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Friday, August 19, 2005

Big news day

The words of every crisis communications consultant I’ve ever heard are echoing in my head after skimming the morning paper—“Tell it first and tell it all.”

Amazing how few people actually follow those words of wisdom. To wit: Ohio is in a state of crisis. One need only to look on the front page of today’s Plain Dealer to see its humiliation in the face of Gov. Bob Taft. Yesterday, our esteemed governor plead no contest and was convicted of breaking state ethics laws. He was fined $4,000—the equivalent of $20 to you and me.

Some will argue, “So he didn’t report a few rounds of golf, what’s the big deal?” The deal is that Taft is required by law to report to citizens of Ohio who is buying him what, the implication being that if certain people routinely buy him expensive rounds of golf at the state’s posh country clubs, they may in turn expect some governmental favors.

It’s about transparency in government and public accountability. And he made darned sure that others in his administration followed the highest ethical standards. Those who didn’t were dismissed and not allowed a second chance. Given the state of problems plaguing our state government, accusations of widespread corruption no longer seem hyperbole.

Taft’s words are coming back to haunt him. Judge Mark Froehlich said, “Even the governor can be charged and convicted of a criminal offense.” With that he also ordered Taft to issue an “appropriate and meaningful apology to the citizens of Ohio.

And so he has. But there are those, both in the Democratic and his own Republican party who are calling for Taft to resign. This is one guy who is known more for his inability to lead and he somehow thinks he can continue for the next 17 months in light of his most recent and serious gaffe!

Gov. Taft, you owe Ohio citizens better than that—you owe them the chance to begin the painful and tedious process of rebuilding a state that you failed.

Closer to home
The other big news today is now that Cleveland businessman (I guess that’s what we call him) Nate Gray has been convicted on 36 charges of bribing public officials in four cities in exchange for public contracts, many believe that federal prosecutors are going after former Cleveland Mayor Mike White next.

He could be viewed as the big fish is this scum-filled pond. I don’t pretend to know how this case will end, but I do know that as a resident of Greater Cleveland, I feel I’ve been cheated. And that really pisses me off.

We had a chance—and we actually believed it at the time—that we could turn our city around. That we could start building new homes and improving our infrastructure and making our airport a world-class destination. But the charges against Gray and Ricardo Teamor and who knows how many others show that any progress our city made during the 1990s was done under the canopy of bribes, kickbacks and coercion.

There's an incestuous nature to Northeast Ohio's business and politics. Cleveland’s leaders—both political and, perhaps more importantly, it’s business leaders—have a lot of ’splaining to do. Who sat quietly by, including the media, while all this happened?

Disturbing world news
This story reported in today’s Washington Post is very disturbing. It seems that police in China's northern Shaanxi province have arrested one of the nation's leading advocates of private property rights after officials posed as journalists and forged an e-mail from a prominent Hong Kong reporter to lure him out of hiding, friends and relatives said.

You may recall that the day before the 9/11 attacks, the freedom fighter Mamood in Afghanistan was murdered by Osama bin Laden's people using similar tactics. He thought he was being interviewed by journalists and was killed by bombs packed into a television camera. It's a disturbing pattern that has big-time implications for revolutionaries in the most dangerous and oppressed parts of our world.

In related news, the state of the world's press continues to teeter in the wake of government pressure. The International Federal of Journalists Asia Pacific has launched a petition drive for press freedom on Nepal. Here’s is some background from an e-mail I received today from IFJ-Asia Pacific President, Christopher Warren (who was a fellow panelist at the 2004 East-Asia Journalism Forum in Korea last November).

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries, has organised the Global Day of Action for Press Freedom in Nepal on August 30. As part of this global campaign, the IFJ and its affiliates have organised the Nepal Crisis Signature Campaign.

This is a chance to show your support and solidarity with the journalists of Nepal.

The campaign is taking place from August 7 to 31, with a view to garner mass solidarity at national and international levels. The collected signatures will be submitted to the UN General Assembly scheduled to meet in New York from September 14 to 17.

Since royal coup on February 1 2005, which suspended fundamental human rights in Nepal, King Gyanendra's hand-picked government, together with the military, have systematically and aggressively eroded press freedom and freedom of expression. Although the state of emergency was lifted in April, the climate of fear and harassment continues today, with threats, abductions, detention and torture still remaining a daily routine forced upon Nepali journalists.

The ongoing violation of civil liberties is unacceptable and must be stopped.

There is an urgent need for increased international pressure on the Nepalese government to restore democracy and press freedom and stop the torture, abduction and harassment of media personnel and other forms of censorship.

The Nepalese media community are risking their safety each day to protest and resist this repression. But they need more support.

The IFJ, its affiliates and the Nepali media community are stepping up their protest and ask for the support of their colleagues. Show your support by signing the Nepal Crisis Signature Campaign.

The IFJ, together with the Federation of Nepalese Journalists and other Nepal IFJ affiliates would appreciate if you could be involved in the petition by:

· Signing on to the petition

· Including a link on your websites to the signature campaign.

· Email your network about the signature campaign.

Visit here for more information on Global Day of Action for Press Freedom in Nepal.

Sending prayers
WAPO also is reporting this morning that Coretta Scott King has suffered a major stroke. We’re sending prayers for her recovery.

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