By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
ORBITING THE 'PLANET'
Cynthia Cotts's Press Clips column headlined "Holy Libel Suit" [July 24] misstates key points in Steven Emerson's lawsuit against the Tampa, Florida, newspaper the Weekly Planet, its senior editor John Sugg, and former Associated Press reporter Richard Cole. It also ignores evidence cited below, which your columnist told me was in her possession.
In our suit we bring government confirmation of Mr. Emerson's Senate testimony that he was the subject of a death threat and demonstrate the falsity of Mr. Cole's allegation that Mr. Emerson authored a document claiming it was from the FBI. While the law offers journalists protection from disclosing their sources, the AP seeks to suppress our deposition of its former editor by claiming an "editorial privilege," thus depriving the public of the truthwhich will prove this allegation false.
Ms. Cotts is incorrect in stating that we seek to depose Mr. Cole's former editor to question him on his memo to the AP president. Though Ms. Cotts quoted a phrase from this memo stating that "some of Emerson's information 'did not check out,' " the full memo, now part of the court record, demonstrates that the AP in fact used information from Mr. Emerson, but chose, for reasons not explained in the memo, not to pursue much of the information that he gave them. We seek primarily to ascertain whether Mr. Cole did in fact report his claimed suspicion to his editor, since he and his former AP associates wrote to Mr. Emerson throughout their working relationship asking him for additional material and guidance.
Ms. Cotts states that "Emerson has never produced more details to prove that he was targeted by a hit squad." However, a letter written to the Weekly Planetin 1998 by the Justice Department's public affairs director states, "We have checked with the FBI and determined that the FBI did in fact receive information concerning a threat in 1995 and that they so advised Mr. Emerson of the danger to his life." Furthermore, the former section chief of the FBI's Domestic Terrorism/Counterterrorism Planning Section wrote in 1999 : "I confirmed to Mr. Sugg that a couple of years ago Mr. Emerson had been the subject of a death threat by a foreign terrorist group."
Mr. Emerson's journalistic record belies the unattributed quote that he has been "bounced from the mainstream." He has been cited in the media about 100 times since January 2000. This year he was credited by The New York Times as the expert "who first pointed out the errors" in translated documents submitted as evidence in the World Trade Center bombing trial and by the Canadian National Post for revealing that the millennium bombing defendant's target was the Los Angeles airport. Last year, The Dallas Morning News reported that a federal investigation into accusations that the Holy Land Foundation was providing "financial support for the militant Hamas movement" was disclosed by the State Department in its denial of Mr. Emerson's Freedom of Information request.
Attorney at Law
Cynthia Cotts replies: Horowitz is nitpicking in order to spin the story in his client's favor. For example, Emerson may still be used as a source by other journalistsbut Horowitz doesn't dispute the statement, printed in my column, that the only publication in which Emerson's byline has appeared recently isThe Wall Street Journal. Given that Emerson used to write for many popular publications, it appears that he has indeed been "bounced from the mainstream." As to the credibility of Emerson's testimony that he was the subject of a death threat: I was aware that Emerson has produced government sources to confirm theexistence of a confidential report to that effect. But these sources have added nothing to the credibility of the original report. And as I wrote, Emerson has "never produced moredetails" to support the report, such as clues to the identity of would-be assassins, the nature of their presence in U.S., or the source of the death threat allegedly issued against him (emphasis added).
BOLL WEEVIL MALATHION BLUES
Thank you for Erik Baard's article "Beach Blanket Nightmare" [July 24], about malathion poisoning. We live on a farm in west Texas and produce cotton. Since 1998 the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program has used massive quantities of malathion in an effort to eliminate the boll weevil (a cotton parasite). Many cotton producers in Texas participate in this program. The TBWEP sprays all their cotton acreage. They spray all cotton fields with aerial crop dusters, no matter how close the fields are to schools and homes. People are complaining of malathion-related illnesses. The TBWEP says that malathion is perfectly safe and cannot harm humans. This spraying is causing great harm to people and the environment; people are being poisoned, and a few influential individuals are profiting from this misery. Farmers and taxpayers have paid out tens of millions of dollars per year for a program that is not even needed.
Colonel Rodney D. Hale
THE RECOVERY WILL NOT BE TELEVISED
It was heart-wrenching to read Geoffrey Gray's "Gil Scott-Heron's Rap" [July 24], about the poet/musician's alleged battle with drug addiction and subsequently the law. I feel like shouting, "Say it ain't so, Gil" at his next concert. It's really frustrating because his music has been a major positive influence in my life. When I read the complete interview on the Net, I laughed at his wit. I also began to hope that maybe he didn't have a problem, because what kind of "crack house" has a phone, a doorman, and a playful cat? Yet behind his sense of humor and normal, if not cozy, living arrangements, he still sounds like he's in denial. It pains me to think that he is, as his song says, "a junkie trying to kick it, quit it, but have you ever tried? Just watch me die."
Even by Village Voice standards, "A.I., a Butch-Dyke Fantasy" by Eileen Myles [July 31] was a lamentable stretch. Did Myles also marvel at the erotic dyke plunges of Tomb Raider (Lara Croft as spelunker through Gaea's artifact-filled sex chambers) or the empowering gay message of Kiss of the Dragon (the beauty of male sexual love in martial arts)? As for A.I., I would be hesitant to attach a refreshingly gay-friendly viewpoint to a film that will go down in history (after Eyes Wide Shut) as the most expensive movie ever made from the rough draft of a screenplay.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND WRONGS
As the former chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, let me take my turn at writing history. A letter to the editor [July 31] from Assistant Professor Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes of Rutgers University regarding Richard Goldstein's article "¡Visibilidad! The Making of a Latino Gay Movement" [July 17] states that it was the intervention of "state human rights officials" that assisted in helping gay and lesbian Puerto Ricans into the Puerto Rican Day Parade. As someone who was present at the time, I can tell you that it was the New York City Commission on Human Rights that negotiated with parade organizers. Although some other groups were involved, "state human rights officials" were nowhere to be seen. And in reality, it was the gay/lesbian and AIDS groups themselves that decided enough was enough and just walked in with style and verve. There is a great videotape of the whole event.
Dennis deLeon, President
Latino Commission on AIDS
LIB AND LEFT LIB
I must express my gratitude that someone in the liberal press would dare to speak the truth ["Baiting 'The Beast,'" Norah Vincent, July 24]. The knee-jerk hegemony of the liberal caucus is abhorrent, and the recent matter of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's being so unfairly slandered over his scheduled appearance at a First Amendment conference is but the latest gaffe in a long line of shameful displays. Unfortunately, the once mighty liberal righteousness has devolved into a wretched self-righteousness.
It is shameful that any person would compare Thomas to Adolf Hitler; the sheer idiocy of the misassociation boggles the mind. What happened to the campus as a bastion of free speech and open debate?
James M. Johnson III
Re Bakari Kitwana's article "Uncivil War" [July 10]: Although I don't know enough about the squabble between Molefi Asante, the former head of Temple University's African American studies department, and his successor, Joyce Ann Joyce, to comment on the issue, I think I can understand Asante's ideological standpoint. It does seem to me that Afrocentricity is in danger of being co-opted to the point of bastardization. The problem is fighting for and defending the Afrocentric idea within a Eurocentric academic institution, which could easily raise up a figurehead more amenable to its own ideology. Imagine a Eurocentrically sponsored idea of African centeredness! Until the African-centered community can create complete, independent, self-sustaining academic institutions of its own, capable of raising, nurturing, financing, hiring, tenuring, and funding Afrocentric research, this problem will persist.
SIREN'S WAIL It was quite shocking to see the Voice's sarcastic tone and lack of genuine enthusiasm regarding its own Siren Music Festival [Amy Phillips, Choices Short List, July 24]. While any regular Voicereader could expect that a paper of your integrity would relegate self-promotion to the Choices section, it is profoundly ironic that one of the Voice's main competitors (Time Out) ran a much larger and more laudatory preview. Shame on you, Village Voice! As an artist and participant in this fantastic youth festival, I must say that Siren was a most newsworthy and praiseworthy event, regardless of the corporate bank account from which it emanated. Indeed, your surly music critics must always get their jabs in, but when Phillips decided to include her unfounded meteorological prediction ("Catch a cold from the rainstorm that will inevitably begin during your favorite band's set!"), a line was surely crossed. (By the way, Coney Island never saw such a beautiful, cloudless day!) The individuals in your company who produced this affair obviously put in many hours of hard work to create such an overwhelming success that yielded an estimated 50,000-person attendance. Not to mention the numerous artists who gave their greatest efforts. For my part and that of my bandmates in Jazz Beard Jr., we had a wonderful time and are hoping to be invited back next year. But I ask you, where's the teamwork from Editorial? R. James Bagget
Brooklyn A TARHEEL IN BROOKLYN It's almost 3 a.m., and I have been sitting at my computer reading Toni Schlesinger's July 31 Shelter column ["Two-Bedroom Apartment in Middle-Income Development"].
I have never laughed so hard in the last few months as I did reading this column. I used to live in Fort Greene and I could definitely relate. It's good when you can find some humor in living in the city instead of the stress it brings.
I look forward to reading more stories like this, and I am happy to be reunited with The Village Voice once again.
SEX AND THE SHORTSTOP
Re "Where Have You Gone, Derek Jeter?" [July 24] by Allen St. John: Only in New York would a reporter write an article about the imminent demise of an all-star shortstop. Jeter is still clutch, and his post-2000 record illustrates this. Besides,the essence of Derek Jeter has never been about putting up enormous numbers. It has and will always be about a man who Sarah Jessica Parker said "exudes sex." He is a superstar because he is a silky smooth man with a smile to light up a city. As long as the Yankees keep winning, his demeanor seems more important than whether he hits 20 points higher.
Enjoyed J. Hoberman's take on the film Brother["Lost in America," July 24]. It would have been even nicer if the fact checker had found out that Yamamoto was an admiral (in charge of the attack on Pearl Harbor over the fleet commander) and that Tojo was the general.
A listing for a performance at Luna Lounge in last week's issue misstated information about the performer. Biographical details printed were for the pianist Michal, who records for Columbia Records. The performer at Luna Lounge was the vocalist Michal the Girl. The Voiceregrets the error.
Wayne Barrett's article "Hankering for a Loophole" [July 31] mistakenly stated that Alan Hevesi's media adviser, Hank Morris, was wearing a wool sweater in a photo published in The New York Times. In fact, the sweater was cotton.