Copyrighted material


by Jeff Elliott

2005: The Uncovered News

The votes are in, and "Truthiness" is 2006's Word of the Year, the runaway winner in a survey conducted by dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster. Characteristically, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert had the last Word. "What an honor," he told AP when learning of the award. "Truthiness now joins the lexicographical pantheon with words like 'squash,' 'merry,' 'crumpet,' 'the,' 'xylophone,' 'circuitous,' 'others' and others."


"There he sat, surrounded by his father's friends, looking absolutely lost. And despite the years of experience and wisdom represented at that table, the report contains no magic potion to get us out of, arguably, the biggest, deadliest, costliest and potentially most dangerous mess that this country has been in since World War II. And President Bush caused it"

-- CNN commentator Jack Cafferty on "The Situation Room, December 6

" There are a lot of lives that are lost. A country's at stake. A region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. . . . This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful"

-- Kenneth Adelman, the former member of the Cheney-Rumsfeld brain trust, who wrote in Feb. 2002 that "liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Washington Post, November 19

"What do you [do,] punch little buttons and things?"

-- Larry King, revealing to Roseanne Barr November 14 that he's never used the Internet. "You just click on this thing," Barr explained. "The thing is you got to be able to read, so you have to have strong glasses when you've over 50 and then you just scroll down and click. It's not that hard. I can show you how to do it." King replied, "No, thanks"

"[Bush] thinks that, in twenty years, he's going to be recognized for the leader he was -- the analogy he uses is Churchill. If you read the public statements of the leadership, they're so confident and so calm... It's pretty scary"

-- Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, McGill Daily (Canada), November 2

"The higher you climb up the tree, the more your ass shows"

-- Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's zen koan on the perils of politics. Allentown Morning Call, October 19

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S."

-- Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) to Bucks County Courier Times, October 17. "You have to really question the judgment of a U.S. senator who compares the war in Iraq to a fantasy book," said Larry Smar, spokesman for Democratic opponent Bob Casey Jr.

"If you look at the general overall situation, they're doing remarkably well [in Iraq]"

-- Cheney on the Rush Limbaugh radio show, October 17. The same day, it was announced that at least 91 people had been slaughtered in Balad, over 3,000 policemen accused of abuse, corruption were fired in a complete overhaul of the Iraq National Police, and Iraqi leaders debated a proposal to create a 5-man junta to rule country

"[President Bush] reminds me of one of those guys at the gym who plays about 40 chessboards at once"

-- White House press secretary Tony Snow, revealing the Bush administration's very, very, best kept secret. New York Times, October 15

"[Bush is] a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides"

-- U.S. News & World columnist Paul Bedard, August 20

"I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to, you know, that there's a level of violence that they tolerate"

-- President Bush October 11 press conference, blaming the victims for being abused. The same day, a study found that 655,000 Iraqis have been slain during the occupation

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people. Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israeli's and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me"

-- Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), September 28

"I am sick of Karl Rove's bullshit. Nixon was a Communist compared to this crowd"

-- President Clinton on Bush/Rove marketing far-right viewpoints as "compassionate conservatism." New Yorker, September 18

"A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me... It seems to me that there's a Third Awakening"

-- President Bush, telling a group of conservative journalists that he believes the Terror War has sparked the long-awaited revival of religious fevor among evangelicals. Washington Post, September 13

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation"

-- Air Force secretary Michael Wynne, encouraging testing of nonlethal weapons, such as high-power microwave devices, on U.S. protesters. AP, September 12

"Somebody walked up and said, 'You corrupt bastards,' and that name stuck"

-- Alaska House Finance Co-Chairman Mike Chenault, one of 11 Alaskan Republicans linked to large campaign contributions from an oil field services company. The warrant for the FBI raid of offices for the company and several of the legislators specifically mentioned they were looking for "any physical garments (including hats)" including the names 'CBC,' 'Corrupt Bastards Club,' or 'Corrupt Bastards Caucus.' AP, September 1

"The key thing for me is to keep expectations low"

-- President Bush slipping out a little secret after becoming flustered over questions from Brian Williams/NBC about the books he was reading this summer. Williams noted that instead of recent lightweight fare such as a biography of Joe DiMaggio, the president was now reading Albert Camus' existentialist novel, "The Stranger." Bush explained that he had a very "ecelectic" [sic] reading list that also included "three Shakespeares." August 29

"We're not leaving [Iraq] so long as I'm the president"

-- President Bush press conference, August 21

"It kind of reminds [me of] the Third Reich, the big lie. You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that's their strategy"

-- Senator Jim Inhofe (R - Oklahoma), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, refuting the existence of global warming. "I know the text, and I know they are using old stuff that has been totally discredited," Inhofe told the Tulsa World, July 22. "Everything on which they based their story, in terms of the facts, has been refuted scientifically"

"Well, you kind of had to be there"

-- Ann Coulter, forgiving herself for twice calling Iranians "ragheads" in a February speech to the Conservative Action Political Conference. Coulter also told the NY Observer July 3 issue, "I don't think I've said anything offensive"

"I think -- tide turning -- see, as I remember -- I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of -- it's easy to see a tide turn -- did I say those words?"

-- President Bush, answering the question, "Is the tide turning in Iraq?" at a June 14 press conference. Six days earlier, Bush called Zarqawi's death "an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle." Until Bush was sent to an East Coast boarding school, he was raised in the city of Houston and upscale suburbs of Midland, Texas

"They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us"

-- Guantanamo Bay base commander Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris on the suicide of three prisoners who had been captive for about four years. All had joined the recent hunger strike to protest their indefinite incarceration and had been force-fed before quitting their protest, Harris told reporters at a telephone press conference, June 11

"There were problems in Kilo Company with drugs, alcohol, hazing, you name it. I think it's more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha"

-- The wife of a staff sergeant in the Marines battalion under suspicion in the Haditha massacre. Also reported in the June 12 issue of Newseek, the "Thundering Third" long had been given liberal rules of engagement to make sure people who looked like civilians didn't trigger hidden roadside bombs. "If you see someone with a cell phone," said one of the commanders, half-jokingly, "put a bullet in their fucking head"

"We never thought that we would reach a day when we would see Shiites and Sunnis fighting"

-- Halale Ubaidi, a Shiite woman in Baghdad who married a Sunni. Both sons were kidnapped because they were raised as Sunnis, and 29 year-old Haitham was found dead five days later in a Shiite neighborhood dump. His captors had shot him 14 times, gouged one of his eyes, cut his face with a razor, smashed his skull, broken his jaw, slit his back and cut off his penis. LA Times, May 7

"Yeah, we take different routes so that 'The Jackal' can't get me'"

-- Dick Cheney to a friend who noted that his motorcade took different routes every day. In Frederick Forsythe's 1971 thriller, disgruntled military officers seek to assassinate their nation's leader for mishandling the occupation of a Muslim country. Cheney quote from June issue of Vanity Fair

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry] -- he's got that look that he's ready to blow"

-- A former top aide to Bush on the president's reaction to Stephen Colbert's biting humor at the White House Correspondents Association dinner. U.S.News & World Report, May 1

"Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion"

-- Senator John Kerry, calling April 22 for the Iraqis to have an "effective unity government" in place by May 15 or the face an immediate U.S. pullout. "If Iraqis aren't willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they're probably not willing to build one at all. The civil war will only get worse, and we will have no choice anyway but to leave"

"May God damn you. You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won't interfere"

-- Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr message to Rumsfeld. March 13 interview in Journal of Turkish Weekly reported by UPI

"Here's Newt. Newt. Newt. Reagan. More Newt... but Newt never met me. Ollie North. Newt. Can't be Newt - he never met me. Oh, Newt! What's he doing there? Must be a Newt look-alike. I have more pictures of him than I have of my wife. Newt again! It's sick! I thought he never met me"

-- Jack Abramoff, pawing through a box of old photographs with author David Margolick. April 2006 issue of Vanity Fair

"If he'd been in the military, he would have learned gun safety"

-- Senator Chuck Hagel (R - Nebraska), a Vietnam war veteran, on five-time draft deferment champ Dick Cheney. AP, February 17

"In retrospect it looks like I got off easy"

-- Senator Patrick Leahy (D - Vermont), who Cheney told to "Go fuck yourself" during a 2004 Senate photo shoot. Roll Call, February 14

"I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam"

-- Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's domestic security agency, Shin Bet, saying an Iraqi dictatorship would be preferable to the present situation. "When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos." BBC, February 9

"Well, you can't anticipate everything"

-- VP Dick Cheney on the Bush administration's failure to plan for an Iraqi insurgency following the invasion. PBS Newshour, February 7

"This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA"

-- Oct. 2005 memo from George Deutsch, a 24-year-old Bush appointee to the NASA press office, demanding that the word "theory" be added after every mention of the Big Bang found in a web tutorial for students about Einstein. "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator." Deutsch resigned Feb. 7 when it was revealed that he faked his resume to falsely show he had graduated from Texas A&M. Quote from NY Times, February 4

"We're not fighting terrorism in Iraq. We're fighting a civil war in Iraq. We've got to give them an incentive. We fought our Civil War. Let them fight their civil war"

-- Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania), Pittsburgh Tribune-Review January 26

Colbert coined truthiness as "truth that comes from the gut, not books," perfectly nailing the reckless irrationality of both the Bush White House and the right-wing cant from the likes of O'Reilly, Hannity, and Limbaugh, who Colbert lampoons mercilessly. But Colbert also takes on the mainstream media enablers who help perpetuate truthiness as actual truth. At the White House Correspondents Association dinner this year (video, transcript), Colbert gave its audience, as well as President Bush, a reality check:

Let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know: fiction!

True to form, the Washington media powers-that-be proved his point by ignoring or belittling his routine while praising Bush impersonator Steve Bridges, who performed a White House-approved script. Colbert wasn't mentioned at all in the New York Times coverage of the dinner, and the Associated Press only mentioned "the featured entertainer was Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central show 'The Colbert Report' often lampoons the Washington establishment." Washington Post coverage of the dinner gave Colbert one short paragraph that made him sound like a Borscht Belt schtick comic.

If there was a flaw in Colbert's tour-de-farce it was only that he didn't go far enough. The U.S. news media today is not only a pack of sycophants, but have come to fail their most fundamental role: to always tell the truth, as best it is known. Thus we coin our own word for 2006: Colberticity - the media's willingness to go along with a lie.

Colberticity manifests in different ways, and happens for a variety of reasons. A common form is presenting opinion alongside fact as "balance" as if they have equal merit. They don't. This faux balance may be offered to appease a vocal special-interest group -- political, religious, business, or otherwise -- that might otherwise hurl charges of bias, or it may be done by a journalist to setup an entertaining (albeit phony) fight. Whatever the cause, the public comes away less informed, maybe even now questioning factual knowledge. It is astounding that in 2006, for ex, there is still the pretense of a "stem cell" dispute, maintained greatly by media attention given to people who insist human blastocysts might have "souls" -- the kind of absurd debate that a medieval prelate might have welcomed (should a medieval prelate have known about blastocysts).

Another aspect of Colberticity is ducking important stories that are unpleasant or offensive -- not to be confused with stories that are lurid and unpleasant or offensive, which are media favorites. Compare coverage of two events taking place at the same time in mid-November: the possible publication of O.J. Simpson's quasi-confessional "If I Did It" generated hundreds of stories in print media, and near frenzy on cable news channels. Contrast that shark-thrashing to the guilty plea of one James P. Barker, a U.S. soldier who admitted to his role in a gang-rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, the murder of her parents and 7-year-old sister, plus the burning of their bodies to coverup the crime. Fewer than two dozen U.S. newspapers mentioned his confession, all but a handful in terse "news in brief" summaries. Not one evening news broadcast mentioned it. The difference, of course, is that the O.J. story was guaranteed to draw a big viewership/readership; the G.I. gang-rape and murder story was likely to draw the ire of noisy super-patriots objecting to casting our troops in a bad light.


It's not just alleged atrocities and war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers that make news editors and producers squeamish -- it's coverage of any less-than-happy news about men and women in uniform. While many pundits claim it was the lack of a military draft that made the broad American public tolerate the War on Iraq, it's the lack of full media coverage of our troops and vets that makes it easy for us to ignore their very real problems.

For a country that has not one but two days to honor war veterans, you'd think we'd pay more attention to our men and women recently in the service, particularly those returning with serious injuries. Over 22 thousand Iraq and Afghanistan vets are wounded or permanently disabled, and three times that many are likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Returning Iraq vets are far more likely to have PTSD than veterans of earlier wars, with Walter Reed Medical Center predicting 18 percent could be affected -- that's over 60,000 vets. Victims of PTSD suffer more illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer and although the Veteran's Administration (VA) only lists "self-harm" as a form of violent behavior, people with PTSD are more likely to be arrested or commit domestic violence (for some scary reading, take a look at the PTSD timeline, which collects major assaults involving recent vets).

Sadly, the military is going out of its way not to help. In May, a GAO draft report found about 4 of 5 vets returning from duty who tested postive for PTSD risk were not directed to professionals who could treat them. Another GAO report found that the VA budgeted $300 million in fiscal 2005-06 for new mental health initiatives, but $100 million was not spent at all, and the GAO couldn't even tell whether the other $200 million was even used on mental health programs. In December, the Pentagon even issued new guidelines that soldiers who were in PTSD "remission" could be redeployed to Iraq.

But media coverage has been sparse. An important joint report by the The Colorado Springs Independent and CBS News in July revealed that soldiers at Fort Carson, Colorado who sought help for PTSD were denied care or stigmatized with charges of "faking" mental illness to shirk a tour of duty. A December report by National Public Radio explored the Ft. Carson problems in more depth, discovering the Army drummed out some soldiers for charges of misconduct, which denies them special mental-health benefits owed to them if they had been discharged due to PTSD. Senators Boxer, Bond, and Obama have called for an investigation.

Special praise goes to the Hartford Courant for its series in May, "Mentally Unfit, Forced To Fight" and to the Kansas City Star for local news and op/ed as well as regular items from Washington correspondent David Goldstein, which were often picked up by papers in the McClatchy chain. If an American newspaper reader saw a story about PTSD and Iraq War vets this year, it was probably a reprint of one of his reports. Boo to the New York Times, which produced only a single news item about PTSD for all of 2006.


Disabled Iraq Vets a Silent Crisis

Doctors Finding High Rates of Delayed PTSD Among Iraq Vets

Iraq War Poster Boy Becomes PTSD Poster Boy

U.S. Unprepared For High Rates of Iraq Vets Seeking Help

Coming Home


No single story or topic in 2006 demonstrates all aspects of Colberticity, but one comes close: global warming. But first, good news, everyone; 2006 was the year that a large majority of Americans finally came to grips with global warming, with 85 percent now saying it's probably happening, and 3 out of 4 wanting someone -- Bush, Congress, business, "the American public" -- to do something about it, now. The bad news is that public's understanding of this critical issue is muddled; the same TIME/ABC/Stanford poll found about 2 of 3 think there's a scientific dispute as to whether or not global warming really exists (there isn't), and only 31 percent say it is caused by human behavior (it is). Contradictions R us.

Much of the public's murky understanding can be blamed directly on the U.S. media's shallow coverage of science in general, and specifically on the types of stories reported. Global warming articles and broadcasts are often ancedotal and about harm done in far-away places -- the endangered polar bear and Amazon butterfly stories. Rarely are news items framed to explain the effect it could have on Mr. and Ms. Suburban America, or what kind of steps they personally can take to minimize the damage. As a result, that poll found Americans aren't concerned enough about global warming to accept the personal sacrifice of higher taxes on gasoline or electricity, but instead want big government to crack down on bad-guy power plants and give benefits to nice-guy renewable energy companies. Hey, it's not my problem.

Also missing from the news media were real, meaty discussions of why this is so serious, and why there's no question that the problem exists. When scientists on October 16 reported the first direct evidence proving the 2002 collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf was caused by global warming, it was a golden opportunity to explore the hard facts behind climate change. But only a single American newspaper, The Seattle Times, even ran a short wire service item about the discovery, and the Washington Post gave the story three paragraphs in a wrapup of science news of the day. The rest of the press ignored the news.

Cheers to TIME for its March cover story: "Be Worried, Be Very Worried" that delved into the issues with real scientists. Jeers go to CNN, which appeared institutionally unable to ever mention the topic without trivalizing it as politics, casting doubt on the science, or confusing the issue by giving airtime to the "other side." Often CNN pulled off a trifecta, as it did with a segment on Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth."

On CNN's May 27 noontime show, anchor Fredricka Whitfield introduced the segment: "Melting polar ice caps, greenhouse gases, the deteriorating ozone layer, are these doomsday predictions or are they fear induced hype? Science provides limited answers, the rest is politics." Reporter Brian Todd followed by asking, "Why are we hearing be about all this now? Political analysts say it has a lot to do with projections for the upcoming hurricane season, political fallout from the past one and with the national debate over gas prices and how fast we should be converting to cleaner burning fuels." Todd didn't identify his "political analysts," but used a scoffing quote from Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute along with showing part of their pro-global warming commercial ("Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life"). The worst of it was that even though the segment was supposed to be about Gore's movie, no clip from "An Inconvenient Truth" was shown or information from it discussed -- although later in the show, Whitfield asked a guest if he was bothered that Gore might be using the film to launch a political comeback.


Direct Evidence Links Global Warming to Antarctic Icemelt

Global Warming Confirmed By Top U.S. Study

Gore's Global Warming Film Generates Huge Buzz

Global Warming Debate Past The Tipping Point

NASA, NOAA, Other Science Agencies Blast Bush Meddling With Science


Will the news media shake free of Colberticity in 2007, and again (sort of) speak truth to power (a little)? Not bloody likely, but there was one breath of hope after Thanksgiving, when Today show host Matt Lauer announced that NBC would hereafter call Iraq sectarian violence a "civil war."

Like praising baby's first steps, great fuss was made. Newspapers from Chattanooga to Chicago, Boston to Baltimore ran editorials on the decision; The New York Times proffered an is-it-or-isn't it think-piece (they concluded it was); Newsweek, TIME, the LA Times, the McClatchy chain and CNN rushed to get on the record of using the C-word themselves, or to remind the public that they had already used it at some time in the past; and Keith Olbermann on sister cable channel MSNBC dubbed it a "Walter Cronkite moment," comparable to the 1968 broadcast prediction that the outcome of "the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." (Skeptics of any possible journalistic brotherhood between Matt Lauer and the venerated Cronkite, remember this: spunky Matt, not fusty Walt, landed the coveted first interview with Tom Cruise after his engagement to Katie Holmes.)

In truth, it was a safe call for NBC to make. Several polls earlier in 2006 found Americans thought Iraq was already in the middle of a civil war. For more than a year, both Iraqi and U.S. officials had been making qualified comments that the country was "close to civil war" or similar (a NEXIS search finds over 800 references in U.S. newspapers and wire services for "Iraq" and "brink of civil war"). In March, Iraq's former interim Prime Minister Allawi remarked, "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

A braver time for NBC to declare the conflict a civil war came nine months earlier, after the Al-Askari shrine, one of the holiest shrines to Iraq Shiites was bombed on February 22. In the bloody wrath that followed, 168 Sunni mosques were attacked, and at least 130 died, including ten imams.

Calling out the Iraq conflict as a "civil war" at that time would have shown both sound judgement and courage worthy of Cronkite -- who, after all, delivered his "stalemate" editorial just weeks after the start of the Tet Offensive, and while the Johnson administration was floundering, unsure what direction to take. Cronkite also prophetically said on that broadcast, "We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest cloud" -- words that apply exactly to the situation in Iraq today.

It's safe to say that it was the ascendancy of the Democrats in Congress that gave NBC the courage to make the civil-war call, and Keith Olbermann, justly praised for his blistering "special comment" editorials against the Bush administration on "Countdown," probably drew the courage to launch his series in August after months of polls showing Americans were in a solid mood to hear such a thing.

No, the true "Walter Cronkite moment" of 2006 came in April, when a comic stood at the same banquet table with the president and played a video of doyenne journalist Helen Thomas pursuing him as the mock White House press secretary, Thomas demanding answers to the biggest question that no one in the press corps has actually dared ask: "Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis... wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime... Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war?"

In the end, the only media figure not guilty of Colberticity is Stephen Colbert himself.

And that's the Word.


Iraq's Sunni-Shiite Civil War

Hopes For Iraq Coalition Government Fade After Mosque Bombing

Iraq On The Brink?

Can The U.S. Military Stop An Iraq Civil War?

Possible Iraq Civil War Now Driving U.S. Policy

The coming Iraq civil war, Part I

Saddam Capture Moves Iraq Closer To Civil War

Killing Of Ayatollah Marks Start Of Iraq Civil War


What we Don't Know About Iraq can Hurt us

Americans hardly know anything about the situation in the country that we invaded and have occupied for almost four years. We don't feel the oppressive weight of the relentless carnage because our media mentions it in passing, if at all; we know little or nothing about controversial combat incidents that surely are inciting hatred for the United States and our troops, rightly or no; and maybe worst, we have barely an inkling of doings such as our involvement with the Kurdish militia, which may reveal what our White House misadventurers are further planning for Iran and the rest of the region

Who's Winning Friends, Making Enemies in Pakistan?

The once hated, once feared, outlawed Islamist groups are winning new friends on the Pakistan border while the U.S. is making enemies with bungled bombing raids. But except for coverage of drop-in visits by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and George HW Bush, most post-quake articles in the U.S. media have parroted self-congratulatory White House and Pentagon PR -- the number of troops assigned, tons of U.S. food dropped by U.S. helicopters, and particularly, that Bush pledged $510 million for relief. Rarely mentioned, however, is that total includes $110 million for in-kind military aid and another $100 million the White House hopes to raise from the private sector. Subtract those figures and the Bush offering come in a distant third, between contributions from the Islamic Development Bank and Iran. The Saudis lead in fund-raising, with $573 million committed -- another angle not often mentioned in the U.S. press, found only in a single AP story and NY Times article.

The News you Don't Know You're Missing

The search engines for the World Wide Web -- where virtually anything entered returns a gazillion hits -- betray with the illusion that everything's always there, somewhere. It's a dangerous deception; if anything, the Web is a particularly untrustworthy source of comprehensive information. News is still ephemeral; the web and the rest of the Internet are dandy for serving up the current news cycle, but not very good in keeping around older news, and do only a B- job at showing what's really available. ALSO: the quiet, successful campaign to undermine the teaching of history in our schools

Iraq Reconstruction Funds Running Out

Civil war aside, the only thing holding Iraq's patchwork infrastructure together is U.S. reconstruction spending, which has now run out. Bush asked for another $771 million in the Y2007 budget, but that's chump change compared to the $18.4 billion the U.S. will have spent on reconstruction projects by that time. And even that massive sum is dwarfed by the $56 billion price tag projected by the World Bank and the UN at the start of the invasion -- an estimate that now appears to be far too low. Although several papers picked up a NY Times story mentioning special inspector general for Iraq Bowen's description of the miserable conditions in Iraq, his testimony about a financial shortfall worth tens of billions of dollars was mentioned by only the Christian Science Monitor -- it didn't even merit an AP or Reuters item

U.S. TV News Likes Foreign Natural Disasters, Not Humanitarian Crisis

Natural disasters are also easier to report than conflicts where access may be difficult. "I think it is easier to -- for the media to cover natural disasters and also for the general public to immediately empathize with victims of a natural disaster because it is natural, because it is external, the causes are sudden and unexpected and people are all kind of blameless and affected by this outside force," said Nicholas de Torrente, executive director of Doctors without Borders in the United States. "It is easier. The victims are, in a way, pure," he continued. "When you have a war situation, it's more complicated to understand what's going on but also you have this sense that there are lot of shades of gray rather than a clear black-and-white picture

The militarization of America's skies

Even as the issue of slim-to-nonexistent security of America's ports made headlines in late February, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff told USA TODAY that the nation's aviation system remains "the #1 target" for terrorists, despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever of terror schemes involving airplanes since 2001, and the unlikely possibility that al Qaeda would try the commercial-jet-as-missile trick again. As a result, The airspace over a large metropolitan area in the United States has been effectively taken out of civilian hands and turned over to the military, and all without ruling from a court, passage of a law, debate by Congress, or even a single public hearing

U.S. Media Downplayed Iraq Bad News

A study by researchers at George Washington University that analyzed 1,820 stories on five U.S. television networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News, as well as the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera, found that "all of the American media largely shied away from showing visuals of coalition, Iraqi military, or civilian casualties. Despite advanced technologies offering reporters the chance to transmit the reality of war in real time, reporters chose instead to present a largely bloodless conflict to viewers even when they did broadcast during firefights."

The (Fake) Good News From Iraq

For the last year or more, there's been a growth of websites and chain e-mail letters pushing "good news" images the media is supposedly suppressing. The pictures are mostly drawn from the same small pool of images; almost always there's the picture of a woman wearing an abaya holding a sign reading, "Iraqi people happy today" and the boy hanging out of a car window with a neatly-written "Thank You Very Much Mr. Bush" poster. Also usually sent are photos of a circle of soldiers huddled in prayer and a soldier in heavy combat gear cradling a small child. Yet never are those popular images identified or dated -- which is no surprise, because they're all years old, taken during the very first days of the 2003 invasion

Washington Press and Politicos Ignore Gates' Past

Gates' role in ignoring Congress's specific ban on assisting the Contras -- one of the most dangerous threats to constitutional government in American history -- should not be dismissed as merely "old news." Apparently, the media and the Democrats are so relieved about getting rid of Rumsfeld that they appear to be doing just that. In a November 9 article, the Washington Post touted Gates' extensive government experience, brilliance, bipartisanship, and pragmatic, consensus-building management style, but included only one sentence in Gates' biography about his role in the Iran-Contra affair

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Albion Monitor   December 31, 2006   (

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