Two drug execs escape jail … for now


By G.W. Schulz

Two former executives at the San Francisco-based McKesson Corp. escaped prison sentences by the skin of their teeth late last week in this ongoing era of blind fury over corporate corruption. And McKesson’s former blue suits have the indecisiveness of just one juror out of 12 to thank.

The two were acquitted on one count of securities fraud stemming from a $9 billion accounting scandal, but a mistrial was declared after the jury deadlocked 11-1 on three of the remaining counts. Four other executives were previously convicted in a scheme by which the company allegedly overstated revenue to the tune of $300 million during its merger with an Atlanta-based outfit called HBO & Co.

McKesson is one of the nation’s largest prescription-drug wholesalers with revenue of $88 billion annually. It’s current CEO, John Hammergren, makes more each year than even the head of Bay Area-based ChevronTexaco.

One juror told the Associated Press that the rebel holdout “got to the point where he didn’t want to be talked to anymore.” U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan’s office is determining whether to retry, which could still land the two men, Charles McCall and Jay Lapine, in jail for 10 years each.

The Guardian reported in late October that McKesson is in no small amount of trouble these days. The company, along with the New York-based Hearst Corp., which owns the San Francisco Chronicle, was charged by a group of unions in a civil suit filed in a Boston federal court last year of conspiring to inflate drug prices. Hearst owns a drug info publishing company based in San Bruno called First DataBank. The suit alleges that the effort caused consumers to overpay $7 billion for prescription drugs between 2001 and 2005. First DataBank has since settled, as we reported, but McKesson is still a major target of the lawsuit.

Big Pharma is nearly as profitable as Big Oil these days. The state of California pays out over $3 billion each year for prescription drugs through programs that benefit children and the indigent, while Santa Clara County alone — as a smaller-scale example — pays out nearly $35 million. (Santa Clara County sued a bunch of manufacturers and wholesalers a couple of years ago for allegedly rigging prices, but the case was recently tossed out of federal court in San Francisco.)

Defense attorneys for the former McKesson execs are calling last week’s ruling a victory, but Wall Street didn’t appear to see it that way. Value of the company’s shares dropped by nearly a half following announcement of the news to $35. The company quickly informed the business press just a few days later of its $1.1 billion purchase of Georgia-based Per-Se Technologies and just as soon recovered $15 per share of the drop. Guess corporate ethics don’t have to be much of a pain in the monetary ass after all.

Dizzy spell


Dear Andrea:
You’ve written occasionally about infatuation, but is it really such a bad thing? I mean, is it meaningless? When it wears off, what happens next?
I know it when I feel it. It has driven even logical, structure-loving me to be romantic and well, loopy. But isn’t it based on genuine attraction? Is it something to be wary of?
The object of my desire lives far away, and infrequent visits keep the natural relationship progression at bay. It’s always exciting to see each other, and many of the normal daily annoyances and issues of relationships don’t arise.
Here’s the rub though: while I’m convinced I’m in love and confident in his feelings as well, I fear that making huge decisions and life changes (he’s thinking about selling his house, for instance) may be rash and based on infatuation.
Cloud Head
Dear Head:
I have written about infatuation, yes, but never without mentioning the word’s etymology, which never fails to charm me, if not as deeply and enduringly as I am charmed by the source of bugger, which is a corruption of Bulgarian, or herpes, which shares a root with herpetology, the study of reptiles, or “things that creep.” Infatuation, of course, means “to make foolish,” and shares a root with fatuous. Aren’t you glad you asked? What? You didn’t ask?
I don’t know what definition your psych 101 teacher gave. I’ll assume that you’re thinking of infatuation as the dizzy, dopey first flush of attraction which has no time for those aspects of love which take time, by which I don’t mean marriage and baby carriage as much as putting the other person’s needs and comfort first, or at least on a level with one’s own, and being made happy by the other’s happiness plus trust, commitment, and mutual support. These latter qualities get something of a bad rap — they’re the nice, dull things you earn in compensation for the sexy, shiny part wearing off — but of course they are no such thing. You can have trust, commitment, and an investment in each other’s happiness and still want to see each other nekkid.
Neither of these is to be confused with limerence, a word that did not exist until the ’70s, when a psychologist, Dorothy Tennov, saw fit to coin it. Unlike infatuation and herpes, limerence shares a root with exactly nothing. It’s rather a lovely sound, though, and seems fitting for that transcendent sensation, that sense that since you and your limerent object met or connected, the world has been utterly transformed. Surely others can see it! If they can’t see it, it’s only because they’re not as sensitive as you are. They could never understand the exquisite torture that is your special, special love.
Limerence is not love, it’s “being in love” (without infatuation’s connotations of foolishness and brevity): the intrusive thoughts to the point of obsession, the feeling of walking on air, the mad longing, the way that every touch, every word, every glance from the beloved is imbued with meaning, and the palpable pain (heartache) of separation or lack of reciprocity. Without limerence all popular music would be either “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Kill You,” nothing in-between. The Rodgers and Hart song “This Can’t Be Love,” which is has been playing in my head since the XM radio in the kids’ room got stuck on the show tunes station, ought to have been called “This Can’t Be Limerence,” but it just doesn’t scan as well:
This can’t be love, because I feel so well,
No sobs, no sorrows, no sighs.
This can’t be love; I get no dizzy spells,
My head is not in the skies.
My heart does not stand still, just hear it beat.
This is too sweet to be love.
Limerence does not become love as much as it can leave you and the limerent object ideally positioned to find love together. You ask, is this really love or merely infatuation? I answer, it’s limerence, and better yet, requited limerence; enjoy it. You ask, “But is the attraction real?” and I say, of course it’s real. Limerence causes a certain type of temporary insanity but you still know what you feel. And finally, should the two of you throw all caution and real estate to the wind and throw in together, despite not really knowing each other that well? Um. This is pretty wishy-washy (limerence is never wishy-washy), but … sort of? How about you wait a year? How about traveling together a little first? Sharing a vacation house? Those situations are not real life but they do involve real stressors. I’d agree that this can’t be love but I won’t say it can’t get there. Let him see you without make-up. Find out what he’s like when you’re lost and hot and cranky on a road trip. Head in the clouds? Easy. How about shaving scum in the sink?
Andrea Nemerson has spent the last 14 years as a sex educator and an instructor of sex educators. In her previous life she was a prop designer. And she just gave birth to twins, so she’s one bad mother of a sex adviser. Visit to view her previous columns.



I was six when they assassinated John F. Kennedy. It was warm and sunny in Dallas, but I remember the cold and snow in Rochester, NY. We were visiting my grandparents; I was walking with my mother to the grocery store when a guy driving by shouted the news out of his car window: “Did ya hear about the president? He was just shot.” We turned around and raced back to listen to the radio.
For the next few hours, the grown-ups in the big, roomy apartment were distracted, sort of shell-shocked. My grandpa, a solid Republican, never liked Kennedy the politician, and my dad didn’t particularly like Kennedy’s economic policies, but there was no joking about his death, no talk of covert government plots, no political speculation. Just sadness and respect.
The guy was the president. He fought in WWII. He came home and became part of a generation of optimism, just like my parents. Some lunatic had killed him, and that was just awful. “He was a great man,” my father told me later. “He wasn’t a great president, but he was a great man.”
It wasn’t until much, much later that I began to believe that a lot of what we’d been told about the assassination probably wasn’t true. Long before Watergate happened, Nov. 22, 1963, became a defining moment for baby boomers, the first major, world-changing event from which we developed a passionate distrust for the official government line. Today, I don’t think I know a single person my age who actually thinks Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
My son, Michael, won’t remember Sept. 11, 2001. He was barely two years old. But I’ll never forget the nervous feeling I got when I dropped him off at day care that morning. And I’ll never forget the realization that from the moment I started hearing news reports, I knew the government was lying to me.
I can’t sort out all of the Kennedy conspiracies and honestly, I don’t know exactly what happened on the day after my parents’ wedding anniversary five years ago. But I know that I will never tell my son that the president was a “great man.” When Michael asks me where I was Sept. 11, 2001, I’ll tell him it was a Tuesday morning and I was at work, writing a column for the next day’s paper that was as critical of the president of the United States as it was of the people who had just killed 3,000 Americans.
This doesn’t make me terribly comfortable.
See, I’m still a public sector kind of guy, someone who believes that for all its problems, democratically elected government is better than private corporatocracy, that for all the corruption, waste, and fraud, it’s still possible to have national health insurance, a progressive national housing policy, sound public education, and a lot of other things that probably wouldn’t have sounded all that weird to the folks who were my age in 1963.
So let me indulge in a truly strange conspiracy theory.
If I were a Bad Guy and I saw the baby boomers with all their energy and idealism and potential and I wanted to be sure that they never became a threat to the total dominance of private capital in America, I would have killed a president, covered it up, gone to war for no good reason, spied on them or their friends — and given an entire generation every reason to see that government was the enemy.
And it would have worked. SFBG



Last month, two news stories broke the same day, one meaty, one junky. In Detroit, US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that the Bush administration’s warrantless National Security Agency surveillance program was unconstitutional and must end. Meanwhile, somewhere in Thailand, a weirdo named John Mark Karr claimed he was with six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey when she died in 1996.
Predictably, the mainstream media devoted acres of newsprint and hours of airtime to the self-proclaimed beauty queen killer, including stories on what he ate on the plane ride home, his desire for a sex change, his child-porn fixation, and — when DNA tests proved Karr wasn’t the killer — why he confessed to a crime he didn’t commit.
During that same time period, hardly a word was written or said in the same outlets about Judge Diggs Taylor’s ruling and the question it raises about why Bush and his power-grabbing administration repeatedly lie to the American public.
The mainstream media’s fascination with unimportant stories isn’t anything new. Professor Carl Jensen, a disenchanted journalist who entered advertising only to walk away in greater disgust and become a sociologist, says the media’s preoccupation with “junk food news” inspired him to found a media research project at Sonoma State University about 30 years ago to publicize the top 25 big stories the media had censored, ignored, or underreported the previous year.
That was the beginning of Project Censored, the longest-running media censorship project in the nation — and it drew plenty of criticism from editors and publishers.
“I was taking a lot of flak from editors around Project Censored’s annual list of the top stories the mainstream media missed,” recalls the now-retired Jensen. “They said the reason they hadn’t covered the stories was that they only had a limited amount of time and space, and that I was an academic, sitting there criticizing.”
But Jensen had an answer: there was plenty of time and space, but it was just being filled with fluff.
Since 1993, Project Censored has been running not only the stories that didn’t get adequate coverage but also the “junk food news” — the stories that were way, way overblown and filled precious pages and airtime that could have been used for real news.
While Jensen would love to be able to claim that Project Censored solved the media’s problems with censorship and junk food news, that didn’t happen.
“If anything, it’s gotten worse,” Jensen says, pointing to increased media monopolization.
Project Censored’s current director, Peter Phillips, says entertainment news may be addictive, but that’s no excuse for the media to push it.
“Massacres, celebrity gossip — we’re automatically attracted,” Phillips says. “It’s like selling drugs. But we don’t tolerate the drug dealer on the corner. For the democratic process to happen, we have to have information presented and made available. To just give people entertainment news is an abdication of the First Amendment.”
Art Brodsky, a telecommunications expert at Public Knowledge, an advocacy group based in Washington, DC, says some of the problems with censorship are a product of journalistic laziness. Brodsky, who has written extensively on network neutrality, which is the number one issue on this year’s list, says the topic hasn’t received enough coverage, partly because the debate has largely remained couched in telecommunications jargon.
“Network neutralilty is a crappy term, other than its alliterative value,” Brodsky says. “It’s one of those Washington issues that gets intense coverage in the field where it happens but can be successfully muddied, and it’s technical. So a lot of editors and reporters throw their hands up in the air, a lot like senators.
Following are Project Censored’s top 10 stories for the past year.
In its relatively brief life, the Internet has been touted as the greatest vehicle for democracy ever invented by humankind. It’s given disillusioned Americans hope that there is a way to get out the truth, even if they don’t own airwaves, newspapers, or satellite stations. It’s forced the mainstream media to talk about issues it previously ignored, such as the Downing Street memo and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.
So when the Supreme Court ruled that giant cable companies aren’t required to share their wires with other Internet service providers, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the major media did little in terms of exploring whether this ruling would destroy Internet freedom. As Elliot Cohen reported in BuzzFlash, the issue was misleadingly framed as an argument over regulation, when it’s really a case of the Federal Communications Commission and Congress talking about giving cable and telephone companies the freedom to control supply and content — a decision that could have them playing favorites and forcing consumers to pay to get information and services that currently are free.
The good news? With the Senate still set to debate the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006, as the network neutrality bill is called, it’s not too late to write congressional representatives, alert friends and acquaintances, and join grassroots groups to protect Internet freedom and diversity.
Source: “Web of Deceit: How Internet Freedom Got the Federal Ax, and Why Corporate News Censored the Story,” Elliot D. Cohen,, July 18, 2005
Halliburton, the notorious US energy company, sold key nuclear reactor components to a private Iranian oil company called Oriental Oil Kish as recently as 2005, using offshore subsidiaries to circumvent US sanctions, journalist Jason Leopold reported on, the Web site of a Canadian research group. He cited sources intimate with the business dealings of Halliburton and Kish.
The story is particularly juicy because Vice President Dick Cheney, who now claims to want to stop Iran from getting nukes, was president of Halliburton in the mid-1990s, at which time he may have advocated business dealings with Iran, in violation of US law.
Leopold contended that the Halliburton-Kish deals have helped Iran become capable of enriching weapons-grade uranium.
He filed his report in 2005, when Iran’s new hard-line government was rounding up relatives and business associates of former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, amid accusations of widespread corruption in Iran’s oil industry.
Leopold also reported that in 2004 and 2005, Halliburton had a close business relationship with Cyrus Nasseri, an Oriental Oil Kish official whom the Iranian government subsequently accused of receiving up to $1 million from Halliburton for giving them Iran’s nuclear secrets.
Source: “Halliburton Secretly Doing Business with Key Member of Iran’s Nuclear Team,” Jason Leopold,, Aug. 5, 2005
Rising sea levels. A melting Arctic. Governments denying global warming is happening as they rush to map the ocean floor in the hopes of claiming rights to oil, gas, gold, diamonds, copper, zinc, and the planet’s last pristine fishing grounds. This is the sobering picture author Julia Whitty painted in a beautifully crafted piece that makes the point that “there is only one ocean on Earth … a Mobiuslike ribbon winding through all the ocean basins, rising and falling, and stirring the waters of the world.”
If this world ocean, which encompasses 70.78 percent of our planet, is in peril, then we’re all screwed. As Whitty reported in Mother Jones magazine, researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2005 found “the first clear evidence that the world ocean is growing warmer,” including the discovery “that the top half-mile of the ocean has warmed dramatically in the past 40 years as the result of human-induced greenhouse gases.” But while a Scripps researcher recommended that “the Bush administration convene a Manhattan-style project” to see if mitigations are still possible, the US government has yet to lift a finger toward addressing the problem.
Source: “The Fate of the Ocean,” Julia Whitty, Mother Jones, March–April 2006
As hunger and homelessness rise in the United States, the Bush administration plans to get rid of a data source that supports this embarrassing reality — a survey that’s been used to improve state and federal programs for retired and low-income Americans.
President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 includes an effort to eliminate the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation. Founded in 1984, the survey tracks American families’ use of Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, child care, and temporary assistance for needy families.
With legislators and researchers trying to prevent the cut, author Abid Aslam argued that this isn’t just an isolated budget matter: it’s the Bush administration’s third attempt in as many years to remove funding for politically embarrassing research. In 2003, it tried to whack the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on mass layoffs and in 2004 and 2005 attempted to drop the bureau’s questions on the hiring and firing of women from its employment data.
Sources: “New Report Shows Increase in Urban Hunger, Homelessness,” Brendan Coyne, New Standard, December 2005; “US Plan to Eliminate Survey of Needy Families Draws Fire,” Abid Aslam,, March 2006
If you believe the corporate media, then the ongoing genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is all just a case of ugly tribal warfare. But that, according to stories published in Z Magazine and the Earth First! Journal and heard on The Taylor Report, is a superficial, simplistic explanation that fails to connect this terrible suffering with the immense fortunes that stand to be made from manufacturing cell phones, laptop computers, and other high-tech equipment.
What’s really at stake in this bloodbath is control of natural resources such as diamonds, tin, and copper, as well as cobalt — which is essential for the nuclear, chemical, aerospace, and defense industries — and coltan and niobium, which is most important for the high-tech industries. These disturbing reports concluded that a meaningful analysis of Congolese geopolitics requires a knowledge and understanding of the organized crime perpetuated by multinationals.
Sources: “The World’s Most Neglected Emergency: Phil Taylor talks to Keith Harmon Snow,” The Taylor Report, March 28, 2005; “High-Tech Genocide,” Sprocket, Earth First! Journal, August 2005; “Behind the Numbers: Untold Suffering in the Congo,” Keith Harmon Snow and David Barouski, Z Magazine, March 1, 2006
Though record numbers of federal workers have been sounding the alarm on waste, fraud, and other financial abuse since George W. Bush became president, the agency charged with defending government whistleblowers has reportedly been throwing out hundreds of cases — and advancing almost none. Statistics released at the end of 2005 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility led to claims that special counsel Scott Bloch, who was appointed by Bush in 2004, is overseeing the systematic elimination of whistleblower rights.
What makes this development particularly troubling is that, thanks to a decline in congressional oversight and hard-hitting investigative journalism, the role of the Office of Special Counsel in advancing governmental transparency is more vital than ever. As a result, employees within the OSC have filed a whistleblower complaint against Bloch himself.
Ironically, Bloch has now decided not to disclose the number of whistleblower complaints in which an employee obtained a favorable outcome, such as reinstatement or reversal of a disciplinary action, making it hard to tell who, if anyone, is being helped by the agency.
Sources: “Whistleblowers Get Help from Bush Administration,” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Web site, Dec. 5, 2005; “Long-Delayed Investigation of Special Counsel Finally Begins,” PEER Web site, Oct. 18, 2005; “Back Door Rollback of Federal Whistleblower Protections,” PEER Web site, Sept. 22, 2005
Hooded. Gagged. Strangled. Asphyxiated. Beaten with blunt objects. Subjected to sleep deprivation and hot and cold environmental conditions. These are just some of the forms of torture that the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan inflicted on detainees, according to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis of autopsy and death reports that were made public in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
While reports of torture aren’t new, the documents are evidence of using torture as a policy, raising a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions, such as: Who authorized such techniques? And why have the resulting deaths been covered up?
Of the 44 death reports released under ACLU’s FOIA request, 21 were homicides and eight appear to have been the result of these abusive torture techniques.
Sources: “US Operatives Killed Detainees During Interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” American Civil Liberties Union Web site, Oct. 24, 2005; “Tracing the Trail of Torture: Embedding Torture as Policy from Guantánamo to Iraq,” Dahr Jamail,, March 5, 2006
In 2005, the Department of Defense pushed for and was granted exemption from Freedom of Information Act requests, a crucial law that allows journalists and watchdogs access to federal documents. The stated reason for this dramatic and dangerous move? FOIA is a hindrance to protecting national security. The ruling could hamper the efforts of groups like the ACLU, which relied on FOIA to uncover more than 30,000 documents on the US military’s torture of detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, including the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
With ACLU lawyers predicting that this ruling will likely result in more abuse and with Americans becoming increasingly concerned about the federal government’s illegal intelligence-gathering activities, Congress has imposed a two-year sunset on this FOIA exemption, ending December 2007 — which is cold comfort right now to anyone rotting in a US overseas military facility or a secret CIA prison.
Sources: “Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of Information,” Michelle Chen, New Standard, May 6, 2005; “FOIA Exemption Granted to Federal Agency,” Newspaper Association of America Web site, posted December 2005
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall Israel is building deep into Palestinian territory should be torn down. Instead, construction of this cement barrier, which annexes Israeli settlements and breaks the continuity of Palestinian territory, has accelerated. In the interim, the World Bank has come up with a framework for a Middle Eastern Free Trade Area, which would be financed by the World Bank and built on Palestinian land around the wall to encourage export-oriented economic development. But with Israel ineligible for World Bank loans, the plan seems to translate into Palestinians paying for the modernization of checkpoints around a wall that they’ve always opposed, a wall that will help lock in and exploit their labor.
Sources: “Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of World Bank,” Jamal Juma’, Left Turn, issue 18; “US Free Trade Agreements Split Arab Opinion,” Linda Heard, Aljazeera, March 9, 2005
At the end of 2005, US Central Command Air Force statistics showed an increase in American air missions, a trend that was accompanied by a rise in civilian deaths thanks to increased bombing of Iraqi cities. But with US bombings and the killing of innocent civilians acting as a highly effective recruiting tool among Iraqi militants, the US war on Iraq seemed to increasingly be following the path of the war in Vietnam. As Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker at the end of 2005, a key component in the federal government’s troop-reduction plan was the replacement of departing US troops with US air power.
Meanwhile, Hersh’s sources within the military have expressed fears that if Iraqis are allowed to call in the targets of these aerial strikes, they could abuse that power to settle old scores. With Iraq devolving into a full-blown Sunni-Shiite civil war and the United States increasingly drawn into the sectarian violence, reporters like Hersh and Dahr Jamail fear that the only exit strategy for the United States is to increase the air power even more as the troops pull out, causing the cycle of sectarian violence to escalate further.
Sources: “Up in the Air,” Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker, December 2005; “An Increasingly Aerial Occupation,” Dahr Jamail,, December 2005 SFBG
For the next 15 of Project Censored’s top 25 stories, go to

Eureka! Here comes even more Eurekaism! (part 3)


Hearst was last seen covering the big Hearst/Singleton deal via Reuters out of New York. Now it is blacking out the story completely. A tale of two footnotes tells all.

By Bruce B. Brugmann

Just in time to update our annual Project Censored package, the Hearst/Chronicle demonstrated yet again how the galloping Conglomerati are covering the big story in Eureka (where the MediaNews Group/
Singleton are competing headon with a local upstart daily) — and blacking out the much bigger story in the Bay Area where Hearst and Singleton are destroying daily competition and forming a regional monopoly, aided and abetted by the McClatchy, Gannett, and Stephens newspaper chains.

The major new development: The federal judge in the
Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto lawsuit against the deal okayed an agreement between lawyers from both sides to fast-track the suit and set a trial date for Feb. 26.
Obvioiusly, this is a major local news story. Josh Richman, a staff writer for the Singleton’s East Bay group, wrote a story dated Saturday, Sept. 2, headlined “Newspaper suit put on legal fast track.” The story quoted Alioto as saying on Monday Sept. 4 that he and Reilly “are grateful that the court has ordered an expedited trial date in this very important antitrust case which seeks to prevent the monopolization of newspapers in the Bay Area.”

The story quoted MediaNews president Jody Lodovic as offering “no comment except to note that the case was accelerated by mutual agreement. Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer (B3 note: who he? where he? New York? ) said his company wouldn’t comment.” It is always great sport, of course, when publishers under fire say “no comment” to their own reporters.

Hearst’s last story on the deal came from the Reuters New Service out of New York (which it butchered, see my earlier blog.) This time, the Chronicle simply blacked out the story completely. The Singleton story left out a key point: that Hearst had invested $399 million in the deal and that the two major chains were becoming jolly good business and editorial partners in creating an unprecedented Bay Area newspaper monopoly. Both chains are sweating mightily to create the impression this is no big deal, there isn’t much of a story here, that Justice and the AG have cleared it, and Clint Reilly is just, well, Clint Reilly, and there is nothing to the lawsuit, and certainly nothing for anybody to worry about. Peace!

However, there is a deadly time bomb in the deal and it is hidden in a tiny footnote in Hearst’s July 25 filing in the suit. The footnote disclosed that Hearst is a major potential major investor and partner with Singleton. Here’s how it works: Hearst has stated repeatedly that its $299 million equity investment in MediaNews will be based on what is known as “tracking stock.” In other words, the value of the MediaNews stock will rise and fall depending solely on the performance of MediaNews businesses outside the Bay Area, which was a legal structure set up presumably to help the deal survive anticipated antitrust scrutiny.

However, Hearst admitted in the footnote that in the future the “tracking” stock “will be convertible into ordinary MNG common stock.” Hearst added that any such conversion will require additional antitrust review. Federal Judge Susan Illston picked up on the significance of this footnote in her own footnote in her ruling knocking out the Reilly request for temporary restraining order. She stated, “Although Hearst’s proposed interest in MediaNews does not include MediaNews Bay Area publications, Hearst implies in its filings that it will seek permission at a future time to convert its interest in MediaNews into MediaNews common stock.” (See the G.W. Schulz story in the current print and online Guardian).

Voila! In this mysterious tale of the two footnotes, the closely held secret is finally revealed: Hearst and Singleton are working hard to be partners, cheek to cheek, jowl to jowl, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. And this fact, among many others, demonstrates in 96 point Garamond Bold why they have employed Eurekaism and censored a big local story about newspaper monopoly, the local censored story of the year, while going hellbent to cover the story about Singleton’s competition in Eureka.

Stop the presses: Frances Dinkelspiel, in her Wednesday Aug. 30 blog (see link below), spotted a juicy Eureka and posted it under the head “Newspaper Coverage in the Bay Area is Shrinking.” Her lead: “the latest evidence of media consolidation in the Bay Area screamed out all over the front pages on Wednesday.”

She pointed out that the four major papers in the region (Hearst/Chronicle and the Singleton/Contra Costa Times/San Jose Mercury News/Oakland Tribune) all prominently displayed the same story–the story of the motorist who deliberately drove his car into l4 pedestrians, killed one man in Fremont, and injured l3 others in San Francisco.

“On Wednesday,” she said, “instead of four distinct stories on the region’s front pages, there were only two—one from the Chronicle and one from the MediaNews group.” (Merc reporters did the story for the three Singleton papers.) She concluded, “That’s a huge loss for Bay Area readers. Competition improves news coverage. What will readers miss out on in the future? What will readers miss out on in the future? This was just a police story; imagine the impact when the big story deals with corruption or another important, but less easily reported event. If fewer reporters are tracking the story, there will be fewer revelations.”

Postscript: Let’s keep the Eureka exercise going. Anybody who spots a Eurekaism, an example of the galloping Conglomerati censoring a local story, please send it along to the Guardian and the Bruce blog and any of the handful of independent voices left in the Bay Area. B3

The silent scandal

The Mercury News

Ghost Story

Newspaper suit put on legal fast track – Inside Bay Area

No Pasaran!


MEXICO CITY, Aug. 24th — The Congress of the country is ringed by two-meter tall grilled metal barriers soldered together, apparently to thwart a suicide car-bomb attack. Behind this metal wall, 3000 vizored, kevlar-wearing robocops — the Federal Preventative Police (PFP, a police force drawn from the army) — and members of the elite Estado Mayor or presidential military command, form a second line of defense. Armed with tear gas launchers, water cannons, and reportedly light tanks, this Praetorian Guard has been assigned to protect law and order and the institutions of the republic against left-wing mobs that threaten to storm the Legislative Palace – or so the president informs his fellow citizens in repeated messages transmitted on national television.
No, the president’s name is not Pinochet and this military tableau is not being mounted in the usual banana republic or some African satrap. This is Mexico, a paragon of democracy (dixit George Bush), Washington’s third trading partner, and the eighth leading petroleum producer on the planet, seven weeks after the fraud-marred July 2nd presidential election of which, at this writing, no winner has been officially declared. One of the elite military units assigned to seal off congress is indeed titled the July 2nd brigade.

“MEXICO ON A KNIFEBLADE” headlines the British Guardian. The typically short-term-memory-loss U.S. print media seems to have forgotten about the imbroglio just south of its borders. Nonetheless, the phone rings and it’s New York telling me they just got a call from their man on the border and Homeland Security is beefing up its forces around Laredo in anticipation of upheaval further south. The phone rings again and it’s California telling me they just heard on Air America that U.S. Navy patrols were being dispatched to safeguard Mexican oil platforms in the Gulf. The left-wing daily La Jornada runs a citizen-snapped photo of army convoys arriving carrying soldiers disguised as farmers and young toughs. Rumors race through the seven mile-long encampment installed by supporters of leftist presidential challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) three weeks ago, who have tied up big city traffic and enraged the motorist class here, that PFP robocops will attack before dawn. The campers stay up all night huddled around bum fires prepared to defend their tent cities.

The moment reminds many Mexicans of the tense weeks in September and October 1968 when, 12 days before the Olympic Games were to be inaugurated here, President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz ordered the military to massacre striking students in a downtown plaza not far from where AMLO’s people are now camped out. Some 300 were killed in the Plaza of Three Cultures, their bodies incinerated at Military Camp #1 in western Mexico City. The Tlatelolco massacre was a watershed in social conflict here and the similarities are sinister– in fact, Lopez Obrador has taken to comparing outgoing President Vicente Fox with Diaz Ordaz.

Fox will go to congress September 1st to deliver his final State of the Union address; the new legislature will be convened the same day. The country may or may not have a new president by that day. In anticipation of this show-down, on August 14th, newly-elected senators and deputies from the three parties that comprise AMLO’s Coalition for the Good of All attempted to encamp on the sidewalk in front of the legislative palace only to be rousted and clobbered bloody by the President’s robocops.

With 160 representatives, the Coalition forms just a quarter of the 628 members of the new congress, but its members will be a loud minority during Fox’s “Informe.” Since the 1988 presidenciales were stolen from Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, founder of AMLO’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD legislators have routinely interrupted the president during this authoritarian ritual in orchestrated outbursts that have sometimes degenerated into partisan fisticuffs.

The first to challenge the Imperial Presidency was Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a hoary political warhorse, who in 1988 thrust a finger at President Miguel De la Madrid, accusing him of overseeing the theft of the election from Cardenas. Munoz Ledo’s J’Acuse stunned the political class; he was slugged and pummeled by members of De la Madrid’s long-ruling PRI when he tried to escape the chamber. Munoz Ledo now stands at AMLO’s side.

But perhaps the most comical moment in the annals of acting out during the Informe came in 1996 when a brash PRI deputy donned a Babe the Valiant Pig mask and positioned himself directly under the podium from which President Ernesto Zedillo was addressing the state of the nation and wiggled insouciant signs with slogans that said things like ‘EAT THE RICH!” Like Munoz Ledo, Marco Rascon was physically attacked, his mask ripped off like he was a losing wrestler by a corrupt railroad union official — who in turn was hammer locked by a pseudo-leftist senator, Irma “La Tigresa” Serrano, a one-time ranchero singers and, in fact, the former mistress of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.

This September 1st, if martial law is not declared and the new Congress dissolved before it is even installed, the PRD delegation — which will no doubt be strip-searched by the Estado Mayor for incriminating banners — is sworn to create a monumental ruckus, shredding the tarnished decorum of this once-solemn event forever to protest Fox’s endorsement of electoral larceny. Some solons say they may go naked.

But no matter what kind of uproar develops, one can be secure that it will not be shown on national television, as the cameras of Mexico’s two-headed television monstrosity Televisa and TV Azteca will stay trained on the President as he tries to mouth the stereotypical cliches that is always the stuff and fluff of this otherwise stultifying seance. The images of the chaos on the floor of congress will not be passed along to the Great Unwashed.


There is a reptilian feel to Mexico seven weeks after a discredited Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) cemented Lopez Obrador into a second place coffin by awarding the presidency to right-winger Felipe Calderon by a mere 243,000 votes out of a total 42,000,000 cast. Both Calderon and IFE czar Luis Carlos Ugalde (Calderon was best man at Ugalde’s wedding) make these little beady reptile eyes as they slither across national screens.

Those screens have been the scenes of some of the slimiest and most sordid political intrigue of late. One of the lizard kings who is fleetingly featured on Televisa primetime is an imprisoned Argentinean construction tycoon, Carlos Ahumada, who in 2004 conspired with Fox, Calderon’s PAN, and Televisa to frame AMLO on corruption charges and take him out of the presidential election. El Peje” (for a gar-like fish from the swamps of Lopez Obrador’s native Tabasco) was then leading the pack by 18 points.

Charged by Lopez Obrador, then the mayor of this megalopolis, with defrauding Mexico City out of millions, Ahumada had taken his revenge by filming PRD honchos when they came to his office to pick up boodles of political cash for his lover, Rosario Robles, who aspired to be queen of the PRD. Although the filthy lucre was perfectly legal under Mexico’s milquetoast campaign financing laws, the pick-ups looked awful on national television — AMLO’s former personal secretary was caught stuffing wads of low denomination bills into his suit coat pockets as if he were on Saturday Night Live.

Ahumada subsequently turned the tapes over to the leprous, cigar-chomping leader of Fox’s PAN party in the Senate, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos (“El Jefe Diego”) who in turn had them delivered to a green-haired clown, Brozo, who was then reading the morning news on Televisa. Then the Argentine fled to Cuba in a private plane. Televisa would air the incriminating videos day and night for months.

Apprehended in Veradero after his lover Robles was shadowed to the socialist beachfront, Ahumada spilled the beans to Cuban authorities: Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, who was then AMLO’s lead rival for the presidency, had cooked up the plot with the connivance of reviled former president Carlos Salinas, Lopez Obrador’s most venomous foe, the then attorney general, and Fox himself, to remove AMLO from the race.

The Mexican government did not ask for extradition and Ahumada’s deportation from Cuba was not seen as a friendly gesture. Within a month, diplomatic relations between Mexico and that red paradise were broken off and ambassadors summoned home. The construction tycoon has been imprisoned in Mexico City ever since he was booted out of Cuba, and was last heard from when he had his rogue cop chauffer shoot up the family SUV, a charade both Fox and Televisa tried to pin on AMLO — Ahumada had suggested he was about to release two more incriminating videos. These dubious events took place on June 6th, the day of a crucial presidential debate between AMLO and Calderon.

Then last week, Ahumada abruptly resurfaced — or at least his videotaped confession to Cuban authorities did. Filmed through prison bars, he lays out the plot step by step. Yes, he affirms, the deal was fixed up to cut AMLO’s legs out from under him and advance the fortunes of the right-wing candidate who turned out to be Felipe Calderon and not the bumbling Creel. The conspiracy backfired badly as his supporters rallied around him and Lopez Obrador’s ratings soared.

The origins of the confession tape, leaked to top-rung reporter Carmen Aristegui, was obscure. Had Fidel dispatched it from his sick bed to bolster Lopez Obrador’s claims of victory as the PAN and the snake-eyed Televisa evening anchor Joaquin Lopez Dorriga hissed? The air grew serpentine with theories. There was even one school that speculated Calderon himself had been the source in a scheme to distance himself from Fox (there had always been “mala leche” between them) and Creel, now the leader of the PAN faction in congress.

AMLO advanced a variant of this explanation — the specter of Ahumada had been resuscitated to divert attention from the evidence of generalized fraud the Coalition had submitted to the TRIFE and the panel’s impending verdict that Calderon had won the election.

Perhaps the most nagging question in this snakepit of uncertainty is what happened during the partial recount of less than 10% of the 130,000 ballot boxes ordered by the TRIFE to test the legitimacy of the IFE’s results. Although the recount concluded on August 13th, the judges have released no numbers and are not obligated to do so — their only responsibility is to certify the validity of the election.

Although AMLO’s reps in the counting rooms came up with gobs of evidence — violated ballot boxes, stolen or stuffed ballots, altered tally sheets and other bizarre anomalies — only the left-wing daily La Jornada saw fit to mention them. The silence of the Mexican media and their accomplices in the international press in respect to the Great Fraud is deafening — although they manage to fill their rags with ample attacks on Lopez Obrador for tying up Mexico City traffic.

According to AMLO’s people, 119,000 ballots in the sample recount cannot be substantiated — in about 3500 casillas, 58,000 more votes were cast than the number of voters on the voting list. In nearly 4,000 other casillas, 61,000 ballots allocated to election officials cannot be accounted for. The annulment of the casillas in which these alterations occurred would put Lopez Obrador in striking distance of Calderon and in a better world, would obligate the TRIFE to order a total recount.

But given the cheesy state of the Mexican judiciary this is not apt to happen; one of the judges who will decide the fate of democracy in Mexico is a former client of El Jefe Diego for whom the PANista senator won millions from the Mexico City government in a crooked land deal.

Meanwhile, thousands continue to camp out in a hard rain for a third week on the streets of Mexico City awaiting the court’s decision. They have taken to erecting shrines and altars and are praying for divine intervention. Hundreds pilgrimage out to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, some crawling on their knees, to ask the Brown Madonna to work her mojo. “God doesn’t belong to the PAN!” they chant as they trudge up the great avenue that leads to the Basilica. “AMLO deserves a miracle” Esther Ortiz, a 70 year-old great grandmother comments to a reporter as she kneels to pray before the gilded altar.

At the Metropolitan Cathedral on one flank of the Zocalo, a young worshipper interrupts Cardinal Norberto Rivera with loas to AMLO and is quickly hustled off the premises by the Prelate’s bouncers. The following Sunday, the Cathedral’s great doors are under heavy surveillance, and churchgoers screened for telltale signs of devotion to Lopez Obrador. Hundreds of AMLO’s supporters mill about in front of the ancient temple shouting “voto por voto” and alleging that Cardinal Rivera is a pederast.

AMLO as demi-god is one motif of this religious pageant being played out at what was once the heart of the Aztec theocracy, the island of Tenochtitlan. The ruins of the twin temples of the fierce Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli and Tlahuac, the god of the rain, is adjacent to the National Palace against which AMLO’s stage is set. Lopez Obrador sleeps each night in a tent close by.

Many hearts were ripped out smoking on these old stones and fed to such hungry gods before the Crusaders showed up bearing the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

AMLO is accused by right-wing “intellectuals” (Enrique Krauze and the gringo apologist George Grayson) of entertaining a Messiah complex. Indeed, he is up there every day on the big screen, his craggy features, salt and pepper hair, raspy voice and defiantly jutted jaw bearing more of a passable resemblance to a younger George C. Scott rather The Crucified One. AMLO’s devotees come every evening at seven, shoehorned between the big tents that fill the Zocalo, rain or shine. Last Monday, I stood with a few thousand diehards in a biblical downpour, thunder and lightening shattering the heavens above. “Llueve y llueve y el pueblo no se mueve” they chanted joyously, “it rains and rains and the people do not move.”

The evolution of these incantations is fascinating. At first, the standard slogan of “Voto Por Voto, Casilla por Casilla!” was automatically invoked whenever Lopez Obrador stepped to the microphone. “You are not alone!” and “Presidente!” had their moment. “Fraude!” is still popular but in these last days, “No Pasaran!” — they shall not pass, the cry of the defenders of Madrid as Franco’s fascist hordes banged on the doors of Madrid, 1936 — has flourished.

In this context, “No Pasaran!” means “we will not let Felipe Calderon pass to the presidency.” AMLO, who holds out little hope that the TRIFE will decide in his favor, devotes more time now to organizing the resistance to the imposition of Calderon upon the Aztec nation. Article 39 of the Mexican constitution, he reminds partisans, grants the people the right to change their government if that government does not represent them. To this end, he is summoning a million delegates up to the Zocalo for a National Democratic Convention on Mexican Independence Day September 16th, a date usually reserved for a major military parade.

Aside from the logistical impossibility of putting a million citizens in this Tiananmen-sized plaza, how this gargantuan political extravaganza is going to be financed is cloudy. Right now, it seems like small children donating their piggy banks is the main mode of fund-raising. Because AMLO’s people distrust the banks, all of which financed Calderon’s vicious TV ad campaign, a giant piggy bank has been raised in the Zocalo to receive the contributions of the faithful.

Dreaming is also a fundraiser. Some 10,000 raised their voices in song this past Sunday as part of a huge chorus assembled under the dome of the Monument to the Revolution to perform a cantata based on the words of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi. This too is a form of civil resistance, Lopez Obrador commended his followers.

The first National Democratic Convention took place behind rebel lines in the state of Aguascalientes in 1914 at the apogee of the Mexican Revolution when the forces of Francisco Villa and his Army of the North first joined forces with Zapata’s Liberating Army of the Southern Revolution. The second National Democratic Revolution took place 80 years later in 1994, in a clearing in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas when the Zapatista Army of National Liberation wedded itself to the civil society in an uprising that rocked Mexico all throughout the ’90s; eclipsed by events, the EZLN and its quixotic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos have disappeared from the political map in the wake of the fraudulent election.

What this third National Democratic Convention is all about is now being debated in PRD ruling circles and down at the grassroots. Minimally, a plan of organized resistance that will dog Felipe Calderon for the next six years, severely hampering his ability to rule will evolve from this mammoth conclave. The declaration of a government in resistance headed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one consideration. The National Democratic Convention could also result in the creation of a new party to replace a worn-out PRD now thoroughly infiltrated by cast-offs from the PRI.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution has always functioned best as an opposition party. With notable exceptions (AMLO was one), when the PRD becomes government, it collapses into corruption, internecine bickering, and behaves just as arrogantly as the PAN and the PRI. No Pasaran?

Seven weeks after the July 2nd electoral debacle, Mexico finds itself at a dangerously combustible conjunction (“coyuntura”) in which the tiny white elite here is about to impose its will upon a largely brown and impoverished populous to whom the political parties and process grow more irrelevant each day. “No Pasaran!” the people cry out but to whom and what they are alluding to remains to be defined.

John Ross’s ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible – Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 will be published by Nation Books this October. Ross will travel the Left Coast this fall with both ZAPATISTAS! and a new chapbook of poetry BOMBA! and is still looking for possible venues; send suggestions to

Newsom’s pal Daley


Gavin Newsom happily hosted Chicago Mayor Richard Daley on a working tour of the city today, but as Willie Brown (who is no stranger to cronyism and corruption charges) pointed out on the Will and WIllie Show this morning, Daley might not be the person who an ambitious young Democrat really wants to be linked to right now. Several of his close associates were indicted last year on corruption charges, and a relative was indicted in January.

So far, although the Cook Country Republican party has tried, none of this has stuck to Daley. But you might want to watch those photo ops, Gavin.

one to watch


By Tim Redmond

As the night wears on, pay attention to the special election in the California 50th Congressional District, where Francine Busby is trying to put a heavily Republican district that had been represented by Randy “Duke” Cunningham into the Democratic column. Almost everyone agrees that this is a canary-in-the-coal-mine race that will tell us how deeply people are sick of Bush, lies, corruption, and the GOP hegemony.

‘International Press Institute (IPI)’ and ‘International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX)’



Vienna, 11 May 2006

IPI Calls on the European Union to raise the issue of press freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean during the EU-LAC Summit in Vienna, Austria

On the occasion of the European Union Latin America and Caribbean (EU-LAC) Summit in Vienna, Austria, the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, calls on the European Union (EU) to raise the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression.

In the Americas, at least 11 journalists were killed because of their work in 2005. Three journalists were murdered in Haiti, and two each in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Journalists were also killed in Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Throughout the year, investigative journalists in Latin America continued to receive death threats, or were physically attacked by corrupt officials, drug traffickers and other criminals intent on preventing the media from exposing their activities. Several journalists were forced to flee into exile. In addition, journalists had to contend with a barrage of litigation, including criminal defamation lawsuits and excessive punitive damage awards in civil suits.

Media outlets criticised government restrictions on access to public information, often the result of anti-terrorism legislation introduced in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The use of official advertising to punish or reward publications and broadcasters was also condemned as a threat to press freedom. In some countries, the excessive use of force against journalists by the police and army was a cause for concern.

With 23 journalists imprisoned at the end of 2005, Fidel Castro’s Cuba was the world’s second biggest jailer of journalists after China. Those independent journalists not already arrested in the March 2003 government crackdown on political dissidents were systematically monitored, harassed or detained by the state security forces.

Mexico saw an increase in the number of violent attacks against reporters, especially those investigating drug trafficking and official corruption in the northern states bordering the U.S.

The administration of President Hugo Ch?�vez tightened its grip on the press in Venezuela, as the Social Responsibility Law for Radio and Television and amendments to the penal code, expanding the categories of government officials protected by insult provisions, came into effect in 2005.

In the Caribbean, the introduction of restrictive new media legislation, the continued use of civil and criminal defamation laws, and instances of government interference in state-owned media, all encouraged the tendency to self-censor.

Speaking on the press freedom situation in the region, Michael Kudlak, IPI’s press freedom advisor for the Americas and the Caribbean, said, “Increasingly, authorities are attempting to use defamation laws, broadcasting regulations, and other legal measures to stifle critical coverage, posing a serious threat to freedom of opinion and expression in the Caribbean.”

IPI Director Johann Fritz added, “IPI calls on the Austrian Presidency of the European Union and heads of EU member states to address freedom of expression and media freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean during the EU-LAC summit. At a time when journalists suffer harassment and must resort to self-censorship, there is a real need for the EU’s dialogue with many Latin American countries to be informed by greater discussion about press freedom and freedom of expression.”

“IPI urges the governments of the region to uphold everyone’s right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,’ as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Fritz said.

IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.


International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) 

World Press Freedom Day – 3 May 2006



Vienna, 28 April 2006

IPI Condemns Harassment and Intimidation of Yemeni Journalists

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, strongly condemns the ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against representatives of the independent press in Yemen.

Acts of intimidation targeting two journalists in recent days highlights the hostile climate of fear that the independent press in Yemen are forced to work in.

Abed Al-Mahthari, editor-in-chief of the independent weekly Al Deya, remains in hiding after escaping an attack by armed assailants on 19 April. Since 2004, Al-Mahthari has been investigating and reporting on alleged arms trafficking in northern Yemen near the Saudi Arabia border. In May of 2004, after receiving two death threats, Al-Mahthari was forced to temper his reporting, but has since renewed his investigations.

In recent weeks Al-Mahthari has reported on alleged corruption of security forces and cooperation with arms dealers; the threats against him are thought to be in connection with these reports. On the evening of 19 April, Al-Mahthari received a call from an unidentified source warning that he would be killed that night.

Al-Mahthari averted the attack by having a friend drive his car away from his family home. The car was followed by two men, driving a military style vehicle with a private license plate. The assailants followed the driver of Al-Mahthari’s car, smashing down the door to the driver’s home. They then looked for Al-Mahthari at the Al Thawra publishing house. When the assailants could not find him, they returned to the area where Al-Mahthari’s car had been parked, took several items from within the car and then smashed it with weapons they had been carrying.

Although the assailants were identified by several witnesses who saw them attack the vehicle, the two have not been arrested and Al-Mahthari remains in hiding.

A campaign of intimidation is also being waged against Al Wasat editor-in-chief Jamal Amer. Al Wasat released a statement on 26 April voicing concern that Amer’s movements and activities have been closely observed since his August kidnapping. On 23 August, Amer was kidnapped by armed assailants who threatened to kill him if his newspaper continued to publish articles about corruption and abuse of power in the government.

The 26 April Al Wasat statement was released shortly after a group of individuals, led by a political security officer, visited the street of Amer’s family home, inquiring about his apartment building, the license plate number of his vehicle and the names of his children’s school.

Amer, who is currently in the United States as part of the International Visitors Program, has become the victim of a smear campaign attempting to discredit him and the critical information reported by his newspaper. Articles published this week in state-controlled publications have accused Amer of being connected to Israel’s intelligence organisation, of acting as an “agent of the West” and of working to “meet the needs of the imperialist opposition forces abroad.”

Commenting on the action being taken against Al-Mahthari and Amer, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said: “The targeting of these two editors paints a disturbing picture of the varied methods being used to silence critical voices in the Yemeni press.”

“The increase in both direct and indirect attacks on independent journalists is cause for serious concern, particularly since many of the attacks carried out in recent months have taken place with complete immunity.”

“If the Yemeni press is to be able to carry out its important watchdog role, journalists must be free to carry out their work without fear of intimidation and harassment.”


International Press Institute (IPI)
Spiegelgasse 2/29
A-1010 Vienna
Tel:  + 431-512 90 11
Fax: + 431-512 90 14

IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.

March of the ants


MEXICO CITY (March 7th) — Civil War in Iraq! Riots across the Islamic World! Coups and killer mudslides! The Bush administration sinking daily in the quicksand of corruption and lies!

When played against the backdrop of incipient cataclysm that darkens the globe from east to west and south to north, “the Other Campaign” of the largely Mayan rebel Zapatista Army of National Liberation seems more like a march of ants across the Mexican landscape than breaking news.

The Other Campaign is, indeed, a campaign of ants.

This March 1, La Otra Campana marked the start of its third month on the road since the Zapatistas’ charismatic mouthpiece, Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as “Delegate Zero,” roared out of a jungle camp in the EZLN’s Chiapas sanctuary zone on a silver and black motorcycle January 1, the 12th anniversary of the Zapatistas’ 1994 rebellion. In the past 60 days, Delegate Zero has traveled thousands of miles through ten states, a third of the Mexican union. The jaunt now constitutes the longest road trip the rebels have taken in their 12 years on public display.

The ski-masked spokesperson plans to visit all 31 states in the Mexican union (he will be on the U.S. border in June) and the federal district (where he will take part in the May 1 International Workers Day march) before Election Day July 2, when Mexico selects a new president and congress. The Other Campaign is staunchly anti-electoral, arguing that the political parties and the electoral system are hopelessly corrupt and unrepresentative.

La Otra Campana contrasts sharply with the opulent campaigns of Mexico’s three major political parties — the right-wing National Action (PAN) Party of President Vicente Fox, the once-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the leftish Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and its front-running candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO.)

Traveling close to the ground in a muddy white van, Marcos whistle stops a Mexico rarely visited by the “presidenciales,” huddling with the most pissed-off and marginalized Mexicans in down-and-out rural communities and ragged “popular colonies” in provincial cities, “the ones no one else is listening to.” The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which gave birth to the Other Campaign, instructs the Zapatistas to “walk and question” rather than deliver the answers.

The idea of the Other Campaign is to build a new Mexican left from the bottom, an anti-capitalist, anti-electoral alliance that does not depend upon the political parties to bring about social change. “I am not a candidate — I am an anti-candidate,” Marcos tells audiences after hearing out their frustrations. “I cannot change these things, but we can do this together, because together we have the power.”

Nonetheless, the anti-candidate seems to be working twice as hard as the candidates — the PAN’s Felipe Calderon, the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo, and AMLO — in getting the word out. In stump speech after stump speech, Delegate Zero lambastes the political parties and their candidates, with particular emphasis on Lopez Obrador, who seems destined to become Mexico’s first president from the left since Lazaro Cardenas, and Latin America’s latest leftist head of state come July 2. The Other Campaign is, after all, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Mexican Left.

Delegate Zero’s withering attack on AMLO has led to charges by the PRD that he is fomenting absenteeism and handing the election to the right. The Other Campaign ran into angry PRDistas during a recent pit stop in Juchitan Oaxaca, once a stronghold of EZLN sympathy. Scuffling during a visit to teachers’ union offices in Oaxaca City was also a sign of PRD resentment at the Zapatista spokesperson’s pronouncements.

Delegate Zero adamantly refutes allegations that he is telling constituents not to vote in July — “each person must make his own decision.” Marcos is an inviting target of PRD fury because AMLO’s campaign has not yet ignited much interest. Aside from a 100,000-plus drummed out in Mexico City, where he was a wildly popular mayor, Lopez Obrador, as well as the PRI’s Madrazo and the PAN’s Calderon, have thus far not generated much buzz. The registration of only 57,000 Mexicans living in the United States out of a potential expatriate electorate of 3.4 million is an ominous signal that the 2006 presidenciales have not triggered much enthusiasm amongst a citizenry that voted for change in 2000 and was bitterly disappointed by six years of Vicente Fox’s empty promises.

But the butt of Delegate Zero’s on-running rap is not always AMLO: The Subcommandante expends equal dollops of time roasting Mexico’s last three neo-liberal presidents, Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, and Fox, often calling for their imprisonment. In this sense, the Other Campaign is a significant test of free speech in Mexico. Thus far, Delegate Zero has not been clapped in jail for attacking the powerful and preaching class war, although he has been allowed to enter prisons twice so far to visit political prisoners in Tabasco and on the Tehuantepec isthmus of Oaxaca.

Although the Fox government professes that it’s not listening to the Other Campaign, its plainclothes intelligence agents monitor every meeting. The events are often patrolled by machine-gun toting police, and local organizers have been harassed and jailed for such crimes as posting notice of the rebels’ arrival in town.

The Other Campaign moves cautiously in convoy on the road, cognizant of possible assassination attempts or “accidents” — in 1994, the Zapatistas’ candidate for Chiapas governor, the late Amado Avandano, was nearly killed in a highly suspicious head-on crash with a license-less 18 wheeler on a lonely coastal highway. Earlier that same year, the PRI presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was gunned down in Tijuana.

Marcos’s audiences are the “simple and humble” people that the Other Campaign seeks to recruit — “those who have never held a microphone in their hand,” writes John Gibler who is accompanying the odyssey for the San Francisco-based NGO Global Exchange. At such meetings, Delegate Zero takes copious notes as he listens intently to the outrage of the locals, always counseling the attendees that they themselves, in alliance with other “simple and humble” Mexicans, have the power to alter the equation between rich and poor, justice and injustice. The EZLN is proposing the writing of a new Mexican constitution to achieve this end.

This was the message Delegate Zero brought to a pink-doored Casa de Citas (house of prostitution) in the tiny Tlaxcala town of Apaxio. After three hours of conversing with the sexoservidoras (sex workers), the Sub called for the formation of a national union of sex workers (“not prostitutes — the prostitutes are the politicians who sell themselves to the highest bidder.”)

Other Other Campaign venues have found the quixotic rebel spokesperson tilting at windmills in La Ventosa Oaxaca, the site of a transnational wind farm that impacts local Zapotec Indians; in Oaxaca’s Juarez Sierra, talking the evils of transgenic corn with campesinos; speaking to a few thousand protestors at a new airport site in Hidalgo; hobnobbing with transvestites in Orizaba Veracruz; straddling a tricycle (poor peoples’ transportation in southern Mexico) with the Union of Triciclistas in Merida Yucatan; promising a thousand ex-braceros who have been cheated out of moneys due them by both the U.S. and Mexican governments that he will march with them May 1st; and encouraging Mayan artisans barred from selling their wares at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza to take matters into their own hands.

Humor is a Zapatista weapon, and Marcos has armed the Other Campaign with a satiric edge. He is accompanied on the tour by his pet beetle Don Durito of the Lacandon (representing “the autonomous municipality of Charlie Parker”) and in Merida, the Sup actually removed his mask to the gasp of hundreds of admirers. Of course, he had his summer mask on underneath.

The steady grind of the Other Campaign is gaining “traction” in the eyes of Narconews founder Al Giodorno, who has been accompanying the adventure as it wends its way through Mexico. Narconews is just one of dozens of alternative media that file daily reports on the Other Campaign. The EZLN has extended preference to alternative rather than corporate media — only two national newspapers, La Jornada and Milenio, cover the Otra, and international attention has been short-lived (although Al Jazeera headlined the campaign’s first days.)

In mid-February, hundreds of alternative journalists and writers from all over Mexico convened in Tlaxcala to pledge allegiance to “the other journalism,” which focuses on reporting social change from the bottom up.

The traction that Giodorno senses the Other Campaign is gaining comes at the expense of the PAN, PRI, and PRD. As their presidential candidates fail to stimulate enthusiasm and the opulence of their campaigns elicits the dismay of the nation’s 70 million poor, the Other Campaign wins adherents.

On a continent that has elected the left to high office in important numbers and where the citizenry has been frequently disenchanted by government’s failure to improve daily lives, the Zapatistas campaign to build change from down below is bound to have an echo.

Invited to attend new Bolivian president Evo Morales’s all-star inauguration January 22, in La Paz, the EZLN responded “it is not our way to meet with the great leaders.” Addressing a few hundred indigenous farmers in rural Campeche state, Delegate Zero explained “we have come instead to listen to you because no one ever does.”

Bolivia’s new president heard the Zapatistas’ message loud and clear, pledging to mandar obedeciendo — to serve by obeying the will of the Bolivian people, the EZLN’s leadership ethos.

John Ross is sleepless in Seattle. These dispatches will continue at 10-day intervals until he returns to Mexico in mid-March. His latest opus, Making Another World Possible — Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006, will be published this fall by Nationbooks (if he ever finishes it.)


Bolivia’s ballot-box revolution


 The timid rays of the sun receded from the Bolivian tropical savannas, bathing the valleys and disappearing behind the Andean mountains, on the afternoon of Dec. 18. They seemed to foretell that the Bolivian schizophrenic "political culture" was dying. And it happened.

On that day, indigenous Bolivia came out of political anonymity. In a move unprecedented in Bolivian and Latin American democratic history, the great indigenous majority, previously excluded and subordinated, elected one of our own, using the power of responsible and conscientious votes.

An indigenous man, Evo Morales Ayma, is our president! Yes, the llama herder from the forgotten Orinoca village. The man who as a child survived by following sheep and llamas and eating the dried orange peels the truck drivers threw out on the roadside, who as a ragged boy "celebrated" his "joy of living" once in awhile with a dishful of hank’akipa (cornmeal soup); a Bolivian who was born on his mother’s skirts (not in a hospital) under the dim light of a homemade oil lamp; a man who, like many others, dreamed of one day attending a university and becoming a professional but learned that, because of the exclusionary political culture and abject poverty, those dreams were unattainable.

Evo learned the lessons of political leadership in the school of life while working with the unions in Chapare (the tropical province of Cochabamba where he emigrated with his parents because of dire poverty in the highlands). He was deeply moved and outraged when he learned one of the coca growers’ leaders had been burned alive by the military. Later on, the union would open his eyes, mind, and heart to understand the causes of poverty of the Bolivian people.

The Bolivian neoliberal elite, promoted by the United States, tried very hard to avoid and stop the democratic revolution of the indigenous people, but it was too late. The contained anger and outrage on the face of so much corruption and betrayal by the shameless traditional politicians had reached the limits. Now was the time. Indigenous movements, laborers, farmworkers, social organizations, professionals, intellectuals, students, women, day laborers and theunemployed got together, armed with voting ballots and voting booths, to start a democratic revolution.

Before today the Bolivian social movements were labeled as communist and anarchic, or as drug dealers and disrupters of order by the official national and international media. By now the world knows by the results that we Bolivians are not terrorists or drug dealers. We are only people who want to live, people capable of solving our own historic problems using the democratic tools of the game.

The sun shone bright on the morning of Dec. 19. It washed away 180 years of exclusionary darkness and subordination of the indigenous people of Bolivia.

Never again against us! Never again without us! All of us together make Bolivia! Our destiny calls us to work in unity on the multicolored fabric of our national identity!

 Jubenal Quispe

Quispe is a Bolivian lawyer and activist who accompanied a San Francisco Presbyterian Church delegation known as Joining Hands Against Hunger on a recent tour of Bolivia. Translated from the spanish by Nancy Gruel.

For more information see "Evo Presidente!"