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Canada's Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 4:28pm

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today gave a master class in calm, credible breaking news reporting.

Anchored by the unflappable Peter Mansbridge, news of the shootings in Ottawa unfolded live on the CBC much like they do here in the United States: lots of sketchy details, conflicting reports, unreliable witnesses, and a thick fog of confusion. All of that was familiar. What was less familiar was how Mansbridge and his team managed that confusion, conveying a concise and fact-based version of fast-moving events to viewers across Canada and the world.

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10am Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its audience proud:

MANSBRIDGE: And so, the situation is, as we say, tense and unclear. And it's on days like this—we keep reminding you of this and it's important—it's on days like this, where a story takes a number of different pathways, a number of changes occur, and often rumors start in a situation like this. We try to keep them out of our coverage, but when they come, sometimes from official sources, like members of Parliament, you tend to give them some credence. But you carefully weigh it with what we're also witnessing. It's clear that the situation is not over. It is clear the police are in an intense standby situation and continue to be on the lookout, and until somebody blows the all-clear on this we will continue to stay on top of it and watch as the events unfold.

Watch below, courtesy of the CBC:

The broadcast was deliberative and deferential to the facts even when they were sparse. Exacting and painstaking, but never slow or boring, Mansbridge weighed the credibility of every detail, constantly framing and reframing what we knew and, most crucially, how we knew it. He literally spoke the news as it happened, using his experience not to opine nor fill the gaps in his knowledge, but to provide the necessary support for his team's reporting.

Getting things wrong during fast-moving live coverage is, of course, common. Coverage of the Washington Navy Yard shooting last year got the details wrong early and often: It misstated the perpetrator's name, age, and how many guns he had. Following the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, there was false coverage about the identity of the bombers, and anonymous sources leading journalists to nonexistent bombs and arrests. On The Media's handy "breaking news consumer's handbook" is a great round-up of the reporting errors that get repeated every time there is a mass shooting.

No newscast, especially live news, is immune to mistakes, and during the initial haze of leads and counter-leads, it's easy to point fingers. But for the six-some hours of CBC broadcasting I watched off-and-on (mostly on) today, I never once felt lost in the wall-to-wall speculation that has characterized so many recent breaking news broadcasts in the United States.

It seems like others on Twitter agree that CBC did pretty damn well today:

Exactly right. @cbcnews and @petermansbridge covered today’s awful events properly: calmly, carefully and accurately. http://t.co/Ij2dOPlGmz

— Mike Wickett (@mwickett) October 22, 2014

CBC, by the way, has not gone to break in over two hours. Peter Mansbridge has barely exhaled. Grand work by our public broadcaster.

— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) October 22, 2014

.@CBCNews anchor @petermansbridge has been brilliant today, and US news could learn a lot: http://t.co/PvnyhNVzLs pic.twitter.com/gKaO6lo6n5

— Mark Joyella (@standupkid) October 22, 2014

Climate Change Is Kicking the Insurance Industry's Butt

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 3:33pm

In the months after Hurricane Sandy, insurance companies spooked by rising seas dropped coastal policies in droves.

That could become an increasingly common story, according to the largest-ever survey of how insurance companies are dealing with climate change, released today. Global warming is increasing the risk of damage to lives and property from natural disasters beyond what many insurers are willing to shoulder. And most insurance companies aren't taking adequate steps to change that trend, the survey found. That's a problem even if you don't live by the coast: When private insurers back out, the government is left to pick up much of the damage costs; already, the federal flood insurance program is one of the nation's largest fiscal liabilities.

Ceres, an environmental nonprofit, evaluated the climate risk management policies of 330 large insurance companies operating in the United States. The results are worrying. Only nine companies, 3 percent of the total, earned the highest ranking.

The insurers that scored highly on the survey (including several of the world's biggest, such as Munich Re, Swiss Re, and Prudential) were those that have adopted a broad range of climate-conscious products and services, such as rate pricing plans that account for potential climate impacts like storms and fires. Some insurers are also investing in high-end climate modeling software to better understand where their risks really are. Others offer environmentally friendly plans like mileage-based car insurance and encourage their customers to rebuild damaged homes using green technologies. And some insurance companies are making significant efforts to monitor and reduce their own carbon footprint.

However, the report finds that one major way insurance companies are adjusting to climate change is by not insuring properties that are threatened by it, said Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a lead author of the report.

"As a regulator, it's very bad to see markets being abandoned because of the threat that exists," he said.

Certainly the threat is real. Globally, average annual weather-related losses have increased more than tenfold in the last several decades, from $10 billion per year in the period 1974-1983 to $131 billion in 2004-2013, according to the report. The insurance industry is not keeping pace: The proportion of those damages that are insured is steadily declining:

Tim McDonnell

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Map: The Most Popular NFL Teams Everywhere in America—According to Twitter

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 2:39pm

For now, even after all the concussions, the domestic violence, and the still-horribly named team from Washington, DC, Americans still love their pro football. Twitter took a stab at measuring the popularity of every NFL franchise by looking at the official Twitter handle for each team and then counting followers of those teams in each county. It's an imperfect measure, for sure, but it's a nifty interface and a lot of fun! Take a look:

Fox News Thinks Young Women Are Too Busy with Tinder to "Get" Voting

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 2:09pm

Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, a woman, shared some advice for us feeble-minded young ladies out here: Let's not burden ourselves with voting! After all, we're far too busy swiping for a man on Tinder to cast an educated vote in the midterm elections, or any election for that matter.

"It's the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea," Guilfoyle explained to her approving co-hosts. "They don't get it!"

"They’re not in that same life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, healthcare. They’re like healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world," she added.

But what to do with all of our overabundant, perky energy!? Guilfoyle says not to worry–just "go back on Tinder or Match.com" and all will be right in the world.

Sigh. For a more detailed look into what a war on voting looks like, check out our coverage here.

The Midwest's Vast Farms Are Losing a Ton of Money This Year

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 1:57pm

Think you have it tough at work? Consider the plight of the Midwest's corn and soybean farmers. They churn out the basic raw materials of our food system: the stuff that gets turned into animal feed, sweetener, cooking fat, and even a substantial amount of our car fuel. What do they get for their trouble? According to a stunning analysis (PDF) by Iowa State ag economist Chad Hart, crop prices have fallen so low (a bumper crop has driven down corn prices to their lowest level since 2006), and input costs (think seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) have gotten so high, that they're losing $225 per acre of corn and $100 per acre of soybeans.  So if you're an Iowa farmer with a 2,000-acre farm, and you planted it half and half in these two dominant crops, you stand to lose $325,000 on this year's harvest.

Over on Big Picture Agriculture—the excellent blog that alerted me to Hart's assessment—Kay McDonald wonders: "Is organic corn the way to go next year?" She points out organic corn receives a large premium in the market, and key input costs—seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides—are much lower, making the economics better.

Another possibility is one I've been banging on about for years: why not take some of the Midwest's vast stock of farmland—say, 10 percent?—and devote it to vegetable and fruit production? And take another slice of it and bring it back to perennial grass for pasture-based beef and pork production? Both vegetables and pastured meat deliver much more income pre acre than commodity corn and soybeans, once the systems are up and running and the infrastructure in place. And considering how much of our produce comes from drought-stricken California, that would likely be a wise move from a food security standpoint.

Alas, none of this is likely to happen, at least not anytime soon. That's because crop subsidies, enshrined by the farm bill signed in February, will likely wipe out much of the huge gap between farmers' costs and what the market gives them. According to Bloomberg, taxpayers are set to pay "billions of dollars more to subsidize farmers than anticipated just months ago," before crop prices plunged.

I don't begrudge federal support for farming. As I argued in a post last year, large-scale commodity farming is a vicious business—farmers are caught in a vice between a small handful of buyers (Archers Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge) that are always looking to drive crop prices down, and a small handful of input suppliers (Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, etc) always looking to push the price of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides up. It's no wonder, as Iowa State's Hart has shown, that the "long run profitability" of such farming is "zero."

But as it's structured now, the subsidy system keeps farmers chugging along on the corn-soy treadmill. Meanwhile, transitioning to organic ag and diversifying crops to include vegetables and pastured meat would also require much more hands-on labor and a new set of skills for Midwestern farmers, who have been operating in a corn-soy-chemical system for decades. It would also require the rebuilding of infrastructure—small-scale slaughterhouses, canneries, cold storage, etc.—that were dismantled as corn and soy came to dominance. Supporting such a transition, and not propping up an unhealthy food system suffused with cheap corn and soy, seems like a good use of the billions of federal dollars that are about to be spent.

I Am Being Followed By an Army of Twitter Lady Bots

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 1:50pm

I've been making a real effort to be better at Twitter lately. I've been tweeting more, striking a conversational tone, and trying to "just be myself," like people who know more about Twitter than me told me to. So I was thrilled this week when my follower count zoomed up from 3,030 to 3,066 over the course of just a few days. My efforts must have paid off, I thought.

But then, I looked at my new followers. They all seemed pretty annoying. IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Check it out:

"Hipster-friendly music practitioner"? "Total travel advocate"? "Beer practitioner"? Ew!

The formula for the handles seems to be: first name, middle initial, last name. And the bio items look like they're generated from a list of bland hobbies and jobs or something. All over the backdrop of some irrelevant stock art.

Here are some of their tweets:

You can't just wish for a better life. You have to create it.

— SarahSSmall (@SarahSSmall) October 19, 2014

Tonight on @WNTonight investors react to Ebola scare, fears of global slowdown. What does it mean for your retirement savings?

— BerniceWHenry (@BerniceWHenry) October 17, 2014

Those of you who "elected" obama, this is all on you. He's a fake, you're confused, and now we ALL are having to pay for this foolishness...

— AdelineJBuckingham (@AdelineJBucking) October 19, 2014

Creepy Twitter lady bots, what do you want from me?

Here's What's Happening With the Shooting at the Canadian Parliament

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 12:37pm

Click here for the latest updates.

Downtown Ottawa is under lockdown as police investigate reports of shootings in two locations: the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill. Police have confirmed that, contrary to earlier reports, no shooting incidents occurred at the Rideau Centre shopping mall.  Police have confirmed reports that an unknown gunman shot and killed a soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, standing guard by Canada's National War Memorial with a rifle, then moved on to Canada's Parliament Hill and Centre Block and opened fire, resulting in the ongoing lockdown at Canada's Parliament building. A shooter wounded a security guard near Parliament Hill before he was shot, according to the CBC. Canadian Parliament member Tony Clement tweeted that at least 30 shots were fired just before 10 a.m. during a caucus meeting where most MPs were located; Clement and two colleagues, Mark Strahl and Kyle Seeback, remained inside the building under lockdown. The prime minister, Stephen Harper, was rushed out of the building.

Readers should note that breaking news stories often contain inaccuracies. Many details of the attack remain unclear, and even initial information from law enforcement sources in this type of situation can be wrong. Check back for updates. (Also see how Canadian TV news coverage has put American cable news coverage to shame.)

Shots fired during caucus meeting. at least 30 shots. MPs piled out. I'm safe with 2 colleagues but we're still at risk...

— Tony Clement (@TonyclementCPC) October 22, 2014  

The Globe and Mail's Josh Wingrove captured live footage of the shootings inside the Parliament building:

Wingrove described the scene in a firsthand account: "Once police were halfway down the hallway, gunfire erupted again—an estimated two dozen shots that ended with a motionless body falling from a doorway just in front of the library. It was unclear who the person was. Guards briefly appeared to check for a pulse before beginning a search of the rest of the building."

According to reporters on the scene, the atmosphere calmed down around 10:30 a.m., but the Parliament building remained on lockdown and those inside were being told to stay away from the windows. Many fled the building after hearing shots in multiple corridors, some escaping down scaffolding being used for renovations, according to the Telegram. A helicopter arrived on scene just before 11:30 a.m., according to CBC reporter Stu Mills.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board told parents not to come to schools to pick up their children, who were also on lockdown in their classrooms. Some reporters claimed that cellphone signal is going in and out of service. Police said they suspect that two other shooters might be on the loose, and police reportedly are going door-to-door searching for a suspect. (Reports of additional shooters in these sorts of situations are often wrong.)

#Ottawa RT “@StuMillsCBC: Now back to slater, MP telling us he's heard there are or were 3 shooters”

— Devin Heroux (@Devin_Heroux) October 22, 2014  

A car, now on Wellington outside east block, stops. Two guys get out. At least one heads for the war memorial with a rifle.

— David Reevely (@davidreevely) October 22, 2014

RT @crimegarden: UPDATE: Police track two more possible suspects, one fleeing on foot near Chateau, the other on motorbike. #ottnews

— Ottawa Citizen (@OttawaCitizen) October 22, 2014

CBC News reporter Andrew Davidson posted this map of the Canadian Parliament and National War Memorial Area at 11:15 a.m.

And CNN posted this map of the area where the attacks have been reported:

Map of areas where Ottawa shootings were reported: National War Memorial, near the Rideau Centre and Parliament Hill. pic.twitter.com/NcfNCR5VCV

— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) October 22, 2014

UPDATE 1, Wednesday, Oct 22, 2:28 p.m. EST: Ottawa police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have released this statement:

(Ottawa)—The Ottawa Police Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) responded to reports of shooting incidents this morning in the downtown area. Police can now confirm that incidents occurred at the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill. 

Contrary to earlier reports no incident occurred near the Rideau Centre.

One shooting victim succumbed to injuries. He was a member of the Canadian Forces.  Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones.

Next of kin notification is underway and as such, the victim’s identification will not be released. 

One male suspect has also been confirmed deceased. There is no further update on injuries at this time.

This is an ongoing joint police operation and there is no one in custody at this time.

Ottawa residents are asked to stay away from the downtown area while the investigation continues.  If you work in one of the downtown buildings, follow the instructions from the building management you are in.

A number of RCMP and Federal government buildings are also closed to the public; as is Ottawa City Hall and all Ottawa Police stations.

UPDATE 2, Wednesday, Oct 22, 2:55 p.m. EST: Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau speaks to the public:

UPDATE 3, Wednesday, Oct 22, 3:46 p.m. EST: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have created a website for potential witnesses to Wednesday's shootings to upload photos and videos. Additionally, President Barack Obama spoke with Prime Minister Harper, and the National Security Council tweeted the conversation.

POTUS expressed to PM Harper the American people’s solidarity with #Canada in the wake of attacks on Canadian Forces 1/3

— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) October 22, 2014

POTUS condemned the outrageous attacks, and reaffirmed the close friendship and alliance between the American and #Canadian people 2/3

— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) October 22, 2014

The President offered PM Harper any assistance #Canada needed in responding to these attacks 3/3

— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) October 22, 2014

UPDATE 4, Wednesday, Oct 22, 5:04 p.m. EST: CBC News reports that the soldier killed outside the National War Memorial today was 24 year-old Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo, shot dead at #Ottawa War Memorial today, was 24. Reservist was member of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders #cdnpoli

— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) October 22, 2014

Timothy Johnson: Dana Loesch's New Gun Book Botches Quotes From The Founding Fathers

Media Matters - October 22, 2014 - 11:58am

Conservative commentator Dana Loesch's new book Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America includes spurious quotes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers, despite the fact that it purports to teach readers about "the history of the Second Amendment."

Loesch, who hosts a radio show on The Blaze, is currently on a media tour promoting her book and has made appearances on Fox News programs The Kelly File, Fox & Friends, Hannity and America's Newsroom.

She joins other conservative authors, including Emily Miller and Glenn Beck, in advancing a pro-gun agenda, in part by citing the discredited "more guns, less crime" research of economist John Lott.

In her book, Loesch also attempts to demonstrate that the Founding Father's view of the Second Amendment matches her own, but in doing so she misquotes, and often takes out of context, the Founder's true words.

In a section titled, "In Their Own Words," Loesch writes, "Just to make sure everyone reading this book is well armed -- pun intended -- with the facts about the Founders and their intentions, the Buckeye Firearms Association compiled a list of quotes attributed to various Founders that demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt what our Constitution's drafters intended when they drafted and approved the Second Amendment."

Loesch added, "Do the new-century equivalent of sticking them onto your fridge: Post them to Facebook or Twitter."

However, many of the quotes listed are not accurate.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Loesch:

"A free people ought to be armed." - George Washington

Actual Quote:

"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies."

The version appearing in Loesch's book crops language from Washington's quote that made it clear he was talking about the creation of a national defense strategy. According to the full text of Washington's first State of the Union address, he was discussing what it meant to "be prepared for war" and "[t]he proper establishment of the troops."

Housekeeping Update

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 9:58am

Just a quick update. Yesterday my doctor decided to do a "little bedside test" to get a better reading on the state of my bones. It was indeed bedside, and it was indeed done with just a local anesthetic, but I guess it wasn't a very powerful one. Hoo boy, did that hurt, and naturally I was a total baby about it. In any case, they want to keep me here for at least another day to make sure I didn't get infected etc. Also, today I get my first monthly dose of some bone-strengthening med whose name escapes me. So it looks like it'll be tomorrow at the earliest before I go home. It depends on how I'm doing and what the doctor gods decree. But I walked 300 feet this morning without too much trouble, so that has to be a positive sign, doesn't it?

When will blogging recommence? I'm not sure. In the meantime, though, enjoy a bonus cat.

In Just 15 Years, Wind Could Provide A Fifth Of The World's Electricity

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 9:36am

Up to one fifth of the world's electricity supply could come from wind turbines by 2030, according to a new report released this week by Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). That would be an increase of 530 percent compared to the end of last year.

The report says the coming global boom in wind power will be driven largely by China's rebounding wind energy market—and a continued trend of high levels of Chinese green energy investment—as well as by steady growth in the United States and new large-scale projects in Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa.

The report, called the "Global Wind Energy Outlook," explains how wind energy could provide 2,000 gigawatts of electricity by 2030, which would account for 17 to 19 percent of global electricity. And by 2050, wind's share of the electricity market could reach 30 percent. That's a huge jump from the end of 2013, when wind provided around 3 percent of electricity worldwide.

The report is an annually produced industry digest co-authored by the GWEC, which represents 1,500 wind power producers. It examines three "energy scenarios" based on projections used by the International Energy Agency. The "New Policies" scenario attempts to capture the direction and intentions of international climate policy, even if some of these policies have yet to be fully implemented. From there, GWEC has fashioned two other scenarios—"moderate" and "advanced"—which reflect two different ways nations might cut carbon and keep their commitments to global climate change policies. In the most ambitious scenario, "advanced," wind could help slash more than 3 billion tons of climate-warning carbon dioxide emissions each year. The following chart has been adapted and simplified from the report:

In the best case scenario, China leads the way in 2020 and in 2030:

But as the report's authors note, there is still substantial uncertainty in the market. "There is much that we don't know about the future," they write, "and there will no doubt be unforeseen shifts and shocks in the global economy as well as political ups and downs." The more optimistic results contained in the report are dependent on whether the global community is going to respond "proactively to the threat of climate change, or try to do damage control after the fact," the report says.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 22, 2014

Mother Jones - October 22, 2014 - 9:28am

A US Marine Sgt. speaks with a local child while on patrol in Afghanistan. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

Joe Strupp: Chuck Todd Explains The Meet The Press "Balancing Act" And How Diversity Is A "Front-Burner Issue"

Media Matters - October 22, 2014 - 9:12am

If Chuck Todd's plans for the new Meet the Press are successful, within a year the show will balance the need to explain the inner workings of Washington to viewers with elevating public concerns that are not getting enough attention in the political sphere.

In the second part of a three-part interview series with Media Matters, Todd lays out his goals for Meet the Press, the struggle for guest diversity on Sunday political shows, and the current state of the media landscape.

Responding to a frequent progressive critique of the Sunday shows -- that they are obsessed with gaffes and spin and not actual issues -- Todd expressed hope that his show would pull off a "balancing act."

"On one hand, we're trying to explain and interpret what Washington is up to for the public," Todd said. "But at the same time, trying to bring the public's concerns and the public's issues and the things that they seem to be worried about to Washington's doorstep."

Asked whether Meet the Press should discuss issues like climate change that are generally under-covered or merely reflect the current discussion in Washington, Todd explained that it's difficult to find time to cover every deserving story, especially when breaking news events like the Ebola outbreak eat into the schedule.

Media Matters has repeatedly highlighted the lack of diversity on the Sunday morning political shows, including on Meet the Press. In 2013, when the show was hosted by David Gregory, a full 62 percent of the guests were white men.

Todd said that it's probably too early to judge his own efforts with regards to diversity but said it is "a front-burner issue for us, not a back-burner issue."

While Todd said he had so far sought to make his weekly roundtables diverse, he warned of challenges in providing a balanced slate of interview subjects.

Todd highlighted how, for instance, "90 percent of the generals and the military experts out there" are white men. "Some of this stuff is out of your control. At the end of the day, you want to put the best people on. You want to put the best, smartest people on," Todd said. "I'd like to think we're doing a better job at making sure that we're reflecting America."

He also pointed to the need for geographical diversity among guests in order to avoid "socioeconomic groupthink," as well as providing diverse ideological voices within both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Todd criticized Fox News' use of straight news reporters to balance conservative commentators on their roundtable panels, saying that it demonstrates the network has an "agenda," adding that Meet the Press doesn't "believe in that." Todd also criticized Fox News for "trying to make everything about media bias."

Despite his criticism of the conservative network, Todd offered that "too many citizens are only getting news from one place and not understanding the other side."

The first part of Todd's interview with Media Matters focused on the media's coverage of scandals and crises. The third and final installment will focus on media coverage of Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential run.

Relevant transcript from Todd's Media Matters interview will be published with each part.

Answers covered in part two are below:

Eric Hananoki: Veteran Sun-Times Reporter Resigns, Says Paper Didn't Support Him During Smear Campaign

Media Matters - October 22, 2014 - 3:44am

Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned from the paper over what he calls a "breach" in the wall that exists "between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published."

McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the Sun-Timesposted an October 22 resignation letter on his personal blog explaining that he co-reported a story examining litigation involving the former company of Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for Illinois governor. The piece, he wrote, was backed by "our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews."

However, according to McKinney, prior to publication in early October, "the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it," including "sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation." Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk later defended McKinney, calling the allegation "inaccurate and defamatory."

McKinney states that he resigned, however, because he felt the paper didn't have "the backs of reporters like me." He explained that the Sun Times subsequently penalized him and didn't allow him "to do my job the way I had been doing it for almost two decades. Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper's editor and publisher, the company's lawyer and our NBC5 partners?"

His former employer also, in his view, "unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me" by endorsing Rauner's gubernatorial candidacy. The endorsement was notable because the Republican "used to be an investor in the Sun-Times' ownership group ... The paper's endorsement of Rauner was its first since it announced in 2012 that it would no longer make endorsements."

The Washington Free Beacon was a landing site for the Rauner campaign's attacks against McKinney and his wife. The conservative site, which has financial ties to partisan operatives, wrote an October 19 article with the headline, "The Chicago Way: Democratic Super PAC in Bed with Local Newspaper--Literally."

The Beacon's attacks were amplified by partisan figures like Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West, who wrote on his website:  "Yep, that kinda smells, but then again it's Democrat business as usual ... Never forget that Chicago is the home of Saul Alinsky, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tony Rezko, Jesse Jackson Sr and Jr, Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, David Plouffe, Bill Ayres, Bernadette Dorn - need I say more?"

Brian Powell: Another Phony Government "Land Grab" Featuring Fox's Favorite Tea Party Farmer

Media Matters - October 22, 2014 - 3:36am

Fox News went to bat for a Virginia lobbyist-turned-farmer unhappy with the easement restrictions agreed to as a condition on the purchase of her property, characterizing the execution of the easement as an attempted "land grab" and government invasion. 

On the October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade summarized the story of farmer and right-wing political activist Martha Boneta with the tease, "Caught on camera: A woman's farm invaded by the government." Boneta appeared for an interview to explain how, in the words of co-host Steve Doocy, a "land grab" of her farm was in the works.

Boneta, a GOP donor and so-called "Tea party farmer," complained that because the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) owns conservation easements on her land, the group is conducting "invasive" and "abusive" inspections of the property. She proclaimed, "What we have here is an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land and yet there is no accountability to the American people or the democratic process."

Conservation easements are legally binding agreements entered into by private parties. And PEC is a private party, with a private property right attached to Boneta's farm that the organization's representatives are responsible for inspecting. Boneta's claim that PEC is "an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land" is simply her devious way of describing the basic right of a person or organization to purchase and own property and control the conditions upon which they transfer that property.

Denise Robbins: BP's Misleading Oil Spill PR Campaign Is Now In Politico Magazine

Media Matters - October 22, 2014 - 3:32am

A BP executive dismissed the environmental impacts of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the company's role in the disaster in an opinion article for Politico Magazine, while the company is attempting to overturn a court decision finding it "grossly negligent." But the effects of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history are still being felt in the region today.

Four years after BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf, BP's senior vice president of communications and external affairs Geoff Morrell attempted to argue that previous "dire predictions" about the environmental effects of the spill had been overblown. In an October 21 Politico Magazine article, Morell wrote that a yet-to-be-completed environmental assessment -- funded by BP -- will show that "the Gulf environment is rebounding and that most of the environmental impact was of short duration and in a limited geographic area."

But Morrell's Politico Magazine article was misleading. Wildlife in the region is still experiencing the consequences of the spill, according to a recent report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The NWF studied 14 species that have suffered effects from the spill, including the ongoing illness of bottlenose dolphins and a "dramatic increase" in sea turtle deaths. The report concluded that more needs to be done to speed up the region's recovery. CBS reported of its findings: "No matter how much money is exchanged and what efforts are done, there remains no guarantee that the Gulf Coast regions will fully recover to pre-spill conditions."

Morrell also made the mistaken claim that bacteria in the Gulf's waters "adapted over time to feast on oil," which he claimed showed the Gulf's "inherent resilience" in recovering from the spill. But the bacteria's appetite for oil "die[d] down five months" after the oil rig explosion, according to a team of researchers at Rochester University.

BP is currently attempting to overturn the recent court verdict that the company was "grossly negligent" in advance of and in response to the spill. The verdict, which assigns BP the majority of the blame, sets the financial penalties the company may have to pay at as much as $18 billion.

The night before the court decision was first announced, Morrell blamed "opportunistic" environmentalists for over-exaggerating the spill's environmental impacts and journalists for "under-report[ing]" the company's cleanup efforts. He echoed this argument in the October Politico Magazine article, writing that "we should not be accountable for damages caused by the acts of others, or those conjured up by opportunistic advocacy groups."

Politico has touted its magazine, which launched last November, as containing "consequential stories that are not always the stuff of daily headlines" and aiming "to fill a dangerous vacuum in the rapidly transitioning world of journalism, with too few really big takes on big subjects holding leaders in Washington and beyond accountable."

Olivia Marshall & Ellie Sandmeyer: Time Warner Cable's "Empty Chair" Political Stunt Boosts Tillis Campaign With Phony Debate Scandal

Media Matters - October 22, 2014 - 2:17am

Time Warner Cable News (TWC) orchestrated a phony scandal and boosted Thom Tillis's North Carolina Senate campaign by placing an empty chair for his opponent, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, at an event it billed as a "debate" -- though it had known for months Hagan would not attend. TWC's stunt resulted in widespread negative media coverage of Hagan and helped amplify GOP attacks on the senator in the midst of a race some experts consider a toss-up.   

In early July, Hagan announced that she would attend three debates in the North Carolina Senate race, but would not participate in a fourth debate Time Warner Cable News (TWC) planned to host on October 21. TWC acknowledged that Hagan had declined the invitation, but moved forward with the program, still billing it as a "debate," and placed an empty chair next to Tillis during his appearance. Tillis' campaign was quick to attack Hagan's decision not to attend, hyping the "empty chair in Kay Hagan's place."

When the event was initially proposed, it was billed as a debate between Tillis and Hagan and sponsored by TWC and local papers The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. The two papers withdrew "after learning that an empty chair would be placed on the set," The News & Observer reported. "We wanted to have a serious discussion with Mr. Tillis about the issues without any gimmicks," News & Observer executive editor John Drescher said, citing an "honest miscommunication" with TWC, "My understanding was that we would tell viewers every 15 minutes that Sen. Hagan had declined our invitation but that we would not have an empty chair." Both The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer referred to the event as an "appearance on a cable TV news show" by Tillis rather than a "debate."

TWC's stunt provided the mainstream media a chance to echo the Tillis campaign's criticism. CNN's chief national correspondent John King highlighted Hagan's absence and the empty chair on the October 22 edition of New Day, but didn't note that her absence had been expected for months. King said, "we're waiting for a good explanation from the Hagan campaign, besides she had other things to do." A CNN article similarly hyped Hagan's absence with the headline: "Hagan absent, Tillis faces off against empty chair," and quipped "This is not your Clint Eastwood empty chair moment from the 2012 Republican National Convention -- but it's close." The article highlighted GOP criticism of Hagan's decision, but did note that she "had already declined."

Right-wing media outlets also seized on TWC's gimmick to attack Hagan. Fox News co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed on the October 22 edition of Fox & Friends that Hagan "didn't bother to show up" and asked "Why did Kay Hagan bail?" Breitbart ran the story under the headline "Thom Tillis Debates Empty Chair After Kay Hagan Declines Debate Invitation," and the Washington Free Beacon highlighted her absence, saying "Hagan's empty chair was visible throughout the debate." The Weekly Standard also hyped Hagan's absence, publishing direct quotes from the Republican research firm America Rising attacking Hagan for not attending the event.

TWC's stunt comes in the wake of accusations of a cozy relationship between Tillis and the telecom company. Last year, a Republican lawmaker in the NC legislature resigned his position as chairman of the Finance Committee, accusing Tillis of governing with a conflict of interest and citing a "business relationship with Time Warner." Time Warner has also previously donated money to Tillis.

Craig Harrington: Bloomberg Host Calls Out Telecom CEO On Net Neutrality Stance

Media Matters - October 22, 2014 - 2:10am

Bloomberg TV co-host Cory Johnson called out the hypocrisy of activist telecommunications investor Jeff Pulver who misleadingly stoked fears that proponents of net neutrality advocate for regulations that would hamper telecommunications innovations. Johnson pointed out that without an open internet, the CEO might have been unable to create his own business.

Net neutrality, the basic principle that corporate internet providers should provide equal access to content for subscribers, has become a hotly debated issue among telecommunications conglomerates and internet service providers (ISP) who want to charge companies a premium for preferential access and speed for internet consumers. 

On the October 21 edition of Bloomberg West, Johnson and co-host Emily Chang invited Pulver, the founder of Vonage, to respond to net neutrality advocates like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has called on Comcast to strengthen its commitment to net neutrality. Pulver accused net neutrality advocates of "bullying" and hyped fears that committing to neutrality would amount to onerous regulation of data and information services. Pulver also argued that regulating the telecommunications industry to ensure neutrality through Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 would lead to discrimination against businesses that seek to provide faster or more reliable access to certain data services and halt innovation.

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