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Richard Holbrooke/Samuel Berger DataDump

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times begins to flush the members of presumptive U.S. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's Cromagnon foreign policy team out from their caves. Here's a version of his story in the Minnesota Star Tribune (which, unlike the LAT, doesn't demand your personal data to read it... ¡putos! suddenly they do want you to register... okay, here's the Baltimore Sun version, while it lasts...):

John Kerry is assembling a network of foreign policy advisers more hawkish than most Democrats but more skeptical of military solutions in the struggle against terrorism than the team surrounding President Bush.

The experts being consulted span a broad ideological range of Democratic opinion -- to the point where some party thinkers worry that Kerry is not defining a sufficiently distinctive vision of how America should pursue its goals in the world.

Note: Brownstein doesn't quote a single one of those "party thinkers" worrying about this problem, not even anonymously. I'm not a member of any party, but through my weblog BigLeftOutside I have worried aloud more vocally than most...

Links, Links, Links: Amazon Burning

Indigenous communities oppose a big, fat, US-funded military base in the heart of Colombian rainforest on grounds that it has been imposed without consulting the autonomous governments and it will harm the fragile jungle…

"(This is) a complex debate if one takes into account that the future of the Amazon is in play, and the role that the indigenous have in the conservation of native forests, a total of 24 million hectares in their territory…

"'They have to understand that a hectare of coca causes more ecological damage than a military base,' says one of the officials in charge of the batallion…"

That official's statement, of course, contains more bullshit than a rodeo, read on to find out why...

Plus more news from Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Haiti, Venezuela, and Washington DC (Can you say "Human Rights Botch"?)...

Hispanic civil-rights group claims insurance `crime bureau' targets minorities

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is an official sounding name for a fraud-busting detective agency funded by the insurance industry.

In fact, NICB investigators refer to themselves as "special agents," the same title used by criminal investigators with federal agencies like the FBI and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (formerly the investigative arm of U.S. Customs).

The NICB even has agreements in place -- called Memoranda of Understanding, or MOUs -- with law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, that allow the private insurer-backed group to conduct joint criminal investigations with these tax-funded agencies. NICB special agents also use sophisticated computer-based investigative tactics that involve accessing and sharing data with government agencies.

Under the auspices of treaties negotiated between the United States and foreign countries, the NICB also conducts investigations overseas -- including in Central and South American countries. These treaties also facilitate the sharing of computer and other data between U.S.-based investigative agencies and the foreign countries.

So you've never heard of the NICB?

If that’s the case, one of the oldest Hispanic civil rights groups in the nation, the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, wants to shed some light on the group for you.

Monday Morning Links: The Daily Disinfo Parade!

Publisher's Note: "Morning Links" for Tuesday and Wednesday have been added to this thread... Thursday and Friday to come...
Today's "Forero de Oro *TM" award for the smarmiest piece of disinformation by a Comercial Media ignoramus goes to Kim Housego of the Associated Press, who blames problems of addiction in Colombia caused by drug prohibition on the 1994 Supreme Court decision that decriminalized possession of small user quantities of marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs. Headlined Colombia sinks in sea of legal cocaine, heroin, Housego's story reveals all the usual stains of a lazy reporter taking dictation from the U.S. Embassy in exchange for future access to the drug of easy disinformation.

In fact, there is lots of disinfo today to unravel, from Colombia to Venezuela, plus a couple of encouraging news items from Bolivia, and, read on, in a tip of the hat to our current blogging muse Wonkette, who gets people to read about boring politicians with references to sex, see if you can find the words "blow job" (hint: it regards Oligarch's Daily and Gustavo Cisneros) in today's links roundup…

Narcosphere: The Road from Here

Hard though it was to tear myself out of that jungle rainforest that I love so much, and to which I owe so much of my formation, I'm glad to be back in the cockpit again, piloting this intercontinental jetfighter of Authentic Journalism.

I've said this already, but it bears repeating: You don't know how happy I am that there is a Narcosphere, that you are participating, that a news crisis (like a certain U.S. pol's statement on Venezuela) can happen at the absolute worst most incomunicado moment for me and to see that the copublishers jumped into action, dissected the story, and disseminated the good work done by others to save the day.

I'm going to address various open questions, below, about Narco News, The Narcosphere, and the School of Authentic Journalism, and share with you my current vision for the next four months of where we are going and how we will get there.

So, Co-publishers, click to read more and fire away. Vrooom! Vrooom!

Customs asked to investigate more reckless-driving charges against agent

Dorene Kulpa-Friedli lost her husband, U.S. Customs agent Gary Friedli, in a tragic auto accident in March 1998 along the Arizona border. Her husband was killed after the jeep he was in collided with the gas tank of a turning semi-truck.

At the time of the collision, the jeep was traveling some 20 mph over the speed limit on a dirt road.

The driver of the jeep was Customs agent Allan Sperling, who still works for the agency -- which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to the 1998 accident that killed Friedli, Sperling was involved in four other on-duty auto accidents, according to government documents.

Now, allegations have surfaced that Sperling has been involved in at least two additional auto accidents since Friedli's death.

“I do not think that Sperling set out to kill Gary (Friedli) that day; however, his driving actions that day did cause Gary's death,” Kulpa-Friedli asserted in a recent interview conducted by e-mail.

Armed with the latest charges concerning Sperling’s driving record, Kulpa-Friedli is seeking to re-ignite congressional interest in her husband's case.

Kulpa-Friedli contends “family members deserve to know the truth.”

“To have a cover-up or people lie to you just adds to the pain,” she adds.

Mario Menéndez: "Don't Cry: Fight!"

Hey, fellow and sister Co-publishers!

Special thanks to all of you who kept the updates and comments comin' during my days on the road: The quality of the work posted here generates a lot of compliments wherever I go. You should know: folks are reading your comments all over América, and elsewhere.

I headed, first, to Mérida, Yucatán, where the founder of the Authentic Journalism renaissance - and victorious co-defendant of Narco News in the Drug War on Trial case of 2001 - Mario Menéndez Rodríguez and his daily newspaper, Por Esto!, held their 13th anniversary breakfast on March 21st...

¡Narcoesfera bilingüe!

Como escribí aquí hace poco tiempo, hacer bilingüe (y finalmente trilingüe) este sitio web es el proximo objetivo importante para la Narcoesfera. Hoy damos el primero verdadero paso hacia ese fin.

As I wrote a short time ago here, getting this site fully bilingual (and eventually trilingual) is the next major goal for the Narcosphere. We've taken the first real step in that direction today.

Plan Colombia and its offspring

A thread to discuss US military "aid" to the Andean Nations.

Inmates, Please Run the Asylum

A message to all copublishers and readers:

Pleasantly surprised by the amazing success by The Fund for Authentic Journalist in meeting the deadline to give new birth to the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, I find I am behind in my own responsibilities and deadlines to that project...

Treasurer Grice Reports: "We Did It!"

This just in from Andrew Grice, treasurer of The Fund for Authentic Journalism:

"We did it! Today we broke the $10,000 mark, thus enabling the second installment of the matching grant from the Tides Fund for Drug Policy Reform. I must admit, I myself had some serious doubts if we could pull this off. But the readers and Co-publishers of Narco News pulled together and chipped in to make it happen. Thank you everyone. You've proven that authentic journalism has a viable future, that it can't be silenced.

"I'd especially like to thank Tim Meehan, Colleen Glynn, Laura Del Castillo, Trevor Top, Nate Johnson and Ben Melançon, whose contributions of time and talent were critical in helping us rise to the task on time… and of course, everyone who gave so generously.

Andrew Grice, Treasurer
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O. Box 71051
Madison Heights, MI  48071

A Response from the Narco News Team to The Fund and our readers...

Mexican whistleblower facing wrath of U.S. justice system

Is Ricardo Cordero Ontiveros a good cop gone bad, or is he the victim of retaliation for exposing bad cops?

That's the issue before a federal judge in San Antonio, Texas, where Cordero finds himself behind bars, denied bond and charged with laundering millions of dollars in illicit drug money.

Cordero, the former head of a high-profile Mexican anti-narcotics squad, also found himself on the wrong side of the law in the mid-1990s after blowing the whistle on corruption within the ranks of Mexican law enforcement.

Cordero, who in 1995 served as the deputy director of Mexico's National Institute to Combat Drugs (INCD), claimed at the time that drug-traffickers had gotten their hooks into Mexican law enforcement on a grand scale. After resigning from his post in the wake of going public with his allegations, Cordero was arrested by Mexican police on bribery and narco-trafficking charges. He was later convicted and spent more than a year in prison before winning his release on an appeal.

Cordero claimed he had been framed for exposing the rampant law-enforcement corruption in Mexico. Mexican officials countered that Cordero went public with his corruption charges only after he learned he was under investigation.

Now Cordero is back in the hot seat, this time on the U.S. side of the border. He was indicted with little fanfare last November on four counts of money laundering and has been sitting in jail in San Antonio ever since.

El Salvador Votes on Sunday

Sunday, March 21, is the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere...

And it is the first day of autumn in the southern hemisphere....

It is also the birthdate of Benito Juárez, Mexico's first and only indigenous president, who created a system of rights under law and separated Church from State....

It is also the 12th anniversary of the daily Por Esto!, Mexico's third largest newspaper, published by my victorious co-defendant Mario Renato Menéndez Rodríguez. (I will be reporting live from Mérida on Sunday, celebrating the Authentic Journalism renaissance with our fearless leader and author of the phrase "Authentic Journalism.")

March 21st is the day when the sun shines upon the ancient Maya pyramid at Chichén Itza, near Mérida, to form the shadows-and-light shape of a serpent...

This year, March 21st has another significance, too.

It could be, just maybe, just perhaps, the day that a former guerrilla comandante wins the election for president of El Salvador.

As Newsday reported three hours ago:

For the first time since the country's brutal 1980-92 civil war ended, the candidate of the former leftist rebels who battled the right-wing government has a chance of winning the presidency.

Menéndez (the journalist who the guerrilla commanders in El Salvador chose when they decided to reveal their true identities) and I will be reporting the results to you on Sunday night, live, as they come in.

Ah, yes... Narco News... always with a new surprise.

Wonder what will come tomorrow... and next week...

Stay tuned.

24 Hours - The Final Stretch

This is so exciting!  We're coming down to the last 24 hours in our all important quest to raise $10,000 by the end of March 18th and qualify for another installment of our matching grant.  Honestly, when I wrote that "10 Days to Save J-School" plea, I doubted whether we could pull it off.  That's why I'm so absolutely thrilled to report that we are now within spitting distance of our goal.  We've raised $9542.55.  Just $457.45 to go.  

So how about it folks?  If you've been putting off your contribution until the last minute because you liked the extra drama, now is your chance.  Who will be the heroes riding to the rescue in the final reel?  Who's click on a PayPal link will echo like a mighty thunder throughout the Americas?

Please, go to the website and give generously.  Thank you.

The Smoking Gun: Aristide Didn't Resign

The jig is really up.

BigLeftOutside reader Hal C. reports, with links:

The Lawrence (KS) Journal World has a pdf of Aristide's resignation letter linked to an article on the professor chosen by the state department to provide an independent rendering of the text.

KU's Bryant Freeman, a specialist in the Haitian Creole language, said Aristide's letter never said, "I am resigning."

Here is the Lawrence Journal-World link to the original letter.

Here is (for safe keeping, just in case others get timid or intimidated) The Narcosphere permanent and eternal link to the same letter...

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