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NPR Examines One Side of Honduran “Model Cities” Debate

By Dan Beeton | CEPR The Americas Blog | January 15, 2013

Honduran newspaper El Heraldo reports that a plan for the creation of “model cities” was reintroduced in the Honduran congress yesterday, months after the Supreme Court declared earlier such plans to be unconstitutional. Congress President Juan Orlando Hernández said that he did not expect the plan to run into the same legal problems as last year because he had taken into account the Supreme Court’s arguments for its decision.

According to El Heraldo, the bill proposes the creation of the 12 special regimes of various kinds which “shall enjoy operational and administrative autonomy.” Among these are “ciudades autónomas.”

Earlier this month, NPR’s This American Life profiled the “model cities” or “charter cities” concept for Honduras in a report that only presented one side of the debate. The report follows reporters Chana Joffe-Walt and Jacob Goldstein’s previous account of the Honduran “model cities” concept for NPR’s Planet Money, and an early examination of the plans in The New York Times Magazine by Planet Money co-creator Adam Davidson.

There is much important context that the This American Life “model cities” profile left out. First, the proposed “model cities” could impact the land rights of Garifuna (Afro-indigenous) communities in the area.  There was little mention of opposition to the “charter cities” idea inside Honduras, outside of lawyers and the Supreme Court decision. And crucially, Honduras has been in a state of relative chaos since the coup, with a breakdown of institutions and the rule of law leading to, among other things, Honduras having the highest murder rate in the world (now at 91 per 100,000 people, according to the UN) (a fact that the This American Life report does note).

As The Americas Blog readers know well, there is a strong political dimension to this violence. As human rights organizations from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International to the International Federation for Human Rights have described, there has been political repression since the coup, targeting opponents of the coup and of the current Lobo government with assassination, forced disappearance, torture, rape, kidnapping, and other abuses. Journalists, lawyers, opposition party candidates, the LGBT community, and women have also been targets, with attacks against each of these groups spiking since the coup. The Garifuna communities are another targeted group, with, e.g., land barons in the Zacate Grande region attacking community groups and radio stations. Honduras is now widely recognized as one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist, with some 23 journalists murdered since President Lobo took office in January 2010 according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

A prominent attorney, Antonio Trejo Cabrera, who opposed the “model cities” plan and who represented campesino groups in another conflict area – the Aguan Valley – was assassinated in September in a case that received international media attention and was widely denounced.

NPR listeners might also be interested to know that Honduras had made economic progress under the Zelaya government prior to the 2009 military coup d’etat (the This American Life report does not mention the coup). As we described in a November 2009 report, poverty and inequality decreased significantly during the Zelaya administration, with economic growth of more than 6 percent during the first two years. The Zelaya government also used expansionary monetary policy to counter-act the global downturn in 2008. It did not need to construct libertarian utopias in order to do these things; indeed, they would not have had this progress had they tried.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Comments Off on NPR Examines One Side of Honduran “Model Cities” Debate

Iran War Debate: Media Failure or Undisclosed Bias?

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | March 16, 2012

Comparing the media handling of the debate over Iran with the lead-up to the war on Iraq, Stephen M. Walt observes in a recent Foreign Policy column that “most mainstream news organizations have let us down again.” In his “Top Ten Media Failures in the 2012 Iran War Scare,” Prof. Walt singles out five journalists for particular criticism:

#1: Mainstreaming the war. As I’ve written before, when prominent media organizations keep publishing alarmist pieces about how war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc., this may convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives. Exhibits A and B for this problem are Jeffrey Goldberg’s September 2010 article in The Atlantic Monthly and Ronan Bergman’s February 2012 article in the New York Times Magazine. Both articles reported that top Israeli leaders believed time was running out and suggested that an attack might come soon.

[…]

#8: Letting spinmeisters play fast and loose with facts. Journalists have to let officials and experts express their views, but they shouldn’t let them spout falsehoods without pushing back. Unfortunately, there have been some egregious cases where prominent journalists allowed politicians or government officials to utter howlers without being called on it. When Rick Santorum announced on Meet the Press that “there were no inspectors” in Iran, for example, host David Gregory didn’t challenge this obvious error. (In fact, Iran may be the most heavily inspected country in the history of the IAEA).

Even worse, when Israeli ambassador Michael Oren appeared on MSNBC last week, he offered the following set of dubious claims, without challenge:

“[Iran] has built an underground nuclear facility trying to hide its activities from the world. It has been enriching uranium to a high rate [sic.] that has no explanation other than a military nuclear program – that has been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency now several times. It is advancing very quickly on an intercontinental ballistic missile system that’s capable of carrying nuclear warheads.”

Unfortunately, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell apparently didn’t know that Oren’s claims were either false or misleading. 1) Iran’s underground facility was built to make it hard to destroy, not to “hide its activities,” and IAEA inspectors have already been inside it. 2) Iran is not enriching at a “high rate” (i.e., to weapons-grade); it is currently enriching to only 20% (which is not high enough to build a bomb). 3) Lastly, Western intelligence experts do not think Iran is anywhere near to having an ICBM capability.

In another interview on NPR, Oren falsely accused Iran of “killing hundreds, if not thousands of American troops,” a claim that NPR host Robert Siegel did not challenge.

Every one of those Walt identifies as examples of “media failures” — Jeffrey Goldberg, Ronen Bergman, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell and Robert Siegel — either already has Israeli citizenship or would probably qualify for it under the Law of Return, which accords any Jew the legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel, as well as Israeli citizenship.

Of course, being Jewish doesn’t necessarily mean that one is more susceptible to Israeli falsehoods about the alleged “Iranian threat.” After all, Glenn Greenwald is one of the journalists that Walt singles out for praise in countering the war propaganda. But we still need to ask if this is simply another case of “media failure”? Or are those in the media with an undisclosed bias helping to take America to another disastrous war for Israel?

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iran War Debate: Media Failure or Undisclosed Bias?