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Friday, December 14, 2018


Headlines for Dec. 14, 2018

Worst, Most Misleading & Funniest Headlines (WMMFH) for Dec. 7, 2018

Click here to listen to this week's segment on Loud & Clear Radio. 
Headlines with an * are the ones we managed to fit in in our allotted 11 minutes.

Worst, Most Misleading & Funniest Headlines (WMMFH) for Dec. 14, 2018

George Bush Was George Bailey: It Was a Wonderful Life
George Bailey changed the lives of all the people around him for the good. Without him, Bedford Falls would have become the nightmarish Potterville. George Bush? Not so much. His legacy included a gruesome death for the Iraqis who died on the Highway of Death, as well as for the AIDS patients who died due to Bush's indifference. And the Panamanians who houses were leveled by Bush's bombs.

*William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Cited by bin Laden, Dies at 85
An attempt to smear him by associating him with bin Laden. FAIR had the best response with an article entitled “William Blum, US Policy Critic Derided by NYT, Dies at 85” (https://fair.org/home/william-blum-us-policy-critic-derided-by-nyt-dies-at-85/ )
And what is the substance of the NYT headline? Bin Laden said Blum’s Rogue State would be “useful for you to read.” And Blum's problem, per the NYT, is that he "did not disavow the recommendation or express regret that bin Laden, the orchestrator of those attacks, shared his disdain for" US foreign policy.
Also an interesting reminder from FAIR - it was Blum who discovered the first interview given by Zbigniew Brzinski, in French to a French newspaper, in which he talked about the “Afghan trap” by which the US funded bin Laden and other Islamists in order to lure Russian troops into Afghanistan.
NYT: “He also reiterated his unpopular, but not unique, position that American intervention abroad had been breeding enemies and inviting terrorism.” Unpopular with whom? The US ruling class?
Here are two paragraphs from the "Update" to the 2nd edition of Rogue State, written on Sept. 19, 2001, just days after the 9/11 attacks:

It's precise Blum's rejection of the "they hate us for our freedoms" narrative, and his insistence on placing the ultimate blame on U.S. foreign policy, that earned him the enmity of the American ruling class (and possibly one reason why bin Laden recommended people should read his book).
Headline from 25 years ago this week (Dec. 6, 1993): Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace
Yes, you would be correct in remembering that that "anti-Soviet warrior" was none other than Osama bin Laden. Anti-Soviet (or now anti-Russian) attitudes never go out of style in the U.S. ruling class.

The “spy” headlines, the two top headlines on Google News right now:
What you need to know about accused Russian spy Maria Butina’s plea deal
Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty to engaging in conspiracy against US
Both refer to her as an "accused" or "alleged" "Russian spy", which is simply false (if we don't include media allegations, that is). And CNN's claim she was engaged in a "conspiracy against the US" is inflammatory (& nonsense). She was trying to improve Russian-US relations, which all recent US Presidents have seen as a good thing!

But then there are the “Russia” headlines:
Guilty Plea Expected in Case alleging Russia attempting to influence NRA
Mercury News (from the WaPo) Dec. 11
Russian Maria Butina pleads guilty in case to forge Kremlin bond with U.S. conservatives
Maria Butina set to plead guilty to conspiring to act as agent of Kremlin, documents show
Maria Butina Pleads Guilty to Role in a Russian Effort to Influence Conservatives
All of these stories conflate “a Russian” with “Russia” or “the Kremlin”.  Butina’s mentor Torshin, routinely described ominously as a “Russian government official”, was the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank and a fellow gun “enthusiast” like Butina, something which is at odds with the position of the Kremlin. Torshin is routinely describe as a “senior Russian politician”. This is like describing Richard H. Clarida as a “senior American politician”. Who, you ask? He’s the Deputy Governor of the Federal Reserve Board. There is NO evidence Butina and Torshin were acting on behalf of “Russia” or of “the Kremlin” in their actions. Their funding came from a private billionaire, not the government. Indeed, the only reference to anyone in the Kremlin is a claim that Torshin told her, in response to her post-election note about creating a dialog with Trump’s advisors, is that he didn’t think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would “go for it”.

Agents of doubt - How a powerful Russian propaganda machine chips away at Western notions of truth
The article goes over many supposedly false theories about what happened to the Skripals that were disseminated by various Russian media outlets. Fair enough. But it neglects to mention the false theories that were disseminated by the UK itself - it was the car vents. It was the food. They were sprayed on the bench where they sat. No it was the door knob. And it neglects, in its more than 4000 words, to note that the British still don't have enough actual evidence to have charged anyone in the crime. In other words, we still don't really know with any level of certainty what exactly happened. Yes, there is strong evidence pointing to the two Russians. But, as noted, evidently not strong enough to actually charge them with anything. So the fact that the article treats that theory as absolutely proven fact also qualifies as propaganda.

Russian bomber touches down on America's doorstep
It's 1300 miles from Miami to Caracas, the distance from Miami to Boston. If you drive from Texas, Venezuela is the EIGHTH country you come to; there are NINE countries you'll pass by if you fly from Miami. But sure, America's "doorstep". Even closer than “America’s backyard”!
Best line coming out of this event? The Russian MoD responded to Pompeo’s criticism of Russian bombers visiting Venezuela, saying: “That’s rich coming from a country half of whose military budget could feed all of Africa”.

*New Congresswoman Will Pay Her Interns $15 An Hour. Is That A Big Deal?
You’re damn right it is! Not only is she only the 4th member of Congress to do so, but she’s responsible for bringing it to national attention and opening up the possibility of a Congressional internship to people of all economic strata.

Why are the ‘yellow vests’ still protesting in France? His name is Macron.
Considering that there are now protests going on in Belgium and the Netherlands, this seems doubtful.

Graham: Saudis would 'be 'speaking Farsi in about a week' without US support against Iran
Lunacy knows no limits.

Friday, December 07, 2018


Headlines for Dec. 7, 2018

Worst, Most Misleading & Funniest Headlines (WMMFH) for Dec. 7, 2018

Click here to listen to this week's segment on Loud & Clear Radio. 
Headlines with an * are the ones we managed to fit in in our allotted 11 minutes.
*Russia is trying to undermine Americans’ confidence in the justice system, security experts warn

Too late! The cops and the courts have already done that!
“In their quest to push disinformation, Russian trolls don’t advocate for one position over another but instead promote opposite arguments on the same subject, according to Rishikof. “They take both sides because the goal is to whip up controversy and discredit institutions,” he said.” This makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. How would a post *defending* the justice system serve to discredit it? And, by the way, this “analysis” relies on our old friend “Hamilton 68”, which admits that the accounts it tracks are not necessarily Russians at all!
And the usual suspects: “Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik  also “routinely produce content that alleges corruption, partisanship, and fundamental unfairness of the justice system.”” Right, because none of those things are actually true. This harkens right back to the Jan. 2017 DNI report citing RT’s coverage of Occupy and fracking etc., where they claimed, shockingly, that “RT framed the [Occupy] movement as a fight against "the ruling class" and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations.” And that “RT ran numerous reports on alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities.” Or that “the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population.” How dare they tell the truth about the US?
The article (from Sept. 17) on which the WaPo article is based:
*How Putin Works to Weaken Faith in the Rule of Law and Our Justice System
“Having long realized that the most effective disinformation is based on a kernel of truth, Moscow latches on to legitimate criticisms of the justice system. Shows like “America’s Lawyer” and the “Criminal Injustice” segment on Sputnik’s “Loud & Clear” often weave genuine concerns and viable grievances in with misleading narratives. Important causes are hijacked, making Kremlin-linked outlets appear to be the champions of justice reform in the United States while, in reality, their programming is designed to exacerbate grievances and weaken our institutions.”

*Trump administration gives Russia an ultimatum on Cold War-era arms treaty
Although it's just implied in the headline itself, the entire article is about supposed Russian violations of the INF. Not until the *27th paragraph* do we read “The Kremlin says it continues to adhere to the treaty.” And nowhere in the entire article is there any concrete evidence or even specific allegations about how Russia is in violation, just Pompeo’s assertions. Why is “27th paragraph” important? Because the paper I read, where I read this article first, the (San José) Mercury News, only has space for the first 11 paragraphs. So readers of that paper who didn’t seek out the original as I did (99% of readers) never saw the Russian denial. Of course that also goes for people who only read the first 26 (or fewer) paragraphs of the WaPo article, or people who watched the story reported on CNN or ABC or anywhere on TV, whose stories are basically the equivalent of the first 3 or 4 paragraphs of the WaPo article.

*Mattis says Putin tried to "muck around" in November's midterm elections
This article quotes Mattis as saying he hasn’t seen a smoking gun implicating MbS in the Khashoggi murder. But they give the headline to his claim about Russian (excuse me, Putin himself!) interference in the midterms, despite the fact that he doesn’t even cite a single piece of indirect evidence, much less a smoking gun.

Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan, defeated in November, seek payback by limiting the powers of incoming Democrats
A curious use of the word "payback", which typically denotes revenge for a wrong that was done to the person. But the Democrats didn't "wrong" the Republicans, they simply beat them in the election, and if anyone did "wrong" them, it was the voters of Wisconsin and Michigan, not the incoming Democrats. A better and more accurate headline would be "Republicans seek to thwart the will of the voters".

*Inside the chaos and corruption of Tripoli, where militias rule the streets
Another headline (and article) sin of omission. Here’s the only reference to what led to this situation: “Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in the Arab spring revolution.” There’s a long subhead under the headline, but it too omits any mention of the US/NATO assault on Libya.

López Obrador promised a lot. Now he’s starting to deliver, and that’s making some Mexicans anxious.
Who exactly? Mansion open to the public. Presidential jet being sold. I doubt anyone is “anxious” about those things. Ayotzinapa Truth Commission? I guess the guilty people are anxious about that. Bureaucrats whose salaries have been cut. Almost 3,000 public employees have filed class-action lawsuits against the government over a law mandating that no bureaucrat can earn more than the president. Because López Obrador set his salary at 108 thousand pesos per month (about $5,250), less than half of his predecessor’s salary, the pay of other public servants also has plummeted.And what about the people who voted for him and presumably are happy that he’s doing what he said he would do? No mention of them in the headline or in the article.

Friday, November 30, 2018


Headlines for Nov. 30, 2018

Worst, Most Misleading & Funniest Headlines (WMMFH) for Nov. 30, 2018

Click here to listen to this week's segment on Loud & Clear Radio. 
Headlines with an * are the ones we managed to fit in in our allotted 11 minutes.


*Video Fact Check: 8 Putin Claims Regarding the Kerch Strait Incident
First, what is "Polygraph"? "Polygraph.info is a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America (VOA)​ and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty." In other words, it's the propaganda arm of the U.S. government. But it shows up in the Google News “Fact Check” column, which is how I found it. So Google is allowing the U.S. government to “fact check” the news. It was bad enough when they enlisted the right-wing Weekly Standard as one of their handful of approved fact-checkers. But now the U.S. government?
Samples of their "fact-checking", which read like a State Dept. press conference:
PUTIN: “In regards to the incident in the Black Sea – that, without a doubt, was a provocation.”
TRUE: This may be true, but if so, it was a Russian provocation, not a Ukrainian one.
That is a judgment, not a "fact".
PUTIN: “…in 2014 when Crimea decided to join Russia...”
FALSE: The Crimea didn’t “decide to join Russia.” The Russian military took the peninsula in unmarked uniforms and the part of the region “voted” under Russian occupation.
Why is "voted" in quotes? There was a plebescite, with an 83% voter turnout, and 97% voting to join Russia. Anyone opposed needed only to not vote (17%) or cast an invalid vote (<1 span="">
PUTIN: “The hard events of a civil war in Ukraine in the south-east in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”
FALSE: There is no civil war in those regions, but rather a Russian invasion and occupation.
That's just ridiculous. Of course there's a civil war.


*40 million people with diabetes will be left without insulin by 2030, study predicts
The article’s lead: there are more and more people with diabetes worldwide. But the problem, which emerges in the penultimate paragraph, is the usual — profit. Studies (not mentioned in this article) say that 1 in 4 patients in the US are forced to ration insulin because of its cost, and some die as a result.

Trump demands action to reduce deficit, pushes new deficit spending
After a brief reference to "the GOP tax cut" in the 10th paragraph, the article doesn't get back to really discussing tax cuts and the bogus claims accompanying them (e.g., "the tax cuts will pay for themselves by producing a massive jump in economic growth") until the 27th paragraph. Why do I often emphasize which paragraph something appears in? Not just because everyone doesn’t read the whole article. But because in the Mercury News, which runs many WaPo articles, only the first 8 paragraphs appear.
Numbers: deficit increase from previous year was $113B; loss of revenues from tax cut was $202B.

*Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy
An hour after this story was published, following WikiLeaks tweeting denials that such a meeting had taken place, the headline was changed to read "Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy, sources say" (differences are seen in this link: https://www.newssniffer.co.uk/articles/1706143/diff/0/1 )
And of course the headline is deliberately sensationalized in the first place; ALL talks with Assange in the embassy are by definition "secret", obviously they aren't broadcast publicly nor are reporters present.
Tech tip: if you manage a website, and you update the headline on a story, it *is* possible to change the thumbnail that shows up on FB or Twitter (see below for details). But The Guardian hasn’t bothered. That means if anyone posts this story, their friends or followers will see the *original* headline, the one which presents the story as fact.
FB Debugger: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/sharing/
Twitter Validator: https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator

MTA Says Fare-Beaters Partially to Blame for Impending Fare Hikes
MTA alleges (not really sure how they could prove this) that fare-beaters cost the system $1 million/week, or $52M/year. The MTA's operating budget is $16B, or which $6.3B comes from fares, so the loss from fare-beaters is less than 1% of the fare income, and 3/10th of one percent of the total budget. In contrast, a New York Times report (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/nyregion/new-york-subway-system-failure-delays.html ) found that politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, at the mayoral and gubernatorial levels, had gradually removed $1.5 billion of MTA funding. And because of that underfunding, the MTA has had to borrow, and now nearly 17 percent of its budget now goes to pay down debt. Compare that to the 3/10th of a percent attributed to fare evasion.

A Clear Link Between Trump and Russia Is Now Out in the Open
Really? Cohen talked to Putin's press secretary about a meeting with Putin about a Moscow Trump Tower. The meeting never happened, nor did any deal. So when the headline refers to a "clear link", I guess they mean a link that is transparent, i.e., there's nothing there.


Washington Post admits gaffe after putting story on Kavanaugh coaching basketball in ‘Public Safety’ section
Karma? Or a deliberate act by a WaPo staffer?

Friday, November 23, 2018


Headlines for Nov. 23, 2018

Click here to listen to this week's segment on Loud & Clear Radio. 
Headlines with an * are the ones we managed to fit in in our allotted 11 minutes.

Worst, Most Misleading & Funniest Headlines (WMMFH) for Nov. 23, 2018

*Black Friday is the official start of the holiday shopping season. We’ll be covering it all here.
Did I miss something? Is this now a national holiday? When did “Black Friday”, or “Small Business Saturday”, or “Cyber Monday” or any of the other days invented by business marketing people take on “official” status? I guess we can call them religious holidays of the official state religion, capitalism. And on top of everything, the headline isn’t even true, as this headline from Business Insider shows: “Black Friday deals sold out at stores like Walmart and Target before Friday even began — and people are furious”.

Syria civil war: US-led air strikes kill at least 40 people in Islamic State-held area, state media reports
How is it a “civil war” if the US is bombing and killing Syrian civilians (17 children and 12 women in this one attack) and alleged IS fighters (many of whom are non-Syrians)?

U.S. and Brazil Chose Similar Leaders. It May Lead to Smoother Relations.
The silver lining of electing quasi-fascists.

Hillary Clinton: Europe Needs Tougher Immigration Laws To Stave Off Nationalism
So we need more nationalism to combat nationalism. Great idea, Hillary!


*The Khashoggi case just won't go away for Trump and his Saudi allies
Typical “Trump derangement syndrome”. The same Saudis were allies of Obama, Bush, Clinton, the first Bush, etc, not to mention the rest of the establishment. They are hardly uniquely Trump’s allies.

*Study shows 60% of Britons believe in conspiracy theories
Somethings are actual conspiracy theories, eg, “31% of leave voters believed that Muslim immigration was part of a wider plot to make Muslims the majority in Britain.” But “The most widespread conspiracy belief in the UK, shared by 44% of people, was that “even though we live in what’s called a democracy, a few people will always run things in this country anyway”.” So recognizing that you live in an oligarchy is now a “conspiracy theory”. Further proof we're addicted to conspiracies, says pollsters and the Guardian: 77% of the public don't trust journalists, 76% are wary of politicians and 74% think corporate bosses may not always tell the truth.

*Thousands of U.S. troops celebrate Thanksgiving at the Mexican border
This is nothing more than a DoD press release, with an addition of charges of the deployment being a political stunt added in the 12th paragraph. Are the troops really celebrating, or are they unhappy? We’ll never know (although we can take a good guess!), because the only people quoted in the article are a General and an Army spokesperson.

One of Syria’s most famous activists killed by assassins in rebel stronghold
Since “activists” is usually used in the media to describe opponents of the Syrian government, it’s easy to assume he was killed by the government. He wasn’t, he was killed by Al Qaeda terrorists who control Idlib. “Terrorists”, by the way, is a word the article doesn’t use, even though it references Al Qaeda. It just calls them “extremists”.

85,000 children have starved to death during the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, says new report
Not until the 15th paragraph does the reader learn about the US role is this genocide, although the reputed (and never proven) Iranian support for the Houthis makes it into the 10th paragraph, with zero questioning of that claim. And the US participation in the blockade, which is a major cause of the famine, is never mentioned at all.


*Is Masha and the Bear a Putin stooge? Critics claim cartoon with 4.18m subscribers is made by Kremlin to subvert children
Times UK headline: Children’s show is propaganda for Putin, say critics
Only 2 critics are actually quoted—a lecturer at Tallinn University's Communication School who claims that the bear symbolises Russia and was designed to place a positive image of the country in children's minds. The lecturer, Priit Hobemagi, said that the series was a 'beautifully presented' part of a campaign that is dangerous for Estonian national security. Also an intelligence expert from The University of Buckingham told The Times: 'Masha is feisty, even rather nasty, but also plucky. She punches above her weight. It's not far-fetched to see her as Putinesque.' Last line in the article: The show receives no state funding.

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