Center for Union Facts; Bill Stagg; Seven members of Ft. Bragg's 82nd Airborne | Heroes & Zeros | Indy Week

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Center for Union Facts; Bill Stagg; Seven members of Ft. Bragg's 82nd Airborne

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Don't blink or you'll miss the fine print on the attack ads airing on WRAL-TV scorning the United Commercial Food Workers International (UCFW). These commercials are paid for by the Center for Union Facts, an anti-labor, anti-regulatory front group based in Washington, D.C., and headed by Rick Berman, a right-wing lobbyist for the food, tobacco and alcoholic beverage industries.

Coincidentally, the UCFW is the same union trying to organize workers at the Smithfield Packing plant in Tar Heel; Smithfield also has purchased WRAL ads featuring "testimonials" from workers touting the company line. Could there be a financial connection between Smithfield and the Center for Union Facts? We can only speculate, as Berman has refused to disclose the donor list of the center's well-funded mothership, the Employee Policy Institute. In addition to the UFCW, Berman has lambasted such communist regimes as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the living wage campaign and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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It takes a certain kind of fortitude to work at the same place for 32 years. If that place is the newsroom of a perennially underfunded, overworked, scrappy daily newspaper, well, it takes a person like the Durham Herald-Sun's Bill Stagg. Stagg stepped down last week after working his way up from business and politics writer in 1975 to managing editor, one 24-hour news cycle at a time. The Herald-Sun isn't short on critics (what paper is?), but it's pretty hard to find anyone—among three decades of colleagues and community members—who doesn't respect Stagg's commitment to good old-fashioned journalism. In announcing Stagg's resignation and plans to take a PR job with Duke Medical Center, Editor Bob Ashley (who arrived with Paxton Media's purchase of the family-owned paper in 2004) praised Stagg's "unequalled passion for the news [and] his deep roots in and encyclopedic knowledge of this community." Right on, Bob—and your loss.

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Buddhika JayAmaha, Wesley Smith, Jeremy Roebuck, Omar Mora, Edward Sandmeier, Yance Gray and Jeremy Murphy: Seven members of Ft. Bragg's 82nd Airborne wrote a sobering 1,300-word piece about the Iraq War in the Aug. 19 edition of The New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2007/08/19/opinion/19jayamaha.html). "We are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day," the non-commissioned officers and infantrymen wrote. "We need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are—an army of occupation—and force our withdrawal."

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