Accuracy in Media

A massive 2,800-word article in Monday’s Washington Post paying homage to Bono quotes the rock star as saying he puts “flesh and blood on statistics” about AIDS. The problem is that, only six days earlier, the paper noted that the U.N.’s estimate of AIDS cases has been vastly overblown by millions. Which raises the question: The U.S. Government has spent $200 billion on AIDS, based on the figures supplied by the U.N. and other agencies. Where has all the money gone? Does anybody in the media care? Does Bono?

While failing to raise these questions, the article by Sridhar Pappu does disclose some important and interesting information. It notes that left-wing billionaire George Soros is funding Bono’s DATA organization (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) and that Bono hangs around with Morton Halperin, one of Soros’s top people in Washington, D.C. Halperin also serves on DATA’s board.

Soros is a big backer of the U.N. and other global institutions. So is Bono. Admitting that the U.N.’s AIDS figures are all messed up might raise the question of whether the AIDS controversy is yet another major scandal for the world body and whether the U.N. can accomplish anything. This is a scandal, in short, that strikes at the heart of the world organization. If it can mismanage the AIDS problem, can it do anything right?

In fact, the story about phony AIDS figures is an old one. The Washington Post reported more than a year ago that the U.N. vastly inflated the number of AIDS cases worldwide, especially in Africa. The Post followed with an editorial critical of the U.N. for exaggerating the AIDS problem, but it did not urge a reduction in global funding for the disease. That would have been politically incorrect.

Before that, on June 20, 2004, the Boston Globe had the story, having questioned the U.N’s estimate of AIDS cases.

So the major media have been presenting evidence for over three-and-a-half years that the U.N. has been inflating the number of AIDS cases. Now, it has suddenly become “official” because the U.N. admits it. Yet this is not being labeled as a “scandal” by the major media. Why? It’s because all of the major players, including Presidents Bush and Clinton, the Congress, and the major media, are implicated in it. They have all been taking the word of the U.N. about the magnitude of the crisis.

AIM Founder Reed Irvine and I smelled a rat as far back as May 2000, when we published a column headlined “Flawed Reports on AIDS.” The Clinton Administration has a lot to answer for because it erroneously declared AIDS a threat to our national security. This designation was a big factor behind the spending.

As we noted repeatedly over the last years, the numbers were questionable because they were not based on blood testing to see if people actually had the AIDS virus. Another factor was that the definition of AIDS in Africa was different than it is here. This was apparent to anyone who analyzed the figures and where they supposedly came from.

Now that the major media are reporting that the U.N. has made it official that the figures are exaggerated, people are coming to the obvious and rightful conclusion-nothing that comes out of the world body can be trusted.

Consider that a reader of the Orlando Sentinel wrote a letter noting that the paper had run an editorial under the headline “Climate Alarm” on November 20 urging action based on the findings of “the world’s foremost scientific experts” of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “The following day,” the reader went on, “a Sentinel article (“Cases of HIV Drop Globally, UN Says”) stated that the annual update on AIDS produced by UNAIDS was dramatically revised downward because of what it called past problems with the way it analyzes data.” He concluded, “So are we to believe the U.N. in the case of its global-warming models and doubt its estimates of AIDS based on problems with that model. Perhaps a little skepticism about impending doom from global warming is in order when it’s the U.N. putting out this data.”

The conclusion is a valid one. And this is a big reason why the U.N.’s phony figures on AIDS have not become a scandal. The world body is holding another conference on climate change in December in Bali, Indonesia. Its authority in world affairs cannot be questioned at this delicate time. Our pro-U.N. media are caught in a contradiction that undermines their own credibility and that of the U.N.

Meanwhile, according to the Post, rock star Bono “has set up a lobbying shop, with 75 full-time employees here, welcomed into every corner of power within Washington. He’s helped push forward the issues of debt forgiveness and economic development on the continent and a re-energized effort toward eliminating HIV and AIDS. Now, he’s determined to poke his mug into the thick of the U.S. presidential campaign, meeting with candidates to push them to add global poverty reduction to their platforms.”

The question that Bono wants presented to the candidates is why the U.S. and other nations are not spending even more money on AIDS and other global causes. The questions that need to be asked are why we spent so much, where the money has gone, and why the officials behind the phony figures have not been punished. Giving the U.N. the benefit of the doubt, the New York Times reports that U.N. AIDS agency officials are denying that they inflated estimates for years “in an alarmist effort to raise funds.” They should be called before the U.S. Congress and put under oath.

President Bush, of course, adopted the cause as his own and even became a collaborator with Bono.

In a related matter, there seems to be a controversy developing over former White House speechwriter Michael Gerson’s role in the development of Bush’s AIDS initiative. Another Bush speechwriter, David Frum, contends that Gerson inflated his role.

This is a case of office politics. The real issues are why Bush went ahead with that initiative without examining the foundation of the U.N.’s inflated claims about the disease, and why his speechwriters went along with the scam. It appears that Bush wanted to be perceived as a “compassionate conservative.” It also looks good to be seen with the likes of Bono.

Real compassion should dictate that we find out where the money went and who profited from it. Bush should ask for investigations by the U.N., the U.S. Mission to the U.N., and the Congress. For their part, our media should investigate why they fell hook, line and sinker for the U.N.’s deceptive claims. Bono should demand answers.

Bush should also listen to those U.S. senators who are requesting that he withdraw from Senate consideration the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Treaty. It just doesn’t make any sense for the U.S. to reward the U.N. after this latest scandal by ratifying American participation in another global bureaucracy and international court system so the world organization can further mismanage world affairs at our expense.

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