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Tom - This past Sunday, the New York Times revealed new details on how the Pentagon recruited more than seventy-five retired military officers to appear on TV outlets as so-called military analysts ahead of the Iraq war to portray Iraq as an urgent threat. The Times reports the Pentagon continues to use the analysts in a propaganda campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance. Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration themes and messages to millions of Americans in the form of their own opinions. Reporter David Barstow called the program “a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.” The so-called analysts were given classified Pentagon briefings, provided with Pentagon-approved talking points and given free trips to Iraq and other sites paid for by the Pentagon. The propaganda campaign also extended into the nation’s newspapers. Nine of the Pentagon-connected analysts wrote op-ed articles for the New York Times, and the Pentagon helped two retired military officers write a piece for the Wall Street Journal. Many of the same retired military officers also have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they were asked to assess on air.
Linda - In response to the article, the media reform group Free Press called for congressional investigations into the Pentagon pundits. In a statement, Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver said: "Government-sanctioned propaganda violates every conceivable standard of journalism. That it has been allowed to continue unquestioned and undisclosed for years is an indictment of both this White House and a docile American media. An administration secretly using the press to force a pro-war agenda on the public is not a partisan issue. Free Press is calling on Congress to investigate the military pundits and their ties to the Bush administration, defense contractors and our national news media. It's time the truth about the selling of this war came out."
Tom - The Associated Press is reporting that ABC News drew both record ratings and a heap of complaints about how Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos moderated last week's Democratic presidential debate. By midafternoon the next day, more than 15,600 comments were posted on ABC News’ Web site, the tone overwhelmingly negative. A prominent TV critic, Tom Shales of The Washington Post, said Gibson and Stephanopoulos “turned in shoddy, despicable performances.” There was some positive feedback, with columnist David Brooks of The New York Times giving ABC News’ performance an “A.” The prime-time debate from Philadelphia on Wednesday April 16 was seen by 10.7 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research. That’s the most of any debate this election cycle. Early in the debate, ABC’s moderators asked for a pledge that the nomination fight’s loser would be the vice presidential candidate and whether each candidate thought the other could beat Republican John McCain. Besides those questions, the first three issues raised concerned comments made by Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright; comments that Obama made about the draw of guns and religion to some rural Americans; and Clinton’s false claim that she had been under sniper fire in Bosnia while first lady. Obama was asked about why he hasn’t worn an American flag pin on his lapel, and his relationship with a former member of the Weather Underground. All of these issues were raised before Iraq and the economy came up.
Linda -Will Bunch, a Philadelphia Daily News writer, posted an open letter to Gibson and Stephanopoulos on his blog. He wrote that he was so angry that “it’s hard to even type accurately because my hands are shaking.” He said the ABC newsmen spent too much time on trivial matters that didn’t concern most voters. Greg Mitchell of the trade publication Editor and Publisher said it was “perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate this year.” Stephanopoulos acknowledged that it was legitimate to wonder about the order of the questions, and whether some of the more issue-oriented subjects brought up during the debate’s second half should have been sprinkled in earlier. But he said it was appropriate to address questions like Wright, Bosnia and Obama’s comments about rural Americans because they were issues in the campaign and hadn’t been talked about in debates before. His question about a former Weather Underground official had received barely little notice in the campaign. The comments on ABC News’ were overwhelmingly negative, a sampling found opinion was running against the network about 8-to-1.
Tom - The Washington Post is reporting that last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced his support of the Senate version of the reporter's shield law, now called the Free Flow of Information Act. His backing of the Senate bill took place at a meeting hosted by the Associated Press and drew headlines in newspapers around the country. Drawing less coverage were letters sent earlier this month to Senate leaders from Cabinet members in the Bush administration with national security responsibilities, describing in detail their concerns with the legislation. The bill would protect a reporter's source unless a federal judge, "by a preponderance of the evidence," ruled that the identity sought is "essential to the resolution of the matter." In a criminal case, the judge must determine that "there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has occurred." When classified information is involved, the judge must conclude that the leaker is "a person with authorized access" to the information and that the disclosure "has caused or will cause significant, clear, and articulable harm to the national security."
Linda - The House overwhelmingly passed its version of the legislation last October. But the Senate version has had a more difficult time getting to the chamber floor. News organizations have recently been pushing for a vote, citing subpoenas demanding identification of confidential sources in separate, ongoing cases involving New York Times reporter James Risen and former USA Today reporter Toni Locy. There is no federal shield law, but 49 states have adopted their own. They provide different levels of protection of sources in cases brought under state law. In their letter, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell point out that the new bill would require proving that a document is "properly classified," raising the prospect that "every leak investigation" would become "a mini-trial over the propriety of the government's classification system." The legislation is supported by the Newspaper Association of America and all three of the current presidential candidates.
Tom - ,a href="http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/news/studyties.htm">Reuters is reporting that a new study says that teenagers with a bedroom television tend to have poorer diet and exercise habits and lower grades in school than those without one. While many studies have examined TV viewing habits of young people, researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health said little had been known about the consequences in particular for older adolescents of having a bedroom TV. They questioned 781 adolescents, ages 15 to 18, in the Minneapolis area in 2003 and 2004. Of them, 62 percent reported having a television in their bedroom. Not surprisingly, those with a bedroom TV were more apt to watch it a lot, clocking four to five more hours in front of a television per week, the researchers said. Twice as many of the teens with a bedroom TV were classified as heavy TV watchers -- at least five hours a day -- compared to those without one. Girls with a bedroom television reported getting less vigorous. They also ate fewer vegetables, drank more sweetened beverages and ate meals with their family less often, the researchers said. Boys with a bedroom TV reported having a lower grade point average than boys without one, as well as eating less fruit and having fewer family meals, the researchers said.
Linda - The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to remove TV sets from children's bedrooms, the researchers noted. The findings were published in the academy's journal Pediatrics. Boys were more likely to have a television in their bedroom than girls -- 68 percent versus 58 percent. Teens from the highest income families were far less likely than those from all other income levels to have a bedroom TV, the survey found. Among black teens, 82 percent reported having a bedroom TV, compared to 66 percent of Hispanics, 60 percent of whites and 39 percent of Asian Americans. The researchers tracked body mass index -- a measure based on height and weight -- and found that having a bedroom TV had no influence on whether teens were obese. Barr-Anderson said that finding was a surprise, considering that previous studies looking at younger children -- one on elementary school kids and one on low-income preschoolers -- found that having a bedroom TV was an even stronger predictor of obesity than the time spent watching TV. Both boys and girls with a bedroom TV reported spending less time reading and doing homework, although the researchers said the differences were not statistically significant.