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New York Mayor Ponders Selling Brooklyn Bridge, Four Others
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Unbelievable perhaps, but New York City's new
mayor wants to sell you the historic Brooklyn Bridge.
In fact, he wants to sell three other bridges in America's biggest
city -- anything to raise cash in a city reeling from the economic
effects of the Sept. 11 attacks coupled with the first U.S. recession
in 10 years.
Michael Bloomberg, elected mayor last year just weeks after the
destruction of the World Trade Center, inherited a nearly $5 billion
hole in his $40 billion spending plan, which an official in his
administration said could be partly filled through the sale of the
"The proposals (to sell the bridges) are under consideration,"
Bloomberg spokesman Jordan Barowitz said on Monday, declining to
Selling the bridges is likely to generate as much opposition from
elected officials in Brooklyn and Queens as the mayor's budget
proposal two weeks ago to charge tolls on the bridges, which are now
The Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge
and the Queensboro Bridge all span the East River and connect the
boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan.
The toll plan could raise up to $800 million a year by 2006.
While it was not immediately clear how much the city might get from
the sale of the four bridges, an arm of the New York Metropolitan
Transportation Authority would be the likely buyer, Bloomberg's
spokesman said. An MTA spokesman said the agency had no comment on
the Bloomberg plan to sell the bridges.
New York City's tax collections took a severe hit after the Sept. 11
attacks, which came at a time when the U.S. economy was already
slowing after a record 10 years of economic growth.
The air attacks not only killed nearly 3,000 people, they also led to
110,000 job losses and forced thousands of businesses to shut down.
Colombian Rebel Says Thousands Will Die In Total War
By William Parra
IN THE ANDES MOUNTAINS, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombian Marxist
guerrillas bombed power lines and clashed with the army on Tuesday as
a senior rebel called the collapse of peace talks a disaster and
warned that thousands will die in the coming "total war."
At a secret mountain camp in southern Colombia, rebel commander Pablo
Catatumbo blamed Colombia's upper classes and the United States for
President Andres Pastrana's decision to halt three years of peace
talks last week with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia --
known in Spanish as FARC.
"I think this is an historic mistake. Not only by President Pastrana,
but also by the Colombian ruling classes, the establishment, who have
pushed Colombia into total war," FARC rebel commander Pablo Catatumbo
told Reuters in an interview.
Pastrana abandoned the tortuous peace talks after the FARC hijacked a
commercial plane and kidnapped a senator aboard. The negotiations had
done little to stem the bloodshed in a 38-year-old war which pits
leftist rebels including the FARC against the Colombian army and far-
right paramilitary outlaws and has claimed about 40,000 lives in the
"We have to sit down and talk again. The terrible thing is that there
are going to be 5,000 or 10,000 deaths. Whether they be guerrillas,
police, soldiers or civilians, it's terrible for Colombia. We don't
want that," added Catatumbo, dressed in camouflage and surrounded by
Since Monday, FARC rebels have killed eight soldiers and police, as
well as a young boy, in firefights and bombings in three southern
Colombian provinces. The attacks all occurred in and around the
thinly populated region of jungle and cattle pasture the size of
Switzerland that Pastrana gave the FARC as a safe haven for peace
talks in late 1998.
Backed by U.S.-built Black Hawk helicopters, army troops pushed back
into the area last week and bombed rebel camps after Pastrana
declared the talks dead on Wednesday, calling the FARC drug-
trafficking "terrorists" who had never ceased the violent struggle
outside their territory.
BUSH AIDES DISCUSS COLOMBIA
Catatumbo said Washington shared the blame for the collapse of peace
talks. "The United States has always been the main obstacle for
obtaining peace in Colombia. Until the necessary consensus is reached
for committing the United States to the idea that Colombia needs
reforms, it's going to be very difficult to get peace," he said.
The United States has given Colombia over $1 billion in mainly
military aid for anti-drugs efforts and has said it hopes to give $98
million more to defend a key oil pipeline.
Top aides to President Bush on Tuesday discussed how they could do
more to help Colombia given constraints on using U.S. military aid
for anything other than the fight against drugs. No decisions were
But officials said Washington's designation of the FARC as a
terrorist group may open the door to more aid and Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld did not rule out sending in troops.
The FARC has said it is prepared to talk to a future government, but
Alvaro Uribe, who has a massive lead ahead of May 26 presidential
elections, is a bitter enemy of the peasant army. The rebels want
social reforms and land redistribution in a country marked by a huge
divide between rich and poor.
Striking back after the government incursion, the rebels bombed power
pylons across southern Colombia, leaving 45 small towns without
electricity and many without running water.
But Catatumbo, a commander of the 17,000-strong rebel force in Valle
del Cauca province -- outside the former rebel-held "demilitarized
zone" -- said the FARC wanted peace.
"We're looking at about 5,000 deaths, because there are very
important sections of the establishment here who don't want peace.
They're making money out of war, including the military," he said.
Over the weekend, the guerrillas grabbed a minor presidential
candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, after she ignored military advice not
to venture into the former rebel zone. She has now been added to the
list of more than 800 people being held hostage by the FARC, mainly
World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org
WSWS : News & Analysis : North America
US court sanctions further media monopolization
By Patrick Martin
28 February 2002
A US court ruling issued February 19 means the effective end to any
limitation on the drive by a handful of giant corporations to
monopolize broadcasting and cable television.
A three-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbiathe most important federal court below the
Supreme Courtupheld a lawsuit brought by a group of media
corporations, including AOL Time Warner, Viacom, and News
Corporation, against two rules issued by the Federal Communications
Commission, the broadcast industry regulator.
The court struck down outright an FCC regulation that barred cross-
ownership of cable systems and local TV stations in the same media
market. It voided and sent back for reconsideration by the FCC a
regulation limiting television networks to the ownership of local TV
stations covering no more than 35 percent of the US market.
Viacom and News Corporation filed suit because recent acquisitions
have brought both conglomerates above the 35 percent mark. When
Viacom acquired CBS two years ago, the combination of the network-
owned stations and its existing local stations came to 41 percent.
News Corporation, which owns Fox network, has access to 40 percent of
the US market after its merger with Chris-Craft Corporation.
Local stations are frequently monopolies, and highly profitable, so
that even a small group of stations constitutes a substantial
property. Large chains, such as those assembled by the biggest media
conglomerates, are among the most lucrative of businesses. News
Corporation, for instance, owns 33 local stations. They took in $526
million in revenue in the last quarter of 2001, of which $259 million
was earnings before taxes and interest, a gross profit margin of
almost 50 percent.
It is a remarkable and revealing feature of the US legal landscape
that giant corporations routinely take business decisions that flout
existing laws and regulations, and then obtain retroactive sanction
for their illegal actions by going to court. One can imagine the fate
of a worker or a small businessman who tried the same thing. But the
major media outletswhich are owned by these same corporationstake
virtually no notice of corporate lawlessness.
The media ownership rules were reaffirmed by the FCC only two years
ago, in a split vote in which the current FCC chairman, Michael
Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, voted with the
minority who favored loosening or eliminating the restrictions.
Powell will now be responsible for deciding whether to raise the
ownership limit, perhaps to 50 percent of the US market, or
abolishing it entirely.
The regulation, called the National Television Station Ownership
Rule, has been in place since the 1940s, when television broadcasting
began. Its avowed purpose was to "prevent any undue concentration of
economic power" in television broadcasting, in large measure because
monopoly control of the media was seen as inimical to democracy. In
the present world of American politics, such considerations no longer
Gene Kimmelman, co-director of the Washington office of the Consumers
Union, called the decision "earth-shattering." He explained, "The end
result could be the most massive consolidation in media this nation
has ever seen. It's a radical effort by the Court of Appeals to ...
expand corporate free-speech rights at the expense of the public's
First Amendment rights."
The monopolization of the television media is not a new phenomenon.
The restrictions on station ownership have steadily eroded. The limit
of three stations established in the 1940s had, by 1984, been raised
to twelve stations and 25 percent of the national audience. The
telecommunications deregulation bill sponsored by the Clinton
administrationwith Al Gore serving as the main cheerleaderended the
numerical limit of stations and raised the permitted proportion of
the national audience to 35 percent. The latest court ruling
completes the process.
In a basic sense, the FCC rules were never aimed at providing genuine
public access to the broadcast media. That would require public
ownership and making the media available to working class
organizations and other groups without large financial resources.
Rather, they sought to preserve a modicum of competition by
restricting the ability of the largest media monopolies to gobble up
their smaller rivals.
Hence the lineup in the case before the court, Fox Television
Stations v. Federal Communications Commission, in which the National
Association of Broadcasters, whose membership consists mainly of the
owners of local television stations, was pitted against Viacom (CBS),
AOL Time Warner, General Electric (NBC) and News Corporation (Fox).
Joining the "anti-monopoly" side of the lawsuit were corporations
principally based in the newspaper industry, such as the Washington
Post Co. and the New York Times Co., which also own considerable
properties in local television. Both the Post and the Times published
editorials critical of the ruling, with the Times in particular
pointing to the danger to democracy from the ever-narrower
concentration of media power.
But neither publication pointed to the clear connection between the
anti-democratic policies of the Bush administration, and this
government's origins in the theft of the 2000 presidential election
and the suppression of vote counting in Florida by the Supreme Court.
This is not surprising, since both the Times and the Post endorsed
the political coup which placed Bush in the White House, at least
after the fact, and urged the acceptance of his administration as
The composition of the three-judge panel that issued the February 19
ruling is significant. Heading the panel was Judge Douglas Ginsburg,
an unsuccessful nominee to the Supreme Court during the Reagan
administration and a longtime advocate of right-wing causes. Joining
him was Judge David Sentelle, a former aide to ultra-right Senator
Jesse Helms, who gained notoriety as the chairman of the three-judge
panel that installed Kenneth Starr as the independent counsel in the
Whitewater investigation, and later approved the extension of his
jurisdiction to cover Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.
The anti-regulatory zealotry of the ruling stopped short of endorsing
the argument of the networks and AOL Time Warner that the FCC rules
violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. Such a
decision would have enshrined a right of monopolization in the US
Constitution, but the Appeals Court held that promotion of diversity
in ownership was a legitimate goal of government policy.
Instead of issuing a more sweeping opinion, the judges held that the
FCC had not provided a "reasonable basis" for the ownership rules, in
violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, by failing to show how
ownership regulations would actually promote diversity. In effect,
the failure of the existing setup to prevent monopolization was used
as an argument for scrapping any regulation whatsoever.
The court ruling is widely expected to be upheld if appealed to the
current Supreme Court. In any case, the decision means that Viacom
and News Corporation will not be required to sell off a portion of
their current television holdings, and it will encourage a new round
of mergers and consolidation in the industry.
According to reports in the business press, a prime candidate for
merger or takeover is Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC and several
cable television networks. This huge company is considered somewhat
undersized in comparison to such behemoths as News Corporation and
Viacom. There is also speculation about a sale of NBC to AOL Time
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All rights reserved
I'm not sure if this is up your alley or not, but I saw an article on
the BBC news site yesterday.
It mentions several names in association to the notion that there is
no global warming. The names were: former CIA director and defence
secretary James Schlesinger, Richard Lindzen, professor of
meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Philip
Stott. The institute in the article, the George C. Marshall
Institute, is run by Jeffrey Salmon.
I did a little research.
Richard Lindzen seems to be an honest scientist who feels that global
warming is not happening. He is well quoted in numerous places on
Philip Stott is a British researcher who apparently only recently
brought his primary focus onto global warming. Previously his focus
was on the value of GM crops. He ran a web site called "Seeds of
Opportunity" that pushed GM foods until recently, when apparently it
was changed to environmental issues. I was unable to find the site
He apparently worked closely with the U.S. embassy to set up a GM
foods conference several years ago.
Jeffrey Salmon is widely quoted on a number of topics, including an
article he did titled "The Opposition to Missile Defense: Why Some
Things Never Change." He is very pro-defense. I believe that he is
also the Jeffrey Salmon whom the Virginia Education Advisory
Committee Roster refers to as a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S.
Department of Energy.
Both have numbers in the 202 area code.
James Schlesinger was indeed the head of the Department of Defense
and the CIA, but the thing that was not mentioned is that he was also
the first Secretary of Energy. He is also very 'pro' for the missile
He is apparently on the board of Global Energy Solutions.
Schlessinger and Salmon apparently have known each other for a
while. They both appeared at the Climate Treaty Proceedings before
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce back in 1998. Schlesinger gave a talk
on "U.S. Sovereignty, Security and the Climate Treaty.
Please note that the web page for this is entitled "U.S. Sovereignty
and Security at Risk? U.N. Climate Treaty".
I tend towards a small amount of paranoia, but when I see two people
(Salmon and Schlesinger) who seem to have an interest in the
environment more based upon economic and military concerns than a
conservation or sustainability outlook I tend to be suspicious about
the quality of the research.
Especially when it comes so soon after Bush unveils his answer to
I hope you found this interesting.
Center for an Informed America
This article comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Times. The original is
A Natural Seducer
Los Angeles Times
February 17, 2002
Let's say you're talking foreign policy with Colin Powell (or
whispering sweet nothings to your sweetheart) when Bullwinkle Moose
appears on a television in the room. If your attention wanders to the
screen, you're hardly alone.
As the authors of research published in this month's Scientific
American admit, they too often find themselves succumbing to the
tube's almost occult ability to seize people's attention and not let
go. They cite, as an example, a UC Berkeley professor who confesses
to having many "embarrassing moments ... when I am engaged in
conversation in a room while a TV set is on, and I cannot for the
life of me stop from periodically glancing over to the screen. This
occurs not only during dull conversations but during reasonably
interesting ones just as well."
In the article, Robert Kubey, a media studies professor at Rutgers,
and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor at Claremont
Graduate School, offer a gripping explanation of how images and
sounds from the small screen seduce us by evoking a biological
reaction that has been wired into our brains over millions of years
of evolution. The researchers are hardly the first to describe
the "orienting response," which dilates blood vessels to the brain,
slows the heart and constricts blood vessels to major muscle groups
at the sight of sudden or novel stimuli. Russian physiologist Ivan
Pavlov studied it back in 1927, recognizing it as an adaptive
response that evolved to help our ancestors vigilantly scan the
environment for lions and other threats.
However, Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi are among the first academics
to "out" the science of media manipulation in the popular press.
Previously, you had to look in publications like Advertising Age to
learn how the orienting response can be evoked by such simple TV
tricks as quick cuts, zooms, pans and sudden noises. The authors
deserve cheers for exposing some of advertisers' secrets, thus
nipping at the hand that gives lucrative grants to many media studies
These mavericks' research is hardly on a par with curing cancer. But
it could, in a sense, add years to someone's life. Take, for
instance, this typically common-sense observation: "Viewers often
know that a particular program or movie of the week is not very good
within the first few minutes but instead of switching off the set,
they stick with it for the full two hours." Learn to break that
pattern and you might wind up spending less time in front of the tube
than the average person in the industrialized world--a full nine
years of life.
Here's our tip for making the change: Get a clue--Bullwinkle is not a
Still a few glitches in the emerging police state ...
Deputy Shoots 2 Soldiers In Training
By DOUG JOHNSON The Associated Press
Published: Feb 25, 2002
RALEIGH, N.C. - A sheriff's deputy shot two soldiers, one a former
Clearwater resident, when they tried to disarm him because they
thought he was part of their training exercise, officials said. One
of the soldiers died.
The Fort Bragg soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes, were taking
part Saturday in a role- playing exercise that is part of the Army's
Special Forces Qualification Course.
``One of the soldiers attempted to disarm the officer as the other
was attempting to get a military weapon that the soldiers had in
their possession,'' a statement from the Moore County Sheriff's
Office said. ``The deputy believed that the two individuals intended
on killing him.''
The Army said in a news release Sunday evening that the incident was
a mistake. Civilians and authorities often are asked to assist in the
training exercises, said Special Operations spokesman Maj. Gary Kolb.
Kolb said the soldiers were carrying a disassembled M-4 carbine rifle
in a bag when they were pulled over by Deputy Randall Butler. It was
unclear why he pulled their car over.
Stephen Phelps, a 27-year-old Army sergeant who grew up in
Clearwater, was in serious condition Sunday at FirstHealth Moore
Regional Hospital in Pinehurst. The dead soldier's name was not
Phelps' family in Clearwater learned about the shooting Saturday
night when the sergeant's wife, Suzanne, called his mother, said
Phelps' grandmother Ann Wells.
The family was told Phelps had been taken off a ventilator and would
need to spend several days in intensive care. Reached just before she
left for North Carolina, his mother, JoAnne Lycans, said her son is
expected to recover.
The Moore County Sheriff's Office had been told a training exercise
was under way, Kolb said. But he said the Army did not coordinate
specifically with the sheriff's office, and Butler was likely unaware
``The scenario itself was not intended to draw attention of the local
authorities,'' Kolb said.
The sheriff's department said Butler was ``totally unaware'' of the
The soldiers were participating in a reconnaissance mission in which
they were to locate a target to be used in a future mission, Kolb
said. Butler stopped the vehicle on a rural road near Robbins, about
25 miles from Fort Bragg.
The vehicle was driven by a civilian playing the role of a resident
of a fictitious country, Kolb said. He said he couldn't discuss
details of the incident because it was being investigated by the
State Bureau of Investigation and the Army.
No charges had been filed Sunday. Butler was placed on administrative
leave with pay.
The training exercise, known as ``Robin Sage,'' is the 19-day final
exam of the Special Forces Qualification Course. It tests skills in
survival tactics and dealing with people, as well as judgment,
decision-making and ethics.
Though born in Kentucky, Phelps was raised in Clearwater and went to
Dunedin High School, his grandmother said. He was stationed in Alaska
for three years and also served in Bosnia. Stephen and Suzanne Phelps
have a daughter who turns 3 next month.
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