich to host a
weekly program. It wound up developing public affairs shows starring
the Wall Street Journal's conservative pundits and Tucker Carlson, a
columnist for the conservative Weekly Standard and a co-host of CNN's
"Crossfire." (Carlson has since left PBS and CNN for a job at MSNBC.)

In January, PBS came in for more criticism, this time a rebuke from
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings over an episode of a children's
travelogue program in which a rabbit character named Buster paid a
visit to two families headed by lesbians. PBS pulled the episode from
distribution to stations around the country.

Tomlinson would not comment on specific programs. He said CPB's
efforts were aimed at making "incremental changes that meet the
needs of the American people and the aspirations of the American

The corporation's own research indicates broad public satisfaction with
the quality of news programming on PBS and NPR. A series of focus
group sessions and two national surveys conducted by two polling
firms -- the Tarrance Group and Lake Snell Perry & Associates -- found
few perceptions of bias in PBS's or NPR's reporting in 2002 and 2003.
For example, among people who identified themselves as "news and
information consumers," 36 percent said PBS's coverage of the Bush
administration in 2003 was "fair and balanced," and 46 percent offered
no opinion. Eleven percent judged NPR's coverage of the Middle East
to be biased, and this group split almost equally between those who
felt NPR was biased toward Israel and those who felt it was biased
toward the Arab or Palestinian side.

Wayne Godwin, PBS's veteran chief operating officer, said in an
interview yesterday that he wanted to give CPB's new chief executive,
Ferree, some time before he drew conclusions. "They're in such a
significant state of flux at this time that we want to be fair in looking
it," he said.

He added, "I don't know that Ken [Tomlinson] is or is not trying to
change our programming. . . . I will say there is reason to remain aware
and vigilant to what is going on. The long run will determine if he wants

Tomlinson said his goal is to seek increases in federal funding of
public broadcasting in order to strengthen it in an increasingly
competitive media environment. "Public TV, public broadcasting, is in
trouble," he said. "It will wither and die if we continue the way we have.
That's why it's so important for us to rally national support for it. If we
don't have true excellence, we won't be able to gain the support we
need. We have to make sure that these [programming] concerns don't
prevent us from gaining the national consensus we need."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Monday, March 21, 2005

A distressing example of "target marketing" in action. And the Republicans have the gall to accuse the left of dividing the country along lines of race....

The Soft Bigotry of Life Expectancy
Different Social Security messages for blacks and Latinos.
By William SaletanPosted Wednesday, March 16, 2005, at 1:08 PM PT

Different strokes for different folks?Why is President Bush's Social Security reform plan heading south inthe polls? Maybe because he's selling different messages to differentaudiences and some audiences are overhearing messages meant forothers. He's telling older people that nothing relevant to them willchange. Meanwhile, he's telling the younger people who are propping upthe system that it's a dead end and he'll help them get out.

This iswhy Republican "town halls" that were supposed to boost the plan inthe polls failed so miserably. The town halls were for the youngerfolks, but the older folks showed up. Oops!It turns out the young and the old aren't the only groups gettingdifferent pitches. Bush is narrowcasting to blacks and Latinos, too.

The message to blacks is that Social Security screws them because theydie younger. By all accounts, that's what Bush told black business andcommunity leaders at a two-hour private meeting on Jan. 25. It's alsothe centerpiece of black community town halls and speeches to blackaudiences by GOP chairman Ken Mehlman, according to the Los AngelesTimes.

At one forum, Bush told a black executive, "African Americanmales die sooner than other males do, which means the system isinherently unfair to a certain group of people." The executive,referring to black male life expectancy, said to Bush, "If you'retelling me that it's 69, and the [retirement] age is going to go to67, you do the math." Bush replied, "Right."Bush was encouraging a misconception.

As Paul Krugman has explained,remaining life expectancy for a 65-year-old black man is 14.6 years,not two. It's true that black male life expectancy at birth is only69, but black-white mortality differences trail off throughout life.(By the late stages, black men outlive white men of the same age.) So,while blacks are likely to spend fewer years taking money out, they'realso likely to spend fewer years paying in.

What's more interesting, however, is another misconception Bush seemsto have floated. On Dec. 21, he met with Kweisi Mfume, the outgoingpresident of the NAACP. According to a Federal Document Clearing Housetranscript, Mfume told reporters afterward that in the meeting Bush"was very strong in his belief that some communities in particular,because of low life expectancy rates, don't get a chance to get outmuch of what they put in all their lives." Black men and women "havedisproportionately lower life expectancies," said Mfume. "And so myassumption is that that group, along with Latinos, may be what thepresident was referring to."

Mfume said he hadn't pressed Bush to clarify the reference to "somecommunities." But the reference did its job. The next day, the Coxnewspaper chain reported that "Mfume said they discussed how toaccount for groups, such as African-Americans and Latinos, that havelower-than-average life expectancy rates and, as a result, don't drawretirement benefits commensurate with what they pay in payroll taxesover the course of their working lives."

There's no record of anyeffort by the White House to correct this account. Indeed, three weekslater, the White House issued a "fact" sheet claiming that "Hispanics,African-Americans, and unmarried elderly women are even more relianton Social Security." The sheet added nothing to suggest that therationales for making this claim about the three groups might differ.A couple of weeks ago, in an op-ed for the Los Angeles-based newspaperLa Opinión, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez reportedly argued thatbecause of their disproportionate reliance on Social Security, Latinosstood to lose disproportionately if Bush's plan were defeated. (Theop-ed can't be found online, and I've asked the Commerce Departmentfor a copy of it but haven't received it, so for now I'm relying on aMarch 4 Los Angeles Times account of it.)

What Gutierrez and the White House seem not to have mentioned is that,contrary to the impression Bush gave Mfume, Latinos can expect tooutlive whites. According to a report issued five years ago by what isnow Gutierrez's department, life expectancy for Americans of "Hispanicorigin" in 1999 was 77.1 years among men and 83.7 years among women.That's a 2.4-year surplus for Latino men over white men and a 3.6-yearsurplus for Latino women over white women.So, here's the situation. In an op-ed written in Spanish and not madeavailable in English on any federal Web site, the administrationargues that Latinos, who live longer than whites do, should supportBush's reform plan because upon retirement they relydisproportionately on Social Security.

Meanwhile, in forums andprivate meetings aimed at blacks, the administration argues thatblacks, who upon retirement rely disproportionately on SocialSecurity, should support Bush's reform plan because they don't live aslong as whites do. Only once has Bush slipped up and alluded to onegroup in the course of making his pitch to the other. And on thatoccasion, at best, he seems to have conveyed?and failed to correctafter its publication?an impression that helped him politically butwas contrary to the truth.

The only other ethnic groups analyzed in the 2000 Commerce Departmentreport on life expectancy?or apparent in any other such governmentreport?are Asian-Americans and American Indians. Asian-Americans werebeating white life expectancy by six years among men and 6.5 yearsamong women. American Indian men were trailing white men by two yearsin life expectancy, but American Indian women were exceeding whitewomen by the same amount.

So, here are two questions for PresidentBush: When you told Mfume that some communities in particular were getting shafted by Social Security due to low life expectancy, which communities were you talking about? And if you're telling the wholetruth to blacks and Latinos, why aren't you telling them the samething?

William Saletan is Slate's chief political correspondent and author ofBearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.Photograph of George Bush by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI Photo