Greg Palast is an American investigative reporter who currently writes for the Guardian and the Observer newspapers back in Britain (plus some Newsnight reports on the BBC). He can't get a job in the USA, because of the stories he writes. Over the past few years, he's exposed corporate involvement in the death of Tanzanian workers in gold mines, Enron's finances and manipulation of the Californian energy crisis, and the 2000 election. Katherine Harris calls him "tyrannical and a maniac".
He's got a book out, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which is a collection of his writing for the Guardian/Observer (with some extra material which was subject to D-Notices or removed for libel law reasons in the UK), and today he visited Chapel Hill as part of a book tour.
As you can imagine, he's not particularly enthused with the current Administration. He brought a raft of letters and papers, from the closed FBI file on the bin Laden family (re-opened on 13th September 2001, fact fans), to the letter that Katherine Harris received from Jeb Bush about the 'scrubbing' of suspected felons from the Florida vote. Plus lots of jokes. It was an interesting way to spend an afternoon; full of strange connections and fun stories of interviewees suddenly realising that they've going to be asked awkward questions, and calling state troopers to remove the interview crew.
One question though. Palast kept mentioning that in British law, truth is not a defence for libel. Now, my knowledge of libel law is limited to things I've read about Ian Hislop, but I thought that British law gave two exceptions - one for truth, and the other for 'fair comment'. Care to explain (or is it that the burden of proof is on the defendant in the UK, while US law places burden on the prosecuting side)?