Walid Shoebat is a Palestinian-American who converted from Islam to conservative Christianity. He was born in the West Bank to an American mother, claims he was a terrorist with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, that he helped fire-bomb an Israeli bank in Bethlehem as a youth and even served time in a jail in Israel for his crimes. A self-proclaimed expert on terrorism, Shoebat says he knows how potential terrorists think, because he was one. Since 2006, he has been interviewed as a terrorism expert on CNN, Fox News and HLN. In May, Shoebat was a featured speaker at a forum put on by South Dakota's Office of Homeland Security for police and sheriff's deputies, where he earned a $5,000 fee for his appearance. In his presentations, Shoebat warns that Islam and terrorism are one in the same, that mosques are hotbeds of potential terrorist organizing and tells his audiences to be wary of Muslim doctors, engineers and students. Shoebat operates several foundations, one of which earned over $500,000 in 2009 through sales of his books and videos, and speaking fees for talks he gives at churches, universities, military bases and counterterrorism trainings. But Shoebat may not be what he claims to be. CNN's Jerusalem bureau conducted an extensive investigation into his background and was unable to substantiate Shoebat's claims of past terrorist activity. The Tel Aviv headquarters of the bank that Shoebat claims to have fire-bombed has no record of a fire-bombing at its Bethlehem branch, and Israeli police have no record of it, either. The prison where Shoebat says he was incarcerated has no record of him being an inmate there, and his relatives describe him as a "regular kid" who eventually became a computer programmer in the U.S. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico first exposed in 2008 that portions of Shoebat's past were fabricated.
Just weeks ago, media mogul Rupert Murdoch was set to win his $12 billion bid to take over Britain's biggest satellite broadcaster, BSkyB. The U.K. government was indicating it was likely to allow the proposed takeover to happen. But then the News of the World phone hacking and bribery scandal broke, and turned British public opinion so strongly against Murdoch that he suddenly withdrew his multi billion dollar offer to take over the broadcaster. Murdoch's announcement that he was pulling the bid came just hours before British lawmakers were set to consider a measure to ask Murdoch's company, News Corp. to drop his effort to take over BSkyB. The measure was expected to pass with overwhelming support in Britain's House of Commons, demonstrating how sharply Murdoch's influence has waned since the scandal. Murdoch had previously wielded significant political influence in Britain through his media holdings. The scandal may be affecting Murdoch's influence in the U.S., too. U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) have all called for an inquiry into whether any of the unethical investigative techniques or bribery uncovered at Murdoch's U.K. newspaper have been used at any of his U.S. media holdings. The senators specifically question whether telephones of victims of the September 11, 2011 attacks might have also been hacked. News Corp. holds 27 U.S. broadcast licenses and owns the Fox News Channel.
On July 28, 2009, Glenn Beck called President Barack Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture" in an appearance on the Fox News Channel morning show, Fox & Friends. Almost two years later, on June 30, 2011, he wrapped the final episode of Fox's The Glenn Beck Program.
What led to the demise of the firebrand's controversial television show? Everything from a sharp decline in ratings -- according to The New Republic, Beck's ratings fell from an average of 2.9 million in January 2010 to 1.8 million in January 2011, and Forbes' Rick Unger said his numbers represented the "steepest decline in all cable news programs" -- to political differences between Beck and the Fox team has been cited, but one important factor cannot be ignored.
Beck's vitriolic commentary forced Fox to take a hit where it hurts the most: its bottom line. But it would not have happened without a concerted effort by a number of groups and activists.
Glenn Beck may have ended his controversial talk show on the Fox News Channel, but he's far from gone. Die-hard fans will still be able to listen to him on the radio for free, see his show for a fee, and then some. Beck plans to keep doing a three-hour-a-day radio talk show filmed by six TV cameras that will be available either live or on-demand. He also announced "GBTV," an internet-based, subscription webcast "reality series" produced by his company, Mercury Radio Arts. For just $4.99/month plus an internet connection and a $60 box from a service called Roku, fans will still be able to stream Glenn Beck onto their TV sets starting in September. For just a tad more -- $9.95/month -- fans can join Beck's "Insiders" club to get the privilege of being able to both watch Beck's show on TV AND view video of his daily radio program. Fans who can't wait until September and already belong to Beck's "Insider Extreme" club will be able to see a preliminary show-about-Beck's-show called "The Making of GBTV." Beck also announced a new, non-profit humanitarian project called "Mercury One" aimed at "saving America," and a new Glenn Beck clothing line called "1791: The Original Blueprint," the name of which is derived from the year the Bill of Rights was signed. The style will be all-American items like polo shirts and long-sleeved button-downs, the clothes will be manufactured in the U.S.A. and proceeds will go to charity. The loss of his TV show hasn't set Beck back too far financially. Beck will reportedly be moving to a mansion in Dallas, Texas that rents for $20,000/month.
While the U.S. media has been occupied with Anthony Weiner, the Republican presidential candidates and Bristol Palin's memoir, coverage of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster has practically fallen off the map. Poor mainstream media coverage of Japan's now months-long struggle to gain control over the Fukushima disaster has deprived Americans of crucial information about the risks of nuclear power following natural disasters. After a few weeks of covering the early aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, the U.S. media moved on, leaving behind the crisis at Fukushima which continues to unfold. U.S. politicians, like Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, have made disappointing and misleading statements about the relative safety of nuclear power and have vowed to stick by our nuclear program, while other countries, like Germany and Italy, have taken serious steps to address the obvious risks of nuclear power -- risks that the Fukushima disaster made painfully evident, at least to the rest of the world.
Over and over, cable TV and Sunday news show pundits have been telling us that Social Security is going bankrupt, and we have to raise the retirement age or the economy will collapse. These two axioms have practically become common knowledge. The only problem is, there isn't a shred of evidence that either statement is accurate.
A company called HeroBuilders.com that makes bobbleheads, candy heads and custom sneakers, started marketing a hot new item on June 20 that is flying off its shelves: an Anthony Weiner action figure. The Standard action figure costs $39.95 and wears boxer shorts that say "Tweet This." An "adults only" version has the word "Censored" stamped over the crotch area of the boxer shorts on the company's website and sells for $49.95. "Anthony comes in our brand new stealth body," the site boasts, "It is a perfect match for this congressman." Buyers can add an optional stand and Blackberry device to complete the set for an additional $18. The company also sells action figures of Sarah Palin (dressed either as a school girl or a super hero), Michele Bachmann, Joe the Plumber, Rod Blagojevich (holding a handful of cash), Jimmie McMillan ("The Rent is Too Damn High" guy), and a Nancy Pelosi action figure that comes complete with a waterboard that says "Fun for the Whole Family."
The June 8 - June 10 episodes of MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show featured a three-part series titled "Firewater?" It pondered whether drilling for methane gas is a path toward a prosperous "clean energy" future for the United States, or if, to the contrary, the harms of methane gas drilling, caused by a process called fracking, nullify these oft-repeated industry claims.
While three recent scientific reports -- one by Duke University, one by Cornell University, and one by the Post Carbon Institute -- point to the latter, Ratigan's series portrayed the issue as still up for debate, with both sides' claims having equal merit.
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald and his company Brave New Films have launched a new website that encourages visitors to comment on what they think has been left out of a new documentary movie about Sarah Palin. The website allows visitors to put words in Sarah Palin's mouth. Filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon created the two-hour-long, pro-Palin film, titled "The Undefeated," in response to what he feels is negative treatment Palin has received in the media. Bannon's movie portrays Palin as a martyr. The casting of Palin as a victim of repeated baseless attacks is punctuated by a scene showing a pack of lions tearing apart a zebra and another showing a man being buried alive. When people point out Palin has actually been defeated in a number of elections, Bannon says, "I want people to come out of this movie arguing and debating. That's what I want." The film premieres Friday, June 17, in Minneapolis. The winner of Greenwald's "edit Sarah Palin's film" contest will get a collector-edition Sarah Palin bobblehead doll dressed in army fatigues and holding a rifle.
Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director, Lisa Graves, the Director of our Real Economy Project, Mary Bottari, and Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, will be speaking at this year's Netroots Nation convention. The conference will take place from June 16-19 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Further details and the agenda click here. Stop by the CMD table at the Exhibition Hall and sign up for our IPad 2 raffle. For the very lucky, there may even be cheese curds!