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Archive for December, 2007

“Hooker Scandal Topples Bolivian Government!”: The Folha Regrets The Error

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 31, 2007

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“Obviously a cheap Photoshop job,” says former Minister of Water.

Attribution to another publication … cannot serve as license to print rumors that would not meet the test of The Times’s own reporting standards. Rumors must satisfy The Times’s standard of newsworthiness, taste and plausibility before publication, even when attributed. And when the need arises to attribute, that is a good cue to consult with the department head about whether publication is warranted at all.The New York Times, Guidelines on Integrity.

It would be a journalistic and ethical step backwards for iG to modify its standards to adopt less rigorous criteria for information we (merely) publish. Or if we left the responsibility for hearing various sides of a given issue exclusively up to the service provider. The reader, quite rightly, thinks that what he reads or sees on iG comes from iG. Besides offering the service, iG makes a point of placing its branding on every page. According to the law, vehicles are responsible for what they publish. –Ombudsman, iG Web portal (Brazil); see Brazil: Did iG Piss on the Swiss?

Erramos: Escândalo sexual derruba ministro na Bolívia: The Folha de S. Paulo regrets the error in a story headlined “Sex scandal brings down Bolivian cabinet minister.”

The correction is datelined December 31, 2007.

Diferentemente do que foi publicado no texto Escândalo sexual derruba ministro na Bolívia (Mundo – 28/11/2007 – 00h51), produzido pela Efe e reproduzido pela Folha Online, os protestos mencionados eram a favor da expulsão da empresa Suez de La Paz e El Alto, e não contra. O erro foi corrigido no texto.

Unlike what was published in the Article “Sex scandal brings down cabinet minister in Bolivia” (November 28, 2007), produced by EFE and reproduced by Folha Online, the protests mention were in favor of the expulsion of Suez from La Paz e El Alto, not against it. The error was corrected in the article.

Compare

The error was corrected in the article when?

One month later?

Who made the error, by the way? A Spanish-language version I found on Terra contained the correct statement, and no correction was noted.

Then again, does Terra note corrections? The Folha does not. That is to say, there is no note on the original article stating, “this article was corrected on December 31 to correct a material misstatement.”

G1/Globo ran the same EFE dispatch on the same date, and has not yet corrected the error. It still reads

Antes de ser ministro Mamani havia liderado vários protestos contra a expulsão da empresa Suez de La Paz e El Alto, alegando o não cumprimento dos investimentos.

Do not expect it to, either. Globo does not do corrections.

Globo is never wrong.

If Globo reports the North Pole is in Antarctica, get to work redrawing those maps.

A search on that headline on the Folha Online Web site does not turn up the article in question, by the way. One might assume that it does not even exist.

However, a search on Google using the “site:[URL]” operator does locate it.

The Folha should review the performance of its Web site search provider.

The story in question:

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“The Kenyan Elections Were Bizarre, And We Stand By the Results”: U.S. Diplomats

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 31, 2007

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Elections Commission of Kenya Web poll today. To give you an idea of how meaningful this is as a measure of Kenyan public opinion, I myself was able to vote in the online survey. Twice. (I voted “Don’t know.” Honestly, I don’t. Disclosure: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Kenyan.)

It should be mentioned here that a weak point with regard to the use of the legal framework for the 2002 elections, was the interpretation and application of the laws by the ECK. On certain issues the ECK took a practical approach towards a legal problem, which on a number of occasions led to decisions of the ECK which were not in accordance with the law. For example, in contravention of the law, the ECK accepted withdrawals from candidates and replacement of duly nominated candidates after the official closure of nominations. The ECK on certain occasions also adopted an inconsistent or even contradictory interpretation of the law. Furthermore, some of the shortcomings in the law should have been addressed before the 2002 elections, in particular those which raised concerns in previous elections.Joint report of the EU observer mission and K-DOP on the 2002 elections (PDF)

US questions Kenya poll ‘anomalies’ (Thomson Financial).

The US voiced concern today about ‘anomalies’ in Kenya’s disputed presidential election, noting that some constituencies had declared bizarrely high turnout figures.

Actually, as 500 Hats is pointing out, “the U.S.” seems to be issuing dueling press releases on this issue. See also

File provisionally under “message control, catastrophic failures of.”

As Bartholomew Cubbins there points out, the New York Times is pointing to what looks an awful lot like a breakdown of message control between the Department of State and the Nairobi Embassy.

In this case, “the U.S.” — as represented by its embassy — seems to think these elections were plagued by bizarre anomalies.

“The United States is, however, concerned by serious problems experienced during the vote-counting process,” said a US government statement released by its embassy in Nairobi. “These included various anomalies with respect to unrealistically high voter turnout rates, close to 100 percent in some constituencies, discrepancies in the number of votes reported for the respective candidates, apparent manipulation of some election reporting documents, and long delays in reporting results.’

Meanwhile, from the U.S. as represented by the spooks and Moonie-dominated Foggy Bottom, where Paul Wolfowitz’s girlfriend works in the Karen Hughes memorial “blogging for democracy” department:

“The United States congratulates the winners and is calling for calm, and for Kenyans to abide by the results declared by the election commission. We support the commission’s decision,said spokesman Robert McInturff. He reiterated a State Department statement from Saturday that asked Kenyans “to reject violence and respect the rule of law.”

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Reuters: “Foreign observers praise Kenyan election”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 31, 2007


In the dark, all beans are unsortable into light and dark.

She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all

–Zimmerman

Following the 2005 Ethiopian elections the Carter Center’s and the European Union’s electoral observation reports became highly politicized. In the post election period, the two organizations came to different conclusions in regards to the validity of the electoral process. At the core of these differences were the organizations’ differing conceptions of what constitutes free and fair electoral practices. In the post election period the European Union’s and Carter Center’s reports have been pitted against one and other as those concerned with the election results seek to make sense of the reports. –Lucilia Pereira, “Free and Fair: The Politicization of Election Monitoring Reports,” Thesis, U. Saskatchewan, Oct. 2006.

Reuters aims to report the facts, not rumours. Clients rely on us to differentiate between fact and rumour, and our reputation rests partly on that. –”A handbook of Reuters journalism”

Reuters Africa serves up gabbling half-truths in the service of a fairy tale about consensus among international elections observers in Kenya:

International observers praised Kenya’s presidential and parliamentary elections as broadly transparent and peaceful on Friday, despite fears that such a close race would encourage rigging and large-scale violence.

Close race? The New York Times cited results showing the challenger leading by some 20 points. See

Large-scale violence currently dominates the headlines after accusations of election-rigging.

Which some elections observers say are credible, while others say they are not.

Reuters reports that fears have not been realized.

Shortly thereafter, those fears are realized.

Your global risk management console seems to have a track record for the Fallacy of Wishful Thinking.

Bear that in mind as you contemplate its optimism over EU regulatory approval for the Thomson merger.

The British government has expressed serious doubts about the validity of the election, while the EU observer mission appears to be calling the election, using diplomatic phraseology, a massive failure.

Citing observed incidents in which the local precinct reports x votes for Quimby and the ECK then “reads off its computer screen” — donated by USAID — that the local precinct is reporting x+5,000 votes for Quimby.

Where x≠(x+5,000).

See

But here Reuters is, blithely promoting the fairy-tale of unanimity among the dueling election observers, whose recommendations and evaluations in fact diverge sharply.

The US Dept. of State, for example, recommends that everyone accept the results announced by the ECK, whose integrity it vouches for. According to an article in The Nation.

The US government released another statement from New York, urging Kenyans to accept the final election results calmly, saying it had “great confidence” in the ECK and its chairman, Samuel Kivuitu.The Nation (Nairobi)

The rooters from Reuters:

Monitors from the European Union, a group of countries from Africa’s Great Lakes region and the U.S.-based International Republican Institute all praised the conduct of Thursday’s vote.

As far as I know, the observers from the Great Lakes Group cited were actually part of the IRI mission. That is, there were not three observer contingents here, as you might be led to infer, but two:

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São Paulo Diary: Hole Patrol Extols Control!

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 31, 2007

I read the news today oh, boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall 

Metrô nega que obra tenha causado buraco em Pinheiros: The Estado de S. Paulo rewrites the press release. “Subway authority denies excavations on the Yellow Line caused hole in Pinheiros.”

We own a modest office suite in an office condo in Pinheiros, so we follow this story closely.

See also

SÃO PAULO – O buraco que surgiu ontem à noite nas proximidades da Rua Paes Leme, em Pinheiros, zona oeste da cidade, nada tem a ver com as obras da linha 4 do Metrô, segundo a assessoria de imprensa da Companhia do Metropolitano de São Paulo. Técnicos da companhia realizaram uma vistoria na área hoje e concluíram “com 100% de certeza”, conforme a assessoria, que o buraco não foi originado em razão dos trabalhos de construção da futura Estação Pinheiros. A assessoria entendeu ainda que um buraco de um metro de profundidade por 1,5 metro de largura não pode ser chamado “cratera”.

The hole that appeared last evening near Paes Leme Street in Pinheiros, has nothing to do with work on the Metrô’s Line 4, the press office of the São Paulo state Metrô authority said yesterday. Metrô technicians inspected the area today and concluded “with 100% certainty,” according to the press office, that the hole did not originate from contruction work on the future Pinheiros Station.

Why were the engineers themselves not interviewed?

This is a sensitive issue because the Pinheiros Station collapsed into an enormous smoking hole early this year. Later, (1) a failure of two segments of the tunnel was announced, as well as (2) a one-year delay in the delivery of the project. I was never really sure, reading the coverage, whether (1) and (2) were related in any way.

The press office also said that a hole 1.5 meters wide cannot be termed a “crater.”

And how deep was it? 

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Kenya: “Recounting the Votes Would Undermine Democratic Institutions”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 31, 2007



Nobel Laureate and former Tetu MP, Prof Wangari Mathai, said the presidential votes should be recounted to dispel any doubts. “Counting is not a big deal… it is less expensive than having the burden of feeling to have been unfairly denied the win.”

The well educated, skilled, and experienced accountant is the first line of defense for the capitalist system. … My advice to the accounting profession, antifraud professionals, and Wall Street: Do not trust, just verify. Verify, verify, and verify.Sam E. Antar, “former CFO of Crazy Eddie and now a convicted felon who helped mastermind one of the largest securities frauds uncovered in the 1980s.”

The US government released another statement from New York, urging Kenyans to accept the final election results calmly, saying it had “great confidence” in the ECK and its chairman, Samuel Kivuitu.The Nation (Nairobi) today

The Standard (Kenya) | ODM, PNU in war of words: Calls for a recount in the Kenya elections are met with calls to “respect the integrity of institutions” and characterized as “inciting violence.”

See

Subsequent updates [As of January 3, 2007]:

It is fascinating to watch how a lot of media coverage of the problematic Kenyan election quickly shifted gears from (1) “The opposition will win the election” to (2) “The opposition is promoting violence and rumors” over election fraud allegations. Without passing “Go” or collecting $200.

Also notably incongruent: Reports that (1) the challenger was beating the incumbent by a substantial margin, and (2) that the election was very, very tight.

As in “a technical tie within the margin of error of opinion polling.” As a Brazilian observer noted in last year’s election here:

If the polls start to converge on this kind of “technical tie” between Lula and Alckmin, we are in a risky situation. In the situation of a technical tie, the possibilities of electoral fraud are enormous. I would say that the temptation of electronic fraud would be impossible to resist.

See I’ve Seen This Movie II: When Mariachis Learn to Play Maracatú

Dueling opinion polls, some of them indicating the proverbial “tightly contested technical tie within the polling margin of error” is, indeed, a story we have seen a lot of in recent years. See, for example

The Nation (Kenya) reports that “The US and British Governments Call on Kenyans to Accept the Results”

But Her Majesty’s Government cannot, I think, be reasonably interpreted as calling on Kenyans to accept the results as published. It is calling on the election authorities to produce results that are acceptable to Kenyans. As these are not.

The U.S. and British governments reportedly diverge sharply at this point as to the degree of confidence expressed in the ECK.

The Nation seems to be mischaracterizing the position of HMG to its readers.

Here is the official statement from the Foreign Office:

‘We are disturbed at the violence surrounding the elections. The British Government calls for an end to the violence, respect for the democratic process and for all Kenyan leaders to act responsibly. This is a pivotal moment for Kenya. It is vital that the entire election process meets the expectations of the Kenyan electorate. The international community hopes that Kenya will live up to both the letter and the spirit of its democratic principles.’

The Brits think the vote-counting part of the election looks phonier than a Sino-Paraguayan “Tongka” truck, and has put the onus squarely on the election authority to make things right.

The Rashōmon effect in election monitoring reports is not a new phenomenon in Africa, either, apparently:

Following the 2005 Ethiopian elections the Carter Center’s and the European Union’s electoral observation reports became highly politicized. In the post election period, the two organizations came to different conclusions in regards to the validity of the electoral process. At the core of these differences were the organizations’ differing conceptions of what constitutes free and fair electoral practices. In the post election period the European Union’s and Carter Center’s reports have been pitted against one and other as those concerned with the election results seek to make sense of the reports. –Lucilia Pereira, “Free and Fair: The Politicization of Election Monitoring Reports,” Thesis, U. Saskatchewan, Oct. 2006.

It’s Mexico (and possibly Alagoas) 2006 all over again. And Ecuador, recall, experienced a scandalous delay in getting a result due to the (still unexplained) failure of a Brazilian technology consortium to deliver the quick count. Executives fled the country, pursued by a fraud investigation. See

I am reading a presentation by the ECK president from a year or so ago on how technology was going to help it smooth out problems in future elections.

What technology was applied here? Who was contracted to provide it? Why did it not apparently not smooth out the problem? (Electrical outages at some of the “constitutuencies” has been cited here and there.)

If you ask me, the role of the International Republican Institute in this election, which mounted a shadow elections observer mission and is now also calling upon all parties to accept the results and “respect democratic institutions,” needs to be probed harder than the prostate of a 70-year-old life-long chainsmoker.

Request from the Kenyan Oranges: “Double-check the vote tally, please.”

The EU election observer noted evidence that the results from local vote tally forms had been inflated by the time they were published by the ECK (The Elections Commission of Kenya).

As tension continues to rise over the fate of Kenya’s recently held General Election, ODM has alleged that Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) accepted results from 48 constituencies without valid documents. While addressing the Press at KICC, Nairobi on Sunday afternoon, ODM pentagon member, Mr William Ruto, asked ECK to peruse files from the affected constituencies.

Rejoinder: The opposition does not respect democratic institutions and is resorting to antidemocratic violence to seize power!

But in a swift rejoinder, PNU leaders held a press conference at the same venue and rubbished ODM claims saying they were meant to incite the public and cause violence.Garsen MP elect and assistant minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Danson Mungatana, said ODM leaders “lack respect for ECK” and must respect the laws governing the conduct of elections. PNU accused ODM of spreading information that he termed “half truths” and inciting citizens to violence and destruction of property.

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Brazil: “Veja is a Cancer Upon the Grupo Abril!”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 30, 2007

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Illness as a metaphor for Veja magazine — with apologies to Susan Sontag, who, having died of the literal disease, actually knew what she was talking about.

“They think that Abril supports Cardoso’s plan of government. They have it wrong. It is not Abril who supports Cardoso. It is Cardoso who supports Abril’s plan of government.” –attributed to Roberto Civita, Grupo Abril

Contraponto is a Web log by Alisson Almeida of Natal, RN, Brazil, who identifies herself as a

Jornalista pela Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) e colaborador da Rede Jovem de Comunicação.

She weighs in on the current controversy between Luis Nassif and Veja magazine over the alleged Daniel Dantas connection at the newsweekly. See

Or rather, she reproduces the histrionic rant of an anonymous commenter on the dispute, who applies an extended metaphor of pustulent contamination — developed with great, er, ham-fistedness — to the flagship newsweekly of the Civita empire.

On a similar use of metaphors of “taint” and “contamination” in contemporary journalism criticism, see also

The argument: Veja is a rogue element at the Grupo Abril, and not reflective of the general ethical standards of Abril journalism.

I tend to doubt this very much.

Here is one reason for doubting this: The anonymous source of Veja‘s “sex Senator” exposé appears to have been the palimony attorney for the woman at the center of the scandal.

The same attorney also reportedly negotiated her contract to appear nude in another Editora Abril publication, Playboy Brasil. And perjured himself to the Brazilian congress (although amazingly, the Brazilian congress apparently does not hear witnesses under oath.)

Tell me that did not really happen. I saw it with my own own eyes. Like a lot of Brazilians, I now know what is tattooed on Mônica Veloso’s ass.

That is to say: This lawyer apparently leveraged an anonymous corruption charge in one Abril magazine into a lucrative contract for his client to “reveal all” in another.

This suggests to me that the problem may lie somewhere well up the chain of command, over the heads of editorial management of single titles.

Here is another: The Grupo Abril has just recently, with great fanfare, set a limit on gifts to its employees, including journalists at all of its publications, of R$100.

Which is just a jawdroppingly low ethical bar to set for oneself. You would have to be the infinitely flexible Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four to go lower than the standard set for this ethical limbo dance.

Who do they think they are fooling with this Potemkin Village crusade against jabaculê (payola)?

Reuters, which has rather weak conflict-of-interest governance, I think, states in its code of conduct, for example:

The Reuters Code of Conduct reminds journalists that they must not accept any payment, gift, service or benefit (whether in cash or in kind) offered by a news source or contact.

Any.

As in none.

Not any. Zero.

If forced to accept by circumstances — your source is a Mongol chieftain who will declare a blood feud against you and your descendants unto the nth generation if you refuse his hospitality — the gift must be donated to charity.

See

The notion that limiting gifts to R$100 represents progress make you really wonder just how out of hand the whole jabaculê situation really is over there.

The Clan Civita really, really seems to be sweating it. The more nervous they get, the more they issue lengthy harangues in the apologia pro vita sua tradition like this one:

At any rate, to Alisson’s post: O câncer da Veja.

Comentário postado por Weden, no blog do Luis Nassif:

A comment posted by Weden on Nassif’s blog:

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Grey Lady-Globo: “Kenyan Opposition Wins With 57% of the Vote!”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 30, 2007

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Above: Citing the New York Times, Globo/G1 Brazil reports a (fairly overwhelming) victory for the Kenyan opposition candidate and refers to the incumbent in the past tense.

News organizations call one election result. The official results are otherwise. This freak occurrence is occurring with freakish frequency all over the world in the current decade, don’t you tend to find? See also

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“Exit polls give victory to Chávez in referendum”: The
Folha de S. Paulo front page on the day after. See also Chávez Defeat: “Could the Absence of a Plot Itself Be a Plot?”

Contagem de votos aponta vitória da oposição no Quênia

Vote count points to victory of Kenyan opposition

Raila Odinga, que faz campanha como defensor dos pobres, tem cerca de 57% dos votos.

Raila Odinga, running as defender of the poor, has nearly 57% of the votes.

Mwai Kibaki, atual governante, ficou conhecido por ter impulsionado a economia do país. Do New York Times

Incumbent Kibaki was known for driving the nation’s economy. From the New York Times (December 28).

Note how the sourcing of the principal hard fact in this story changes during its journey from Times Square to Globo Journalism Central there in Rio, in, where was it? Jacarepaguá?

A oposição parece estar à frente das eleições no Quênia com larga vantagem, de acordo com resultados preliminares divulgados na última sexta-feira (28), com um desafiante populista determinado a ocupar o lugar do atual presidente e diversos ministros importantes removidos de seus cargos.

The opposition appears to be in front in the Kenyan elections by a large margin, according to preliminary results published on Friday, with a defiant populist determined to take the place place of the incumbent president and various important ministers removed from their posts.

“Defiant populist”? See also

On the same day, the International News of Pakistan was reporting:

NAIROBI: Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki leads on Thursday’s presidential election with 47.3 per cent of the vote versus 42.8 for opposition leader Raila Odinga, according to an early exit poll by a local independent observer group. The Institute for Education in Democracy (IED), a respected non-governmental organisation, gave the early figures based on a sample of 271 polling stations out of a total 27,000. Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) was delighted. “We expect a much higher tally,” spokeswoman Ngari Gituku said. An Odinga aide dismissed the exit poll.

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Kenya: Dueling Press Releases

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 30, 2007

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Elections Commission of Kenya Web poll today. To give you an idea of how meaningful this is as a measure of Kenyan public opinion, I myself was able to vote in the online survey. Twice. (I voted “Don’t know.” Honestly, I don’t. Disclosure: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Kenyan.)

Graf said his mission had evidence of presidential tallies announced in polling stations on the election being inflated by the time they were released by the electoral commission in Nairobi.

Dueling press releases on the freedom, credibility and adherence to simple beancounting best practices of the Kenyan elections, just concluded:

  1. EU observers question Kenya vote result (Forbes.com)
  2. Kenya: Preliminary Findings of IRI’s International Election Observation Mission (AllAfrica.com)

NAIROBI (Thomson Financial) — The European Union’s team of election observers in Kenya said Sunday that the country’s electoral commission had failed to ensure the credibility of the presidential vote.

Your tax dollars at work from the the NED-IRI, meanwhile, which soft-peddles the “glitches” in the process and advises:

Kenya continues to move forward on its democratic path. As the country moves into the final phase of the election, IRI’s delegation encourages the people to continue to respect the process and accept the final decision.

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Kenya: “We Declare This Election Honest and Transparent. We Will Take No Questions. End Transmission.”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 30, 2007

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Kenyans rate the performance of their press very highly, in terms of “honest and accuracy.” Then again, so do Nigerians. Have you ever actually read the Nigerian press?  They also
value freedom of the press, according to a BBC-Synovate survey. See Brazilian News Media Garbles Survey Data on the Question, “Does Your News Media Report Honestly and Accurately?”

“The commissioner declares Kibaki the president of Kenya”, said Kivuitu and the broadcast was immediately cut off as few observers present began asking questions. Private television stations were barred from that press conference. Kivuitu had on Saturday warned that with various parties interrupting his work, he could as well announce them at KBC.–The Standard (Kenya) today

An anonymous user on the AboutUs Wiki comments on domaindiscreet.com:

I’ve tracked this blind address used by Register.com to several phishing schemes and Internet criminal gangs. It’s pretty sick to see a corporation become an enabler of crime gangs who use their ongoing fraud schemes to fund terrorism and rob thousands from checking and savings accounts.

No way to confirm that charge easily, but you can find quickly find quite a few complaints about spammers using Web hosting services at the same address in Orem, Utah, such as this complaint about a Craigslist spammer.

I mention it because I was just curious about who is running KenyaElections.com, one of those “citizen journalism” transparency projects whose domain is registered through the “none of your business” division of the Net registrar and lives on a box at a server farm, as I said, at a familiar Orem, Utah address.

Its contact is given as William Angawa, a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Sunderland University in the UK — and google-uppable as quite the Net activist.

Latest news from the Kenyan elections: The incumbent edges out the challenger in a squeaker that amounts to a technical tie.

The NMM editorial board has just voted to declare 2006-2007 “The International Biennial of the Election Ending in a Technical Tie, With Dueling Exit Polls and Problematic Quick Counts.”

The Electoral Commission has declared Mwai Kibaki the winner of Thursday’s presidential elections, garnering 4,584,721 to Raila Odinga’s 4,352,993.

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“Who Is Responsible? Define ‘Responsibility'”: Reactions to the Condor Indictment

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 30, 2007

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Source: Bandera, 1990 (see below)

… there are different psychological mechanisms by which moral control can be selectively activated or disengaged from inhumane conduct. Self-sanctions can be disengaged by reconstruing detrimental conduct through moral justification, euphemistic labeling, and advantageous contrast with other inhumanities; by obscuring personal agency in detrimental activities through diffusion and displacement of responsibility; by disregarding or misrepresenting the harmful consequences of inhumane conduct; and by blaming and dehumanizing the victims. These mechanisms of moral disengagement operate not only in the perpetration of inhumanities under extraordinary circumstances, but in everyday situations where people routinely perform activities that bring personal benefits at injurious costs to others. –Albert Bandura, Selective Activation and Disengagement of Moral Control (1990)

“A white horse is not a horse” (白馬非馬) –Attributed to Gongsun Long

If all responsibility is imposed on you, then you may want to exploit the moment and want to be overwhelmed by the responsibility; yet if you try, you will notice that nothing was imposed on you, but that you are yourself this responsibility. –Frank Kafka, The Fourth Notebook, 1918

Power without responsibility–the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages. –Rudyard Kipling

“Yo soy responsable político”: “I am politically responsible,” says former Peruvian president Francisco Morales Bermúdez, as an indictment handed down by an Italian court over Italian citizens subjected to extrajudicial execution and disappearance during Operation Condor hits the Transandean TAZ.

La República (Lima) reports.

In a related development, in Brazil, what the Estadão is calling an “unprecedented admission”:

The story comes as NMM prepares its traditional Memes of the Year of the year issue, in which, the buzz has it, “the domino theory of nonresponsibility” has even odds of prevailing over “moral crusades against phantom menaces.”

Fujimori recently argued before the court in its trial on human rights violations that, as commander in chief, he could not be held responsibile for actions taken, or acts of omission and failures of oversight, by military

Unfortunately for Fujimori, his propaganda master Vladimiro Montesinos bribed the Peruvian media to run an astonishing documentary in which Fujimori is portrayed as engaged in direct operational planning and tactical command of the Hunatar rescue. He strides among the smoking corpses. He comments the brilliance of the tactics he himself devised.

And so on. I guess if I were his attorney, I would tell the court that this propaganda broadcast was a lie designed to give credit where credit was not actually due. Otherwise, it tends to undermine his “technically, I was not responsible” theory.

See

Aunque negó que su gobierno haya participado en la “Operación Cóndor” para eliminar a opositores a varias dictaduras latinoamericanas en los años 70 y 80, el general (r) Francisco Morales Bermúdez Cerruti admitió su responsabilidad política en la deportación de tres ciudadanos argentinos de origen italiano.

Although he denied that his government participated in Operation Condor to eliminate opponents of various Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s, Gen. Morales Bermúdez (ret.) admitted his political responsibility in the deportation of three Argentine citizens of Italian origin.

Analogy: “Political responsibility” is to what Bubba Clinton and Monica actually got up to as “reponsibility” is to “sexual relations.” Fair assessment of the semantics at work here?

John Dinges, whose book on the subject, based on declassified U.S. archives, claims that Peru was a Condor participant.

Dijo también que si la justicia italiana lo cita irá a ese país, por lo cual se está preparando para ponerse a derecho.

He also said that if the Italian court summons him, he will go to that nation, and is preparing his legal position.

Morales Bermúdez explicó: “En pleno proceso de culminación del proceso democrático fuimos alertados por nuestros propios servicios de inteligencia de la venida de un grupo de montoneros argentinos al Perú. Y mi decisión, como jefe de Estado, fue que esta gente fuera extrañada del país. Esa fue mi decisión política y voy a responder por ella”.

Morales explained: “In the midst of the culmination of the democratic process, we were alerted by our intelligence services of the arrival of group of Argentine montoneros in Peru. My decision, as chief of state, was that these persons be expelled. That was my political decision and I will respond for it.”

El general –incluido en una lista de 140 ciudadanos latinoamericanos denunciados por la justicia de Italia por la desaparición de 25 ciudadanos de ese país– indicó que su única acción fue haber ordenado la expulsión de los extranjeros por considerarlos de alta peligrosidad.

The general — included on a list of 140 Latin American citizens denounced in an Italian court for the disappearance of 25 Italian citizens — indicated that his only action was ordered the expulsion of the foreign citizens because they were considered dangerous.

NO ERA DEL GRUPO

Not a member of the group.

Morales Bermúdez negó que Perú haya tenido como política de Estado formar parte del Plan Cóndor –integrado por Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Brasil y Bolivia–, argumentando que durante su mandato (1975-1980) no había acciones terroristas, pues si bien Sendero Luminoso ya se estaba gestando, durante su gobierno no cometieron ningún acto subversivo.

Morales denied that Peru, as a matter of state policy, was part of the Condor plan — in which Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and Bolivia participated — arguing that during his administration (1975-1980) there were no terrorist activities, since, though the Sendero Luminoso movement was building, it committed no subversive acts during his term in office.

“Yo no podía tomar ninguna actitud contra Sendero desde el punto de vista físico, ni encarcelar a la gente ni menos desaparecer a la gente como se hacía en el sur, porque eran ideas y no había actos terroristas para tomar acciones de otro tipo”, refirió.

“I could take no action against the Shining Path from the physical point of view, nor jail anyone, much less disappear anyone, as was done in the South (in Argentine, Uruguay and Paraguay), because these were ideas and not terrorist acts that you could take that type of action against,” he said.

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Brazil: Will The Quango Tango Dance Advance?

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 30, 2007


“Investigation of Jack Abramoff’s Use of Tax-Exempt Organizations”

Time will tell whether the emergence of the quasi government is to be viewed as a symptom of decline in our democratic government, or a harbinger of a new, creative management era where the purportedly artificial barriers between the governmental and private sectors are breached as a matter of principle. — Kevin R. Kosar, “The Quasi Government: Hybrid Organizations with Both Government and Private Sector Legal Characteristics” (Congressional Research Service, February 13, 2007)

CPI das ONGs tenta acordo para retomar investigações: “Congressional probe of NGOs tries to reach a deal to restart investigations.”

A follow-up to

File under “QuaNGOs, accountability, effectiveness, and abuse of.”

Issue not mentioned here: The proposal to dedicate a portion of the inquiry to the actions of BINGOs — “big international NGOs.” Which is primarily what interests me, as a gringo taxpayer. What do my democracy-promotion tax dollars get spent on in faraway places, anyway?

Boicotada pelo governo, a CPI das ONGs vai tentar sobreviver em 2008 pelo acordo que o presidente e o relator da comissão, senadores Raimundo Colombo (DEM-SC) e Inácio Arruda (PC do B-CE), esperam formalizar no Senado. Eles vão pedir ao presidente da Casa, senador Garibaldi Alves (PMDB-RN), e aos líderes de todos os partidos que garantam o prosseguimento das investigações, sem a obstrução comandada por colegas da base aliada. Mesmo se a tática fracassar, Colombo e Arruda acreditam que terão condições de avançar nas apurações graças ao grande número de denúncias recebidas de todo o País. “Se eles não ajudarem a quebrar o impasse, vamos ter de fazê-lo na comissão mesmo”, anunciou Arruda.

Boycottd by the government, the CPI of the NGOs is going to try to survive in 2008 by means of an accord the president and relator of the commission of inquiry, Sen. Colombo (DEM-PFL, Santa Catarina and Inácio Arruda (PC do B, Ceará), expect to formalize in the Senate.

I find the statement that the government is “boycotting” the CPI a bit surprising — although I may be slightly behind the progress of events. The PC do B is a party of the government coalition, after all — it held the Tip O’Neill Memorial speakership of the last session of the Tupi lower house — and is reportedly negotiating the continuation of the probe into public-private partnerships with so-called OSCIPS — “public-interest civil society organizations.”

“Boycotting” means refusing to participate.

The Pakistani opposition is threatening to refuse to run candidates in the next election in which Gen. (Ret.) Musharraf gets 98% of the valid vote. If it makes good on that threat, it will be boycotting those elections.

Negotiating — “We will boycott unless our conditions are met” — is a form of participation, however. Threatening to boycott is not boycotting. Impasses occur when negotiations cease. If you ask me. And I do have a legitimate degree in thinkology from an accredited institution, and not the Wizard of Oz, you know. I have the sheepskin to prove it.

They are going to ask the presiding officer of the Senate, Alves, and the leaders of the political parties to let the investigations proceed, without the obstruction led by their colleagues from the government base. Even if the gambit fails, Colombo and Arruda believe they will have conditions to advance their probe tanks to the large number of charges laid in every part of Brazil. If they do not help to break the impasse, we are going to have to do it in the Commission itself,” said Arruda.

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O Tempora, O Mores: The Moral Seriousness of a Globo Soap

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 29, 2007

The image “http://duascaras.globo.com/Novela/Duascaras/Home/foto/0,,12114341,00.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
“Globo’s current prime time soap opera offers serious food for thought to corporate communicators.” Amara and Débora armam um barraco in a recent episode of Duas Caras, according to a caption to the scene published with a fotonovela version of the soap on Globo.com. Armar um barraco means “to set up a tent” but it is also a common euphemism for causing a man to have an erection. An erection of his penis — demotic PT-Br pinto, vara — that is, in case you were not familiar with the technical terminology there.

“… In truth, the soap opera depicts the international fashion for pole-dancing … Such themes [current fashions, inserted into works of fiction] are inevitable if one is to depict contemporary society, with the proviso, of course, that they be treated ethically and seriously, exactly as TV GLOBO is doing in its soap opera DUAS CARAS.”

According to the IABC report The Business of Truth: A Guide to Ethical Communication [$425 for non-members], nearly two-thirds of companies polled had no education or training on ethical issues and matters for their employees. The majority of the communications professional surveyed were in full agreement that ethical considerations were crucial to the executive decision making process, and that PR relations and communication professionals have a duty to advise senior management on ethical issues. But then there was also a significant disconnect between theory and practice: 65% of those surveyed received no formal ethics training whatsoever from their employers –PR News, December 29, 2007

Item: Você seria o comunicador de Ferraço?

Would you work as a flack for Globo soap-opera villain Marconi Ferraço? asks our corporate communications ethics consultant and trainer, who is eager to pick up the slack in the growing market for such training.

In a funny way, our corporate comunications consultant — he directs Hermes Comunicação Estratégica — and columnist Francisco Viana of Terra Magazine (Brazil) is doing just that here.

In what funny way?

By trying, with a straight face, to get me to believe in the moral seriousness of this epoch-making low in world trash TV.

On which see also

Globo has also made a concerted attempt to defend the program from humorless ratings bureaucrats by pointing to its moral seriousness.

Its arguments in this vein are insulting to the intelligence of lobotomized lab rats, much less to that of a minimally reflective naked ape.

File under our growing file on the “life imitates trash TV” topos, and open a new candidate maxim: Beware of consultants who endorse the Harvard case study method and then use Globo soap opera plots to build their casebook.

Viana worked as a Globo reporter from 1974-1981 before moving over to business consulting.

A cena se passa na festa de comemoração do 10.º aniversário da maior construtora do Rio de Janeiro, a 4.ª do país. Os convidados, todos elegantemente trajados, aplaudem com entusiasmo o presidente da construtora que anuncia uma trajetória de êxitos e, com ênfase à expansão – uma fábrica de cimento ao lado de uma favela !!! – e à harmonia entre a conquista do lucro e a ética, responsabilidade, honestidade. De repente, uma voz se ergue e grita:

The scene takes place at the tenth anniversary celebration of the biggest construction firm in Rio de Janeiro, the fourth largest in Brazil. The elegantly-dressed guests applaud the company’s president as he announces the firm’s successes and growth plans — a cement factory built alongside a shantytown– and the balance it strikes between profit and ethics, responsibility, honesty. Sudden a voice is raised, shouting:

- É mentira. É mentira… – Dedo em riste, a voz, uma jovem elegante e bela, avança resoluta e vai desfiando acusações de absoluta gravidade. O presidente da construtora não passa de um ladrão: roubou, há dez anos, todo o dinheiro que tinha, usa nome falso… É o caos. A denúncia explode como uma bomba. Seguranças são chamados, a jovem é retirada à força. O empresário, sem que os convidados percebam, ordena que a sua acusadora seja morta. E se mantém impassível. Aos convidados apresenta uma explicação simples e muito comum: a jovem é louca. E ele estaria sendo alvo de conspirações por parte de concorrentes.

“It’s a lie! A lie!” Finger held high, the owner of the voice, a lovely, elegant young woman, advances with determination and continues to make deadly serious accusations. The president of the construction firm is a common thief: Ten years ago, he stole all her money, he uses a false identity. Chaos ensues. The charges explode like a bomb. Security is called, the woman is forcibly removed. The businessman, without his guests noticing, orders his accuser killed. And maintains his poker face. To his guests, he offers a simple and very common explanation: The young woman is mentally disturbed. And he may be the target of conspiracy against him by his competitors.

A cerimônia prossegue num ambiente de tensão e dúvida. Seriam as acusações verdadeiras? Estaria o passado e seus fantasmas cobrando a fatura de crimes inconfessáveis?

The ceremony continues in a climate of tension and doubt. Could the accusations be true? Has the past and its closeted skeletons returned to collect a debt incurred by unspeakable crimes?

A cena é uma ficção. Faz parte de um dos últimos capítulos da novela Duas Caras, de Agnaldo Silva, mas serve de metáfora para o caráter das crises que podem levar corporações à mídia. Pergunta: você, como comunicador, aceitaria gerir a crise em que se envolveu o personagem em questão, o milionário empresário Ferraço, da novela?

The scene is fictional, from one of the latest installment of Agnaldo Silva’s soap opera Two Faces (Two Guys), but it serves as a metaphor for the kinds of crises that can land corporations in the media. A question, then: Would you, as a PR professional, accept the task of managing a crisis involving the soap opera character, Marconi Ferraço?

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Brazil: Anarchy In Alagoas, an Update

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 29, 2007

http://www.adorocinemabrasileiro.com.br/filmes/homem-da-capa-preta/homem-da-capa-preta-poster01.jpg
Debut feature by Sergio Rezende (1986) told the story of a real-life populist politician famous for walking around extravagantly, as they say in Brooklyn and Chicago, strapped.

Alagoas 24 Horas (Brazil) reports on the arrest of police accused of involvement in a death squad that murdered the son of a reputed pistoleiro in the northeastern state.

See also

Commenting on the story, reader Pelópidas Argolo illustrates a certain obtuseness about the concept of due process of law:

Grupo de extermínio? Se, realmente extermina marginais, tudo bem…mas, se extermina homens de bem, cadeia neles.

Death squad? If they are really exterminating “marginals,” then fine. But if they are exterminating upstanding people, then throw ‘em in jail!

Em entrevista coletiva, realizada na tarde desta sexta-feira, na sede da Polícia Civil, em Jararecica, o delegado Geral da instituição, Carlos Alberto Reis e os delegados que investigam o assassinato do estudante Diego Ramires Pinheiro – filho de Fernandes Fidélis – prestaram esclarecimentos à imprensa em relação a prisão de três acusados de integrar um grupo de extermínio que atua no Estado.

In a press conference held Friday at police headquarters in Jacarecica, state police chief Carlos Alberto Reis and the police investigators working the murder of student Diego Ramires Pinheiro — the son of Fernando Fidélis — answered press questions about the arrest of three men accused of belonging to a death squad in Alagoas.

Diego had been accused of a murder himself.

A federal lawmaker, Chico Tenório (PMN), has been indicted on charges of ordering the murders of Fidélis and Chico Belem, his driver and bodyguard, in 2005.

Alagoas em Tempo Real, November 28, 2007, on the indictment:

Tanto Cícero Belém quanto Fernando Fidélis eram investigados pela Polícia Federal como integrantes do crime organizado em Alagoas, e uma semana antes de morrer, Belém iria prestar um depoimento ao juiz Durval Mendonça Júnior sobre as atividades criminosas no Estado.

Both Cícero Belém and Fernando Fidélis were under investigation by federal police as members of organized crime, and a week before his death, Belém was to give a statement to Judge Mendonça about crime in the state.

The incident generated a so-called “War of the Police,” with murders left and right of mob-tied policemen and other potential witnesses, such as the sons of the original victims — generally attributed to “shredding of documents.”

Tenório (PMN) is a former police delegado. The newspapers seem reluctant to write much about him.

At the same time, a decades-old old crime was also laid at the lawmaker’s doorstep by a former police colonel recently sentenced to 27 years for a series of assassinations (ibid., November 29):

O ex-tenente-coronel Manoel Cavalcante disse agora há pouco em depoimento à Justiça que o deputado federal Francisco Tenório (PMN) foi quem mandou matar o cacique Íbis Menino, da tribo Wassu, de Joaquim Gomes. O crime ocorreu no final da década de 80; o cacique, que exercia liderança política na região Norte do Estado e se destacava no movimento indígena, foi assassinado depois de ter sido parado numa falsa blitz da polícia. O crime era um dos que estavam no rol da impunidade, até a revelação de Cavalcante apontando o mandante.

Former Lt. Col. Manoel Cavalcante said just now in testimony before the court that federal deputy Tenório (PMN) was the one who ordered the killing of Chief Íbis Menino of the Wassu tribe in Joaquim Gomes. The crime occurred in the late 1980s. The chief, who wielded political power in the northern part of the state and was a notable leader of the indigenous movement, was murdered after being detained during a false police raid. The crime had figured on lists of cases of impunity until Calvacante made his charge.

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Prêt-a-Portinari: São Paulo Museum Struggles to Fill in the Negative Space

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 29, 2007

http://ritualcafe.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/lavrador-de-cafe.jpg?w=241&h=304
O Lavrador de café (1934), by Cândido Portinari: This iconic portrait of a migrant laborer has hit the Great Sino-Paraguayan Silk Road and left no forwarding address.

“We do not have access to the total amount of the museum’s debt. The government cannot support an indebted institution. The museum’s security system was debilitated and compromised. Investment is required to cure this situation.” Bianchi said that MASP’s 2007 accounting statements, requested by the prosecutor, were not presented at the Friday meeting as requested. Despite denying that state funds would be provided, Bianchi also stated that such a step was, in fact, necessary.

Para especialistas, governo precisa administrar o Masp: The Niemeyer-designed Art Museum of São Paulo made the news recently when a gang of art thieves waltzed in and snatched two paintings: A Picasso and an iconic Portinari portrait of a coffee-worker in the school of Thomas Hart Benton.

As the media spotlight turned to the museum, it also emerged that the cultural institution is reportedly R$100 million in debt. A proposal earlier this was to permit the construction of a some kind of transmission tower atop the landmark building — cellular or microwave repeater, I think, but I forget — to provide additional operating revenue. This provoked loud shrieks from architectural purists.

(Remember that episode of The Simpsons in which our favorite Springfieldians get into debt and are forced to let a cellular company install a transmission tower atop their home?)

G1 reports that “specialists” want the government to take over running the musuem, while state prosecutors summon museum management to explain where all the money got to.

This should make an interesting case to read alongside the administrative innovations at the Guggenheim chronicled by Paul Warner in Museum, Inc.

A similar crisis hit INCOR — a cardiology hospital famous throughout Latin America — last year when it was suddenly unable to meet its payroll.

G1 is citing state officials as denying — sort of — that the state will bail out the institution while leaving the current management in place.

O presidente do Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Masp), Júlio Neves, participa de uma reunião no Ministério Público Estadual (MPE) nesta sexta-feira (28). Ele foi intimado pela promotora Mariza Schiavo Tucunduva para discutir a situação financeira do museu, segundo informou a assessoria de imprensa do MPE. Também poderá ser discutido uma forma de o governo do estado passar a auxiliar a instituição.

The president of MASP, Júlio Neves, is meeting today (Decembeer 28) with the state Public Ministry (MPE). He was summoned by prosecutor Mariza Schiavo Tucunduva to discuss the financial condition of the museum, according to the MPE press office. Also on the agenda may be some way for the state government to come to the institution’s aid.

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Thailand: Crusading Media Mogul Mocked! Pravda Plagiarizes Wikipedia!

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 29, 2007

http://www.manager.co.th/asp-bin/Image.aspx?ID=586742
Blowback? “Uncertainty clouds future of” Sondhi’s flagship Anglophone Asian “innovation journalism” title and “this is not a strategic content alliance” Times-Mirror business partner, August 2006. Its reporting on “The Finland Plot” make us think the paper is something of a Southeast Asian
Veja (Brazil).

In such a “me or them” national atmosphere, there are two extremely opposite scenarios to ponder. One is of a valiant media up against a corrupt, powerful leader who manages to twist, distort and manipulate in order to make himself look like a victim. The other involves a malicious, powerful and self-pitying media that manages to twist, distort and manipulate in a bid to overthrow a democratically elected leader while making itself look like a victim.The Nation (Thailand), May 3, 2006.

This new strategy, he said, is also in line with the PAD’s overall goals, which are to hold rallies and get people all worked up in the name of democracy. Chamlong Srimuang said he would lead his cult of vegetarian virgins in the march. “I will march with Sondhi and then I will hold a sit-in demanding he leave the country.”

Stealth marketing harms, I argue, by degrading public discourse and undermining the public’s trust in mediated communication. Doubt that an editor has an authentic voice leads to an overgeneralization of distrust as audiences come to believe that mediated speech is inauthentic or untrue even when it is not. The law of bribery as well as public discourse theory helps to show how such distrust corrupts the kind of communicative public sphere that a democracy needs. –See “Stealth Marketing and Editorial Integrity”

Sondhi Limthongkul Makes Stunning Return, Declaring New Target: Himself : A bit of post-USENET humor from soc.culture.thai, with the following caveat:

SOURCE:NOTTHENATION

The Nation is the Bangkok daily whose editorial page guardedly backed the coup that removed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra — “corrupt media mogul,” as The Times of London branded him — in September 2006, but now thinks better of it.

Very reminiscent of the 1960s-era Estado de S. Paulo, which called for the armed forces to depose Jango Goulart, then suffered censorship when it changed its mind, and somehow emerged from the period with the reputation of always having been a courageous champion of democracy.

Attributing the story to NOT THE NATION is a tip-off that the authors are engaged in satire and parody. That is to say, they are kidding. The following is a bit of black humor. You got that, right? Imagine this running under a caricature of Limthongkul as Alfred E. Neuman.

BANGKOK, NOVEMBER 29, 2007 – Desperate to revive the sagging fortunes of his Manager Media and to return to the spotlight during the election run-up, controversial journalist Sondhi Limthongkul branded himself a “liar” and “traitor” yesterday in a stunning press conference at his Baan Phra Athit headquarters.

Lithongkul was sentenced to three years in prison last week in a slander suit over reporting in The Manager and other media vehicles he controls on the so-called “Finland conspiracy.” See

Pravda (Russia) meanwhile, reports that Thaksin will be arrested if he returns to Thailand, “officials say.” The article is largely plagiarized, verbatim, from Wikipedia — even though it states that the source of the story was the Associated Press.

The brilliant self-promoter called for his own resignation and exile and said that he would hold a massive rally a week before the election if his demands were not met.

Will Reporters Without Borders afford Sondhi the same treatment as a World Hero of Freedom of Expression it afforded Marcel Granier of RCTV in Venezuela? See

Limthongkul’s case is far probably more deserving of such attention than Granier’s was.

Criminal, rather than civil, libel as a routine way for government authorities to respond to disinformation is a slippery slope of Aspen-like proportions. Which is why we have the Sullivan (“actual malice”) standard back there in Gringoland.

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Thailand: “Crusading Media Mogul Jailed For Publishing Nonexistent Facts”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 29, 2007

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Gratuitious argumentum ad Nazium (creative synergies with Buddhist visions of Hell): Sondhi-powered anti-Thaksin rally, March 2006

“Newspapers are like revolvers: You keep them around so you can pull them out when it’s time to open fire.” — Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Colombian media owner; see “A Newspaper is Like a Gun”: Armed Media Monopolist No. 47

Though Limthongkul was not affiliated with the coup, he had been personally affected by the government when his television show was cancelled due to his criticism of the prime minister. –The Daily Bruin (UCLA)

On February 4 of last year, Thaksin said he would resign if His Majesty whispered in his ear. That evening, Sondhi thundered from his rally stage, “Where is the army? This talk is enough to bring [Thaksin] to the execution post.” The Nation (Bangkok)

Thai media magnate jailed for libeling ex-premier Thaksin (Monsters and Critics).

See also

Bangkok – A feisty Thai media magnate was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison for libeling exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, two days after a pro-Thaksin party won the most seats in a parliamentary election.

The “Finland conspiracy” has been officially declared a gabbling ratfink.

Sondhi Limthongkul, owner of the Manager newspaper and founder of the defunct Asia Times, had been sued for claiming, through his newspapers, that Thaksin had plotted to overthrow the Thai monarchy.

The Manager was a Time-Mirror distribution partner for the International Herald Tribune.

A series of articles in the Manager Daily claimed in May 2006 that Thaksin had conspired with former student leaders, during meetings in Finland, to establish a democratic republic.

Thaksin hotly denied he is either a democrat or a republican.

Thaksin fiercely denied the allegations and sued. Sondhi claimed Thaksin was attempting to silence the press.

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Rio: “Batman Planned to Whack Commissioner Gordon”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 29, 2007

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The image “http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/bat2.png?t=1184511395” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Bat macumba oba: The Batman shield marks protected homes and businesses in Rio’s Western District — and the campaign advertising of two local candidates.

Draco (the organized crime division) investigations revealed that the miitia operates in at least five Western Zone communities, and has for at least eight years.

Polícia afirma que integrantes de milícia comandada por vereador planejavam assassinar delegado: O Globo reports that the city councilman arrested for involvement in militias and organized crime this week was allegedly planning to have the state judicial police official in charge of the Polinter prison facility, er, whacked out. As we say in Brooklyn.

RIO – O chefe de Polícia Civil, delegado Gilberto Ribeiro, afirmou que integrantes da milícia que seria chefiada pelo vereador Jerônimo Guimarães (PMDB), o Jerominho, preso na quarta-feira na Operação Latifúndio , teriam se reunido para planejar um atentado contra o delegado Herald Espínola Filho, da Polinter. O crime seria em represália à transferência do inspetor André Malvar, que estava preso no Ponto Zero, em Campo Grande.

The chief of the state judicial police of Rio de Janeiro, Gilberto Ribeiro, said that members of the militia alleged headed by city councilman Jerônimo Guimarães (PMDB), known as Jerominho, arrested Wednesday as part of Operation Latifúndio, met to plan an attack on police official Herald Espinola Filha of Polinter. The crime was allegedly to be a reprisal for the transfer of Inspector André Malvar, imprisoned at Ponto Zero in Campo Grande.

On Jerominho and Nadinho, another city councilmember arrested on militia-related charges, see

Alvar is accused of helping to assassinate police inspector Tostes on Nadinho’s orders. See

A mudança evitou o plano de fuga do policial e transformou Herald em alvo do grupo. De acordo com reportagem publicada nesta quinta-feira pelo jornal ‘O Globo’, o secretário de Segurança, José Mariano Beltrame, confirmou a descoberta do plano, mas ressaltou que a Operação Latifúndio não foi deflagrada em retaliação ao plano.

The transfer foiled an escape plane and turned Herald into a target of the group. According to a report in Thursday’s O Dia, the state security secretar, Beltrame, has confirmed the discovery of the plan, but emphasized that Latifundio was not conducted as a response to that discovery.

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Foreign Corrupt Practices and The Dream Factory: Recent Cases in Point

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 28, 2007

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/images/04/31/bangkok_film_fest_poster.jpg

Yet Another FCPA Matter — This Time It’s Lucent: The White-Collar Crime Prof also notes a trend toward more vigorous enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

On Lucent-Alcatel, see also

I am interested in Latin American cases of this kind, as you know. See, for example,

Cases involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are clearly on the rise. This time it involves a settlement with Lucent Technologies, Inc. The company will be paying a fine of one million dollars to resolve FCPA allegations. What is happening with these settlements is that the contours of what is permitted expenses and what will not be tolerated are coming to light. Companies are finding out the hard way, that it is better to err on the side of not paying sums that might in any way be considered bribery to a foreign official.

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Rio: More War on Armed Cable TV Monopoly

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 28, 2007


Anatel techs watch GatoNet at the scene of an earlier bust of this type. Did death threats to anyone wishing to switch cable providers guarantee 100% market share? And you thought Time Warner Cable was bad.

Polícia Federal desativa central clandestina de TV a cabo na Baixada Fluminense: Federal Police deactivate a pirate cable TV operation in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro state. Agência Brasil reports.

Given that such operations, known as GatoNet — hooking up illegally to the electricity or some other sort of metered grid is known colloquially as “yanking a cat” (puxando um gato) — tend to be associated with the “militia” protection rackets run by police and firemen, the war on GatoNet seems to be a roundabout way of making a federal case out of the problem of the Comando Azul — “the cops are criminals,” in other words.

Nine such centers were shut down in the Rio de Janeiro last week, and a city councilman was arrested in connection with militia activity, gambling and other illicit business activities.

See also

Imagine discovering your city councilmember — our Tish James in Brooklyn, for example — lived a secret life as a caped crusader known as Batman, in the company of other parapoliticians known as The Justice League. And that Wonder Woman turned out to be a cafetina.

One Rio militia group demonstrated a degree of what seems like serious chutzpah in the face of such developments by inaugurating a new gambling joint in time for Christmas:

Rio de Janeiro – Agentes da Polícia Federal no Rio de Janeiro promoveram hoje (27) uma operação contra a distribuição irregular de televisão a cabo na Baixada Fluminense, atividade ilícita conhecida como “Gato-Net”. Na região do Parque São José, em Belford Roxo (RJ), foi encontrada uma central clandestina de TV a cabo, com grande quantidade de fios e aparelhos de distribuição de sinais, além de ligações irregulares de cabos com postes de rua.

Federal police aggents ran an operation against irregular distribution of cable TV in the Baixada Fluminense, an illegal activity known as GatoNet. A clandestine cable TV center was discovered in Parque São Jose, in Belford Roxo, with a large quanity of wire and signal-distribution equipment, as well as irregular cable-hookups strung along poles on the street.

Técnicos da Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações (Anatel) acompanharam os agentes da Polícia Federal durante a operação, que contou também com o apoio da Corregedoria da Polícia Militar do Rio de Janeiro. Segundo a PM, existem suspeitas de que policiais militares estariam envolvidos na montagem da central clandestina, mas nenhum criminoso foi encontrado no local.

Technicians from ANATEL (the Brazilian FCC, sort of) accompanied federal agens on the raid, which was supported by the internal affairs department of the state military police. According to the military police, there are suspicions that military policemen might be involved in setting up the GatoNet center, though no criminals were found at the location.

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Nassif the Thief: “Editor-Shill Bodes Ill for Abril”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 28, 2007

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“Past, present and future”: Veja this week returns to defending its treatment of the Brazilian Clearstream II-style dossier — or as the local reference has it, the “return of the Caymans dossier” — in 2006

Stooge/Shill/Stick: Audience member who is actually planted as part of the act and who acts in a cooperative manner. Magic School glossary of terms used by magicians and illusionists

Luis Nassif comments on on this week’s Veja magazine, in which Veja produces a slightly new justification for its alleged journalistic due diligence on the Dantas dossier, which federal police have now reportedly concluded was as phony as the type of “reality TV” practiced by Ratinho.

See

See also what I suspect is a preemptive effort at damage control on this story:

Nassif also claims that someone signing the name of Veja editor (publisher?) Euripides Alcântara left the following comment on a previous post criticizing Veja on this subject. Rough translation.

turco ladrao, cara de rato, roubou o proprio cunhado e tenta arrastar as pessoas honestas para sua vala de bestas. cuidado comigo, turco ladrao, mascate, cara de rato..tu nao me conheces cuidado…filho da puta, ladrtao de cunhado. influencia sobre mim ninguem tem… seu rato. cuidado. conheco sua fuca. vou jogar uma taca de vinho( do bom) na sua cara….rato,mascate, ladrao, filho da puta, ladrao de cunhado…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ladrao de cunhado !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You thieving Ay-rab, you rat-face, you stole from your own brother-in-law and try to drag honest persons down into the same pigsty you inhabit. Be careful with me, you thieving Ay-rab, traveling saleman, ratface. You don’t know me. Watch out. Son of a bitch. Stealing from your brother-in-law. No one has influence over me. You rat. Watch out. I know what your rat-snout looks like. I am going to throw a glass of (good) wine in your face. Rat, traveling salesman, thief, son of a bitch …

And so on.

Nassif, like Carlos Slim — his name is an alternate transliteration of salim, not an homage to the great bluesman Memphis Slim — is of Syrian-Lebanese extraction — of which there is a very substantial community of long date here in Brazil. (São Paulo, because of its ethnic mix, often strongly reminds me of a sort of huge Lusophone Brooklyn, except with capyvaras, quite a bit more random, jaw-dropping ultraviolence, and a complete lack of any urban planning whatsoever.)

There are some just astonishingly good Syrian restaurants here, esfihas are a popular snack, and the Habib’s chain represents the fast-food version of that significant cultural presence. Paulo Salim Maluf and the Rio bicheiro known as O Turcão represent the integration of the community into some of the less desirable local traditions, but the standard caveat applies: The Italian-American community may have produced a Capone, Lucchese or Gotti or two, but it also produced the likes of the immortal Joltin’ Joe Di Maggio.

Arabs here are historically associated with the traveling salesman [mascate] trade commonly engaged in by the first immigrants from that part of the world in the late 19th century. (I actually once translated a book on the subject — from Arabic, believe it or not.) Sort of the same role played by the Sears catalogue in bringing the trappings of civilization to the far-flung settlements of continental expansion.

The comment bears the name of the Veja editor, but Nassif does not establish that he actually wrote it, rather than, say, someone else signing his name to it. Turco is not quite as insulting as the ugly invective you hear in redneck circles, “sand nigger,” but it is pretty insulting and demeaning, I think, when pronounced in this tone of voice. I would never use it with someone of Arab descent unless I knew them well enough to engage in jocular verbal rough-housing with them. (I was fairly astonished myself at a business meeting recently when someone I had just met employed some fair crude gringo humor at my expense.)

When the Orkut community of the lefty monthly Caros Amigos was 0wned last year — the moderator had their password stolen, were locked out, and the new 0wner erased its accumulated content in favor of crude propaganda — the message left by the black-hat hackers was something like VEJA IS THE BEST MAGAZINE IN BRAZIL! IT’S LIKE MAGIC!

So there are other cases on the record of Net warriors who at least claim to act on behalf of Veja, and Veja has not taken any concrete steps that I have seen to disassociate itself from the use of its name in Brook Bros. Riot Squad, crude black-hat hacking and noise-machine tactics as a means of ratfink business competition. See

Symbolic violence, moral panic and Grand Theft Auto-style crude mayhem are Veja‘s principal, overarching rhetorical stocks in trade. The similarities in this respect with the “anti-Thaksinonomics” moral panic campaign of Sondhi and the Manager Group (not a “content ally” of the International Herald Tribune, despite their joint distribution deal) in Thailand are striking, I think. See

For some of the back story on the ongoing Nassif-Veja rhetorical cage-match, see also

The recently published Veja article Nassif is commenting on here has been translated (hastily) by me here:

I am going to translate, and then try to fact-check the claims being made here. Nassif says he will not present the evidence for the accusation he is making until after the New Year.

I regularly read the blogging Nassif, and would likely pay money to read a business publication edited by the guy. He tends to practice what he preaches, which is pretty much standard U. Mizzou “service journalism,” with all its standard vices and virtues (but mainly virtues, I tend to think.) I refuse to pay good money for anything published by the Editora Abril. If you want to get a useful read on reality-based conservative political opinion here, you are better off looking to publications less thoroughly dominated by gabbling Moonies. IMHO.

Nassif writes:

Repito o que escrevi durante a semana. O contato de Veja com Daniel Dantas era e é o diretor de redação Eurípedes Alcântara.

I repeat what I wrote during the week. Veja‘s contact with Daniel Dantas was, and continues to be, [publisher] Eurípedes Alcântara.

I think diretor da redação is equivalent to our “publisher,” but I am not yet completely straight on how Brazilian publications are (dis)organized.

Durante dois anos pelo menos há inúmeras evidências de que Veja foi instrumento ativo nas disputas empresariais e jurídicas do empresário. E continua nesse jogo, apesar de manobras de despiste, como essa matéria – só agora publicada, depois do fato ter ocorrido e do Blog ter chamado a atenção para as ligações entre Eurípedes e Dantas.

For at least two years, there have been numerous signs that Veja was an active instrument in Dantas’ business and legal disputes. It continues to play this game, despite maneuvers to throw us off the trail, such as this article — published only now, after the fact, and after my blog post calling attention to the ties between Alcântara and Dantas.

A estratégia do do diretor de redação consiste em atacar Dantas em questões acessórias, para melhor poder apoiá-lo em temas essenciais, como a repercussão que deu a esse caso da intérprete. Depois, cercar-se de guarda-costas que atuam como fogo de barreira, para desviar o foco dele. No caso do falso dossiê, foi obrigada a revelar a fonte, porque, depois de apurada a falsificação, não havia como fugir ao tema. Mas o fez da forma mais dúbia possível.

The editor’s strategy consists in attacking Dantas on side issues in order to better support him on essential ones, such as the repercussion it gave this case of the translator.

The case of the translator refers to an “exclusive interview” given by a purported Italian translator to Consultor Jurídico which tends to support the theory that Dantas was framed by Telecom Italia on the industrial espionage charges he faces in criminal court.

A weird, weird incident, that. Consultor Jurídico (a legal-affairs publication of the Estado group) seems to have been hijacked by gabbling Moonies. The interview subject could not be reached for follow-up questioning by any other reporters. I will try to translate some of that later.

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Beware of Hoaxsters and Jokesters: On First Looking Into “A Handook of Reuters Journalism”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 28, 2007

http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/Stuff/tribunefoon.png?t=1198854749

The Reuters-killing National Tribune: “Coming soon.”

Independence is the essence of our reputation as a “stateless” global news organisation and fundamental to the trust that allows us to report impartially from all sides of a conflict or dispute. It is crucial to our ability to report on companies, institutions and individuals in the financial markets, many of whom are also our customers, without regard for anything other than accuracy, balance and the truth. Our independence stems not only from the structure of Reuters but also from our duty as journalists to avoid conflicts of interest or situations that could give rise to a perception of a conflict. … –“A handbook of Reuters journalism”

The age of ethics is over. The era of humanism is definitively dead. We are entering the age of pragmatism, or worse, of casuistry, which is pragmatism’s degenerate form. In short: An age of off-the-rack morality, of ideological pickpockets. –Millôr Fernandes (Brazil), The Bible of Chaos

I have been having a thorough read of “A handbook or Reuters journalism.”

It is a well-written document, but has one really odd feature: Repeated cross-references to a section called ATTENTION EDITOR ITEMS, HOAXES AND LEGAL DANGERS.

There is no section in the document by that title.

If you run a search on that phrase in the PDF file of the manual, you are likely to conclude that this is a cross-reference to a section that does not exist.

There is, however, a section entitled “Legal dangers, attention editor items and hoaxes” on page 352. The manual, which addresses how to avoid failures of editorial quality controls, could itself apparently use a good copyedit.

The reform of the editorial guidelines was a project overseen by Paul Holmes. As I noted in Mao-Mobbing ‘The Mouth of the South’

Paul Holmes is Worldwide General Editor of Political and General News at Reuters, in charge of reforming its editorial standards and practices, and a former Jerusalem bureau chief.

That was true at the time, but no longer is. Holmes was replaced in the last year or so (actually, today is the one-year anniversary of my noticing the announcement, though I noticed it quite some time after the fact) by David Schlesinger. See

Even so, Holmes’ preface to Reuters’ handbook is still in circulation.

It is a curious statement which seems to imply that all of the principles developed in the 388 pages that follow are mere suggestions.

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Dantas’ Inferno: “Veja Vindicated!”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 27, 2007

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Snippet of the “Dantas-Holder” dossier as it ran in Veja.

Brazilian political and economic commentators perform their analyses before the fact. Before they know that it actually happened, they have an explanation for it. They present opinion divorced from information. –Ricardo Kaufmann (See O Globo: “Chávez Won the Referendum Because He Manipulated the System!”)

[Veja's claim, that it could neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the claim] is not a joke, it is an epitaph. A journalistic death certificate. A negative conclusion would have made this a non-story, destined for the roundfile. But this is not even that. It is a mere suspicion raised by a highly suspect source which, despite “six months of investigation,” is just as flimsy as before the supposed investigation began. –Alberto Dines

Absence of evidence in not evidence of absence –Donald Rumsfeld, on Saddamist weapons of mass distraction

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence –Carl Sagan

Reuters aims to report the facts, not rumours. Clients rely on us to differentiate between fact and rumour, and our reputation rests partly on that. –“A handbook of Reuters journalism”

J.J. Rendón, psychologist, publicist, with a degree in ontopsychology, who managed the presidential campaign of Carlos Andres Pérez, backed this theory by reaffirming that these are the two basic and necessary conditions that a rumor catches hold in the mind of the people: First, the subject of the story must have a certain level of importance so that it is repeated by he who hears it, and next, the facts must be dressed in a certain amount of ambiguity.”Revista Latinoamericana de Comunicación Social, April 2001

Sometimes it is reasonable to argue from a lack of evidence for a proposition to the falsity of that proposition, when there is a presumption that the proposition is false. For instance, in American criminal law there is a presumption of innocence, which means that the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and if the prosecution fails to provide evidence of guilt then the jury must conclude that the defendant is innocent. Similarly, the burden of proof is usually on a person making a new or improbable claim, and the presumption may be that such a claim is false. For instance, suppose that I claim that I was taken by flying saucer to another planet, but when challenged I can supply no evidence of this unusual trip. It would not be an Appeal to Ignorance for you to reason that, since there is no evidence that I visited another planet, therefore I probably didn’t do so. –The Fallacy Files, Argumentum ad ignorantiam

From the Ministério do Planejamento (Brazil) clippings page today: Veja magazine this week once again asks us to applaud its courageous, rigorous and exemplary reporting in running a May 17, 2006 story on a “dossier” purporting to show that senior government officials had offshore bank accounts, allegedly stuffed with bribe money.

It claims credit for helping the federal police break the case, and adds one piece of new information about its actions in the case:

  1. Dantas had asked for, and received, anonymity as the source of the dossier, in exchange for providing it.
  2. Veja then wisely and courageously, in a spirit of civic-mindedness, reneged on that promise by
  3. Giving (sworn?) statements to the federal police as to Dantas’ authorship of the dossier

On what theory was Dantas guaranteed anonymity in the first place, I wonder?

Reuters, for example, has very careful procedures for publishing information from single, anonymous sources.

Use named sources wherever possible because they are responsible for the
information they provide, even though we remain liable for accuracy, balance and
legal dangers. Press your sources to go on the record. … Reuters will publish news from a single, anonymous source in exceptional cases, when it is credible information from a trusted source with direct knowledge of the situation. Single-source stories are subject to a special authorisation procedure.

Why?

Anonymous sources are the weakest sources. … Stories based on anonymous sources require particularly rigorous cross-checking. We should normally have two or three sources for such information.

Veja cites one independent source for its conclusion that ” it cannot be ruled out conclusively that the dossier might contain accurate information.”

That source is anonymous, was hired — by Veja‘s own account — by Veja to do the examination, and is not quoted on the record. Nor are the results of the examination Veja commissioned published.

We are not allowed to assess the credibility of Veja‘s only corroborating source on the Dantas fairy tale or know the facts on which Veja based its interpretation of his or her findings.

Veja states that it finds the expert’s findings “inconclusive,” but does not produce the expert to confirm and validate its interpretation of his or her findings.

It puts words into that expert’s mouth but does not identify the expert, or produce him or her to verify that Veja is reporting the results of his or her analysis accurately.

As the Reuters manual points out:

We aim to show, not tell. The reader should judge people with the facts and quotes we supply, not our interpretations.

Note to persecuted whistleblowers of the future: Veja makes promises to anonymous sources that it does not keep. Veja will snitch you out in a New York minute. Unless it is paying you to tell it what it wants to hear.

See also

A subhead accompanying Diogo Mainardi’s interview with Dantas in the same issue, however, made the following statement: “This man could bring down the government if he told what he knows.”

It also stated, in its May 24, 2006 issue, that while it could not confirm the authenticity of the dossier, or the accuracy of the factual claims it embodied, it found Dantas’ story plausible. My translation:

Using all legal means, VEJA tried to confirm the veracity of the material handed over by Manzano [and compiled with Frank Holder, with whom they met in Zurich.] Submitted to examination by an expert hired by the magazine, the material presented numerous inconsistencies, but none of them sufficiently strong to completely eliminate the possibility that the papers contained true information. … The magazine made it clear that it could not prove the authenticity of these papers, which could all be a fraud. Even so, it is difficult to believe that the banker would have spent so much time and money to hire and equip international spies only to come away with a bunch of phantom documents.

Which is part of the reason why the latest revised version of Veja‘s apologia pro leak journalism suo is so laughable … and utterly contemptible.

Em maio de 2006, VEJA revelou que o banqueiro Daniel Dantas, dono do Opportunity, tinha em mãos uma lista com contas bancárias supostamente mantidas no exterior por figurões da República. Encomendada por Dantas ao americano Frank Holder, ex-espião da agência de investigações Kroll, ela seria uma evidência do enriquecimento ilícito das autoridades nela mencionadas – inclusive o próprio presidente Lula. A reportagem de VEJA teve acesso à lista, sob a condição de que o nome de Dantas não fosse divulgado. Uma perícia contratada pela revista revelou, no entanto, diversas inconsistências no material, que tornaram impossível comprovar cabalmente a inexistência das contas sem ao mesmo tempo desmentir sua existência.

In May 2006, VEJA revealed that banker Daniel Dantas, owner of Opportunity, had in his possession a list of bank accounts supposedly maintained outside Brazil by senior public officials. Commissioned by Dantas from the American Frank Holder, a former spy for the Kroll investigative agency, it supposedly showed that the authorities listed there were illegally enriching themselves — including President Lula.

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Fujimori: “I Was Not Responsible”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 27, 2007


Fujimori explains the Chavin de Huantar operation on Peruvian TV, portraying the tactical plan as his personal brainchild. Garcia’s current vice-president, Adm. Gianpietri, was among the hostages
rescued.

La República (Lima) reports:

Fujimori responsabiliza a Fuerzas Armadas de violaciones a DDHH

“Fujimori blames Armed Forces for human rights violations.”

La República is not a very big fan of Fujimori. It says Vladimiro Montesinos is still trying to spread rumors that it, too, took tons of money to ratink Fujimori’s political enemies and spread gabbling disinformation and propaganda.

It vigorously rejects that charge and reproduces coverage that was extremely critical of Fujimori during the period in question. See

Its courtroom coverage of the former President’s trial continues:

El procesado Alberto Fujimori responsabilizó ayer a las Fuerzas Armadas y a su asesor, Vladimiro Montesinos, de los asesinatos, desapariciones forzadas y ejecuciones extrajudiciales que se produjeron en el marco de la lucha antiterrorista.

Defendant Fujimori yesterday blamed the Armed Forces and his aide, Vladimiro Montesinos, for the murders, forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions that took place during the war on terrorism.

Sin embargo, el presidente de la Sala Penal Especial de la Corte Suprema, César San Martín Castro, a cargo del juicio por los casos Barrios Altos y La Cantuta, le hizo ver que esa versión tenía vacíos e incoherencias por lo que pidió le hiciera una serie de aclaraciones.

However, the presiding justice of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division, San Martín Castro, which is in charge of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta cases, caused him to see that this version has incoherencies and lacunae, asking him for a series of clarifications.

Entonces, Fujimori no supo qué contestar y cayó en serias contradicciones. Así, después de decir en las anteriores audiencias que Montesinos fue pieza clave en su gobierno y en la guerra contra el terrorismo, ahora dijo que no era así.

At that point, Fujimori was unable to respond and fell into serious contradictions. For example, after saying in previous sessions that Montesinos was a key man in his government and in the war on terrorism, he know says that was not the case.

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“The Ukrainian News Media Thrived on Bribes”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 27, 2007

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5TV (Ukraine): News anchor leads “we cannot be bought campaign” that proposes naming every journalist and editorial manager who was bought during the last election.

Beyond the obvious, such as the cardinal sin of plagiarism, the dishonesty of fabrication or the immorality of bribe-taking, journalism is a profession that has to be governed by ethical guiding principles rather than by rigid rules. The former liberate, and lead to better journalism. The latter constrain, and restrict our ability to operate. –Paul Holmes, Global Editor, Reuters, “A handbook of Reuters journalism” (388 pp. of guiding principles rather than rules)

Saprang Kallayanamitr* who is now assistant Secretary-General of the Council for National Security (ie the coup leaders’ new Quango) is reported as saying the following: “I suspect certain media outlets were paid to print Thaksin’s pictures in order to give him undue publicity”Bangkok Pundit, November 22, 2007

Item: Ukraine’s Journalists Fight to Save Image After Bribe Claims.

Source: Deutsche Welle | 13.12.2007

Vladimiro Montesinos is reportedly alive and well and buying up cheap property near Chernobyl.

Under the motto “We can’t be bought,” television journalists in Ukraine are fighting for change after some broadcasters succumbed to bribes from politicians during the last elections.

The television journalists in question work for a station owned by a former member of the government who formerly used his gazillion-jigawatt megaphone to root for the other team.

In other words, “We cannot be bought, because we already belong to the Chocolate King”?

In the 2003 study by the Institute for Public Relations on the probability that journalists would accept bribes for coverage, Ukraine ranked 19th, along with Taiwan, Mexico, and Argentina.

It receieved an assigned index of 2.75 on a scale of 5 (where 5 means low probability that journalists and editors can be bribed.)

Brazil ranked 14th, tied with Hungary and just above South Korea, with a score of 3.25.

(A similar campaign against corrupt journalistic practices emerge in South Korea about a decade ago. Reading up on that.)

But some of the scores Brazil received (4 out of 5 on accountability, 5 on professional codes of standards and practices, and most astonishingly, a 4 on the scale of “high adult literacy”) seem laughably inflated to me. The values were assigned by respondents who self-reported.

The Brazilian news media constantly cites a functional illiteracy rate of 60%, for example — though God only knows where they get their numbers. Brazil’s college-graduation rate is <5%. Canada: 40%.

On the quality of Brazilian codes of professional standards and practices, see

Brazil would have scored much higher had it not been for its score on “perception of comprehensive corruption laws with effective enforcement.” Which was zero. I imagine that score would be higher now.

Just as they did three years ago during the so-called Orange Revolution, Ukrainian journalists are once again out to save their profession’s reputation.

What blow did the profession’s reputation receive during the Orange Revolution? I am not up on that story.

How many of the allegedly offending news organizations belong to the U.S. government-funded Ukrainian Media Partnership Program (UMPP), I wonder?

UMPP works closely with the IREX-implemented, US Department of State-funded Internet Access and Training Program (IATP) to provide extensive assistance to the Ukrainian partners in designing and maintaining websites, developing professional sales presentations; and improving on-line journalism.

Any employees of Ronald Lauder? His group faced Foreign Corrupt Practices Charges in 2001. Studio 1 + 1. Russian mob ties. Ugly business.

Prosecutors are studying two transactions related to Central European Media’s Ukraine investment, according to documents and persons close to the investigation. In one, prosecutors are trying to determine if Mr. Lauder’s company paid $1.2 million to two Lebanese businessmen living in Ukraine, who then distributed it to some members of Ukraine’s television licensing board.

What ever happened to that case? CETV is still listed on the NASDAQ, and is up 66% on the year. WWD says it sold its Ukrainian assets in August 2006.

Last time, the government under then-President Leonid Kuchma had subjected journalists to censorship; now politicians are using monetary incentives to influence the news coverage in their favor.

If you really do have a gun to your head, it seems unfair that your reputation should suffer for it.

The most recent parliamentary elections on Sept. 30 were the last straw: Never before had so many reports by national broadcasters on political topics been paid for, according to independent observers.

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From the Annals of Innovation Synergies: “In Taste Test, Ogilvy Cannot Tell the Difference Between Coke and Pepsi”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 27, 2007

http://www.familycourtchronicles.com/philosophy/inquisition/coke_vs_pepsi.jpg

From the “conflict of interest or innovation synergy?” file.

Kroll Associates claims that Frank Holder had a separate agreement with Farrell Law — the firm represented members of the Lucchese crime family in a famous case in the 1980s — to work on a client account that Holder was contracted to handle for Kroll: Brasil Telecom.

See

The Bloggers for Dean use payola and stealth marketing to promote their message through “bloggers” who fail to disclose the institutional relationship.

… the committees of at least one presidential candidate and one Senate candidate paid bloggers for unattributed campaign promotions. See Charles Babington & Brian Faler, “A Committee Post and a Pledge Drive,” WASH. POST, Dec. 18, 2004, at A16 (noting payments by John Thune’s Senate campaign to two bloggers who attacked his opponents online); William M. Bulkely & James Bandler, “Dean Campaign Made Payments to Two Bloggers,” WALL ST. J., Jan. 14, 2005, at B2 (detailing payments made by Howard Dean’s presidential campaign to two bloggers in order to receive positive campaign promotions online). Political committees must disclose these disbursements in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. 2 U.S.C. § 434 (2000 & Supp. IV 2004) –Ellen P. Goodman (see Big Think of the Day: “Stealth Marketing and Editorial Integrity”)

The head Blogger for Dean goes on to head the Berkman Center for the Intel-Inside Society at Harvard University Who funds Berkman, and to the tune of how much? That is none of your business. He also founded RSS Investors. He is “active in Massachussetts politics.”

Harvard seems to encourage innovative faculty moonlighting of this sort (Andre Schleifer).

As chairman of the DCCC, Howard Dean and his blogging armies preside over a losing presidential campaign that relies heavily such “innovative” tactics. And keeps his job. Go figure.

A supermarket CEO is caught trashing the competition in Internet forums under a pseudonym:

His pseudonym, reportedly an anagram of his girlfriend’s name, Deborah, is also an anagram of “bad hero” and “do rehab.” Shareholder confidence is eroded. Do we really pay our CEO to blog like a Rush Limbaugh dittohead? Is this what the guy went to B-school for?

A Costa Rican polling firm lists the Costa Rican presidency — and the Colombian death squad-funding Chiquita Brands — as one of its market research clients. Its polling on the free-trade referendum indicates a technical tie ahead of national voting on the measure.

A polling firm that does not work for the Costa Rican government indicates a significant advantage for NO.

The polling firm that represents the government calls the tight margin of victory for YES with a margin of error approaching zero.

See

And speaking of institutional conflicts of interest:

Drinks giant in rethink after discovering WPP agency handled Pepsi project.

Source: Media: Asia’s Media & Marketing Newspaper; 11/2/2007, p9-9, 1p

Coca-Cola has severed ties with Ogilvy in Thailand after discovering the WPP agency had been working for arch-rival Pepsi.

Ouch.

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“Brazil Will Lead Multilateral Money-Laundering Body”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 27, 2007


Click to zoom. The Grupo Abril’s Veja magazine covers the iPhone, January 2007: “It’s like magic!” In June 2007, Steve Jobs calls the iPhone “a magical product.” Photocredit: Fotoagência NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS-Tabajara. That is to say, I snapped it at the local padaria myself.

The Golden Mountain does not exist –Meinong’s paradox of the existential quantifier

Bribery of the news media in too many countries robs citizens of credible information they need to make personal and collective decisions. International Index of Bribery for News Coverage (2003)

The Brazilian Conselho de Controle de Atividades Financeiras (COAF) announces: BRASIL ASSUME PRESIDÊNCIA DO GAFI/FATF EM 2008.

That is, Brazil will assume the presidency of FATF-GAFI, the Financial Action Task Force, for the 2008-2009 term.

It had chaired the South American regional anti-money laundering body, GAFISUD, in 2006.

Senior federal officials, including the head of the federal police, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the Treasury, were accused publicly in May 2006 of controlling offshore bank accounts stuffed full of bribe dollars and euros related to turning an alleged blind eye to corrupt dealings by Parmalat.

A Brazilian banker has accused those same officials, and senior members of the judiciary, of being bribed to favor his competitors, and turn his business partners against him — and of leaking disinformation to the media in a bid to discredit him.

The risk management consultant who reportedly authored the “bribe dossier” — reported by Veja — is using the same theory to defend against a breach of contract suit by his employer, Kroll.

See

Which raises the question: Has FATF appointed the fox to guard the henhouse in the area of international financial crimes enforcement and cooperation?

Unlikely.

I was just reading an OECD report on Brazil’s progress toward compliance with obligation it assumed to comply with the OECD convention bribery by foreign corporations in international business transactions, issued on December 7 (PDF).

Brazil’s CGU — something like our GAO, but attached to the executive-branch Treasury ministry and separate from the judicial-branch Tribunal de Contas system — was boasting recently that the OECD gave it reasonably high marks for its efforts to comply with that convention.

One conclusion I found interesting was that private- and “third-sector” efforts at addressing were not found not to be focused on international business transactions at all.

In addition to its website, the CGU reported in the Phase 2 Responses that it had been liaising with the Ethos Institute – Institute of Companies and Social Responsibility 18 to support a “Clean Company” campaign and a Corporate Pact for Integrity against Corruption, as well as with the nongovernmental organisation, Transparencia Brasil, to develop a methodology to map corruption risk. Discussions with participants from these organisations during the on-site visit indicated that these initiatives were targeted at issues of domestic bribery in Brazil.

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“Letting Sleeping Watchdogs Lie”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 27, 2007

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Strong majorities in Brazil (80%), Mexico (76%), USA (74%), and Great Britain (71%) believe that the concentration of media ownership in fewer hands is a concern because owners’ political views emerge in reporting.”

Letting Sleeping Watchdogs Lie: The business press rediscovers regulators”: Dean Starkman of the Columbian Journalism Review observes that the best coverage of the mortgage crisis was coverage that played the role of “of financial coroner, drawing chalk lines around a financial system that has already hit the pavement.”

Zing! I do love a good metaphor.

The business press has written about the mortgage crisis as a predatory-lender problem, a naïve borrower problem, a compromised rating-agency problem, an irresponsible debt-buyer problem, and, first and foremost, a problem manufactured on Wall Street, which fueled the subprime expansion with loans to front-line borrowers, sold the bad paper into the global markets—and, to keep the fee-engine going, bought much of its own product.

Never smoke your own crack.

Sleeping watchdogs:

If the business press has a blind spot, it is that it failed to understand the crisis for what I think it really is: a regulatory failure of mammoth proportions.

Atlas shrugged:

Now comes The New York Times this week with a devastating account of regulatory failure, under the headline: “Fed Shrugged as Subprime Crisis Spread”

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Edvertorial: Back to the Future of Fake News!

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007

The image “http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/knowlogisms.png?t=1192441426” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
“Neologisms and the Knowledge Society: Functions of Language in the Era of Globalization.” Source: Telefónican Foundation (Spain). Content incompatible with non-Microsoft browser. Click to zoom.

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. –Symes

Nihil sub sole novum –Ecclesiastes (Vulgate edition)

Cases in point to file under

For a modest fee, Advertorial.org promises to produce and distribute promotional copy that “suggests that someone else has endorsed your product or service.”

It is widely known that people give a lot more credibility to good editorial content than to paid advertisements. After all, anyone can claim that their own product is the best. But editorial content suggests that someone else has endorsed your product or service. Don’t waste valuable time or precious resources in trying to design your own advertorials when you can easily outsource them to Advertorial.org and get them rapidly and efficiently published on the Web.

Paid editorial, not disclosed and prominently labeled as such, and distinguished graphically from independently produced editorial content, is stealth advertorial, also known as “fake news.”

Stealth advertorial is a form of lying to the reader about the source of the message they are receiving.

Fox News affiliates have been caught practicing it in (stealth) partnership with Intel.

The NAACP broadside against the Montgomery city fathers in the early 1960s, which led to the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan case, was a paid editorial insert into the New York Times.

But it was not advertorial. It was clearly marked as paid editorial content, and the NAACP identified itself as the author responsible for the message it conveyed.

Sullivan, who ran the police department that the NAACP claimed “unleashed a wave of terror” against peaceful demonstrators, sued the Times for running it anyway.

Sullivan lost. (So did Westmoreland, in a sense, though the case was settled.)
Had the NAACP bribed the Times to publish the same claims under a Times byline, in the news section, without fact-checking them — some of the factual assertions in the NAACP piece were inaccurate — he might have had a better case to make.

One of the first American newspapers to ban the practice, reportedly, was the New York Herald, in 1848.

I cannot think of any self-respecting news organization that does not at least still pay lip service to this principle today. Except for people who claim to work for the BBC:

Still, if advertorial has gotten a bad name — as a synonym for “fake news” — an Indian innovation journalism venture thinks that if we call it something else, people will no longer mistake the same practice for the practice referred to by that other word, with the negative connotations it has acquired.

A word that, as intensive works with focus groups shows, tends to connote dishonesty and lack of editorial integrity.

In a flash of inspiration, they decide to call it, not “advertorial,” but “edvertorial.”

From the World Press Insitute, with sort of a sophomoric lede to it:

How many of us, when reading the morning newspaper, have to think about the accuracy of the news printed in it? Not in passing but really think about it.

Are you kidding? I live in Brazil. See

A news publication in a media market that is often pointed to for its world-class levels of concentrated media ownership by longtime close personal friends of generalíssimos and coroneis — property of a company that now monopolizes print distribution in São Paulo — omits the following newsworthy finding of a BBC global survey on the press:

Strong majorities in Brazil (80%), Mexico (76%), USA (74%), and Great Britain (71%) believe that the concentration of media ownership in fewer hands is a concern because owners’ political views emerge in reporting.

When I stop by the newsstand in the morning, I tend to assume the news publications on sale here are flat-out bullshitting me as hard as they possibly can — at least until I have boiled them to the point that I think they are fit for human consumption. But Indian readers may be more trusting:

Now India’s largest publishing group, Bennett, Coleman & Co. has its readers doing just that by launching a new category called “edvotorial.” Or simply put — paid news.

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Globo TV Critic Trashes Trash TV!

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007

The image “http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/cutears.png?t=1195223516” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
The apex of Brazilian surreality TV: IBOPE ratings for “the husband who put out the eyes and cut off the ears of his wife,” Ratinho (Record), March 5, 1998.

O Globo Online (Brazil) TV critic Patricia Kogut writes disdainfully of “lowbrow” television on networks that compete with her employer.

The sad thing, the Globo TV critic says, is that such programming does not even get good ratings.

Globo’s iconic children’s TV hostess, Xuxa, raised eyebrows this week when asked if the cancellation of her reality wildlife-adventure comeback show was due to its low ratings.

“It is not just my ratings,” she shot back. “Ratings are down across the Globo network,” she told reporters. Just look at the current primetime soap, she said.

Ouch. The quote appeared in the Folha de S. Paulo. Globo flacks denied they resented the remark or had marked Xuxa for (further) career death.

Globo reportedly got Meio&Mensagem magazine to fire a reporter who discovered that Globo ratings have fallen off pretty steeply in the last year. See

On the current primetime soap, see also:

The program is essentially a 21st-century homage to the pornô xanxado genre of slapstick sexxxploitation movie-making. I have seen a lot of trash TV in my day, but this is San Fernando Valley amateur porno trashy. And they want to be able to show it during the dinner hour in Rondônia.

Which is why it is difficult to get a read on this column from the TV critic. Is she denouncing the mote in the eyes of others while ignoring the beam in the all-seeing eye that signs her paycheck? Or is the notion that “trash TV no longer commands ratings” a coded message of muted rebellion from the troops? More likely the former, I would idly bet you.

Programas popularescos: vale tudo. A principal arma de um programa de televisão popularesco é poder usar qualquer arma para obter audiência. São as regras do vale tudo aplicadas à televisão. Neste caso, quem é nocauteado com truques de baixo nível é o telespectador. Márcia Goldschmidt é um exemplo. Ela já deu muitas mostras do que é capaz desde que surgiu na TV.

Populist, lowbrow programming: Anything goes. The principal weapon of a program of this type is the ability to use any weapon to attract an audience. The rules of ultimate fighting applied to television. In this case, the one who gets knocked out is the viewer. Márcia Goldschmidt is an example. She has already given plenty of evidence of what she is capable ever since she first appeared on TV.
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Brazil: “The CPI of Phreaks and Leaks”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007


CC in June: “The Disneyland of Wiretapping. Outlaw it, no. Stop leaks, yes.” The siege of the President’s brother united government and opposition in criticism of federal police methods, but this should not be used to impede investigations. A Ministry of Justice proposal would widen the use of surveillance.” See also Behind the Music: The Estadão on the Leaky Police and Brazil: Globo and the Leaky Police. Again.

VERMELHO (Communist Party of Brazil) notes a fascinating development in the Brazlian Congress.

In establishing new parliamentary commmissions of inquiry (CPIs) for the session its has “tabled” the proposed CPI to examine the sale of the Grupo Abril’s TVA cable TV operation to Telefónica and chosen instead to install the “CPI of the Supreme Court wiretaps,” based on an “investigative report” by Veja magazine.

Foram instaladas, nesta semana, duas CPIs (Comissões Parlamentares de Inquéritos) pela Câmara dos Deputados. Uma destinada a investigar escutas telefônicas clandestinas e ilegais no Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF). A segunda irá investigar as causas e os responsáveis pela morte de crianças indígenas. Duas outras estão na fila para serem instaladas: CPI da Criança e do Adolescente Desaparecidos e a CPI da Abril-Telefônica.

Two CPIs were installed last week by the lower house of Congress. One is destined to investigate illegal wiretapping of the Supreme Court. The second will investigate the causes of infant mortality among indigenous children. Two others are in the queue, waiting to be installed: The CPI of Abril-Telefônica and the CPI of Missing Children and Teens.

A primeira reunião da CPI das escutas telefônicas do STF está marcada para o dia 13 de fevereiro. O relator da CPI é o deputado Nelson Pellegrino (PT-BA). O presidente da CPI é o deputado Marcelo Itagiba (PMDB-RJ).

The first meeting of the CPI of Supreme Court Wiretapping is scheduled for February 13. The [lead counsel-equivalent] is Nelson Pellegrino (PT-Bahia). The presdient of the CPI is Marcelo Itagiba (PMDB-Rio de Janeiro).

The relator is something like the chief counsel of a Congressional hearing, except that in the Brazilian CPI, he or she is an elected lawmaker and not a staff member.

Itagiba, a former federal police delegado, is notable for a couple of things:

  1. A recent bill that would to strip federal prosecutors of their power to conduct independent investigations of police misconduct, and
  2. a very loud screaming match with the O Globo daily of Rio over its observation that he received very substantial majorities of the vote in militia-controlled shantytowns. I need to look into the background of that set-to.

Segundo o requerimento para a instalação da CPI, a comissão foi motivada por matéria publicada na Revista Veja, segundo a qual houve escutas telefônicas clandestinas registradas por vários ministros da mais alta Corte judiciária brasileira.

According to the petition to create the CPI, it was motivated by an article published in Veja magazine according to which various Supreme Court justices reported being the target of clandestine wiretaps.

The Veja report on alleged illegal wiretapping at the Supreme Court is, on the face of it, another masterpiece of empty innuendo without a factual foundation from the same magazine that published the fraudulent dossier on offshore bank accounts allegedly held by senior government officials.

See

The amazing thing, I think, is that none of the Supreme Court justices cited in that report actually charged that they are being wiretapped.

The only concrete charge to this effect was proven to be hoax — an e-mail sent in by a disgruntled employee of some sort with crudely forged documents attached.

One of the Justices, who also presides over the federal election tribunal (TSE), created a stir last year when he reported that a contractor hired by the court had found bugs at the TSE.

Federal police double-checked the contractor’s work, found nothing, and recommended charging the contractor with making false accusations.

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Rio’s Justice League: City Councilman Arrested on Death-Squad Charge

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007

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The Justice League; Nadinho and Natalino’s campaigns, and protection schemes, used the Batman symbol, while a death squad elsewhere in Brazil used the Thundercats (superhuman Gnostic mutant vigilantes) as its emblem.

According to reports to the Fourth Precinct of the Military Judicial Police (DPJM), Jerominho, Natalino and Luciano commanded a militia called the Justice League, in Campo Grande.

Operação com 400 policiais prende vereador no Rio: Terra reports new developments in an ongoing police action in the Western Zone of Rio.

There were several versions of the first phase, which took place last Saturday.

The first version, reported by O Globo and Agência Estado, reported that the operation was targeted specifically at militias. See

In the second version, reported by TV Globo and Globo’s G1 news portal, which closely followed the official state press release — to the point of plagiarizing it — militias are not mentioned at all. The operation is targeted at illegal van services and GatoNet pirate cable TV operations. See

In the third version, reported by O Dia, the operation was intended as a “show of force” targeted at two (unnamed) Rio city lawmakers with, as it makes explicit, militia ties. See

A new development: City legislator Jerominho (PMDB) is arrested in a follow-up action. Is arrested over involvement in the “van mafia.”

Terra, like Globo, cannot seem to bring itself to use the word militia either. Weird. I wish someone would explain these editorial decisions to me.

If possible. It can be difficult to write about about armed organized criminals with police badges and friends at City Hall and higher places. I think I understand that. It goes without saying.
I am guessing the other city legislator reportedly (the claim is not sourced) targeted was Nadinho (DEM-PFL), who has been charged with having a political opponent (and militia leader, and gambling mafia equity partner), as we say in Brooklyn, whacked.

See

Major Brazilian news agencies really do seem to consider the duty to provide detailed answers to the standard questions — who, what, when, where and why — purely optional.

Cerca de 400 policiais civis de delegacias especializadas promovem uma nova operação contra o transporte clandestino e outras irregularidades, na manhã desta quarta-feira, na zona oeste do Rio de Janeiro. O trabalho já resultou na prisão do vereador Jerominho. Ele teria envolvimento com a máfia das vans.

Nearly 400 police from specialized units conducted a new operation against clandestine transport and other irregularities on Thursday morning in the Western Zone of Rio. Their work has already resulted in the arrest of city legislator Jerominho, who is allegedly involved in the van mafia.

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Beyond Cisco and the Fisco: Alcatel in Banana-Republican Hell

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007

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The Casas-Sánchez memo to Arias: “Some urgent actions to animated the Yes on CAFTA campaign. First and foremost: A media blitz based on “fear, uncertainty and doubt.” And “vote Quimby or you will lose your job” rallies with employees, to be concealed from elections authorities (because they are illegal). Kevin Casas is under investigation for illegal use of public funds to benefit the “Yes” campaign. He stepped down from his post as VP and Minister of Planning.

Alcatel has a history of attempting to influence Costa Rican politicians. Connections going back to José María Figueres, another former president, forced him to step down from his position as second-in-command of the World Economic Forum in Geneva on October 29. His resignation came after accusations arose of a $900,000 bribe he received from the corporation during his years of public service in Costa Rica. Alcatel supposedly had invested $800,000 in companies linked to Hernan Bravo, director of the ICE from 1998 through 2004. In return, Bravo saw to it that the company was awarded two more large contracts to develop cell phone lines, the most recent contract reportedly being worth $149 million. In a rather ironic twist, current Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco, the most vocal critic of Rodríguez during his abbreviated stint as OAS Secretary General, has yet to explain the undeclared $100,000 donation to his presidential campaign by Alcatel. In all, authorities believe that Alcatel has paid a total of $4.4 million to various Costa Rican officials, resulting in its being assigned a near monopoly of telecommunication services in the country.EMILY ALVES and MICHAEL JOHNSON, December 2004

I am now officially hooked on Fraud Digest.

It is one of those incredibly simple and useful bLAWg projects, like that attorney who annotates SEC and SRO enforcement cases in the securities industry — it must be here in my blogroll somewhere, what was that called? — that give citizen journalism a good name.

All it really is is a clipping service, collected and commented on by somebody who demonstrably knows what the hell they are talking about. (Unlike, say, this blog.)

I keep saying I have this sense that the Cisco case in Brazil is probably the tip of the iceberg, and that there are signs that increased focus on such Hobbesian business practices is a regional, not a local, trend.

See

I base that partly on what the feds here said about the Panamanian law firm that set up a lot of these tax shelters for big tech and other types of company (and Augusto Pinochet) throughout Latin America:

One of the theoretical advantages of regional integration, after all, is pooling efforts to curb corruption and generalized Sino-Paraguayan plundering of the regional economy.

I also keep wondering whether the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act might someday get dusted off and actually used. See also

The case of an Ohio-based fruit-importing multinational found paying off people on State Dept. lists of designated terrorist organizations, for example.

Another case in point:

On June 7, 2007, a former Alcatel CIT executive pleaded guilty to participating in the payment of more than $2.5 million in bribes to senior Costa Rican government officials in order to obtain a mobile telephone contract from Costa Rica’s state-owned telecommunications authority, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

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Brazil: “Cisco Is Not the Only Firm in Boiling Crisco With the Fisco”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007

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“Exemption from IPI for independent cabbies buying cars manufactured in Brazil after having suffered a UFO-related amputation of at least one finger” –the list of Brazilian tax forms available for download (in the Open Document Format) is longer than War and Peace. It sometimes seems like.

The preliminary findings show the gross tax gap — which is the difference between what taxpayers should pay and what they actually pay on a timely basis — exceeds $300 billion per year. The results indicate the nation’s tax gap increased slightly to between $312 billion and $353 billion in tax year 2001. –IRS, 2005

“The Stalinist dictatorship of the tax man is coming, just you wait and see” –slightly scary drunk guy in recent NMM boteco conversation, São Paulo, Brazil

Don’t ask me what I want it for (ah-ah, Mister Wilson)
If you don’t want to pay some more (ah-ah, Mister Heath)
‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

–The Beatles, “Taxman”

Receita inicia devassa no uso de cartões corporativos: “Crackdown on use of corporate credit cards.”

And a merry Christmas to you, too, Brazilian IRS!

Em uma ofensiva à sonegação envolvendo benefícios indiretos pagos por corporações (os chamados “fringe benefits”), a Receita Federal iniciou uma devassa em grandes empresas de São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro e Distrito Federal para investigar o uso indevido de cartões corporativos.

In an offensive against tax evasion involving “fringe benefits” paid by corporations, the Brazilian federal tax authority is launching a wave of audits of large corporations in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and the Federal District in order to investigate the improper use of corporate credit cards.

Free beer for the first reader to discover a comment from a Brazilian reader claiming that “in civilized nations, like the United States, this sort of thing is not criminalized.”

Oh, but it is. And fringe benefits are taxed, too.

It sucks, it really does.

But what sucks even more is when a federal administration comes in from a party that constantly promised radical tax relief, and a good, thorough trimming of the bloated, inefficient federal bureaucracy — and then your taxes actually go up, in part to pay for the installation of a pointless Homeland Security bureaucracy.

We already have a Department of Defense, for crying out loud. What is it supposed to be defending, if not the patria amada?

Which is part of the reasons why the genuine, principled paleoconservatives — they are a pain in the ass, these people, but they do occasionally have a valid point — now want to impeach Cheney, among other things.
See also

No Estado de São Paulo, 38 estabelecimentos -inclusive multinacionais- já estão sob ação fiscal. No Distrito Federal, mais de 150 empresas estão sendo investigadas.

In São Paulo State, 38 business establishments — including multinationals — are being [audited without mercy.] In the federal district, 150 firms are being investigated.

And in Rio?

O uso do cartão corporativo para pagamento de salário indireto vem se disseminando entre os empregadores porque permite a redução de encargos e sonegação de impostos. A Receita não informa os setores e os nomes das empresas, sob o argumento de que estão protegidos pelo sigilo fiscal.

The use of a corporate credit card to pay indirect salary has become widespread recently among emploers, because it enables them to avoid mandatory contributions and taxes. The tax author did not report what sectors the companies are from, or their names, arguing this information is protected by banking privacy.

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The Globo Network (Brazil) Presents: “The Strangler of Sluts”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007

Allied to these traditional visions of the role of women in society, the image of the Brazilian woman has been constructed over time as a sensual being, presenting nudity and lasciviousness as intrinsic characteristics. For many years, beaches and natural settings in Brazil were presenting as frames for the figure of the semi-naked Brazilian woman. Even today were find postcards and publications destined for foreign tourists in which feminine nudity is foregrounded as a portrait of Brazil. The combat against sexual tourism will inevitably touch upon changing this image of Brazil abroad and the image of the Brazilian woman we construct internally. –CPMI on Sexual Exploitation of Minors (Brazil, 2003)

Women: Down with sexism! Down with sexism!
Man 1: Look at all those feminists.
Man 2: Are you thinking what I’m thinking? [they both reach for bottles of beer, shake them up, and spray the foam on the protesters. This magically turns them into bikini-clad party animals.]
Both Men: Yeah! Yes! All right!
–Duff beer commercial, The Simpsons, February 1993 (Episode 9F14)

I am for obscenity and against pornography. Obscenity is a cleansing process, whereas pornography only adds to the murk. –Henry Miller, in George Plimpton, Writers at Work (1963)

The famous advertorial in Paris-Match, photographed by Jean Manzon and published to coincide with the state visit of the generalissimo in power at the time (the early 1970s — about the same time frame covered by The Battle of Algiers, I think), was a classic case of the “Brazilian chicks have gotta have it” meme. (That has got to be the hottest bikini-model photo ever, by the way. Sports Illustrated ought to take notes.)

As well as a classic case of fake news and stealth marketing.

I cannot find any images of this photoessay on the Web, but I have a book on the case and will try to show you the image that anchored the feature, which was basically a forerunner of a coverline I remember reading in a New York City-published “laddie” magazine once:

TV’s Biggest Stars in the World’s Smallest Bikinis!

Actually, to be honest, I was freelancing for the Fleet Street-descended magazine in question at the time, and can actually claim partial credit for writing that coverline.

The gratuitous contrast between “big” and “small” is what gives it a nice rhetorical oomph.

I mention it because of the following news, er, brief.

Aguinaldo Silva fala do Sufocador, novo personagem de ‘Duas caras’: O Globo‘s Revista da TV announces that the pole dance will not disappear from the prime-time soap opera Duas Caras just because the strip club in the mafia-run shantytown has been blown up by parties unknown.

See also

In the meantime, a new character will be introduced: The Jack the Ripper-like Sufocador de Piranhas (“the strangler of bitches”)

Piranha, according to the Houaiss dictionary of the New World Lusophone Sousaphone:

… mulher que freq. mantém relações sexuais por dinheiro; prostituta, meretriz, vagabunda

A woman, frequently one who maintains frequent sexual relations for money; prostitute, slut, tramp

Slut, from Roget’s Thesaurus II (1995)

A vulgar promiscuous woman who flouts propriety: baggage, hussy, jade, slattern, tart, tramp, wanton, wench, whore. Slang : floozy. See SEX.

The spelling has not been standardized, but the Urban Dictionary and other sociolinguistic projects tend to note biach or behatch (pronounced bee-YATCH or BEE-yatch, as far is I can tell) as a synonym for “whore.”

RIO – O autor de “Duas caras”, Aguinaldo Silva, já se recupera da explosão da uisqueria planejando um novo personagem: o Sufocador, que infernizará a vida das moças.

Scriptwriter Aguinaldo Silva is recovering from the explosion at the [strip-club in the mafia- or militia-controlled shantytown] with a new character: the Strangler, who will make the girls’ lives a living hell.

Original reports were that the cryptic message “strangler of bitches [sluts, whores, cunts, slits, tramps ...] (piranhas)” would be found at the scene of the explosion.

A number of news reports confirm this: The message “strangler of bitches [sluts, whores, cunts, slits, tramps, rachas ...] (piranhas)” was found at the scene.

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Tobin in the Tropics: “Death of the Anti-Money Laundering Tax”

Posted by Colin Brayton on December 26, 2007

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UNESCO Courier, February 2002. Trying to understand the issue of the Brazilian financial transaction tax without understanding the history of the debate on the “Tobin tax” is a bit like the legendary “headless mule” who “shoots fire from his nostrils.” Get it? How can the fearsome ghost mule shoot fire from his nostrils if he has no head? As Ricardo Kaufmann says, the Brazilian press tends to prevent opinion divorced from fact.

Some lawyers, who asked that their names not be used, believe that a good part of the insurgency by the business sector against the CPMF stems from this instrumental character of the tax, its use to detect fraud.

Brasília em Tempo Real passes along a report from Valor: “Judge says death of the CPMF hinders money-laundering enforcement.”

The government recently failed in its bid to renew a provisional, Tobin-style “check tax” in the Congress, where a two-third majority was required.

The Brazilian news media has apparently never heard of the Tobin tax proposal — even thought it was proposed by a Nobel Prize winner — or the successes or failures, or mixed results, of attempts to actually implement some form of a Tobin tax abroad.

A Web site commentator on an Estado de S. Paulo story on the issue promoted a common talking point, for example

Se a CPMF fosse um imposto inteligente existiria em países civilizados na Ámérica do Norte e na Europa.

If the CPMF was an intelligent proposal it would exist in civilized country in North America and Europe.

Yes, but Tobin, or Tobinoid, taxes have been tried in Europe and the United States. Such experiments have being going on for more than a decade. Brazil’s CPMF represented something of a jumping on the Tobin bandwagon, on a experimental basis. Some are still in force. And with what result?

If you do not admit the existence of that debate, of course, or the existence of practical trials of the measure, you never perceive the need to measure results, or frame the debate in terms of global best-practices based on the performance of practical experiments in the policy you are considering accepting, rejecting, or modifying for your own needs.

The Brazilian news media tends to perpetuate the planeta Brasil effect: The outside world does not exist, except to the extent that the United States is the Shining City on the Hill alongside which Brazil is the lowest circle of hell. See, for example,

The domestic politics of this issue are pretty much beyond me, I have to confess, but one of the standard talking points of its defenders was: “They want this tax ended because it is the only tax that cannot be evaded.”

I personally think proponents should have hit harder on another argument: “The tax burden cannot be reduced without distributing it more equitably. And that means stamping out massive tax evasion schemes.”

Which is, in fact, a notable priority of the federal police and tax authorities these days, and the focus of their anti-mafia efforts as well. Al Capone was a convicted tax evader, remember? Very similar deal here.

And a corollary: “People cannot be coaxed out of the informal economy until they perceive the tax system as equitable and not unduly burdensome.”

See also

One which point a federal judge is interviewed:

-“Perde-se um importante instrumento de investigação”, diz o juiz federal Sergio Fernando Moro, sobre a extinção da CPMF a partir de janeiro. Moro atuou em vários casos envolvendo lavagem de dinheiro, como o Banestado e Operação Farol da Colina.

“An important investigation tool has been lost,” said federal judge Moro on the extinction of the CPMF starting in January. Moro tried various money-laundering cases, such as the Banestado case and Operation Hilltop Beacon.

“A CPMF, paradoxalmente, vinha se mostrando um tributo bastante justo, por ser difícil escapar a sua cobrança. Assim, mesmo aqueles assistidos por caras consultorias tributárias, acabavam tendo que pagar CPMF, diferentemente do que ocorre com tributos mais suscetíveis a manobras fiscais e contábeis. Além disso, as informações quanto à movimentação financeira providenciadas pela CPMF e pelo seu antecessor, o IPMF, foram largamente utilizadas pelos agentes públicos para investigação de variados crimes, financeiros, de lavagem, corrupção”, diz Moro.

Paradoxically, the CPMF has proven itself a substantially fair tax, because it is difficult to evade. Even those people who get high-paid tax advice wind up having to pay it — unlike those taxes more susceptible to fiscal and accounting maneuvers. Furthermore, the information on financial transactions provided by the CPMF and its predecessor, the IPMF, were widely used by public agents to investigate various crimes, financial crimes, money laundering, corruption,” said Moro.

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