Starsuckers is a feature documentary about the celebrity obsessed media, that uncovers the real reasons behind our addiction to fame and blows the lid on the corporations and individuals who profit from it. Made completely independently over 2 years in secret, the film journeys through the dark underbelly of the modern media. Using a combination of never before seen footage, undercover reporting, stunts and animation, the film reveals the toxic effect the media is having on us all and especially our children. Chris Atkins presents Starsuckers as a series of five lessons on fame in the modern world: how children are persuaded that fame is something they want, how television and the media reinforces the importance of celebrity and the efforts to attain it, how the mind and body reinforces our need to follow the activities of well-known people and strive to join their number, how the press became addicted to celebrity coverage, and how the art of promoting fame has led to celebrities and their handlers controlling the press instead of the press having say. Along the way, Atkins demonstrates how celebrity news with no basis in fact gets into print, why newspapers will run press releases almost verbatim, how parents will eagerly sign away the image rights to their kids, how certain mass scale charity events end up helping the performers far more than the causes they designed to support, and how publicists keep accurate but unflattering stories out of the news.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pro-Copyright Propaganda Enters US Classrooms

Written by Ernesto on May 22, 2009

Pro-copyright lobbyists and anti-piracy outfits have a clear idea of what is needed to manipulate the minds of the younger generations. The MPAA most famously handed out a “merit patch in respecting copyright” to LA Boy Scouts, and now the Copyright Alliance has entered US classrooms in an attempt to educate today’s youth about the benefits of copyright.

The Copyright Alliance describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to promoting the value of copyright as a means to make money. The more restrictions, the more money can be made is their credo, and they go to extremes to prove their point.

One of the key research documents listed on their website is a highly critical review of Professor Lawrence Lessig’s book “Free Culture“. According to the review, Lessig is a “hypocritical demagogue” whose book imposes a “quasi-socialist utopianism” while “demonizing” copyright.

Of course, everybody is entitled to their own opinion but with regard to what’s being taught to youngsters in schools, one should at least try to get the facts right. Unfortunately, the Copyright Alliance screws up badly in this respect.

For example, in one of their their featured reports it is claimed that The Pirate Bay is selling pirated movies and music to its users. “Up until 2006, one of the largest global sellers of pirated films and music files was sold by a company based in Sweden – Pirate Bay,” it reads. Despite their blatant lies in their research reports, they have still managed to convince several schools to use their course materials.

“Think First, Copy Later,” is the working title of the pro-copyright curriculum set to be taught in several schools throughout the US. TorrentFreak contacted Aaron Engley, administrator at West Potomac Academy - one of the schools that plans to use the Copyright Alliance’s material.

Engley told TorrentFreak in a comment, “Our school has a communication and arts focus, we engaged in this relationship [with the Copyright Alliance] to assist our students protect their own intellectual property. We were teaching our students how to produce, but not educating them on how to protect what they produce.”

Of course, the Copyright Alliance itself fails to mention that thousands of artists profit from sharing their work for free, and that the lion’s share of copyright profits go to large corporations. But even if we put that aside, kids should be taught to think critically so they can make up their own minds instead of being brainwashed with pro (or anti) copyright propaganda.

Saved in: Copyright Issues, Politics and Ideology

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Proof That Social Media Efforts Pay Off

Posted on: May 21st, 2009

Arianna Huffington launched the Huffington Post as a news content and blog site in 2005. The site quickly became a strong advocator of community engagement and involvement thus turning it into a social news site. James Smith, the Chief Revenue Officer of HuffPost, credits the success of the site to that social evolution, saying:

“It’s [Huffington Post] almost a social media site with news as the topic of conversation.”

The site logs over one million comments each month.

In the above interview, James encourages other content publishers to push for active communities as well. He explains how implementing polls, thumbnails, and popular statistics can all add extensive social value to content.

Publishers that use social media know that it requires close monitoring. Most of the time publishers closely monitor their social efforts in order to manage the negative response. But did you ever think about how you could also benefit from closely monitoring the positive response? James says publishers have the opportunity to take advantage of the positive surges by further promoting them.

(1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Marketers Tapping into Social Networks

Learning, and Profiting, from Online Friendships

Companies are working fast to figure out how to make money from the wealth of data they're beginning to have about our online friendships
By Stephen Baker

Data about behavior among online friends can be deceptive, says Danah Boyd Shawn G. Henry
A question: If you have 347 followers on the Twitter microblogging service, what are the chances that they'll click on the same online ad you clicked on last night? Advertisers are dying to know. Or, say you and a colleague exchange e-mails on a Saturday night. Can managers assume that you have a tight working relationship? Researchers at IBM and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are investigating.
Friendships aren't what they used to be. We now have tools, from e-mail to social networks, to keep in touch with people who a decade ago would have drifted into distant memories. Practically every hand we shake and every business card we exchange can lead to an invitation, sometimes within minutes, for a "friendship" on LinkedIn or Facebook. And unless we sever them, these ties could linger for the rest of our lives.

What do these relationships say about us and the people in our networks? Companies armed with rich new data and powerful computers are beginning to explore these questions. They're finding that digital friendships speak volumes about us as consumers and workers, and decoding the data can lead to profitable insights. Calculating the value of these relationships has become a defining challenge for businesses and individuals.

Marketers are leading the way. They're finding that if our friends buy something, there's a better-than-average chance we'll buy it, too. It's a simple insight but one that could lead to targeted messaging in an age of growing media clutter.

The second arena for study is inside companies. Businesses such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM (IBM) are researching employees' relationships with an eye to quickening the flow of knowledge and the generation of ideas within their ranks. One team at IBM Research, studying anonymous data of Big Blue's consultants, concluded that employees who forged tighter e-mail connections with their boss brought in on average $588 more in monthly revenue. This is early-stage research, but the goal is to distill patterns of successful communication and replicate valuable links throughout the company.

For most of us, the business value of networked friends is tied to a third area, personal opportunity. In addition to companionship, friends online represent a turbocharged Rolodex for entrepreneurs and job seekers inside and outside companies. These collections of contacts expand social horizons, keeping us in touch with more people who can provide ideas, answers, business leads, and even legal advice. Those who master these connections stand to win a big edge: the connections and brainpower of a large team.

An immense new laboratory of human relations is taking shape. Millions of us are playing, working, flirting, and socializing online—and producing oceans of data. Duncan J. Watts, a Columbia University sociologist now on leave and heading a research unit at Yahoo!, marvels at the change. "When I started network research 12 years ago, we had virtually no data," he says. Now he and his team can study the network behavior of 295 million e-mailers and legions of the 200 million Facebook users. For social scientists, Watts says, this flood of data could be as transformative as Galileo's telescope was for the physical sciences: "It gives us a new understanding of our world and ourselves."

But managing hundreds or even thousands of relationships is a thorny challenge. Which friends go where? A couple of months ago, Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in New York, decided to reduce the 360 people on his Facebook crowd into a circle of intimates. He kept the 56 he could see inviting to a wedding or bar mitzvah. The rest? "I nuked them," he says.

Others find value in a sizable following. Earlier this year, Jason Calacanis, founder of the search engine Mahalo, offered to pay Twitter $250,000 to put his account on a recommended list for the service's users. He says he was "half joking" but believes the investment would have paid off.

He figures the recommendation would have steered 5 million to 15 million new followers his way within two years and that many would have made their way to his company's Web site. "If 10% click on a link [to Mahalo] once a month," he writes in an e-mail, "you have about 1 million visits a year. ... I'd pay 5 cents for a follower." Lots of businesses, he says, could benefit from such followings. An airline such as JetBlue could offer discounts to the first 1,000 people who respond and "never [have] another empty seat."

While Calacanis tries to build crowds, advertisers are more interested in understanding individuals. Decoding friendship, many believe, could be the key to getting consumers' attention. Historically, this wasn't so hard. Information was in short supply, and by comparison, time was cheap. Not long ago millions waited through entire newscasts just to learn who won a game or what tomorrow's weather would be. This was ideal for advertisers: They had a captive audience.

Now we're swimming in information. We can call up nearly every bit of news, music, and entertainment we want on demand. In fact, there's so much of it that we need filters to block the boring or irrelevant stuff and help us find the bits we need or desire. This has created what many call the "Attention Economy." Says Bernardo A. Huberman, director of the Information Dynamics Laboratory at Hewlett-Packard: "The value of most information has collapsed to zero. The only scarce resource is attention." So how do we figure out where to direct it?

The easiest way is to get tips from friends. They're our trusted sources. At least a few of them know us better than any algorithm ever could. Little surprise, then, that the companies most eager to command our attention are studying which friends we listen to. Online friendship is a hot focus for Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. They joust to hire leading sociologists, anthropologists, and microeconomists from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley. Microsoft just established a research division focused on social sciences in Cambridge, Mass.

Statistically, friends tend to behave alike. A couple of years ago researchers at Yahoo found that if someone clicked on an online ad, the people on his or her instant chat buddy list, when served the same ad, were three to four times more likely than average to click on it. It makes sense. Friends share interests.

But it raised lots of questions. Which types of friends have the most meaningful correlations with each other? People have always confided in a small circle of intimates, often only two or three. They've also had wider circles of experts for specific advice, whether on cars or cooking. Then there's a broader circle of acquaintances whose opinions count far less but who can still generate buzz about a new restaurant or senatorial candidate. By studying patterns of interactions on networks—often scrutinizing us only as anonymous bits of data—researchers are working to predict which friends we trust and which we pay attention to in each area of our lives. The data can be hard to interpret, says danah boyd, a Berkeley PhD who just signed on at Microsoft Research. (She changed her name to lower case). "You may e-mail your mother less frequently than a colleague, but it's not that she's trusted less."

In an office above Palo Alto's University Avenue, a lean 32-year-old PhD from MIT's Media Lab pores over the data connecting millions of dots. Cameron A. Marlow, a research scientist at Facebook, has perhaps the greatest lab in history for studying friendship. He can study social media communications including wall posts, shared photos, pokes, and friend requests among 200 million people.

For all its popularity, Facebook has yet to prove itself as an advertising platform. Visitors, it seems, focus on their friends and pay scant attention to ads. Few click on them, and advertisers pay pennies for page views. Consequently, Facebook, with its estimated revenue of $300 million this year, brings in scarcely a dime a month per member.

The hope is that if Marlow and his team manage to track the paths of influence among its communities, the company might be able to offer more effective and lucrative advertisements and promotions.

An early step is to separate each user's friends into clusters. Marlow pulls out a chart illustrating the social network of one of his colleagues, Alex Smith. It shows different groups of dots and their connecting links. One big and busy group represents fellow workers at Facebook. Others are high school friends, family, in-laws, frat brothers. Understanding these types of relationships could provide valuable context.

Marlow's team recently carried out a study to determine how close we are to our friends online. They looked at how often people clicked on their friends' news or photos, how often they communicated, and if the communications traveled in both directions. Studying this data, they determined that an average Facebook user with 500 friends actively follows the news on only 40 of them, communicates with 20, and keeps in close touch with about 10. Those with smaller networks follow even fewer. What can this teach advertisers? People don't pay much attention to most of their online friends. By focusing campaigns on people who interact with each other, they'll likely get better results.

It's an inexact science, to be sure. But that's not stopping a host of startups from hitching friendship analysis to advertising and media campaigns. A New York company, 33Across, has partnerships with social networks, instant chat providers, and makers of online applications known as widgets. Each of these partners tags users with bits of tracking code known as cookies. These let 33Across stitch together friendship profiles of tens of millions of people, says CEO Eric Wheeler. The people remain nameless numbers, but the company knows which ones are connected to which, how strong the connection is, and how many others are in their circles. Working with packaged goods companies, 33Across has focused on thousands of people who have bought a product online, sprinkling ads for the same item along the online pathways of millions of their friends.

In an industry where the majority of ads go unclicked, even a small boost can make a big difference. One San Francisco advertising company, Rapleaf, carried out a friend-based campaign for a credit-card company that wanted to sell bank products to existing customers. Tailoring offers based on friends' responses helped lift the average click rate from 0.9% to 2.7%. Although 97.3% of the people surfed past the ads, the click rate still tripled.

Rapleaf, which has harvested data from blogs, online forums, and social networks, says it follows the network behavior of 480 million people. It furnishes friendship data to help customers fine-tune their promotions. Its studies indicate borrowers are a better bet if their friends have higher credit ratings. This might mean a home buyer with a middling credit risk score of 550 should be treated as closer to 600 if most of his or her friends are in that range, says Rapleaf CEO Auren Hoffman.

Such intelligence could prove useful for a financial company. While no one would automatically green-light borrowers based on their friends, the friendship data could lead them to assign a human to see if the mathematical model is missing something. "They pay more than $100 in marketing to [attract] customers," Hoffman says. "If they reject you, they lose it."

Friendship data promise insights into not only the marketplace but also the corporation. Researchers can trace the hidden networks, identifying both the people who transmit valuable information and those who appear to block it—and how workers bypass them. By studying these patterns, managers can promote effective networkers and try to bring less communicative colleagues—outliers—into the flow.

To build up communication within the company, IBM Research scours its networks for employees with similar interests and expertise—and suggests them as friends. One key laboratory for IBM is its internal social network called Beehive, in which nearly 60,000 employees discuss patents, critique software code, and even post photos of pets.

Researcher Werner Geyer and his team sift through Beehive for correlations. Working with a control group of 3,000 employees, Geyer's team analyzed the words employees used, friends they had in common, blogs they left comments on, and many other variables. Then they suggested possible friends. Their most successful group added an average of 3.68 new friends to their networks, more than three times the average of the control group. The idea: Each new friend plugs an IBM worker into another sphere of knowledge and human contacts. "These could be valuable mentor connections," says Geyer.

For many, the question is not how to interpret friendship data but how to manage these networks and fit them into careers. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn's founder, has built his entire company on extending webs of relations. The idea is that while each of us likely will switch jobs seven or eight times in our careers, we continue to build a network of friends that can sustain us.

LinkedIn's Hoffman sees himself as a test case for the value of casual friends. He says he has 1,864 contacts on LinkedIn. While he has met almost all of them personally, he admits that it sometimes takes a moment or two to recall some of them. "I think of them as light alliances," he says. But they have a value. According to studies, the contacts outside of our close friendships are more likely to lead us to new opportunities. Their networks have less overlap and extend into different areas.

Hoffman looks at friendship as a marketplace in which we trade favors. He says he can create an opportunity for someone by taking 30 seconds and whipping off an introduction to a friend. It's a small investment of time with a potentially big payoff. Both of his contacts benefit, and they have Hoffman to thank. His reputation inches up. But consider the risks. If Hoffman has misread one of his weak ties, the person he recommends might end up being a loafer, or worse. In that case, Hoffman's reputation takes a hit.

All of networked humanity mingles in this vast marketplace, trading information, creating alliances, doing favors. We may not think of our connections in such mercantile terms. But for business and individuals alike, the value in online friendship is poised to grow.

Return to the Future of Tech Table of Contents

Baker is a senior writer for BusinessWeek in New York.

Monday, May 18, 2009

WaPost: Media Wink at Torture

No wonder mainstream media are goin down;...

Sun May 17, 2009 9:05 pm (PDT)

First Published 2009-05-13

Media Wink at Torture

Even as the power balance has shifted - and many readers have dumped their subscriptions - the Washington Post has chosen to remain a neocon bastion, turning its op-ed page into something of a clearinghouse for the excuses from all the ex-President´s men, says Robert Parry.

These days, the Washington Post has the look of one of those Southern newspapers in the 1960s standing firm for segregation as the wave of civil rights swept across the region. Except for the Post, the blind commitment is to neoconservatism.
The Post editors probably believe they are upholding some twisted journalistic principle, defying the views of most readers in a city that has a large African-American population, voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, and shows little sympathy for the neocons who rode roughshod over so many when George W. Bush was in power.
Even as the power balance has shifted - and many readers have dumped their subscriptions - the Post has chosen to remain a neocon bastion, turning its op-ed page into something of a clearinghouse for the excuses from all the ex-President´s men.
It also remains a comfortable home for pundits who pushed the Iraq War and seem to get a kick out of Muslims getting stripped naked and waterboarded.
The latest Post columnist to weigh in sympathetically on torturing Muslims labeled "unlawful enemy combatants" by the Bush administration is Richard Cohen in a classically dimwitted column entitled "What If Cheney´s Right?"
Cohen argues that former Vice President Dick Cheney had a point when he asserted that "enhanced interrogation techniques," including the near-drowning experience of waterboarding, elicited important intelligence information from the suspects and thus saved American lives.
Cohen, who apparently considers himself quite clever and the issue of torture rather funny, starts the column off with the quip, "Blogger Alert: I have written a column in defense of Dick Cheney." He later adds about the torture debate, "this is not merely some political catfight conducted by bloggers."
While agreeing that torture is morally wrong, Cohen writes that "where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether `enhanced interrogation techniques´ actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it."
Cohen apparently views himself as much more of a free-thinker than "those on the political left." He notes that Cheney - through his declaration that critical intelligence was extracted by these means - "poses a hard, hard question: Is it more immoral to torture than it is to fail to prevent the deaths of thousands?"
Bogus Intelligence
However, Cohen regrets that Cheney´s credibility is lacking due to his pre-Iraq War claims, such as when Cheney "insisted that `the evidence is overwhelming´ that al-Qaeda had been in high-level contact with Saddam Hussein´s regime when the `evidence´ was virtually non-existent."
If you were expecting that the next paragraph would observe that Cheney´s "evidence" for Hussein´s contact with al-Qaeda was based on a coerced confession from one of the CIA´s "high-value detainees," Ibu al-Sheikh al-Libi, you would be disappointed.
Though al-Libi´s case is precisely on point - and he is in the news since he reportedly just died (a purported suicide) at a Libyan prison - Cohen doesn´t mention al-Libi, who concocted those stories about Hussein assisting al-Qaeda to escape torture.
Al-Libi´s false claims had horrendous consequences, including the loss of much more life than occurred on 9/11.
A June 2002 CIA report cited claims by al-Libi that Iraq had "provided" unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Libi´s information also was inserted into a November 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
Al-Libi´s claim found its way into Vice President Cheney´s public presentations and into then-Secretary of State Colin Powell´s infamous speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003.
But the Bush administration´s confidence about al-Libi´s information went against the suspicions voiced by the Defense Intelligence Agency. "He lacks specific details" about the supposed training, the DIA observed. "It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers."
The DIA´s doubts proved prescient. In January 2004 - nearly a year after the United States invaded Iraq - al-Libi recanted his statements and claimed that he had lied because of both actual and anticipated abuse, including threats that he would be sent to an intelligence service where he expected to be tortured.
Al-Libi said he fabricated "all information regarding al-Qa´ida´s sending representatives to Iraq to try to obtain WMD assistance," according to a Feb. 4, 2004, CIA operational cable. "Once al-Libi started fabricating information, [he claimed] his treatment improved and he experienced no further physical pressures from the Americans."
Despite his cooperation, al-Libi said he was transferred to another country that subjected him to beatings and confinement in a "small box" for about 17 hours. He said he then made up another story about three al-Qaeda operatives going to Iraq "to learn about nuclear weapons." Afterwards, he said his treatment improved. [For details, see our book, Neck Deep.]
Lost Lives
Al-Libi´s false confessions contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 4,200 American soldiers who have died in Iraq. Though such a point would appear crucial in evaluating the moral conundrum that the Post´s Cohen posed - regarding torture and saving lives - Cohen leaves it out and no Post editor put it in.
Besides the unreliability of tortured confessions, abusive treatment of detainees has stirred anti-Americanism and contributed to the death toll of American troops in Iraq, according to US military officers.
Former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora told the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008, "there are serving US flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq - as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat - are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo."
Having ignored these crucial points - reliability of intelligence and recruiting of new terrorists - Cohen goes on to praise Cheney´s eagerness to have a full and open debate on torture. "He is right about that," Cohen writes of Cheney.
Amazingly, however, Cohen defends Cheney´s position by citing the lack of a robust debate prior to the Iraq War.
"The run-up to the disastrous Iraq war was notable for its smothering lack of debate," Cohen writes. "That served us poorly then and it would serve us poorly now if people who know something about the utility, not to mention the morality, of enhanced interrogation techniques keep their mouths shut."
Perhaps Cohen thinks he is cleverly hoisting Iraq War critics on their own petard, but he is ignoring the role that Cheney, the Post and indeed his own columns played in silencing that dissent.
In the months before Bush´s invasion of Iraq, the Post editorial and op-ed pages were packed with a neocon consensus about the justifications for war and only ridicule for those who raised doubts.
For instance, in September 2002, when former Vice President Al Gore objected to the rush to war, Post columnists distorted and mocked what Gore had said.
Michael Kelly called Gore´s speech "dishonest, cheap, low" before labeling it "wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible." Charles Krauthammer added that the speech was "a series of cheap shots strung together without logic or coherence." There was no countervailing opinion published.
After Powell´s UN speech, the Post judged the presentation "irrefutable," adding: "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." That judgment was reinforced by a phalanx of Post columnists, including Richard Cohen, all hailing Powell´s speech.
Cohen laughed at anyone who still doubted that Saddam Hussein possessed hidden WMD stockpiles.
"The evidence he [Powell] presented to the United Nations - some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail - had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn´t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them," Cohen wrote. "Only a fool - or possibly a Frenchman - could conclude otherwise."
After the US invasion of Iraq and the failure to discover the imaginary WMD stockpiles, Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt made a rare and grudging apology. Hiatt acknowledged that the Post should have been more skeptical.
"If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction," Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. "If that´s not true, it would have been better not to say it." [CJR, March/April 2004]
Nevertheless, the Post´s editorial pages continued to attack American citizens who dared challenge Bush´s case for war, such as the Post´s assaults on former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson whose criticism led the Bush administration to expose Wilson´s wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA officer. [See´s "WPost Is a Neocon Propaganda Sheet."]
Cohen´s Obtuse Record
On the Plame case, Cohen also took up the neocon banner, defending Cheney´s former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with Plame´s outing. Cohen joined an Inside-the-Beltway pundit riot against Libby´s 30-month jail sentence and helped build up support for Bush´s decision to commute Libby´s sentence, sparing him jail time.
Cohen called the Libby case "a mountain out of a molehill" and poked fun at Americans who thought the invasion of Iraq might have been a bad idea.
"They thought - if `thought´ can be used in this context - that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to [columnist] Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show . . . who knows? Something," Cohen wrote.
That Cohen was wrong about WMD and the case for war in Iraq should not have come as a surprise. His cluelessness is almost legendary. On nearly every major development of the past couple of decades, Cohen has missed the point or gotten it dead wrong.
For example, during the Florida recount battle in 2000, Cohen cared less about whom the voters wanted in the White House than the Washington insiders' certainty that George W. Bush would be a uniter, not a divider.
"The nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse," Cohen wrote. "That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush." [For more, see´s "Is WP´s Cohen the Dumbest Columnist?"]
Perhaps even more troubling than the Post's stupidity, however, is the racism that seems to underlie the smirking attitude within the Post´s editorial offices about the humiliation, torture and slaughter of Arabs and other Muslims.
Do Richard Cohen and his editors think it´s funny that Cheney and Bush saw nothing wrong with subjecting Muslim detainees to forced nudity (often in front of women), to days on end of sleep deprivation, to confinement in painful stress positions and to waterboarding?
If not, why the snotty tone of Cohen's column? "Blogger Alert"; "political catfight conducted by bloggers"; "soupçon of doubt"?
It is hard to imagine if the victims of the torture and abuse were of any other racial, religious or ethnic group that such a lighthearted tone would be acceptable. But anti-Muslim racism appears to be part of the Post´s editorial mindset, reflected in a similar lack of outrage over civilian deaths during Israel´s 2006 war in Lebanon and the 2008-09 assault on Gaza.
As the Post faces today´s economic crisis amid talk that it may not survive as a going-concern, the newspaper may look for sympathy from the community that it purports to serve. But the Post´s endless excuses for the crimes of the Bush administration have left many readers with an ambivalent sense of whether the Post deserves to survive.
Even some journalists privately feel such disgust at the Post´s neocon positioning that they tell me that if they woke up tomorrow and the Post had ceased to exist, they wouldn´t shed a tear.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush , can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to

Monday, May 11, 2009

Journalist Freed

Petition Signers,

I'm writing with joy and relief to let you know that petition signatures helped to make a difference: American journalist Roxana Saberi is free!

Individuals around the world, including the almost 28,000 activists who signed our petition, have pressured the Iranian government to free Roxana Saberi. Ms. Saberi appeared in court to have her appeal heard yesterday and her charges were reduced. She walked out of prison in Iran today and was reunited with her parents.

You can read more about Ms. Saberi's appeal and release on the BBC. You can also visit to read more about the global campaign to support Ms. Saberi and the Committee to Protect Journalists to learn about the journalists who remain imprisoned in Iran and around the world.

Thank you so much to all who signed the Free Roxana Saberi petition - we helped to make a difference.

Rebecca Young,
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Monday, May 4, 2009

Freedom of the press declines in every region in 2008

By Joe Byrne

Published: May 3, 2009
Updated 8 hours ago

Freedom House' annual 'freedom of the press report' analyzed the state of the news media in 195 countries; advocates found that the freedom of the press declined in every region for the first time since the annual report was published.

The report, which can be found at the Freedom House website, recorded the seventh straight year in overall declines in freedom of the press worldwide.

The report categorized countries in one of three groupings: free, partly free, and not free. 36% of countries were 'free' for the media, 31% were 'partly free,' and 33% were 'not free,' according to Freedom House. Myanmar, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea and Turkmenistan were the countries with the worst rating for freedom of the press.

Other important changes to media freedom in the past year include the demotion of Israel to 'partly free' status, due to travel restrictions on reporters, attempts to influence media coverage, and "greater self-censorship and biased reporting, particularly during the outbreak of open war in late December." Israel was once the only state in the Middle East and North Africa to have 'free' status; now there is none.

News media based in Hong Kong and countries within the former Soviet Union also suffered from authoritarian governmental control in the past year.