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Thursday, July 31, 2014

This is what passes for news these days

Not only does it focus on crime, but it allows you to watch it happen, sort of like a video game.

For example:

This qualifies as the lowest common denominator in news. It provides no useful information and only serves to scare people of crimes--the kinds of crime they are least likely to be victimized by.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top stories from alternative news sites

Yesterday I showed some of the top stories from leading news organizations on TV and in newspapers.

Today I look at some of the top stories from alternative (i.e., non-profit news organizations).

From Truthout:

An Inquiry Into the 9/11 Commission's 10th Anniversary Report: How to Read a Government Commission Report

By Mike Lofgren, Truthout | Op-Ed

The cover of the final 9/11 report, which can be purchased in bookstores across the United States and around the world. (Image <a href="" target="_blank">via Wikipedia</a>)The cover of the final 9/11 report, which can be purchased in bookstores across the United States and around the world. (Image via Wikipedia)One of the many things I learned in government is that the investigative commissions which inquire into a scandal, disaster or atrocity are usually intended to bury the real causes of the incident and trumpet other circumstantial or irrelevant details as if they are shocking or novel. In other words, commissions are cover-ups pretending to be exposés. This is not always the case, but as the stakes rise, it becomes the accepted practice.
One of the masters of this technique has been former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Indiana). He cut his teeth as chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, where he was careful to stop short of implicating President Ronald Reagan of impeachable criminal culpability, and, more importantly, provided the same service to the future President George H.W. Bush. A few smaller fries took the fall, and Reagan, the man whom Republicans retrospectively credit for making the sun shine and the rain fall, was chastised for not being in control of his own immediate subordinates. Bush, of course, was out of the loop. In 1992, Hamilton chaired the House October Surprise Task Force, and failed once again to find Bush culpable of criminal misdeeds.

From Common Dreams:

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
Brazilian farmers say their GMO corn is no longer resistant to pests, Reuters reported Monday. The Association of Soybean and Corn...

From AlterNet:

Gaza: More Than 110 People Killed in Less Than 24 Hours

Harriet Sherwood
The Guardian
Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A look at the leading stories in the news

Israel continues its attacks on Gaza, so you'd assume that'd be the lead story today. Let's see ...

From CNN:


Flares, explosions, gunfire in Gaza

Israel and Palestinians traded blame after a blast at refugee camp that Gaza officials said killed 10. A hospital also was hit. Five Israeli soldiers died Monday. FULL STORY

From Fox News:

WHAT A WASTE: Taxpayer billion$ squandered in Afghan War

From Washington Post:

Court rules Va.’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional

A federal appeals panel in Richmond rules that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed under the Constitution.

From New York Times:

Europe and U.S. to Sharply Escalate Russia Sanctions

A package targeting Russia’s financial, energy and defense sector was driven by the conclusion that Moscow has taken a more direct role in Ukraine.

So, yes, there are other events in the nation and world that are top stories in major news outlets.

It is interesting that only one of these stories is about crime or criminal justice, too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Carlos DeLuna: Remember the name

This is the story of an innocent man put to death by the state of Texas.

Shocking in the details ... BUT worth the read. Most enlightening is the fact that his innocence was only really discovered after an exhaustive review. Imagine how many other such cases we might find if we really look!

Like these?

Don't think any innocent person has ever been put to death by the state of Texas?

What about this guy?

It's nice such stories are covered in the media. But why aren't these "front page" stories even now?

Friday, July 18, 2014

The problem with 24 hours news

In a nutshell, this is it.

Imagine having to fill every minute or every hour with information AND having to try to beat out other networks with exclusive information.

Well, this is what will eventually happen.

I like Krystal Ball. But she deserves this.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Important facts about the death penalty

A federal judge in California just ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Why?

According to the Death Penalty Information Center:

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney held that California's death penalty is so dysfunctional as to amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Vacating the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who has been on death row for almost 20 years, Judge Carney said the punishment cannot serve the purposes of deterrence or retribution when it is administered to a tiny select few, decades after their sentencing: "Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State. It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed. And it has resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose. Such a system is unconstitutional." Read the Court's Opinion.

California has sentenced more than 900 people to death row since the 70s but has executed less than 20. I'd call that freakish. Just like I've taught and written about the death penalty in the entire US. Freakish.

Check out these facts of the death penalty just offered by CNN here. There you will find cool graphics will facts about executions per year in the US, executions by country in the world, executions by state, methods of death in the US, race, etc.

Good stuff!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Are guests in the news representative of the US population?

Well, no. And that's probably not surprising.

But what might be surprising is how the demographics of news guests breaks down by network and by show.

According to an analysis by Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting (FAIR), there is "a stunning lack of diversity among the guests."

According to FAIR: "Guests were coded by gender, race/ethnicity and occupation, as well as the affiliations of partisan guests-those who are identified with a party as current or former government officials or campaign professionals."

Here are just some of the findings:

Eighty-four percent of guests were white (848). The most and least diverse shows in terms of ethnicity were both on MSNBC: People of color were 27 percent of guests on All In and only 6 percent on Maddow. Just three of Maddow’s guests were people of color; none of these were women.

Male guests widely outnumbered women on every show (730 to 285), making up 72 percent of the guest lists. Just 5 percent (46) of cable news guests were women of color.

Women of color (about 18 percent of the US public) were strikingly underrepresented on most shows ...

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Who Gets Shot in the United States?

This is from a fascinating article in the New York Times. Here ...

This is from a journalist who, while writing for the Times, covered many, many, many shootings and killings. She then complied a report--called the Gun Report--where she summarizes what she learned in her time covering such incidents.

Very important stuff. READ IT!

This is portion of the article:

Before starting work on Gun Report, I had my own ideas about gun violence: Most of it probably resulted from gang activity, I assumed, along with the marital domestic shootings we so often read about.

More than 350 posts and 40,000 deaths later, here is what I learned.

Gang shootings are prevalent, especially in former hubs of industry now in economic decline in Ohio; the Flint/Tri-Cities region of Michigan; in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana; Newport News, Va.; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Carjackings and home invasions often appeared in my Google news searches. I was surprised to learn that suburbs were a magnet for gun violence, perhaps mirroring the housing implosion, which decimated the suburbs and propelled people to cities, where there are always jobs.

Not that nation’s largest cities are exempt: Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Newark, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Dallas are notable examples. (Less so New York, possibly because of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, which was ruled unconstitutional.) Drive-by shootings still plague northern and southern California; Los Angeles, Fresno and the entire east side of the state are rife with gang activity. Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri also frequently popped up in this regard.

What was also notable was where the shootings aren’t: Maine, Hawaii, Vermont, Wyoming, Montana, and New Hampshire were rarely mentioned in the report. Why? Weapons don’t easily flow into Hawaii, surrounded by the Pacific, and Montana and Wyoming are sparsely populated, mostly by experienced, rural gun owners. But homeowners in these states are also armed against home invaders, and as we saw in Montana in May, tragedy can result.

But while half of the shootings I featured were the result of a crime, the other half, I was most surprised to learn, resulted from arguments — often fueled by alcohol — among friends, neighbors, family members and romantic partners. More and more, people are solving their differences not with their fists but with guns. Husbands and wives are shooting each other, as are sisters and brothers. In many homes across America, loaded guns are easily accessible, and children find them, accidentally shooting themselves or each other. One hundred children died in unintentional shootings in the year after Newtown, which breaks down to two every week.

Monday, July 14, 2014

You rarely see this in the news

As shown in the book, stories of prisons are rare in the news ... aside from those stories about riots and escapes and the like.

In today's New York Times, there is an article titled "Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail." Read it here.

The story of Rikers, pictured below, is stunning, brutally honest, and strongly suggestive of a cultrue of violence by the state and city against people with mental illnesses.

Incredibly, as shown below, the number of violent incidents is rising, even as the jail's population has declined. April 2005--67 uses of force vs January 2014--389 uses of force

In spite of these stories and these data, the authors note:

"Reports of such abuses have seldom reached the outside world, even as alarm has grown this year over conditions at the sprawling jail complex. A dearth of whistle-blowers, coupled with the reluctance of the city’s Department of Correction to acknowledge the problem and the fact that guards are rarely punished, has kept the full extent of the violence hidden from public view."

Read it. It's stunning.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Do you get your news online?

If so, do you ever comment after reading stories?

In this story in Truthout, author Roberto Cintli Rodriguez writes:

The unexpected new locations for hate crime scenes in the 21st century appear to be the comments sections of the nation's leading newspapers, where calls to violence have become routine and through which progressives have decided correcting the record is a waste of their time.

In his story, he provides examples that show "letters or comments sections appear to have become sanctuaries to virulent hate and, especially since the advent of the internet, a comfortable home to discourses of extremist hate and calls to violence, primarily of the extreme right-wing variety."

Now, this might be a partisan conclusion, but the point is that PEOPLE (whatever their politics) now use the Internet to talk trash and say horrible things, thinking they are anonymous (which they are not). As a result, many people simply do not read the letters or comments.

This is because of the "scripted messages" ... "talking points" ... "coded language, preposterous stereotypes and outright falsehoods" contained within.

You might not agree with the author that "right wing utilizes or engages the letters to the editor sections ... much more frequently, with much more volume and much more effectively than their liberal or progressive counterparts. It does this through the use of powerful metaphors and imagery, albeit false ones, which are effective because they are generally wrapped in the flag and/or the Bible. Demonization, fear and hate work. Repeated often enough, outright lies and distortions appear to be effective, especially when meanings of words are changed or misrepresented, and especially when they are not refuted. Soon, lies, distortions and misrepresentations become conventional wisdom. Conservative talk show hosts become credible sources, whereas facts are readily dismissed as liberal hearsay and heresy."

But you should agree with the argument that: "Audiences become susceptible in times of high stress, such as severe economic downturns, national crises, and especially in times of war. These are the times when people scapegoat the most politically powerless sectors and close ranks to fight a 'common enemy.'" This is what is happening right now with the immigration debate.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Terrorism back in the news

In case you had forgotten, terrorism is still real. And the news is still interested in it.

Well, at least some of the agencies are. Like Fox News:

ISIS destroys shrines, churches and mosques, may be targeting Mecca

AL QAEDA-INSPIRED TERROR GROUP ISIS is leaving a path of destroyed churches, shrines and mosques in its wake as it storms across Syria and Iraq, and has even apparently set its sights on Mecca — Islam's holiest site.
  • Terror plot targeting Eiffel Tower, Louvre foiled, French police say

  • And USA Today:

    French: Terrorists targeted Eiffel Tower, Louvre

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    Stories you rarely see in the news

    Here are a couple of stories you rarely see in the news.

    Ten Economic Facts about Crime and Incarceration in the United States (from the Brookings Institute)

    It includes ten facts every American should know, offered in three chapters along with an introduction.

    US Crime Statistics Completely Ignore What Happens In Prisons (from Salon magazine)

    It discusses how the US actually has way more crime than we are led to believe, only it is not counted in the numbers because it happens within prisons!

    If such stories were commonplace in the news, we'd not have the major problems we have in criminal justice today.

    Monday, July 7, 2014

    The latest CNN crime epidemic

    Seriously, this is the latest. CNN calls it a new epidemic.

    If you follow this blog, then you know CNN regularly focuses on one kind of crime or incident, gets fixated on it, and makes it out to be some kind of epidemic (when in fact it is not). Here is the latest example:


    5 questions about boy's mother

    Cooper Harris died after he was locked in his father's car. Justin Ross Harris is charged with murder and child cruelty, but police also have questions about his wife's behavior. Here's what we know about Leanna Harris. FULL STORY

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    Which is the most important TOP STORY?

    Examine the following top stories from the news media. Which is the most important, because it impacts the most people?

    Honey, does this drink make me look fat?
    We compared the amount of sugar found in some of America's top-selling beverages to the sugar found in common sugary snacks. Are you ready to be shocked? PHOTOS


    Border crisis: Obama likely to delay deportations, experts agree

    • ONE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA'S first moves toward trying to 'fix' the US immigration system without Congress will almost certainly be to expand on his 2012 executive order postponing deportation for potentially millions of young illegal immigrants, say experts on both sides of the debate.
    Extreme’ abortion law vetoed

    Now, can you guess which story goes with which network?