Thursday, April 06, 2006

Democracy Now: Fake News reported as real (no, not just Fox "News")

Iraqi Cameraman Acquitted, Yet Remains Imprisoned
In Iraq, an Iraqi cameraman working for CBS News was acquitted of charges Wednesday that have kept him in prison for one year. But despite the acquittal, the judge ordered him returned to his cell at Abu Ghraib. The cameraman, Abdul Ameer, was filming clashes in Mosul when US troops shot him and arrested him a year ago Wednesday. He was accused of incitement and of recruiting for the anti-U.S. insurgency. Ameer's lawyer, Scott Horton, commented after the hearing: "I would like to observe first that this is has been a great day for justice in Iraq I think no one who witness the proceedings this morning would think that justice was served there, but let us think about something else -- in a court room almost anywhere else in the world when an accused is acquitted, is to determined to be completely innocent of charges brought against him, he walks free from that court room. That didn't happen today. Abdul Ameer is still in detention by the American authorities. We should all focus on the fact even though he was completely acquitted he remains in prison and we should all direct our question to the Americans forces about his release."

British Women Face One-Year Prison Term For Military Base Protest
In Britain, two grandmothers above the age of 60 years old are facing up to a year in prison for protesting outside a military base. The women, Helen John and Sylvia Boyes, will be prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation that outlaws all protests at military bases and nuclear research facilities.

Nepal Carries Out Mass Crackdown on Govt. Opponents
In Nepal, the royal government is carrying out a massive crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Earlier today, police arrested about 300 activists opposed to the rule of King Gyanendra, who seized power in coup last year. A curfew has been imposed in the capital of Kathamandu to thwart a massive strike. On Wednesday, government forces arrested close to 75 people -- including 23 journalists -- who defied a ban on demonstrations. Meanwhile, anti-government opposition turned violent in other areas of Nepal. 11 police officers were killed in rebel attacks on two police bases.

Government Scientists Allege Global Warming Censorship
Here in the United States, the Washington Post is reporting government scientists who specialize in climate research are complaining the Bush administration has imposed difficulties on allowing them to speak publicly on global warming. Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said administration officials have berated them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their works; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. In one case of White House censorship, several key words were removed from a press release, including "global warming," "warming climate" and "climate change." Earlier this year, the top climate scientist at NASA accused the Bush administration of trying to stop him from speaking out about the links between greenhouse gases and global warming.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Abhilasha, In Dallas, Domingo and Jill. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):

Headlines for April 6, 2006

- Nepal Carries Out Mass Crackdown on Govt. Opponents
- Gitmo Detainee Refuses To Take Part in Military Tribunal
- Hamas-Led PA Faces Financial Crisis
- Government Scientists Allege Global Warming Censorship
- Insurance Companies Post Record Profits
- Grand Jury to Hear McKinney Case
- Delay: McKinney "Is A Racist"
- Duke Lacross Team Season Cancelled; Coach Resigns
- E-Mail Spoke of Killing Strippers Hours After Alleged Incident
- Merck Ordered to Pay $4.5 Million in Vioxx Case

Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed... How Corporate-Funded Propaganda Is Airing On Local Newscasts As "News"

A new study being released today by the Center for Media and Democracy found at least 77 TV stations around the country has aired corporate-sponsored video news releases over the past 10 months. The report accuses the TV stations actively disguise the content -- which has been paid for by companies like General Motors, Panasonic and Pfizer -- to make it appear to be their own reporting. In a broadcast exclusive we speak with the authors of the report and air examples of the video news releases.

"The Queen of the VNR" Robin Raskin Reveals Why She Appears In Corporate-Sponsored "News Segments" & Why She Feels Stations Need To Disclose Who Is Funding the VNRs

We air a video news release featuring Raskin funded by the Panasonic, Namco or Techno Source and talk to the "Internet Mom" Robin Raskin about the ethics behind video news releases, why she doesn't disclose her corporate ties on her broadcasts or websites and how even many news programmers question whether their newscasts should feature corporate-sponsored features.

FCC Commissioner Says Broadcasting VNRs Without Disclosure May Violate Federal Law

We speak with FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein about the widespread use of corporate-funded video news releases by news stations without disclosure. Adelstein says, "There's a federal law that requires that the public be informed about the source of who is behind what goes on broadcast media. Failure to disclose that to the public is a violation of federal law and in fact can be subject to criminal penalties of up to a year in jail."

News on Iraq would include that Sheikh Hareth al-Zari has stated that, "During the time Ibrahim Jaafari has been Prime Minister, 40,000 Iraqi Sunnis have been killed." al-Zari is the scretary general of the Association of Muslim Scholars and he made the remarks in an interview with Al Jazeera. AFP is reporting that, outside of Kirkuk, that at least a thousand bodies have been found in eight mass graves that have been discovered. These mass murders are thought to have occurred during the 1991 uprising. Xinhua reports that a roadside bomb in Baquba killed an Iraqi army officer and wounded at least five Iraqi soldiers. A car bomb went of in Najaf as well, "killing at least seven people" -- the Associated Press reports. The AP also reports (same link) that five truck drivers from Mahawil were killed by gunmen who then stole their trucks and that an Iraqi who was a translator for Polish military forces was killed. This as Poland's president (Lech Kaczynski) visits Iraq in a "surprise" visit. How do you get fired in Iraq? Well, never if you work for Halliburton. [Sentence removed on 1-23-2014.  The published story we linked to was false and has been removed by the newspaper.  The subject of the story advised us of the problem and we've removed it.] And Peter Yost's "Papers: Cheney Aide Says Busy OK'd Leak" notes the following:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide told prosecutors President Bush authorized the leak of sensitive intelligence information about Iraq, according to court papers filed by prosecutors in the CIA leak case.
Before his indictment, I. Lewis Libby testified to the grand jury investigating the CIA leak that Cheney told him to pass on information and that it was Bush who authorized the disclosure, the court papers say. According to the documents, the authorization led to the July 8, 2003, conversation between Libby and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
There was no indication in the filing that either Bush or Cheney authorized Libby to disclose Valerie Plame's CIA identity.
But the disclosure in documents filed Wednesday means that the president and the vice president put Libby in play as a secret provider of information to reporters about prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Cindy notes "U.S. war dodgers to appeal Federal Court ruling denying refugee bid: lawyer" (Canadian Press):

Two U.S. army deserters will appeal a Federal Court ruling that upheld an Immigration and Refugee Board decision denying their claim for refugee status in Canada, their lawyer said Tuesday.
Jeffry House said his clients are disappointed the court questions whether mere foot soldiers have the right to argue the war in Iraq is illegal, and took issue with the suggestion that it is acceptable to jail soldiers who do not want to participate in an illegal war.

"It would mean soldiers that don't want to participate in illegal wars will be either required to do so or jailed, and that makes the idea of illegal war trivial," House said. "To set a regime in which people can be jailed for refusing to participate in an illegal war doesn't make much sense to me."

Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey each deserted the U.S. army in 2004 before being deployed to Iraq.

On Friday, a Federal Court judge upheld a decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board that denied the pair asylum.

Justice Anne Mactavish said that while high-level policy makers could argue the war violates international law, it's not clear whether soldiers can make the same claim for refugee status.

House disagreed with Mactavish's assessment.

"Individual soldiers should have the same right to argue that a war is illegal that high policy makers have," House said. "The reason is it doesn't depend on whether or not they could be prosecuted for waging aggressive war, which the high policy makers could be. Rather, it depends on the whole idea that they shouldn't be forced to do something illegal, whether or not they're going to face a war crimes tribunal for it."

E-mails are focused on Iraq so we'll focus on that for this entry; however, we will still have "And the war drags on" tonight. Brandon notes Dahr Jamail's "How Massacres Become the Norm" (Truthout via Iraq Dispatches):

US soldiers killing innocenct civilians in Iraq is not news. Just as it was not news that US soldiers slaughtered countless innocent civilians in Vietnam. However, when some rare reportage of this non news from Iraq does seep through the cracks of the corporate media, albeit briefly, the American public seems shocked. Private and public statements of denial and dismissal immediately start to fill the air. We hear, "American soldiers would never do such a thing," or "Who would make such a ridiculous claim?"
It amazes me that so many people in the US today somehow seriously believe that American soldiers would never kill civilians. Despite the fact that they are in a no-win guerrilla war in Iraq which, like any other guerrilla war, always generates more civilian casualties than combatant casualties on either side.

A number of e-mails ask about Katie Couric's move to CBS as the anchor of the Evening News. We noted it here. We noted it here repeatedly. When the wags said it wasn't happening, when they said she was just one contender. A Friday entry months ago had the puzzle (which Brad solved in the round-robin).

"What does it mean?" is a question that Jess saw in repeated e-mails. It means history. She anchors, not co-anchors, the evening news on one of the big three.
A lot of the press is playing the, "Oh can she do this!" And you'll note that the same hysteria didn't apply when Bob Schieffer took over Dan Rather's duties. From a Sunday chat and chew to the news didn't cause hysterical musings. (But if the New York Times didn't have hysterical musings, they wouldn't have much to offer since so many at CBS prefer not to talk to their reporters who cover TV news.)

You might think that now, with Couric leaving NBC, it would be the perfect time to explore how NBC staged a whisper campaign against Couric but that's not to be the case apparently. (It's been covered here but Ava and I wrote about it for The Third Estate Sunday Review as well.)

The coverage I've seen is pedestrian. Today's big moment, under Couric, they're ignoring. (They ignored it in real time too.) The pacing during that period was very strong as well and very quick but Couric stayed on her feet ("Can she cover breaking news!" wonder some).

At CBS, there's a sense of excitement over the news. There's also gratitude for Bob Schieffer. I don't care for BS, I never have. But, at the request of friends at CBS, we did note that he did win over the people he was working with. Whether his news tenure was noteworthy for the news or not, he does deserve credit for restoring a sense of balance at a trying time. (That's not 'political balance.') He was aware of the hostility and could have taken the attitude of, "Screw all of you." Instead he restored and built confidence. He deserves credit for that and we'll note it here.

At NBC? They had a heads up and then some. So why are there whispers of regret?
Could it be because they've made a huge mistake?

Probably. Forgetting the person picked, there's the simple fact that game shows and news don't mix. Focusing on the person, Meredith Vieira, if they were going to go with bland, they already had Campbell Brown under contract. Today's going to be a trainwreck. Is Meredith going to treat Lauer the way she does Star Jones? Or worse yet, the way she and the two other gasbags did Lisa Ling?

Meredith has all the appeal of Kate Mulgrew in Mrs. Columbo. The announcement was a mistake and only now are people starting to grasp that.

For instance, will they bring Barbara Walters to the set of Today to apologize for Meredith (as Walters had to do on ABC)?

Doubtful. And it's doubtful Today's demographic (current) will embrace Meredith. At fifty-two she's a bit old for Today. Lauer's long in the tooth now as well (and balding). Maybe she'll go blond? She's a clown to most audiences as a result of the game show and the idiocy of The View. Industry insiders are wondering how the very real conflicts on The View were something NBC brass wasn't aware of. Forget Walters apologizing for Meredith, there was also poor Bill having to do so repeatedly. And banter? Lauer won't play along if Meredith wants to go off on a topic like how she's not wearing panties.

Meredith isn't a journalist. Those days passed long ago. She's Rush Limbaugh with a thin smile. (And that comparison is very apt.) Today's about to become "Today With Britt Hume and Mary Matalin!" only Matalin doesn't mistake herself for "sparkling" the way Meredith does.

The joke by some at NBC is that they could announce that they've changed their minds on . . . CBS' The Early Show. (Couric announced her departure on Today yesterday, Meredith announced her departure on ABC today.)

CBS? Years ago (in TV years, decades,) CBS was interested in Meredith for their entertainment show (The Early Show -- let's not kid that it even aspires to news). Well, CBS has never known how to have a hit at that hour so toying with the charisma-free Meredith was right up there alley. But for NBC to make this mistake is really surprising. (And quite a few now get that it was a mistake.)

Katie Couric should do fine. Today? How quickly Today will sink and how low NBC will let it drop before they realize that Meredith lacks mass appeal (with both genders -- but also with women, despite her duties on The View or maybe because of them -- her TV persona isn't well liked)? Side issues would be is she going to have to give up the game show and what about hawking products?

Who should Today have gone with? The woman they'll probably be announcing as Meredith's replacement in a year -- Ann Curry. Curry has the likeability with all viewers and, in terms of Today, she has a built in base. When Meredith's given the heave-ho, Curry should be the replacement but they passed her over once . . .

If a visitor stumbles past and wonders why we spent so much time on TV news, we've noted Couric's move to CBS for months. It is news because she'll be a first (a worthy first). Disclosure for visitors, I know Couric. None of the above is a defense of corporate media or should be read as, "Corporate media is saved!" It's not. I have little hope for it. I hope she does well (and think she will). ABC can take comfort in the fact that NBC's mistake is not their own. Selecting MV is a return to Phyllis George time (for older morning news and "news" viewers).

In other notable news (and a worthy woman becoming the first solo evening anchor is news), Denise notes "Gloria Steinem Receives Ron Ridenhour Courage Award" (Feminist Wire Daily):
Gloria Steinem was awarded the Ron Ridenhour Courage Award yesterday. Steinem, a major figure of the feminist movement and a founder and consulting editor of Ms. magazine, was recognized for her life-long commitment to social justice and defense of the public interest. She will be donating a portion of the award money to Equality Now.
Martha notes this from CODEPINK:

Declare peace on Mother's Day with CODEPINK! We will be gathering in Washington DC for a 24-hour vigil outside the White House on May 13-14, and will be joined by amazing celebrity actresses, singers, writers--and moms. Bring your mother, your children, your grandmother, your friends, and your loved ones. We're also writing letters to Laura Bush to appeal to her own mother-heart, turning them into a book, "Letters to Laura." For more information & a schedule of events to help you plan your trip, check out our Mothers' Day page.

Two more items. Vanity Fair's doing it's first Green Issue, on sale now. At Grist, Kathryn Schulz moderates a discussion between Eric Mann and Frances Beinecke.

The e-mail address for this site is

[C.I. note: This post has been corrected. Chiefly with regards to the number of gasbags on The View. The friend I dictated this to put in "three." While I share no fondness for Barbara Walters, to put it mildly, I wouldn't rate her as a gasbag on The View. I do understand why ___ included her with regards to Lisa. In one of Meredith's more annoying flag waving moments -- pre-9/11, mind you -- she came of as the xenophobic jerk so many see her as. Lisa was sidelined in a conversation that she actually had something to contribute to. The next day, Barbara came on the show and had to offer the apologies. She also attempted to speak for Lisa. Lisa should have been given the time to speak for herself. That's why ___ included Walters in the gasbags. I'd said, "Let me think about that" intending to call back but there was too much to do and this was posted, rightly, when I didn't call back. I don't care for Walters but I don't think I'd rate her a gasbag. I'd question other things . . .
A visitor wondered why I didn't applaud Meredith as a "first." I applauded Couric as a worthy first. Meredith's not a worthy first in my opinion. I didn't applaud Condi Rice as a "first" either. Ava and I have addressed this topic and how sometimes a "first" can be a "worst." If anything, she'll set back the fight of older women to be visible on TV morning shows because she's not likeable by most viewers -- it's not just SNL and Mad TV that make fun of her. How is she a first? She'll be the first to actively and visibly attempt to shut down youth voices should they appear on Today. She was quite good at doing that on The View. I could go on and on with regards to this topic; however, saying that she's Rush Limbaugh with a thin smile says it all.]