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KN4M 07-02-01

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com 6/28/2001 greg@gregpalast.com ALERT!
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2001
      Please send as far and wide as possible.


      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist



      In retaliation for the investigative story about the finances of the
      George W. Bush campaign, Barrick Gold Mining of Canada has sued my
      paper, the Observer of London, for libel. The company, which hired
      the elder Bush after his leaving the White House, is charging the
      newspaper with libel for quoting an Amnesty International report,
      which alleged that 50 miners might have been buried alive in Tanzania
      by a company now owned by Barrick.

      The company has also demanded the Observer and its parent, Guardian
      Newspapers, force me to remove the article from my US website, a
      frightening extension of Britain's punitive libel laws into the World
      Wide Web. The company has also issued legal threats against
      Tanzanian human rights lawyer Tundu Lissu, one of the Observer's
      independent sources and an investigator of the mine-site allegations.

      The attack by Barrick and its controversial Chairman, Peter Munk, one
      of the wealthiest men in Canada, who boasts of his propensity to sue,
      also aims to gag my reporting on his company's purchase of rights to
      a gold mine in Nevada - containing $10 billion in gold - for a
      payment of under $10,000 to the US Treasury.

      My Observer story, Best Democracy Money Can Buy, looked into the
      activities of several corporations linked to the Bushes. It was in
      that article I first disclosed that over 50,000 Florida voters, most
      of them Black, were wrongly tagged as `felons,' and targeted for
      removal from the voter rolls. My follow-up reports in Salon.com, The
      Nation, and the Washington Post as well as on BBC-TV's Newsnight
      provided the basis for the US Civil Rights Commission finding of
      massive, wrongful voter disenfranchisement in Florida.

      My entire continuing investigation is in jeopardy. It is difficult
      to imagine how my paper, owned by the non-profit Scott Trust, myself
      and human rights lawyer Lissu can withstand the financial punishment
      of litigation by the centi-millionaire Munk and his corporation.

      In its latest Annual report, Amnesty says it cannot verify the
      allegations of the mine killings because the government continues to
      resist an independent investigation. Yet Barrick wants our paper to
      state what we know to be untrue: that independent investigation found
      the charges completely baseless. Yet our quoting Amnesty is no
      defense. Americans cannot conceive of the medieval operation of
      British libel law. It does not permit the defense of "repetition" -
      straightforward reporting on the statements of human rights groups
      are banned, a gag nearly as effective as Burmese law.

      Independently of Amnesty, attorney Lissu went to the mine site and
      provided our paper with witness statements. Tanzanians have offered
      their services to help defend against censorship in Britain, a
      poignant reversal for our paper which, with imperial pomp, has
      launched a `Press Freedom Campaign' to excoriate developing nations
      over gagging journalists.

      `10 Little Piggies,' Adnan Khashoggi, and The Greatest Gold Heist
      Since Butch Cassidy

      Peter Munk's reputation precedes him. Last year, Mother Jones named
      him one of America's `Ten Little Piggies' for his US gold mine's
      literally `poisoning the water' through what environmentalists
      consider polluting extraction practices.

      How Barrick got the gold mine is something they would rather we not

      First, Munk was set up in the gold business by funds from Saudi arms
      dealer Adnan Khashoggi. We are being sued for discussing this
      connection although the information comes from Peter Munk himself,
      quoted in his biography.

      Second, Barrick struck it rich when the company used (or misused, say
      many) an old Gold Rush law to claim rights on a Nevada mine
      containing $10 billion in gold by paying the US Treasury less than
      $10,000. They are suing my paper for publicizing this extraordinary
      transaction, which US Interior Secretary of the Interior Bruce
      Babbitt called, "the biggest gold heist since the days of Butch
      Cassidy," and "a form of legalized extortion."

      Barrick's suit claims the Observer libeled them by failing to state
      that Barrick had to spend money to buy other rights and equipment to
      dig the gold out of the ground. What an odd misreading of our
      words. We never said the US government mailed the gold bars to
      Barrick in Canada. We only said that Barrick got the gold mine and
      the public got the shaft.

      The company's CEO has also demanded his lawyers slice a pound of our
      journalistic flesh for mentioning that he, "made his name in Canada
      in the 1960s as the figure in an infamous insider stock-trading
      scandal." Yet, we read this in the Canadian magazine Macleans: "The
      failure of [Clairetone Corporation] cost Munk his business and his
      reputation. Most damning were allegations of insider trading that
      were made after it was discovered that he and [his partner] had sold
      shares in 1967 just before some of Clairetone's most serious problems
      became known."

      Lynching by Libel Law

      The clear purpose of the suit is, as Barrick says, to force the
      Observer to say the investigation "should never have been published" –
      an inquiry into those who purchase the favor and influence of the
      Bush family, not just Barrick. The article was about the blizzard of
      money whirling around a family of Presidents and their associations.
      Among other paid favors for Barrick, the former President wrote the
      dictator Suharto to convince him, successfully, to grant another gold
      concession to Barrick.

      And more than Barrick came into our investigative cross hairs. There
      was Chevron Corporation, and ChoicePoint, the firm at the center of
      the racially charged voter purge in Florida. This suit with
      malicious tone attempts to besmirch our entire investigation and to
      undermine ours and others further investigations into Bush and

      The Observer's official history quotes a media critic's statement
      that the papers new editor,

      "... is expected to continue the paper's tradition of crusading
      reporting as in the Lobbygate investigate investigation."

      In that `Lobbygate' story, well known in the UK, I went undercover
      with my partner Antony Barnett to expose corruption at the heart of
      the Blair cabinet.

      But the wrath of a Prime Minister is easy to dismiss - and our awards
      were a pleasant salve. The withering, costly pounding of an enraged
      corporate power with too much money to spend has chilled reporters'
      and British newspapers' will to take on the tougher investigative
      matters. Amnesty is, "silent on the advice of lawyers." And so, the
      witness statements of those who watched the bodies exhumed, and one
      who dug his way from the mass grave, will now also remain entombed in
      legal silence.

      How much longer I can hold the line if abandoned by the Guardian's
      Scott Trust - which is cracking under the weight of legal bills - I
      cannot say. And the consequences of capitulation to our source and
      defender, Tundu Lissu and his Tanzanian human rights organization, we
      cannot imagine.



      Cheney to undergo heart tests
      - - - - - - - - - - - -
      By Tom Raum

      June 29, 2001 | WASHINGTON (AP) --

      Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed Friday that he has been
      experiencing irregular heart rhythms and will check into a hospital
      on Saturday for tests that may lead to the implant of a pacemaker to
      restore normal rhythm.

      Cheney told a briefing at the White House that a "pacemaker plus"
      could be put in after the tests.

      He said he had noticed a rapid heart rate but "I can't feel anything
      when it happens."

      His ability to perform in his job as vice president probably would
      not be affected, he said, but he added that he would follow his
      doctor's recommendations.

      Cheney said he had discussed the situation with President Bush on

      Cheney was smiling and looked robust when making the announcement. He
      said he had exercised on a stationary bike for half an hour earlier

      The vice president said he expected to be home Saturday night after
      the procedure and return to work on Monday. He said his condition
      would not inhibit his ability to do his job.

      He said his visit on Saturday to George Washington Hospital was
      a "routine but precautionary step that my record calls for."

      It will be his third hospitalization since last year's election.

      Cheney has been suffering from coronary heart disease for a quarter
      century, beginning with a heart attack in 1978 when he was a young
      congressman. He had quadruple bypass surgery in 1988.

      Last November, doctors treated Cheney for a mild heart attack by
      implanting a stent, a little metal scaffolding, to prop open an
      almost completely blocked artery. In March, Cheney underwent an
      angioplasty to clear a clogged artery.

      "The risks are minimal" for the new procedure, Cheney said. He said
      the same procedure is done about 100,000 times a year, and it will
      not require him to go under a general anesthetic.

      He said doctors would insert wires into a vein during the test, then
      if necessary insert a battery-powered pacemaker.


      Green Group Comes Under Right-Wing Attack
      Don Hazen, AlterNet
      June 26, 2001

      Inspired by a friendly Bush administration, a trio of anti-
      environmental groups and companies is launching a multi-tiered attack
      on the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Best known for its headline-
      grabbing campaigns to protect forests, RAN has a proven track record
      of altering corporate behavior through a range of pressure tactics.

      A conservative group called the Frontier Freedom Foundation (FFF) --
      heavily supported by tobacco, oil and timber money -- is lobbying the
      IRS to revoke RAN's non-profit status. At the same time, logging
      company Boise Cascade has aggressively targeted RAN's funders with
      threatening letters, trying to undermine the organization by drying
      up its cash flow. Both are working with the anti-green Center for the
      Defense of Free Enterprise to cripple RAN's effectiveness.

      RAN executes highly visible, aggressive campaigns primarily against
      corporations destroying old growth forests in North America and
      around the world. Its tactics include consumer boycotts and symbolic
      efforts designed to capture media attention, including rappelling
      down corporate buildings and unleashing giant banners. Along with
      Boise Cascade, RAN has also targeted Mitsubishi and Occidental
      Petroleum, among other corporate giants.

      The first attack came from the FFF (founded by former Wyoming Senator
      Malcolm Wallup, a close associate of Vice President Dick Cheney),
      which charged in a letter to the IRS that RAN routinely engages in
      non-educational activity, violating the legal requirement that it
      be "operated exclusively for educational purposes." The FFF's
      executive director, George Landrith, called RAN "fundamentally
      radical, anti-capitalist and lawless."

      In response, RAN says that the FFF is using the tax codes to attack
      its First Amendment rights. As many have pointed out, civil rights
      groups like the NAACP wouldn't have been able to organize sit-ins to
      fight segregation if such a standard was in place.

      "We believe when laws are unjust, they can be broken in a symbolic
      way," RAN Executive Director Christopher Hatch told the Wall Street

      Nevertheless, some other groups are expressing anxiety about the IRS
      case. They fear a chilling effect on anti-corporate protests if the
      FFF is successful. Indeed, the FFF's Landrith sees the RAN effort as
      a test case with many more to follow if successful. Thus far, the
      Bush administration hasn't been shy about employing hardball tactics
      with its enemies, and the prospect of politicizing the IRS is not out
      of the question. Also, experts note that the IRS language in this
      arena is vague and the rulings on the books are close to 20 years
      old. New language could be more narrow and restrictive.

      If the FFF is successful, RAN would not be out of business, but would
      have to raise what's known as "hard money" from its donors and
      members. Put simply, donors wouldn't be able to claim a tax deduction
      for supporting specific RAN activities, which could discourage them
      from giving. Michael Klein, a business entrepreneur and one of RAN's
      key funders said, "I don't think there is any merit in this case and
      feel confident that the IRS will rule in RAN's favor. But I stand
      behind the RAN's work in this area, and would be willing to more than
      make up whatever shortfall might result."

      Michael Shellenberger, a RAN spokesman, calls the whole effort with
      the IRS a canard. "The only activities that would result in revoking
      non-profit tax status are felonious activities, like embezzlement,"
      said Shellenberger. "The FFF is trying to scare our supporters, but
      they won't be scared."

      "Let there be no doubt," Christopher Hatch adds, "the work to protect
      our forests will not only continue, but escalate."

      Exploiting IRS codes is only part of the attack on RAN. Boise Cascade
      Corporation (BCC) is trying to cut off RAN's financial support in a
      different way. BCC is currently RAN's public enemy number one for its
      role as a "global forest destroyer." According to RAN, "data shows
      that BCC engages in global rainforest timber trade and contracts with
      companies that cut down old growth forests in the U.S., Chile,
      Indonesia, Canada, Brazil and Russia." Furthermore, BCC was the lead
      plaintiff in the effort to reverse the Clinton Administration's
      Roadless Initiative for National Forests, strongly supported by the
      American public in polls.

      The RAN-generated negative public attention and pressure on Boise
      Cascade has produced a chain reaction within the company, resulting
      in threatening letters written to many of RAN's funders. Vincent
      Hannity, a BCC vice president, wrote to RAN funders, "We are frankly
      struggling to understand how and why RAN receives the support of
      reputable, responsible, well-intentioned organizations such as
      (foundation name blacked out). If RAN's lawless, radical agenda and
      methodology are consistent with your organization's guidelines,
      objectives and ethics we ask that you share those criteria with us."
      Insiders say that BCC has even contacted principals of schools where
      students have written to the company urging the protection of old
      growth forests.

      Students aren't the only ones worried about forest conservation. A
      Los Angeles Times poll showed that nine out of ten people believe
      protecting wilderness is important, and six out of ten say we
      shouldn't build more roads in national forests.

      According to Hatch, rather than admiting that the strong public
      sentiment against irresponsible forestry might be cutting into its
      bottom line, BCC is trying to blame RAN for its economic problems.
      (BCC lost $35.5 million in the first quarter of 2001.) Clearly, RAN's
      success in reducing demand for products made from old-growth wood --
      including its groundbreaking agreement with Home Depot and a deal in
      Canada to preserve large portions of the Great Bear rainforest -- has
      motivated BCC. But instead of working with RAN to clean up their act
      (which numerous companies have done), BCC has chosen a more hostile

      BCC's aggressive strategy and denial of public opinion places it
      among a group of conservative corporations that are highly resistant
      to change, like oil giant ExxonMobil, which still refuses to
      acknowledge global warming. Also like ExxonMobil, BCC enjoys long-
      standing and close relationships with key members of the Bush

      A second right-wing group, the Center for the Defense of Free
      Enterprise, headed by notorious "wise use" advocate Ron Arnold, is
      working with the FFF and Boise Cascade to undermine RAN's standing. A
      press release from the FFF said that "Arnold would present RAN as an
      attack group and not an environmental group. He will present RAN's
      anti-capitalist and anti-corporate agenda of force, intimidation and
      unlawful actions. Arnold will also show suspicious links between
      RAN's rhetoric and Earth Liberation Front acts."

      RAN denies such charges of unlawfulness, and a connection to more
      militant groups. "RAN is strictly a non-violent organization strongly
      opposed to property destruction of any kind," said RAN Communications
      Director Shannon Wright. Coincidentally, the FFF's outrageous guilt
      by association rhetoric received a major blow when police in Arizona
      arrested a suspect for a series of fires that destroyed more than a
      dozen homes adjacent to the desert. The suspect had apparently
      written letters on behalf of a fake militant ecological group in
      order to deflect attention away from himself.

      It seems clear that RAN's efforts to protect old growth forests are
      not going to be seriously inhibited by attacks from right-wing groups
      and angry corporations. On the other hand, major companies with
      billion-dollar investments in their brands are increasingly
      vulnerable to the effective tactics -- advertising, public education,
      and direct action protest -- employed by RAN and pioneered decades
      ago by groups like INFACT and the United Farm Workers.

      As more corporate money flows into the coffers of elected officials,
      government often produces policies that protect corporate interests
      at the public's expense. The only realistic shot at reform becomes
      public campaigns aimed at the reputation and the bottom line of the
      corporate behemoths. Ironically, as BCC's example may soon show,
      exercising overwhelming influence in politics may lead to more
      financial loses in the long run, if a company becomes a target for
      activist campaigns. If only they understood the need to balance their
      interests with the public and become better corporate citizens.

      For more information, or to help defend the Rainforest Action
      Network, visit RAN.org.




      By Norman Solomon / Creators Syndicate

      I dreamed I saw George Orwell last night. Alive as you or me.

      He'd been watching the news, and he was quite irate. "All
      this doublespeak about war crimes is appalling," he said. "That chap
      Milosevic -- I see the U.S. government wants him tried for war

      "Yes," I replied. "All the pundits agree."

      "But meanwhile, the news coverage of the Israeli prime
      minister's visit to the White House failed to suggest that he, also,
      would be suitable for prosecution as a war criminal. After all,
      evidence clearly implicates Ariel Sharon in the massacres of hundreds
      of Palestinian people inside the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in
      Lebanon in 1982. Why aren't the media commentators demanding that he
      stand in the dock at The Hague?"

      "Well, the U.S. government is closely allied with Israel,
      so --"

      Orwell cut me off. "I was asking a rhetorical question. I
      get it. Believe me." His voice began to waver and fade, so only
      fragments were audible. "Plenty of examples ... Turkish
      government ... U.S. ally ... killing Kurds for many years ...
      brutally suppressing their language and culture ... where's the
      press?" He coughed, then started again, faintly: "Henry Kissinger ...
      wholesale murder in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia ... East Timor ... and
      remember Chile ... Any evenhanded reporting would ..."

      "During the last few months," I interjected, "the journalist
      Christopher Hitchens has raised quite a ruckus about Kissinger and --"

      Orwell waved a hand, dismissively. "Scant comfort ... news
      delayed is news denied ... sickening media manipulation ..."

      "You sound way too radical for mainstream media," I
      exclaimed. "Yet these days you're almost universally revered."

      Orwell laughed grimly, in the midst of coughing. His next
      words were at full volume. "Indeed. Embraced with one hand and
      watered down with the other. Now rendered as dreadfully weak tea and -

      Then, suddenly, I woke up. The dull thud of a newspaper
      echoed on the front porch. "Mr. Orwell," I murmured, "what were you
      saying?" But there was no reply. Just the filtered light of dawn and
      the far-off sound of "Morning Edition" on National Public Radio.

      George Orwell died in 1950. If he had lived long enough to
      reach the 21st century, it's a good bet that -- while treasuring the
      civil liberties and other freedoms that exist in the United States --
      he would deplore the deep patterns of indoctrination that undergo
      reinforcement in our society.

      "Democratic" processes of intellectual conformity and
      insidious political propaganda were of great concern to Orwell. Not
      content to merely point a finger from West to East in his satirical
      novel about Soviet tyranny, "Animal Farm," he wrote a challenging
      preface, which disappeared from editions of the book for nearly 30

      The preface included a downbeat analysis of the conditions
      of public discourse in England, where "admiration for Russia happens
      to be fashionable at this moment." Orwell astutely speculated
      that "quite possibly that particular fashion will not last." But, he
      went on: "To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an
      advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees
      with the record that is being played at the moment."

      Today, Orwell's record-player metaphor is a bit outdated --
      we could refer to "the CD mind" -- but his statement remains acutely
      relevant. Ideologies are most pernicious when they're so dominant
      that they aren't even recognized as such.

      What Orwell wrote in his introduction, describing the
      England of 1945, is no less applicable to the United States of
      2001: "In this country, intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a
      writer or journalist has to face... Unpopular ideas can be silenced,
      and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official
      ban. ... At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas
      which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept
      without question."

      In December 1946, four months after U.S. publication
      of "Animal Farm," Orwell wrote in a letter to literary critic Dwight
      Macdonald: "If people think I am defending the status quo, that is, I
      think, because they have grown pessimistic and assume that there is
      no alternative except dictatorship or laissez-faire capitalism." He
      added: "What I was trying to say was, 'You can't have a revolution
      unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a
      benevolent dictatorship.'"

      Orwell was anti-Communist. He was also a socialist who
      vehemently opposed the capitalist system -- a position that would
      disqualify him from appearing as a regular commentator on any of
      America's big TV networks in the present day.


      Norman Solomon's weekly syndicated column -- archived at
      www.fair.org/media-beat/ -- focuses on media and politics. His latest
      is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media."

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