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52 posts from September 2008

September 30, 2008

Help a great photojournalist break a story

One of the world's greatest living photojournalists won the 2007 TED Prize, which consists of $100,000 and one wish to change the world. James Nachtwey wished for "help in breaking a news story in a way that demonstrates the power of news photography in the digital age."

Laura Galloway explains: "Nachtwey's work will be simultaneously revealed online, disseminated through numerous media channels, and projected on public buildings throughout the world. The TED Prize organizers have created a blogger page where bloggers can download a badge for their blogs in advance of Oct. 3, find event live event locations, or embed Nachtwey's wish video. On October 3, the site will redirect to reveal the story."

Bloggers, help Nachtwey get his wish by downloading a badge for your sidebar.

Balko interviews DEA whistleblower Sandy Gonzalez

Radley Balko interviews Sandy Gonzalez, a DEA agent whose career ended prematurely because he pushed for an investigation into the House of Death murders, which were committed by drug informants, possibly with the knowledge of ICE and DEA officials.

September 29, 2008

How I made Green & White Taxi pay what they owe

Suburban/Green & White Taxi Accident, St. Paul

On Sept. 4, I was in a Green & White Taxi on my way to downtown St. Paul to cover the RNC protests.

Suddenly, the driver slammed on the brakes, the cab veered into the next lane, clipped an adjacent vehicle, hit the k-rail, bounced back out into traffic and finally came to rest against the k-rail.

I was wearing my seatbelt, so I wasn't seriously injured. But I walked away with a very sore neck. I went to the ER to get checked out. X-rays came back normal and they discharged me with a prescription for ibuprophen.

In a way, it was a lucky accident because if I hadn't been strapped to a backboard in the ER while the Capital was being locked down, I probably would have ended up flex-cuffed face down on a bridge, like many of my indie media colleagues. As it turned out, all access to the Capital was blocked off by the time I arrived, so I missed the mass arrest.

The hospital assured me that the cab company's insurance would take care of the ER bill. I left them with the taxi company's name and phone number and assumed that the billing department would handle it from there. I didn't give it much thought until I got a bill for $1100.

The hospital explained that they'd called Green & White Taxi three times to request insurance information, but Green & White wasn't returning their calls. They wanted to hold me responsible for the bill.

I tried calling Green & White (also dba Suburban Taxi). I must have left a dozen messages over the course of several days. Despairing of ever reaching a person at the office number, I tried calling the dispatcher and asking him to walk over to the front office and get someone's attention. He refused.

I got a sinking feeling when I finally got through to a receptionist who refused to tell me the last name of the insurance administrator or when she'd be in the office next, or even the last name of the owner of Green & White.

For the record, the owner's name is Gary Tournier. Mr. Tournier didn't cover his online tracks nearly as well as he thought he did.

I was getting panicky because if Green & White would't give the hospital their insurance information, the hospital was going to hold me responsible. What's the point of making cab drivers carry insurance if they can get away with stonewalling the hospital until the victim gets stuck with the bill? 

Then I remembered that St. Paul has a taxi licensing commission which keeps track of the insurance that each taxi company must carry. I got the name of the insurance company and the insurance policy-writing company from from St. Paul's taxi licensing office. The policy-writing firm referred me to a third company that actually handles claim processing.

I asked if a claim had been opened for Green & White's policy. All the agent needed was the name of the company and the number of the cab. Sure enough, Green & White had filed a claim to cover the damage to their vehicle. The agent gave me the policy number and the underwriter's name.

That's all the hospital needs to bill Green & White's insurance for my ER bill.

I devised my own strategy to get around the shady, stonewalling Green & White Taxi because there wasn't any information online about how to get insurance info from a taxi company that won't divulge it.

So, I thought I'd post about the experience in the hopes that someone else will have an easier time of it.

To summarize: Here's what to do if a cab company won't divulge its insurance information. Find out which body governs taxi licensing in the place where the accident happened. Usually, the licensing body is part of the city government, but not always. Ask for the insurance policy information on the cab. Call the company that wrote the insurance policy and ask them to put you in touch with the company that processes the claims. Give the claim- processing company the details of the accident: Company name, cab number, date of the accident. They can give you the policy number and the name of the adjuster who is handling the claim. Give all that information to the billing department at the hospital.

September 28, 2008

Afghanistan's top policewoman killed

Afghanistan's most senior female police officer was shot and killed by Taliban rebels:

Gunmen in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar have killed the country's most prominent policewoman, officials say.


Lt-Col Malalai Kakar, head of Kandahar's department of crimes against women, was shot in her car as she was about to leave for work.

Her son was also wounded in the attack, and is said to be seriously injured.

Taleban rebels, who banned women from joining the police when they were in power, said they had carried out the shooting. [BBC]

According to the article, Lt. Col. Kakar is one of 700 Afghan police officers killed in the line of duty in 2008.

September 26, 2008

McCain wins debate, Dewey beats Truman

Mccain_wins_debate_ad McCain ads say he won the debate. This is an official McCain web ad that got released prematurely, according to WaPo campaign blogger Chris Cillizza.

September 25, 2008

Sarah Palin word salad: The bailout is about health care and the trade sector under the umbrella of job creation

Question: Why isn't it better, Gov. Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas, and groceries, [to] allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

Answer: "That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it's got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and getting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade -- we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation."

Gov. Palin's just not flagging the molecules with that answer.

Bailout protest: Jamie Dimon mask

Mask, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


Protester wearing a mask of Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, at a protest against the proposed $700 billion government bailout of the financial sector.

September 24, 2008

Witch-Fighter Muthee annoints Sarah Palin

Seriously, folks...

My good friend and esteemed colleague Max Blumenthal has uncovered some footage of Sarah Palin getting blessed against witchcraft at the Wasilla Assembly of God. In this clip, visting pastor Muthee casts out the spirit of witchcraft over (sic) Sarah Palin, but only after he prays for campaign contributions for her gubernatorial bid. Priorities, priorities...

You should watch the whole thing for the prologue about how religion must infiltrate every sphere of society from politics to the media to the entertainment industry, but if you're in a hurry, fast forward to 6:58 on the YouTube clip for the Palin-specific footage including anti-witchcraft blessing.

Then, watch this, and you'll feel better. I promise.

FDL Exclusive: Rick Davis still director at Davis Manafort

The McCain campaign claimed that campaign manager Rick Davis had "separated" from his lobby shop, Davis Manafort, in 2006.

Not true. Read the full story with screen shots at Campaign Silo.

Obama backs bailout, with conditions

Barack Obama has endorsed a $700 billion bailout scheme for financial firms hit devastated by the subprime mortgage crisis.

Obama called the Bush bailout proposal a "blank check." His counterprosal is basically a blank check with four conditions attached:

Adding some specificity to proposals he has already made, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, called for a payback plan for taxpayers if the bailout succeeds; a bipartisan board to oversee the bailout; limits on any federal money going to compensate Wall Street executives; and aid to homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages. [NYT]

I want to hear a debate about the core questions: What is the $700 billion dollar bailout supposed to achieve? Why a bailout instead of lending money to the firms at interest? How will we define success? 

I'm glad Obama favors increased oversight, but why a bipartisan oversight board instead of Congress? Bush's plan would give Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson sweeping powers with no oversight and no basis to challenge his decisions in court.