Ethics

Don't Buy Insurance Industry's "Objective Analysis"

Connecticut residents who believe their state should be the first in the nation to set up a public health insurance option to compete with private insurers should brace themselves for what will be a beautifully packaged, seemingly well-researched study from the insurance industry to convince them otherwise.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a big Washington-based lobbying group, last week told Connecticut lawmakers (pdf) that -- surprise, surprise -- they would be making a very big mistake if they approved funding to get the public option, called SustiNet, up and running. AHIP said it had hired "a well-known consulting firm" to produce a study that would support the conclusions the industry had already reached about SustiNet. AHIP even had the audacity to claim that said study would be an "objective analysis."

AT&T Sued for Fraudulent Data Usage Billing

IPhone moneyA class-action lawsuit filed against AT&T alleges the company routinely overstates web-server data traffic on its monthly bills by 7 to 14 percent, most notably for IPhone users. Plaintiffs allege that AT&T "bills for phantom data traffic when there is no actual data use initiated by the customer." Independent consultants report that they bought a new IPhone and disabled every possible source of data connectivity they could possibly find on it, yet within ten days their account had logged 2,292 KB of data usage on the phone. The suit says, "This is like the rigged gas pump charging you when you never even pulled your car into the station." Plaintiffs allege breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraudulent and unfair business practices. AT&T intends to defend itself vigorously against the suit, and that "Transparent and accurate billing is a top priority" for the company. 

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Bush White House Broke the Law

A new report issued by the Office of Special Counsel says George W. Bush's Office of Political Affairs routinely violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits using federal dollars to pay for political activities and bars federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Senior staff members of Bush's Office of Political Affairs, run by Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, routinely violated the law by organizing political briefings for Republican employees at federal agencies where they sought the employees' help to get Republicans elected to Congress. The report (pdf) says "These briefings created an environment aimed at assisting Republican candidates, constituting political activity within the meaning of the Hatch Act." The briefings discussed the importance of the 'GOP ground game,' the 'Republican Offensive' and the 'Republican Defense.' " The report also found that the Bush White House improperly used federal funds to pay for travel for political purposes, classifying it instead as official government business.

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Political Rhetoric, Before and After Arizona

Jesse Kelly with gunJesse Kelly, a former Marine, Iraq war veteran and Gabrielle Giffords' Republican opponent in last November's election, ran a campaign that used gun imagery as its main eye-catching visual. Several of Kelly's campaign ads show him brandishing an M-16 automatic rifle with the slogan, "Send a Warrior to Congress." A print ad for one of his fundraising events reads, "Sat., 6/12/10, 10:00 AM - Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." Kelly's spokesman, John Ellinwood, naivley claims he doesn't see any connection between promoting fundraisers featuring weapons and the public shootings in Tucson.

New Memo Shows Fox News' Unacceptable Level of Bias

Fox News Channel's Bill SammonMedia Matters uncovered another internal email sent out by Fox News' Washington, D.C. Managing Editor Bill Sammon which ordered Fox Network journalists to slant coverage of the climate change issue by "refrain[ing] from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." The memo is inflammatory because the increase in global annual average temperatures over the last 50 years is a well-established fact.

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Judge Who Ruled Health Reform Law Unconstitutional May Have Conflict of Interest

District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, who issued the ruling that the new health reform law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, has at least a $15,000 ownership interest in the Republican consulting firm ''Campaign Solutions, Inc." Since 2003, Judge Hudson has pocketed dividends between $32,000 and $108,000 from that interest. Campaign Solutions played a big part in the 2009 elections in helping Republican legislators like John Boehner, John McCain and Michele Bachmann devise public messages to help turn public opinion against health care reform. All three legislators made dismantling health reform a part of their campaign platforms. In another potential conflict of interest, Virginia Attorney General Tom Cuccinelli, who challenged the new health reform law and on whose case Hudson ruled, paid Campaign Solutions $9,000 in the last election, so Judge Hudson decided a case in which one of the litigants was a client of a company he owns.

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"Friendly Reminder": Fox's Unbalanced Ethics Threaten Democracy

Anyone who still clings to the notion that Fox News is actually a news organization rather than a propaganda machine for special interests -- and that it actually is led by journalists who adhere to the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists -- must read the leaked memos Media Matters disclosed this morning.

Under the heading of "Fox boss caught slanting news reporting," Media Matters shared on its Web site an internal memo that Bill Sammon, Fox News' Washington managing editor, sent a memo "at the height of the health care reform debate" to his network's so-called journalists, directing them not to use the phrase "public option."

Instead, Sammon told them, they should use focus-tested Republican and insurance industry talking points "to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts."

Foie Gras: a Disease, Not a Delicacy

Former James Bond star Roger Moore, now 83 years old, has created a YouTube video on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals showing cruel treatment and torturous force-feeding of ducks and geese to create the culinary French delicacy foie gras. Literally translated, "foie gras" means "fatty liver." The birds are force-fed through long tubes to fatten their livers, a procedure that gives the birds a liver disease similar to cirrhosis in humans. After three months of force-feeding, the sickened geese are killed for their swollen livers. Fattened goose liver sells for around a hundred Euros a pound in France, and more during the holidays. Foie gras farms, and the force-feeding of the birds is so cruel that many countries around the world have banned it, including Israel, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. In 2004 California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger signed a bill prohibiting the production and sale of foie gras in the state of California. But many restaurants still serve it, including the Belgian fast food chain Quick, which will be offering its French customers a hamburger served with a slice of foie gras in the days leading up to Christmas. Quick notwithstanding, Moore's video has had some success. It persuaded British department store Harvey Nichols to remove foie gras from its fancy restaurant menu.

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Colorado Billboard Combines Racism, Homophobia and Xenophobia

BPlogoPeople driving through Grand Junction, Colorado for the next month will have to look at a racist, xenophobic and homophobic billboard that depicts President Obama as a turban-and-bomb-wearing terrorist, an illegal immigrant wearing a Mexican sombrero, a member of the Mob and a homosexual.

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