Archive for the ‘The News’ Category

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From USAToday:

Original posting at 11:56 a.m. ET: Those weren’t reporters questioning the deputy chief of FEMA earlier this week, they were federal employees playing the role of journalists during a televised briefing on the wildfires in southern California.

An agency spokesman tells The Washington Post that they didn’t have time to wait for real reporters to come to their office near the U.S. Capitol. “We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute,”  Mike Widomski, FEMA’s deputy director of public affairs, tells the paper.

So, instead of waiting for outsiders to come to their offices, the P.R. people just turned on the cameras and tossed softballs to their boss. That may be why Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson found it so easy to answer the questions, according to the Post. (A philosophical question: If the press doesn’t come to your press conference did you really hold a press conference?)

Here’s a sampling of the questions:

QUESTION: Sir, there are a number of reports that people weren’t heeding evacuation orders and that was hindering emergency responders. Can you speak a little to that, please?

QUESTION: Can you address a little bit what it means to have the president issue an emergency declaration, as opposed to a major disaster declaration? What does that (inaudible) for FEMA?

QUESTION: Sir, we understand the secretary and the administrator of FEMA are on their way out there. What is their objective? And is there anyone else traveling with them?

STAFF: Last question.

QUESTION: What lessons learned from Katrina have been applied?

Update at 3:01 p.m. ET: FEMA just issued an apology. “FEMA’s goal is to get information out as soon as possible, and in trying to do so we made an error in judgment,” the agency says in a statement attributed to Johnson. “Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received. We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straight forward and transparent.”

USA TODAY’s Mimi Hall reports that officials at the Homeland Security Department aren’t happy about FEMA’s follies. “This is inexcusable to the secretary,” spokeswoman Laura Keehner says.

She describes the incident as a lapse in judgment, but says “stunts such as this will not be tolerated” and notes that “the senior leadership of the department is taking this very seriously.”

“This is offensive, inexcusable,” she says.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — The head of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated an ambitious plan to relax the decades-old media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.

Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months — a plan that, if successful, would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.

Among them are Samuel Zell, the Chicago investor who is seeking to complete a buyout of the Tribune Company, and Rupert Murdoch, who has lobbied against the rule for years so that he can continue controlling both The New York Post and a Fox television station in New York.

The proposal appears to have the support of a majority of the five commission members, agency officials said, although it is not clear that Mr. Martin would proceed with a sweeping deregulatory approach on a vote of 3 to 2 — something his predecessor tried without success. In interviews on Wednesday, the agency’s two Democratic members raised questions about Mr. Martin’s approach.

Read the rest at NYTimes.com

From EditorandPublisher.com

NEW YORK The Associated Press said today that it is suing online news distributor “Moreover” and its parent company VeriSign. The news cooperative is seeking to stop the companies from accessing and publishing AP material and infringing on copyrights and trademarks.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York today. AP sent the companies a cease-and-desist letter on September 11.

“The Associated Press spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year gathering and reporting the news, providing original coverage of vital breaking news that cannot be obtained anywhere else,” Tom Curley, president and CEO of the AP, said in a statement. “When someone uses our content without our permission, they are free riding on our newsgathering and our reporting of news from around the world.”

A spokesperson for VeriSign said the company could not comment on pending litigation.

AP is seeking unspecified damages and a permanent injunction against the companies.

“Moreover” claims that AP is a source for its major news coverage, according to AP. “This suit is about two companies that are willfully misappropriating and infringing upon AP’s proprietary news reports on a continuous basis, and are falsely associating themselves with AP, to operate and promote their fee-based and ad-supported services, which they promise will deliver real-time news in as fast as two minutes of publication,” Srinandan Kasi, AP vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

VeriSign, based in Mountain View, Calif., offers services that enable and protect billions of interactions every day across voice, video and data networks.

This has the potential to seriously affect the way you get your news. AP is obviously not in the business of disseminating the news, but rather in the business of business. 

There is a portion of the lawsuit that indicates they will are not just upset about the posting of entire stories or snips but also sites that post links.

We will continue to post as we always have until the judgment is handed down. If the ruling is in favor of AP, we will have to rethink how we post articles from them.

Interesting times, eh?

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Iranian President’s speech at Columbia – as well as the “introduction” he received. You may have even have an opinion about it all.

Before you set it in cement, watch the interviews on The Real News – you may come away with a different idea.

The Real News 

See updates at bottom.

There’s a huge new media scandal breaking this morning, and the headline so far — that a much-used consultant to ABC News published a phony interview with Barak Obama — may well be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The news about now ex-ABC consultant Alexis Debat (left) is just dribbling out, but I’m surprised people haven’t been connecting the dots. This post will seek to connect a couple of them.

Simply put, Debat — a former French defense official who now works at the (no, you can’t make these things up) Nixon Center — has also been a leading source in pounding the drumbeat for war in Iran, and directly linked to some bizarre stories — reported on ABC’s widely watched news shows, and nowhere else — that either ratcheted up fears of terrorism or that could have stoked new tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Ironically, while Debat’s alleged specialty is foreign affairs, it was a foray into American presidential politics that brought this budding scandal out into the open. This from today’s article by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post:

A former consultant to ABC’s investigative unit admitted yesterday that he put his name on a purported interview with Barack Obama that he never conducted. Alexis Debat, a former French defense official who now works at the Nixon Center, published the interview in the French magazine Politique Internationale. He said he had hired a freelance journalist to conduct the interview, in which the Democratic presidential candidate supposedly said that Iraq was “already a defeat for America” that has “wasted thousands of lives.” Debat said he had been unable to locate the intermediary, and the Obama campaign says no such interview took place.

“I was scammed,” Debat said. “I was very, very stupid. I made a huge mistake in signing that article and not checking his credentials.”

But that’s not the only red flag about Debat’s credibility. It turns out that ABC News fired Debat as a consultant in June when it discovered that he had lied about earning a Ph.D. from the prestigious Sorbonne. According to the Post, ABC News also checked our Debat’s work for the network and didn’t find anything wrong. Today they say they’re checking again, and they should. Most recently, since ending his role with ABC, Debat helped raise a big international stir by pounding the drums for a U.S. attack on Iran.

The report came in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London, right after rumors swept through Washington that aides to Vice President Dick Cheney were planning to use friendly news outlets — including several others owned by Murdoch — to whip up popular opinion for attacking Iran.

This story appeared in Murdoch’s Times on Sept. 2, 2007:

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert. Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.

Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” It was, he added, a “very legitimate strategic calculus”.

Needless to say, the new information about Debat calls this story into question — big-time, as Cheney himself might say. But what is really going on? Is Debat pulling sensational stories from thin air, as was the case with Obama, to make a name for himself? Or in his role at the Nixon Center — which still has close ties to Henry Kissinger and others in the conservative foreign policy establishment like former Secretary of State James Baker, who spoke there recently– is he serving a higher agenda of spin?
If you look at the stories on which ABC News has acknowledged Debat’s work, many of the reports came from left field. Do you remember this report from June, on which ABC has apparently acknowledged Debat was a consultant?

Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com. Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9.

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

How did ABC get this alarmist video — at a time when government officials in Washington seemed to be amping up fears over new terrorist attacks at home, going into the congressional debate over reauthorizing the government’s eavesdropping program and maintaining troop levels in Iraq? Did Debat play any role?

Ross acknowledged yesterday that Debat was a source on this controversial report regarding U.S. efforts in Iran, back in April:

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

Debat has also reportedly helped ABC analyze terrorism inside Saudi Arabia, and provided his “expert” commentary and information on stories ranging from the 2005 London bombings to the trial of his fellow Frenchman, al-Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui. His work should cause a re-examination of all of ABC News’ investigative reporting on both terrorism and Iran over the last couple of years, because — wittingly or unwittingly — no other network has better served the Bush agenda in the Middle East.

For example, no story raised tension on the Iranian front more than this one — which was instantly discredited by several knowledgeable experts:

Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months, adding some 1,000 centrifuges which are used to separate radioactive particles from the raw material. The development means Iran could have enough material for a nuclear bomb by 2009, sources familiar with the dramatic upgrade tell ABC News.

The sources say the unexpected expansion is taking place at Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant outside the city of Natanz, in a hardened facility 70 feet underground.

Was Debat — who was aggressively working with Ross on other Iran stories at the time — one of the sources on this, as well? If so, it would fit with Debat’s modus operandi on the Times of London article.

As noted at the top, there are two radically different ways to look at this scandal. Either Debat is a lone wolf, a deluded self-aggrandizer whose main agenda is promoting himself. Or he is acting in his role at the Nixon Center as a conduit, spreading information and occasional disinformation at the behest of others.

Either way, this is unarguably yet another huge black eye for the American media. But if the latter is true, it could also raise major questions about American foreign policy, and about the future of war and peace in the Persian Gulf.

Just a footnote — here is Debat’s cached listing at the Nixon Center. The real one has vanished from cyberspace already.

UPDATE: Laura Rozen has a lot more on this.

UPDATE II: Wow:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have added their names to the list of people who say they were the subjects of fake interviews published in a French foreign affairs journal under the name of Alexis Debat, a former ABC News consultant.

From The Philadelphia Daily News – Attytood

We will not be posting Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007. We are participating in the STRIKE FOR PEACE.

If you’ve had enough, you need to say “When.” Say-when.org

“In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.”

…….

“In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a “law, rule, or regulation,” it was simply a “policy.” Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.”

…….

“During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so.”

This is truly amazing – please read the entire story. Here’s the really disturbing part – this isn’t about politics – it’s about a product that has the potential to harm your body and the bodies of your children. 

It’s all about the money. 

Project Censored Media 

As we mentioned in a comment to our post about the draft, there is a formula to get you to think a certain way. It is “Problem – Reaction – Solution” (usually all supplied by the same group).

The formula as put forth by Aristotle:

Exordium – A shocking statement or story to get attention

Narratio –  You pose the problem the reader/listener is having

Confirmatio – You offer a solution to the problem

Peroratio – You state the benefits of action on the solution

Watch what’s going on around you and if/how it fits the formula. You are being sold.