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LA Times supports mandated relocation of coastal properties based on climate alarmist flawed sea level rise claims

By Larry Hamlin | What’s Up With That? | December 9, 2019

The Los Angeles Times ran yet another scientifically unsupported climate alarmist sea level rise propaganda article supporting the position that government entities in the state need to mandate relocation of coastal properties away from the coast based upon speculation and conjecture derived from unvalidated and failed computer model outcomes of future sea level rise.

State government mandated relocation actions potentially involves politicians dictating control of homeowner and business property values of tens of thousands of properties representing billions of dollars in property value located along the 840 mile California coastline resulting in Draconian economic impacts being foisted upon these property owners as determined by the state’s climate alarmist government politicians.

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The Times article notes: “Lawmakers have told cities they must start addressing climate adaptation in their planning, but have otherwise shied away from issuing mandatory directions. The California Coastal Commission, through modest grants and some general guidance, has been encouraging local officials to consider “everything in the toolkit” — including the controversial option of relocating oceanfront properties and critical infrastructure away from the water — when updating city policies.”

The Times article bases its climate change hyped sea level rise alarmist propaganda on computer model output derived from a 2017 California report that utilized UN IPCC AR5 report future emission scenarios that are characterized by the UN as being simply “illustrative” and “plausible” with no probabilities associated with the assumptions employed in these scenarios meaning outcomes using these scenarios amount to nothing but conjecture and speculation.

The Times article utilizes climate alarmist characterizations of California’s future sea level rise concerns as follows:

“The rising sea might feel like a slow-moving disaster, they said, but this is a social, economic and environmental catastrophe that the state cannot afford to ignore. By the end of this century, the sea could rise more than 9 feet in California — possibly more if the great ice sheets collapse sooner than expected.”

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The California sea level report attempts to assign probabilities to the ranges of sea level rise calculated by computer models using the various UN IPCC AR 5 emissions scenarios by combining these speculative scenarios with the UN reports assessments by its alarmist writers of “level of confidence” and “assessed likelihood” qualifiers assigned to the reports outcomes.

These UN report “confidence and likelihood” qualifiers are completely subjective and represent manufactured and fabricated assigned values that form the basis for the California report sea level rise “probabilities”. These “probabilities” are nothing but subjective opinions  – they are not calculated probabilities.

Thus the California sea level rise report outcomes represent opinions based upon speculation and conjecture regarding future claims about California’s coastal sea level rise.

As noted in a WUWT article at the time of the UN IPCC AR 5 report: “The UN IPCC has completed its three part (WGI, WGII, WGIII) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) process where future climate findings are portrayed using “level of confidence” and “assessed likelihood” qualifiers that attempt to cast these outcomes in a cloak of scientific certainty.”

As always the Times the article fails to note that coastal sea level rise has been occurring along the California coastline for tens of thousands of years based on natural climate behavior since the last ice age with the rate of sea level rise remaining at low levels for at least the last 8,000 years.

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Additionally the Times article as always conceals and suppresses the more than 30 year failure of climate alarmist scientists claims of accelerating sea level rise made before Congress in 1988 where their computer models showed that sea level rise would increase by between 1 to 4 feet by mid century with this outcome completely unsupported by global tide gauge data that reflects no coastal sea level rise acceleration occurring during the last three decades.

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The climate alarmist embarrassing failure demonstrated by extensive NOAA tide gauge data measurements that do NOT reflect acceleration of coastal sea level rise as hyped by failed climate alarmist computer models over the last more than 30 years is illustrated by the 120 year long tide gauge measurement sea level rise data recorded at San Francisco shown below with this long record of steady sea level rise of course unaddressed by the Times alarmist article.

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The Times article mentions the usual idiotic assertion, as clearly displayed below, that California coastal sea level rise could increase by 9 to 10 feet by the end of the century based on pure speculative from computer models. This flawed claim is about the same rate of sea level rise increase hyped by climate alarmist “scientists” testifying in 1988 before Congress with that assertion shown to be flawed and failed over the last three decades.

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Computer models created and utilized by climate alarmist propagandists for political purposes are incapable of accurately representing global climate either regionally or globally regardless of the climate metric being evaluated including global temperatures which are grossly overestimated by these models.

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California’s purely politically driven climate alarmist government needs to abandon the use of incompetent, inaccurate and failed sea level rise computer models and instead utilize actual measured coastal sea level rise data to establish meaningful, justifiable and cost effective government climate policy actions.

December 9, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

California Dreaming and Erosion “Crises”

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By Jim Steele | Pacific Tribune | July 24, 2019

California’s spectacular coastline attracts tourists from around the world. Headlands of granite or basalt resist erosion, defiantly jutting out into the sea. Pocket beaches form where focused wave energy bites into softer sandstones and uncemented stream sediments. Relentless waves undermine and steepen cliffs bordering 70% of California’s shoreline. Over hundreds and thousands of years, natural erosion sculpted our awe-inspiring undulating coast.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder – likewise the magnitude of a “coastal crisis”. The Los Angeles Times recently published ‘California coast is disappearing under the rising sea. Our choices are grim. They inaccurately painted natural erosion as a recent crisis due to CO2 induced climate change. However, California’s erosion “crisis” must be understood within a greater timeframe.

Since the end of the last ice age, sea level has risen 400 feet. Over 18,000 years, San Francisco’s regional coastline marched 25 miles inland, advancing 7 feet a year – more than twice California’s average. My beautiful home town of Pacifica was featured in that Times’ article because it lost several homes unfortunately built on loosely cemented sand and gravel deposited 100,000 years ago when sea level was 20 feet higher. Although the ocean’s landward march has slowed over the past 5000 years, northern Pacifica’s fragile coastline still retreated by over 7 feet per year between 1929 and 1943. Despite a warming world, the average rate of cliff retreat then markedly declined since 1943.

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The ill-fated Ocean Shore Railway, initiated in 1905, foreshadowed California’s erosion problems. To give tourists awesome views, tracks were laid on a ledge dug into steep coastal cliffs. But landslides were common, and costly repairs forced the railway to close. Today, only 25% of the railway ledge built by 1928 still exists. Undeterred, designers of California’s scenic Pacific Coast Highway hoped to give automobile travelers similar breath-taking views. Again, landslides were common. Only 38% of the highway constructed by 1956 still remains. Geologists tell us such landslides constantly altered California’s modern coastline for hundreds of years.

There are few straight lines in nature. Our coastlines undulate. Likewise, our climate oscillates, and coasts erode episodically. Between 1976 and 1999 (the warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation), California experienced more frequent El Niños. Over 70% of California’s 20th century disappearing coastline eroded during El Niño events. El Niños bring more storms and more destructive waves. El Niños bring more rains that saturate soils and promote landslides. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation then switched to its cool phase. It brought more La Niñas and more drought, but fewer winter storms and less erosion. In 1949, also a time of less erosion, Pacifica’s government believed homes setback 65 feet from the edge of a bluff would be safe. They never suspected a single El Niño event would move the cliff edge 30 feet landward 50 years later.

There are some who see human structures as a blight on California’s natural coastline. In response to natural erosion, they suggest we abandon the coast. They argue California’s only choice is “managed retreat” versus “unmanaged retreat”. Although well engineered seawalls can protect homes and businesses, some environmentalists called seawalls a coastal “crisis”. California’s Coastal Commission recently pledged seawalls will “only be permitted if absolutely necessary”. But the Commission’s policy only fosters a mishmash of emergency fixes. Randomly armored properties deflect destructive waves downstream, accelerating erosion in a neighbor’s unprotected property. Coastal cities must construct well-engineered sea walls, without any gaps.

Because sea walls prevent erosion, the Commission ill-advisedly fears local beaches will be lost if denied locally eroded sand. The Times parroted that belief writing, ‘for every constructed seawall, a beach is sacrificed’. But is that true? San Francisco’s O’Shaughnessy sea wall built in 1929 prevents erosion of the fragile sand dunes supporting Golden Gate Park. Yet SF’s north ocean beach continues to grow. Without a seawall, San Francisco’s south ocean beach rapidly eroded, and threatened infrastructure now requires a sea wall.

Sources of beach sand fluctuate, and simplistic sea wall analyses are very misleading. Sand is stored and transported to beaches in many ways. Streams and rivers supply the most sand needed to nourish a beach, but mining SF bay’s sand has deprived nearby coastal beaches. Furthermore, ocean oscillations shift winds and the direction of currents that transport sand. Beaches grow for decades then suddenly shrink. Although some argue our beaches face a rising sea level “crisis”, archaeologist determined that despite more rapidly rising sea levels 5000 years ago, many California beaches grew when supplied with adequate sand.

Lastly, it’s interesting to note scientists suggested Pacific islands also face an erosion crisis due to rising sea levels. But the latest scientific surveys determined 43% of those islands remained stable while land extent of another 43% has grown. Only 14% of the islands lost land. So, I fear exaggerated crises only erode our trust in science.


Jim Steele is director emeritus of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus, SFSU and authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

July 31, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Study finds 50-year history of anti-Palestinian bias in mainstream news reporting

CONTEXT matters, and CONTEXT is often missing in news reports about Israel-Palestine
CONTEXT matters, and CONTEXT is often missing in news reports about Israel-Palestine
By Kathryn Shihadah – If Americans Knew – January 19, 2019

A recent media study based on analysis of 50 years of data found that major U.S. newspapers have provided consistently skewed, pro-Israel reporting on Israel-Palestine.

The study, conducted by 416Labs, a Toronto-based consulting and research firm, is the largest of its kind.

Using computer analysis, researchers evaluated the headlines of five influential U.S. newspapers: the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal from 1967 to 2017.

The study period begins in June 1967, the date when Israel began its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – now officially termed the Occupied Palestinian Territories – following its Six Day War against Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

Methodology involved the use of Natural Language Processing (NLP), a type of computer analysis that sifts through large amounts of natural language data and investigates the vocabulary. NLP tabulated the most commonly used words and word pairs, as well as the positive or negative sentiment associated with the headlines.

Using NLP to analyze 100,000 headlines, the study revealed that the coverage favored Israel in the “sheer quantity of stories covered,” by presenting Palestinian-centric stories from a more negative point of view, as well as by grossly under-representing the Palestinian narrative, and by omitting or downplaying “key topics that help to identify the conflict in all its significance.”

Four times more headlines mentioned Israel than Palestine

The Fifty Years of Occupation study reveals a clear media bias first in the quantity of headlines: over the half-century period in question, headlines mentioned Israel 4 times more frequently than Palestine.

The study revealed other discrepancies in coverage of Israel and Palestine/Palestinians as well.

Sentiment

For all 5 newspapers studied, Israel-centric headlines were on average more positive than the Palestinian-centric headlines.

Sentiment analysis measures “the degree to which ideological loyalty colors analysis.”

In order to measure sentiment, the study employed a “dictionary” of words classified as either positive or negative; each headline was scored based on its use of these words.

The report explains that journalistic standards require news stories to be “neutral, objective, and derived from facts,” but the reports on Israel-Palestine “exhibit some form of institutionalized ideological posturing and reflect a slant.” [See graphs below post]

Under-representation of the Palestinian voice

The study also found Palestinians marginalized as sources of news and information.

A simple case in point: The fact-checking organization Pundit Fact examined CNN guests during a segment of the 2014 Israeli incursion into Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. Pundit Fact reported that during this time, 20 Israeli officials were interviewed, compared to only 4 Palestinians, although Palestinians were overwhelmingly victims of the incursion with 2,251 deaths vs. 73 Israeli deaths.

The study’s data reveal what it calls “the privileging of Israeli voices and, invariably, Israeli narratives”: the phrases “Israel Says” and “Says Israel” occurred at a higher frequency than any other bigram (2-word phrase) throughout the 50 years of headlines – in fact, at a rate 250% higher than “Palestinian Says” and similar phrases. This indicates that not only are Israeli perspectives covered more often, but Palestinians rarely have an opportunity to defend or explain their actions.

The report explains the significance of such asymmetry:

This imbalance matters, as official Israeli government policy is effectively made an intrinsic part of the discussion of the conflict, while the views of Palestinians living under occupation are subordinated to the margins.

Sins of omission and de-emphasis

The analysis turned up yet another significant problem with the newspapers’ coverage: failure to report, or to report adequately, on important aspects of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

The study found several critical topics that the 5 newspapers failed to cover adequately, resulting in reader misperceptions.

Peace process?

One misperception revolves around the alleged existence of an ongoing “peace process.”

The study points out the consistent use of bigrams such as “peace talks,” in spite of the fact that since 1993, peace talks have been essentially nonexistent. And,

A hallmark of the conflict has been the perception that there is an ongoing peace process which, from time to time, breaks down, thereby delaying resolution of the conflict…the dispute is effectively portrayed as being one between two equal warring sides, not one where one group is an occupier and the other the occupied.

Occupation

The researchers emphasize the fact that as the occupation of the West Bank (and de facto occupation of Gaza) drags on past 50 years, the brutality of the Israeli occupation is becoming normalized and its illegality forgotten.

They draw this conclusion from their analysis of the unigram “occupation,” which has appeared in headlines less and less frequently, dropping by 85% in Israel-centric headlines, and by 65% in Palestinian-centric headlines over the 50-year period.

Gaza

The blockade of Gaza, and the economic hardships of Gazans under the blockade, were mentioned in Palestine-centric headlines just 30 and 63 times respectively, in the 11 years since the blockade began.

In Covering Gaza: is the mainstream media discourse changing on Palestine-Israel?, Tamara Kharroub of the Arab Center in Washington DC censures mainstream media coverage of the Great Return March – a nonviolent demonstration by Palestinian Gazans for justice and the end of the blockade – for failing to report the names of Gazan civilians killed by Israeli snipers, “in stark contrast to the usual reporting on Israeli victims, in which their pictures, lives, and grieving families are repeatedly shown and discussed.”

… and more

As another example, Palestinian refugees – still waiting to be repatriated according to UN Resolution 242 of 1949 – have been forgotten as a group: the words “Palestine Refugee(s)” in headlines has declined by 93% over the last 50 years, reflecting a decline in concern from media.

The study reveals similar underreporting on topics including the illegality of Israeli settlements and Palestinians’ designation of East Jerusalem as the future capital of the future Palestinian state.

According to Siham Rashid, formerly of the Palestinian Counseling Center, these accumulated flaws characterize the Israel-Palestine issue as

a conflict revolving around security and terrorism, with Israel being the victim…So, for many people, the conflict is understood as a conflict of land and borders between two peoples who have equal claims, not as a conflict between an oppressed and oppressor and colonized and colonizer.

International consensus

As cited by the researchers, Marda Dunsky’s  2008 book, Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, analyzed US media over a 4-year period. One of her most significant findings was the lack of coverage of the international consensus on important issues, for example the almost-universal conclusions that Israeli settlements are illegal, and that Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return to their homes.

Greg Shupak’s The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel, and the Media offers an example from Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli aggression of 2014 into Gaza. He points out that the blockade of Gaza, a key antecedent to the violence, was mentioned only once in the many New York Times editorials on the conflict published just before and during the war.

Shupak’s work shows how NYT “frequently omits important details that would better contextualize the conflict.”

In More Bad News From IsraelGlasgow University researchers Greg Philo and Mike Berry examined British mainstream media coverage of Israel-Palestine. In a study of BBC coverage, the lack of adequate context resulted in

the failure to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation…BBC output does not consistently give a full and fair account of the conflict. In some ways the picture is incomplete and, in that sense, misleading.

Alison Weir of If Americans Knew has published extensive studies of American media coverage of Israel-Palestine which reveal “daily reporting [that is] profoundly skewed” and a “pervasive pattern of distortion” in which “[t]he favored population was the Israeli one.”

If Americans Knew has conducted six major studies and one shorter study on coverage of Israel-Palestine news and found that media had reported on Israeli deaths at far greater rates than they reported on Palestinian deaths. The studies also revealed the palpable pro-Israel bias, under-representation of the Palestinian voice and the omission or downplaying of critical topics.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States.

Causation?

The Canadian researchers found a “systemic problem in coverage,” but did not study the causation. Nevertheless, they excluded the possibility of “deliberate planned bias,” attributing the biased coverage to “the U.S. media’s affinity to broadly align and support their government’s foreign policy objectives.”

Some other researchers, however, report a wider range of factors, many connected to the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. For example, Alison Weir discovered deep links between US media and Israel (e.g. hereherehere, and here). Mearsheimer and Walt reported on the power of pro-Israel pressure in their book The Israel Lobby; Paul Findley in his book They Dare to Speak Out, and others report a wider range of factors, many connected to the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. In many cases, pressure from pro-Israel groups in the Israel lobby, contributed significantly to the consistent slant in mainstream media.

Conclusion

As the authors point out:

Whether online, television, or print, the mainstream media serves to provide most Americans with their daily news. How the media frames the news and presents it to viewers can profoundly shape their perception of current events.

Yet numerous analysts, across time and region, have established that this media consistently skews the news when it comes to Israel-Palestine. This results in nations and their governments upholding Israeli priorities rather than those of their own people, and perpetuating injustice toward Palestinians.


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July 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Think tanks’ are among top culprits in media disinformation crisis

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | November 9, 2018

Most consumers are unaware of the mainstream media’s dirty little secret. Think tanks are increasingly taking advantage of tight news budgets to influence the press agenda in favour of their sponsors.

Decades ago, these outfits generally operated as policy advisories. Although, some were comfortably enumerated ‘retirement homes’ for distinguished public servants or intellectuals. However, in modern times, they have become indistinguishable from lobbying firms. With the budgets to match.

On the Russia (and broader Eastern European) beat, think tank influence is becoming increasingly dangerous and malign. And it’s leading to a crisis in journalistic standards which nobody wants to acknowledge.

Two cases this week highlight the malaise.

Right now, Hungary and Ukraine are embroiled in a standoff regarding the rights of ethnic Hungarians in the latter country. The disagreement is entirely local, with roots in the 20th century carving-up of Budapest’s territory after it found itself on the losing side in both World Wars. As a result, lands were dispersed into other nations – former Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union.

There are tensions, to varying degrees, between Hungary and pretty much all the successor states housing its lost diaspora. Especially since nationalist Viktor Orban started handing out passports to compatriots stranded on foreign soil.

Until recently, most of the focus was on disagreements with Slovakia, but now attention has switched to Ukraine.

Let’s be clear. This is a mess of Kiev’s making. In a bid to appease “patriotic” fundamentalists, it began moves towards restrictive language laws, which has especially alienated the small band of Hungarian speakers on its western frontier.

Predictably, Budapest rushed in to defend its “people,” and now we have a nasty little imbroglio with headbangers on both sides entrenched.

One thing it’s not about is Russia. But Western media, egged on by think tank “experts,” keeps banging this drum. And here is a case in point this week.

The Los Angeles Times sent a correspondent to Uzhgorod, a Ukrainian border city. And rather than merely report from the ground, the writer spends a huge amount of the article referring to Russia and intimating that Orban is operating in lock-step with Moscow. Which is laughable to anybody who understands the Hungarian PM’s political methods. And which reeks of disinformation.

And who is used to “back up” these assertions? Only one Peter Kreko, “director of the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest think tank,” who is concerned Orban’s moves “help Russia hamper Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.”

Now, isn’t that a weird sort of thing for a Hungarian analyst to be worrying about? Well, it wouldn’t be if the LA Times were transparent and disclosed Kreko’s funding. You see, here’s who bankrolls the “Political Capital Institute, a Budapest think tank.”

  • Institute of Modern Russia (plaything of disgraced former 90’s oligarch and Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky)
  • National Endowment For Democracy (a US neoconservative outlet dedicated to “regime change” and promoting a pro-US outlook in Eastern Europe, whose chair has dubbed Ukraine “the big prize”)
  • Open Society (George Soros, who needs no introduction)

And here are some of the “most important international and domestic professional partners” of the Political Capital Institute:

  • Atlantic Council (NATO’s propaganda wing)
  • European Values (a Soros-funded Prague lobby group which smeared hundreds of European public figures as “useful idiots” for appearing on RT. Including Jeremy Corbyn and Stephen Fry).
  • German Marshall Fund of the United States (proprietors of the infamous ‘Hamilton 68’ dashboard)

Thus, the agendas at play are pretty clear here. Yet, the LA Times keeps its readers ignorant of Kreko’s paymasters. Which is especially interesting when you see RT, almost always, referred to as “the Kremlin-funded Russia Today,” or some version thereof, when described in Western media. And this is fine, because it’s true, but when the same rules don’t apply across the board, the bias is obvious.

The second case comes courtesy of “the Rupert Murdoch controlled Times of London” (see what I did there?) This week, it alleged around 75,000 Russians in London alone are Kremlin informants. All based on an “investigation” by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a neoconservative pressure group which seems to have successfully mounted a reverse takeover of the once venerable paper. With its leader writer, for instance, being a founding signatory of the concern.

Anyway, HJS, apparently based on a mere 16 interviews, with unnamed sources, concluded that “between a quarter and a half of Russian expats were, or have been informants.” And the Times splashed it.

However, it “clarified,” with comment from an anonymous “dissident,” how, in reality, “it was about half.” So, only the 32,500 odd ‘agents’ in London then. Which, if true, would means the walls of the Russian Embassy would have to be made from elastic to house the amount of handlers required to keep tabs on their information sources.

Look, it’s hardly a secret that standards at the Times are low. After all, the main foreign affairs columnist, Edward Lucas, is literally funded by US weapons manufacturers.

No, this is not a joke. Lucas is employed as a lobbyist at CEPA, a Washington and Warsaw-based outfit, which promotes the arms manufacturer’s agenda in Central and Eastern Europe. Namely, the likes of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, FireEye, and Bell Helicopters.

Of course, The Times doesn’t make this conflict of interests clear to its readers. Another example of how the ‘think tank’ tail is wagging the mainstream media dog these days.

Read more:

American defense contractors think you have been brainwashed

November 9, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Western Media Blasts Trump After Meeting With Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of the USA Donald Trump, right, talk during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. Left: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

© Sputnik/ Michael Klimentyev
Sputnik – July 9, 2017

The first meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg evoked a wave of criticism from Western media, as a number of notable news outlets blasted the US President for his conduct during negotiations.

At least several prominent newspapers took a dim view of President Trump’s handling of this meeting, claiming that the Russian leader apparently managed to outplay and outsmart his US counterpart.For example, Die Welt stated that it was clear to all professional observers that the meeting resulted in Trump’s capitulation.

In an apparent effort to underscore Trump’s relative inexperience in foreign affairs, the newspaper claims that the “political pro” Putin knocked out the newbie US President “by the book.”

The article’s author also emphasized the fact that Putin paused for a moment before shaking Trump’s already extended hand.

The Guardian adds that while US politicians apparently felt relieved that Trump managed to avoid “a major gaffe” during the meeting, it was “hardly cause for celebration.”

“It’s an indication of how rapidly our standards are falling when we’re reasonably pleased that President Trump has not made an obvious error,” Thomas Countryman, former US acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, remarked.

Meanwhile the New York Times insists that the meeting with Putin was probably the best part of the summit for Trump, who apparently found himself increasingly ostracized by other delegates.

“The talks with Mr. Putin oddly turned into a bright spot for Mr. Trump on the first full day of the gathering, where the United States found itself increasingly ostracized by other Group of 20 members on major issues, including climate change, immigration and trade,” the newspaper says.

The Los Angeles Times criticized the way Trump discussed the issue of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, arguing that the US President should’ve been more assertive in his inquiries on the subject.

The news website Vox even took this issue up a notch by outright saying that “Putin got Trump to buy his fake news on election interference and to offer a weak endorsement of upcoming sanctions.”

Interestingly enough, the article’s author insisted that “the entire US intelligence community believes the Kremlin mounted a sophisticated campaign” to help Trump win the election, even though this assessment was made only by four out of 17 US intelligence agencies.

Stating that the US leader did not even properly prepare for the meeting, unlike his Russian counterpart, Vox claimed that “Trump — the dealmaker — got outplayed by Putin.”

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Washington Post’s Slimy Assault on Gary Webb

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 18, 2014

Jeff Leen, the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations, begins his renewed attack on the late Gary Webb’s Contra-cocaine reporting with a falsehood.

Leen insists that there is a journalism dictum that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” But Leen must know that it is not true. Many extraordinary claims, such as assertions in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding arsenals of WMDs, were published as flat-fact without “extraordinary proof” or any real evidence at all, including by Leen’s colleagues at the Washington Post.

A different rule actually governs American journalism – that journalists need “extraordinary proof” if a story puts the U.S. government or an “ally” in a negative light but pretty much anything goes when criticizing an “enemy.”

If, for instance, the Post wanted to accuse the Syrian government of killing civilians with Sarin gas or blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, any scraps of proof – no matter how dubious – would be good enough (as was the actual case in 2013 and 2014, respectively).

However, if new evidence undercut those suspicions and shifted the blame to people on “the U.S. side” – say, the Syrian rebels and the Ukrainian government – then the standards of proof suddenly skyrocket beyond reach. So what you get is not “responsible” journalism – as Leen tries to suggest – but hypocrisy and propaganda. One set of rules for the goose and another set for the gander.

The Contra-Cocaine Case

Or to go back to the Contra-cocaine scandal that Brian Barger and I first exposed for the Associated Press in 1985: If we were writing that the leftist Nicaraguan Sandinista government – the then U.S. “enemy” – was shipping cocaine to the United States, any flimsy claim would have sufficed. But the standard of proof ratcheted up when the subject of our story was cocaine smuggling by President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras.

In other words, the real dictum is that there are two standards, double standards, something that a careerist like Leen knows in his gut but doesn’t want you to know. All the better to suggest that Gary Webb was guilty of violating some noble principle of journalism.

But Leen is wrong in another way – because there was “extraordinary proof” establishing that the Contras were implicated in drug trafficking and that the Reagan administration was looking the other way.

When Barger and I wrote the first story about Contra-cocaine trafficking almost three decades ago, we already had “extraordinary proof,” including documents from Costa Rica, statements by Contras and Contra backers, and admissions from officials in the Drug Enforcement Administration and Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staff.

However, Leen seems to dismiss our work as nothing but getting “tips” about Contra-cocaine trafficking as if Barger and I were like the hacks at the Washington Post and the New York Times who wait around for authorized handouts from the U.S. government.

Following the Money

Barger and I actually were looking for something different when we encountered the evidence on Contra-cocaine trafficking. We were trying to figure out how the Contras were sustaining themselves in the field after Congress cut off the CIA’s financing for their war.

We were, in the old-fashioned journalistic parlance, “following the money.” The problem was the money led, in part, to the reality that all the major Contra organizations were collaborating with drug traffickers.

Besides our work in the mid-1980s, Sen. John Kerry’s follow-on Contra-cocaine investigation added substantially more evidence. Yet Leen and his cohorts apparently felt no need to pursue the case any further or even give respectful attention to Kerry’s official findings.

Indeed, when Kerry’s report was issued in April 1989, the Washington Post ran a dismissive story by Michael Isikoff buried deep inside the paper. Newsweek dubbed Kerry “a randy conspiracy buff.” In his new article attacking Gary Webb, Leen just says:

“After an exhaustive three-year investigation, the committee’s report concluded that CIA officials were aware of the smuggling activities of some of their charges who supported the contras, but it stopped short of implicating the agency directly in drug dealing. That seemed to be the final word on the matter.”

But why was it the “final word”? Why didn’t Leen and others who had missed the scandal as it was unfolding earlier in the decade at least try to build on Kerry’s findings. After all, these were now official U.S. government records. Wasn’t that “extraordinary” enough?

In this context, Leen paints himself as the true investigative journalist who knew the inside story of the Contra-cocaine tale from the beginning. He wrote:

“As an investigative reporter covering the drug trade for the Miami Herald, … I wrote about the explosion of cocaine in America in the 1980s and 1990s, and the role of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel in fueling it.

“Beginning in 1985, journalists started pursuing tips about the CIA’s role in the drug trade. Was the agency allowing cocaine to flow into the United States as a means to fund its secret war supporting the contra rebels in Nicaragua? Many journalists, including me, chased that story from different angles, but the extraordinary proof was always lacking.”

Again, what Leen says is not true. Leen makes no reference to the groundbreaking AP story in 1985 or other disclosures in the ensuing years. He just insists that “the extraordinary proof” was lacking — which it may have been for him given his lackluster abilities. He then calls the final report of Kerry’s investigation the “final word.”

But Leen doesn’t explain why he and his fellow mainstream journalists were so incurious about this major scandal that they would remain passive even in the wake of a Senate investigation. It’s also not true that Kerry’s report was the “final word” prior to Webb reviving the scandal in 1996.

Government Witnesses

In 1991, during the narcotics trafficking trial of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, the U.S. government itself presented witnesses who connected the Contras to the Medellin cartel.

Indeed, after testimony by Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder about his $10 million contribution to the Contras, the Washington Post wrote in a Nov. 27, 1991 editorial that “The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time” and that “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”

But the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.

In other words, it didn’t seem to matter how much “extraordinary proof” the Washington Post or Jeff Leen had. Nothing would be sufficient to report seriously on the Contra-cocaine scandal, not even when the U.S. government vouched for the evidence.

So, Leen is trying to fool you when he presents himself as a “responsible journalist” weighing the difficult evidentiary choices. He’s just the latest hack to go after Gary Webb, which has become urgent again for the mainstream media in the face of “Kill the Messenger,” a new movie about Webb’s ordeal.

What Leen won’t face up to is that the tag-team destruction of Gary Webb in 1996-97 – by the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times – represented one of the most shameful episodes in the history of American journalism.

The Big Papers tore down an honest journalist to cover up their own cowardly failure to investigate and expose a grave national security crime, the Reagan administration’s tolerance for and protection of drug trafficking into the United States by the CIA’s client Contra army.

This journalistic failure occurred even though the Associated Press – far from a radical news outlet – and a Senate investigation (not to mention the Noriega trial) had charted the way.

Leen’s Assault

Contrary to Leen’s column, “Kill the Messenger” is actually a fairly honest portrayal of what happened when Webb exposed the consequences of the Contra cocaine smuggling after the drugs reached the United States. One channel fed into an important Los Angeles supply chain that produced crack.

But Leen tells you that “The Hollywood version of [Webb’s] story — a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media — is pure fiction.”

He then lauds the collaboration of the Big Three newspapers in destroying Webb and creating such enormous pressure on Webb’s newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, that the executive editor Jerry Ceppos threw his own reporter under the bus. To Leen, this disgraceful behavior represented the best of American journalism.

Leen wrote:

The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting.

“Gradually, the Mercury News backed away from Webb’s scoop. The paper transferred him to its Cupertino bureau and did an internal review of his facts and his methods. Jerry Ceppos, the Mercury News’s executive editor, wrote a piece concluding that the story did not meet the newspaper’s standards — a courageous stance, I thought.”

“Courageous”? What an astounding characterization of Ceppos’s act of career cowardice.

But Leen continues by explaining his role in the Webb takedown. After all, Leen was then the drug expert at the Miami Herald, which like the San Jose Mercury News was a Knight Ridder newspaper. Leen says his editors sought his opinion about Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series.

Though acknowledging that he was “envious” of Webb’s story when it appeared in 1996, Leen writes that he examined it and found it wanting, supposedly because of alleged overstatements. He proudly asserts that because of his critical analysis, the Miami Herald never published Webb’s series.

But Leen goes further. He falsely characterizes the U.S. government’s later admissions contained in inspector general reports by the CIA and Justice Department. If Leen had bothered to read the reports thoroughly, he would have realized that the reports actually establish that Webb – and indeed Kerry, Barger and I – grossly understated the seriousness of the Contra-cocaine problem which began at the start of the Contra movement in the early 1980s and lasted through the decade until the end of the war.

Leen apparently assumes that few Americans will take the trouble to study and understand what the reports said. That is why I published a lengthy account of the U.S. government’s admissions – both after the reports were published in 1998 and as “Kill the Messenger” was hitting the theaters in October. [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]

Playing It Safe

Instead of diving into the reeds of the CIA and DOJ reports, Leen does what he and his mainstream colleagues have done for the past three decades, try to minimize the seriousness of the Reagan administration tolerating cocaine trafficking by its Contra clients and even obstructing official investigations that threatened to expose this crime of state.

Instead, to Leen, the only important issue is whether Gary Webb’s story was perfect. But no journalistic product is perfect. There are always more details that a reporter would like to have, not to mention compromises with editors over how a story is presented. And, on a complex story, there are always some nuances that could have been explained better. That is simply the reality of journalism, the so-called first draft of history.

But Leen pretends that it is the righteous thing to destroy a reporter who is not perfect in his execution of a difficult story – and that Gary Webb thus deserved to be banished from his profession for life, a cruel punishment that impoverished Webb and ultimately drove him to suicide in 2004.

But if Leen is correct – that a reporter who takes on a very tough story and doesn’t get every detail precisely correct should be ruined and disgraced – what does he tell his Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward, whose heroic Watergate reporting included an error about whether a claim regarding who controlled the White House slush fund was made before a grand jury.

While Woodward and his colleague Carl Bernstein were right about the substance, they were wrong about its presentation to a grand jury. Does Leen really believe that Woodward and Bernstein should have been drummed out of journalism for that mistake? Instead, they were lionized as heroes of investigative journalism despite the error – as they should have been.

Yet, when Webb exposed what was arguably an even worse crime of state – the Reagan administration turning a blind eye to the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States – Leen thinks any abuse of Webb is justified because his story wasn’t perfect.

Those two divergent judgments – on how Woodward’s mistake was understandably excused and how Webb’s imperfections were never forgiven – speak volumes about what has happened to the modern profession of journalism at least in the mainstream U.S. media. In reality, Leen’s insistence on perfection and “extraordinary proof” is just a dodge to rationalize letting well-connected criminals and their powerful accomplices off the hook.

In the old days, the journalistic goal was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” but the new rule appears to be: “any standard of proof works when condemning the weak or the despised but you need unachievable ‘extraordinary evidence’ if you’re writing about the strong and the politically popular.”

Who Is Unfit?

Leen adds a personal reflection on Webb as somehow not having the proper temperament to be an investigative reporter. Leen wrote:

“After Webb was transferred to Cupertino [in disgrace], I debated him at a conference of the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization in Phoenix in June 1997. He was preternaturally calm. While investigative journalists are usually bundles of insecurities and questions and skepticism, he brushed off any criticism and admitted no error. When asked how I felt about it all, I said I felt sorry for him. I still feel that way.”

It’s interesting – and sadly typical – that while Leen chastises Webb for not admitting error, Leen offers no self-criticism of himself for missing what even the CIA has now admitted, that the Contras were tied up in the cocaine trade. Doesn’t an institutional confession by the CIA’s inspector general constitute “extraordinary evidence”?

Also, since the CIA’s inspector general’s report included substantial evidence of Contra-cocaine trafficking running through Miami, shouldn’t Leen offer some mea culpa about missing these serious crimes that were going on right under his nose – in his city and on his beat? What sort of reporter is “preternaturally calm” about failing to do his job right and letting the public suffer as Leen did?

Perhaps all one needs to know about the sorry state of today’s mainstream journalism is that Jeff Leen is the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations and Gary Webb is no longer with us.

[To learn how you can hear a December 1996 joint appearance at which Robert Parry and Gary Webb discuss their reporting, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Can MSM Handle the Contra-Cocaine Truth?

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 11, 2014

The mainstream news media’s reaction to the new movie, “Kill the Messenger,” has been tepid, perhaps not surprising given that the MSM comes across as the film’s most unsympathetic villain as it crushes journalist Gary Webb for digging up the Contra-cocaine scandal in the mid-1990s after the major newspapers thought they had buried it in the 1980s.

Not that the movie is without other villains, including drug traffickers and “men in black” government agents. But the drug lords show some humanity and even honesty as they describe how they smuggled drugs and shared the proceeds with the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, President Ronald Reagan’s beloved “freedom fighters.”

By contrast, the news executives for the big newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, come across as soulless careerists determined to maintain their cozy relations with the CIA’s press office and set on shielding their failure to take on this shocking scandal when it was playing out in the 1980s.

So, in the 1990s, they concentrated their fire on Webb for alleged imperfections in his investigative reporting rather than on U.S. government officials who condoned and protected the Contra drug trafficking as part of Reagan’s Cold War crusade.

Webb’s cowardly editors at the San Jose Mercury News also come across badly as frightened bureaucrats, cringing before the collective misjudgment of the MSM and crucifying their own journalist for the sin of challenging the media’s wrongheaded conventional wisdom.

That the MSM’s “group think” was upside-down should no longer be in doubt. In fact, the Contra-cocaine case was conclusively established as early as 1985 when Brian Barger and I wrote the first story on the scandal for the Associated Press. Our sourcing included some two dozen knowledgeable people including Contras, Contra supporters and U.S. government sources from the Drug Enforcement Administration and even Reagan’s National Security Council staff.

But the Reagan administration didn’t want to acknowledge this inconvenient truth, knowing it would sink the Contra war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. So, after the AP story was published, President Reagan’s skillful propagandists mounted a counteroffensive that elicited help from editors and reporters at the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major news outlets.

Thus, in the 1980s, the MSM treated the Contra-cocaine scandal as a “conspiracy theory” when it actually was a very real conspiracy. The MSM’s smug and derisive attitude continued despite a courageous investigation headed by Sen. John Kerry which, in 1989, confirmed the AP reporting and took the story even further. For his efforts, Newsweek dubbed Kerry “a randy conspiracy buff.”

This dismissive treatment of the scandal even survived the narcotics trafficking trial of Panama’s Manuel Noriega in 1991 when the U.S. government called witnesses who implicated both Noriega and the Contras in the cocaine trade.

The Power of ‘Group Think’

What we were seeing was the emerging power of the MSM’s “group think,” driven by conformity and careerism and resistant to both facts and logic. Once all the “smart people” of Official Washington reached a conclusion – no matter how misguided – that judgment would be defended at nearly all costs, since none of these influential folks wanted to admit error.

That’s what Gary Webb ran into in 1996 when he revived the Contra-cocaine scandal by focusing on the devastation that one Contra drug pipeline caused by feeding into the production of crack cocaine. However, for the big newspapers to admit they had ducked such an important story – and indeed had aided in the government’s cover-up – would be devastating to their standing.

So, the obvious play was to nitpick Webb’s reporting and to destroy him personally, which is what the big newspapers did and what “Kill the Messenger” depicts. The question today is: how will the MSM react to this second revival of the Contra-cocaine scandal?

Of the movie reviews that I read, a few were respectful, including the one in the Los Angeles Times where Kenneth Turan wrote: “The story Webb related in a series of articles … told a still-controversial tale that many people did not want to hear: that elements in the CIA made common cause with Central American drug dealers and that money that resulted from cocaine sales in the U.S. was used to arm the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua.

“Although the CIA itself confirmed, albeit years later, that this connection did in fact exist, journalists continue to argue about whether aspects of Webb’s stories overreached.”

A normal person might wonder why – if the CIA itself admitted (as it did) that it was collaborating with drug dealers – journalists would still be debating whether Webb may have “overreached” (although in reality he actually understated the problem). Talk about missing “the lede” or the forest for the trees.

What kind of “journalist” obsesses over dissecting the work of another journalist while the U.S. government gets away with aiding and abetting drug traffickers?

Turan went on to note the same strange pattern in 1996 after Webb’s series appeared: “what no one counted on was that the journalistic establishment — including elite newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times — would attempt to discredit Webb’s reporting. The other newspapers questioned the shakier parts of his story and proving the truth of what one of Webb’s sources tells him: ‘You get the most flak when you’re right above the target.’”

Sneering Still

However, other reviews, including those in the New York Times and the Washington Post, continued the snarky tone that pervaded the sneering treatment of Webb that hounded him out of journalism in 1997 and ultimately drove him to suicide in 2004. For instance, the headline in the Post’s weekend section was “Sticking with Webb’s Story,” as in the phrase “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

The review by Michael O’Sullivan stated: “Inspired by the true story of Gary Webb — the San Jose Mercury News reporter known for a controversial series of articles suggesting a link between the CIA, the California crack epidemic and the Nicaraguan Contras — this slightly overheated drama begins and ends with innuendo. In between is a generous schmear of insinuation.”

You get the point. The allegations, which have now been so well-established that even the CIA admits to them, are “controversial” and amount to “innuendo” and “insinuation.”

Similarly, the New York Times review by Manohla Dargis disparaged Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series as “much-contested,” which may be technically accurate but fails to recognize that the core allegations of Contra-cocaine trafficking and U.S. government complicity were true – something an earlier article by Times’ media writer David Carr at least had the decency to acknowledge. [See Consortiumnews.com’sNYT’s Belated Admission on Contra-Cocaine.”]

In a different world, the major newspapers would have taken the opening created by “Kill the Messenger” to make amends for their egregious behavior in the 1980s – in discrediting the scandal when the criminality could have been stopped – and for their outrageous actions in the 1990s in destroying the life and career of Gary Webb. But it appears the big papers mostly plan to hunker down and pretend they did nothing wrong.

For those interested in the hard evidence proving the reality of the Contra-cocaine scandal, I posted a Special Report on Friday detailing much of what we know and how we know it. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]

As for “Kill the Messenger,” I had the pleasure of watching it on Friday night with my old Associated Press colleague Brian Barger – and we both were impressed by how effectively the movie-makers explained a fairly complicated tale about drugs and politics. The personal story was told with integrity, aided immensely by Jeremy Renner’s convincing portrayal of Webb.

There were, of course, some Hollywood fictional flourishes for dramatic purposes. And it was a little weird hearing my cautionary advice to Webb – delivered when we talked before his “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996 – being put into the mouth of a fictional Kerry staffer.

But those are minor points. What was truly remarkable about this movie was that it was made at all. Over the past three decades, many directors and screenwriters have contemplated telling the sordid story of Contra-cocaine trafficking but all have failed to get the projects “green-lighted.”

The conventional wisdom in Hollywood has been that such a movie would be torn apart by the major media just as Webb’s series (and before that the AP articles and Kerry’s report) were. But so far the MSM has largely held its fire against “Kill the Messenger,” relying on a few snide asides and knowing smirks.

Perhaps the MSM simply assumes that the old conventional wisdom will hold and that the movie will soon be forgotten. Or maybe there’s been a paradigm shift – and the MSM realizes that its credibility is shot (especially after its catastrophic performance regarding Iraq’s WMD) and it is losing its power to dictate false narratives to the American people.

~

[To learn how you can hear a December 1996 joint appearance at which Robert Parry and Gary Webb discuss their reporting, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The CIA/MSM Contra-Cocaine Cover-up

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 26, 2014

In 1996 – as major U.S. news outlets disparaged the Nicaraguan Contra-cocaine story and destroyed the career of investigative reporter Gary Webb for reviving it – the CIA marveled at the success of its public-relations team guiding the mainstream media’s hostility toward both the story and Webb, according to a newly released internal report.

Entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” the six-page report describes the CIA’s damage control after Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series was published in the San Jose Mercury-News in August 1996. Webb had resurrected disclosures from the 1980s about the CIA-backed Contras collaborating with cocaine traffickers as the Reagan administration worked to conceal the crimes.

Although the CIA’s inspector general later corroborated the truth about the Contra-cocaine connection and the Reagan administration’s cover-up, the mainstream media’s counterattack in defense of the CIA in late summer and fall of 1996 proved so effective that the subsequent CIA confession made little dent in the conventional wisdom regarding either the Contra-cocaine scandal or Gary Webb.

In fall 1998, when the CIA inspector general’s extraordinary findings were released, the major U.S. news media largely ignored them, leaving Webb a “disgraced” journalist who – unable to find a decent-paying job in his profession – committed suicide in 2004, a dark tale that will be revisited in a new movie, “Kill the Messenger,” starring Jeremy Renner and scheduled to reach theaters on Oct. 10.

The “Managing a Nightmare” report offers something of the CIA’s back story for how the spy agency’s PR team exploited relationships with mainstream journalists who then essentially did the CIA’s work for it, mounting a devastating counterattack against Webb that marginalized him and painted the Contra-cocaine trafficking story as some baseless conspiracy theory.

Crucial to that success, the report credits “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Public Affairs Staff [that] helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.

“This success has to be viewed in relative terms. In the world of public relations, as in war, avoiding a rout in the face of hostile multitudes can be considered a success. … By anyone’s definition, the emergence of this story posed a genuine public relations crisis for the Agency.” [As approved for release by the CIA last July 29, the report’s author was redacted as classified, however, Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept identified the writer as former Directorate of Intelligence staffer Nicholas Dujmovic.]

According to the CIA report, the public affairs staff convinced some journalists, who followed up Webb’s exposé by calling the CIA, that “this series represented no real news, in that similar charges were made in the 1980s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance. Reporters were encouraged to read the ‘Dark Alliance’ series closely and with a critical eye to what allegations could actually be backed with evidence. Early in the life of this story, one major news affiliate, after speaking with a CIA media spokesman, decided not to run the story.”

Of course, the CIA’s assertion that the Contra-cocaine charges had been disproved in the 1980s was false. In fact, after Brian Barger and I wrote the first article about the Contra-cocaine scandal for the Associated Press in December 1985, a Senate investigation headed by Sen. John Kerry confirmed that many of the Contra forces were linked to cocaine traffickers and that the Reagan administration had even contracted with drug-connected airlines to fly supplies to the Contras who were fighting Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

However, in the late 1980s, the Reagan administration and the CIA had considerable success steering the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major news outlets away from the politically devastating reality that President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras were tied up with cocaine traffickers. Kerry’s groundbreaking report – when issued in 1989 – was largely ignored or mocked by the mainstream media.

That earlier media response left the CIA’s PR office free to cite the established “group think” – rather than the truth — when beating back Webb’s resurfacing of the scandal in 1996.

A ‘Firestorm’ of Attacks

The initial attacks on Webb’s series came from the right-wing media, such as the Washington Times and the Weekly Standard, but the CIA’s report identified the key turning point as coming when the Washington Post pummeled Webb in two influential articles.

The CIA’s PR experts quickly exploited that opening. The CIA’s internal report said: “Public Affairs made sure that reporters and news directors calling for information – as well as former Agency officials, who were themselves representing the Agency in interviews with the media – received copies of these more balanced stories. Because of the Post’s national reputation, its articles especially were picked up by other papers, helping to create what the Associated Press called a ‘firestorm of reaction’ against the San Jose Mercury-News.

The CIA’s report then noted the happy news that Webb’s editors at the Mercury-News began scurrying for cover, “conceding the paper might have done some things differently.” The retreat soon became a rout with some mainstream journalists essentially begging the CIA for forgiveness for ever doubting its innocence.

“One reporter of a major regional newspaper told [CIA] Public Affairs that, because it had reprinted the Mercury-News stories in their entirety, his paper now had ‘egg on its face,’ in light of what other newspapers were saying,” the CIA’s report noted, as its PR team kept track of the successful counterattack.

“By the end of September [1996], the number of observed stories in the print media that indicated skepticism of the Mercury-News series surpassed that of the negative coverage, which had already peaked,” the report said. “The observed number of skeptical treatments of the alleged CIA connection grew until it more than tripled the coverage that gave credibility to that connection. The growth in balanced reporting was largely due to the criticisms of the San Jose Mercury-News by The Washington Post, The New York Times, and especially The Los Angeles Times.”

The overall tone of the CIA’s internal assessment is one of almost amazement at how its PR team could, with a deft touch, help convince mainstream U.S. journalists to trash a fellow reporter on a story that put the CIA in a negative light.

“What CIA media spokesmen can do, as this case demonstrates, is to work with journalists who are already disposed toward writing a balanced story,” the report said. “What gives this limited influence a ‘multiplier effect’ is something that surprised me about the media: that the journalistic profession has the will and the ability to hold its own members to certain standards.”

The report then praises the neoconservative American Journalism Review for largely sealing Webb’s fate with a harsh critique entitled “The Web That Gary Spun,” with AJR’s editor adding that the Mercury-News “deserved all the heat leveled at it for ‘Dark Alliance.’”

The report also cites with some pleasure the judgment of the Washington Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz who reacted to Webb’s observation that the war was a business to some Contra leaders with the snide comment: “Oliver Stone, check your voice mail.”

Neither Kurtz nor the CIA writer apparently was aware of the disclosure — among Iran-Contra documents — of a March 17, 1986 message about the Contra leadership from White House aide Oliver North’s emissary to the Contras, Robert Owen, who complained to North: “Few of the so-called leaders of the movement . . . really care about the boys in the field. … THIS WAR HAS BECOME A BUSINESS TO MANY OF THEM.” [Emphasis in original.]

Misguided Group Think

Yet, faced with this mainstream “group think” – as misguided as it was – Webb’s Mercury-News editors surrendered to the pressure, apologizing for the series, shutting down the newspaper’s continuing investigation into the Contra-cocaine scandal and forcing Webb to resign in disgrace.

But Webb’s painful experience provided an important gift to American history, at least for those who aren’t enamored of superficial “conventional wisdom.” CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz ultimately produced a fairly honest and comprehensive report that not only confirmed many of the longstanding allegations about Contra-cocaine trafficking but revealed that the CIA and the Reagan administration knew much more about the criminal activity than any of us outsiders did.

Hitz completed his investigation in mid-1998 and the second volume of his two-volume investigation was published on Oct. 8, 1998. In the report, Hitz identified more than 50 Contras and Contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s.

According to Volume Two, the CIA knew the criminal nature of its Contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest Contra force, called the Nicaraguan Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ADREN) or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre,” according to a June 1981 draft of a CIA field report.

According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981. ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermúdez and other early Contras who would later direct the major Contra army, the CIA-organized FDN. Throughout the war, Bermúdez remained the top Contra military commander.

The CIA corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking, but insisted that Bermúdez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States that went ahead nonetheless. The truth about Bermúdez’s supposed objections to drug trafficking, however, was less clear.

According to Hitz’s Volume One, Bermúdez enlisted Norwin Meneses, a large-scale Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler and a key figure in Webb’s series, to raise money and buy supplies for the Contras. Volume One had quoted a Meneses associate, another Nicaraguan trafficker named Danilo Blandón, who told Hitz’s investigators that he and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermúdez in 1982. At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well-known in the Nicaraguan exile community. But Bermúdez told these cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the Contras.

After the Bermúdez meeting, Contra soldiers helped Meneses and Blandón get past Honduran police who briefly arrested them on drug-trafficking suspicions. After their release, Blandón and Meneses traveled on to Bolivia to complete a cocaine transaction.

There were other indications of Bermúdez’s drug-smuggling tolerance. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermúdez of participation in narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. After the Contra war ended, Bermúdez returned to Managua, Nicaragua, where he was shot to death on Feb. 16, 1991. The murder has never been solved. [For more details on Hitz’s report and the Contra-cocaine scandal, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Shrinking Fig Leaf

By the time that Hitz’s Volume Two was published in fall 1998, the CIA’s defense against Webb’s series had shrunk to a fig leaf: that the CIA did not conspire with the Contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking. But Hitz made clear that the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Besides tracing the evidence of Contra-drug trafficking through the decade-long Contra war, the inspector general interviewed senior CIA officers who acknowledged that they were aware of the Contra-drug problem but didn’t want its exposure to undermine the struggle to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.

According to Hitz, the CIA had “one overriding priority: to oust the Sandinista government. . . . [CIA officers] were determined that the various difficulties they encountered not be allowed to prevent effective implementation of the Contra program.” One CIA field officer explained, “The focus was to get the job done, get the support and win the war.”

Hitz also recounted complaints from CIA analysts that CIA operations officers handling the Contras hid evidence of Contra-drug trafficking even from the CIA’s analysts.

Because of the withheld evidence, the CIA analysts incorrectly concluded in the mid-1980s that “only a handful of Contras might have been involved in drug trafficking.” That false assessment was passed on to Congress and to major news organizations — serving as an important basis for denouncing Gary Webb and his “Dark Alliance” series in 1996.

Although Hitz’s report was an extraordinary admission of institutional guilt by the CIA, it went almost unnoticed by major U.S. news outlets. By fall 1998, the U.S. mainstream media was obsessed with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. So, few readers of major U.S. newspapers saw much about the CIA’s inspector general admitting that America’s premier spy agency had collaborated with and protected cocaine traffickers.

On Oct. 10, 1998, two days after Hitz’s Volume Two was posted on the CIA’s Web site, the New York Times published a brief article that continued to deride Webb but acknowledged the Contra-drug problem may have been worse than earlier understood. Several weeks later, the Washington Post weighed in with a similarly superficial article. The Los Angeles Times, which had assigned a huge team of 17 reporters to tear down Webb’s work, never published a story on the release of Hitz’s Volume Two.

In 2000, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee grudgingly acknowledged that the stories about Reagan’s CIA protecting Contra drug traffickers were true. The committee released a report citing classified testimony from CIA Inspector General Britt Snider (Hitz’s successor) admitting that the spy agency had turned a blind eye to evidence of Contra-drug smuggling and generally treated drug smuggling through Central America as a low priority.

“In the end the objective of unseating the Sandinistas appears to have taken precedence over dealing properly with potentially serious allegations against those with whom the agency was working,” Snider said, adding that the CIA did not treat the drug allegations in “a consistent, reasoned or justifiable manner.”

The House committee still downplayed the significance of the Contra-cocaine scandal, but the panel acknowledged, deep inside its report, that in some cases, “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”

Like the release of Hitz’s report in 1998, the admissions by Snider and the House committee drew virtually no media attention in 2000 — except for a few articles on the Internet, including one at Consortiumnews.com.

Killing the Messenger

Because of this abuse of power by the Big Three newspapers — choosing to conceal their own journalistic negligence on the Contra-cocaine scandal and to protect the Reagan administration’s image — Webb’s reputation was never rehabilitated.

After his original “Dark Alliance” series was published in 1996, Webb had been inundated with attractive book offers from major publishing houses, but once the vilification began, the interest evaporated. Webb’s agent contacted an independent publishing house, Seven Stories Press, which had a reputation for publishing books that had been censored, and it took on the project.

After Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion was published in 1998, I joined Webb in a few speaking appearances on the West Coast, including one packed book talk at the Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica, California. For a time, Webb was treated as a celebrity on the American Left, but that gradually faded.

In our interactions during these joint appearances, I found Webb to be a regular guy who seemed to be holding up fairly well under the terrible pressure. He had landed an investigative job with a California state legislative committee. He also felt some measure of vindication when CIA Inspector General Hitz’s reports came out.

However, Webb never could overcome the pain caused by his betrayal at the hands of his journalistic colleagues, his peers. In the years that followed, Webb was unable to find decent-paying work in his profession — the conventional wisdom remained that he had somehow been exposed as a journalistic fraud. His state job ended; his marriage fell apart; he struggled to pay bills; and he was faced with a forced move out of a just-sold house near Sacramento, California, and in with his mother.

On Dec. 9, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb typed out suicide notes to his ex-wife and his three children; laid out a certificate for his cremation; and taped a note on the door telling movers — who were coming the next morning — to instead call 911. Webb then took out his father’s pistol and shot himself in the head. The first shot was not lethal, so he fired once more.

Even with Webb’s death, the big newspapers that had played key roles in his destruction couldn’t bring themselves to show Webb any mercy. After Webb’s body was found, I received a call from a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who knew that I was one of Webb’s few journalistic colleagues who had defended him and his work.

I told the reporter that American history owed a great debt to Gary Webb because he had forced out important facts about Reagan-era crimes. But I added that the Los Angeles Times would be hard-pressed to write an honest obituary because the newspaper had not published a single word on the contents of Hitz’s final report, which had largely vindicated Webb.

To my disappointment but not my surprise, I was correct. The Los Angeles Times ran a mean-spirited obituary that made no mention of either my defense of Webb or the CIA’s admissions in 1998. The obituary – more fitting for a deceased mob boss than a fellow journalist – was republished in other newspapers, including the Washington Post.

In effect, Webb’s suicide enabled senior editors at the Big Three newspapers to breathe a little easier — one of the few people who understood the ugly story of the Reagan administration’s cover-up of the Contra-cocaine scandal and the U.S. media’s complicity was now silenced.

No Accountability

To this day, none of the journalists or media critics who participated in the destruction of Gary Webb has paid a price for their actions. None has faced the sort of humiliation that Webb had to endure. None had to experience that special pain of standing up for what is best in the profession of journalism — taking on a difficult story that seeks to hold powerful people accountable for serious crimes — and then being vilified by your own colleagues, the people that you expected to understand and appreciate what you had done.

In May 2013, one of the Los Angeles Times reporters who had joined in the orchestrated destruction of Webb’s career acknowledged that the newspaper’s assault was a “tawdry exercise” amounting to “overkill,” which later contributed to Webb’s suicide. This limited apology by former Los Angeles Times reporter Jesse Katz was made during a radio interview and came as filming was about to start on “Kill the Messenger,” based on a book by the same name by Nick Schou.

On KPCC-FM 89.3′s AirTalk With Larry Mantle, Katz was pressed by callers to address his role in the destruction of Webb. Katz offered what could be viewed as a limited apology.

“As an L.A. Times reporter, we saw this series in the San Jose Mercury News and kind of wonder[ed] how legit it was and kind of put it under a microscope,” Katz said. “And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.”

Katz added, “We really didn’t do anything to advance his work or illuminate much to the story, and it was a really kind of a tawdry exercise. … And it ruined that reporter’s career.”

Now, with the imminent release of a major Hollywood movie about Webb’s ordeal, the next question is whether the major newspapers will finally admit their longstanding complicity in the Contra-cocaine cover-up or whether they will simply join the CIA’s press office in another counterattack.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rasmussen Poll: 63% say the debate about global warming is not over, 60% pan BBC’s decision to exclude skeptics

By Anthony Watts | Watts Up With That? | July 11, 2014

From Rasmussen Reports:

Voters strongly believe the debate about global warming is not over yet and reject the decision by some news organizations to ban comments from those who deny that global warming is a problem.

Only 20% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the scientific debate about global warming is over, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-three percent (63%) disagree and say the debate about global warming is not over. Seventeen percent (17%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters think there is still significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming, while 35% believe scientists generally agree on the subject.

The BBC has announced a new policy banning comments from those who deny global warming, a policy already practiced by the Los Angeles Times and several other media organizations.  But 60% of voters oppose the decision by some news organizations to ban global warming skeptics. Only 19% favor such a ban, while slightly more (21%) are undecided.

But then 42% believe the media already makes global warming appear to be worse than it really is. Twenty percent (20%) say the media makes global warming appear better than it really is, while 22% say they present an accurate picture. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure.

Still, this is an improvement from February 2009 when 54% thought the media makes global warming appear worse than it is. Unchanged, however, are the 21% who say the media presents an accurate picture.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/general_lifestyle/july_2014/only_20_think_debate_about_global_warming_is_over

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

LA Times’ Tony Barboza gets caught fear mongering the IPCC report

Facts that don’t agree with claims

By Anthony Watts | Watts Up With That? | April 1, 2014

This sentence…

“One of the panel’s most striking new conclusions is that rising temperatures are already depressing crop yields, including those of corn and wheat.”

… is in this LA Times story by babout the latest IPCC report which has so much gloom and doom in it, one of the lead authors, Dr. Richard Tol, asked his name to be taken off of it for that very reason.

Problem is, the agricultural data doesn’t match the LATimes/IPCC claim, see for yourself:

wheat-corn-soybeans-yield-trend

Source: USDA data at http://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/ plotted by Dr. Roy Spencer.

World-wheat-corn-rice_trends

Not only is the LATimes/IPCC claim about agriculture false for the world, but also the USA:

US_ag-trends

Source: USDA Data here compiled by Dr. Mark J. Perry at the Carpe Diem blog.

In fact, U.S. Corn Yields Have Increased Six Times Since the 1930s and Are Estimated to Double By 2030 according to Perry.

Note that temperatures in the US Corn belt aren’t rising, but models are, and as we know, the IPCC prefers model output over reality.USHCN_corn_belt_temperatures

Source: USHCN data from NOAA, CMIP5 model data plotted by Dr. Roy Spencer

Why is it that checking such simple facts are left to bloggers and independent thinkers like Roy Spencer, instead of “professional” journalists like ?

Maybe he’s just too lazy to check facts like this? Or, is it belief mixed with incompetence?

April 1, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Worst Venezuela Articles of 2013?

Venezuelanalysis | December 20, 2013

This is my worst-five list for articles about Venezuela. I couldn’t help but declare ties for a few of the spots, so the “worst five” list actually has more than five articles. I’ve listed them from most horrible to least.

1)     It’s a three way tie! Two of the three are very recent articles that referred to Venezuela as a dictatorship. An article on Yahoo.com said Venezuela was “military-style dictatorship”. Another one on MSN.com said Hugo Chavez was a “dictator”. Sadly, these may have been honest mistakes – gross ignorance that results from corporate journalists being over exposed to their colleagues’ work which, in turn, leads them to spread even more ignorance among themselves and countless readers.

The third article sharing the worst spot is an editorial in the UK Independent that appeared just after Hugo Chavez died. The “Indy” editors wrote that Chavez “was no run-of-the-mill dictator. His offences were far from the excesses of a Colonel Gaddafi…” A letter I wrote to the Indy about this editorial was initially accepted but then rejected.

2)     Jon Lee Anderson eleven page “slumlord” article in the New Yorker, not only trashed Hugo Chavez’s government but also the majority of Venezuelans who consistently voted Chavista since 1998 as I explained here. Anderson strongly insinuated that a coup (not a free and fair election as actually took place) led to Hugo Chavez first assume office in 1999. As Keane Bhatt pointed out, The New Yorker’s “vaunted fact-checkers somehow permitted the publication” of that falsehood. The article combines disregard for facts with very noticeable amount of class bigotry. I debated awarding it the worst spot but decided that its long-windedness probably mitigated the damage done.

3)     This Economist article, which was thoroughly taken apart by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, comes in third. My favorite part of Ryan’s demolition is the various TV interviews he points to that feature Henrique Capriles – the opposition leader whom the Economist claimed was “ignored” by a “cowed” media in the months prior to recent municipal elections. This lengthy interview with Capriles was shown on Venevision about a month before those elections. Venevision’s news broadcasts have the highest audience share in Venezuela. Capriles droned on and on unchallenged and uninterrupted.  He also didn’t say a peep about being ignored by broadcasters which was unsurprising. To do so under the circumstances would have looked quite ridiculous.

4)     Arguably, any five randomly chosen AP articles about Venezuela could take up most of the spots on this list. A very partisan op-ed should make some effort to present counterarguments to the views it promotes. AP dispenses with that in news articles where, readers are so often told, reporters have their fabled “objectivity” on display. In this piece I pointed out two recent AP articles that spread the myth of the voiceless opposition and a falsehood about Venezuela’s inflation rate.

5)     Given the incredibly dishonest and incompetent reporting about Venezuela, a spot must be reserved for this LA Times article “Nicolas Maduro Gaffes: Top 5 Worst Blunders Made By Venezuelan President In 2013”. Yes, an article that tells readers about things like President Maduro falling off a bike and mispronouncing some words made international headlines. The LA Times could obviously look at itself and its peers for “blunders”, and ones that actually matter. Just consider the other articles on this list.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment