Welcome to the Narcosphere

Veteran journalist Chris Lydon has a name for it: "the transformation."

A fundamental shift is underway in how politics and fundraising are practiced: from dependence on the financiers at the top levels of the economy to a more authentically democratic model of a wide base of support from below.

But the transformation is, still, too often blocked, or co-opted, by the dominant forces of the Commercial Media and the powerful interests they serve. The Commercial Media remains dependent on a single, top-down, and decaying, model of "advertising dollars" (and the corresponding targeting of upscale consumers), investors, and corporate ownership to survive. The resulting damage to democracy is evident to most people on earth.

Now is the hour for journalists to pull our weight in the transformation. We understand the enemy's sanctum: the "control rooms," and how they operate. Four years ago, Narco News began reporting on the drug war and democracy from Latin America at www.narconews.com. By divorcing journalism from its jealous tyrant of capital we've already shown, from Mexico to Venezuela to Brazil to Bolivia and elsewhere, that through Authentic Journalism the conditions can be reconstructed for Authentic Democracy to flourish.

Yet journalists cannot accomplish this gargantuan task if we view ourselves as separate and apart from the people. We must earn the support and collaboration of workers in all fields. Toward that alliance and its goals, tonight we unveil The Narcosphere, where journalists and citizens come together so that journalism and citizenship can be born anew...

What Is The Narcosphere?

The Narcosphere - it appears online at http://narcosphere.narconews.com/ - is a participatory, online, forum, where readers and journalists come together to discuss, correct, add new information and relevant links, and debate the work of the journalists who publish on The Narco News Bulletin.

The Narcosphere is similar to other forums on the Internet that utilize a software named Scoop (Kuro5hin and The Daily Kos are two of the more popular examples), but with some new twists. WEBMASTER UPDATE: The Narcosphere now operates on the Drupal CMS system. We stopped using Scoop in late 2007.

First big change: We're doing away with the anonymity that historically has dominated the Internet. This is not a blanket rejection or critique of anonymity: There are still countless places online where people who choose to remain anonymous can do that, and we consider many of those forums, such as Indymedia, to be in harmony with ours. But to participate in The Narcosphere we all must sign our comments with our full name. After all, this is about journalism. Honesty and accountability are the hallmarks of Authentic Journalism, and so the price of admission includes honesty and accountability by all.

Second big change: The readers shall, from tonight onward, be the copublishers of this newspaper. We are surrendering more control than any other newspaper we know of to the copublishers. For four years I have published Narco News, and I remain as editor-in-chief of the "classic Narco News" side of this newspaper: the reported stories by Authentic Journalists throughout América. But The Narcosphere will involve the copublishers in correcting, commenting, criticizing, and bringing new and relevant information and context to each story. Every report on Narco News will now serve as a "first draft" of immediate history, and the copublishers will expand upon each report, deepen the inquiry, ask pointed questions, suggest new leads, and often do investigative reporting themselves. Every reported story on the "classic Narco News" side of the publication will have a thread of comments on The Narcosphere side. It is time for the readers to start driving the coverage of news.

Third big change: It is time for journalists to start "blogging." Most Commercial Media do not allow their reporters to maintain weblogs without censoring them. We wish to launch a conversation between our journalists and our readers, so that both groups may learn from the other, and be enriched in a better understanding about how the two sides of the journalistic divide - producer and consumer - view journalism and news. Over the coming days and weeks, we'll be introducing our "journo-blogs" (we call them Reporters' Notebooks), and the journalists behind them, to the readers. And we will also, of course, be introducing our readers to the journalists. We do beg everyone's patience on one key factor: Many of our journalists do not speak every language in our Narcosphere. Some only speak Spanish. Others speak only Portuguese. Others, still, speak only English. Still others are new to "Internet language" such as html code. The process of translating, rapidly, these conversations is going to be a daunting task and will take some time to develop. But this kind of translation - not only of words, but of cultures and concepts that are distinct in different lands - offers one of the great promises and potentials of The Narcosphere: breaking the information blockades across language barriers and cultures.

Fourth big change: To become a copublisher, you have to show, and maintain, good faith toward the other copublishers and the project. The Internet is overflowing with commentators that are often called "trolls," whose main goal is, too often, the derailment of the project. Our break from anonymity solves a large part of that problem. This is how we solve the rest of it: Copublishers are, in a sense, investors, except the rules are distinct from those of Wall Street. To qualify for a copublisher account you have to invest. For journalists, that means writing news stories and columns that rise to Authentic Journalism standards of publication. We already count with dozens of journalists who have received scholarships from, or taught at, the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, or who have published their work on Narco News. Each of them is already in the door. For readers, that means investing your money or your time in the project. The fastest, easiest, way to qualify for your copublisher account is to make a donation to The Fund for Authentic Journalism, which is supporting this project. Or you can donate your labor (by translating or by contributing your talents in some other way that we consider a substantial, non-monetary, contribution). Copublishers have to abide by a few simple rules to keep us legal and never boring. Violating those minimal rules (no partisan electoral campaigning, no financial solicitations, that sort of thing) are grounds for losing a copublisher account.

Fifth big change: Copublishers will largely regulate each other, and will do it collectively. You will be able to "rate" (or vote on) the value of each comment made. Comments and Reporters' Notebook entries that receive the highest votes will be linked from page one of Narco News, and in the center column of The Narcosphere. We don't know of any other project in journalism that allows readers to place stories on the front page, but we think it's a necessary step in the Authentic Journalism renaissance. I believe it is so important that I am surrendering that power to the copublishers. Those copublishers who participate consistently and who receive high ratings from other copublishers will be granted "trusted user status," and those copublishers will be able to vote to "hide" comments that they feel are made in bad faith. They'll also be able to vote to take an unfairly hidden comment and place it back in public view.

Obviously, we are just beginning with so many new features, and this process will involve some trial and error. We'll be updating and evolving based on our lived experience with this project. Copublishers and readers will be involved in guiding the direction.

And so we begin anew!

We begin, tonight, by introducing you to our new South American Bureau Chief, Alex Contreras Baspineiro (click the link to read of his rise from School of Authentic Journalism scholarship recipient a year ago to the helm of our biggest office today). Contreras files a story, also tonight, with a chronology of how the U.S. Embassy and others have abused the "war on terrorism" in his native country of Bolivia to fight against democracy, not for it. And I've filed a story, also from Bolivia, Part II of a series to which we'll be offering team coverage in the coming days and weeks, about the prosecution of Colombian peace negotiator Francisco "Pacho" Cortés, in Bolivia, where he has been accused of "narco-terrorism."

These are just our opening salvos.

Tomorrow, on Tuesday, February 17th, Narco News will makes another new move: we are entering the field of book publishing, and we're doing it online. A leading investigative journalist in Texas - we'll introduce him to you tomorrow - has completed an outstanding, fourteen chapter, book about corruption and ineptitude in the U.S. Customs Service (now part of the Homeland Security Administration) along the U.S.-Mexico border. We'll be publishing, online, the supporting documents, transcripts, and evidence, so that readers can come to your own conclusions of the seriousness of the problems inside this government agency.

Later this week, Mexican journalist Luis Gómez, who served for the past two years as our Andean Bureau Chief, and all the administrative and journalistic tasks that entailed, will now dedicate himself exclusively to investigative journalism. Gómez will file an important news story, later this week, about events in yet another South American country.

Also tonight, we launch the first of thirty "Reporters' Notebooks" on The Narcosphere. We'll be introducing them, and the Authentic Journalists who will be writing them, one at a time in the coming days and weeks. Essentially, these are weblogs by journalists, in which those readers who choose to be copublishers of Narco News will also participate.

First up, reporting from Venezuela and introducing his Cowboy In Caracas blog: Charlie Hardy, known already to readers as a professor of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism and as one of the hemisphere's most coherent and dynamic columnists who shares seventeen years of on-the-ground experience from the barrios of Caracas. Charlie, a former Catholic priest, begins by recalling his first impressions when he moved to Venezuela so many years ago: "The point that I would like to establish at the very beginning of my blogging life is that I grew up hating the word 'shit.'" As I've said before, Hardy's columns resurrect a golden age in newspaper columns from the unique perspective of a man who lives among the people and events he writes so compellingly about. He'll be "in the sphere" from today onward, blogging you the news from the always newsworthy Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

You'll also be hearing a lot from the member of Civil Society who played a pivotal role in resurrecting Narco News, after the Big Money interests almost destroyed us last October for our refusal to be censored. Andrew Grice, treasurer of The Fund for Authentic Journalism, will also have a blog on Narco News. He'll be captaining the funding end of the operation, and maintaining the wall between money and news that, like separation of Church and State, is necessary to democracy and Authentic Journalism alike.

So, check out our first news stories as we relaunch Narco News, and apply for your copublisher account (tonight we start processing the 118 applications received to date, most of which have already been approved).


welcome back, narco news

it's great to be onboard, helping to turn the world upside down!

Thank you, Charles

And welcome. An update for anyone not in the door yet: There are folks still waiting on their copublisher accounts and we're cranking them out there, one at a time, but with some delays. All this being new to us, we have a small software glitch - it's not accepting names with accents, hyphens, periods (as in "Dr." or a middle initial), apostrophes, Spanish characters (as in "ñ"), or Portuguese characters (as in "ç"). We expect to get that fixed today. Then, of course, there are some applicants who say they contributed but we have no record of it. Heh. But that's the treasurer's department, not mine. In any case, welcome to all copublishers!


You and I are in absolute agreement about the subject of anonymity. I believe in absolute freedom of speech. I believe libel and slander should be written OUT of American law. But I also believe that anonymous posters should be barred from the Internet and that everyone who posts on the Internet (in comments or elsewhere) should be forced to use their real name. That one requirement would do more than any other thing (or all other things together) to improve the veracity of information in the public sphere. I'm not a technophile. I don't know how it could be accomplished or even if it's possible, but if it IS possible to bar anonymous or pseudonymous posting, then the bar should be put into place.

Open Letter: Against U.S. Intervention in Salvadoran Elections

Open Letter: Against U.S. Intervention in Salvadoran Elections Dec 8 2008 Various Authors We the undersigned are North American academics who study Latin America. We wish to make known several concerns with regard to the electoral process now underway in El Salvador and which include legislative elections in January 2009 and presidential elections in March 2009. In particular, as academics who have studied electoral processes throughout the hemisphere, we believe that there are a minimal set of norms and conditions necessary for elections to be free, transparent, and democratic. These include the freedom to participate in civic and political activities without fear of violence, repression, or reprisals, and the existence of rules and regulations that assure transparency in the voting process and that safeguard against the possibility of electoral fraud. We wish to make known in this regard the following four concerns: 1) We are against foreign interference in the electoral processes and the internal affairs of other countries. We observe in the Salvadoran case that the United States government has brazenly intervened in previous elections to influence the outcome and that once again it appears to be undertaking such intervention. Among various incidents we draw attention to statements made by the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Charles Glazer, in May 2008 on alleged and unsubstantiated connections between the principal opposition party in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the FARC guerrilla organization of Colombia. Ambassador Glazer stated that “any group that collaborates or expresses friendship with the FARC is not a friend of the United States.”1 Also, in February 2008, the U.S. Director of Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell made public a report that, without any evidence whatsoever, charged that the FMLN was set to receive “generous financing” from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for its electoral campaign.2 In October, Ambassador Glazer made public reference to this report.3 Such statements constitute unacceptable outside interference in the electoral process. They are a veiled threat against the Salvadoran people that, should they elect a government not to the liking of the United States, they will face U.S. wrath and possible reprisals. We consider this interference to be in violation of international norms and we call on the U.S. government to immediately desist from all such interference. The United States government must respect the right of the Salvadoran electorate to choose its government free from threats of U.S. hostility or reprisals. 2) We are alarmed by the increase in political violence in El Salvador over the past two years and the atmosphere of impunity with which this violence has taken place. There has been a spate of assassinations the circumstances surrounding which strongly suggests that they have been political in nature. The victims of these crimes have exclusively been leaders of trade unions, community and religious organizations and members or supporters of the FMLN. In 2007, according to the legal department of the Archbishopric of San Salvador, only 31 percent of the homicides which that office investigated was attributed to maras (gang members) or to common crime, while 69 percent, showed clear signs of “death-squad style” and “social cleansing” crimes.4 The San Salvador-based Foundation for the Study of the Application of the Law has documented 27 murders of young social movement activists and members of the political opposition over the past three years that appear to be death squad slayings.5 In addition, the El Salvador Human Rights Commission has denounced an increase in such death-squad slayings against opposition leaders as the elections have approached and warned that these assassinations are generating a climate of fear. 3) There have been a series of legal changes and reforms to the electoral code that open up the possibility of fraud. Among these, we observe that article 256 of the electoral law was partially derogated unilaterally in December 2007 by the current government.6 This article (256-D,c) stipulated that all ballots must be signed and sealed by election officials appointed to each voting center in order to be valid, thus safeguarding against tampering with ballots once they are deposited by voters. In addition, the current Salvadoran government unilaterally moved the official opening of the electoral period from September 17, 2008 to September 1, 2008. This meant that the electoral register will be based on the 1992 national census rather than on the new census conducted in 2007. The electoral register at this time lists 4,226,479 Salvadorans registered to vote, on the basis of the 1992 census. However, the new 2007 census indicates that there are only 3,265,021 eligible voters, 961,458 less than the electoral register.7 Relying on the outdated 1992 census opens the possibility of ballot-stuffing and related types of voter fraud by using the names of people who are have died since 1992 or who have migrated and are no longer residents of the country. Moreover, the Organization of American States concluding its audit of the electoral register at the end of 2007 and in early 2008 presented its report, which included a list of 103 recommended measures with regard to the electoral process, including 56 which that international organization characterized as “obligatory,” incompliance with which would put into jeopardy the integrity of the elections.8 To date, the great majority of these recommendations have not been acted upon. 4) Finally, we are highly alarmed by statements issued in Washington D.C. on September 18, 2008, by the Salvadoran foreign minister, Marisol Argueta de Barillas, in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).9 Ms. Argueta was personally invited by AEI visiting fellow Roger Noriega, a U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs during the administration of George W. Bush and a man who shamelessly intervened in the 2004 Salvadoran presidential elections. At that time, and while serving as assistant secretary of state, he threatened that if the FMLN were elected the United States would seek to block the sending of remittances from Salvadorans in the United States to their family members in El Salvador and to deport Salvadorans residing in the United States.10 In her speech before the AEI, the Salvadoran foreign minister openly called on the U.S. government to intervene in her country’s electoral process. Ms. Argueta declared: “The United States must pay close attention to what is happening in El Salvador and the resulting national security and geopolitical consequences, since our enemies are joining together and becoming stronger. The upcoming municipal and legislative elections in January of 2009 and the next presidential elections in March 2009 will be without a doubt, the closest electoral competitions in the history of El Salvador…The opposition party is a remnant of the former guerrilla movement. Some members of its leadership have been closely related to ETA or to the FARC. Losing El Salvador will threaten the national security of both El Salvador and the United States…It will generate instability in the country and in neighboring countries and it will set El Salvador back 30 years, to when Central America was in turmoil. As President Ronald Reagan said 25 years ago…the security of the United States is at stake in El Salvador.…US foreign policy in the region must be reassessed and there must be a review of growing anti-American sentiment and the coming to power of increasing numbers of anti-American governments in this backyard.”11 These declarations virtually call for U.S. intervention in El Salvador to avoid a possible electoral triumph by the FMLN, and to undermine in this way the right of the Salvadoran people to elect the government of their choosing free from threats, pressures, and interference by a foreign power. Given the long and sordid history of U.S. intervention in El Salvador and in Latin America we view these statements with grave concern and we call on the Salvadoran government to desist from inviting U.S. intervention. We wish to make these concerns known to the incoming Obama administration. We are hopeful that, with its renewed commitment to better diplomatic relations with Latin America and its message of political change, this new administration will not support any intervention in the Salvadoran elections and nor will it tolerate human rights violations and electoral fraud. SIGNED: William I. Robinson, University of California at Santa Barbara Hector Perla, University of California at Santa Cruz Charles Hale, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2006-2007) Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University Arturo Arias, University of Texas at Austin and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2001-2003) Craig N. Murphy, Wellesley College and past president of the International Studies Association (2000-2001) Ramona Hernandez, City College of New York and Director of Dominican Studies Institute Helen I. Safa, Emeritus, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1983-1985) Carmen Diana Deere, University of Florida and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1992-94). Sonia E. Alvarez, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2004-2006) Lars Schoultz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (1991-1992) Thomas Holloway, University of California at Davis and past president of the Latin American Studies Association (2000-2001) John L. Hammond, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY, and former chair of the Latin American Studies Association Task Force on Human Rights and Academic Freedom Miguel Tinker-Salas, Pomona College Greg Grandin, New York University Manuel Rozental, Algoma University Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C. Jeffrey L. Gould, University of Indiana Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Mark Sawyer, University of California at Los Angeles Ramon Grosfoguel, University of California at Berkeley Peter McLaren, University of California at Los Angeles Gilberto G. Gonzales, University of California at Irvine John Foran, University of California at Santa Barbara Christopher Chase-Dunn, University of California at Irvine Alfonso Gonzales, New York University Gary Prevost, St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict Sujatha Fernandez, Queens College, City University of New York Howard Winant, University of California at Santa Barbara Jon Shefner, University of Tennessee Daniel Hellinger, Webster University Agustin Lao-Montes, University of Massachusetts at Amherst Millie Thayer, University of Massachusetts at Amherst Jeffrey W. Rubin, Boston University Ellen Moodie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Brandt Gustav Peterson, Michigan State University Adam Flint, Binghamton University Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University Richard Grossman, Northeastern Illinois University Manel Lacorte, University of Maryland Ana Patricia Rodríguez, University of Maryland Beth Baker, California State University at Los Angeles Aaron Schneider, Tulane University Misha Kokotovic, University of California-San Diego Marc McLeod, Seattle University Michael Hardt, Duke University Bruce Ergood, Ohio University Beatrice Pita, University of California at San Diego Rosaura Sanchez, University of California at San Diego Nancy Plankey Videla, Texas A&M University Kate Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University LaDawn Haglund, Arizona State University Judith A. Weiss, Mount Allison University, Canada Susanne Jonas, University of California at Santa Cruz Robert Whitney, University of New Brunswick (Saint John), Canada Aline Helg (U.S. citizen), Université de Genève, Switzerland Stephanie Jed, University of California at San Diego Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, California State University James J. Brittain, Acadia University, Canada Margaret Power, Illinois Institute of Technology Philip J. Williams, University of Florida R. James Sacouman, Acadia University Carlos Schroder, Northern Virginia Community College Frederick B. Mills, Bowie State University Judith Blau, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Egla Martinez, Carleton University, Canada Walda Katz-Fishman, Howard University Judith Wittner, Loyola University Yajaira M. Padilla, University of Kansas Tanya Golash-Boza, University of Kansas Erich H. Loewy, University of California at Davis Jonathan Fox, University of California at Santa Cruz Steven S. Volk, Oberlin College Marc Edelman, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY W. L. Goldfrank, University of California at Santa Cruz Benjamin Kohl, Temple University Lourdes Benería, Cornell University Philip Oxhorn, McGill University Ronald Chilcote, University of California at Riverside Judith Adler Hellman, York University, Toronto Barbara Chasin, Montclair State University Matt D Childs, University of South Carolina Sarah Hernandez, New College of Florida Catherine LeGrand, McGill University Nathalia E. Jaramillo, Purdue University William Avilés, University of Nebraska, Kearney Dana Frank, University of California at Santa Cruz Robert Andolina, Seattle University Sinclair Thomson, New York University Patricia Balcom, University of Moncoton Josée Grenier, Université du Québec en Outaouais Manfred Bienefeld, Carleton University Susan Spronk, University of Ottawa May E. Bletz, Brock University David Heap, University of Western Ontario Dennis Beach, Saint John’s University, Minnesota Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago, Rutgers University-New Brunswick William S. Stewart, California State University, Chico Sheila Candelario, Fairfield University Erik Ching, Furman University Marc Zimmerman, University of Houston Maureen Shea, Tulane University Héctor Cruz-Feliciano, Council on International Educational Exchange Karen Kampwirth, Knox College Marco A. Mojica, City College of San Francisco Nick Copeland, University of Arkansas Silvia L. López, Carleton College Marie-Agnès Sourieau, Fairfield University Karina Oliva-Alvarado, University of California at Los Angeles Erin S. Finzer, University of Kansas Dina Franceschi, Fairfield University Lisa Kowalchuk, University of Guelph Amalia Pallares, University of Illinois at Chicago B. Ruby Rich, University of California at Santa Cruz Edward Dew, Fairfield University Nora Hamilton, University of Southern California Deborah Levenson, Boston College Linda J. Craft, North Park University Thomas W. Walker, Ohio University Jocelyn Viterna, Harvard University Cecilia Menjivar, Arizona State University Ricardo Dominguez, University of California at San Diego María Elena Díaz, University of California at Santa Cruz Guillermo Delgado-P, University of California at Santa Cruz Guillaume Hébert, Université du Québec à Montréal Leisy Abrego, University of California at Irvine Michael E. Rotkin, University of California at Santa Cruz John Blanco, University of California at San Diego Steven Levitsky, Harvard University John Beverley, University of Pittsburgh Evelyn Gonzalez, Montgomery College Tom O'Brien, University of Houston Pablo Rodriguez, City College of San Francisco John Womack, Jr., Harvard University James D. Cockcroft, State University of New York Mark Anner, Penn State University John Kirk, Dalhousie University Jorge Mariscal, University of California at San Diego Susan Kellogg, University of Houston Susan Gzesh, University of Chicago Luis Martin-Cabrera, University of California at San Diego Lawrence Rich, Northern Virginia Community College Jeff Tennant, The University of Western Ontario, Canada Meyer Brownstone, University of Toronto and Chair emeritus, Oxfam Canada Charmain Levy, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Canada Liisa L. North, York University Denis G. Rancourt, University of Ottawa, Canada Barbara Weinstein, New York University Kelley Ready, Brandeis University NOTES: 1) La Prensa Gráfica, 21 mayo 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20080521 /nacion/1063436.asp 2) La Prensa Gráfica, 6 febrero 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20080206 /nacion/983447.asp 3) El Diario de Hoy 1 octubre 2008. Informe 2007. http://www.tutelalegal.org/ 4) Informe 2007. http://www.tutelalegal.org/ 5) La Pagina de Maiz, No. 195, 5/23/08; "Presentacion de Denucia ante FGR", 2/12/08 6) Corte Suprema de Justicia. http://www.jurisprudencia.gob.sv/Lgreformas.htm 7) La Prensa Gráfica 5 octubre 2008. http://archive.laprensa.com.sv/20081005 /nacion/1152235.asp 8) "Aspectos Relevantes en el Informe de Auditoria Integral al Registro Electoral Realizada por La OEA", http://www.isd.org.sv/trans_electoral/documents/ASPECTOSRELEVANTESENEL INFORMEDEOEA.pdf 9) Diario Colatino 3 octubre 2008. http://www.diariocolatino.com/es/20081003 /nacionales/59433/?tpl=69 10) Noticen, 3/25/2004, Latin America Data Base, University of New Mexico. 11) Noticen, 10/16/2008. » * NACLA | 38 GREENE ST. 4TH FL., NEW YORK NY 10013 | TEL: (646) 613-1440 | FAX (646) 613-1443

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Reporters' Notebooks

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.