Democracy

Corporate-Assisted Repression of Expression

Microsoft shut down "a popular Chinese-language blog" by journalist Zhao Jing on December 30, on the grounds that it "has run edgy content potentially offensive to Chinese authorities." The blog "had criticized the government's firing of top editors at a progressive Beijing newspaper." Microsoft stated, "Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the internet safe for local users. ...

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It Was a Very False Year: The 2005 Falsies Awards

As Father Time faded into history with the end of 2005, he was spinning out of control.

Groucho maskOver the past twelve months, the ideal of accurate, accountable, civic-minded news media faced nearly constant attack. Fake news abounded, from Pentagon-planted stories in Iraqi newspapers to corporate- and government-funded video news releases aired by U.S. newsrooms. Enough payola pundits surfaced to constitute their own basketball team -- Doug Bandow, Peter Ferrara, Maggie Gallagher, Michael McManus and Armstrong Williams. (They could call themselves the "Syndicated Shills.")

Chalabi Unites Iraq

Iraqi voters may not agree on much, but 99.5 percent of them agreed not to vote for Ahmed Chalabi in the country's December 15 election. Once hailed by U.S. neoconservatives as the "George Washington of Iraq," Chalabi's humiliating defeat at the polls makes him something of an embarrasment now. "The election results in Iraq may present Chalabi’s ardent U.S.

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Baghdad Press Club Membership Has Its Privileges

"A U.S. investigation into allegations that the American military is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media has expanded to examine a press club founded and financed by the U.S. Army," reports USA Today. The Baghdad Press Club was created in 2004, "to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq." A military spokesperson said "members are not required nor asked to write favorably" about the United States.

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Fake News = Weakened Democracy

"The public's ability to participate in the rule-making process was undermined" when the administration of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger produced video news releases (VNRs) promoting controversial proposals, ruled Sacramento Superior Court judge Lloyd Connelly.

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Lawyers, Drugs and Ad Money

West Virginia's Pharmaceutical Cost Management Council unanimously approved "a financial disclosure form that would require pharmaceutical companies to reveal how much they spend on advertising and promotion of brand-name drugs" in the state, as well as any "gifts, grants or payments to physicians" in excess of $25.

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E-voting Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

"Questions about the security and accuracy of electronic voting systems are likely to continue into the 2006 national elections, because the U.S. government has not yet completed work on electronic voting guidelines," according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Preventing Embarrassing Information Becoming Public

Guidelines issued by the Australian government's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet advise public servants on how to avoid personal notebook comments being disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

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