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John Rendon is CEO of the Rendon Group, a secretive public relations firm that often provides behind-the-scenes advice to the U.S. military. Over the years, we've received dozens of phone calls from journalists who have sought interviews with Rendon about his work on behalf of the Iraqi National Congress, but no one has been able to get him to say more than "no comment."
We were a little surprised, therefore, when a telephone message was left for Rendon in our office by someone identifying himself as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. A transcript of that message is as follows:
Craig Gordon of the website Now Age Press recently interviewed me. He was interested in the current situation with mad cow disease in the US, a subject Sheldon Rampton and I addressed in our prescient 1997 book Mad Cow USA. Craig also was curious about the origins of the Center for Media and Democracy and how issues as seemingly disparate as Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), Mad Cow Disease and Bush's war on Iraq all fall under our investigative lens.
Steven Milloy, the self-proclaimed critic of junk science at Fox News, rarely misses an opportunity to bash environmentalists. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he falsely claimed that the collapse of the World Trade Towers could have been delayed if only the builders had used more asbestos. He also has a habit of distorting other people's words when it serves his agenda. (A recent example of this was featured on RealClimate.org, a weblog for climate scientists.)
Milloy's response to the Asian tsunami is similar. In a column for Fox News, Milloy accuses environmentalists of exploiting the disaster by trying to blame it on global warming. In order to make this seem plausible, however, he has to misquote the environmentalists he is attacking.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded conservative advocacy group that specializes in lobbying state legislatures for enactment of favorable legislation, has issued a "2004 Report Card on American Education" that provides an instructive example of the ways that industry-funded organizations manipulate information to reach foreordained conclusions.
ALEC's report, which comes packaged with a glossy clip-art cover showing a pencil, ruler and other classroom implements, was authored by Andrew T. LeFevre, the President of LeFevre Associates, a PR/lobby firm based in northern Virginia. It was edited by Lori Drummer, who heads ALEC's education task force, which is "responsible for overseeing the development of ALEC policy related to education reform and school choice programs" - euphemisms for school privatization, which ALEC advocates.
Despite finishing second in the annual Sydney to Hobart blue-water racing classic, the yacht named after communications giant AAPT outperformed most of its rivals in the PR stakes.
While big racing boats such as AAPT fly with the wind they also burn bucketloads of cash. Which is why the big boats need big sponsors. Corporate sponsors look to the bottom line and expect a return on investment that is primarily measured on the amount of media coverage they garner.
This year marks the beginning of a new tradition for the Center for Media and Democracy. To remember the people and players responsible for polluting our information environment, we are issuing a new year-end prize that we call the "Falsies Awards." The top ten finalists will each receive a million bucks worth of free coupons, a lifetime supply of non-fattening ice cream, an expenses-paid vacation in Fallujah, and our promise to respect them in the morning. The winners of the Falsies Awards for 2004 are:
1. I'm Karen Ryan, reporting
Let's hear it for video news releases finally getting a smattering of the public scrutiny they deserve. A video news release or VNR is a simulated TV news story. Video clips paid for by corporations, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations are commonly passed off as legitimate news segments on local newscasts throughout the United States. VNRs are designed to be indistinguishable from traditional TV news and are often aired without the original producers and sponsors being identified and sometimes without any local editing.
For a while, it looked as though one lone cow might succeed.
Government officials promised to implement food safety measures long championed by consumer, family farm, health, environmental, and public interest organizations. Industry groups -- and their former lobbyists now working for regulatory agencies -- were on the defensive.
Some 114 people responded to our recent survey asking for comments about the recent design of our sister website, the Disinfopedia. Here's what they had to say:
89.5% said they had used the Disinfopedia to look up information; 22.8% had added information to it themselves.
The response to the new design was mostly favorable, with respondents giving it an average rating of 3.9 on a scale of 1 to 5.
An alarming, but not surprising, investigation in today's Vancouver Sun illustrates why the mad cow feed rules in both Canada and the US are completely inadequate.
The paper reports that "secret tests on cattle feed conducted by a federal agency earlier this year found more than half contained animal parts not listed in the ingredients, according to internal documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun. The test results raise questions about whether rules banning the feeding of cattle remains to other cattle -- the primary way in which mad cow disease is spread -- are being routinely violated. ... Controlled experiments have shown an animal needs to consume as little as one milligram -- about the size of a grain of sand -- of material contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to develop the brain-wasting disease."