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Friday, December 28, 2018


The top worst, most misleading, and funniest headlines of 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 time slot.

*WORST: After a week of Russian propaganda, I was questioning everything
First of all, isn’t questioning everything a *good thing*, *especially* if you’re a reporter? Second, she claims she spent a week consuming news only from Sputnik’s website, social media, and radio programs. Yet the only program she mentions is Fault Lines with Nixon and Stranahan. No Loud & Clear, no By Any Means Necessary, no nothing else. And while the whole article is about alleged Russian “disinformation”, here are two examples she includes: that Western politicians had supported the Nazis, and that the U.S. supported apartheid. Indeed. And she concedes that “proving disinformation can be impossibly slippery.” In other words, a different point of view or different interpretation of events like what happened in Ukraine  is not “disinformation”!

*WORST: 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.” Did “Putin” tell Brian and John to air the “Criminal Injustice” segment? Inquiring minds need to know.

*WORST (UTTERLY DISCREDITED): The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies
Denials in 10th paragraph. Since the publication of this story, every single piece of evidence from the allegedly affected companies, including Apple and Google, has proven this story to be a complete fabrication. But the attack on Chinese tech, most notably on Huawei, continues apace.

*WORST (UTTERLY DISCREDITED): Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy
An utterly discredited story, but not before headlines like “What it would mean if Manafort and Assange met in 2016” appeared in the Washington Post.

WORST: Putin’s gamble is paying off big-time
Remarkable, even if you were to believe (which is simply assumed in this column) that Putin was responsible for Russian “meddling” and that those efforts were responsible for Trump’s election, both remarkably dubious assertions. The article compares the pros and cons — the cons for Russia are weapons to Ukraine, bigger defense budget, seized Russian compounds never returned, sanctions, etc. Facts. The pros for Russia (the “gamble paying off big-time”) are words — Trump trashes US politicians but never criticizes Putin, talked Russia (via Flynn) into not immediately retaliating for Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats (wait, wasn’t that a GOOD thing for the U.S.), etc.

RELATED HEADLINE FROM THIS WEEK: It’s official. We lost the Cold War.
East Germany is no more, NATO is on Russia’s borders, Russia is now a capitalist country, but according to Dana Milbank “we lost the Cold War”.

WORST: Video Fact Check: 8 Putin Claims Regarding the Kerch Strait Incident
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 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?

WORST: BBC Headline that began as “Israeli airstrikes ‘kill woman and baby’” becomes, 10 minutes later, “Gaza airstrikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel”
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs complained about the first headline to the BBC, claiming “This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality ( that’s the polite equivalent of “ this is a LIE”, if you don’t get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them.Change it IMMEDIATELY!!!” And they did, to a headline that is *really* a misrepresentation of reality.

WORST: N Korea 'providing materials for Syria chemical weapons'
Headline is contradicted by the very first sentence, which says that the “acid-resistant tiles, valves and pipes” COULD be used for that purpose. Totally reminiscent of the “aluminum tubes” lie that helped bring us the Iraq War. “While the seized items "do not appear on any control lists", they included "materials that can be used to build bricks for the interior walls of [a] chemical factory", the report noted.”

WORST: ‘We bombed you to save you’ – NATO head Stoltenberg speaks about 1999 bombings on visit to Serbia
Can’t fault the headline although it’s actually a paraphrase of what he said (“I stressed that we did this [bombing Serbia] to protect civilians and to stop the Milosevic regime”); it’s the story that’s disgusting.
The classic "destroying the village in order to save it" language. No coverage of the speech in any US media including the WaPo or NYT. Many hundreds to thousands of Serbians were killed in the bombing; including 16 killed when Radio Television Serbia was bombed.

WORST: Austin bomber was frustrated with his life, authorities say
Poor guy! He was frustrated with his life?? Well then obviously placing seven bombs, some targeting Black and Latina folks is clearly the solution. Just another in a long line of articles whitewashing Caucasian terrorists (and not even labelling them terrorists).

*MISLEADING: Mail bomb suspect made numerous references on Facebook to Russian associates and echoed pro-Kremlin views
Headline could have been “Mail bomb suspect drove van covered in pro-Trump bumper stickers”, but no. His “Russian associates” are actual Russians he knows, and in addition to referring to his “Russian brothers”, he also refers to his “Italian brothers”…something you won’t learn until the 12th paragraph. And his “pro-Kremlin” views are simply his support for Russian and Syrian efforts to battle terrorists in Syria, a word the WaPo insists of putting in scare quotes‪, as if it isn’t a fact that both Al Qaeda and ISIS have had a major presence in Syria‬.

*MISLEADING: Syrians stream out of a Damascus suburb as it is overrun by government forces
"Stream out" "Overrun" makes it sound like their fleeing from government forces. In fact, the opposite is true. They finally have a chance to escape from rebel-held areas.

*MISLEADING (and ironically funny): Saudi 'Prince Charming' Mohammed bin Salman comes to Hollywood
BBC in its headline calls MbS "Prince Charming". That's not a quote from anyone other than BBC. In fact it's the opposite, because the only reference to that nickname in the article is a CodePink protester carrying a sign saying ""bin Salman is no Prince Charming"!!!

MISLEADING: Study shows 60% of Britons believe in conspiracy theories
“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”.

MISLEADING: Russian Trolls Were Sloppy, but Indictment Still ‘Points at the Kremlin’
Note ‘Points at the Kremlin’ is in quotes. Who said that? One journalist you’ve never heard of. If anything, most of the article says exactly the opposite, e.g., “The fact that there were no senior government officials named probably helps Russia, said Mr. Frolov, because that echoed statements from Mr. Putin last summer that any election meddling was the work of eager Russian civilians rather than government agents.”

MISLEADING: John McCain: Hero at home, hawk in Middle East
No, he was a hawk EVERYWHERE.

MISLEADING: A non-Castro may soon become Cuba's president. He's endorsed by less than one percent of its voters
That’s because he’s elected from a constituency, and then the National Assembly selects one of its members to be the president. It’s the same thing as in most parliamentary systems. In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn got 40,000 votes in a nation of 66 million people. That’s less than a tenth of a percent of the population!

*FUNNIEST: Hawaii's governor couldn't correct the false missile alert sooner because he forgot his Twitter password

*FUNNIEST (AND MISLEADING): A lot of the criticism of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' actually came from Russian trolls and bots, new study finds
They studied 206 Twitter accounts which tweeted negatively (basically racist and misogynist content) about The Last Jedi; 16 (a whopping 8%) of them "appear to be Russian trolls, or at least possess several of the Russian troll characteristics presented above"; those characteristics include "Russian trolls usually target “very specific world events” and “political threads”" and "prefer the Twitter web client over the mobile client". "They predominantly report their location (if at all) to be in the U.S., Germany and Russia"

*FUNNIEST: Trump says he has 'natural instinct for science' when it comes to climate change
"You have scientists on both sides of it. My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years, Dr. John Trump. And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture."

FUNNIEST: 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.

*RELATED FUNNIEST: Russian operatives were promoting sex toys on Instagram to sow discord in the US
#NotTheOnion, this is meant quite seriously. Even funnier than the idea promoted in the headline was the original headline hidden in the URL: "Instagram was a massively important tool for Russian Operatives" “The merchandise could have provided the IRA with some income, but more importantly, offered the operatives access to buyers’ personal data, including payment information, and help with ad targeting in the future. The Russian operatives’ activity on Instagram only increased after the 2016 US presidential election.”

Actually the only "massive tools" are the people who promote or believe this nonsense.

Pence’s Olympic mission: Countering North Korean propaganda
“Before Air Force Two touched down Thursday at Seoul’s Osan Air Base, Pence had transformed himself into something of an anti-propaganda warrior — a mild-mannered, if resolute, superhero who arrived in South Korea on the eve of the Winter Games to single-handedly rebuff North Korea’s public relations efforts.” !!!

FUNNIEST: What Could Kill Booming U.S. Economy? ‘Socialists,’ White House Warns
A report from the Council of Economic Advisers compares Bernie Sanders to Chairman Mao, and warns that pickup trucks cost more in Sweden.
From the report: “The socialist narrative names the oppressors of the vulnerable, such as the bourgeoisie (Marx), kulaks (Lenin), landlords (Mao), and giant corporations (Sanders and Warren).” Other great quotes: Comparing Mao described “the ruthless economic exploitation and political oppression of the peasants by the landlord class” with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren saying “large corporations . . . exploit human misery and insecurity, and turn them into huge profits” and “giant corporations . . . exploit workers just to boost their own profits.” And “Speculators” are also blamed for high prices and other social problems, as by Marx, Stalin, Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, and Fidel Castro, who said that they “have turned the planet into a giant casino.”

Not mentioned in the article (or in the report): China has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty in the last 30 years, more than 70% of all people in the world who have been lifted out of poverty. And the pickup truck thing? It isn’t really about the cost. It’s about the cost of ownership which basically means gasoline, and that’s because gasoline is much more expensive in Europe due to higher taxes, and it has nothing to do with “socialism”.

FUNNIEST this set of two headlines from the NYT, 4 months apart: ‘Warning Lights Are Blinking Red,’ Top Intelligence Officer Says of Russian Attacks
Mystery of the Midterm Elections: Where Are the Russians?

Elon Musk decries UAW union, promises employees frozen yogurt and rollercoaster machine
Not the Onion!


Worst, Most Misleading & Funniest Headlines (WMMFH) for Dec. 28, 2018

Arms Sales to Saudis Leave American Fingerprints on Yemen’s Carnage
On the one hand, ok, fingerprints do often identify the murderer. But “fingerprints” just sounds so dainty, and, as the article itself makes clear, are *way* more extensive than just arms sales.

How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.
Nonsense. Yes, there are bot farms boosting views on YouTube, or giving people like Roy Moore fake Russian followers on Twitter. But the idea that "a lot" of "the Internet" is fake is nonsense. 99% of people spend 99% percent of their time interacting with real websites doing real things, including buying things, interacting with their friends, watching videos, playing games, reading news (almost all of it real), and everything else that happens on the Internet.

Friday, December 21, 2018


Headlines for Dec. 21, 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. 21, 2018

*Uber driver, 27, 'who tried to attack police with a Samurai sword outside Buckingham Palace' tells court he became angry after watching TV channel Russia Today
It wasn’t RT that made him angry, it was the US/UK/Saudi war on Yemen, in particular a double-tap strike on a wedding. So the implication of the headline is that RT should simply not report the news.

Russians sought to recruit 'assets' through social media, Senate told
In one instance, through its page "Army of Jesus," which was targeting Christians, the group offered "free counseling to people with sexual addiction," New Knowledge found. The phony counseling service could have created an opportunity to blackmail or manipulate individuals who availed of it, the report notes  "Recruiting an asset by exploiting a personal vulnerability -- usually a secret that would inspire shame or cause personal or financial harm if exposed -- is a timeless espionage practice," it says. New Knowledge says that it is not known whether anyone took up the offer of counseling. The “sexual addiction” was masturbation, and I’m pretty sure you can’t be blackmailed because you masturbate too much. And also, recruiting random “assets” who work as truck drivers, or doctors, or construction workers, or lawyers, is an absurd idea. You recruit assets who work for the government or in sensitive industries, not random people over the internet.

*A look at US involvement in Syria’s civil war
The irony of referring to "Syria's civil war" on the same day we're talking about withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria seems lost on them. Not to mention the entire article makes it look as if the entire U.S. involvement is limited to fighting ISIS, with nary a mention of the U.S. arming and funding of rebel groups fighting the government.

The Real Story of the Flynn Hearing
by Michael Ledeen, not an admirable character. That being said, how can you write an article entitled "the real story", mention the judge's talk of "treason", and not mention "Turkey" in the story? A Dana Milbank column in the WaPo, though lacking an enticing headline, commits exactly the same sin, mentioning “foreign agent” twice but “Turkey” not at all.

*More than 1.4 billion pounds of cheese are reportedly stuck in warehouses — and millennials' refusal to eat American cheese is part of the problem
Yes, millennials, just  like a lot of older people, have now realized that there is better-tasting and healthier cheese than American cheese. But really this is a multilevel “this is capitalism” story. On the one hand, competition and a lack of central planning result in the oversupply of a commodity, in this case, American cheese. On the other, a story about a country where people go hungry while food sits in warehouses.

Mueller Probe Cost $25 Million So Far, Report Says. It’s Pulled in $48 Million From Tax Cheats
The implication of course is that has anything to do with Mueller's *Trump-Russia collusion* investigation, when in fact it has *nothing* to do with that. The government could have been (and should have been) investigating tax cheats (like Cohen and Manafort) any time.

U.S. official says Washington reviewing North Korea travel ban
Misleading. The US is considering allowing Americans to travel to the DPRK with humanitarian aid. Nothing to indicate they are reviewing the actual travel ban which prevents ordinary Americans from simply visiting the DPRK.

*Homelessness Rises Slightly Despite Strong Economy, Federal Report Finds
Here in Silicon Valley (and undoubtedly in many other places), the headline should read “because of a strong economy”, not “despite” it. The irrationality of capitalism.

Glee in Russia Over Trump’s Foreign Policy Largess
Withdrawing from countries that you illegally invaded, occupied, and bombed, is now "largess"

"Donald's Right": Putin Welcomes U.S. Withdrawal From Syria
The NYT's way of informing their readers they should not support the withdrawal, although Putin's agreement with Trump was basically about his statement that ISIS has been defeated in Syria. The Times disingenuously includes the claim that "analysts estimate it still commands a force of 15,000 fighters", but that is the combined total for Iraq and Syria; Syria is supposedly substantially less, more like 2000.
But thankfully, this article resulted in this rare (virtually non-existent) admission (even if coming from Putin) in the NYT: "Mr. Putin reiterated the Kremlin position that American forces have no legal right to be in Syria, in that they were neither invited by Damascus, as the Russian forces were, nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council." Of course it's not the "Kremlin position", it's the position of international law.

How a National Security Investigation of Huawei Set Off an International Incident
There is, in fact, no evidence that there has ever been a serious "national security investigation" of Huawei, because there is absolutely no evidence on which to base such an investigation. But the Times makes up the following excuses:
"Former federal prosecutors said pursuing Ms. Meng, 46, for alleged bank fraud proved to be a better line of attack than trying to build a case on national security grounds." That's because THEY HAD NO CASE.
"Criminally charging Huawei or its executives for espionage or other security crimes was not likely to be simple. Former federal prosecutors said doing so often risked exposing the sources of confidential information."
Always a convenient excuse to claim you've got evidence but can't tell anyone about it.

Rubio Received $1.5M In Campaign Donations From Russian Oligarch-Linked Firm
The man in question, Len Blavatnik, was born in Ukraine, moved to the US in the late 70s, and holds dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship. But he’s still a “Russian oligarch” when you want to advance Russiagate theories. Note this is from “The Intellectualist”, not the NYT or WaPo or some other widely read source. But in this age of social media, that doesn’t matter; a story like this can just as easily show up in your social media feed via one of your friends (as it did me) as one from a more well-known source.

Why is the Chinese government trying to buy a music school In New Jersey?
Fox News story: https://video.foxnews.com/v/5981697712001/?#sp=show-clips
First of all, the company trying to buy the Westminster Choir College is not "the Chinese government". It is a company whose part owner (16-32%) is the Haidan District Committee; Haidan is one district of many in one city in China, Beijing (population 3.2M out of 1.9B in China, so 0.16% of China's population.
FOX: "It's a top American college that critics say is being targeted by China". "Could eventually shut it down or change its mission". "Beijing would have a direct foothold in American academia".
"I don't think it's a coincidence that the government of China is focussing its attention on this tiny music school in one of the most sensitive centers for intelligence and defense research in the world". "Focussing its attention"? This is a $56M deal!!! Chicken feed!
"FBI has warned that China could be expanding on US campuses for its own national interests".
Reality: "board and administration reached out to hundreds of conservatories, colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad, to see if they would be interested in buying Westminster." The Chinese company was the only taker.
“We’re going to see that their academic freedom will now be subject to control by government bureaucrats in Beijing.”
As the NPR story points out, Western classical music is now huge in China.

Friday, December 14, 2018


Headlines for Dec. 14, 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.

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