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Last to Know

San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb's slam-dunk exposé last month, which revealed the federal coverup of massive crack sales by the CIA-supported Nicaraguan contras to inner-city gang leaders, vindicated the so-called conspiracy theories long espoused by African American radical leaders and alternative press editors. Absent from the Merc's coverage: the fact that Webb's story breaks a long spell of silence by the mainstream press about the CIA-crack connection nearly a decade after it was first reported in the alternative press. Metro ran many aspects of the story in 1988 in a cover series titled "The White House and the Cocaine Cartel." And Robert Parry, then an investigative journalist with the Associated Press, reported as far back as 1985 that all major contra factions had joined the drug trade to finance their war against Nicaragua's leftist government. But the Reagan administration denounced the story, and no one picked it up. Parry tried again at Newsweek, but editors there also backed the administration. Scattered stories by CBS and an ABC affiliate were ignored as the prestige papers, the New York Times and Washington Post, refused to pursue the story. "It had become cool to defend the contras, a position staked out first by the very influential New Republic," Parry recalls. "National reporters built successful careers by acusing colleagues of falling for conspiracy theories." The Iran-contra hearings proceeded with no mention of the crack connection. Metro's two-part cover series by Murray Waas ran in October 1988 prior to the election, implicating Reagan administration officials and then-presidential candidate George Bush. ...Ultimately Parry, who also broke details of the Iran-contra scandal, lost patience with what he calls "the closing down of space in the mainstream press for honest investigative reporting," and left mainstream journalism entirely. This week in The Consortium, his own investigative e-zine, Parry details the coverup that kept this story out of the press. Point your Web browser to http://www.delve.com/consort1.html, or call 800/738-1812 to inquire about a paper subscription.


Prince of Tirades

Even the tabloid TV show Hard Copy won't run stories on celebrity stalkings when they don't catch the victim. So give them one-up on Merc columnist Dennis Rockstroh, who wasted 16 inches of copy last Tuesday describing how he stalked a young man who didn't deserve to be harassed. Rockstroh tells us the Crown Prince of Norway, who transferred this year to be a student at UC-Berkeley, has announced that he doesn't want to be disturbed by the media, "even by distinguished columnists like myself." A Norwegian Consulate official said Cal was Crown Prince Haakon Magnus' "chance to be a private person." ... That didn't stop Rockstroh from speeding to the campus plaza anyway for no other reason than, "I wanted to see how his majesty was getting along." When rebuffed by a student who thought the prince should get his privacy, Rockstroh calls the student a "snot." Then he finds a man who might have been the prince. "I walked up to him and asked if he was Magnus. The man looked afraid and blurted, 'No.' If I were the student prince I would have done the same thing. Who is this middle-aged nut, and why is he following me anyway?' " ... Eye thinks it's more likely that Magnus knows the look of a man desperate for material. Out at the Norwegian Consulate, an official indicated that the media enjoys the same reputation in northern Europe as in the U.S.: "You do this all the time, don't you?" he said dismissively, "with the celebrities and such."


Fast and Loose

North County supervisorial candidate Barbara Koppel has blown a fuse over Eye's item last week about overzealous ballot statements and dead voters on her endorsement rolls. She even claims that Eye played "fast and loose" with the facts, a note-worthy phrase since it is precisely the same verbatim charge hurled against her campaign last week by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Simon, who managed to get Koppel's campaign manager, Ron Smith, to admit to playing fast and loose with the facts in connection with a last-minute mailer he produced for Koppel's during the primary. The election hour hit-piece had wrongly accused rival Joe Simitian of favoring card clubs when he had voted against them. This time, however, Koppel tells us we besmirched the memory and offended the survivors of her listed supporter, David Packard, by pointing out that he won't be voting in this particular contest. Koppel was also nonplussed with Eye's view of Judge Richard Turrone's recent ruling that her ballot argument claim of an endorsement by the "Santa Clara County Firefighters" was "false and misleading" and had to be removed. In fairness, Koppel says Eye should have noted that she has, in fact, been endorsed by one firefighters' union, local 1165, which serves her home city of Cupertino along with Morgan Hill and Saratoga. . . . Meanwhile, however, we did get something stuck in our Eye in our previous report about the race between Koppel and Simitian in Mountain View, which we wrongly described as a "dead heat" before being reminded that Koppel actually won in Mountain View, by a spread of 7 percentage points. Which, of course, explains why Simitian packed his bags and moved his headquarters from tony University Avenue in Palo Alto to Koppel country along the El Camino in Mountain View.


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From the September 12-18, 1996 issue of Metro

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