Berkeley Denies Tenure to Ecologist Who Criticized
University's Ties to the Biotechnology Industry
By SHARON WALSH
The Chronicle of Higher Education:
January 9, 2004
The University of California at Berkeley has denied
tenure to Ignacio H. Chapela, an assistant professor of
ecology and an outspoken critic of the university's
ties to the biotechnology industry.
The professor and other scientists critical of academic
links to corporations and of genetically modified crops
have anxiously awaited the tenure decision for three
"My immediate reaction was extreme disappointment in
the chancellor," said Mr. Chapela, who joined the
university's department of environmental science,
policy, and management in the fall of 1995. "I hoped he
could see the evidence and take his role as a leader,"
he said of Robert M. Berdahl, the chancellor.
The university's decision, which was first reported in
the December 11 issue of the British journal Nature,
overruled recommendations for tenure by a faculty
committee in Mr. Chapela's department and by an ad hoc
panel of specialists in his field. A committee of the
Academic Senate had recommended against tenure.
Mr. Chapela and his research became controversial when
he published an article in Nature in November 2001 that
said that native corn in Mexico had been contaminated
by material from genetically modified corn. (A 1998 law
had made it illegal to plant transgenic corn in
Six months after the article appeared, and after
receiving a number of letters contesting the research,
the journal published an editorial note saying that
"the evidence available is not sufficient to justify
the original paper" and that the editors wanted "to
allow our readers to judge the science for themselves."
Mr. Chapela said at the time that he suspected he was
the target of pro-industry scientists and of the
biotechnology industry itself. He had been a vocal
critic of a deal the university made in 1998 with
Novartis, a Swiss-based biotechnology company, in which
the company paid Berkeley $5-million each year for five
years in exchange for early review of all proposed
publications and presentations by faculty members whose
work the company supported.
George A. Strait Jr., assistant vice chancellor for
public affairs, said he was surprised that the news
media would be interested in Mr. Chapela's case.
"He didn't get tenure, period," Mr. Strait said.
Berkeley's tenure process, he added, "is among the most
strenuous, the most fair, and the toughest in the
country. ... No one person, no one institution, no one
group has any undue influence."
Mr. Chapela's findings, made with a graduate student,
David Quist, and reported in the 2001 article about
Mexican maize, were important -- and controversial --
for several reasons. First, agricultural companies that
have produced genetically modified plants have said
that the engineered material does not travel from one
field to another. Second, Mr. Chapela and Mr. Quist
contended that the transferred genes that appeared in
the genetic material of native Mexican corn were
multiplying and hopping around inside the plant's
genome, which could interfere with the normal
functioning of other genes.
"This opens up the whole question of what happens in
the next generation of transgenics," he said. "The
finding means there is no control ... especially in
plants that are wind pollinated," like corn.
Mr. Chapela had been unanimously recommended for tenure
by his department's tenure committee. The decision then
went to a committee of the Academic Senate, which
appointed the ad hoc group of specialists to give an
opinion. The ad hoc committee, whose membership is
normally secret, unanimously said tenure should be
granted, according to Wayne M. Getz, a professor of
environmental science who identified himself as a
member of that committee after he found out that Mr.
Chapela was not getting tenure.
"I've been here 24 years, and my understanding is that
if the department and the ad hoc committee recommend
for tenure, you get tenure," he said.
Mr. Getz wrote a letter to the vice chancellor for
academic affairs questioning the process, and sent
copies of the letter to the ad hoc committee members.
The chairman of the ad hoc committee then notified Mr.
Getz that the senate's committee had asked him to
reconvene the ad hoc committee to review Mr. Chapela's
At that point, Mr. Getz says, the chairman resigned and
disavowed the committee's report, saying he did not
have the expertise to judge Mr. Chapela's research. The
chairman, whose name Mr. Getz declined to reveal, did
not tell any of the members of the committee about his
decision at the time, Mr. Getz said.
The senate's committee then advised the chancellor to
reject Mr.Chapela's tenure bid -- which the chancellor
"I have no direct evidence of anything," Mr. Chapela
said of the chancellor's decision. "But the crown jewel
of Berdahl's chancellorship is a bioengineering
building." "There's still an enormous amount of
animosity against me because of [my criticism of]
Novartis," Mr. Chapela said. "I cannot help but think
that this influenced the decision" on tenure.
Mr. Chapela said the Academic Senate's tenure committee
had recognized him as an excellent teacher, but cited
the serious challenges to his research and an
inadequate publications record.
Mr. Getz said that the ad hoc panel had carefully
considered Mr. Chapela's research record, but after
noting both the Nature controversy and the amount of
research, decided to recommend tenure anyway. "It's
clear that plant geneticists don't contest his
findings, but his methods," he said.
"I believe the [Academic Senate] committee was pushing
to get a different outcome" from the ad hoc committee,
he said. Mr. Getz is in the same department as Mr.
Chapela, but he is not close to him either personally
or professionally, he said. He called the tenure
review's result "disgraceful" and added that he feared
that powerful researchers who benefited from the
Novartis deal had made Mr. Chapela a victim of
In June, Mr. Chapela staged his own protest, decrying
the length of his tenure process. He moved a small
desk, two chairs, tea, biscuits, and books outside of
California Hall, where the senate's committee meets and
where the chancellor has his office. For five days and
nights, he held a vigil to protest the unusually long
time that the university was making him wait for a
Now Mr. Chapela says he plans to appeal the decision
within the normal university process. However, he says
he also plans to sue the institution: "In the last few
days, I've had a lot of phone calls from attorneys."
Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2004 13:45:04 -0800
From: "Michael Greger, M.D." <email@example.com>
Subject: Could Mad Cow Disease Already be Killing Thousands of Americans
Please feel free to forward or reprint any part of my new report
Could Mad Cow Disease Already be Killing Thousands of Americans Every Year?
by Michael Greger, M.D.
January 7, 2004
October 2001, 34-year-old Washington State native Peter Putnam
started losing his mind. One month he was delivering a keynote
business address, the next he couldn't form a complete sentence. Once
athletic, soon he couldn't walk. Then he couldn't eat. After a brain
biopsy showed it was Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, his doctor could no
longer offer any hope. "Just take him home and love him," the doctor
counseled his family.[1,2,3] Peter's tragic death, October 2002, may
have been caused by Mad Cow disease.
Seven years earlier and 5000 miles away, Stephen Churchill was the
first in England to die. His first symptoms of depression and
dizziness gave way to a living nightmare of terrifying
hallucinations; he was dead in 12 months at age 19. Next was Peter
Hall, 20, who showed the first signs of depression around Christmas,
1994. By the next Christmas, he couldn't walk, talk, or do anything
for himself. Then it was Anna's turn, then Michelle's. Michelle
Bowen, age 29, died in a coma three weeks after giving birth to her
son via emergency cesarean section. Then it was Alison's turn. These
were the first five named victims of Britain's Mad Cow epidemic. They
died from what the British Secretary of Health called the worst form
of death imaginable, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a relentlessly
progressive and invariably fatal human dementia. The announcement
of their deaths, released on March 20, 1996 (ironically, Meatout
Day), reversed the British government's decade-old stance that
British beef was safe to eat.
It is now considered an "incontestable fact" that these human deaths
in Britain were caused by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or
Mad Cow disease. Bovine means "cow or cattle," spongiform means
"sponge-like," and encephalopathy means "brain disease." Mad Cow
disease is caused by unconventional pathogens called
prions--literally infectious proteins--which, because of their unique
structure, are practically invulnerable, surviving even
incineration at temperatures hot enough to melt lead. The
leading theory as to how cows got Mad Cow disease in the first place
is by eating diseased sheep infected with a sheep spongiform
encephalopathy called scrapie.
In humans, prions can cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a human
spongiform encephalopathy whose clinical picture can involve weekly
deterioration into blindness and epilepsy as one's brain becomes
riddled with tiny holes.
We've known about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease for decades, since well
before the first mad cow was discovered in 1985. Some cases of CJD
seemed to run in families; other cases seemed to just arise
spontaneously in about one in a million people every year, and were
hence dubbed "sporadic." The new form of CJD caused by eating beef
from cows infected with Mad Cow disease, though, seemed to differ
from the classic sporadic CJD.
The CJD caused by infected meat has tended to strike younger people,
has produced more psychotic symptoms, and has often dragged on for a
year or more. The most defining characteristic, though, was found
when their brains were sampled. The brain pathology was vividly
reminiscent of Kuru, a disease once found in a New Guinea tribe of
cannibals who ate the brains of their dead. Scientists called
this new form of the disease "variant" CJD.
Other than Charlene, a 24 year old woman now so tragically dying in
Florida, who was probably infected in Britain, there have been no
reported cases of variant CJD in the U.S. Hundreds of confirmed
cases of the sporadic form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, however,
arise in the United States every year, but the beef industry is
quick to point out these are cases of sporadic CJD, not the new
variant known to be caused by Mad Cow disease. Of course, no one
knows what causes sporadic CJD. New research, discussed below,
suggests that not hundreds but thousands of Americans die of sporadic
CJD every year, and that some of these CJD deaths may be caused by
eating infected meat after all.
Although the fact that Mad Cow disease causes variant CJD had already
been strongly established, researchers at the University College of
London nevertheless created transgenic mice complete with "humanized"
brains genetically engineered with human genes to try to prove the
link once and for all. When the researchers injected one strain of
the "humanized" mice with infected cow brains, they came down with
the same brain damage seen in human variant CJD, as expected. But
when they tried this in a different strain of transgenic "humanized"
mice, those mice got sick too, but most got sick from what looked
exactly like sporadic CJD! The Mad Cow prions caused a disease that
had a molecular signature indistinguishable from sporadic CJD. To the
extent that animal experiments can simulate human results, their
shocking conclusion was that eating infected meat might be
responsible for some cases of sporadic CJD in addition to the
expected variant CJD. The researchers concluded that "it is therefore
possible that some patients with [what looks like]... sporadic CJD
may have a disease arising from BSE exposure." Laura Manuelidis,
section chief of surgery in the neuropathology department at Yale
University comments, "Now people are beginning to realize that
because something looks like sporadic CJD they can't necessarily
conclude that it's not linked to [Mad Cow disease]..."
This is not the first time meat was linked to sporadic CJD. In 2001,
a team of French researchers found, to their complete surprise, a
strain of scrapie--"mad sheep" disease--that caused the same brain
damage in mice as sporadic CJD. "This means we cannot rule out
that at least some sporadic CJD may be caused by some strains of
scrapie," says team member Jean-Philippe Deslys of the French Atomic
Energy Commission's medical research laboratory.
Population studies had failed to show a link between CJD and lamb
chops, but this French research provided an explanation why. There
seem to be six types of sporadic CJD and there are more than 20
strains of scrapie. If only some sheep strains affect only some
people, studies of entire populations may not clearly show the
relationship. Monkeys fed infected sheep brains certainly come down
with the disease. Hundreds of "mad sheep" were found in the U.S.
in 2003. Scrapie remains such a problem in the United States that
the USDA has issued a scrapie "declaration of emergency." Maybe
some cases of sporadic CJD in the U.S. are caused by sheep meat as
Pork is also a potential source of infection. Cattle remains are
still boiled down and legally fed to pigs (as well as chickens) in
this country. The FDA allows this exemption because no "naturally
occurring" porcine (pig) spongiform encephalopathy has ever been
found. But American farmers typically kill pigs at just five months
of age, long before the disease is expected to show symptoms. And,
because pigs are packed so tightly together, it would be difficult to
spot neurological conditions like spongiform encephalopathies, whose
most obvious symptoms are movement and gait disturbances. We do know,
however, that pigs are susceptible to the disease--laboratory
experiments show that pigs can indeed be infected by Mad Cow
brains--and hundreds of thousands of downer pigs, too sick or
crippled by injury to even walk, arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses every
A number of epidemiological studies have suggested a link between
pork consumption and sporadic CJD. Analyzing peoples' diet histories,
the development of CJD was associated with eating roast pork, ham,
hot dogs, pork chops, smoked pork, and scrapple (a kind of pork
pudding made from various hog carcass scraps). The researchers
concluded, "The present study indicated that consumption of pork as
well as its processed products (e.g., ham, scrapple) may be
considered as risk factors in the development of Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease." Compared to people that didn't eat ham, for example, those
who included ham in their diet seemed ten times more likely to
develop CJD. In fact, the USDA may have actually recorded an
outbreak of "mad pig" disease in New York 25 years ago, but still
refuses to reopen the investigation despite petitions from the
Consumer's Union (the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine).
Sporadic CJD has also been associated with weekly beef
consumption, as well as the consumption of roast lamb, veal,
venison, brains in general, and, in North America,
seafood.[32,33] The development of CJD has also, surprisingly, been
significantly linked to exposure to animal products in
fertilizer, sport fishing and deer hunting in the U.S., and
frequent exposure to leather products.
We do not know at this time whether chicken meat poses a risk. There
was a preliminary report of ostriches allegedly fed risky feed in
German zoos who seemed to come down with a spongiform
encephalopathy. Even if chickens and turkeys themselves are not
susceptible, though, they may become so-called "silent carriers" of
Mad Cow prions and pass them on to human consumers. Dateline NBC
quoted D. Carleton Gajdusek, the first to be awarded a Nobel Prize in
Medicine for his work on prion diseases, as saying, "it's got to
be in the pigs as well as the cattle. It's got to be passing through
the chickens." Dr. Paul Brown, medical director for the US Public
Health Service, believes that pigs and poultry could indeed be
harboring Mad Cow disease and passing it on to humans, adding that
pigs are especially sensitive to the disease. "It's speculation," he
says, "but I am perfectly serious."
The recent exclusion of most cow brains, eyes, spinal cords, and
intestines from the human food supply may make beef safer, but where
are those tissues going? These potentially infectious tissues
continue to go into animal feed for chickens, other poultry, pigs,
and pets (as well as being rendered into products like tallow for use
in cosmetics, the safety of which is currently under review).
Until the federal government stops the feeding of slaughterhouse
waste, manure, and blood to all farm animals, the safety of meat in
America cannot be guaranteed.
The hundreds of American families stricken by sporadic CJD every year
have been told that it just occurs by random chance. Professor
Collinge, the head of the University College of London lab, noted
"When you counsel those who have the classical sporadic disease, you
tell them that it arises spontaneously out of the blue. I guess we
can no longer say that."
"We are not saying that all or even most cases of sporadic CJD are as
a result of BSE exposure," Professor Collinge continued, "but some
more recent cases may be--the incidence of sporadic CJD has shown an
upward trend in the UK over the last decade... serious consideration
should be given to a proportion of this rise being BSE-related.
Switzerland, which has had a substantial BSE epidemic, has noted a
sharp recent increase in sporadic CJD." In the Nineties,
Switzerland had the highest rate of Mad Cow disease in continental
Europe, and their rate of sporadic CJD doubled.
We don't know exactly what's happening to the rate of CJD in this
country, in part because CJD is not an officially notifiable
illness. Currently only a few states have such a requirement.
Because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not actively
monitor the disease on a national level, a rise similar to the
one in Europe could be missed. In spite of this, a number of U.S.
CJD clusters have already been found. In the largest known U.S.
outbreak of sporadic cases to date, five times the expected rate
was found to be associated with cheese consumption in Pennsylvania's
Lehigh Valley. A striking increase in CJD over expected levels
was also reported in Florida and New York (Nassau County)
with anecdotal reports of clusters of deaths in Oregon and New
Perhaps particularly worrisome is the seeming increase in CJD deaths
among young people in this country. In the 18 years between 1979 and
1996, only a single case of sporadic CJD was found in someone under
30. Whereas between 1997 and 2001, five people under 30 died of
sporadic CJD. So five young Americans dying in five years, as opposed
to one young case in the previous 18 years. The true prevalence of
CJD among any age group in this country remains a mystery, though, in
part because it is so commonly misdiagnosed.
The most frequent misdiagnosis of CJD among the elderly is
Alzheimer's disease. Neither CJD nor Alzheimer's can be
conclusively diagnosed without a brain biopsy, and the symptoms
and pathology of both diseases overlap. There can be spongy changes
in Alzheimer's, for example, and senile Alzheimer's plaques in
CJD. Stanley Prusiner, the scientist who won the Nobel Prize for
his discovery of prions, speculates that Alzheimer's may even turn
out to be a prion disease as well. In younger victims, CJD is
more often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis or as a severe viral
Over the last 20 years the rates of Alzheimer's disease in the United
States have skyrocketed. According to the CDC, Alzheimer's
Disease is now the eighth leading cause of death in the United
States, afflicting an estimated 4 million Americans. Twenty
percent or more of people clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer's
disease, though, are found at autopsy not to have had Alzheimer's at
all. A number of autopsy studies have shown that a few percent of
Alzheimer's deaths may in fact be CJD. Given the new research showing
that infected beef may be responsible for some sporadic CJD,
thousands of Americans may already be dying because of Mad Cow
disease every year.
Nobel Laureate Gajdusek, for example, estimates that 1% of people
showing up in Alzheimer clinics actually have CJD. At Yale, out
of a series of 46 patients clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer's, six
were proven to have CJD at autopsy. In another study of brain
biopsies, out of a dozen patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's
according to established criteria, three of them were actually dying
from CJD. An informal survey of neuropathologists registered a
suspicion that CJD accounts for 2-12% of all dementias in
general. Two autopsy studies showed a CJD rate among dementia
deaths of about 3%.[69,70] A third study, at the University of
Pennsylvania, showed that 5% of patients diagnosed with dementia had
CJD. Although only a few hundred cases of sporadic CJD are
officially reported in the U.S. annually, hundreds of thousands
of Americans die with dementia every year. Thousands of these
deaths may actually be from CJD caused by eating infected meat.
The incubation period for human spongiform encephalopathies such as
CJD can be decades. This means it can be years between eating
infected meat and getting diagnosed with the death sentence of CJD.
Although only about 150 people have so far been diagnosed with
variant CJD worldwide, it will be many years before the final death
toll is known. In the United States, an unknown number of animals are
infected with Mad Cow disease, causing an unknown number of human
deaths from CJD. The U.S. should immediately begin testing all cows
destined for human consumption, as is done in Japan, should stop
feeding slaughterhouse waste to all farm animals (see
http://organicconsumers.org/madcow/GregerBSE.cfm), and should
immediately enact an active national surveillance program for CJD.
Five years ago this week, the Center for Food Safety, the Humane
Farming Association, the Center for Media & Democracy, and ten
families of CJD victims petitioned the FDA and the CDC to immediately
enact a national CJD monitoring system, including the mandatory
reporting of CJD in all 50 states. The petition was denied.
The CDC argued that their passive surveillance system tracking death
certificate diagnoses was adequate. Their analysis of death
certificates in three states and two cities, for example, showed an
overall stable and typical one in a million CJD incidence rate from
1979 to 1993. But CJD is so often misdiagnosed, and autopsies are
so infrequently done, that this system may not provide an accurate
In 1997, the CDC set up the National Prion Disease Pathology
Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University to analyze
brain tissue from CJD victims in the U.S. in hopes of tracking any
new developments. In Europe, surveillance centers have been seeing
most, if not all, cases of CJD. The U.S. center sees less than half.
"I'm very unhappy with the numbers," laments Pierluigi Gambetti , the
director of the Center. "The British and Germans politely smile when
they see we examine 30% or 40% of the cases," he says. "They know
unless you examine 80% or more, you are not in touch." "The
chance of losing an important case is high."
One problem is that many doctors don't even know the Center exists.
And neither the CDC nor the Center are evidently authorized to reach
out to them directly to bolster surveillance efforts, because it's
currently up to each state individually to determine how--or even
whether--they will track the disease. In Europe, in contrast, the
national centers work directly with each affected family and their
physicians. In the U.S., most CJD cases--even the confirmed
ones--seem to just fall through the cracks. In fact, based on the
autopsy studies at Yale and elsewhere, it seems most CJD cases in the
U.S. aren't even picked up in the first place.
Autopsy rates have dropped in the U.S. from 50% in the Sixties to
less than 10% at present. Although one reason autopsies are
rarely performed on atypical dementia cases is that medical
professionals are afraid of catching the disease, the primary
reason for the decline in autopsy rates in general appears to be
financial. There is currently no direct reimbursement to doctors or
hospitals for doing autopsies, which often forces the family to
absorb the cost of transporting the body to an autopsy center and
having the brain samples taken, a tab that can run upwards of
Another problem is that the National Prion Disease Pathology
Surveillance Center itself remains underfunded. Paul Brown, medical
director for the National Institutes of Health, has described the
Center's budget as "pitiful," complaining that "there isn't any
budget for CJD surveillance." To adequately survey America's 290
million residents, "you need a lot of money." UK CJD expert Robert
Will explains, "There was a CJD meeting of families in America in
which... [the CDC] got attacked fairly vigorously because there
wasn't proper surveillance. You could only do proper surveillance if
you have adequate resources." "I compare this to the early days
of AIDS," says protein chemist Shu Chen, who directs the Center's
lab, "when no one wanted to deal with the crisis."
Andrew Kimbrell, the director of the Center for Food Safety, a
D.C.-based public interest group, writes, "Given what we know now, it
is unconscionable that the CDC is not strictly monitoring these
diseases." Given the presence of Mad Cow disease in the U.S., we
need to immediately enact uniform active CJD surveillance on a
national level, provide adequate funding not only for autopsies but
also for the shipment of bodies, and require mandatory reporting of
the disease in all 50 states. In Britain, even feline spongiform
encephalopathy, the cat version of Mad Cow disease, is an officially
notifiable illness. "No one has looked for CJD systematically in the
U.S.," notes NIH medical director Paul Brown. "Ever."
The animal agriculture industries continue to risk public safety, and
the government seems to protect the industries' narrow business
interests more than it protects its own citizens. Internal USDA
documents retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act show that
our government did indeed consider a number of precautionary measures
as far back as 1991 to protect the American public from Mad Cow
disease. According to one such document, however, the USDA explained
that the "disadvantage" of these measures was that "the cost to the
livestock and rendering industries would be substantial."
Plant sources of protein for farm animals can cost up to 30% more
than cattle remains. The Cattlemen's Association admitted a
decade ago that animal agribusiness could indeed find economically
feasible alternatives to feeding slaughterhouse waste to other
animals, but that the they did not want to set a precedent of being
ruled by "activists."
Is it a coincidence that USDA Secretary Veneman chose Dale Moore,
former chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association,
as her chief of staff? Or Alison Harrison, former director of
public relations for the Cattlemen's Association, as her official
spokeswoman? Or that one of the new Mad Cow committee appointees
is William Hueston, who was paid by the beef industry to testify
against Oprah Winfrey in hopes of convicting her of beef
"disparagement"? After a similar conflict of interest unfolded in
Britain, their entire Ministry of Agriculture was dissolved and an
independent Food Safety Agency was created, whose sole responsibility
is to protect the public's health. Until we learn from Britain's
lesson, and until the USDA stops treating this as a PR problem to be
managed instead of a serious global threat, millions of Americans
will remain at risk.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO FORWARD OR REPRINT ANY PART OF THIS REPORT.
For updates on this evolving crisis, visit
http://www.organicconsumers.org/madcow.htm or send a blank email to
For background on this important issue, read the excellent book Mad
Cow U.S.A., the full text of which is available free online at
http://www.prwatch.org, or my article "U.S. Violates WHO Guidelines
for Mad Cow Disease" at
Michael Greger, M.D., has been the Chief BSE Investigator for Farm
Sanctuary since 1993 and the Mad Cow Coordinator for the Organic
Consumers Association since 2001. Dr. Greger has debated the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association before the FDA and was invited as an
expert witness at the infamous Oprah Winfrey "meat defamation" trial.
He has contributed to many books and articles on the subject,
continues to lecture extensively, and currently runs the Mad Cow
disease website http://www.organicconsumers.org/madcow.htm. Dr.
Greger is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture
and the Tufts University School of Medicine. He can be reached for
media inquiries at (206) 312-8640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Full text of specific articles available by emailing
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Michael Greger, M.D.
Chief BSE Investigator for Farm Sanctuary
Mad Cow Coordinator for the Organic Consumers Association
185 South St #6
Boston, MA 02130
For periodic updates on the Mad Cow crisis send a blank email to
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2004 19:12:15 EST
Subject: The Press, The Nation of Islam and Minister Louis Farrakhan
By Minister Abdul Akbar Muhammad
The Press, The Nation of Islam and Minister Louis Farrakhan
It is amazing and quite enlightening how the press when it deals=
with Minister Farrakhan in particular, always attempts to paint a picture o=
someone that he is not. In the latest case of the entertainer Michael
Minister Farrakhan is now being vilified as the one behind some sinister
of taking control of Michael Jackson=E2?Ts entire life and wealth. For the=
younger people in the media who are writing most of the stories, it is
impossible for them to have a 49-year history of Minister Louis Farrakhan.
His work on behalf of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Black people in
America and throughout the world is well known, but needs to be
re-emphasized. These young reporters have come very late to this table
and their research reaches as far as the archival material of past opinions=
from press articles, which are generally skewed and very narrow.
Those who are in the press today represent a new generation and they need
to look at Minister Farrakhan's long history. They may or may not be
interested or their editors may say it is not important.
According to the New York Times, an unnamed source said that
Minister Farrakhan met with Michael Jackson and gave him "fatherly advice."=
Michael Jackson states he is totally innocent of the charges placed against=
him. We do know Minister Farrakhan has been sought out for counseling
by people who have faced difficult circumstances, in particular, in dealin=
with the American media's history of vicious and unrelenting attacks
African-American prominent and public figures. It is well known also that
the western media's depictions of the general Black population throughout
the world is biased and negative at best.
I happen to be a person that can go back and recount Minister
Farrakhan's work. I know something of his work in defending our people
in Boston in the years of 1956 =E2?" 1965, although I was not there with h=
However, when the Honorable Elijah Muhammad assigned him to New
York City in 1965, I began to work closely with him. In the ten years that=
we worked together in New York, I witnessed and participated in Minister
Farrakhan's consistent defense of our people. He was not seeking their
money, fame or notoriety, but he did it out of the genuine goodness of his=
heart. In my years with Minister Farrakhan, he would constantly remind us
of a verse in the Holy Qur'an that reads :" Do no favor seeking gain=E2?=
and from the Bible he would often repeat to us, =E2?oNot by might or power
but by My Spirit, sayeth the Lord.=E2?=9D He would caution those who have
committed themselves to the work of redeeming our people, that their
motives must be pure. Those that stand afar and try to judge do not know
these words and deeds of Minister Farrakhan.
When Muhammad Ali was under attack for not going into the war in
Vietnam, it was Minister Farrakhan who lectured in and out of the mosques
around the country in defense of Muhammad Ali's stand. There was a
Black woman in New York named Martha Davis who had a drug
rehabilitation program when heroin was wreaking havoc on the Black
community, particularly in Harlem. When this sister was attacked in the
press, Minister Farrakhan went to her aid and did not ask about her
personal life.He knew that this was a Black woman trying to do good
for a community and she was under attack and without hesitation
Minister Farrakhan openly defended our sister. Our brothers of the
Black Panther Party were imprisoned in New York in 1971.
During that time a rebellion-hostage situation took place in the city jails=
led by the Panther brothers. It was Minister Farrakhan who came to their
aid and made it possible for a negotiation to take place to end the stand
However, the vicious policemen/correctional officers beat the brothers
viciously upon their surrender. Unbeknownst to the officers who were
administrating the beatings, it was filmed from a rooftop and that film
eventually became public. The Minister was on point in his defense of
those brothers. During the same year the Attica rebellion happened and
again, it was Minister Farrakhan who defended those brothers.
While he was on his way to help in the standoff, Governor Nelson
Rockefeller called for an assault on the prisoners killing 36 of our
brothers and only a few correctional officers died in the violence.
Once again Minister Farrakhan was on point in defending our brothers.
Many can recall in recent history when the Chicago Black politicians=
and civic leaders during the "Operation Silver Shovel" and "Operation
Greylord" entrapment cases were indicted and some sent to jail.
It was Minister Farrakhan who came to the aid of Mayor Harold Washington,
Alderman Allen Streeter, Alderman Jesse Evans, and others. He spoke out
against and attacked the way the cases were brought against Chief Malik
(Jeff Fort), Charles Knox, Rev. Charles Koen, Congressman Mel Reynolds,
Nasi Asiel Ben Israel and the Hebrew Israelite brothers and sisters,
and he personally helped some of them in many cases financially with their
defense. They were under attack due to the governmental setups and
scams used to bring them in court. Minister Farrakhan went on record
protesting the way that they were handled. He also exposed the underlying
motives of the governments=E2?T plans, which gave a more balanced perceptio=
to their circumstance. He didn=E2?Tt do this for money or fame but becaus=
he felt that the enemies of the rise of Black people would always attack
those out front. He would often say to me that, "no one of us come to the
table as angels, we are all human beings." However, if a man has in his
heart a desire to defend and stand up for Black people, then there must
be some voice that will stand up for them in the face of a powerful enemy
who uses the press in order to tear leadership down, especially in the
eyes of people who struggle.
Minister Farrakhan defended Reverend Jesse Jackson during his run
for the democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States.
He defended Reverend Jackson at a time when the press was ripping him
apart. As a result of this defense he received the label of being
As well, a series of misquotes was directed towards him during his public
speeches in defense of his brother. Minister Farrakhan also defended
Reverend Al Sharpton over the Tawana Brawley rape-kidnapping case.
Was this for money or an attempt to get his picture in the paper or to be
quoted by the press? No! This is how Minister Farrakhan responds to
matters such as this. He feels it is the right thing to do by defending a=
brother who was standing up for a young Black woman who told him her
case. Minister Farrakhan defended O.J. Simpson after he received
the innocent verdict and was attacked by the press. There are other
prominent people that Minister Farrakhan has defended in the face of
press attacks, i.e., Jim Brown, Vanessa Williams, Jayne Kennedy,
Public Enemy and his recent counseling of Ja Rule and 50 Cents.
When Marion Barry was under attack Minister Farrakhan took
a stand and defended him in the midst of Black politicians who were
distancing themselves from his situation. He did not defend his actions,
but he defended him as a human being. When Mayor Barry came back
to run again for office, it was Minister Farrakhan who was the one who
stood by him, helped and counseled him. When Reverend Henry Lyons
was under attack, even though the Reverend had not been close to the
Nation and was a staunch critic of the Million Man March, Minister
Farrakhan still defended him. When Congressman Alcee Hastings from
Florida was under vicious attack it was Minister Farrakhan who defended
him. When the many mayors across the country were being indicted and
charged, it was Minister Farrakhan who stood up for these political
leaders in our meetings, the public and in newspapers.
Internationally Minister Farrakhan was a strong defender of Muammar
Qaddafi long before Libya gave the Nation of Islam a loan. Therefore,
he has a long history of defending people. Minister Farrakhan also
defended former President Idi Amin of Uganda when the world was
attacking him. He found out personally that there was more to the
situation than what the press was saying about President Idi Amin and
the people of Uganda. When we look back at that history now we find
that even the people of Uganda after his death are saying that a lot
of the propaganda on him was not true and that he really was a man who
struggled to take Uganda forward.
Long before the press began to say good things about former
President Nelson Mandela before he was freed from prison it was Minister
Farrakhan that stood up in our congregation and defended President Mandela
When Winnie Mandela was under attack it was Minister Farrakhan that came
forward and defended her. He met with Winnie at her home in South Africa
to discuss directly the vicious attacks that were being made against her.
When the world press was arrayed against President Sani Abacha of Nigeria,
Minister Farrakhan went to meet with him personally to hear his side and
spoke up for the good he was attempting to do for Nigeria.
I could go on and read off names of countless individuals, both=
known and unknown that Minister Farrakhan has gone on record to
defend In this case Michael Jackson is not any different from any other
person that the Minister has stood up for and sought to help when a
crisis entered into their life. They are painting a picture in the media
that we are seeking to control Michael Jackson=E2?Ts life and his money.
They claim that we are a small cult trying to take advantage of his
circumstances. This is a ludicrous statement. It is as wrong as the
picture displayed in the New York Times on Saturday, January 3, 2004,
where they presented a photo of Minister Farrakhan's assistant
Brother Ishmael Muhammad stating that he was Brother Leonard F.
Muhammad. They are so sloppy, anxious and reckless in their coverage
to print something negative about the Nation of Islam. They go so far
as to print half-truths about the personal life of individuals to show tha=
they are unworthy to help, advise and support Michael Jackson in
his time of crisis. This shows their hatred of Black people coming
together to help one other.
Those of us who are close to Minister Farrakhan and who have
supporting him for years know the compassion, concern and love that he has
for any Black man or woman throughout the world who is under attack by thos=
who for years have been our open and real enemy. I would hope that the new=
generation of young reporters such as, Ms. Sharon Waxman of the New York
Times would do their research (homework) and not be lazy in their reporting=
before joining the chorus of the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2004 18:57:54 EST
Gerry Chisolm is a friend of mine. She is under fire right now from her own
people as well as white folks. We have got to stop letting people beat up
our out spoken leaders and advocates and learn to come to their aid. The AP
has picked up the story that was originally exposed in the Charlotte
Please write to her or the Observer with your support and start defending
your own! Please read below........thank you, Deena Hayes
Statement regarding Bank of America's
Kwanzaa Gift Card
Tuesday December 30, 2003
by Gerry Chisolm, Executive Director
Nubian Rootz Cultural Center Of Charlotte
Hosts of the annual Charlotte City-Wide Kwanzaa Celebration
My criticism of Bank of America's marketing of a Kwanzaa gift
card ignited a firestorm of misunderstanding by people both
black and white, and uninformed editorials and media sound-
bites have not been very helpful either. It is very obvious
to me that many still perceive Kwanzaa as some sort
of "black" Christmas, or some conjured up alternative to the
many traditions of the holiday season. This is far from the
We live in a capitalist country where we are bombarded daily
by messages which invite us into consumption, individualism,
status, and excess. As a society we are not bombarded by as
many messages about the importance of family and community
values, or how imperative it is for us to work together to
solve problems. The negative effects are panoramic, and in
general are worsening with each generation of all ethnic
As Africans born in America, Kwanzaa is the time of the year
in which we ingather, to reaffirm the cultural bonds between
us as a group, to reinforce and rededicate the core values of
family and community, (the seven principles: unity, self
determination, collective work and responsibility,
cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
and finally, to celebrate our accomplishments, and to plan
our collective work to solve the problems in our community.
Kwanzaa is based on the end of year harvest celebrations
which take place across Africa. The harvest symbolizes the
abundance that we can reap when we labor and toil together.
Kwanzaa is non-heroic, non-sectarian, and non religious;
informed individuals would not protest being left out of the
religious category of Christmas and Hanukkah cards.
Bank of America's gift card is wrong because it attempts to
co-opt the principles of Kwanzaa itself; it's campaign
attempts to redefine our holiday, misrepresents and
manipulates it's symbolism, was ill-conceived and poorly
researched. The commercialism that pervades this time of year
is strongly discouraged. All of our celebrations are free so
that people may focus on the importance of building,
strengthening and maintaining healthy families together. We
make gifts by hand for the children, and we must give them a
book which speaks to their positive self image and culture.
In the spirit of community and sharing information, we have
both met and conferenced with Bank of America's
representatives, and we provided them with a copy of the
national agenda of our holiday. It speaks with great
specificity to any attempts to commercialize our holiday, or
violate it's integrity. Bank of America refused to remove the
card from it's offering, and is still determined to market
the card. It is culturally insensitive, and registers as a
callous disregard. Kwanzaa is about the giving of self, the
giving of your time, efforts and energy to stay grounded in
always making things better for our families.
The Nubian Rootz Cultural Center continues to present and
preserve our African culture, working year round to provide
education to our community about these values, and to
encourage the very best of human excellence from our people.
Kwanzaa is a living document for those who wish to embrace
it. Bank of America has demonstrated the potential to be an
ally of our community, but the Kwanzaa card will continue to
erode our relationship for a price that is not worth losing
the value of us living and working together. Thank you for
I can be reached at (704) 597-5258 or by email:
If I Were The Devil
By Paul Harvey
© 1999-2004 WorldNetDaily.com
I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world;
I would delude their minds into thinking that they had come from man's effort,
instead of God's blessings;
I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people, instead of the
other way around;
I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue;
I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to
I would make it legal to take the life of unborn babies;
I would make it socially acceptable to take one's own life, and invent machines
to make it convenient;
I would cheapen human life as much as possible so that the life of animals are
valued more than human beings;
I would take God out of the schools, where even the mention of His name was
grounds for a lawsuit;
I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the young, and I
would get sports heroes to advertise them;
I would get control of the media, so that every night I could pollute the mind of
every family member for my agenda;
I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation.
I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable. If the family
crumbles, so does the nation;
I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and
movie screens, and I would call it art;
I would convince the world that people are born homosexuals, and that their
lifestyles should be accepted and marveled;
I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few who
call themselves authorities and refer to their agenda as politically correct;
I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date, and the
Bible is for the naive;
I would dull the minds of Christians, and make them believe that prayer is not
important, and that faithfulness and obedience are optional;
I guess...I would leave things pretty much the way they are...
Paul Harvey is the dean of U.S. radio commentators.