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Editor, The Konformist
Clark's new TV ad features Bill Clinton
By Liz Sidoti
Dec. 29, 2003 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic presidential hopeful
Wesley Clark's new television commercial includes a clip of him and
Bill Clinton. It's the first ad of the 2004 campaign to include an
image of the former president, arguably America's most popular
The clip is only a few seconds and shows Clinton walking from a
podium at the White House to place the Presidential Medal of Freedom
over Clark's head, honoring his fellow Arkansan for his work in
Kosovo as NATO supreme allied commander.
It is one of several scenes in the 30-second ad that was to start
running Monday night in New Hampshire, where Clark is trailing Howard
Dean and John Kerry in polls. The commercial includes footage of
Clark with a short-order cook, a solider and schoolchildren in a
Campaign advisers say the ad is meant to illustrate that Clark would
be the kind of leader who not only has seen ordinary people do
extraordinary things in their lifetimes, but who has been honored for
As the Clinton clip is shown, an announcer in the ad says that Clark
is a leader who has been "decorated for valor and for service in our
Clinton's name is not mentioned, but it's obvious that the footage is
meant to align the retired Army general with the former president. It
is one more example of how Clark's campaign is embracing the
similarities between the two men.
Dozens of former Clinton staffers are working on Clark's campaign. It
recently released a film about Clark's life that was reminiscent of a
film about Clinton and was made by the same person who produced that
critically acclaimed piece. The two men's early lives also have
striking parallels, such as both having earned Rhodes scholarships to
study at Oxford University in the late 1960s.
The campaign is spending $125,000, a moderate amount, to run the ad
for a week on stations that broadcast into New Hampshire.
117 Palestinians Slaughtered During Media's 'Relative Calm'
By Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada
On December 25, an Israeli assassination squad killed five
Palestinians in Gaza, and injured fifteen. Three of the dead were
civilians. A short time later, a Palestinian blew himself up at a bus
stop in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva, killing four Israelis,
three of whom were confirmed by Ha'aretz to be soldiers.
Many leading media organizations were quick to declare that these two
incidents marked the end of a period of "relative calm" or "lull" in
Israeli-Palestinian violence, that had supposedly lasted since the
last Palestinian suicide attack in Haifa on 4 October.
In fact, the period since 4 October has been one of intense Israeli
violence, in which 117 Palestinians were killed, including 23
children. At the same time, Israel destroyed almost five hundred
Palestinian homes throughout the Occupied Territories.
Mass amnesia again strikes Middle East correspondents
A front-page Los Angeles Times headline declared "12-Week lull in
Mideast Ends," and misreported that the "back to back spasms of
violence" on 25 December, "shattered more than two months of relative
quiet and dealt a fresh setback to peace efforts" (26 December 2003).
"Mideast quiet shattered: Suicide bombing kills four Israelis shortly
after assassination in Gaza," declared The Montreal Gazette on Page 1
(26 December 2003).
The Chicago Tribune reported that "Coming less than an hour apart,"
the 25 December "attacks broke a lull that had lasted more than two
months and raised fears of a slide into violence" (26 December 2003).
CNN reported on its website that the Petah Tikva attack "was the
first suicide bombing in Israel since an October 4 attack in Haifa.
That incident killed 21 people. There has been a relative calm since
the Haifa bombing" ("Suicide bomber kills three in Tel Aviv, " 25
Even the usually careful U.K.-based Reuters news agency's report
(which had an identical headline to the CNN report) stated that, "the
attacks on Thursday shattered well over two months of relative calm
that had spurred efforts to revive talks between Israelis and
Palestinians on a U.S.-led plan for ending more than three years of
conflict" ("Suicide bomber kills three in Tel Aviv," 25 December
In an extraordinary act of forgetfulness, a New York Times report by
Richard Bernstein and Greg Myre declared that "The suicide bomb
attack in Petah Tikva broke a tense sort of relative calm that has
existed on both sides since October" (26 December 2003). But just a
few paragraphs above this sentence, the same article reported
that "Less than an hour before the suicide attack, Israeli gunships
fired missiles at a car in Gaza, killing a commander of Islamic
Jihad, who Israeli officials said was planning a 'mega' attack inside
Israel" (emphasis added). The report also stated that four others
were killed including "two bystanders" and 14 people were injured.
Not only did the Times forget what had happened just an hour before
the Petah Tikva bomb, it had apparently wiped from memory a report by
the same Greg Myre on 24 December, headlined "Israelis Kill 8
Palestinians in Raid on a Camp in Gaza." According to the Palestinian
Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a total of nine Palestinians were
killed in the Israeli attack on Rafah refugee camp about which Myre
reported. Among the 37 injured, eight were children, and 116 families
were made homeless.
What really happened during the period of "relative calm"
Contrary to the pervasive media claim that the period between 4
October and 25 December was one of "relative calm," "quiet"
or "lull," it was actually one of intense Israeli violence on
Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories.
Using the meticulous weekly reports of the Palestinian Centre for
Human Rights (PCHR), EI counted that Israeli forces killed 117
Palestinians from 2 October to 25 December. The vast majority of the
dead were civilians and 23 of them were children. Hundreds of
civilians were injured by Israeli fire. During the same period, PCHR
documented that Israeli occupation forces destroyed 486 houses and
apartments, rendering thousands of Palestinians homeless.
During the same period, few Israeli soldiers and civilians were
killed in Palestinian attacks, and there were indeed no suicide
attacks since 4 October. Israel claims that the huge drop in violence
against its civilians was largely because it "foiled" such attacks.
But, the New York Times reported on 5 December that, "Israeli
officials have concluded that the Islamic movement Hamas has
suspended its suicide bombing campaign in recent months, a senior
Israeli military officer said Thursday, citing that as one reason
Israel has not suffered any deadly bombings in the past two months."
What is indisputable is that Israel was killing and injuring
Palestinians by the hundreds. Here are a few examples of incidents
that occurred during the media's period of "relative calm":
* On 10 October, a large contingent of Israeli forces, armed with
over 80 tanks, armored bulldozers and helicopters, entered Rafah
refugee camp in southern Gaza. During the two-day long attack, 8
Palestinians were killed, including 3 children, and 53 were wounded;
20 seriously. Israeli forces destroyed 170 homes rendering more than
2000 Palestinians homeless.
In response to this incident, Amnesty International issued a
statement saying "The repeated practice by the Israeli army of
deliberate and wanton destruction of homes and civilian property is a
grave violation of international human rights and humanitarian law,
notably articles 33 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and
constitutes a war crime."
* On 20 October, Israeli occupation forces carried out two
assassination attacks that killed eleven Palestinians. Eight of the
dead were bystanders. The first attack occurred in the morning, when
Israeli helicopters fired a missile at a car stopped at a traffic
light in Gaza City. The missile killed the two occupants of the
targeted car, and the driver of an adjacent car. Nine passing
civilians sustained injuries, one of them serious. That evening,
seven Palestinians were killed, including a child and an on-duty
doctor when Israeli forces carried out a failed assassination attempt
in Gaza's Nusseirat refugee camp. The targets of the attack escaped,
but in addition to the seven civilians killed, 50 were injured,
including 11 children. An eighth civilian later died from his
* On 26 October, Israeli occupation forces in Gaza killed three
members of the same family who were on their way to visit relatives
to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
The three men, Khaled Ahmed Ibrahim al-Sumairi, 40, Ussama
Suleiman 'Aayesh Al-Sumairi, 30, Ibrahim Mousa al-Sumairi, 32, got
into their car at approximately 8.45 PM at their home in Wadi Salqa
village in the central Gaza Strip. When they were approximately 300
metres from their house, Israeli forces opened fire on them without
warning, injuring all three. The occupation forces then imposed a
military curfew on the area, preventing Palestinian ambulances from
reaching the men for more than 90 minutes. By the time ambulances
were allowed to tend to the victims, two had died. The third died of
his injuries upon arrival at Deir al-Balah hospital. After initially
claiming that the three men had been armed, the Israeli media
reported that the occupation authorities admitted that the men were
in fact unarmed and had been killed "by mistake."
* On 8 December at approximately 3 PM, Israeli forces stationed
at "Neve Dekalim" settlement, west of Khan Yunis, in Gaza opened fire
at the al-Namsawi area of Khan Yunis refugee camp. A Palestinian
schoolchild, Fatima Mousa Khalafallah, age 10, was wounded by a live
bullet in the chest while she was in her school approximately 700
metres away from the source of fire.
These are just four examples of the dozens of violent incidents that
took 117 Palestinian lives, and injured hundreds more since early
Despite the continuous bloodshed, mainstream media organizations have
habitually described this period as being one of "relative calm"
or "quiet" that ended only when several Israelis were killed.
This widespread pattern is the most persistent and pernicious failure
of the media in reporting the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It
represents not only a shocking lack of professionalism and
objectivity, but a double standard that treats the lives of one set
of human beings as being inherently more valuable than those of
- Ali Abunimah is a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada.
The Daily Outrage:
The Banality of Atrocity
"Since the war ended, the American public has been fed a dose of
movies fictionalizing the excesses of US units in Vietnam, such
as 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Platoon' ... [usually] focused on a single
event, like the My Lai massacre. The Tiger Force case is different.
The atrocities took place over seven months, leaving an untold number
dead -- possibly several hundred civilians ... Women and children
were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers
were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and
executed ..." -- from the Pulitzer-worthy reporting of The Blade,
Toledo's oldest newspaper.
The Blade came out in October 2003 with its five-part investigative
series about those many months of routine atrocity in 1967-era
Vietnam (and the subsequent decades of investigation, cover-up,
indifference and uncertainty). Now The New York Times has added its
own peer- review journalism -- checking out and confirming some of
the work of The Blade.
The New York Times has only one quibble -- and it ought to ring true
to anyone familiar with the best Vietnam war reporting, such as, for
example, "The Military Half" by Jonathan Schell: The men who
participated in the Tiger Force rampages deny they were a rogue unit;
they, and many other experts interviewed, say that raging war-crime
atrocity was simply the order of the day. So Hollywood and Americans
can express shock and dismay at My Lais -- but it's essentially a
dishonest reaction. Vietnam was not a war sprinkled with a few much-
lamented My Lais; Vietnam was one long series of organized and
approved My Lais, as policy, period.
"Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades
into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground
forces throughout Vietnam," The Times quotes the Tiger Force "rogues"
as saying, adding, "That contention is backed up by accounts of
journalists, historians and disillusioned troops." The paper quotes a
doctoral candidate at Columbia University, Nicholas Turse, who has
been studying government archives; he says they are filled with such
horrors. "I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported," Turse
is quoted as saying. "I read through that case a year, year and a
half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made
it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just
one of hundreds."
Just one of hundreds.
And we've known this for at least, oh, 32 years or so. John Kerry,
the Democratic Senator and presidential candidate, was a freshly
discharged Navy officer when he went before the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee in April 1971. Americans in Vietnam, he
testified, had "raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable
telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs,
blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in
fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun,
poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside ..."
All that was "in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal
and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing
power of this country."
We know, by the way, that much the same critique can be leveled
regarding Iraq. When you are the occupying power facing a furious
guerrilla opposition, you've already lost. Because you shoot everyone
too quick, or get shot yourself -- and that makes everyone hate you
and join the guerrilla opposition. And the only good to come of it is
a bunch of fine, fine Hollywood movies many years down the line.
U.S. bans ephedra, drug linked to deaths
By John Solomon
Dec. 30, 2003 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal government announced
on Tuesday a ban on the sale of ephedra, an herbal supplement used
for weight control that has been linked to a number of deaths and
harmful side effects.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said that "based
on the best possible scientific evidence" his agency would issue a
consumer alert about the dangers of ephedra and will send notices to
manufacturers to stop selling the herbs.
"The time to stop taking this product is now," he said.
"They are just too risky to use," said the secretary.
Thompson said the decision was "well grounded" and based on extensive
scientific study. The ban would take effect in 60 days.
"I don't want people turning to ephedra thinking they could lose
weight," Thompson told a news conference.
Mark McClellan, head of the Food and Drug Administration, said his
agency is notifying consumers and manufacturers that it will publish
a rule making it illegal to sell and use ephedra.
He said the agency was concerned about young people and athletes
looking to ephedra to boost their performance. Use of the supplement
has led to serious health effects, he said.
"We're sending a strong and clear signal" that such products should
come off the market, McClellan said.
McClellan said the FDA reviewed major studies of ephedra and publicly
issued findings about the herb. He said the publication received
thousands of comment and expressions of support for taking the
product off the market.
The rule will go into effect in 60 days "and have the practical
effect" of banning ephedra, he said.
"Ephedra raises your blood pressure and stresses your system,"
McClellan said. "There are far better, safer ways, to get in shape."
Critics called the federal crackdown too late. Sales nationwide
already have plummeted because of publicity about roughly 155 deaths
blamed on the amphetamine-like stimulant, including Baltimore Orioles
baseball player Steve Bechler earlier this year. Ephedra is linked to
heart attacks and strokes, even when used by outwardly healthy people
at recommended doses, because it speeds heart rate and constricts
Ernie Bechler, Steve's father in Medford, Ore., said he was awakened
by a phone call around 6 a.m. local time with word of the decision.
"It's the only thing that could make my wife and I be happy," he
said. "Nothing else could have done what this is doing. I mean to get
this off the market and to save other peoples' lives is just amazing
Ernie Bechler testified in Congress, urging a ban. "That's the last
thing I said: 'Please don't let my son die in vain."'
At the news conference, McClellan said FDA has spent months "scouring
all of the adverse effects reports." The decision was not based on
adverse effects alone, he said, but also on clinical studies and
expert opinion and review.
"It is the totality of the evidence" that was used to make the
decision, McClellan said.
McClellan said the FDA was prepared to defend the action in court.
He said his agency was working as quickly as it can under the current
law regulating diet supplements. "We are laying the strongest
possible foundation to not only take the product off the market, but
to keep it off," McClellan said.
Thompson said the agency "was crossing every 't' and dotting
every 'i' " to make sure the action stands up in court. "We are
taking every procedural accountability standard" to make sure the ban
withstands court tests, he said.
McClellan said his agency has done extensive work to "make sure we
can use all of our authority" to keep ephedra off the market.
Thompson said that three states already have banned ephedra and "this
is the next giant step" in taking the supplement off the market.
New York, Illinois and California -- have passed their own ephedra
bans; use has been banned in professional football, college athletics
and minor-league baseball, and several retail chains, including
supplement giant General Nutrition Centers, recently quit selling it,
"It's a dead product and unfortunately it has become a dead product
over the backs of a lot of dead people when the FDA could have acted
before," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the consumer advocacy group Public
Citizen, which petitioned the government for a ban in 2001.
The supplement industry's Council for Responsible Nutrition said it
didn't oppose a ban, noting that very few companies still make the
stimulant -- its members who once did no longer do so.
"We think the reputable players have found so much controversy and
difficulty in this marketplace that they've decided to get out of
it," said CRN's John Hathcock. "We recognize the controversy is a
cloud over our whole industry."
Remaining ephedra manufacturers didn't immediately comment Tuesday,
but have insisted that studies prove their products safe when used
"Anyone who has read our label knows that we go to great lengths to
inform our customers about the proper use of our products,"
Metabolife International chief executive Russell Schreck said over
But several scientists said that it was impossible to prove whether
ephedra was safe because studies screen out participants who have
health problems -- the people most likely to be hurt by the product.
The General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, looked
into the issue and found many people who reported problems had
followed the label's instructions.
The government ban, one of the first involving a dietary supplement,
comes after Thompson this summer urged Congress to rewrite a law that
rolled back dietary-supplement regulations and to require
manufacturers to acknowledge potential side effects.
Because ephedra is an herb, U.S. law let it sell over-the-counter
with little oversight unless the FDA could prove a clear danger to
public health. Manufacturers blocked a 1997 FDA attempt to restrict
sales of certain dosages and to put warning labels on the herb by
arguing the agency lacked enough proof of danger.
In March, FDA again proposed those warnings and said it would re-
examine a ban.