About a week ago, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested in a UK Telegraph column that allowing hospitals to harvest organs from dead patients without their prior consent or their families' post-mortem consent might be a good idea.
Mr. Brown's occasion for bringing up the topic was telling, and perhaps explains why Brown's proposal got very little coverage in the US:
This year will be the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service: a year to celebrate and thank all the staff who run our hospitals, clinics and GP practices; but also a year in which to renew the NHS for the 21st century, because I believe that only by renewal can we make the NHS even more relevant for future decades than it has been in the past.
..... we may need to do more to encourage more of us to donate (organs. In Britain we have 14.9 million people on the organ donor register - which is around 24 per cent of the population. In terms of actual donors (not just people willing to give, but those whose organs are actually used) we have a rate of about 13 donors per million in our population. This compares with about 22 per million in France, 25 per million in America and around 35 per million in Spain - the best in the world.
That is why I want to start a debate in this country about whether we should take steps to move towards a new system designed to enable far more of us to benefit from transplant surgery - one that better reflects survey findings that around 90 per cent of us are in favour of organ donation.
The Associated Press (AP) is the Hulking Monster of the news syndication business.
Formed in May of 1846, The Syndicate has risen to currently consist of 243 news bureaus in 97 countries. They have over 3,000 journalists on staff. 121 countries avail themselves of what they have to offer. Their content appears in 1,700 newspapers worldwide.
But the AP is now far more than merely "Press". There are additionally 850 AP Radio News audio affiliates, with 5,000 radio and television outlets spanning the globe taking them for and at their word.
Beyond just the majors, it is from where a great many small town American newspapers get most or all of their national and international news stories. They are a deeply and tremendously dominant and influential force.
By omitting key facts of the original "Rathergate" story from his report Thursday, Associated Press Writer Samuel Maull managed to give the former CBS news anchor's contentions an appearance of credibility.
A judge said Wednesday that he was leaning toward allowing Dan Rather's $70 million lawsuit over his being fired by CBS to proceed.
"I concluded there was enough in the complaint (by Rather) to continue with discovery (pretrial research)," state Judicial Hearing Officer Ira Gammerman said at a hearing on CBS' motion to dismiss the case.
Though Uncle Sam did run a surplus last month, the year-to-date figures are alarming:
It should be pretty clear that the big news in the above figures is that federal spending during the first quarter of the fiscal year was almost 9% higher than during the first quarter a year ago. If the spending increase had been held to only 5%, this fiscal year's quarterly deficit would have come in virtually the same as last year's.
Yet it took these publications the following number of paragraphs to get to the year-to-date spending news:
In an article about the status of Massachusetts's health care system on January 6, Associated Press Writer Steve LeBlanc seemed to be auditioning for a spot at the BBC.
Until just a few years ago, when the cost, sanitation, treatment and other problems at the British National Health service (NHS) became so obvious that they could not be ignored, the BBC could be counted on to give glowing reports on the NHS, regardless of the reality.
LeBlanc's opening paragraphs, carried in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, could have been taken straight from 1990s-and-prior BBC missives:
Massachusetts is facing a daunting goal as it enters the second year of its grand experiment of extending health care coverage to nearly all citizens - reining in spiraling costs that could threaten the landmark law.
"The sustainability of reform depends on our ability to restrain or constrain or moderate the increase in costs," said Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the Health Insurance Connector Authority, which oversees the health care law.
"That's going to take a huge concerted effort by all players in the health care area," he added.
For Massachusetts residents deemed able to afford health care, but refuse, that means facing new monthly fines that could total as much as $912 for individuals and $1,824 for couples by the end of the year.
Update (17:35): Paul Colford with AP e-mailed me with an updated obit posted at 14:40 EST that had more information. See more at bottom of the post.
Philip Agee, a leftist who exposed fellow CIA operatives by name in a book he published in the 1970s has died in Cuba. Agee's perfidy was one reason Congress in 1982 passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. If that doesn't ring a bell, that's precisely the law that Bush administration critics charged Karl Rove and/or Scooter Libby violated in the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Yet while the Plame case was a media obsession for roughtly four years, the AP's Will Weissert buried that detail deep in its January 9 obituary. What's more, the wire service practically painted Agee's defection to Cuba as retirement from CIA work to the private sector:
I don't know how you top the example coming up for simultaneous outrage and doublespeak.
It's from Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press, covering Hillary Clinton's claim that Barack Obama -- known to yours truly as BOOHOO (Barack O-bombaOverseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) -- is not a strong enough defender of abortion "rights."
During his eight years in the legislature, Obama cast a number of votes on abortion and received a 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council for his support of abortion rights, family planning services and health insurance coverage for female contraceptives. He voted against requiring medical care for aborted fetuses who survive, a vote that especially riled abortion opponents.
Two years ago, Old Media, particularly the New York Times, and quite a few chronic sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome (but I repeat myself), attempted to hijack the Sago Mine tragedy in West Virginia before the wakes for the 12 dead miners were even held. They wanted to pin the catastrophe, totally without foundation, on the idea that the administration had created the conditions for the tragedy by starving the budget of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and by putting industry cronies who were deliberately lax in safety enforcement in charge.
The Times even tried to tie the tragedy to Hurricane Katrina, which had occurred a few months earlier.
The claims of negligence and pervasive deteriorating safety conditions were definitively debunked at these posts:
In short, yours truly and Bevan found that coal-mine deaths and injuries had been declining significantly during the previous four years; inspection hours had shown no indications of a safety letup; and the budget for MHSA had not been slashed.
So where is coal-mine safety, and mine safety in general, two years later?
The dispute over Indiana's voter ID law that is headed to the Supreme Court in January is as much a partisan political drama as a legal tussle.
On one side are mainly Republican backers of the law, including the Bush administration, who say state-produced photo identification is a prudent measure intended to cut down on vote fraud. Yet there have been no Indiana prosecutions of in-person voter fraud — the kind the law is supposed to prevent.
On the other side are mainly Democratic opponents who call voter ID a modern-day poll tax that will disproportionately affect poor, minority and elderly voters — who tend to back Democrats. Yet, a federal judge found that opponents of the law were unable to produce evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who had been barred from voting because of the law.
How thoughtful of the AP to give NewsBusters a Christmas contestant for “Name That Party.” Consider this post our thank you note for the timely gift!
In this December 25 article, the AP buried the party affiliation of Democratic Philadelphia mayor John F. Street in the very last sentence of a ten-paragraph article about the mayor taking an extra $111,000 in pay raises that he rejected while in office. He now wants to take the money through a program he he once vetoed, claiming the city couldn't afford it. He then played the race card and asked as a politician elected mainly by "poor black people" "what will I do" without the extra money.
Not only did the AP bury Street's party, it didn't label him a Dem outright, instead indirectly referred to a “fellow Democrat” as the only party identification. (Thnx to NBer DaBird)
Also missing are references to Street's financial troubles, some relating to his office, and several corruption scandals, earning him a 2005 Time magazine award as one of the worst top-three big city mayors. Note the many spots for a label:
When Larry Summers suggested in early 2005 that, as paraphrased by Slate's William Saletan, "innate differences between the sexes might help explain why relatively few women become professional scientists or engineers," the outcry was immediate, furious, and went to saturation level virtually overnight. The controversy ultimately led to his resignation a year later as Harvard President.
On Wednesday, Mr. Summers, a Democrat who was once Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, made a recommendation in his area of expertise -- that is, that a tax cut would be a good idea to protect against a possible recession. (Yours truly doesn't believe that a recession is anywhere near occurring. But hey, I've said since May, and several times since [here, here, and here, among others] that a tax cut is needed anyway to keep the economy chugging along at a good rate. So if panicked pols want to enact a tax cut for the wrong reason, I'll take it.)
Old Media reaction to Summers has been virtual silence.
Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell served up a flimsy excuse to a concerned reader wondering why the Post doesn't have Post staffers reporting on the Bilal Hussein controversy, rather than just running AP wire stories. Hussein worked for AP as a photographer.
Blogger Scott Johnson shared the reader's e-mail and Howell's reply, then added that even if one accepts Howell's excuse, there's no reason Post media reporter Howard Kurtz couldn't track developments in the story.
But the oil-rich Emirates is considered a developing country, and even as a signatory to the United Nations Kyoto protocol on global warming, is not required to cut emissions. The United States is no longer bound by Kyoto, which the Bush administration rejected after taking office in 2001.
"CIA tapes destroyed despite court order" blares an Associated Press headline today. But the court order allegedly breached applied to videotapes in possession of the U.S. military of interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, not videos of interrogations held at secret CIA sites in foreign countries.
But that's okay, insists AP writer Matt Apuzzo as "Attorneys say that might not matter."
But what attorneys? Apuzzo offers up attorney David H. Remes, "a lawyer for Yemeni citizen Mahmoad Abdah and others." According to Apuzzo, he's "asked [U.S. District Judge Henry H.] Kennedy this week to schedule a hearing on the issue. Kennedy gave the government until Friday to respond."
While it's hard to begrudge a defense lawyer from exploring any and all potential legal manuevers to assist his client -- that IS his job, after all -- it's notable that Mr. Remes is also an active Democratic campaign contributor, having given $500 to Sen. Hillary Clinton in July 2007.
On December 10, Ontario teenager Aqsa Parvez was murdered by her father, allege Canadian investigators, over her refusal to wear the hijab, the traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women. The story has caught fire on the Web, particularly among bloggers interested in news pertaining to radical Islam.
As horrifying as the story is, it was only given five paragraphs on page A23 of the December 12 Washington Post, and that from a Reuters story. What's more, Post editors served up readers a bland headline that failed to hint that a religious reason was behind the violence: "Canadian Teen Dies; Father Is Charged."
Director's Note: In my rush to get to a meeting, I neglected to give credit where credit is due. David G., you are indeed the Man. -- SM
(Yet Another) Smarter Than the MediaAs wily and wary as we have come to know the media to be, the many members of Team Clinton just keep out-Foxing them (apologies for the mention of the Hellish network).
In a great many of the media's post-game analyses of the Thursday, December 6th Mitt Romney religion speech, including that of the Associated Press, we are treated to the negative reactions thereto of one Costas Panagopoulos, who is rightly (if only partially) identified as "a political science professor at Fordham University".
Amongst his many analytical stylings on Romney's effort:
In reading the Associated Press's 9:09 a.m. report covering the Bureau of Labor Statistics November Employment Situation Report, one can't help but think that it was hoping for worse news than arrived. Unemployment remained at 4.7%, and 94,000 jobs were added during the month, beating expectations of 4.8% and 70,000, respectively.
After spending five paragraphs relaying the news, it began hitting us with negative commentary that almost had to have been drafted in advance (scare words bolded):
Still, a lingering fear among economists is that consumers will cut back on their spending, throwing the economy into a tailspin. The odds of a recession have grown this year, although Federal Reserve officials, the Bush administration and others are hopeful the country can avoid one.
Then, after brief foray into the good news about wage growth (up 0.5% in November, beating expectations of 0.3%), AP wrapped by going into four paragraphs that almost could have been written into a DNC press release (over-the-top negative words and phrases bolded by me):
The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post are all referring to a package of recently-defeated Venezuelan constitutional amendments as "reforms." In reality, those so-called reforms were all bent on amassing more power and influence in the hands of Hugo Chavez.
Washington Post's Juan Forero gave readers early of the December 3 Home Edition article (published before the outcome of the December 2 referendum was finalized) an idea of what was at stake for everyday Venezuelans waking up this morning.:
Oh, how Old Media wants a recession. Too bad the economy isn't cooperating.
The latest Institute for Supply Management (ISM) report on the Manufacturing Sector, covering about 15% of the non-government economy, was just released this morning, and led as follows:
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in November for the 10th consecutive month, while the overall economy grew for the 73rd consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.
True, the reading of 50.8% was barely above the 50% cutoff point for expansion. But it's barely lower than the 50.9% turned in last month, and still came in slightly ahead of expectations, which averaged 50.4%, according to the Associated Press, and 50.7%, according to Bloomberg.
This makes three out of three fourth quarter ISM reports showing continued growth -- two in manufacturing, plus October's non-manufacturing report that came in at 55.8%, up from 54.8% in September. If Wednesday's ISM report on non-manufacturing for November comes in at 55.9% or higher, it will means that the economy as a whole, as ISM measures it, is not only growing, but growing faster. Recession, reschmession.
Journalism's defenders often describe it as a profession or craft unto itself, and minimize the importance, or even sometimes the relevance, of subject matter expertise.
That lack of subject matter expertise, and the apparent unwillingness to seek out a source of that expertise when necessary, probably explain how a Hillary Clinton whopper has survived on the campaign trail for so long.
The surveyor will see you now Journalist and Pollster (Either Or)
As an increasing number of Americans exhibit knowledge of and confidence in the success of the surge in Iraq, pollsters seeking a gloomier picture have turned to their single most reliable focus group for bad news. They have in fact skipped the middle men and women and gone to its very font: the media.
Nearly 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit, despite a recent drop in violence attributed to the build-up of U.S. forces, a (Pew Research Center) poll released on Wednesday said.
One wonders if this is the same 90% of correspondents who admitted to voting for President Bill Clinton twice; certainly a great deal of overlap exists between the two polling samples.
Old Media reporters have worked themselves into such a lather trying to talk down the economy that you have to wonder if retailers got lulled into believing them.
The Associated Press's report on Black Friday sales by reporter Anne D'Innocenzio went through the normal good news/"yeah, but" routine (bolds are mine throughout).
First, the good news:
The nation's retailers had a robust start to the holiday shopping season, according to results announced Saturday by a national research group that tracks sales at retail outlets across the country.
According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, total sales rose 8.3 percent to about $10.3 billion on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, compared with $9.5 billion on the same day a year ago. ShopperTrak had expected an increase of no more than 4 percent to 5 percent.
But in bringing out the supposed "bad news," D'Innocenzio may have inadvertently exposed a retailer miscalculation:
Wash, spin, rinse, spin. Phone, spin, report, spin, poll, spin. The similarities between the work of the mainstream media and a laundry machine are striking. Yet there is nothing about the cycle -- the spin-report-poll-spin cycle -- that does for political events what detergent does for your boxers or briefs.
The media, as One, spend days or weeks bashing someone or something they do not like. They then conduct a poll to prove to you that they were right all along. In a campaign season, their one-sided coverage is calculated, then executed to produce a result. It’s not about reporting the events, it’s about changing the prevailing view.
And the polls -- such as the ones by the media, which are not independent surveys like those undertaken by the likes of Rasmussen or Gallup -- aren’t intended as much to gauge the public view of a candidate or events as they are to reinforce that which they have “reported”, or provide the media guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been.
Here is the kind of lapse in logic that drives me crazy (no pun intended). The AP today has a story headline that just makes me cringe: "SUV plunges into canal, killing 7 people inside." Now here is the problem, HOW did an SUV go about killing these poor people? Did it unpark itself, drive across town, slam open its doors and gobble up some folks waiting at a bus stop and then drive them into a canal? Should we be wary of every SUV on the street for fear that it may kidnap us only to drive us off cliffs or into canals? Or is it more likely, AP, that a driver was responsible for killing the passengers INSIDE the SUV? Isn't it a tad more likely that the SUV did not kill anyone, but that the actions of the human at its wheel was the culprit?
The Anchoress, a three-time Weblog Awards finalist and 2007 Catholic Blog Awards Winner (congratulations!) in the Best Political/Social Commentary category (scroll down at link to see it), delivered a cold but necessary shower earlier this evening to those of us who are tempted to exaggerate or overstate the impact New Media is having on most Americans.
I'll bet that a lot of us can relay similar stories to the ones she referred to in her very perceptive post ("Good news leaks past the embargo on good news…"; links that contradict the Old Media-driven beliefs described and bolds/italics were included in her original):
Unfortunately, it is still true that until a new president is installed in the WH, preferably one with a D after the name, only the downsides are newsworthy, and that holds true in every subject. Every subject. My elderly family members are convinced that everything, everywhere, is going to hell, and they are fretful and terrified. They think everyone is out of work, the economy is in a recession, the war in Iraq is lost and there are no real terrorist threats - that’s just made-up stuff. They’re sure America is dying. They are sure the world is headed for famine. They are depressed and do not want to send out Christmas cards, because how can you do that when so much is bad in the world?
It seems that no bad Hillary Clinton deed goes unresponded to.
As we are in the midst of a presidential campaign, this by itself is not an issue. That it is the national media that is leading this charge is. One need focus on but the latest corners of the Clinton pantheon to come to light to see the full court press the press puts on when their girl needs them.
In an October 10 Boston Globe interview, Senator Clinton let her socialism slip a bit, saying "I have a million ideas. I can't do all of them. I happen to think in running a disciplined campaign - especially when it comes to fiscal responsibility, which is what I'm trying to do - everything I propose I have to pay for. You know, you go to my website, you'll see what I would use to pay for what I've proposed. So I've got a lot of ideas, I just obviously can't propose them all. I can't afford them all. The country can't afford them all." (Emphasis ours.)
The Associated Press wrote up the story with very minor modifications that mentioned the Homeland Security issues Alzaree acquaintance Wagdi Ghoneim had with the US Department of Homeland Security. The AP's headline writer then, incredibly, applied this headline (link is to MSNBC; headline is present at several other sites):
The search for bad news relating to Iraq must be getting awfully difficult.
First example -- From the "Looking for, and Not Finding, a Dark Cloud on a Sunny Day"Department(HT Confederate Yankee, who says "you can almost feel their pain"):
'Fragging' Is Rare in Iraq, Afghanistan
American troops killed their own commanders so often during the Vietnam War that the crime earned its own name - "fragging."
But since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has charged only one soldier with killing his commanding officer, a dramatic turnabout that most experts attribute to the all-volunteer military.