Thursday, September 24, 2009

Action Alert from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) re President Zelaya and the coup in Honduras

I've long been a supporter of FAIR, and this story is particularly interesting to me, because I can't help wonder if the CIA was involved in the coup that removed Zelaya, and what role the CIA may have played in the AP's (mis)reporting of this story.

In any case, this is a worthy alert, and I hope you'll join me in taking action on the below information.

USA Today, AP Mislead on Honduran Coup

This week, ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to Tegucigalpa--though not to office. Unfortunately, press accounts are still misreporting the story behind his ouster, relying on those who supported the coup to supply the explanation for their actions.

Some of the most misleading coverage has appeared in the Associated Press dispatches that have run in USA Today. The paper's September 22 edition ran this from the AP:

The legislature ousted Zelaya after he formed an alliance with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and tried to alter the nation's constitution. Zelaya was arrested on orders of the Supreme Court on charges of treason for ignoring court orders against holding a referendum to extend his term. The Honduran Constitution forbids a president from trying to obtain another term in office.

Besides being confusing (is an "alliance" with Hugo Chávez illegal?), this formulation repeats the unsupported case that pro-coup forces in Honduras have made: that President Zelaya was seeking to extend his term in office. While his critics may have accused him of this, there is no reason why AP should treat their charges as fact.

Indeed, the referendum that Zelaya was seeking in late June was a non-binding poll about whether to revise the constitution. Zelaya hoped that a "yes" vote on that referendum would have led to a binding vote on the November ballot--at the same time voters would be choosing Zelaya's successor--about whether to hold a constitutional convention. In other words, there was no plausible way that this process could have resulted in Zelaya extending his time in office. As Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic & Policy Research (7/8/09) pointed out:

The belief that Zelaya was fighting to extend his term in office has no factual basis--although most people who follow this story in the press seem to believe it. The most that could be said is that if a new constitution were eventually approved, Zelaya might have been able to run for a second term at some future date.

On September 23, USA Today ran another AP report (appearing on the "print edition" section of its website) making the same claim: "Zelaya was put on a plane by the military in June for trying to force a referendum to change the constitution's limit of one term for presidents." This is simply not what the referendum called for. In fact, before the coup took place, the Associated Press seemed to know this. On June 26, the wire service noted that "Sunday's referendum has no legal effect: it merely asks people if they want to have a later vote on whether to convoke an assembly to rewrite the constitution."

So when did the AP's understanding of the referendum change, and why? And is USA Today comfortable with publishing such material?


Contact the Associated Press and USA Today and ask them why their reporting on Honduras this week has advanced falsehoods about the removal of President Manuel Zelaya.


Associated Press Tom Kent, Standards Editor

USA Today Brent Jones, Reader Editor

It only takes a second. Thanks for helping!

UPDATE: Excellent additional info on Honduras and the ongoing tragedy there can be found at Al Giordano's site here. Hat tip to dada at Booman Tribune for the link.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Film Review: The Informant!

I'm always disappointed when the film doesn't match its advertisements, no matter how good the film or important its message. So I have to admit I was a little disappointed with The Informant! because I was expecting a comedy, but got something quite a bit darker.

Had I expected instead to see a smart, suspenseful drama going in, I'm certain I would have enjoyed the experience more. I'm hoping this review will help reset your own expectations, because you really should see this movie.

There are funny moments, to be sure, but, despite some valiant attempts to lighten the mood through quirky music (from Marvin Hamlisch of A Chorus Line) and sometimes amusing and informative voiceovers in inappropriate moments, ultimately what happens is distinctly unfunny.

The film tells of the rise and fall of biotechnologist cum mid-level manager Mark Whitacre, who, through a series of events, becomes an informant for the FBI against his employer, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the world's largest agricultural processors.

Whitacre seeks to expose a global price fixing scheme by high-level managers at ADM. But he exposes more than he planned, and that's where the complications, and to some degree the fun, come in.

(Read the rest at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monopoly Looms on Electronic Voting

While we've been concentrating on the healthcare debate, the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, another story important to American democracy has gotten inadequate attention: a single company is poised to monopolize the counting of over 75 percent of the nation's votes.

Earlier this month, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), which counted roughly 50 percent of the ballots in the last four major U.S. elections, purchased Diebold's electronic voting unit, Premier Election Solutions, which controls roughly a third of the voting machine market.

The merger of these two companies has set off alarm bells, and not just in the voting activist community.

Hart InterCivic, a competitor in the voting machine market, has filed a lawsuit seeking a federal court injunction to block the merger as an antitrust violation and a threat to "the integrity of the voting process in the United States."

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, wrote Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Antitrust Division review the deal for possible violations. Schumer's letter referenced a Congressional Research Service report from 2003 which indicated that having a diversity of systems and vendors might decrease the likelihood of widespread election fraud.

(Please read the rest of my article at Consortium News)

Monday, September 14, 2009

We're Number 37 in Health Care

... and that's no joke. But it is a song. I'd say enjoy, but it's more like, watch it and weep. This would be funny if it weren't so true.