Nets: Juvenile Execution Ruling Brings U.S. Into Line with World --3/2/2005
2. ABC Stressed Torture Claim, Skips Evidence of Plan to Kill Bush
3. NPR Spurns Social Security "Reform" Tag, But in Clinton Years...
4. "Top Ten Other Changes at CNN"
In reporting the Supreme Court's decision to bar the death penalty for those under 18, the networks on Tuesday night stressed how out of step the U.S. had become with the rest of the world and ABC and CBS gave equal time to relatives of murderers as to victim's families. NBC anchor Brian Williams heralded how the ruling "ends a practice that drew ridicule for years from some of America's closest friends around the world." Peter Jennings trumpeted how "this brings the U.S. into line with much of the world." ABC's Manuel Medrano highlighted how "most of the world has already outlawed juvenile executions" and lamented how the U.S. "was among only a handful of countries permitting such executions." Medrano relayed how one woman "is relieved that today's decision means her father's death sentence will never be carried out." CBS's Jim Stewart passed along how a murderer's mother "was relieved, arguing that crimes committed as a juvenile don't deserve the ultimate grown-up punishment."
CNN's Jeanne Meserve, however, centered her NewsNight story around the disappointment and anger of the parents of a police officer killed by a juvenile sentenced to death. Anchor Aaron Brown, however, followed up by defending the ruling to a guest: "Don't we all the time say that kids of a certain age lack the judgment and the maturity to make decisions as a group? We don't say some 17-year-olds can vote and others can't."
Of the broadcast network reports, only NBC's Pete Williams outlined the crime committed in the specific case decided by the court: "Today's ruling came in the brutal Missouri murder case of Christopher Simmons, who was 17 when he broke into the home of Shirley Cook, tied her up, and threw her off a bridge into the river below while she was still alive."
ABC's Terry Moran uniquely pointed out how "Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in this case, 15 years ago voted the other way, said it was constitutional to execute juvenile offenders." Applying some labeling, Moran predicted "that will steel the President and his supporters to pick a hard core conservative when and if there is a vacancy."
Tuesday night, March 1, coverage as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC World News Tonight. Peter Jennings led with the ruling: "Good evening, everyone. We begin at the Supreme Court tonight. The court has ruled today that executing people who were under 18 when they committed their crime is unconstitutional. In the immediate sense, this means that 72 people in 19 states will not be executed. The court's majority opinion said there is now a 'consensus that juveniles are less culpable,' less deserving of blame for their crimes. This brings the U.S. into line with much of the world. But the decision was a narrow one, 5-4. And Justice Scalia, one of the dissenters, said the court had 'proclaimed itself the sole arbiter of the nation's moral standards.' In a phrase, it's controversial. Our first report is from ABC's Manuel Medrano."
Medrano began: "The decision by a deeply divided court spares the life of Christopher Simmons, who was 17 when he committed murder in 1993. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said juvenile offenders are different because their character 'is not as well formed as that of an adult.' Supporters of the decision agreed that the practice amounts to cruel and unusual punishment."
Jennings turned to Terry Moran at the White House: "Well, as we said, the 5-4 decision makes it clear this is a controversial ruling. ABC's Terry Moran watches the court really closely for us, though he also happens to cover the White House. This is going to energize the debate, I suspect, on the general make-up of the court."
Stewart began: "Teenage Washington area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo got the news within hours of the high court's decision. Bowing to the inevitable, prosecutors in his case said there was no point now in going forward with his death penalty trial. Malvo instead will serve a life sentence without parole, as will most of the 72 men in 12 states who are already on death row for crimes committed before their 18th birthday, including 43-year-old Timothy Davis in Alabama, who's been there the longest, and 18-year-old Robert Acuna in Texas, who just arrived. Acuna's mother was relieved, arguing that crimes committed as a juvenile don't deserve the ultimate grown-up punishment."
That, of course, depends on who retires. Two of the three oldest members of the court, William Rehnquist and Sandra O'Connor dissented and so replacing them would not alter the split. (Justices in the majority: Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. In dissent: Rehnquist, O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas.)
Pete Williams began: "One aftershock of today's landmark decision was felt in Virginia, upsetting that state's second effort to seek the death penalty for Lee Boyd Malvo. His first trial ended with a life sentence for one of the deadly Washington, D.C. sniper shootings two years ago, when he was 17. Now prosecutors say there's no point in trying again."
Meserve focused on a victim's family: "A Texas court said Michael Anthony Lopez should die for his crimes. Now a U.S. Supreme Court decision means he will not because he was only 17 when he murdered another young man. Janet and Bill Green find it hard to stomach."
Brown then set up an interview segment: "Nineteen states have laws allowing the death penalty for juveniles. Virginia is one of them. Today's ruling has overturned plans in that state to put convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo on trial again. Mr. Malvo was 17 when he took part in the shooting spree that terrorized the Washington area. The one jury that did convict him refused to sentence him to die, a decision Robert Horan disagreed with. He prosecuted the case, and he joins us tonight from Washington."
Brown's questions to Robert Horan:
# "Let me give you the hanging curve, and then we'll go from there. Basically, you think that the court got it all wrong today?"
# "All right, let's, does it matter or should it matter what most of the world, almost all of the world thinks and does?"
# "To what extent, if any extent, should the court consider what Justice Kennedy referred to today as a sort of evolving national standard? For example, was the court wrong in saying that the evolving national standard has come to a point where we wouldn't and shouldn't execute those who are mentally retarded? Is there any circumstance where the evolving national standard, whatever precisely that is, needs to be considered?"
ABC's World News Tonight, which last week considered a lawyer's allegation that Ahmed Omar Abu Ali had been tortured just as important as the government's charge that the al-Qaeda member plotted to assassinate President Bush, on Tuesday night ignored how at a hearing in the case an FBI agent testified that the man admitted his complicity and a federal judge ordered Ahmed Omar Abu Ali to remain incarcerated because he poses a "grave danger." CBS's Dan Rather, however, had time to note the agent's testimony.
On the March 1 CBS Evening News, Rather reported: "At a hearing today in Virginia, an FBI agent testified that an Arab-American accused of plotting to assassinate President Bush has admitted it. The agent told a federal magistrate that 23-year-old Ahmed Omar Abu Ali has said quote, 'multiple times,' unquote that he joined al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and plotted to kill the President and launch a 9/11-style attack on the U.S."
ABC's World News Tonight ignored that, but had time for a story on how the creator of NYPD Blue complained that in the current television atmosphere he wouldn't be able to get the acclaimed show onto the air.
The February 23 CyberAlert recounted: ABC considered a lawyer's allegation that Ahmed Omar Abu Ali had been tortured just as important as the government's charge that the al-Qaeda member plotted to assassinate President Bush. Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, an Arab-American is charged with conspiring to assassinate the President. His lawyers say the U.S. let the authorities in Saudi Arabia torture him." Brian Ross began his story not with the charges but with how the suspect's "friends and family were at the courthouse in Virginia this morning, hoping for his release after 20 months in custody in Saudi Arabia" where he had voluntarily gone after graduating a high school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Ross quickly moved to how "his lawyer says his client was tortured into making a false confession" and Ross highlighted how "human rights lawyers say the issue will be one of U.S. tactics." A lawyer complained: "I think the term that's being used for this now is 'torture by proxy.'" See: www.mediaresearch.org
A Virginia man accused of joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate President Bush admitted his guilt and pondered hijackings similar to the Sept. 11 attacks, an FBI agent testified Tuesday.
The testimony came at a pretrial hearing at which a federal magistrate said Ahmed Omar Abu Ali posed a "grave danger" and ordered that he remain jailed pending trial.
Abu Ali, 23, was charged last week with providing support to al-Qaida and conspiring to assassinate the president. Authorities allege that Abu Ali, who grew up in Virginia, joined al-Qaida while studying in Saudi Arabia.
FBI agent Barry Cole testified that Abu Ali admitted many times that he joined al-Qaida and discussed various potential acts, including a plan in which he would personally assassinate Bush.
Cole said other plans included hijacking planes in Great Britain and Australia and using them as missiles to attack targets in the United States, a plan to free prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and a plan to destroy naval ships in U.S. ports.
"The defendant has in his own words indicated he is a grave, grave danger to this community and this nation," Liam O'Grady said after hearing Cole's testimony....
Cole testified that he interviewed Abu Ali over four days in September 2003. He said Abu Ali initially demanded a lawyer but changed his mind after agents told him that he could be prosecuted by Saudi authorities or held as an enemy combatant.
Cole, a counterterrorism agent, said Abu Ali's confessions are supported by the admissions of an al-Qaida cell leader in Saudi Arabia who surrendered to authorities. Cole said the al-Qaida cell leader gave Abu Ali money to purchase a laptop computer and cell phone.
Cole also testified that Abu Ali discussed with him plans to assassinate members of Congress. No further details were offered.
Cole said the al-Qaida leaders gave Abu Ali two options: He could either become part of a martyr operation or he could establish a cell in the United States and he would "marry a Christian woman, assimilate into the community and he would be provided operatives."
END of Excerpt
For the AP story in full: story.news.yahoo.com
Ron Elving, NPR's Washington editor, has instructed National Public Radio staffers not to use the word "reform" to describe President Bush's proposal to change the Social Security system, NPR's media critic Brooke Gladstone reported on Monday's Morning Edition. "Reform, if you look at the dictionary, has a strong implication of improvement, to better something. It's a corrective process," Elving argued.
But a decade ago, NPR's Morning Edition crew had no problems referring to the Clintons' plan to increase the government's control of the health care industry as "reform." Back on September 23, 1993, host Bob Edwards intoned: "President Clinton went before a joint session of Congress last night to announce the most sweeping domestic initiative in a generation, his long-awaited health care reform plan."
A year later, NPR's Linda Wertheimer was still using the same positive language even after the legislation had hopelessly stalled in Congress. Teasing a story on the September 27, 1994 early-evening news program All Things Considered, she asked: "What killed health care reform? We'll hear the view of a Democratic Senator."
[The MRC's Rich Noyes found the contrasts and wrote up this item for CyberAlert based on NPR monitoring for the MRC provided by Tom Johnson.]
Evidently, "reform" was just fine to describe the Clintons' scheme for bigger government. But NPR has now banned the use of the word "reform" to describe President Bush's proposal to loosen government's control over individual workers' retirement funds.
Monday's segment began as co-host Steve Inskeep read a complaint from an obviously liberal listener upset that NPR had -- in his mind at least -- been too pro-Bush: "Every week, listeners send us e-mails not only about our stories, but about the words we use to tell them. Here's one e-mail from Sam Moore of Oklahoma City. Quote, 'Every time you refer to President Bush's Social Security reform plan, you are taking part in his propaganda program to sell his plan.' And he writes, "Reform suggests it's a needed or desirable change.'"
What an interesting window into the kind of listener NPR attracts -- and the kind of complaints they take seriously.
Inskeep then introduced the nearly nine-minute long report from Brooke Gladstone, who co-hosts a weekly "On the Media" program produced by WNYC. She first noted that liberal Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt originally picked the phrase "Social Security" in the 1930s as a way to make his government-run pension system more popular, then she got around to today's debate over private accounts: "The President wants to change it. He calls it 'reform.' Many in the media have called it 'reform.'"
She then ran a montage of soundbites, from ABC's George Stephanopoulos, NBC's Tim Russert and CNN's Wolf Blitzer, as well as an NPR host using the now-forbidden phrase "Social Security reform."
Gladstone told listeners: "You just heard CNN, NPR, ABC and NBC refer to the President's plan as 'reform,' but several news outlets, including NPR, no longer do....On February 8, NPR Washington editor Ron Elving sent a memo to staff members, instructing them to use more neutral words to describe the President's plan."
Elving, in a soundbite, explained: "Reform, if you look at the dictionary, has a strong implication of improvement, to better something. It's a corrective process."
But Gladstone thought she could still detect too much Bush boosterism: "I refer you then back to your dictionary, Ron, because I looked up 'overhaul,' and it means to examine for purposes of repair, very much like reform."
Elving accepted her criticism: "You make a good point, and I would re-examine the use of the term 'overhaul.' I do not think that it contains the same implication that a system has to be improved."
The squeamishness that NPR is showing about "Social Security reform" was non-existent in the early 1990s when it came to "health care reform." But then, the Clintons had a plan to increase the size and power of the federal government, while today's liberals fear that Bush's Social Security plan might eventually lead to a lessening of government control. Maybe the taxpayer-subsidized reporters at NPR have a hard time equating "reform" with anything other than an expansion of big government.
From the March 1 Late Show with David Letterman, inspired by CNN's decision to accept advertising for alcoholic beverages, the "Top Ten Other Changes at CNN." The Late Show's home page: www.cbs.com
10. Wolf Blitzer changing name to Blitz Wolfer.
9. When covering a hard story, reporters ask, "What would Jack Daniels do?"
8. Every Sunday it's "WKRP in Cincinnati" marathons!
7. Reporters must make quotation marks with fingers when calling Bush "President."
6. They're putting Lou Dobbs on steroids.
5. Every night, one lucky viewer receives an on-air physical from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
4. Last 10 minutes of newscasts anchors sing hits from the 70s, 80s, 90s and today.
3. Let's just say Paula Zahn is now Paul Zahn.
2. Changing name to CNNN.
1. Interactive feature allows viewers to administer painful electric shock to Larry King.
I'd suggest that #7 reflects a the true desire of many CNN staffers and #1 the desire of many viewers.
Dan Rather is scheduled to appear on Thursday's Late Show.