Archive for April 2005

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[eccr] The Weekly Spin, April 20, 2005

Wed Apr 20 16:20:00 GMT 2005

>THE WEEKLY SPIN, April 20, 2005
>sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy
>To support our work now online visit:
>The Weekly Spin features selected news summaries with links to
>further information about media, political spin and propaganda.
>It is emailed free each Wednesday to subscribers.
>Who do you know who might want to receive Spin of the Week?
>Help us grow our subscriber list!  Just forward this message to
>people you know, encouraging them to sign up at this link:
>1. The FCC on "Fake News": Who's Trying to Persuade You?
>1. Praising the Golden CAFTA
>2. Getting Spin with a Little Help from Friends
>3. Trust Us, We're Paid TV Experts!
>4. Heritage Foundation's Asian Belle
>5. Red Flags Ignored in Williams Case
>6. Unhappy Campers
>7. Good and Bad News on Fake News
>8. Bad Brains: Mad Cow Cover-Up?
>9. Travelobbying
>10. Welcome to Our Lair, Murdoch Says to Bloggers
>11. Israel Moves to Muzzle Nuclear Whistleblower
>by Diane Farsetta
>   "Listeners and viewers are entitled to know who seeks to persuade
>   them," noted the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in a Public
>   Notice (PDF file, Word file) released last night.
>        The Public Notice was precipitated, in part, by the "large
>   number of requests" asking the FCC to "consider whether the use of
>   'video news releases' or 'VNRs' ... complies with the Commission's
>   sponsorship identification rules." Those requests came from the more
>   than 40,000 people who signed onto a petition circulated by the
>   Center for Media and Democracy and the media reform group Free Press
>   (you can still sign the petition, here), as well as from two U.S.
>   Senators.
>For the rest of this story, visit:
>   "A fierce battle over the Central American Free Trade Agreement is
>   expected," reported the Grand Forks Herald. "The agreement needs the
>   approval of both houses of Congress. ... Bush administration
>   officials launched a campaign in rural America to urge farmers to
>   convince Congress to approve the CAFTA." Last month, Chief
>   Agricultural Negotiator Allen Johnson "acknowledged that there is a
>   'perception' in Iowa and other farm states that trade agreements are
>   not achieving the benefits that were expected." Yet the Agriculture
>   Coalition for CAFTA-DR, comprised of "over 55 food and agricultural
>   organizations committed to quick passage of CAFTA-DR," released an
>   "economic impact study that identifies the gains 40 congressional
>   districts could expect upon passage," reported The
>   study is posted on the National Pork Producers Council website and
>   promoted by the Business Coalition for U.S. - Central America Trade.
>   According to Roll Call, "GOP lobbyists crammed into Room HC-5 of the
>   Capitol last Thursday ... to show K Street that Senate and House
>   Whips have coordinated their efforts - and that they continue to
>   need lobbyists' help if they are to pass major items on the business
>   agenda," including CAFTA.
>SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota), April 6, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   "As House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) faces increasing scrutiny
>   over various allegations of ethical lapses, a powerful cadre of
>   friends and colleagues is stepping up to help protect his image,"
>   reports PR Week. DeLay legal advisor and former Republican National
>   Committee strategist Barbara Comstock heads the group, which
>   includes DCI Group's Stuart Roy and Edelman's Jonathan Grella. They
>   are "placing supporters on cable news channels and radio talk
>   shows," distributing talking points to conservative groups, and
>   asking "prominent conservatives," including Ketchum's Susan
>   Molinari, "to speak out on DeLay's behalf." This "unofficial PR
>   offensive" is separate from DeLay's congressional office, which
>   "developed its own media war room to combat the accusations." On the
>   other side, Fenton Communications is working with,
>   Campaign for America's Future and Common Cause "to tarnish and
>   ultimately unseat" DeLay.
>SOURCE: PR Week (sub. req'd.), April 18, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   "The use of TV consumer experts is the latest way marketers have
>   tried to disguise their promotions as real news," similar to
>   magazine "'advertorials' designed to look like editorial features"
>   and video news releases aired as TV reports. The stable of paid
>   "experts" includes "Today" show tech-product reviewer Corey
>   Greenberg, "trend and fashion expert" Katlean de Monchy, Popular
>   Photography & Imaging magazine editor John Owens, and Child magazine
>   tech editor James Oppenheim. The Wall Street Journal reports that
>   all four "experts" have neglected to disclose to viewers that they
>   received payments to promote products being discussed. Journal
>   reporter James Bandler writes, "TV shows present these gurus'
>   recommendations as unbiased and based solely on their expertise. But
>   that presentation is misleading if the experts have been paid to
>   mention products."
>SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd.), April 19, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   As happened with neighboring Indonesia, "the 9/11 attacks opened the
>   door to improved U.S.-Malaysia relations." The Heritage Foundation
>   began promoting Malaysia in mid-2001, "at the same time a Hong Kong
>   consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage's
>   president, began representing Malaysian business interests." The
>   firm, Belle Haven Consultants, lists Feulner's wife and Heritage
>   consultant Ken Sheffer among its staff. "To help represent Malaysian
>   clients," Belle Haven hired the Republican lobbying firm Alexander
>   Strategy Group. "Experts say that the relationship between one of
>   Washington's most influential conservative think tanks and a network
>   of lobbying firms collecting fees from Malaysian business interests
>   - well in excess of $1 million over two years - could pose a problem
>   for Heritage's status as a nonprofit group," reports the Washington
>   Post.
>SOURCE: Washington Post, April 16, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   The report by the Education Department's inspector general on
>   Armstrong Williams, a pundit paid $240,000 to advertise and advocate
>   for the No Child Left Behind Act, notes that the White House "was
>   told about potential problems," but that did not "prevent the
>   contract from being renewed." The report found no evidence that
>   President Bush or senior staff knew about Williams, but "a midlevel
>   White House aide received calls from Education officials concerned
>   about the contract's cost, its effectiveness and Williams' dual role
>   as journalist and government public relations man." This finding
>   contradicts Bush's January 2005 statement that "we didn't know about
>   this in the White House." Education Secretary Margaret Spellings,
>   who "declined to be interviewed" for the report, said she would
>   "immediately adopt the report's recommendations for improvements in
>   contract oversight." Whether the contract "breached federal rules
>   prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to 'covertly distribute
>   propaganda'" is being investigated separately.
>SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   The president of the Public Relations Institute of Australia's
>   (PRIA) Victoria chapter, David Hawkins, bluntly summarised the
>   results of a membership survey as, "Most people think the PRIA
>   sucks. The average score across all members was about four out of a
>   possible nine." In the Australian e-zine, Hugo Kelly
>   reports that survey results included the suggestion that the PRIA
>   run "a public relations campaign - ongoing - to explain, and where
>   necessary, defend, public relations." Over the next two weeks, PRIA
>   chapters in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland are hosting
>   events for Ross S. Irvine, the president of his own firm, ePublic
>   Relations. Irvine, who describes himself as a "corporate warrior,"
>   promises to tell his Australian audience "how to beat activists at
>   their own game."
>SOURCE: (sub. reqâ¬"d.), April 15, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   Following the FCC's Public Notice on "fake news," the U.S. Senate
>   approved, by 98 to 0, a measure requiring "clear notification within
>   the text or audio of the prepackaged news story" for all fake news
>   produced with federal funding. The measure was offered by Senator
>   Robert Byrd and inserted into an emergency spending bill for Iraq
>   and Afghanistan operations. But not all of Washington DC has seen
>   the light on fake news. Representative George Miller warned that the
>   Department of Education's investigation into the Ketchum - Armstrong
>   Williams payola scandal is being obstructed. The Department's
>   Inspector General was "'denied access' to some current and former
>   White House employees," while Secretary Margaret Spellings is
>   "considering invoking special privileges that would force the
>   investigator to shield parts of his findings from the public,"
>   according to Miller.
>SOURCE: New York Times, April 15, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   "The United States did not properly analyze two suspected cases of
>   mad cow disease in 1997," reported Canada's CBC News. The U.S.
>   Department of Agriculture veterinarian who investigated the cases,
>   Dr. Masuo Doi (now retired), said he is "haunted by fears that the
>   right tests were not done" and wonders, "How many did we miss?" and
>   "Can you really trust our inspection [system]?" With both potential
>   mad cow (also called BSE) cases, "key areas of the brain where signs
>   of BSE would be most noticeable were never tested." At the time, a
>   USDA scientist called his examination of one case "questionable,"
>   because "he couldn't tell what part of the cow's brain he was
>   looking at." Two other current or former USDA staff, Dr. Karl
>   Langheindrich and Lester Friedlander, supported Dr. Doi's claims.
>SOURCE: CBC News, April 13, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   "A fast-growing trend in the business of influencing government is
>   corporate-funded trips," reports the Wall Street Journal. "Because
>   the trips are paid for by corporations and trade associations - and
>   not the hired guns who lobby for them - such trips are permitted
>   under House and Senate rules," unless the sponsors are registered
>   lobbyists or foreign agents. The number of junkets increased from
>   1,400 in 2000 to 1,900 in 2004; their cost increased 50% over the
>   same period, to $3 million in 2004. Already this year, the U.S.
>   Chamber of Commerce "has flown more than a dozen House and Senate
>   aides to the Dominican Republic to learn about trade." The American
>   Association of Airport Executives, Consumer Electronics Association,
>   National Association of Broadcasters, and Advanced Medical
>   Technology Association have also funded trips, as have groups within
>   the finance, telecommunications, agriculture, and energy industries,
>   with "members of both parties ... taking advantage."
>SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd.), April 15, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   In a speech at the American Society of Newspaper Editors'
>   conference, News Corporation chief executive Rupert Murdoch pondered
>   the impact that the growth in online news is having on newspapers.
>   "The trends are against us," he warned. Murdoch also mused on the
>   possibilities of harnessing bloggers to the corporate news cart. "We
>   need to be the destination for those bloggers. We need to encourage
>   readers to think of the web as the place to go to engage our
>   reporters and editors in more extended discussions about the way a
>   particular story was reported or researched or presented."
>   Newspapers might experiment with using bloggers to extend coverage,
>   he suggested. However, Murdoch cautioned that bloggers could pose a
>   risk to "our standards for accuracy and reliability."
>SOURCE: News Corporation, April 13, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   At a preliminary court hearing, Israeli whistleblower Mordechai
>   Vanunu declined to enter a plea on twenty-one charges that he spoke
>   with U.S., British, Australian and French journalists. After
>   revealing the existence of Israel's nuclear weapons program to the
>   U.K. newspaper the Sunday Times in 1986, Vanunu was imprisoned for
>   eighteen years. He was released on April 21, 2004, subject to
>   draconian restrictions on his ability to travel or speak to
>   reporters about Israel's weapons of mass destruction. "As a human
>   being, I have the right to express my political views and my ideas.
>   I have no more secrets," he told reporters outside the courtroom
>   Tuesday. The next hearing is scheduled for May 19.
>SOURCE: Haaretz, April 12, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>The Weekly Spin is compiled by staff and volunteers at the
>Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a nonprofit public
>interest organization. To subscribe or unsubcribe, visit:
>Daily updates and news from past weeks can be found at the
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>Archives of our quarterly publication, PR Watch, are at:
>CMD also sponsors SourceWatch, a collaborative research
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>PR Watch, Spin of the Day, the Weekly Spin and SourceWatch
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