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Friday, September 28, 2012

And they say crime does not pay ...

As the trend toward privatizing state prison systems continues to skyrocket, Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, is offering to purchase scores more facilities all across the country provided states will guarantee occupancy rates of at least 90 percent over the next 20 years.

In a letter penned to government officials in at least 48 different states earlier this year, CCA Corrections Director Harley Lappin, formerly the director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, outlined the Nashville-based company’s plan and interest in brokering such a at a grand estimated cost of at least $250 million.

The proposal, further billed as “a new opportunity for federal, state and local governments that are considering the benefits of partnership corrections,” goes on to more or less browbeat state officials into agreeing to its terms as a means of assisting governments in managing “challenging corrections budgets.”

So which news organization brings us this gem of a story?

Not a mainstream one. Surprise!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yahoo News goes politics crazy ...

Their top stories today include:

The first story has literally no meaning and thus I don't know why it is even news. The second story shows part of the massive effort by one political party to stop people from voting, at any cost.

And more ...
 Make up your own mind on those stories.

And of course crime and violence and random, scary things are all over the news too:

Cleve Foster speaks from a visiting cage at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit outside Livingston, Texas. (AP)

Texas inmate's 'spooky' death row story

Cleve Foster came within minutes of being executed only to be told he was given a reprieve. Third trip coming  

New England coach Bill Belichick crosses the line with a post-game move. (Getty Images)

NFL coach's huge no-no following loss

Bill Belichick is in hot water for what he did to a referee after a controversial last-second call. Big fine likely 

New SARS-like virus prompts urgent alert (CDC via Getty Images)

New SARS-like virus sparks concern

A man infected with a strain of virus never seen before has health officials scrambling for answers. 'A lot of holes'  

Diver attacked in dramatic underwater clash. (

Diver attacked in dramatic underwater clash

A spear fisherman has dinner in the bag until he comes face-to-face with a huge grouper. Watch the struggle


Friday, September 21, 2012

Even with all this important stuff going on ...

... this is still news:

Deadly new drug favored by teens: Smiles (Thinkstock)

Scary new drug favored by teens: 'Smiles'

After two teens die within 24 hours, experts are warning about the powerful hallucinogenic. Its frightening effects  

An explosive nearly went off in an Iranian soccer player's hand during a match. (YouTube)

Player tosses away debris, then it explodes

As the soccer field is being cleared following an outburst by fans, a scary moment unfolds. Watch the close call  

Britney Spears's on-air freak out ("X Factor")

Britney Spears's on-air freak out

The singer panics when a thunder storm interrupts auditions on the "X Factor." Her profanity-laced tirade  

So that is what is important. Drugs, violence, and celebrity nonsense.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More on bias in the news

Talking heads in the news can be principled in their criticism of or disagreement with a policy of a leader. In this case, they would be critical of or disagree with that policy no matter who the leader was, regardless of his or her political party.

OR, they can be critical of it and disagree with it only when it is pursued by someone they don't like or want to be in power. In that case, their disagreement would not be principled but instead would be partisan.

And we expect the talking heads in the news to be nonpartisan. So when we see clear evidence of them being partisan--in this case, when people say one thing during one Presidential adminstration and then contradict themselves during another Presidential adminstration--we should be shocked.

But we're not. At least when it occurs on Fox News.

Because Fox News is not news. It is partisanship in favor of one party at all times. Maybe you should tell that to your doctor, or dentist, or any other business in a public place that is broadcasting this nonsense.

And why do we have to rely on a comedian to show this to us?,b=facebook

Now, for those of you who do not buy it, look up who owns the network, who runs it, and to whom they give their money. Then come back and tell me how they are "fair and balanced." They report, you decide. Right.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Comparing MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News today ...

Here is the lead story on today:

Romney, Obama
face challenges
in home stretch

First Read: With 50 days left before Election Day, both candidates are in a less-than-comfortable spot with debates yet to come.

Here is the lead story on today:

After a week of GOP handwringing over his comments on anti-U.S. protests in the Muslim world, Mitt Romney is refocusing his message on the issue his advisers think will decide the election: the economy. FULL STORY

And here is the lead story on Fox today:

Libyan Intelligence Challenges Obama
Account of Deadly Consulate Attack

EXCLUSIVE: Libyan intelligence source tells Fox News that contrary to Obama administration claims, there was no demonstration outside the US Consulate in Benghazi before last week's attack that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Anti-American protests, meanwhile, urged on in Lebanon by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, above, spread Monday to more Muslim nations.
  • URGENT: US Diplomats in Beirut Destroying Classified Documents as Protests Spread
  • Tunisian Police Surround Anti-US Protest Leader Inside Mosque | Anti-American Protests Erupt in Afghanistan
  • POWER PLAY: Divide Over Cause of Libya Attack Echoes Reaction to 9/11
  • GOP Leaders: Obama's Foreign Policy Led to Mideast Attacks
  • OPINION: Obama's Chickens Coming Home to Roost | OPINION: Keeping Americans Safe Amid Mideast Violence

  • No, there is no bias in the news. That is what we'd like to believe.

    Or if there is, it is liberal bias. That is what people say they believe.

    Then explain to me the lead story on Fox News being a story critical of Obama Administration claims that is followed up by stories and an op-ed claiming that the attacks were even Obama's fault.


    Friday, September 14, 2012

    So let me get this straight?

    A deranged man makes a movie, or actually a trailer for a movie--titled, The Innocence of Muslims--and puts it on YouTube, and suddenly protests occur across the Middle East and lots of people (including an American diplomat) are dead.

    And this was the plan on the man who made the movie?

    From The Guardian:

    Did an inflammatory anti-Muslim film trailer that appeared spontaneously on YouTube prompt the attack that left four US diplomats dead, including US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens? American officials have suggested that the assault was pre-planned, allegedly by of one of the Jihadist groups that emerged since the Nato-led overthrow of Libya's Gaddafi regime. So even though the deadly scene in Benghazi may not have resulted directly from the angry reaction to the Islamophobic video, the violence has helped realize the apocalyptic visions of the film's backers.

    Produced and promoted by a strange collection of rightwing Christian evangelicals and exiled Egyptian Copts, the trailer was created with the intention of both destabilizing post-Mubarak Egypt and roiling the US presidential election. As a consultant for the film named Steve Klein said: "We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen."

    Klein is reportedly an insurance salesman and Vietnam veteran from Hemet, California. On his personal Facebook page, Altar or Abolish, Klein obsesses over the Muslim Brotherhood, describing the organization as "a global network of Muslims attacking to convert the world's 6 billion people to Islam or kill them". Klein urges a violent response to the perceived threat of Islam in the United States, posting an image to his website depicting a middle-American family with a mock tank turret strapped to the roof of their car. "Can you direct us to the nearest mosque?" read a caption Klein added to the photo.

    You can watch the video here. I won't bother. Why?

    CNN's description is enough for me: "An online trailer for the movie depicts Islam as a fraudulent religion bent on getting rid of nonbelievers. Cartoonish scenes show Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer." Nothing like insulting a religion's prophet to get their upset, no?

    So this appears to be the incredible story: Some right wing extremists with views similar to the man who massacred dozens of innocent people (mostly children) in Norway--who have a very negative and totally inaccurate view of Muslims around the world--made a "film" that was intended to incite violence. And it did. And people died, including Americans.

    And we're focusing on the Muslims instead of the crazy person who made the "film?"

    Then, to make matters worse, the Republican nominee for President blames the sitting Democratic President for the violence, saying he "sympathized with those who waged the attacks" and of issued "an apology for America's values."

    Only in America. Only in America.

    But at least some of the news organizations are on the story:

    But of course NOT Fox News. This is their photo and headlines today:

    Notice the focus on Fox is still on how violent Muslims are?

    Clearly they are not paying attention.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    In the wake of another 9/11 attack ...

    ... we might as well learn what happened before (and led to) the previous 9/11 attack.

    I've written extensively about it.

    And here is a recent interview from Kurt Eichenwald, author of 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.

    Some may dismiss this because the interview is with Rachel Maddow. But listen to what Eichenwald learned about the previously unrealized degree of specificity and frequency of warnings the Bush administration received about a terror attack by Osama bin Laden leading up to the attacks on 9-11.

    I dare you to watch it, here:

    And then if you want to know what really happened prior to 9/11 and how that impacted the likelihood of such a terrible terrorist attack, go here and have at it:

    Tuesday, September 11, 2012

    It's 9/11 again, and yet ...

    ... we still don't have all the answers from that day.

    Forget about all the ridiculous conspiracy theories about what happened that day. Stuff like bombs being placed in the World Trade Center and missiles being fired into the Pentagon and ever crazier weirder things!

    What you should think about is the how? As in, how could this have happened with all the warnings about that day, which came for years and years and years and were very very very specific?

    This was NOT a failure of imagination, as posited by the 9/11 Commission. We imagined this attack. We even prepared for it. For years.

    We just did not prevent it. And the question is why?

    I've written about it.

    So where is the news about that on this sacred and tragic day? Even all this time, and no one in the mainstream press is talking about it.

    To their credit, the New York Times editorializes about this today in "The Deafness Before the Storm." Read it. This is not a political attack on sitting president, it is an indictment of a president who failed to protect us 11 years ago today.

    If you are not outraged, you're not paying attention.

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Imagine if all the news organizations were like this ...

    As is pointed out in the text, news organizations such as NPR and PBS (and other nonprofits) are found to do the best job at critical coverage of the powerful, what is referred to in the text as the Fourth Estate.

    Recently, PBS featured a story on its Frontline program titled, "Top CIA Official: Obama Changed Virtually None of Bush’s Controversial Programs."

    Here is the story with a promotion of the show:

    As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged “a top to bottom review of the threats we face and our abilities to confront them.” He promised a sweeping overhaul of the Bush administration’s war on terror, which he criticized for compromising American values.
    But FRONTLINE has learned from a former high-ranking CIA official that even before he took office, Obama’s team “signaled” they had no intention of rolling back secret programs begun under the Bush administration. In his first televised interview, for next Tuesday’s Top Secret America John Rizzo, a 34-year agency veteran described as “the most influential lawyer in CIA history,” tells FRONTLINE:
    I was part of the transition briefings of the incoming Obama team, and they signaled fairly early on that the incoming president believed in a vigorous, aggressive, continuing counterterrorism effort. Although they never said it exactly, it was clear that the interrogation program was going away. We all knew that.
    But his people were signaling to us, I think partly to try to assure us that they weren’t going to come in and dismantle the place, that they were going to be just as tough, if not tougher, than the Bush people.
    Rizzo, who was forced to withdraw his nomination to become CIA general counsel because of controversy over his role in developing the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation policies, also told us:
    With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations. Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.
    Look for more of our exclusive interview with Rizzo, where he talks about his role in approving enhanced interrogation techniques, and creating the CIA’s secret detention system, next week. Top Secret America airs Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 9 pm (check local listings).

    So, imagine how much better of a country we' be if this type of reporting was common across all the news organizations. People would be more informed and politicians would be less likely to lie and do other devious things, even if supposedly in our collective interest.

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    If it is a gunman, he MUST be crazy

    I heard this story coming into work this morning on NPR. It was about a shooting that occurred in Montreal, Quebec, where there is tension between Anglophones and Francophones. Yes, that's right, people who speak English (the minority) and people who speak French (the majority). Sigh.

    But anyway, here is the developing story from Yahoo News:

    "A masked gunman opened fire during a midnight victory rally for Quebec's new premier, killing one person and wounding another. The new premier, Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois, was whisked off the stage by guards while giving her speech and uninjured.

    "It was not clear if the gunman was trying to shoot Marois, whose party favors separation for the French-speaking province from Canada. Police identified the gunman only as a 62-year-old man, and were still questioning him Wednesday morning."

    The speculation about the motive comes from things he reportedly said while being dragged away by the police.

    Getting back to what I heard on NPR, the reporter being interviewed from Canada speculated that the man was mentally ill or mentally unstable (this is also raised as a possible issue in the Yahoo News story). After all, what "sane" person shoots another human being?

    But since mental illness runs in my family, and since I study this for a living, I know that that most mentally ill people are not violent and thus such characterizations of the mentally ill as crazy and dangerous is inaccurate, and it angers me.

    In the book, it is shown that mental illness is often given by the media as a source of violence, even though it is not. On NPR this morning, the reporter from Canada said this shooting is likely due to mental illness, the work of a crazed gunman, because "in most shooting cases it is a crazy person who does it" (paraphrasing here).

    First of all, I am not even sure that is true. But even if it is, it is also true that "in every case it is a person with a gun who does it."

    So what is the real problem then? Mental illness or guns?

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    So Labor Day is about what exactly?

    This is not exactly a crime or criminal justice story, but we did just have Labor Day. And I was curious that so many of my students had no idea what the holiday was (that we had one at all) or why (what it was about).

    So I challenged to them to "google it." Learn a bit about the day, I encouraged them. Since, hey, you have the whole day off and all.

    Here is what is in the news about Labor Day:

    You'll notice that mainstream news organizations such as ABC News devoted stories to the day. Here is some of what they had to say:

    Parades, picnics and politicians celebrated the American worker on Labor Day, with President Barack Obama seeking votes from Ohio union members and rivals for Senate seats marching in Massachusetts and Virginia.

    But for many, Monday's holiday was a last chance to enjoy a final summer cookout, roller coaster ride or day at the beach. Or perhaps even a stroll from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to its Lower Peninsula — along the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

    Politics was a big part of Labor Day, the time when much of the public usually starts to pay attention to the campaigns.

    Incredible, no? Not a word about what the day means, or even what it has to do with the political debate in the country about labor and labor rights and big business.

    This is a great example of a lack of context in the news, a major argument of the book.