1. Jed Babbin: The Pentagon’s Most Prolific Pundit

1. China’s Gold Medal Spin
2. Has Fake News Become the Real News?
3. Canada’s Oilsands Tarred with the “Greenwash” Brush
4. Foxes Invited to Guard the Endangered Species Coop
5. Medialink’s Meltdown
6. Penn’s Tentacles
7. The Ghost of Jack Abramoff
8. Weekly Radio Spin: It’s Not Easy, Defining “Green”
9. Fridays with Tory
10. Another Ghost-Written Op/ed Traced to LMG
11. Buried Soldiers, Buried Coverage
12. Philip Morris Caught in Second Concert Sponsorship in Philippines
13. Wal-Mart: We’re Green, Just Don’t Ask How Green
14. Gasoline: Like a Healthy Lifestyle
15. All’s Fair in Love and Political Ads
16. Faking Reality in the Name of National Interest
17. Toxic Smoke and Mirrors


by Daniel Haack
       The morning of June 20, 2006, an email message circulated
  amongst U.S. Defense Department officials.
       “Jed Babbin, one of our military analysts, is hosting the
  Michael Medved nationally syndicated radio show this afternoon. He
  would like to see if General [George W.] Casey would be available
  for a phone interview,” the Pentagon staffer wrote. “This would be a
  softball interview and the show is 8th or 9th in the nation.”
       Why would the Pentagon help set up a radio interview? And how
  did they know that the interview would be “softball”?
       From early 2002 to April 2008, the Defense Department offered
  talking points, organized trips to places such as Iraq and
  Guantanamo Bay, and gave private briefings to a legion of retired
  military officers working as media pundits.  The Pentagon’s military
  analyst program, a covert effort to promote a positive image of the
  Bush administration’s wartime performance, was a multi-level
  campaign involving quite a few colorful characters.
       Flipping through the over 8,000 pages of documents released
  in connection with the program, one Pentagon pundit arguably steals
  the spotlight: Jed Babbin.
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  In a scathing review of the Chinese government’s handling of the
  Olympics, Jacquelin Magnay writes “there has been the fake singer,
  the fake fireworks, the fake minority kids (they were all Han, and
  not from the 55 different ethnic groups as portrayed), the fake
  press freedoms, fake internet access, fake promises. … Beijing
  Olympic vice-president Wang Wei and other International Olympic
  Committee officials repeatedly claim the press is free to report on
  the Olympic Games, yet venue managers, under instruction from the
  organisers, will not allow reporters to ask topical non-sporting
  questions of Georgian or Russian athletes. Transcripts of the press
  conference questions about censorship are themselves heavily
  censored.” But, regardless of the  edicts from the Chinese
  government’s propaganda unit, “global headlines …  have detailed
  the screech of armoured personnel carriers, human rights issues,
  visa restrictions, protest parks, military thuggery, deceptions and
SOURCE: The Age (Australia), August 16, 2008

  An article in the New York Times asks whether Jon Stewart of
  Comedy Central’s Daily Show has become the most trusted man in
  America, pointing out that his fake news comedy show has emerged in
  recent years as a “genuine cultural and political force.” While
  24-hour news networks like FOX, MSNBC and CNN have been pumping out
  infotainment-style news about topics like dead celebrities and
  sexual predators, the Daily Show has been critically tracking the
  cherry-picking of prewar intelligence, the politicization of the
  Department of Justice and the efforts of the Bush Administration to
  increase the power of the executive branch. Stewart has proven to be
  a master at calling out government and corporate spin, hypocrisy and
  red herrings, and helping his audience see them, too. A 2008 study
  from the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research
  Enter for the People and the Press found that the Daily Show has had
  an impact on American dialogue and that it is “getting people to
  think critically about the public square.”
SOURCE: New York Times, August 15, 2008

  The UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a Shell ad that
  repeatedly referred to extraction from Canada’s oilsands as
  “sustainable” was “misleading.” The advertising regulator noted the
  “considerable social and environmental impacts” of oilsands
  development, adding that Shell has not explained how it will manage
  “carbon emissions from its oilsands projects in order to limit
  climate change.” The World Wildlife Fund filed a complaint accusing
  Shell of “greenwashing,” after the ad appeared in the Financial
  Times. Shell agreed not to run the ad again. Oilsands development
  “uses enormous amounts of fresh water and natural gas and produces
  about three times as much greenhouse gas emissions as conventional
  oil output.” The Canadian province of Alberta, where the oilsands
  are located, “launched a three-year, $25-million campaign” earlier
  this year, “to market Alberta and correct what the government
  insists is misinformation about the oilsands.” Calgary Herald
  business editor Charles Frank opined, “We have to reframe the debate
  … if we are to have even the faintest hope of making sure this
  province’s most valuable resource isn’t sabotaged by people and
  organizations who do not have our best interests at heart.”
SOURCE: Calgary Herald (Canada), August 14, 2008

  Currently, the Endangered Species Act requires independent
  scientific assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the
  National Marine Fisheries Service of proposed construction projects.
  But the Bush administration has proposed allowing construction to
  proceed, if the agency whose project it is sees no problem — even
  if the agency has no biologist on staff. Interior Secretary Dirk
  Kempthorne “described the new rules as a ‘narrow regulatory change’
  that ‘will provide clarity and certainty to the consultation process
  under the Endangered Species Act.'” Others see it differently. Rep.
  Nick J. Rahall II, the chair of the House Natural Resources
  Committee, said, “I am deeply troubled by this proposed rule, which
  gives federal agencies an unacceptable degree of discretion to
  decide whether or not to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
  Eleventh-hour rulemakings rarely, if ever, lead to good government
  — this is not the type of legacy this Interior Department should be
  leaving for future generations.” Bob Irvin of Defenders of Wildlife
  called the change “a case of asking the fox to guard the chicken
SOURCE: Washington Post, August 12, 2008

  Medialink Worldwide — the largest producer of fake news products
  such as video news releases (VNRs)  — is in financial meltdown.
  Almost two years ago  the Center for Media and Democracy reported
  that Medialink had placed its faith in selling off assets, trying to
  boost international income and investing in the digital watermarking
  system Teletrax. The company’s latest quarterly report reveals that,
  faced with accelerating losses, the company has agreed to sell
  Teletrax to Philips Electronics and sold “certain assets of its
  UK-based media communications services operation” to World
  Television Group. Not surprisingly, Medialink’s share price has
  collapsed to an all-time low of just 30 cents, down from $3.65 at
  the start of the year. PR Week reports that, according to industry
  sources, Medialink is “considering offering itself up for sale.”
SOURCE: Medialink Worldwide, August 14, 2008

  The senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly, Joshua Green, thinks
  some commentators may be too quick in claiming that a political
  consulting career is over for Mark Penn, the CEO of Burson
  Marsteller and former “chief strategist” for Hillary Clinton’s
  presidential campaign. Penn has been widely criticized after an
  internal memo he wrote for the Clinton campaign was recently made
  public. In it, Penn suggested that Clinton criticize Barack Obama’s
  “lack of American roots.” Penn wrote, “I cannot imagine America
  electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center
  fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.” Obama is
  reportedly considering Indiana Senator Evan Bayh as a possible
  vice-presidential running mate. However, Green notes that “for
  years, Penn and his wife, Nancy Jacobson, have been close advisers”
  to Bayh. If Obama picks Bayh, Green writes, “Penn is right back in
  the presidential race — if not in an official capacity, then
  certainly in a functional one.”
SOURCE: The Atlantic Monthly, August 2008

  While Jack Abramoff serves a six-year prison sentence stemming
  from his role in one of the most elaborate corruption standals in
  American politics, one of his most prominent former lobbyist
  associates, Ralph Reed, is raising funds for Republican presidential
  candidate John McCain. Previously, notes Alexander Lane, Reed “was
  credited as a key operative in George W. Bush’s sharp-elbowed effort
  against McCain in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary
  in 2000. McCain, in turn, chaired the Senate Indian Affairs
  Committee in 2006 when it investigated and unveiled Reed’s deep
  personal and business ties to Abramoff, a lobbyist who pleaded
  guilty to three felonies.” Apparently all is forgiven. The Atlanta
  Journal-Constitution recently published an email by Reed, inviting
  recipients to a McCain fundraiser and praising his commitment to
  “economic growth and opportunity, the dignity of life and
  traditional values.”
SOURCE: Politifact.com, August 13, 2008

  Listen to THIS WEEK’S EDITION of the “Weekly Radio Spin,” the
  Center for Media and Democracy’s audio report on the stories behind
  the news. This week, we look at not-so-endangered species, burying
  media access, and why it doesn’t matter what “green” means. In “Six
  Degrees of Spin and Fakin’,” how to boost your image after the
  world’s worst industrial accident. The Weekly Radio Spin is freely
  available for personal and broadcast use. Podcasters can subscribe
  to the XML feed on www.prwatch.org/audio or via iTunes. If you air
  the Weekly Radio Spin on your radio station, please email us at
  editor@prwatch.org to let us know. Thanks!
SOURCE: Center for Media and Democracy, August 15, 2008

  Canada’s Tory government is taking heat for using Friday
  afternoons to release negative news to the public. “The Tories took
  office promising clean, open governance and vowing not to practice
  the same old politics as previous government,” reports the Canadian
  Press. “But they’ve stuck to one tried and true tactic — releasing
  negative news when it will get the least media attention.” Recent
  examples include a Foreign Affairs report on the misplacement of
  government documents and a major climate change report that
  questioned Conservative claims about greenhouse gas reductions.
  Public relations professional have long understood that releasing
  unwanted news late on Friday helps minimize bad press, although some
  are saying that the internet and the rise of a 24/7 news cycle has
  made this tactic less effective.
SOURCE: CTV News, August 5, 2008

  If there’s a questionable opinion column promoting a corporate
  viewpoint, chances are the secretive Washington DC public affairs
  firm LMG — also known as LawMedia Group — is involved. As the
  Center for Media and Democracy reported previously, LMG helped place
  a column attributed to the president of the Southern Christian
  Leadership Conference, which he didn’t write and which criticized
  some SCLC donors. Now, it appears LMG is behind another column. The
  author supposedly was Mel King, a community organizer and network
  neutrality advocate. However, his column questions the need for net
  neutrality provisions. King admitted that LMG was involved and
  refused to say whether “he was paid for the use of his name,”
  reports Declan McCullagh. LMG’s clients include Comcast, which
  opposes net neutrality, and Microsoft, which hired LMG in an attempt
  to block a Google-Yahoo advertising deal. Another strange aspect of
  King’s anti-net neutrality column is that “portions are identical to
  a Rainbow Push coalition statement attributed to the Rev. Jesse
  Jackson and dated three months before.” A source told McCullagh that
  “LMG has a relationship with Jackson that includes ghost-written
  articles on behalf of corporate clients.”
SOURCE: CNET News, August 14, 2008

  “The former spokeswoman for Arlington National Cemetery says the
  facility’s No. 2 official has been calling military families to try
  to talk them out of media coverage of their loved ones’ funerals,
  despite his denials that he does so,” reports William H. McMichael.
  “Gina Gray, who was fired June 27 after 2 1/2 months on the job, said
  Deputy Director Thurman Higginbotham told her in early May that he
  had been making such calls for about a year — while denying he did
  so at least three times, including once in an April 30 meeting with
  Pentagon reporters to discuss the cemetery’s media policy.” Gray
  said she reviewed the cemetery’s paperwork for troops killed in Iraq
  or Afghanistan since 2001 and found that 63 percent of the families
  agreed to media coverage. She says that her support for granting
  media access “led her supervisors to limit her authority, constantly
  track her comings and goings, occasionally refuse to reply to her
  e-mails or even speak to her and, finally, to fire her.”
SOURCE: Army Times, August 11, 2008

  Last month, when pop singer Alicia Keys protested Philip Morris
  International’s (PMI) sponsorship of her concert in Jakarta,
  Indonesia, PMI was forced to pull down posters and billboards that
  promoted the event. That debacle was hardly over when health
  advocates started pushing for PMI to end its involvement in yet
  another concert, the August 30 reunion of the Filipino group
  Eraserheads, a band so popular in this part of the world that it has
  been dubbed the “Beatles of the Philippines.” People seeking tickets
  to the free concert are directed to www.marlboro.ph, a Web site run
  by PMI’s Philippine subsidiary. To obtain tickets and information,
  visitors must provide personal contact information that allows PMI
  to send them promotional materials for cigarettes. The Eraserheads
  concert is generating tremendous buzz on the Internet that often
  mentions the Marlboro web site and brand name, conferring
  substantial positive publicity upon PMI and its best-selling
  cigarette brand. But last week, the Philippines Department of Health
  warned PMI that it is violating the country’s tobacco regulation
  law, which, as of July 1, 2008 prohibits all forms of tobacco
  advertising in mass media, including the Internet, places strict
  restrictions on other tobacco promotional activities and bans
  tobacco company sponsorship of concerts and other events.
SOURCE: MarketWatch, the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, August 12, 2008

  “Wal-Mart has been taking many major steps [to] go green in recent
  years,” writes Eoin O’Carroll. “So you can imagine my surprise when
  I came across Wal-Mart’s comment on the Federal Trade Commission’s
  attempts to standardize carbon offsets.” As the Center for Media and
  Democracy reported previously, the FTC is revising its environmental
  advertising guidelines, prompted by the booming trade in carbon
  offsets, environmental “credits” that can be purchased to balance
  the impact of activities (like plane flights) that emit greenhouse
  gases. The FTC plans to issue guidelines for carbon offsets and
  renewable electricity credits (RECs). Wal-Mart suggested to
  the FTC, “rather than attempting to define offsets or RECs, the
  Commission should rely on the flexibility inherent in the
  ‘reasonable basis doctrine.’ … Different authoritative and expert
  institutions have adopted different, but reasonable approaches.”
  O’Carroll summarizes, “Wal-Mart is arguing that we should not seek
  to come up with a firm definition … because there doesn’t yet
  exist a firm definition.” In response, Wal-Mart told O’Carroll that
  standards for RECs and offsets should be determined by “governmental
  entities and highly technical experts with vast environmental
  expertise,” not the FTC.
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor’s “Bright Green” blog, August 7, 2008

  BP North America recently launched “its first full-scale lifestyle
  effort,” to promote its new gas with “Invigorate.” Unlike a
  traditional product launch, which “simply discusses gas,” BP’s
  “Younger for Longer” campaign will compare its new gas formula to
  older athletes. The oil company says its new gas “cleans and extends
  the use of engine parts, in the same way a healthy lifestyle
  contributes to a longer lifespan.” The campaign will run for five
  years, with support from the GolinHarris firm. It will include ads,
  “a mobile tour and interactive Web site.” The tour — of BP’s
  “Invigoration Station” — will visit 15 cities, offering “the chance
  to participate in activities related to the athlete spokespeople,
  such as rock climbing.” The “older” athletes featured in the
  campaign are a 53-year-old mountain climber, a 55-year-old marathon
  runner and a 31-year-old surfer. Golin’s Gary Rudnick said the goal
  of the campaign “is to build a relationship with our target
  consumer, and create the awareness and loyalty.”
SOURCE: PR Week, July 31, 2008

  The CEO of the public relations firm Burson Marsteller, Mark Penn,
  likes John McCain’s TV ad likening Barack Obama to celebrities like
  Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. “Hillary Clinton’s former top
  strategist wrote the ad tries to ‘portray Obama’s leadership for
  change as something fluffy and useless.’ It bears a Republican
  political trademark ‘attacking a candidate’s strengths rather than
  the candidate’s weaknesses.'” In an essay posted on Politico.com,
  Penn contends that “clever negative ad can be devastatingly
  effective.” He says that like the McCain ad, “Some negative ads
  crystallize voters’ opinions without presenting any new
  information.” Penn isn’t troubled by that. “This year, you can
  expect a tough political season and plenty of negative ads. Done
  fairly, they serve a legitimate role.” As CMD reported previously,
  Mark Penn was demoted from his role as “chief strategist” with the
  Hillary Clinton campaign after several embarrassing conflicts of
  interest came to light.
SOURCE: O’Dwyer’s PR Daily (sub req’d), August 12, 2008

  First the organizers of China’s spectacular Olympic opening
  ceremony admitted that they digitally faked the dazzling “footprint”
  fireworks that viewers saw on TV leading up to the Bird’s Nest
  stadium. Now it has emerged that the cute little girl who sang a
  patriotic song in the ceremony was lip synching for another little
  girl who, officials decided at the last minute, was not  cute enough
  to adequately represent China’s national image. Nine-year-old Lin
  Miaoke became an instant star in one of the most memorable moments
  of China’s opening show, as she stood in her red dress and white
  shoes singing “Ode to the Motherland.” But her voice was dubbed with
  that of Yang Peiyi, another little girl with crooked teeth who was
  originally chosen to sing the song. Chinese officials apparently
  felt the original little girl did not look perfect enough to
  adequately represent the country. Chen Qigang, musical director of
  the opening ceremonies, explained the last-minute switch by telling
  Beijing Radio, “The performer was Lin Miaoke, but the sound was Yang
  Peiyi. The reason…is this: One was for the benefit of the country.
  The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings,
  and expression, and Lin Miaoke meets our requirements in those
SOURCE: ABC News, August 12, 2008

  Overexposure to manganese has caused Parkinson’s-like symptoms for
  thousands of welders, but the makers of manganese-containing welding
  wire and electrodes are avoiding liability by manipulating science.
  Jim Morris writes that “the welding companies paid more than $12.5
  million to 25 organizations and 33 researchers, virtually all of
  whom have published papers dismissing connections between welding
  fumes and workers’ ailments. … The pattern doesn’t surprise George
  Washington University epidemiologist David Michaels, author of Doubt
  Is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your
  Health. Corporate-funded research articles are often ‘advocacy
  documents that are being produced purely for use in court cases,’ he
  says. ‘It’s unfortunate, because it really pollutes the scientific
  literature.'” Industrial toxicologists have known since the 1930s
  that manganese exposure damages the brain and central nervous
  system. Morris notes that “if you were to graph out the welding
  industry’s spending on science, you’d see a dramatic uptick in 2003
  — the year an Illinois jury awarded $1 million to a welder named
  Larry Elam.” Since then, mounting lawsuits by injured welders have
  driven a funding boom for pro-industry scientists.
SOURCE: Mother Jones, July/August 2008


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