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Jeff – Both channels 8 and 17 ran stories on the sentencing of Private First class Lindy England. Both stories were short running only 24on WOOD TV 8 and 26 seconds on WXMI Fox 17. In both cases they mention that Private England claimed that she was only do what her soldier boyfriend asked her to do. Both stories mentioned that she received a 3 years sentence, but only Fox 17 ran some of the photos from the Abu Ghraib prison where the abuses took place.
Linda – What is missing from this coverage of, as the stations mentioned, this low level soldiers sentencing?
Jeff – Several things are missing. First, while Fox 17 did show two of the photos from Abu Ghraib, the coverage didn’t provide any specifics about the torture. Second, both news stories cite Private England’s response in the courtroom, but neither of them provides commentary from the court on why she was found guilty of 6 of the 7 charges. Third, 3 days before the sentencing Human Rights Watch published a new report on the widespread Iraqi prisoner abuse at a US military base near Fallujah in 2003 & 2004. The report says “U.S. Army troops subjected Iraqi detainees to severe beatings and other torture at a base in central Iraq from 2003 through 2004, often under orders or with the approval of superior officers.” This information is quite relevant in that it provides a larger context to the issue of US military use of torture in Iraq and how widespread it is. Lastly, there was no coverage in the local news of a US judge’s decision to have the government release all “87 photographs and four videotapes as part of an October 2003 lawsuit demanding information on the treatment of detainees in US custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture,” according to an AP story on September 29. Listeners could ask themselves to what degree is the media obligated to report on human rights abuses committed by its own government.
Linda – On Tuesday September 27, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story in the Business section entitled “ZFS, Monsanto team up to grow healthier soybeans.” What would a reader learn for this article, Tom?
Tom – This article is about a new breed of soybean bean developed by Monsanto, the largest supplier of agricultural products in the world. This new bean is different from others in that it does not require hydrogenation when used in foods, thus reducing the amount of trans-fatty acids in these foods. The US Food and drug administration is going to require that nutrition labels list trans-fatty acid content, so food manufacturers are looking for a soybean that does not contain these trans-fats. The local angle of this story is that Zeeland Farm Industries, a local company, has been contracted by Monsanto to process this new soybean breed.
Linda - What else is the reader told about this new soybean breed in the article?
Tom – One important piece of information mentioned in the article is that this new bread of soy bean was developed from a genetically modified soy bean. The article notes this fact and then states that “While environmental groups question the safety of genetically engineered crops, Cook (Monsanto representative) said most soybeans in the United States are genetically engineered and Vistive is approved by federal regulators.” These claims by environmental groups are not elaborated in the article, nor is the rebuttal from Monsanto verified with any independent voices or information. This lack of context on genetically modified foods is unfortunate but not atypical. The issue of potential negative impacts on health and the environment has not been a story the commercial press has readily addressed. According to the media watchdog group Project Censored, this issue was on the top ten underreported news stories for 2001. Other Project Censored reports note that since 2001, this issue has continued to be either miss-reported or under-reported.