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 Post subject: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 26 Jul 2008, 08:07 
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Ok, I'm gonna consolidate the stuff FAIR sends me in one thread...

Selling the Colombia Trade Pact

Carrying a Torch for Anti-China Protests

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 26 Jul 2008, 08:20 
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Quote:
Washington Post Responds to FAIR's Criticism Over Poll Question

7/23/08

A FAIR Action Alert on July 15 encouraged readers to ask the Washington Post why it asked a misleading poll question about Obama and McCain's positions on the Iraq War. The question, which framed the candidates' positions as two different "approaches" to withdrawal, led the paper to conclude that the country was "split down the middle between those backing Sen. Barack Obama's 16-month timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and those agreeing with Sen. John McCain's position that events, not timetables, should dictate when forces come home."

Post ombud Deborah Howell dismissed FAIR's criticism without addressing FAIR's argument. Howell wrote (7/20/08):



Liberal websites were critical of a Washington Post-ABC News poll question they said favored McCain on Iraq. The question: "Obama has proposed a timetable to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office. McCain has opposed a specific timetable and said events should dictate when troops are withdrawn. Which approach do you prefer -- a timetable or no timetable?" The question didn't seem unfair to me.



The Post's White House Watch columnist, Dan Froomkin, had a different take. In an online discussion with readers on July 16, Froomkin cited FAIR's criticism in response to a reader's bafflement over the Post article's conclusions. The reader asked:

According to a new Washington Post poll, our country is evenly split on the strategy for moving forward on Iraq. It is a stat that fills me with despair. What can antiwar advocates like myself do to let people know that our Iraqi incursion is destroying our economy, is not a "war" we can "win," and remains a boon for war profiteers and energy conglomerates, to our -- and Iraq's -- detriment? Are Americans really this ignorant, or have the media and the Democratic majority done a horrendous job of stating the case for pulling out?


Froomkin replied:

Well, there's another possibility, which is that the question wasn't ideally phrased. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, the liberal media watchdogs, argue that the question did not correctly describe McCain's position. And if you look at Iraq polling generally you'll see that a large majority of the public wants most if not all of our troops out very soon indeed.




FAIR thanks the activists who wrote to the paper.

This article is available at: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3582

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2008, 14:27 
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Report: Right-wing Pundits Use Mainstream Media to Smear Muslims

10/8/08

New York - Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), the national media watchdog group, released a first-of-its-kind report today profiling 12 of the leading Islamophobic pundits and media figures and examining the ways they've negatively influenced media coverage in the U.S. The report, "Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation," describes a loose network of right-wing, anti-Muslim partisans who regularly use innuendo, questionable sources of information and even lies to smear, and effectively marginalize, Muslims in the media.

The report is available for download at: http://www.smearcasting.com.

"This report takes a fresh look at Islamophobia and its perpetrators in today's media," said Steve Rendall, one of the report's authors and a senior analyst at FAIR. "We found prominent right-wing pundits and activists using misinformation and innuendo to broadcast hate against an entire community - in this case, Muslim-Americans - and major media have either fallen asleep at the wheel or, in many cases, have actively helped to spread the smears."

"Media should seek various points of view, but the message of the Islamophobes cannot possibly comport with the standards and practices that should constrain media outlets from airing smears against ethnic and religious groups," said Rendall, "We're talking about double standards."

The report's "dirty dozen" list includes talkshow hosts like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck; activists like Michelle Malkin, Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz; and influential writers like Mark Steyn and Robert Spencer.

The report also features four case studies, or snapshots, of how smearcasting has impacted the news cycle, including:

Right-wing pundit Daniel Pipes led a successful campaign to oust the principal of a secular Arabic-language New York City public school school by initiating a media-driven pressure campaign. The principal's history of forging interfaith and interethnic alliances was ignored as the campaign branded her a "stealth Islamist," and media pressure eventually forced her to resign.

Conservative columnist and Internet activist Michelle Malkin pressured Dunkin' Donuts into dropping an ad featuring celebrity chef Rachael Ray wearing a black-and-white scarf--which Malkin falsely identified as a keffiyeh, calling it a symbol of "murderous Palestinian jihad."

Islamophobia has emerged in the 2008 presidential election, from nefarious whisper campaigns directed at Sen. Barack Obama to the recent distribution of the anti-Muslim propaganda DVD Obsession to 28 million newspaper subscribers in swing states.

"We're not talking about people raving on a street corner downtown," said Rendall. "These are people who either have a powerful platform at their disposal or are allowed unfettered access to powerful platforms by reporters and editors in what are considered mainstream publications"

"These Muslim-bashing attacks have a real impact, not only on Muslims in America but on our civil discourse," Rendall added. "We're in the middle of a historic election in which Islamophobia has already played a role and I don't think we've seen the last of the dirty tricks and the smearcasting. Media need to step up and do their job of separating fact from innuendo and can tell the impartial experts apart from the smearcasters."

To download a copy of the report visit: http://www.smearcasting.com

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2008, 15:32 
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Lehrer's Debate Ignores World's Vast Majority

PBS's Jim Lehrer, as the moderator of the sole presidential debate dedicated to international policy and security issues, asked a narrow set of questions that left the vast majority of the world and its problems undiscussed.

Lehrer spent much of the debate asking about the ongoing global financial crisis, quoting President Dwight Eisenhower as saying that "the foundation of military strength is economic strength." When he turned to questions more specifically about foreign policy, he asked about the "lessons of Iraq"; whether "more U.S. troops should be sent to Afghanistan, how many and when"; the degree of threat posed by Iran; whether Russia was a "competitor," an "enemy" or a "potential partner"; and the likelihood of another September 11-style attack.

These are all important international policy areas, but what Lehrer didn't ask about--and what the candidates subsequently didn't discuss--was striking.

Two of the U.S.'s three largest trading partners--Canada and Mexico--were never mentioned. Nor was India, the second largest country in the world by population and the fourth largest economy.

The U.S.'s most important European allies--the British, French and Germans--were each mentioned once, by McCain, as countries that might help us influence Iran.

Japan was mentioned once, by Obama--as a place where we don't want the energy-efficient cars of the future being built.

China, the most populous country in the world, the second biggest economy in the world and probably the second most powerful country in the world, was mentioned five times by the candidates, but wasn't brought up in any of the questions.

While Israel was not mentioned in Lehrer's questioning, it was brought up several times by McCain and Obama in the context of the candidates' claims that Iran posed a potential threat to that country. Palestinians or Palestine were not mentioned.

Africa and Latin America were each mentioned once, by Obama--as places where China is active. Current and recent hot spots in Africa like the Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Rwanda were omitted; Somalia was mentioned only when McCain discussed his stance on the intervention there in the 1990s. Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and Haiti never came up; Venezuela was mentioned once, by Obama--as a "rogue state."

Serbia and the former Yugoslavia were not referred to; Kosovo was mentioned once, by McCain--as a place where he had supported military action. (He actually said he "supported what we did in Kosovo," which isn't true--he wanted to send ground troops in.)

Topics like global poverty, hunger and the food crisis were not asked about or brought up by the candidates. AIDS and international health policy went unmentioned as well. Climate change was mentioned three times by the candidates (once as a reason to support nuclear power), but not brought up by Lehrer.

Nobody mentioned human rights. "Torture" was mentioned three times, but not brought up by Lehrer.

Clearly, a 90-minute debate cannot touch on every topic of international policy. But the narrow focus of Lehrer's questioning suggested that, the financial crisis aside, military intervention and confrontation were the only issues worth talking about. Given the wide variety of complex problems facing the globe, the missed opportunity is tragic.


ACTION: Ask Jim Lehrer why his questions focused so disproportionately on military intervention and confrontation, to the exclusion of many of the most pressing global problems.

CONTACT: Jim Lehrer
Email: jlehrer@newshour.org
Phone: 703-998-2150






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Eartha Jane Melzer on Ohio GOP vote suppression, Sarah Anderson on Wall Street CEO pay (9/26/08-10/2/08)





Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2008, 20:39 
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The Washington Post Undercounts Iraq Deaths
Paper's feature low-balls Iraqi casualties

10/27/08

The Washington Post's weekly Saturday feature on "Iraq War Casualties" has consistently listed a "maximum count" of Iraqi civilian deaths that is dramatically lower than the likely civilian death tolls assessed through surveys of the Iraqi public.

In the most recent edition of this feature (10/25/08) which the Post has been publishing as a chart in the Saturday newspaper since August 2, the Post offers a "maximum count" of 96,719 Iraqi civilian deaths. Yet as the Post itself acknowledged in a footnote to its chart on June 15, 2007, there are studies that put the Iraqi death toll much higher: A 2006 survey by Iraqi physicians and overseen by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated over 600,000 killed at the time.

The source the Post cites for its "maximum count" of Iraqi civilian deaths is based on casualty reports from the group Iraq Body Count, which bases its figures on violent civilian deaths that are reported in media outlets and, when possible, by other NGO and official sources. While the group's figures represent a serious effort to document reported Iraq deaths, they are much lower than the death tolls assessed through surveys of the Iraqi public--the standard method for assessing casualties of large-scale wars or disasters.

Both the 2006 Johns Hopkins study and an earlier study conducted by Johns Hopkins (both published in the peer-reviewed British medical journal Lancet, 10/28/04, 10/11/06) estimated a death toll several times larger than that of Iraq Body Count; the more recent Lancet estimate found 601,027 "excess" deaths from violence in Iraq. A more recent survey conducted in August 2007 by the British polling firm Opinion Research Business (ORB) estimated 1.2 million excess violent deaths in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion. And an investigation by the U.N.'s World Health Organization and the Iraqi Health Ministry found, as the Washington Post reported (1/10/08), that "151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years following the U.S.-led invasion of the country."

These estimates do not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but given that the U.S. government estimated that the U.S. and its allies had killed 19,000 insurgents by September 2007 (USA Today, 9/27/07), it's clear that civilians make up the vast bulk of the deaths found in these surveys. And these surveys are all at least a year old; the WHO survey in particular was conducted before the most violent extended period of the war.

It's hard to see why you wouldn't include both civilian and combatant deaths when attempting to measure the effects of a war. But even if the Post wanted to count only civilians, the surveys indicate that 88,000-96,000 is almost certainly a very serious underestimation.

Why, then, does the Post opt to refer only to the lowest figures available for Iraq casualties? And why does the paper use the misleading label "maximum count" to refer to the 96,719 deaths recorded by Iraq Body Count? Iraq Body Count used to label the top of its range of reported deaths as its "maximum" number, but no longer seems to do so; its website notes, "Gaps in recording and reporting suggest that even our highest totals to date may be missing many civilian deaths from violence."

Given that over a year ago, the Post mentioned the Lancet's death toll estimate of over 600,000, it should stop referring to a figure six times lower as the "maximum count." If the Post insists on relying on the Iraq Body Count's admitted underestimate of Iraq deaths, it should convey the statistical differences between the different estimates with a sentence to the effect of, "Household surveys in Iraq suggest likely Iraqi death tolls 2 to 10 times greater than this count."

Instead, the paper seems to be opting to use the lowest range it can find.

ACTION:
Ask the Washington Post to clarify its "Iraq War Casualties" feature to convey the true range of estimates of Iraqi deaths since the invasion.

CONTACT:
Washington Post

Deborah Howell, Ombud
202-334-7582
ombudsman@washpost.com

Scott Wilson, Foreign Editor
foreign@washpost.com

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Devin West on 'collateral damage,' Francesca Grifo on science and free speech (10/24/08-10/30/08)





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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 28 Oct 2008, 21:29 
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More Than a Two-Person Race
Corporate media largely ignore other presidential candidates

10/21/08

While the major-party race for the White House has been the subject of broad media attention for more than a year, the corporate media have mostly ignored at least four substantial third-party and independent candidates for the presidency.

Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and Libertarian candidate Bob Barr are both former congressmembers from the state of Georgia. Their presence in the White House race, along with independent candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, would seem to present an interesting counterpoint to the major-party race between Barack Obama and John McCain. While the corporate press has apparently decided that the differences between Obama and McCain are more or less the only political opinions worth exploring this election season, the third-party and independent candidates take positions on issues like drug war policy, Israel-Palestine, civil liberties and military intervention that differ markedly from the views of either major-party candidate.

According to a Nexis news database search of the major network newscasts, McKinney's name has never been mentioned this year on the networks' news programs, while Barr and Nader's candidacies have garnered a total of only 31 mentions between them (15 times on ABC, 12 times on NBC and 4 on CBS). Including the Fox network--which airs Fox News Sunday on its broadcast affiliates--yields one passing mention of Nader, and an interview with Barr (6/29/08). PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer offered passing mentions of Nader and Barr when they announced their candidacies (2/25/08, 5/12/08); more recently, the show has interviewed each of them one-on-one (10/14/08, 10/20/08).

The context in which Barr and Nader have been covered is worth examining; by FAIR's count, many of the references to the candidates dealt primarily with the potential effect on the fortunes of the major-party candidates--i.e., whether a third-party candidate would be a "spoiler." That accounted for 11 mentions of Barr and Nader.

Passing mentions of Nader or Barr accounted for another 13 mentions; four of these were joking or mocking references to Nader. (ABC's This Week includes humor clips from late-night talkshows, two of which included Nader as a punch line.)

A March 4 report on ABC's Good Morning America discussed the presidential election with a panel of children, one of whom asked, "There's like another thing, there's a guy named something Nader…. I think he's either running for the Green Party or the independents." ABC correspondent Chris Cuomo misinformed the children by saying "Green Party."

Actual interviews with the candidates were somewhat rare, but Nader has appeared on NBC's Meet the Press ( 2/24/08) and Nightly News (10/20/08), ABC's This Week (6/29/08) and the CBS Early Show (2/25/08). Barr has appeared on ABC's This Week (7/16/08).

The main question media tend to pose about third-party candidates is whether or not they will impact the outcome of the election. This is not at all surprising, given corporate media's preference for focusing on the horserace aspect of politics. The lesser-known candidates' generally low standing in the polls appears to make it less likely that they will play a decisive role on Election Day, but the media's refusal to open up the political conversation makes this outcome more or less a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But besides being a process for choosing officials, elections are also an opportunity to discuss ideas. By ignoring independent and third party candidates, the corporate media are also helping keep a range of policy options about key issues that are not espoused by either major party candidate off the table--including single payer healthcare, a full withdrawal from Iraq, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the death penalty. Democracy Now! (10/16/08) allowed Nader and McKinney an opportunity to respond to the debate questions posed to Obama and McCain-- a rare opportunity for such candidates to let voters hear them alongside major-party nominees.

Numerous policies that are now seen as integral to American life were first proposed by third-party candidates; Socialist Eugene Debs, for example, promoted the idea of Social Security in his repeated runs for the presidency in the early 20th century, and Progressive Henry Wallace advocated desegregation in his 1948 race.

It's possible that the minor-party candidates in the 2008 election are suggesting programs that will one day seem as indispensable as Debs and Wallace's ideas. If so, you won't hear about them from the corporate media.

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Lori Minnite on ACORN & vote fraud, Bethany Albertson on the Bradley Effect (10/17/08-10/23/08)





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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 08 Dec 2008, 23:48 
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Creating an Iraq Flip-Flop?




Media root for Obama to reject withdrawal timeline



12/5/08




Corporate media are cheering what they suggest are signs that President-elect Barack Obama will break his campaign promise and defy both U.S. and Iraqi public opinion to keep combat troops in Iraq for longer than his 16-month withdrawal timetable.


Complicating these media efforts to find a shift in Obama's Iraq policy is that he has been saying virtually the same thing on Iraq withdrawal throughout the campaign: that he wants to have U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office, but that he would carry out this withdrawal in a "responsible" manner in consultation with his military advisers, and that an unspecified number of "residual" forces would be left in Iraq after that 16-month deadline.

When he said at a press conference in July 2008 (7/3/08), "I've always said that the pace of our withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability," media pundits jumped on that as a (for them, hopeful) sign that Obama was backing away from withdrawal (FAIR Media Advisory, 7/15/08); Obama gave a second press conference the same day to insist he hadn't changed his position.

The media establishment is now making similar claims about Obama's Iraq position, based mainly on Obama's retention of Robert Gates as defense secretary and his choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. This has led some in the media to conclude that Obama's oft-stated pledge to withdraw most combat forces in 16 months will be modified.




On Fox News Sunday (11/30/08), NPR reporter Mara Liasson declared: "I think choosing him [Gates] makes a lot of sense. I think if there was any concern during the campaign that Obama would somehow kind of reflexively and literally stick to this 16-month timetable, that's gone. I mean, he's a pragmatic guy. I mean, the war is ending mostly because of a surge he opposed, but worked."





And San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders (12/3/08) asserted:





Obama's decision to keep on Defense Secretary Robert Gates has angered the anti-war left, as it signals that Obama is prepared to drop his pledge to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months--two brigades per month--of taking office.... Now the question is: When did Obama know he would not honor his hard timeline pledge--during the primary, as I suspect, or over time, as the Bush/Gates troop surge brought about increased security in Iraq? Either way, Obama is where he should be on the issue.
The day before Saunders was citing Gates' reappointment as proof that Obama had seen the light on troop withdrawal, however, Gates was telling reporters (New York Times, 12/2/08), "I'm less concerned about that timetable," saying that Obama's oft-restated 16-month withdrawal formula was "exactly the position a president-elect should be in."

(As secretary of state, Clinton will have less to say about troop decisions, but the position she took on combat troops during the campaign--"I hope to have nearly all of them out within a year," as she said in the January 31, 2008 Democratic debate--makes it unlikely that she will be persuading Obama that a 16-month timeframe is too hasty.)

Journalists hoping for a signs of a flip-flop also took note of a December 1 news conference in which Obama reiterated:


I believe that 16 months is the right timeframe. But as I have said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders. And my No. 1 priority is making sure that our troops remain safe in this transition phase and that the Iraqi people are well served by a government that is taking on increased responsibility for its own security.



The New York Times (12/2/08) reported this by saying that "while he reaffirmed his desire to pull out combat brigades within 16 months, Mr. Obama emphasized his willingness to consider options put forth by the military." Despite the fact that Obama was reiterating the position he had staked out in the campaign, the Times portrayed Obama as





calibrating his statements to leave room to maneuver, knowing that some senior military officers are wary of moving too quickly and that the defense secretary he just reappointed has cautioned about timetables. The impression left by the event at a downtown Chicago hotel ballroom was of a political leader converting to governance from electioneering.



The Times made a more explicit--and more convoluted--case for an Obama shift on Iraq two days later (12/4/08), under the headline "Campaign Promises on Ending the War in Iraq Now Muted by Reality." The Times argued that while Obama's antiwar campaign rhetoric "electrified and motivated his liberal base," things have changed: "As he moves closer to the White House, President-elect Obama is making clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months."





Obama's message, then, has changed--except that it doesn't seem to have, really. As the article noted:



There always was a tension, if not a bit of a contradiction, in the two parts of Mr. Obama's campaign platform to ''end the war'' by withdrawing all combat troops by May 2010. To be sure, Mr. Obama was careful to say that the drawdowns he was promising included only combat troops. But supporters who keyed on the language of ending the war might be forgiven if they thought that would mean bringing home all of the troops.



If anyone's not being clear here, it's the New York Times; as the paper notes, Obama's withdrawal plan always focused specifically on combat troops--as both supporters (Media Matters, 12/4/08) and critics (Huffington Post, 12/5/08) of Obama on the left have pointed out--so it's hard to see the "contradiction" that is now revealing itself. Oddly, the paper's own editorial page declared on the December 2 that "Mr. Obama made it clear that his administration would follow a new course, reaffirming plans to remove American combat troops from Iraq within 16 months." If you rely for your news on the New York Times, it's far from clear what Obama has made clear.




The Washington Post editorial page (12/2/08) combined a focus on Obama's nominees with a parsing of his press conference statements. Writing that Clinton and Gates (as well as national security adviser pick Gen. Jim Jones) have "all questioned Mr. Obama's 16-month timetable for withdrawing from Iraq," the Post asserted that



Mr. Obama appears to be tacking toward their position: While he reaffirmed his 16-month timeline yesterday, he also said his "No. 1 priority is making sure that our troops remain safe in this transition phase and that the Iraqi people are well served by a government that is taking on increased responsibility for its own security." While it's possible those priorities could be upheld during a 16-month withdrawal, most likely Mr. Obama's own team will press him for greater flexibility.


The context to all this tea-leaf reading is that the media establishment long ago decided (Extra!,11-12/07) that a rapid withdrawal from Iraq was a "nightmare scenario" (U.S. News & World Report, 1/22/07) and that the responsible position was to keep U.S. troops in Iraq as long as they were necessary to restrain violence there. (Never mind that Iraqis, when asked, have overwhelmingly responded that the presence of U.S. troops makes violence worse--D3/KA, 2/25-3/5/07, 2/12-20/08.)


Of course, it remains to be seen what Obama's actual Iraq policy will turn out to be; he's always left himself room to back out of his 16-month timeline for withdrawal of combat troops, and still reserves that option. But the media pouncing repeatedly on any sign of ambiguity in Obama's plans seems to reflect wishful thinking on their part more than it does any particular insight into his strategy.







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Paul Sullivan on Gulf War Syndrome, Peter Hart on Obama's nominees (12/5/08-12/11/08)





Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 08 Dec 2008, 23:49 
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ABC's Overpaid Autoworkers



12/5/08






In an attempt to explain the plight of the Big Three U.S. automobile manufacturers, ABC's World News used a wildly misleading statistic regarding autoworkers' pay.



On the December 3 edition of the ABC newscast, reporter Chris Bury took aim at the supposed inflexibility of the United Auto Workers: "But the union did not offer to give back the big stuff, pay and benefits that remain a fundamental problem. Ford, Chrysler and GM pay union workers more than $73 an hour in wages and benefits. Japanese plants here shell out just over $44. For GM, that translates into $1,500 more per car more than Toyota has to pay."



This factoid, which is a favorite of the industry--and, increasingly, of the media as well (see Media Matters, 11/22/08 )--has been exposed as misleading for some time. In the New Republic (11/21/08), Jonathan Cohn called it "wildly misleading," and cited an analyst for the Center for Automotive Research who determined that "average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007." The much higher figure, according to Cohn, results from a mathematical sleight of hand--taking "the cost of all employer-provided benefits--namely, health insurance and pensions--and then dividing by the number of workers." In other words, costs related to retired workers, who well outnumber current employees, are used to create an inflated figure that is misleadingly labeled as current labor costs.





Writing in Portfolio (11/18/08), Felix Salmon called it a "ridiculous number," adding: "Now that GM's healthcare obligations are being moved to a UAW-run trust, even that fictitious number is going to fall sharply. But anybody who uses it as a rhetorical device suggesting that U.S. car companies are run inefficiently is being disingenuous." The United Auto Workers also has a page on their website debunking the industry figures (http://www.uaw.org/barg/07fact/fact02.php).



And as the Wall Street Journal reported (11/20/08), "During the past three years, the union agreed to eliminate tens of thousands of production jobs, reduce healthcare coverage for union retirees and slash wages for new hires--moves that essentially level the playing field between the Big Three auto makers and their foreign-owned rivals." The paper went on to explain that these concessions are significant: "Analysts believe the changes will bring the average cost of union labor to less than $50 an hour by 2010 or 2011, in line with Toyota Motor Corp.'s labor costs. The Harbour Report, a closely watched scorecard of auto-plant productivity, earlier this year found that in 2007 the average per-vehicle labor costs for the Big Three in 2007 was no more than $260 above Toyota's"--far from the $1,500 premium ABC claimed GM pays.



ABC did include a quote from UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, saying that he "bristled at blaming auto workers"--but ABC's newscast was as much behind the finger-pointing as the industry is. As economist Dean Baker noted (Beat the Press, 11/18/08), this misinformation has serious consequences: "It certainly can affect public support for a bailout if they are led to believe that autoworkers are paid much more than is actually the case." ABC should correct the record.



ACTION:
Tell ABC that it should correct its December 3 report that inaccurately characterized autoworker salaries.



CONTACT:
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Phone:212-456-4040




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Paul Sullivan on Gulf War Syndrome, Peter Hart on Obama's nominees (12/5/08-12/11/08)





Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 09 Dec 2008, 08:54 
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Media Still Letting Bush Lie on Iraq Inspectors

ABC, Washington Post fail to challenge president's misinformation




12/2/08





In a December 1 interview with ABC anchor Charles Gibson, George W. Bush gave a grossly erroneous history of the run-up to the Iraq War--a false version of events that Gibson failed to challenge and the Washington Post glossed over the following day.



When Gibson asked if Bush wished he had any "do-overs," Bush responded:



BUSH: I don't know--the biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is [sic] a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. And, you know, that's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.



GIBSON: If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq War?



BUSH: Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld. In other words, if he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely.



GIBSON: No, if you had known he didn't.



BUSH: Oh, I see what you're saying. You know, that's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate.





The Washington Post's write-up (12/1/08), praising Bush's "new candor," reported that he





admitted to errors and regrets in several key areas. He said he wished "the intelligence had been different" on Iraq but declined to speculate on whether he still would have decided to go to war. "That is a do-over that I can't do," he said.





As Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo (12/2/08)noted: "For Bush to blame the failure of intel for his decision to invade is not a concession at all, and it is not an admission of failure on his part.... It is an evasion of responsibility for what happened."




But there was an even more glaring distortion of history in Bush's statement: his claim that Saddam Hussein prevented weapons inspectors from conducting searches in Iraq. In reality, the inspections were a well-publicized process that attracted international news coverage and were the subject of lengthy discussions at the United Nations.



This is not the first time Bush has denied this history. As FAIR pointed out (7/18/03), in July 2003 Bush made a similar comment ("We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in"), which the Post soft-pedaled by saying these words "appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring." And reporter Robert Parry (Consortium News, 12/2/08) noted after the ABC interview that Bush has made similar declarations (1/27/04, 3/21/06, 5/24/07 )--none of which generated much interest from the corporate media.





It is troubling that Gibson would not challenge Bush on this fundamental misrepresentation of reality--and that the Post would let Bush's lie go unreported.






ACTION: Ask ABC and the Washington Post to clarify--and fact-check--Bush's statements on the prelude to the Iraq War.






ABC News

Charles Gibson



212-456-4040




charles.gibson@abc.com






Washington Post

Deborah Howell, Ombud
202-334-7582
ombudsman@washpost.com

Please post any responses you receive from ABC or the Washington Post on the FAIR Blog: http://www.fair.org/blog/2008/12/02/res ... ctors-lie/

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Mark Brenner on Big 3 bailout, Steve Rendall on the Fairness Doctrine (11/28/08-12/4/08)





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PostPosted: 30 Jan 2009, 09:25 
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International Law Seldom Newsworthy in Gaza War

Israeli justifications often cited uncritically


1/13/08


U.S. corporate media coverage of the Israeli military attacks that have reportedly killed over 900--many of them civilians--since December 27 has overwhelmingly failed to mention that indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets are illegal under international humanitarian law.

Israel's recent aerial attacks on Gazan infrastructure, including a TV station, police stations, a mosque, a university and even a U.N. school, have been widely reported. Yet despite the fact that attacks on civilian infrastructure, including police stations, are illegal (Human Rights Watch, 12/31/08), questions of legality are almost entirely off the table in the U.S. media.


Only two network evening news stories (NBC Nightly News, 1/8/09, 1/11/09) have even mentioned international law--a mere 3 percent of the total stories that NBC, ABC and CBS's newscasts have broadcast on the Israeli military offensive since it began on December 27.

The largest circulation daily newspaper, USA Today, has made only one reference to international law, according to a search of the terms "international law," "humanitarian law," "war crime" or "laws of war" in the Lexis Nexis database of U.S. newspaper stories mentioning Israel and Gaza since December 27: That single reference was an op-ed (1/7/08) by a spokesperson from the Israeli embassy in Washington who criticized Hamas violations.


Much of the media coverage has echoed Israel's terminology. Early reports on the fighting spoke of Israel destroying "Hamas targets," bolstering the Israeli position that anything connected to Gaza's government was a legitimate target. "Israel's attacks on Hamas, its leaders and its institutions in Gaza intensified today," ABC's David Muir reported (12/29/08). NBC Nightly News (12/28/08) explained: "Warplanes pounded strategic locations in Gaza for the second day: a prison, a mosque used to store weapons, a Hamas TV station and dozens of other targets. The Israelis attacked the Islamic University, which is a strategic, a moral and a cultural key point for Gaza."


While places of worship are singled out as a kind of civilian object protected under the Geneva Protocols, a mosque used to store weapons could be a military target--though it is unclear what independent confirmation NBC had that allowed the network to state this claim as fact. A prison not directly used in the military effort would be a civilian object, and TV stations are normally considered civilian objects as well (FAIR Media Advisory, 3/27/03). While it is unclear what NBC means in calling the university a "strategic" key point, targeting an object on the basis of its "cultural" value is specifically forbidden under the Geneva Protocols.



A lengthy Washington Post report (12/30/08) likewise recounted Israel's target lists largely without question:



While previous Israeli assaults on Gaza have pinpointed crews of Hamas rocket launchers and stores of weapons, the attacks that began Saturday have had broader aims than any before. Israeli military officials said Monday that their target lists have expanded to include the vast support network that the Islamist movement relies on to stay in power in the strip. The choice of targets suggests that Israel intends to weaken all the various facets of Hamas rather than just its armed wing.



That description was followed by quotes from two Israelis. The Post went on to explain Israel's targeting, each time offering the Israeli rationale with barely a hint of skepticism: "In the Israeli offensive, one of the first targets was a police academy, where scores of recruits were preparing to join a security service that Hamas uses to enforce its writ within Gaza."

As two op-ed pieces in the London Guardian pointed out (12/27/08, 1/3/08), under international law, police officers are classified as civilians, and targeting them is thus illegal (see also Human Rights Watch, 12/31/08). Though the Post did not mention this, it did see fit to point out that "the Israeli military has said the police are fair game because they are armed members of Hamas's security structure and some moonlight as rocket launchers."

Similarly, the Israeli attack on the Islamic University was presented in a way that would justify the attack: "The university was once known as a bastion of support for the mainstream Palestinian Fatah movement, but it gradually fell under Hamas' sway, and many of the movement's top leaders are alumni. Hamas heavily influences the curriculum and uses the campus as a prime recruiting ground."


The idea that leaders of a military or government force being alumni of a particular school makes that school a military target is not one U.S. media would take seriously in most contexts. The CIA often recruits officers from Yale; does that make Yale a legitimate military target?


A New York Times report (12/31/08) punted on the issue of legality:



In the debate over civilian casualties, there is no clear understanding of what constitutes a military target. Palestinians argue that because Hamas is also the government in Gaza, many of the police officers who have been killed were civil servants, not hard-core militants. Israel disagrees, asserting also that a university chemistry laboratory, which it claims was used for making rockets, was a fair target in an attack this week, even if it could not show conclusively that those inside the laboratory at the time where engaged in making weapons.



If Israel is attacking civilian institutions without showing evidence that they are in fact military targets, it's unclear why news reports would suggest that that meant that no one knows what a military target is. But the Times persisted:



The ambiguity was evident at the intensive care ward in Shifa Hospital.... There were 11 patients. One was a pharmacist, Rawya Awad, 32, who had a shrapnel wound to the head. Several were police officers. It was impossible to know the identities of many of the others. But there were several children in another intensive care unit on Tuesday. Among them was Ismael Hamdan, 8, who had severe brain damage as well as two broken legs, according to a doctor there. Earlier that day, two of his sisters, Lama, 5, and Hayya, 12, were killed.



That "ambiguity" was matched days later (1/4/09), in a vivid account from a Gaza hospital that discovered mostly civilians being treated--which the paper called "both harrowing and puzzling." The paper added:


The casualties at Shifa on Sunday--18 dead, hospital officials said, among a reported 30 around Gaza--were women, children and men who had been with children. One surgeon said that he had performed five amputations.... In recent days, most of those arriving at Shifa appeared to be civilians. On Sunday, there was no trace here of the dozens of Hamas fighters that the Israeli military said its ground forces had hit in the past few hours in exchanges of fire. The exact reason was not clear.... But at Shifa, most of the men who were wounded or killed seemed to have been hit along with relatives near their homes or on the road. Two young cousins and a 5-year-old boy from another family were killed by shrapnel as they played on the flat roofs of their apartment buildings.


Given the population density of Gaza and the completely predictable civilian death toll usually associated with aerial bombing and urban warfare, the civilian toll is anything but "puzzling."


But the New York Times continued to grant Israel a pass on the legality of its attacks, though often the arguments were difficult to parse. Times reporter Steven Erlanger (1/11/09) noted that "Israeli officials say that they are obeying the rules of war and trying hard not to hurt noncombatants but that Hamas is using civilians as human shields in the expectation that Israel will try to avoid killing them."


That would seem to be at odds with what Erlanger also reported about an alleged Hamas "trap" in one Gaza apartment building:


According to an Israeli journalist embedded with Israeli troops, the militants placed a mannequin in a hallway off the building's main entrance. They hoped to draw fire from Israeli soldiers who might, through the blur of night vision goggles and split-second decisions, mistake the figure for a fighter. The mannequin was rigged to explode and bring down the building.


That account--which Erlanger seems to find plausible--would suggest the opposite of what Israeli officials are saying about avoiding attacks on civilians; if a "mannequin in a hallway" would appear to Israeli forces to be a military target and hence "draw fire," then presumably virtually any Gazan--who typically live in buildings, many of which have hallways--would be taken as such as well.

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PostPosted: 09 Feb 2009, 11:49 
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Lou Dobbs Peddles Anti-Union Propaganda
CNN host misinforms on Employee Free Choice Act

2/6/09

CNN host Lou Dobbs falsely suggested that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would "end a secret ballot" on his February 4 show.

At the conclusion of a report by CNN correspondent Drew Tucker about the Service Employees International Union's mobilization in support of the legislation, Dobbs said, "The American people voted for lots of things, but I don't know a lot of people voted to end a secret ballot." (Click here to watch the clip.)

Dobbs' claim that EFCA would eliminate the "secret ballot" in union authorization elections, which has been a centerpiece in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce-funded anti-union PR campaign (see Nation, 1/26/09), is completely false. As the text of the act (H.R. 800, 3/2/07) reveals, EFCA contains no language about eliminating the "secret ballot" enshrined in the National Labor Relations Act under Section 9 e.

Under EFCA, workers would still have the right to vote in a National Labor Review Board (NLRB) "secret ballot" election if 30 percent of the workforce signs cards, just as they do now. EFCA would change the process of union formation by giving workers seeking to join a union an additional option of winning union representation after a majority of the workforce signs cards, through a new provision to the act (section 9 c 6).

As American Rights at Work points out, this method of union sign-up, known as "majority sign-up" or "card check," is already recognized under current labor law, but only when the employer approves it. EFCA would represent a change in such union drives by removing the ability of employers to withhold recognition and to insist on an NLRB election.

In the CNN report, SEIU president Andy Stern explained this point clearly: "This is the worker's choice. They can have a secret ballot or legally affirm by a majority of them signing cards." Either Dobbs was not listening to his own broadcast, or he thinks labor leaders like Stern aren't telling the truth. Either way, we know whose side he's on--he referred to the pending legislation as the "so-called Employee Free Choice Act," and deemed labor's lobbying on the bill a "bold threat."

ACTION: Ask Lou Dobbs to stop repeating the business lobby's false charge that EFCA would eliminate secret ballot elections.

CONTACT:

Lou Dobbs
Email:lou.dobbs@turner.com

CNN:
212-275-7800

Please share the letters you send to Dobbs by copying and pasting them in the comments section at fair.org/blog.

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PostPosted: 09 Feb 2009, 11:57 
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FAIR Challenges CBC Ombud's Report

2/4/09

As the BBC continues to come under fire for refusing to carry an aid appeal for Gaza, the U.S. media watch group FAIR is challenging the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for making false and biased claims after a campaign by groups that advocate for uncritical coverage of Israel.

The campaign was launched in response to CBC's October 23, 2008 airing of the 2003 educational documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land. The film cited a FAIR report on U.S. media coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict, prompting the CBC's French-language radio ombud Julie Miville-Dechêne to question the independence of FAIR's research, referring to the organization as a "pro-Palestinian" and "militant group."

FAIR is an independent nonprofit group whose research is widely cited by respected media scholars in both the U.S. and Canada. Its spokespersons have appeared on several occasions on the CBC to discuss issues ranging from media coverage of the Kosovo War to radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Faulting the film for "failure to account for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip," Miville-Dechêne also cited a 2001 FAIR study that found only 4 percent of U.S. network news reports "concerning Gaza or the West Bank mention that these are occupied territories" as an example of an "anachronism" in the documentary, because Israel had subsequently withdrawn military forces and settlements from Gaza.

Under international law, however, Gaza remains an occupied territory, because Israel continues to control its borders. FAIR's finding of a chronic failure by leading American media organizations to mention the occupation is actually even more true today: a search of the Lexis Nexis database during the most recent war (12/2/08-1/18/09) reveals that the percentage of network news programs about Gaza or the West Bank that mentioned the occupation has fallen from 4 to only 2 percent.

While the ombud said FAIR's 2001 finding that only 4 percent of U.S. news reports mentioned the occupation was "shocking," the coverage on CBC's own evening newscast, The National, from the same period was roughly equivalent, with only 5 percent of reports concerning Gaza or the West Bank referring to occupation.

FAIR contributing writer Seth Ackerman, who authored the report, today issued a response to the president of the CBC, which is available online at:

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3712.

(It is also pasted in full below.)

***

Dear Mr. Lacroix,

I was surprised and a bit puzzled to read the remarks concerning Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (where I am now a contributing writer) in a recent report from the CBC Radio-Canada Ombudsman. The ombudsman's report, which deals with the Middle East documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, had this to say about FAIR and the use of our research by the film:


This proximity between militant groups and documentary filmmakers is disconcerting. For example, one shocking item of information featured in the documentary is that only four percent of televised news reports mention that the West Bank and Gaza are "occupied." A small note at the bottom of the screen attributes this statistic from 2001 to the group "Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, FAIR." This is a pro-Palestinian media watch group, the counterpart of pro-Israeli groups likes CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in the Middle East Reporting in America) and HonestReporting, which is involved in the bulk of complaints to my office against this documentary. It is not a case of independent research."


I will address the "shocking" factual issue raised in this passage, but first I can't help but express my puzzlement at the characterization of FAIR as a "militant group," a "pro-Palestinian" pressure organization whose analyses don't constitute "independent research." I distinctly recall that in 2000, as a FAIR media analyst, I was invited by CBC Radio, along with former Canadian ambassador James Bissett and others, to analyze news coverage of the Kosovo war in a post-broadcast panel discussion of Sandra Bartlett and Michael McAuliffe's prize-winning Kosovo documentary The Road to Racak. Other FAIR spokespeople have appeared on CBC to discuss everything from Rush Limbaugh to media coverage of the Afghanistan war. Evidently the CBC ought to be more careful about screening out the extremist groups it invites on the air to discuss international affairs.

It is also hard to understand why, after trying to cast a cloud of doubt over FAIR as the source of the cited statistic about TV news coverage of the West Bank and Gaza, the ombudsman apparently never attempted to discover whether the statistic was actually accurate or not. Had the ombudsman's office done so, it might have learned that this fact is easily verifiable.

As the report notes, the statistic came from a November 3, 2000 online FAIR analysis (which I wrote). The analysis stated:

The three major networks' evening news broadcasts-- ABC's World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and the CBS Evening News--aired 99 stories mentioning the West Bank or the Gaza Strip from the outbreak of fighting on September 28 through November 2 [2000]. But only four of these stories informed viewers that Israel occupies those lands.

It would have been a simple matter to confirm that all of this is true. If you go to the Nexis news database, you can ascertain the number of stories containing the words "West Bank" or "Gaza" that aired on the three above-named newscasts within the specified dates, by entering the following search string:

show (World News Tonight or NBC Nightly News or CBS Evening News) and date (is aft 9/27/2000 and bef 11/3/2000) and West Bank or Gaza


When you do so, 99 stories come up. You can then find how many of these stories mentioned that the territories are occupied simply by adding the term "and occup!" to the search string. This brings up all of the stories within these 99 that contain any variation of the word "occupied" ("occupation," "occupy," "occupying," etc). There are six such stories, two of which are false positives. (One refers to the occupation of Lebanon while the other refers narrowly to contested control of a specific holy site in Nablus.)

Thus, it is a fact that during the first month or so of the Second Intifada, only four out of the 99 stories mentioning the West Bank or Gaza on the three main U.S. evening newscasts reported that the territories are occupied - approximately 4%. I find it amusing that even the ombudsman's office thinks this omission on the part of the U.S. networks is "shocking." If the ombudsman's office believes this to be an issue worth pursuing further, it might consider airing a documentary on CBC investigating pro-Israel bias in the news media.

Seth Ackerman

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 11 Feb 2009, 16:17 
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Action Alert

Worldfocus, Brought to You by Economic Fearmongers
PBS show takes funding from Social Security critics

2/10/09

The PBS show Worldfocus recently received a $1 million dollar grant to produce "reports examining how other countries have dealt with the challenges facing the United States, like healthcare and Social Security" (New York Times, 2/3/09) from a foundation with a track record of misinformation and fearmongering on these very issues.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation and its founder, Pete Peterson, have long played a critical role (Extra!, 3-4/97) in promoting the myths that Social Security is on the verge of bankruptcy (Extra!, 7-8/95, 1-2/05) and that universal healthcare is unaffordable.

The foundation was a major backer of IOUSA, a recent documentary urging a balanced budget and attacking Social Security and Medicare spending that was criticized for inaccuracies and for offering economic advice that would be disastrous if followed during a severe downturn. The foundation recently placed misleading full-page ads in several newspapers warning of a looming $57 trillion federal deficit (Center for Economic and Policy Research, 10/08).

According to the Worldfocus website, the show was launched by New York station WNET with the intention of responding "to the mainstream media's diminished coverage of international news." The show includes work from other news organizations, including Al Jazeera English, and seems to provide a wider than usual array of perspectives on international issues, though that's an admittedly low bar (Extra!, 9-10/06).

Intentions aside, however, Worldfocus faces the same pressures and constraints as all programs in the nominally public TV system. The head of the Peterson Foundation, David Walker, earnestly claimed (New York Times, 2/3/09) that Worldfocus would maintain "total control over the content." But if the source of funding had no impact on content, there would be no point to public broadcasting; it was the very real concern that commercial sponsorship influences programming that led to the creation of public broadcasting in the first place.

If Worldfocus were going to seriously debunk the Peterson Foundation's sky-is-falling rhetoric, it seems unlikely their grant would be renewed; that would be a major consideration in any economic climate. And WNET chief executive Neil Shapiro says of his station (New York Times, 2/3/09), "There are huge financial pressures facing this place."

Over the years, FAIR has documented a conflict-of-interest double standard at PBS, where shows produced or funded by public-interest advocates or labor unions are rejected on grounds of a conflict of interest, while those involving corporate or conservative interests get a green light (FAIR press release, 4/3/02). If it hopes to be worthy of the name "public," WNET has to enforce a single standard on such conflicts.


ACTION: Please call on WNET to reject a grant to cover Social Security and other issues from a foundation with a pronounced political bias on those issues.

CONTACT:
WNET
212-560-1313
programming@thirteen.org

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 Post subject: Re: FAIR Stuff...
PostPosted: 05 Mar 2009, 22:30 
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Media Advisory

What the Dow Isn't
Stocks misused as 'scorecard' of White House policy

3/5/09

To hear some in the corporate media tell it, you judge a president by how the Dow Jones Industrial Average is performing--and, thus, Barack Obama is not doing a very good job.

As NBC's Meet the Press host David Gregory said (3/1/09):

The Obama stimulus package, $787 billion. The housing plan, $75 billion. That's $2.3 trillion. Seven hundred and fifty billion dollars additional in this document for additional bailout money for the banks. Meantime, what metric do we have to see how people--what people think of that government intervention? The Dow is one metric. It closed on Friday at its lowest level since 1997, just over 7,000.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews put it earlier (Hardball, 2/23/09):

How does [Obama] deal with the fact that he has a scorecard now. It's called the Dow Jones.... No matter what they say, the Dow keeps going down. It's down to almost 7,000 now. I used to think 8,000 was the floor. It's heading toward 6,000! People are really getting angry! I'm getting angry!

Some of the commentary was even blunter. NBC's financial pundit Jim Cramer declared on the March 3 Today show that Obama is pursuing a "radical agenda" that amounts to the "greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a president." When reporter Erin Burnett seemed to disagree slightly, Cramer retorted: "The stock market is the country right now. This is where people's wealth is."

But reporters and commentators are mistaken if they believe the Dow Jones average amounts to a public referendum on the Obama White House (or any other White House, for that matter). There is also little evidence that a rising stock market is necessarily tied to increased prosperity or broad economic health; it is a measure of what people who trade stocks think those stocks are worth, i.e. how much they think other traders would pay for them. As Dean Baker wrote in response to a Washington Post article (3/3/09), the value of the Dow is not a reliable indicator of much of anything: "As should be apparent at this point, the stock market can often be driven by irrational exuberance. Remember, it was almost three times as high in 2009 dollars back in 2000 as it is today. Did that make sense?"

"It took only 14 trading sessions for the Dow to fall from 8,000 to less than 7,000," declared Today host Matt Lauer (3/3/09). As pointed out by Media Matters (3/3/09), MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer seemed to more explicitly tie the market average to Obama: "Since Election Day, the Dow Jones industrial average has dropped nearly 3,000 points. It's shed a quarter of its value in just the past two months." The Dow had also lost more than 3,000 points in the six months prior to Election Day, which might suggest the problems started long before last November.

And such commentary certainly suggests that the downturn in the market is some sort of reaction to White House actions--rather than a response to the routinely downbeat reports from major corporations, indicating that they will make less money and hence be worth less to investors than they have in the recent past (and in the case of many major financial corporations, their balance sheets are worse than downbeat). As the Washington Post reported (3/5/09): "The U.S. recession is dragging down almost every industry in almost every part of the country and businesses do not expect conditions to improve until late this year at the earliest, according to a Federal Reserve report released yesterday."

If reporters really want to assess public reaction to White House economic proposals, there is a much more straightforward way to do that: public opinion polls. Those show much more public support for the Obama administration than is evident among Wall Street investors--or millionaire TV journalists.


Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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Does the Post Fact-Check George Will?
Columnist's climate change denial distorts reality

2/18/09

Washington Post columnist George Will is among the most widely syndicated in the newspaper business--which means that his recent error-filled column about climate change will misinform the readers of hundreds of papers across the country.

Will made several specious claims in his February 15 column in an attempt to argue that climate change is not a serious concern. (Will has a history of such denial--see Extra!, 5-6/07.)

He started by citing newsmagazine stories from the 1970s that warned of global cooling. The prevailing scientific consensus at that time did not support such claims (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 9/08), but Will likes to pretend that it did--calling it another example of "predicted planetary calamities that did not happen"--in order to bolster the idea that scientists can be wildly off-base. (Will had actually been sent a copy of the BAMS piece by one of the authors after he made a similar false claim last year--Washington Post, 5/22/08. The author reports he "got a nice note back from him thanking me for sharing it"--ABQJournal.com, 2/15/09.)

Will then brought his climate denial up to date by writing:

As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.

This came as news to the University of Illinois' Polar Research Group (the group's actual name), which posted the following response on its website (Cryosphere Today, 2/15/09):

We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California and Oklahoma combined.

It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

(This inaccurate characterization of the university's work has been peddled elsewhere by right-wing media, including Fox News Channel's Special Report--1/5/09.)

Will closed his column with another inaccuracy:

Real calamities take our minds off hypothetical ones. Besides, according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade, or one-third of the span since the global cooling scare.

This is not the first time Will has misleadingly cited the U.N. body's work; he wrote in a June 1, 2008 column that "global temperatures have not risen in a decade." This is a simple statistical sleight-of-hand: 1998 was hotter than 2008, so by cherry-picking this year as your starting point, Will can claim that global warming isn't happening. Unfortunately for him, the World Meteorological Organization does not agree, explaining (12/13/07): "The decade of 1998-2007 is the warmest on record.... Since the start of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74°C." (See a striking chart showing the 21st century's string of record-breaking average temperatures at Climate Progress--12/16/08.)

Of course, Will is entitled to believe that climate change is a mere "hypothetical" worry. But does the Post really allow him to misstate the facts in order to make his political argument? If so, should the papers that run Will's column be made aware of this peculiar editorial decision? The website Talking Points Memo has tried to get a response from the Post, but so far has been given the cold shoulder (2/17/09).

ACTION:
Encourage the Washington Post to correct Will's erroneous column--for the benefit of its own readers, as well as those who read his column in other newspapers. And ask whether the paper has a system for checking factual assertions made by its columnists.

CONTACT:
Washington Post
Editorial Page Editor
Fred Hiatt
hiattf@washpost.com

If your local paper runs Will's commentaries, please pass this along to them.


Feel free to respond to FAIR ( fair@fair.org ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to fair@fair.org.

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