Dec 1 2013

SoundBites December 2013

the supposed "UFO"

The “UFO” ABC covered instead of the US’s actual flying objects

Drones Aren’t News—But UFOs Are

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both issued reports in October that examined civilian deaths caused by US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Among their findings: Two attacks in Pakistan killed 19 civilians, and most of the drone deaths in Yemen were noncombatants. The reports made the front page of the New York Times (10/21/13) but weren’t mentioned on the nightly network newscasts. That evening, ABC, CBS and NBC all covered the new Apple product announcements. NBC had a long report about family farm tourist destinations, as well as a report about construction at the US Capitol. CBS also covered the Capitol project, along with a Warren Buffett interview. ABC led with the news that gas prices are a little lower, a possible UFO sighting in Iceland, popular baby names and a long report on a school that helps prepare dogs for air travel—all considered more newsworthy than two major investigations of the US’s secretive bombing campaigns.

Time’s Redacted Iran Timeline

Time magazine (10/7/13) presented a curiously selective timeline of US/Iran relations headlined “A History of Hostility—and Chances Missed.” It started with the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the embassy hostages—leaving out the US-orchestrated coup of 1953 that installed the Shah. It included a time when Bill Clinton almost but didn’t quite meet the Iranian president in New York—but left out the US Navy shooting down an Iranian airliner in 1988, killing almost 300 passengers. Barack Obama’s 2009 Persian New Year’s video greeting to Iran’s Supreme Leader was there—but not the intelligence assistance the US provided for Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks during the Iran/Iraq War.

Apparently aware of the timeline’s inadequacy, Time’s Michael Crowley covered the missing ground in a post for the magazine’s Swampland blog (11/15/13)—but Time’s print subscribers got only the sanitized version of history.

‘You Can’t Trust Persians,’ Says Deep Throat

Washington Post rules forbid anonymous attacks: “Sources who want to take a shot at someone in our columns should do so in their own names.” This apparently doesn’t apply to slurs of Iranians, though, judging by a Post story (10/1/13) that reported that “Israeli leaders fear that the international community, and the United States in particular, is in danger of being duped by the Iranians”:

“The Persians have been using these tactics for thousands of years, before America came to be,” said a senior Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Netanyahu has asked his government to remain silent until he addresses the UN General Assembly meeting this week in New York.

Anonymity can also be used at the Post to protect sources’ use of embarrassing cliches: “One official compared the Americans to tourists wandering into a Middle East bazaar.”

We Are the World

Ray Suarez of the PBS NewsHour (10/16/13) described the controversy over Iran’s nuclear power program:

From the very beginning of this confrontation, Iran has insisted it is not seeking the means to make a nuclear weapon, that it is enriching radioactive materials in order to have electric power plants and medical uses. The rest of the world has been saying, “If you need those things, we will get them for you and don’t want you to enrich.”

If by “the world,” one means, well, most of the world, this is inaccurate. The Non-Aligned Movement—an organization representing 120 countries and more than half the world’s population—has consistently backed Iran’s right to enrich uranium for a civilian nuclear program (, 8/31/12).

Selective Memories of Defaults

“Many people in countries like Greece, Argentina, Mexico and Russia still have searing memories of defaults and their lasting effects, including lost power,” the New York Times’ Damien Cave wrote in an analysis piece (10/16/13) on international reactions to the possibility of a US default. It’s true that Mexico’s default on its debts in 1982 was followed by years of hard times, known as the “lost decade.” But after Argentina defaulted in December 2001, GDP soared, growing by more than 8 percent per year from 2003–07. (See Extra!, 7/12.) Likewise, Russia’s August 1998 suspension of debt payments was followed by a decade of solid growth.
As for Greece, it never really defaulted; it reached a voluntary agreement with creditors in 2012 to restructure some of its debt, but not enough to significantly improve its debt-to-GDP ratio (Wall Street Journal, 11/22/13). After this non-default, the Greek economy continued to head downward at an alarming rate.

Three CEOs on OWS

Fareed Zakaria dedicated a portion of his October 13 CNN show to a discussion of income inequality and the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. But he didn’t bring any Occupy activists or advocates for the poor to the discussion; instead, he talked with three CEOs: Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers and Digicel’s Denis O’Brien. Blankfein unsurprisingly came out against the idea of “income redistribution”; as someone who made $21 million last year (Guardian, 12/14/13), he thinks the current distribution is just fine.

Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News.

Brian Williams with some exciting news about his boss’s business.

NBC = News Benefits Corporation

“Our parent company Comcast made an announcement today that made news in the tech and TV world,” reported NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams (10/9/13). “It has to do with Twitter.” He went on to read what amounted to a little ad for Comcast’s new Twitter-related services: “Change the channel on your TV at home via Twitter!”
TV networks using news shows to boost corporate parents’ products is a widespread malady, but NBC has always been a pioneer in blurring the line between news, entertainment and promotion. As with NBC News’ primetime special Why We Heart Vampires (11/1/13), hosted by MSNBC news anchor Tamron Hall, and billed as “a collection of fun, comedic interviews accompanied by entertaining clips from our favorite vampire moments.” Are you surprised to hear that NBC has a new Dracula miniseries to promote?

Extra! December 2013