News & Reviews

Issue: "Cuban conundrum," Feb. 5, 2000

Election season points up biases of "neutral" broadcasters
Political journalism
Today's broadcast journalists are little more than broadcast commentators. The coverage of last week's Iowa caucuses is just the latest example. Repeatedly, the overpaid hotshots of network TV concluded that Gov. George W. Bush had been pulled to the right by religious conservatives and, as NBC's Tim Russert opined, that "could hurt" him "with a mainstream electorate in the general election." Yet, as the Media Research Center noted, no one concluded that Al Gore had been pulled to the left by Bill Bradley when Mr. Gore proposed universal health coverage or when teachers unions took a hard line against school vouchers, once favored by Mr. Bradley. Brian Williams said on NBC that in order for Mr. Bush to have received a record 41 percent of the Iowa Caucus vote he "had to run with Jesus Christ." Mr. Williams offered a disclaimer that he meant "no disrespect." Sure. Some of your best friends are Christians, right? The fact that NBC's own exit poll showed that moral issues ranked first with voters (35 percent), followed by taxes (23 percent), apparently did not sway the perspective of NBC journalists. The networks have also stepped up their use of labels, almost exclusively of conservatives, as another way of editorializing. In just three nights over last weekend, the CBS Evening News used "conservative," "right" or "hard right" 20 times. Not once was anyone or any idea labeled "liberal," "left" or "hard left." ABC's Jackie Judd referred to Bradley's liberal proposals as "big, bold government." Broadcast and cable networks are also using more former office holders, flacks, and political hacks than ever before. They're called "analysts," but their views are merely extensions of the advocacy roles they once held. So, on CNN we get Tony Blankley, former spokesman for Newt Gingrich, and Mike McCurry, the former White House press secretary. We also get former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (who lost to George W. Bush), and we must put up with increasing reports from George Stephanopoulos, recently of the Clinton administration, who has been morphed into a "correspondent" by ABC News President David Westin. Remember it was Mr. Westin who dumped William Kristol because of Mr. Kristol's association with Republicans.

-by Cal Thomas, © 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate Nor'easter blankets east coast
Winter wonderland
And the snow just kept coming: A surprisingly fast-moving storm-known as a nor'easter-blanketed the East Coast last week with up to two feet of wind-blown snow, closing airports and schools and paralyzing the nation's capital. At least four people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in the Carolinas as the storm drove northward along the coast. The storm closed major eastern airports on Jan. 25 and US Airways canceled all of its East Coast service that afternoon between North Carolina and New York. "I think we didn't pick the best day for flying," Brazilian visitor Joao Nemeth said at LaGuardia as he comforted an 11-year-old daughter who had expected to fly to Walt Disney World. DNA implicates Thomas Jefferson
The evidence is in
The foundation that owns Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, last week acknowledged for the first time that Jefferson likely fathered one, if not all six, of the children of his slave Sally Hemings. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, releasing its evaluation of DNA testing done a year ago, announced that "the best evidence available suggests the strong likelihood that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings had a relationship over time that led to the birth of one, and perhaps all, of the known children of Sally Hemings." The no-comment zone

  • Vermont's Supreme Court says that homosexual couples must be given the benefits of marriage, but most Vermonters aren't as convinced. A new poll showed 52 percent of registered voters oppose the Supreme Court ruling, while 38 percent agree and 10 percent aren't sure. Vermont lawmakers now find themselves between the judiciary and a hard place. The justices said homosexual couples are being unconstitutionally denied the benefits of marriage. They ordered the state legislature to choose between legalizing homosexual marriage outright and approving some kind of domestic partnership law.
  • Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards was videotaped handing a roll of cash to a state senator during an investigation into riverboat gambling in Louisiana. That's what Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Letten told a jury in the opening statement of the politician's trial, which could last for months. Mr. Edwards, the former governor's son Stephen, and five others are accused in a scheme to extort money from applicants for valuable casino licenses. Mr. Edwards, 72, faces up to 350 years in prison and $7.2 million in fines if convicted. Former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo and two others have already pleaded guilty in connection with the case.
  • Is your doctor joining a union? The American Medical Association recently formed the Physicians for Responsible Negotiations to represent those who work for a Medicaid health maintenance organization. Last week it asked the National Labor Relations Board in Detroit for permission to represent 27 doctors. The union was formed in June after the AMA decided that HMOs and other managed-care companies were placing an increasing workload and financial pressures on doctors. "We were approached by the physicians because they wanted a contract and wanted a say as to how they take care of their patients," PRN president Susan Hershberg Adelman said in the Detroit Free Press.
  • Happy days are here again. The Conference Board, a business organization, announced that America's consumer confidence index is at an all-time high, and the National Association of Realtors said last year was the fourth straight record sales year, with 5.2 million homes purchased. "An expanding global economy and a robust job market suggest that consumer optimism and consumer spending could rise even further in the coming months," the Conference Board's Lynn Franco told Reuters. What to do with the federal "surplus"
    Rebate debate
    Despite proposing spending increases in health care and education and an expansion of the Medicare entitlement, President Clinton believes the government can pay off the $3.6 trillion national debt by 2013, two years ahead of his original plan. His proposal, a key theme of his State of the Union approach, came after the Congressional Budget Office projected that the booming economy will allow Uncle Sam to overcharge taxpayers $1.9 trillion in the next decade (beyond Social Security collections). The almost $2 trillion surplus is about twice the amount previously expected. CBO projections assume that the economy will continue to grow and that Washington will stay within spending restraints set in 1997. Congressional Republicans also plan to eliminate the debt, but insisted that they could cut taxes at the same time: "I believe Congress can continue to pursue a plan of returning the bulk of this non-Social Security surplus to the American public," said Senate Budget Committee chairman Pete Domenici. Republicans say Mr. Clinton's proposed spending increases are the biggest obstacles to eliminating the debt, and they pledged to make sure "the surplus isn't frittered away with one Clinton spending proposal after another," as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott put it. Republicans were following the lead of their presidential frontrunner, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who proposes giving a portion of the yearly overcharge back to taxpayers, and also wiping out the debt in 12 years. His tax-cut plan would reduce the federal take by $483 billion over five years. Iraq-approved weapons inspector on the job for the UN
    Evading accountability?
    The United Nations Security Council named Hans Blix, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to be the chief inspector of a new disarmament commission for Iraq. The announcement came just over a year after Saddam Hussein kicked out UN-mandated weapons inspectors and defied international bureaucrats intent on counting his nuclear arsenal. U.S. ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke said the new commission has unanimous support from the Security Council, and the Iraqis "understand this resolution." But security experts say that is just the problem. "He has to be acceptable to the Iraqis, then they are conceding that they are selecting someone who will likely allow Saddam Hussein to evade accountability again," said Heritage Foundation defense analyst Baker Spring. Mr. Blix, who is 71, served as director of the Vienna-based IAEA from 1981 to 1997. IAEA activities came under criticism during that time, particularly after the Persian Gulf War, when the agency, under Mr. Blix, was blamed for not detecting Saddam's secret nuclear weapons program in its routine inspections of Iraqi sites. Mr. Spring said the UN is hampered in policing any state, like Iraq, which is also a member. "Enforcement will only be as strong as the commitment of individual states to that enforcement," he told WORLD. "The United States has to view this not as a traditional proliferation problem, but as a regime problem. United States policy has to focus on changing the regime." Enough evil to go around in Chechnya
    Chechen atrocities
    Human-rights groups say they have credible evidence that Russian soldiers raped Chechen women as they moved into villages surrounding Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, in December. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that soldiers raped and killed a pregnant woman and her mother-in-law, who were residents of Shali, and gave other accounts as well. The atrocities are taking place on both sides, however. Nearly a month ago, members of Grozny Baptist Church were reunited with 13-year-old Anja Hrykin, who was kidnapped from the church by Islamist Chechen fighters and was missing for over three months. She had been raped, beaten, and was near starvation when Russian soldiers found her in an abandoned Chechen village and took her to Christian acquaintances in nearby Vladikavkaz. Medical tests confirmed that the teenager is pregnant. Anja has since joined 22 other refugees from her church in relocating to resettlement camps along the Black Sea coast. Persecution watch
    India: The beating of a Christian from a prominent Hindu family came to light after the victim spoke with Western reporters last week. Chandrakant Shourie said he was attacked, along with his wife, his son, and several friends and neighbors, by six armed men who interrupted a New Year's Eve prayer meeting in Nagod, a remote town south of New Delhi, where the Shouries run a school and ministry for the poor. Mr. Shourie is also a member of a national panel, organized by the Evangelical Fellowship of India, to investigate attacks against Christians. He said the assailants shouted, "Kill this Christian," and made reference to an incident a year ago in Orissa, where Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burned to death in their car. Mr. Shourie was unharmed, but his wife and son were both wounded. Mr. Shourie is the nephew of Arun Shourie, a prominent journalist, member of India's upper house of Parliament, and part of the ruling Hindu nationalist party. Indonesia: Government officials in Indonesia said "the unthinkable" had happened, after a year-long conflict between Christians and Muslims centered in Maluku began to spread to other parts of the archipelago nation. Riots erupted on Lombok, a resort island near Bali in central Indonesia, last week, forcing the evacuation of tourists from Mataram, the capital. Five-star hotels, according to a report from Compass Direct, wrote "Muslim owned" on doors and walls to prevent the rioters from torching the premises. But observers believe the fighting in cash-cow tourist areas may force the government to take the conflict more seriously, and to rein in favoritism toward Muslims by local military and police forces.

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