In the wake of the Shirley Sherrod incident and what it exposed about the deteriorating state of contemporary journalism, Jonathan Bernstein, the editor of an Internet-based crisis management newsletter called "Crisis Manager," is proposing that the journalistic and news-consuming community fight back against the lagging quality of journalism in the U.S.
Last month, I wrote Chez Sludge, the first inside report on the sewage sludge scandal unfolding in San Francisco, based on internal documents obtained by the Food Rights Network and now online in the Toxic Sludge wiki on SourceWatch.
San Francisco, under its "green mayor" Gavin Newsom, has since 2007 perpetrated a greenwashing scam upon city gardeners. The city, known for its environmentally sound practices and commitment to a precautionary principle approach to dealing with environmental hazards, has deceptively and fraudulently been giving away free "organic Biosolids compost," that is actually nothing but toxic sewage sludge from San Francisco and eight other counties, "composted" by the giant waste handler Synagro.
BP officials have admitted that members of its staff manipulated official images posted on its Gulf of Mexico Response Web site, and promised to stop the practice. The most recent photo, apparently taken from inside a helicopter cockpit, was altered to make it look as though the helicopter was flying.
Immigration has been a hot subject since Arizona passed its new law requiring police to demand papers from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.
The celebrity chef Alice Waters is probably the world's most famous advocate of growing and eating local, Organic food. In February 2010 her Chez Panisse Foundation chose as its new Executive Director the wealthy "green socialite" and liberal political activist Francesca Vietor. Vietor's hiring created a serious conflict of interest that has married Waters and her Foundation to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and its scam of disposing of toxic sewage sludge waste as free "organic Biosolids compost" for gardens.
For the first time, thanks to an ongoing "open records" investigation by the Food Rights Network, the public and the press have easy online access to dozens of internal SFPUC files (SFPUC Sludge Controversy Timeline), documenting the strange tale of Chez Sludge, or how the sewage industry bedded Alice Waters.
President Obama is calling a big part of the health care reform bill he signed into law last March a "Patients' Bill of Rights", suggesting that many of the consumer protections contained in the new law were the same ones the health insurance industry succeeded in killing time and again over many years through a fear-mongering campaign it secretly financed.
Obama is right -- but only to a point. An important right was missing from his list of consumer protections because, once again, insurers had made sure it would not be part of any bill that reached his desk.
The insurance industry defeated many attempts to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights in the 1990s and 2000s, despite considerable bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. It did this by funneling millions of dollars through a big PR firm it hired to set up a front group -- the Health Benefits Coalition -- whose sole purpose was to scare people away from the legislation. The industry also had one especially important ally: Obama's predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush. Bush threatened to veto any Patients' Bill of Rights that he (read: the insurance industry and its business allies) didn't like. Lawmakers were never able to agree on a single bill that Senators and House members could agree to (the House approved a weakened version of the bill Bush presumably would sign but the Senate refused to weaken its bill), so they eventually just gave up.
Front group king Rick Berman, who has worked in the shadows for years, is starting to draw closer scrutiny from the IRS, the media and the public for the unique, self-dealing business model he developed to champion for big business. Berman, a former lobbyist, set up six nonprofit organizations with innocuous names like the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute and the Employment Policies Institute. Despite their nonprofit designation, together these groups provide as much as 70 percent of the revenues of his for-profit enterprise, Berman and Company. The Center for Consumer Freedom, for example, took in $1.5 million in revenues in 2008, of which 93 percent went to Berman and his firm. The American Beverage Institute took in $1.7 million, of which 82 percent went to Berman and his firm. None of his non-profit groups have independent offices or staff, and all of them pay Berman's for-profit business for services like accounting, copying, writing, operating Web sites, placing opinion-editorials, and bookkeeping, which is managed by Berman's wife, Dixie Lynn Berman. Rick Berman sits on the boards of his organizations, holds a total of 24 positions within them, and he serves as Executive Director for most of them. Sounds fishy, right?
A new investigative report published by the Humane Society of the United States examines the self-dealing activities of front group king Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).
Berman has developed a lucrative lobbying scheme that protects his corporate clients' anonymity while they attack the credibility of public interest groups and fight popular movements away from their products.