Genetically engineered Xa21 rice was big news in the New York Times. In a 1995 article headlined “Genetic Engineering Creates Rice Resistant to Destructive Blight” (12/15/95), journalist Sandra Blakeslee wrote it was “the first time that a disease-resistance gene has been put into rice.” Blakeslee quoted Gary Toenniessen, deputy director of agricultural sciences at the Rockefeller Institute in New York, saying it heralded “a new era in plant genetics and resistance breeding.” But 18 years after that article was written, the failure of these predictions is clear: No commercial GMO rice of any kind exists, nor has Xa21 or any […]
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Washington Post’s prestige based on proximity to power
If the United States derived its might primarily from its economic power, the Washington Post would enjoy the same degree of international influence as, say, the Xinhua newspaper of Beijing. The two countries have roughly comparable outputs, with China’s GDP being about 80 percent the size of the US economy when adjusted for purchasing power, according to the IMF. But a large part of what makes the United States a unique superpower is its role as the world’s military hegemon, reflected in part by its roughly 1,000 overseas bases. (China has none.) It is this added power emanating from the […]
Owners and advertisers vs. journalism
As new models for funding journalism are explored, some people are raising concerns about how foundations, for example, might unduly influence the content of the news they underwrite (CJR.org, 5/22/12). Such questions are valid, but they shouldn’t be taken as suggestions that such arrangements threaten novel encroachments on a now-pristine field. It shows how inured we’ve become to news brought to us by private corporations, who in fact care very much about the content of the news they sponsor or, as outlet owners, produce—that it not be too downbeat, or provide a platform for anyone asking hard questions about corporate […]
In L.A. Times, suspects with a badge get a pass
In January 2013, the Los Angeles Times (1/4/13) published an explosive story about alleged criminality in the L.A. Police Department. Two veteran officers, Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols, were under investigation for using the threat of jail to force at least four different women they had previously arrested to have sex with them. Such crimes are legally known as “rape.” But the Times avoided using that term, inexplicably employing every other word and phrase imaginable—including “sex crimes,” “sexual favors” and “forced sex”—to describe what the officers were accused of. Worse still, the Times unquestioningly regurgitated police excuses for why it […]
When will PBS air exposé on deadly Pacific bomb tests?
The documentary Nuclear Savage details the United States' use of Marshall Islanders as guinea pigs in a Cold War-era study of the effects of radiation on human subjects. The film portrays the Pacific Islands as a "paradise lost," brought about by the nearly 70 U.S. nuclear weapons testing detonations that began there in 1946. Much of the information contained in the film is already a matter of public knowledge (albeit on the fringes of our collective consciousness). What makes Nuclear Savage noteworthy is its in-depth analysis of formerly confidential government documents—documents providing evidence that the US actually intended to use […]
Why ask why, say their enablers in financial press
The man in charge of a bank that engaged in massive mortgage fraud chatted with a corporate media host (CNBC Squawk on the Street, 7/12/13) about the fact that virtually none of those who enriched themselves while eviscerating the life savings of many blameless people, derailing the US economy along the way, have faced criminal prosecution: Jim Cramer: Shouldn't they have indicted somebody who actually did bad things in banking? JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon: I think if someone did something wrong, they should go to jail. Cramer: Well, who did? Who went to jail? Dimon: One of the great […]
TV news seldom connects extreme weather and global warming
Television news thrives on drama. Stories that can blend danger and dramatic footage are much more likely to be considered “newsworthy.” So it’s no surprise that extreme weather plays a major role in the network evening news broadcasts. “As we come on the air this Friday night, millions of people are trying to drive home on sheets of ice,” ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer (2/22/13) announced at the beginning of one broadcast. But for the TV networks, weather events are most often discussed in isolation: A new FAIR study shows that even when covering weather events that scientists suggest […]