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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Event of the Week:Peace Caravan to Cuba

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

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Unlike its predecessor, the Obama administration has at least demonstrated a willingness to re-examine the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. To help make the case for change, Pastors for Peace, an interreligious association of activists, is applying pressure to end this federal policy toward the island nation. Moreover, the group will be collecting and delivering humanitarian aid for the people of Cuba in defiance of the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba. A celebratory event will be held at Central United Methodist Church, 639 N. 25th St., beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 10. Pastors for Peace is led locally by the Rev. Lucius Walker, a longtime civil rights activist, who explains that the current policy “is immoral because it endangers the lives of millions of Cubans…and is illegal under international law because it uses medicine and food as weapons of war to force another nation to change its government.” Donations of tools, school supplies, medical equipment and other items will be accepted at the July 10 event, which will feature a potluck dinner and a program of Cuban music. For more information, visit www.pastorsforpeace.org.


Heroes of the Week: Volunteers for Operation Clean Air

Milwaukee-area youths convened in Lincoln Park on Saturday as part of the “Operation Clean Air” campaign to turn Milwaukee’s parks into smoke-free areas. Urban Underground and FACT (part of the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control program) sponsored the event to push for healthier environments in some of the city’s favorite gathering spots for children and families. We applaud their efforts to improve the quality of air and life in our community.


Jerk of the Week: Charlie Sykes

Once again, our friend a Newsradio 620 WTMJ (a subsidiary of Journal Communications) gets the story wrong. On Monday morning, while commenting on the state budget, Charlie Sykes “reported” that the Shepherd Express was designated by the state Legislature as the “paper of record” for the Milwaukee area.

Sorry, Charlie, you misunderstood the issue—again.

First of all, there is no such thing as a “paper of record for the Milwaukee area.”

The issue Charlie was trying to describe arose when some legislators on the state budget committee responded to the fact that state laws limit the placement of legal notices primarily to the Journal Sentinel and a minor construction publication. As a result, people pay more for legal notices in Milwaukee County than in comparable counties in other states where there is fair competition. So the budget committee proposed new rules, which were then passed by both houses of the Legislature, that would have expanded the definition of which papers could publish legal notices. The expanded definition included the Shepherd Express.

Legal notices are often a requirement in the legal process and are not paid with taxpayer dollars. Currently there is a near-monopoly on the revenue generated by these notices. A major recipient of these private funds is the corporation that signs Charlie’s paychecks: Journal Communications Inc. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel successfully lobbied the governor to veto this budget provision, which would have created some real competition and lowered prices. The Journal Sentinel is using the governor to help them stifle competition as they watch their circulation continue to decline—at the same time the Shepherd’s audited pickup rate is at a record high 98%. (It’s true: 98 out of every 100 Shepherds get picked up by a reader.)

Hey, Charlie, you claim to be a pro-business guy, so why are you against fair competition? Apparently, when competition will bite the hand that feeds you, you are willing to completely distort the facts to protect your own interests and disparage competition.


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