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NBC Focuses on Iraq Vets "Who Tumbled Quickly Into Homelessness" --1/26/2005


1. NBC Focuses on Iraq Vets "Who Tumbled Quickly Into Homelessness"
NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night found a direct connection to President Bush in a poster veteran to illustrate the supposed problem of homelessness amongst soldiers returning from Iraq: A woman Bush put his arm around during his Thanksgiving stop in Iraq in 2003. Mike Taibbi asked: "An Iraq war vet with no place to live? Well, it turns out that Varetta Barnes is only one of about one hundred veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who tumbled quickly into homelessness." Her solution, Taibbi relayed, "was to re-enlist for active duty, hoping for a job as a recruiter, but also willing to return to Iraq" because "at least the Army means a job and a home." A hundred vets out of the hundreds of thousands who have been in Iraq is hardly a significant number.

2. Jennings Concedes Iraq Improvements, But Better Off with Saddam
Jennings: A sentence on infrastructure work in Iraq where people were better off under Saddam. The January 25 CyberAlert noted that though ABC's Peter Jennings relayed on Monday how "every U.S. officer encountered today said the media has missed or under-reported" U.S. efforts to re-build Iraq, ABC never did show any video to illustrate the money spent on "sewer pipes, sewage treatment, landfills for garbage, available clean water." On Tuesday, Jennings gave a sentence to how "in parts of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, new water pipes and new paving don't go unnoticed." But, he quickly added, "in Baghdad's Shula neighborhood, lousy plumbing equals pessimism." His report focused on how in central Iraq the security, electricity and water situations are worse than a year ago. Jennings, however, noted that "two out of three Iraqis in the central zone here told us they are optimistic about the future. That's resilience for you." Yet, Jennings asserted that "today we hear the same thing we heard last summer. 'When Saddam Hussein was in power, this [violence] never would have happened.'"

3. ABC's GMA Contrasts Education Budget with Twice as Much for Iraq
The morning after NBC's Jim Miklaszewski decided to stress how the $105 billion dedicated to spending on Iraq and Afghanistan is "13 times the budget for the entire Environmental Protection Agency," ABC's Jessica Yellin, on Tuesday's Good Morning America, pointed out that the "whopping $105 billion" is "more than three times the budget for the Department of Homeland Security and almost twice the Department of Education's budget." You'd think the scandal here would be how the federal government spends more on the Department of Education, a department conservatives think should be eliminated since it's not a federal responsibility, than on homeland security.

4. Tax on Grocery Bags Intrigues Today Show's Couric, Lauer & Curry
Instead of seeing San Francisco's plan to enact a 17 cents per grocery bag fee as a ridiculous example of do-gooder government trying to impose a backdoor tax in order to promote liberal social engineering, the Today crew of Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry admired the goal of eliminating the use of grocery bags. Couric saw Europeans as the model to follow since in Europe people use "canvas bags or those big sort of net bags." Curry chimed in with how "in New York you see a lot of people driving little wheeled, you know, sort of carts" and suggested "really maybe we should think about that again." Couric put her finger to her cheek and uttered a "hmm" as Lauer, sitting beside her, enunciated their thinking: "Something to ponder."


NBC Focuses on Iraq Vets "Who Tumbled
Quickly Into Homelessness"

President George Bush & Varetta Barnes NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night found a direct connection to President Bush in a poster veteran to illustrate the supposed problem of homelessness amongst soldiers returning from Iraq: A woman Bush put his arm around during his Thanksgiving stop in Iraq in 2003. Mike Taibbi asked: "An Iraq war vet with no place to live? Well, it turns out that Varetta Barnes is only one of about one hundred veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who tumbled quickly into homelessness." Her solution, Taibbi relayed, "was to re-enlist for active duty, hoping for a job as a recruiter, but also willing to return to Iraq" because "at least the Army means a job and a home." A hundred vets out of the hundreds of thousands who have been in Iraq is hardly a significant number.

Last April, picking up on a New York Times story, CBS News rediscovered homelessness in America, pairing it with the plight of veterans returning from Iraq. Saturday CBS Evening News anchor Mika Brzezinski connected the case of Pat Tillman, the NFL star turned Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan, with a woman who couldn't get along with her mother and so had to live elsewhere, as she teased the broadcast, "A tale of two soldiers: One honored in death, the other homeless in life." Reporter Kelly Cobiella relayed, without any doubt, the claims of a self-interested advocate: "There is no federal shelter to care for veterans. The burden falls on cash-strapped cities like New York which struggles to provide shelter for hundreds of veterans from World War II to Iraq. It is a growing problem, says Mary Brosnahan Sullivan with the Coalition for the Homeless." See the April 26 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

A "growing problem," yet nine months later a self-interested advocacy group claims only one hundred Iraq vets are homeless nationwide.

Brian Williams set up the January 25 segment of a week-long series: "Tonight, we continue our series here called 'Coming Home.' Did you know, for example, that some returning Iraq veterans are told they will instinctively reach for their weapons for up to six months or more once they're home? Others are told to avoid shopping malls, crowds, or loud noises. Children are warned not to startle their sleeping fathers who are just home from the war. It is all just part of the mental recovery from this kind of combat. Tonight, as our series continues, NBC's Mike Taibbi on what's being done to lessen the effects of what they've all seen and done."

NBC's Mike Taibbi & Specialist Varetta Barnes Taibbi began, over a zoom in on a photo of her next to Bush in Iraq: "When President George Bush made his surprise Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad in November of 2003, the handpicked soldier he embraced was Army Reserve Specialist Varetta Barnes."
Specialist Varetta Barnes, U.S. Army Reserve: "He leaned in and gave me a little kiss on the cheek. I was like, oh, my God!"
Taibbi: "Barnes, a mother of three teens, had volunteered for Iraq duty and served as a civil affairs liaison to Iraq's business community."
Barnes: "And that's what I went there to do, is to help people."
Taibbi: "But as the insurgency intensified during her year-long tour, her experience was every soldier's experience."
Barnes: "It was constant, you know, explosions and people shooting."
Taibbi: "Worse, though, by the time her active duty ended last April, her husband was no longer around, her kids had gone to live in her mother's small apartment, and there was no job waiting that could pay for her own apartment."
Barnes: "Basically, when I came back, I was actually homeless."
Taibbi: "An Iraq war vet with no place to live? Well, it turns out that Varetta Barnes is only one of about one hundred veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who tumbled quickly into homelessness."
Linda Boone, Coalition for Homeless Veterans: "It's all about economics and having a job."
Taibbi: "Economics, says Linda Boone of the Coalition for Homeless Veterans, often compounded by substance abuse and mental health issues. But soldiers, in a rush to return to civilian life, often don't hear the details of the specific help available to them should problems pile up, and Boone says neither the military nor the Veterans Administration make them aware."
Boone: "When that consistently happens, then they're not doing an adequate job."
Taibbi at least noted: "Dr. Alfonse Batres, who heads the VA's transition assistance program, says it's up to the individual soldier to seek help."
Dr. Alfonse Batres, Veterans Administration: "You may offer all the programs in the world, but if they don't come in to receive those services, then it's very difficult to provide them access."
Taibbi, over video of the two walking in the parking lot of an apartment building: "Varetta Barnes is one of those soldiers who says until now, she never knew where the lifeline was."
Barnes: "I'm going to seek counseling for myself and my children."
Taibbi: "And now she's Sergeant Barnes, for her solution was to re-enlist for active duty, hoping for a job as a recruiter, but also willing to return to Iraq."
Barnes: "There's no way a soldier should come back here and be homeless, ever, ever."
Taibbi: "Because at least the Army means a job and a home. Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Laurel, Maryland."

From the story, it's unclear if Barnes were ever really homeless and she looked in good health and was well-dressed in her appearances with Taibbi.

For the online version of Taibbi's story, with a picture of Varetta Barnes with Bush in Iraq: www.msnbc.msn.com

Jennings Concedes Iraq Improvements,
But Better Off with Saddam

ABC's Peter Jennings Jennings: A sentence on infrastructure work in Iraq where people were better off under Saddam. The January 25 CyberAlert noted that though ABC's Peter Jennings relayed on Monday how "every U.S. officer encountered today said the media has missed or under-reported" U.S. efforts to re-build Iraq, ABC never did show any video to illustrate the money spent on "sewer pipes, sewage treatment, landfills for garbage, available clean water." On Tuesday, Jennings gave a sentence to how "in parts of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, new water pipes and new paving don't go unnoticed." But, he quickly added, "in Baghdad's Shula neighborhood, lousy plumbing equals pessimism." His report focused on how in central Iraq the security, electricity and water situations are worse than a year ago. Jennings, however, noted that "two out of three Iraqis in the central zone here told us they are optimistic about the future. That's resilience for you." Yet, Jennings asserted that "today we hear the same thing we heard last summer. 'When Saddam Hussein was in power, this [violence] never would have happened.'"

For the January 25 CyberAlert item: www.mediaresearch.org

From Iraq, Jennings provided a lengthy report for the January 25 World News Tonight. Jennings began, as checked against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
"And now to the first in our pre-election series of where things stand with Iraqis in various parts of the country. For some weeks now, we have had reporting teams of young Iraqi journalists in the region. It is almost impossible for an American journalist to have this freedom. They have talked to more than 1300 people in 40 cities and towns.
"Tonight we focus on central Iraq, which is where we are, where security for one thing is far worse than the rest of the country, where electricity and water supplies are worse, and more than 80 percent of the people we talked to think that. But also, here some things are better.
Taped report began with matching video of what Jennings described: "We discovered a burst of commerce [video of people selling stuff]. One thing you notice immediately on coming back is that life goes on. It is a struggle, but people go to work and they shop. They buy flowers. But this city that has been running down for 30 years is simply battered in places. The people are battered, too. They really are.
"Abdul Hasan al Saidi is in Baghdad's army of taxi drivers [video of him]. He ticks off the problems as he drives. The garbage isn't collected. The sewage problem is enormous. Law and order are non-existent. But so many Iraqis we have met down through the years hang on to shreds of optimism. What choice is there? Abdul Hasan told us he is hopeful and he and his family plan to vote on Sunday.
ABC's World News Tonight "It has been true since the beginning of the occupation, where there is tangible improvement in the quality of life people are more optimistic. In parts of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, new water pipes and new paving don't go unnoticed [video of men handling pipes]. In Baghdad's Shula neighborhood, lousy plumbing equals pessimism. 'We've had overflowing sewage here for six days,' he says. [man yelling in front of lake of sewage] 'We call the local officials. They haven't fixed anything.'
ABC's World News Tonight "Our reporters and camera people say that sewage comes up all the time, like a metaphor for what Iraqis are trapped by [video of flowing brown liquid]. At a school in Sadr City, the children and the teachers would be one step forward if someone just got the sewage out of the school yard [video of big puddle of sewage next to a school]. In so many parts of central Iraq the way things are, one step forward and one step back. There are 115 children in Baghdad's Special Institute for Handicapped Children. Since the U.S. invasion the staff has had more money for physical improvements, but the House of Mercy, as it's called, is very near to Haifa Street, where the U.S. and insurgents are often fighting. The kids get scared when they hear the guns or the sound of a low-flying helicopter. There was a bomb nearby last week. The children fled the lunchroom in a panic. No damage to the building.
"It is all psychological. It is hard in America to comprehend the level of violence. In the Gazaliya neighborhood of Baghdad, our team found a shell-shocked community. In December a huge explosion leveled several homes, 48 people were killed. It is not clear whether it was a suicide bomber or an accident. But three men from other countries -- Sudan, Syria, and Lebanon -- were living here, the people say, apparently gathering explosives. This man lost two sons. 'Who,' he asks, 'will save Iraq?'
Jennings, back on camera: "Central Iraq has had the worst of the violence, and today we hear the same thing we heard last summer. 'When Saddam Hussein was in power, this never would have happened.' Just one other note. Many Americans see Iraq only for the violence, but two out of three Iraqis in the central zone here told us they are optimistic about the future. That's resilience for you."

ABC's GMA Contrasts Education Budget
with Twice as Much for Iraq

The morning after NBC's Jim Miklaszewski decided to stress how the $105 billion dedicated to spending on Iraq and Afghanistan is "13 times the budget for the entire Environmental Protection Agency," ABC's Jessica Yellin, on Tuesday's Good Morning America, pointed out that the "whopping $105 billion" is "more than three times the budget for the Department of Homeland Security and almost twice the Department of Education's budget." You'd think the scandal here would be how the federal government spends more on the Department of Education, a department conservatives think should be eliminated since it's not a federal responsibility, than on homeland security.

The January 25 CyberAlert reported: NBC Pentagon reporter Jim Miklaszewski decided Monday night to compare the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with how much is spent by one of the favorite agencies of liberals, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Relaying how the "administration is going to ask Congress tomorrow for about $80 billion more in emergency funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," Miklaszewski explained "that brings the total to $105 billion" for the fiscal year. "By comparison," he emphasized, "that's 13 times the budget for the entire Environmental Protection Agency." The Iraq/Afghanistan spending is also one-fifth of the $510 billion set to be spent this year on Social Security and NASA spends twice as much as the EPA. See: www.mediaresearch.org

The MRC's Jessica Barnes caught Jessica Yellin's comparison made in a story aired during the 7am news update on the January 25 Good Morning America:
"With Iraq's elections less than a week away, the U.S. is getting ready to make a major new investment in its effort to bring democracy to the region. According to congressional sources, the Bush administration is going to request an extra $80 billion to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. That would bring the total spending for those efforts to a whopping $105 billion this year alone. That's more than three times the budget for the Department of Homeland Security [on screen: $33.8 billion] and almost twice the Department of Education's budget [$57.3 billion]. Word of the spending request comes just as the head of U.S. Army planning says he expects to keep 120,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq for the next two years, though he admits that figure could go up or down. ABC News consultant General Jack Keane says investing now will cost the U.S. less than abandoning Iraq to the insurgents."
Gen. Keane, former Army Vice Chief of Staff: "We have the problem. Even though we may not have expected it, we have it, and we have to bring it to favorable resolution."
Yellin: "The Bush administration is expected to announce the $80 billion request later today."

Tax on Grocery Bags Intrigues Today Show's
Couric, Lauer & Curry

NBC's Katie Couric & Matt Lauer Instead of seeing San Francisco's plan to enact a 17 cents per grocery bag fee as a ridiculous example of do-gooder government trying to impose a backdoor tax in order to promote liberal social engineering, the Today crew of Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry admired the goal of eliminating the use of grocery bags. Couric saw Europeans as the model to follow since in Europe people use "canvas bags or those big sort of net bags." Curry chimed in with how "in New York you see a lot of people driving little wheeled, you know, sort of carts" and suggested "really maybe we should think about that again." Couric put her finger to her cheek and uttered a "hmm" as Lauer, sitting beside her, enunciated their thinking: "Something to ponder."

Their remarks, caught by the MRC's Geoff Dickens, followed a 9am newscast story on the January 25 Today. Newsreader Ann Curry set it up: "And today officials in San Francisco consider a new way to encourage recycling, by taxing grocery bags. NBC's Michael Okwu has more on this."
Okwu: "Paper or plastic? Whatever your answer it may now cost you money if you do your grocery shopping in San Francisco."
Man #1: "I think it's a little extreme, 17 cents."
Michael Okwu: "Today San Francisco city officials will vote on whether or not to recommend charging shoppers 17 cents for every bag they use. It would be the first tax of its kind in the nation. It's all part of an effort to cut down the estimated 50 million bags used in the city every year. Activists hope the tax will promote more recycling."
Bill Shireman, Californians Against Waste: "Well I can hardly walk out of a store these days without a bag inside a bag, inside a bag. And when I do that I'm wasting money, I am wasting petroleum, I'm contributing to the litter problem and I'm also contributing to a very serious Marine life problem."
Okwu: "Mixed reaction from shoppers."
Man #2: "17 cents added up is a lot."
Woman: "I think it's a great idea."
Okwu: "The measure is still being studied. Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles."

Curry then wrapped up: "Four minutes past the hour. Those are the top stories. Let's go back to Matt and Katie."
From the couch, Couric admired the goal of eliminating paper and plastic bags: "That's interesting. We were saying people should bring maybe canvas bags or those big sort of net bags. I think they use those in Europe a lot right?"
Lauer, sitting beside Couric: "They do that a lot, yeah."
Curry: "In, in New York you see a lot of people driving little wheeled, you know, sort of carts. So, you know, really maybe we should think about that again."
Couric, with finger to her cheek: "Hmm."
Lauer: "Hmm. Something to ponder."

On Tuesday night, San Francisco's Commission on the Environment moved the idea forward, voting for a study of the proposal.


-- Brent Baker