Sunday, December 23, 2012

The other Petraeus scandal: his recorded discussion with Fox News about creating an unfair and unbalanced campaign

Roger Ailes

Why the US media ignored Murdoch's brazen bid to hijack the presidency
Carl Bernstein
The Guardian
20 December 2012

Did the Washington Post and others underplay the story through fear of the News Corp chairman, or simply tin-eared judgment?

The Ailes/Petraeus tape made clear to many that Murdoch's goals in America have always been nefarious.

So now we have it: what appears to be hard, irrefutable evidence of Rupert Murdoch's ultimate and most audacious attempt – thwarted, thankfully, by circumstance – to hijack America's democratic institutions on a scale equal to his success in kidnapping and corrupting the essential democratic institutions of Great Britain through money, influence and wholesale abuse of the privileges of a free press.

In the American instance, Murdoch's goal seems to have been nothing less than using his media empire – notably Fox News – to stealthily recruit, bankroll and support the presidential candidacy of General David Petraeus in the 2012 election.

Thus in the spring of 2011 – less than 10 weeks before Murdoch's centrality to the hacking and politician-buying scandal enveloping his British newspapers was definitively revealed – Fox News' inventor and president, Roger Ailes, dispatched an emissary to Afghanistan to urge Petraeus to turn down President Obama's expected offer to become CIA director and, instead, run for the Republican nomination for president, with promises of being bankrolled by Murdoch. Ailes himself would resign as president of Fox News and run the campaign, according to the conversation between Petraeus and the emissary, K T McFarland, a Fox News on-air defense "analyst" and former spear carrier for national security principals in three Republican administrations.

All this was revealed in a tape recording of Petraeus's meeting with McFarland obtained by Bob Woodward, whose account of their discussion, accompanied online by audio of the tape, was published in the Washington Post – distressingly, in its style section, and not on page one, where it belonged – and, under the style logo, online on December 3.

Indeed, almost as dismaying as Ailes' and Murdoch's disdain for an independent and truly free and honest press, and as remarkable as the obsequious eagerness of their messenger to convey their extraordinary presidential draft and promise of on-air Fox support to Petraeus, has been the ho-hum response to the story by the American press and the country's political establishment, whether out of fear of Murdoch, Ailes and Fox – or, perhaps, lack of surprise at Murdoch's, Ailes' and Fox's contempt for decent journalistic values or a transparent electoral process.

The tone of the media's reaction was set from the beginning by the Post's own tin-eared treatment of this huge story: relegating it, like any other juicy tidbit of inside-the-beltway media gossip, to the section of the newspaper and its website that focuses on entertainment, gossip, cultural and personality-driven news, instead of the front page.

"Bob had a great scoop, a buzzy media story that made it perfect for Style. It didn't have the broader import that would justify A1," Liz Spayd, the Post's managing editor, told Politico when asked why the story appeared in the style section.

Buzzy media story? Lacking the "broader import" of a front-page story? One cannot imagine such a failure of news judgment among any of Spayd's modern predecessors as managing editors of the Post, especially in the clear light of the next day and with a tape recording – of the highest audio quality – in hand.

"Tell [Ailes] if I ever ran," Petraeus announces on the crystal-clear digital recording and then laughs, "but I won't … but if I ever ran, I'd take him up on his offer. … He said he would quit Fox … and bankroll it."

McFarland clarified the terms: "The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger's going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house" – thereby confirming what Fox New critics have consistently maintained about the network's faux-news agenda and its built-in ideological bias.

And here let us posit the following: were an emissary of the president of NBC News, or of the editor of the New York Times or the Washington Post ever caught on tape promising what Ailes and Murdoch had apparently suggested and offered here, the hue and cry, especially from Fox News and Republican/Tea Party America, from the Congress to the US Chamber of Commerce to the Heritage Foundation, would be deafening and not be subdued until there was a congressional investigation, and the resignations were in hand of the editor and publisher of the network or newspaper. Or until there had been plausible and convincing evidence that the most important elements of the story were false. And, of course, the story would continue day after day on page one and remain near the top of the evening news for weeks, until every ounce of (justifiable) piety about freedom of the press and unfettered presidential elections had been exhausted.

The tape of Petraeus and McFarland's conversation is an amazing document, a testament to the willingness of Murdoch and the wily genius he hired to create Fox News to run roughshod over the American civic and political landscape without regard to even the traditional niceties or pretenses of journalistic independence and honesty. Like the revelations of the hacking scandal, which established beyond any doubt Murdoch's ability to capture and corrupt the three essential elements of the British civic compact – the press, politicians and police – the Ailes/Petraeus tape makes clear that Murdoch's goals in America have always been just as ambitious, insidious and nefarious.

The digital recording, and the dead-serious conspiratorial conversation it captures so chillingly in tone and substance ("I'm only reporting this back to Roger. And that's our deal," McFarland assured Petraeus as she unfolded the offer) utterly refutes Ailes' disingenuous dismissal of what he and Murdoch were actually attempting: the buying of the presidency...

Happily, Petraeus was not hungering for the presidency at the moment of the messenger's arrival: the general was contented at the idea of being CIA director, which Ailes was urging him to forgo.

"We're all set," said the emissary, referring to Ailes, Murdoch and Fox. "It's never going to happen," Petraeus said. "You know it's never going to happen. It really isn't. … My wife would divorce me."

Friday, November 09, 2012

News of the World's Former Top Lawyer Arrested

News of the World's Former Top Lawyer Arrested
August 30, 2012
Wall Street Journal

LONDON—British police on Thursday arrested the former top lawyer at News Corp.'s News of the World tabloid on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, a person with knowledge of the matter said, marking one of the most high-profile arrests in a continuing police probe into wrongdoing at the shuttered tabloid.

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed Thursday that officers investigating illegal voicemail interception at the News of the World had arrested a 60-year-old man and brought him in for questioning at a South London police station, but the force declined to identify the suspect.

A person with knowledge of the situation, however, identified the person as Tom Crone, the lawyer who served as the News of the World's in-house counsel for more than 25 years until News Corp. closed the weekly tabloid at the apex of the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011.

A call to Mr. Crone went unanswered mid-day Thursday.

The 60-year-old lawyer became one of the phone-hacking saga's most visible figures last year when he and former News of the World editor Colin Myler broke ranks with their former employer to dispute an element of News Corp. executive James Murdoch's testimony to a parliamentary committee.

Messrs. Crone and Myler said they had informed Mr. Murdoch in 2008 of a controversial email whose contents suggested the practice of hacking mobile-phone voicemails went beyond what the company had initially admitted. But Mr. Murdoch said he hadn't been informed of the email's contents at the time and learned the scope of the wrongdoing at the paper only in late 2010, a position he reiterated upon further questioning.

A spokeswoman for News International, the U.K. newspaper unit of News Corp., declined to comment on Thursday's arrest. She didn't say whether the company is paying Mr. Crone's legal bills. News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Crone was a veteran lawyer on Fleet Street. He often vetted the News of the World's raciest stories ahead of publication and went to court to defend the paper against high-profile libel claims brought by celebrities.

The longtime News of the World lawyer was one of three people the U.K. Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee censured in a May report for misleading Parliament during hearings on the phone-hacking matter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

U-T San Diego publishes misleading article about Del Mar Schools, Sharon McClain and Daniel Shinoff

Here is the false and misleading article published by the Union-Tribune. This lawsuit is most definitely NOT settled. There was a trial verdict on October 3, 2012, but no settlement. The case is quite likely headed to the Court of Appeal. Why would anyone want the public to believe it was settled? I have some ideas about that.
Suit settled in favor of former Del Mar Superintendent
Lyndsay Winkley
U-T San Diego
Oct. 9, 2012

A lawsuit between Del Mar school’s former Superintendent Sharon McClain and the district was settled last week in McClain’s favor after more than two years of legal battle.

Superior Court Judge John Meyer ordered the Del Mar Union School District to pay $388,537 plus about $30,000 in interest after ruling McClain was wrongfully terminated.

Board members did not talk specifics about McClain’s termination throughout the legal proceedings, citing the lawsuit, but a negative performance evaluation from McClain’s tenure was submitted as support for the district’s position during the case.

“You are openly hostile to the current Board President, you complain to Board members about other Board members, and you complain to District staff about the Board,” the evaluation said. “You have positioned yourself as fighting against the Board instead of being part of a governance team.”

McClain submitted a rebuttal saying she felt the board was committed to finding problems with her performance to fire her.

Trustees voted to oust McClain at a March 2010 board meeting, called only two days prior. Still, the board room was packed with parents, and all speakers, nearly 30, supported McClain. In a 3-1-1 vote, she was fired.

Two current trustees took part in the 2010 vote. Trustee Doug Perkins voted in favor of firing McClain, while Trustee Comischell Rodriguez opposed it. Neither responded to emails Tuesday for comment. McClain also did not respond to emails for comment.

Del Mar’s school district has spent more than $700,000 in the last four years on settlements for two superintendents.

[Maura Larkins comment: This statement is false, since not one cent has been paid in any settlement with Sharon McClain, and the district has NO plan to settle with McClain. More importantly, this article fails to tell us how much the district spent on three full-time lawyers during the trial, and for two years of depositions and motions preceding the trial.]

The board bought out Tom Bishop’s contract for more than $300,000 in 2008. McClain was hired in summer 2008.

Current Superintendent Holly McClurg is the fourth to hold the position in four years, following former Superintendent James Peabody, who retired in June.


On October 9, 2012 I added the following to my own blog post about the Sharon McClain trial: "To its shame, U-T San Diego has not reported on the trial outcome in this case, although it published the details of the district's criticisms of McClain."

Later that day, at 6:28 p.m., U-T San Diego published the bizarre and false headline, "Suit settled in favor of former Del Mar Superintendent."

But this lawsuit is most definitely NOT settled. There was a trial verdict, but no settlement. The case is quite likely headed to the Court of Appeal. Why would anyone want the public to believe it was settled?

I think the answer is clear. Many people claimed that the district would settle to avoid paying huge amounts to lawyers. The opposite is true. The system is set up so that lawyers, rather than wronged employees and students, receive the largesse of school insurer SDCOE-JPA (San Diego County Office of Education). SDCOE's Diane Crosier used to work in Dan Shinoff's law firm, and Mr. Shinoff was involved in hiring Ms. Crosier at SDCOE.

A reasonable person would conclude that the court had actually overseen a settlement of the case. The word "trial" does not occur anywhere in the U-T article. The article refers to "legal proceedings" and mentions the name of the judge, and includes a recitation of board complaints against McClain.

The name of Dan Shinoff is entirely missing from the U-T article. Interestingly, the Union-Tribune completely failed to cover the sexual harassment lawsuit that Mr. Shinoff lost on behalf of his long-time client Patrick Judd, former superintendent of Mountain Empire Unified School District and former board member of CVESD, although the Union-Tribune had endorsed Mr. Judd repeatedly.

Here's the comment I posted on the U-T article:

There was a trial, not a settlement, in this case.

This article states: "Del Mar’s school district has spent more than $700,000 in the last four years on settlements for two superintendents."

This statement is false, since not one cent has been paid in any settlement with Sharon McClain, and the district has NO plan to settle with McClain.

More importantly, this article fails to tell us how much the district spent on three full-time lawyers during the trial, and for two years of depositions and motions preceding the trial.

Obviously, the district should have settled with McClain in the beginning.

U-T San Diego leadership:

Douglas F. Manchester Chairman & Publisher

John T. Lynch Vice Chairman & CEO

Mike Hodges President & Chief Operating Officer 619-293-1104

Jeff Light Editor, Vice President 619-293-1201

Joe Brenneman Chief Revenue Officer 619-293-1500

Mike Glickenhaus Vice President, Strategic Sales 619-293-2161

Dan Hellbusch Vice President, Audience/Business Development & Strategic Partnerships 619-718-1484

Tom Jimenez Vice President, Spanish-Language products 619-293-1568

Ryan Kiesel Vice President, Chief Financial Officer 619-293-1117

Kris Viesselman Vice President, Product Development & Chief Creative Officer 619-293-2235

Harry Woldt Vice President, Circulation & Distribution 619-293-1601


Steve Breen Editorial cartoonist 619-293-1230

U-T San Diego Editorial Board 619-293-1395

Blanca Gonzalez Community opinion editor 619-293-1241

William Osborne Editorial editor 619-293-1395

Chris Reed Editorial writer 619-293-1511

Joe Taylor Letters editor 619-293-1789

[It looks like Don Sevrens, who hid the truth about Castle Park Elementary School as he was publishing hysterical stories and letters, is gone. It's not much of a loss for education reporting.]


We are close to having a newspaper monopoly in San Diego.

For years, the North County Times has done a good job reporting on schools. It seems that this is changing since the NCT was recently purchased by Doug Manchester, owner of U-T San Diego.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who is exposing the underbellies of school systems, U-T San Diego or Voice of San Diego?

My challenge to Will Carless at VOSD and Jeff McDonald at U-T San Diego: Why don't you find out the truth about what's going on at SDCOE?

Now that Will Carless has replaced Emily Alpert at VOSD, why doesn't he conduct a "Crosier Watch" similar to the "Petty Watch" he conducted in 2008?

Over the past few years, only a few limited stories about the tactics of education attorneys have crept into the press. Reporters have to beg and plead and practically stand on their heads to get their stories published. Voice of San Diego dropped its coverage of SDCOE attorney shenanigans, and laid-off its stellar education reporter Emily Alpert. CEO Scott Lewis claimed that he didn't have enough money to pay her.

But that explanation doesn't hold water.

Voice of San Diego benefactors Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs, who claim to care about education, could have easily paid Emily's salary with their pocket change if they'd wanted her to stay. And I suspect she would have wanted to stay if her job description had been made more appealing, which would have included being allowed to publish her stories freely. At one time she must have hoped that all her work would result in some changes for children in schools.

It seems Buzz Woolley, Irwin Jacobs and Emily Alpert weren't on the same page.

I recently discovered (in a story by Jeff McDonald at the U-T) that SDCOE executive Dan Puplava, whom Emily had started investigating, was fined $7000 and had his brokers license suspended while AIG Financial, which was paying Puplava big bucks for moonlighting with them, was fined $300,000 for not properly overseeing him. Still, Puplava retains his job as head of the SDCOE Fringe Benefits Consortium.

Voice of San Diego never even placed a link in its Morning Report to the U-T San Diego story.

To its credit, VOSD's Will Carless is doing a great job investigating a school bond scam in Poway pulled off by board members and their lawyers.

But if VOSD had been willing to aggressively investigate education attorneys, the Poway Capital Appreciation Bonds scandal might have been prevented. Of course, the downside of that for VOSD would be that it wouldn't have an exciting school bond story to write about.

It seems that journalists are a bit like Plaintiff lawyers: they actually benefit from corruption and wrongdoing because investigation it gets them money and fame.

All along, of course, the school attorneys are making work for themselves by advising school boards to ignore the law.

But the public doesn't hear much about this.

In fact, even private bloggers like me and Scott Dauenhaur get sued by SDCOE lawyer Dan Shinoff for defamation on behalf of himself and his pals at SDCOE. SDCOE should stop tax dollars to stop public discussion of school attorney tactics, but it won't.

Shockingly, it seems that U-T San Diego's Jeff McDonald is more willing to expose SDCOE than Voice of San Diego is. As a member of Voice of San Diego, I never thought I'd be forced to confess that we need the U-T in order to get balanced news reporting in San Diego. I never thought Doug Manchester's rag would sometimes do a better job on education than Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs.

The U-T freely admits that it is using the paper to influence voters and officials. You know you're reading a biased paper when you read the U-T. The Union-Tribune has been killing important stories for years.

The problem with VOSD is that the bias is in the censorship--you don't know which stories they killed because donors didn't like them. Except, of course, in cases where VOSD started a story--and then killed it.

Democrats are not invited to U-T San Diego's "One-Stop Shop" main event for candidates

No Democrats were invited to big event for U-T San Diego.

U-T San Diego’s one-stop-shop flop
GOP gets paper’s CEO and Hedgecock; Dems don’t
By John R. Lamb
City Beat
Sep 26, 2012

U-T San Diego editor Jeff Light told the four people who attended the second leg of the conservative paper’s “One-Stop Shop for Candidates” event two weeks ago that they were kept separate from the local GOP version “to keep the peace.”

Spin Cycle has no idea if Light was joking, but he needn’t have worried, for the Mission Valley headquarters of hotelier/developer Doug Manchester’s spreading media empire remained standing the next day.

Billed as two “exciting evenings” to showcase the U-T’s sputtering evolution into an “innovative new media company” and provide insight into “how to get noticed by the press” and “how does one get endorsed,” the differences and similarities between the Sept. 11 and Sept. 13 productions were indicative of the company’s political underpinnings.

The most notable difference was in who showed up, according to accounts of the proceedings provided to Spin Cycle. Although invitations for both events proclaimed that U-T Vice Chairman and CEO John Lynch would make “introductory remarks,” he bothered to do so only for the 50 or so conservative brothers and a handful of sisters at the Sept. 11 Republican gathering.

Of course, it was that day that the Lynch / Manchester duo had lifted its leg on the U-T’s latest conquest, the Escondido-based North County Times, whose acquisition by Manchester is set to conclude Oct. 1.

Mention of that to the GOP choir packed in the U-T’s Manchester Boardroom that night drew hoots and applause, which seemed to fire up the jock in Lynch.

“I think that allows such incredible opportunity. My kids went to school in North County, and they’ve always had an incredible heritage of fabulous prep sports and family coverage up there,” Lynch told the Republican crowd. “We can really make an impact because the North County is about who we are.”

He hinted at undetermined “plans” of “joining the papers together” and of future conquests—Manchester is rumored to be interested in snapping up the Chicago-based, bankruptcy-mired Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times—“to really create a great business with this same type of model across the country.

If that isn’t enough to make progressives and working journalists queasy, Lynch also described his vision of changing “the political landscape in each community in terms of really supporting the values that we stand for, and that’s loving our country and loving America again,” as if somehow the Manchester / Lynch team has a lock on that market, too.

Lynch referred to local GOP honcho and “retired” video-game hacker Tony Krvaric, sitting in the audience, as a “terrific friend and partner” and lauded the fluffy profile of him that ran recently in the U-T as the kind of “good news” about “people who make a difference in our community” that Manchester—who did not attend either event—wants to provide.

Krvaric stumbled through a few laudatory sentences about “Papa Doug” (Disclosure: Spin Cycle has decided to no longer use the self-appointed paternal moniker that Manchester insists on, citing the ridiculousness of it) and bootlicked his “media powerhouse.”

“It takes a lot of guts,” the San Diego County Republican Party chairman gushed. “You are the ultimate risk takers…. There are some people that will try to take risk out of the system, which means you take opportunity out of the system. Then we’re all going to be equally miserable just like in Europe.”

Lynch said the “nationwide” coverage of the U-T’s growth plans—mostly negative—“mystifies” him. “I keep saying, ‘I’m such a nice guy!’ How could they say that?” he said to an eruption of laughter. He then turned the floor over to Mike Hodges, the man charged with turning the U-T into a multimedia dynamo of dominance. Lynch heaped praise on Hodges before going all Darth Vader on him by saying, “You better damn well hit the numbers!”

“It always comes back to the numbers, right, John?” Hodges nervously responded.

Hodges boasted about the emergence of UT-TV, the laugh-track of a television station that features, as one attendee noted, “silicon-laden blondes” who are challenged to speak in whole sentences.

Despite the newsroom and editorial staffs having been decimated by layoffs—opinion “director” Bill Osborne even noted with disdain that the once-robust 14-member editorial board has been slashed to four, with only two writers, making endorsements for the third-tier candidates who made up the majority of attendees difficult—UT-TV staffing has grown to 60, said the star of the Republican evening, loose conservative cannon Roger Hedgecock...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The media rates readers! Voice of San Diego news quiz winners

Link: Voice of San Diego

VOSD News Quiz The results are in for last week's VOSD News Quiz and we're quite impressed. Two members received perfect scores.

First place: Lee Swanson and David Gatzke win $500 vouchers for Co-Merge Workplace

Second place: Jo Brooks and Judy Radke win Voice of San Diego Photo Books

Third place: Bill Bradshaw, Pat Seabord, Dennis Doyle, David Inmon and Chris Metcalf win NEW VOSD T-shirts

Friday, September 14, 2012

Did Channel 10 News "track down" the wrong people for its misleading story about John McCann's "patriotism"?

10News and Sweetwater's John McCann, True Patriots?
By Susan Luzzaro
Sept. 13, 2012

Many people believe a 10News report broadcast at 5 p.m. on September 12 deliberately misinformed the public.

On September 10, the Sweetwater Union High School District held a special meeting with an ambiguous agenda that suggested controversial interim superintendent Ed Brand would be awarded a contract. After several hours of deliberation, the board had nothing to report to the public.

Approximately 20 speakers addressed the board prior to the special closed-session meeting. When Kathleen Cheers, a community advocate, gave her speech to the board, she pointed out that the trustees had forgotten to do the pledge of allegiance. About 15 minutes later, board member John McCann requested a pledge of allegiance. The audience laughed.

“They were laughing at Mr. McCann’s opportunism,” said Cheers in a September 12 interview. 10News quoted Stewart Payne, a member of Occupy Sweetwater, explaining the laughter as well: "The moans and groans you hear aren't about the Pledge of Allegiance. They're about John McCann making it about himself again.”

Nevertheless, 10News told the story differently. “Disrespectful laughter at the flag and victims of 9/11,” said news anchor Kim Hunt, leading into the story. “10News has obtained an audio recording of a recent local school board meeting where the crowd appears to laugh at a request to say the pledge and a moment of silence for 9/11…. Joe Little tracked down the people in the audience to get their take on the audiotape,” said Hunt, perhaps inadvertently suggesting the tape’s provenance was dubious.

The newscast included a four-second audio clip of McCann’s request being met by laughter. Before introducing the sound bite, 10News reporter Joe Little told the TV audience, “During the meeting, trustee John McCann realized the board forgot to say the pledge of allegiance.” Joe Little was not in attendance at the meeting.

Whether or not 10News had a recording of the entire meeting — including Cheers’s comment about the pledge being forgotten prior to McCann’s request for the pledge — is unknown.

Payne, a Sweetwater parent and one of the five people who took corruption charges to the district attorney’s office, sent the following message to Joe Little upon viewing the report: “I have watched the [10News] story of the board meeting held at SUHSD on Monday. While I feel the story was fairly reported, it is based on inaccurate and misleading information…”... Payne, who is one of those accused of disrespecting the flag, rarely speaks of his military career. He served 21 years in the Marines, was in three combat zones, and retired as a sergeant major. Following the 10News report, late on September 12, Sweetwater board member Bertha Lopez phoned Little, requesting that he retract his story due to the erroneous context presented. She emailed him today to follow up. As of late afternoon September 13, Little had not responded to Lopez’s messages or two phone calls left by this reporter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The man who calls himself Papa Doug now owns all of San Diego's major papers

The UT-San Diego yesterday denied that it had bought the North County Times, but today admitted that it had. This makes Voice of San Diego all the more important to San Diegans.

U-T Buys North County Times
September 11, 2012
Voice of San Diego

Developer and U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester now owns two major daily newspapers in the San Diego region: The company jointly owned by Manchester and his partner, U-T CEO John Lynch, bought the North County Times for $11.95 million. Voice of San Diego reporter Rob Davis is on the story and has been tweeting about it this morning:

11 Sep 12
Rob Davis@robwdavis
NCT publisher confirms that, yes indeed, the sale is complete now. Today. For real...

11 Sep 12
Rob Davis@robwdavis
Yesterday's non-sale fiasco has the bad odor of a case of We Wanted to Control Our News So We Denied The Report...

11 Sep 12
Rob Davis@robwdavis
The man who calls himself Papa Doug now owns all of San Diego's major papers. Good time to reread my profile of him. [Click here.]

U-T San Diego to buy North County Times, Californian
September 11, 2012

U-T San Diego has agreed to purchase the North County Times from Lee Enterprises Inc., North County Times publisher Peter York said Tuesday. The price was $11.95 million.

The sale of the Times, including The Californian, its edition in Southwest Riverside County, had been rumored for some time. A story in the San Diego Business Journal on Monday said a sale had been completed...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dismembered bodies of 2 journalists found in Mexico

Dismembered bodies of 2 journalists found in Mexico
By the CNN Wire Staff
May 4, 2012

At least two of four dismembered bodies found Thursday morning in the eastern state of Veracruz and bearing signs of torture were journalists, Mexican authorities said.

The journalists were identified as Guillermo Luna Varela and Gabriel Huge, who had been reported missing Wednesday, said Sandra Garcia, a spokeswoman for the state government...

Dangers faced by journalists in Mexico

..."By the characteristics of the crime, one presumes that organized crime was involved in the commission of these homicides," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

Luna Varela worked as a photographer for, and Huge "dedicated himself to private activities," it said.

Their relatives said they had been missing since Wednesday, the statement said.

The bodies were found by naval police in the Zamorana Canal in the city of Boca del Rio, where two abandoned trucks were found last November containing 35 bodies.

The discovery of the photographers' bodies occurred on World Press Freedom Day and four days after Regina Martinez, a reporter for the weekly Proceso magazine, was found strangled in her house in Xalapa, Veracruz.

Since 2000, a total of 76 journalists have been killed in Mexico -- not counting Martinez or the two photographers -- according to data from the National Human Rights Commission.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Rush Limbaugh is probably not sweating this one, folks.: Still has the biggest sponsor on his side

Rush Limbaugh: Still has the biggest sponsor on his side
By Rene Lynch
Los Angeles Times
March 5, 2012

Rush Limbaugh is probably not sweating this one, folks. The critics keep piling on. But the immensely popular talk radio host has the biggest "sponsor" of all on his side: Clear Channel radio network.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan are among the latest to criticize Limbaugh for calling a Georgetown University student a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified in favor of birth control insurance coverage.

But Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks Inc., which hosts Limbaugh's conservative talk show, has voiced its unwavering support for Limbaugh, whose contract runs through 2016.

"The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue," Premiere Networks told the Associated Press. "We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions."

A representative for Premiere declined to tell the news service how much revenue the company is losing over the recent loss of advertisers seeking to distance themselves from Limbaugh and his comments.

So far, at least seven advertisers have at least temporarily pulled away from the show, including ProFlowers, Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom, according to the Associated Press.

The advertisers who discussed the decision publicly said that Limbaugh crossed a line, going "beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company,” said ProFlowers, an online floral delivery service.

Limbaugh caused a national uproar when he called Sandra Fluke, 30, a "slut" and "prostitute" and said she should post her sex videos online so he could watch. Limbaugh had blasted Fluke after she testified before Democratic congressional representatives in support of national healthcare policies that would force all employers -- including her Catholic-affiliated university, to cover birth control for women.

The furor led President Obama to personally telephone Fluke to lend his support. And Republicans and Democrats alike lambasted Limbaugh, who apologized to Fluke on Saturday.

But that was too little too late for some, like David Friend, a father of two adult daughters. Friend is also the chief executive of Carbonite, which provides online backup services, and was a frequent advertiser on Limbaugh's show. Friend issued a statement saying that he took the comments personally and could no longer be associated with the show.

"No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse."

For her part, Fluke said today on "The View" that Limbaugh's apology was insufficient.

McCain said Limbaugh's comments were "totally unacceptable" and "should be condemned" during an appearance on the CBSprogram "This Morning." New York's Dolan, who has been leading the battle to roll back blanket birth control coverage, on Sunday told the Daily News that the debate on such matters needs to stay civil. Gringrich also said Limbaugh was right to apologize for his statements -- and also said that the bigger issue were efforts by the "elite media" to frame the issue.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

U.S. drops in Press Freedom index


Syria, Bahrain and Yemen get worst ever rankings

“This year’s index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world,” Reporters Without Borders said today as it released its 10th annual press freedom index. “Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements. Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes. The past year also highlighted the leading role played by netizens in producing and disseminating news.

“Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them.

“It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index. This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes. Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive.

“This year’s index finds the same group of countries at its head, countries such as Finland, Norway and Netherlands that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom. It is worth noting the entry of Cape Verde and Namibia into the top twenty, two African countries where no attempts to obstruct the media were reported in 2011.”...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Journalists—Myself Included—Swept Up in Mass Arrest at Occupy Oakland

Journalists—Myself Included—Swept Up in Mass Arrest at Occupy Oakland
By Gavin Aronsen
Mother Jones
Jan. 29, 2012

Occupy Oakland protesters flee as police attempt to kettle them ahead of Saturday's mass arrest. Glenn Halog/Flickr
On Saturday, Occupy Oakland re-entered the national spotlight during a day-long effort to take over an empty building and transform it into a social center. Oakland police thwarted the efforts, arresting more than 400 people in the process, primarily during a mass nighttime arrest outside a downtown YMCA. That number included at least six journalists, myself included, in direct violation of OPD media relations policy that states "media shall never be targeted for dispersal or enforcement action because of their status."

After an unsuccessful afternoon effort to occupy a former convention center, the more than 1,000 protesters elected to return to the site of their former encampment outside city hall. On the way, they clashed with officers, advancing down a street with makeshift shields of corrogated metal and throwing objects at a police line. Officers responded with smoke grenades, tear gas, and bean bag projectiles. After protesters regrouped, they marched through downtown as police pursued and eventually contained a few hundred of them in an enclosed space outside a YMCA. Some entered the gym and were arrested inside.

As soon as it became clear that I would be kettled with the protesters, I displayed my press credentials to a line of officers and asked where to stand to avoid arrest. In past protests, the technique always proved successful. But this time, no officer said a word. One pointed back in the direction of the protesters, refusing to let me leave. Another issued a notice that everyone in the area was under arrest.

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I wound up in a back corner of the space between the YMCA and a neighboring building, where I met Vivian Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle and Kristin Hanes of KGO Radio. After it became clear that we would probably have to wait for hours there as police arrested hundreds of people packed tightly in front of us, we maneuvered our way to the front of the kettle to display our press credentials once more.

When Hanes displayed hers, an officer shook his head. "That's not an Oakland pass," he told her. "You're getting arrested." (She had a press pass issued by San Francisco, but not Oakland, police.) Another officer rejected my credentials, and I began interviewing soon-to-be-arrested protesters standing nearby. About five minutes later, an officer grabbed my arm and ziptied me. Around the same time, Ho—who did have official OPD credentials—was also apprehended.

As I waited in line to be processed and transported to jail, Ho approached me with an officer who had released her from custody. The two explained to my arresting officer that I was with the media. "Oh, he's with the media?" the officer replied, although I had already repeatedly told him as much and my credentials had been plainly visible all night. He appeared ready to release me, until a nearby officer piped in, without explanation: "He's getting arrested."

Later, before I was loaded on a police bus with 48 protesters, another officer told a protester in front of me that he should have left after police issued dispersal orders. When I told the officer that I had attempted to do just that, he asked, "How long have you been out here today?" "Since about 1:30." Flashing a smile and telling me that he didn't care I was a reporter, he replied, "We've been issuing dispersal orders all day." Kettled protesters claimed that no orders were issued until they had no means of escape, but in either case the orders were difficult to hear over the commotion of the crowd.

As police rounded up protesters into vans outside the YMCA, several occupiers who managed to avoid capture retaliated by vandalizing city hall. Others protested outside an Oakland jail where the officer driving the bus I was escorted onto had promised to take us "if you don't piss me off." Instead, he had to drive to a county jail in Santa Rita about 40 minutes away. (Officers from at least seven outside agencies came to Oakland in response to the day's events.)

After spending about an hour locked up alone in a drunk-tank cellblock, OPD Sergeant Jeff Thomason arrived to release me, thanks to a call from Mother Jones co-editor-in-chief Monika Bauerlein. "You probably shouldn't have been in here to begin with," he told me apologetically as he escorted me in his personal car back to the scene of my arrest to retrieve my backpack where I'd stashed my steno pad. But for the time-being, it was unretrievable under a massive pile of occupiers' bags in the back of a police van.

At least five other reporters were arrested last night: Hanes, Ho, John C. Osborn of the East Bay Express, Yael Chanoff of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and graphic journalist Susie Cagle, who was previously arrested during the short-lived occupation of a vacant downtown building following Occupy Oakland's first port shutdown last November. Chanoff was taken to the Santa Rita jail. The others were all quickly released at the scene (an officer told Cagle that he was doing her a "favor").

Oakland police, who have been instructed ahead of past Occupy Oakland protests not to prevent anyone "claiming media affiliation" from "engag[ing] in activity afforded to media personnel," particularly "during times of civil unrest," have also violated department policy on crowd control responding to previous Occupy protests. The ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between police and protesters has frustrated officers forced to work overtime hours at a department that will likely be placed in federal receivership for civil rights violations that predate the Occupy movement. Last week, a federal judge ruled that the OPD remains "woefully behind its peers around the state and nation."

"The Bay Area Occupy movement has got to stop using Oakland as their playground," Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said in a statement during last night's arrests that made no mention of her police department's lack of regard for journalists' First Amendment protections. Last week, the United States dropped 27 spots in Reporters Without Borders' annual press freedom index due to police treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement. By Josh Stearns's count, more than three dozen reporters have been arrested since the movement began last year in Manhattan.

Editorial Fellow
Gavin Aronsen is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.