Jennings Scolds Ashcroft; CFR "Finally" Passed; Bush Team Too Secretive; Global Warming To Blame Again; Aaron "Skippy" Brown
1) ABC's Peter Jennings fretted about how "many" of the Arab males in the U.S. who have been "already questioned say it was terrifying that they were, in their words, 'victims of ethnic profiling.'" But Dan Rather led the CBS Evening News by warning: "The Justice Department admitted today that more than 1,000 foreigners, believed to be or have been in this country and wanted for questioning, have not been found."
2) "The shame of Enron finally got Congress to pass a campaign finance reform bill today," Dan Rather approvingly noted Wednesday evening while NBC's Tom Brokaw launched the campaign for even tougher rules as he wondered if "loopholes" in the bill could "turn this major overhaul into business as usual?"
3) ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday examined the Bush administration's supposed excessive secrecy. Diane Sawyer raised what she described as a "brewing political controversy," asking: "Is the Bush administration using public support for the war to shut out others from the decision-making process, whether it's fighting in Iraq or protecting the home front?"
4) The New York Times attributed the break-up of an Antarctic ice shelf to "greenhouse" gasses which are causing global warming, but the Washington Post noted that "researchers and scientists... cautioned that there was little evidence to directly link the ice shelf collapse to the effects of global warming."
5) Wacky question of the day. Thousands have probably been killed while in a car on the way to an NHL game, but on Wednesday afternoon CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked a guest if, in the wake of the tragedy in which a teenage girl was killed by a puck, "kids have to go to hockey games now wearing helmets?"
6) On Fox & Friends Steve Doocy informed viewers that inside CNN Aaron Brown's nickname is "Skippy." FNC's E.D. Donahey dubbed CNN's American Morning "American Boring" as she and her two morning colleagues marveled at how they get better ratings with "three people sitting in velvet chairs" than does CNN which pays Paula Zahn $2 million a year to host its morning show.
ABC's Peter Jennings was disturbed by the violation of civil rights associated with John Ashcroft's announcement that the Justice Department plans to interview 3,000 foreign national males, who arrived in the U.S. since October 1 from nations with al-Qaeda operations. But from the same Ashcroft announcement CBS's Dan Rather found most newsworthy the "stunning" revelation that the FBI and INS have been unable to locate 1,000 Arab or Muslim males in the U.S. sought for questioning.
On Wednesday's World News Tonight, Jennings fretted about how "many of those already questioned say it was terrifying that they were, in their words, 'victims of ethnic profiling.'" Dan Rather led the CBS Evening News, however, by warning: "The Justice Department admitted today that more than 1,000 foreigners, believed to be or have been in this country and wanted for questioning, have not been found."
Only as an afterthought did ABC's Pierre Thomas mention how the 1,000 foreign men cannot be located.
Jennings set up the March 20 story, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Attorney General John
Ashcroft today talked about the foreign nationals who have been questioned
by law enforcement in many parts of the country since November. The
Justice Department planned to interview 5,000 foreigners, most of them
Arabs or Arab-Americans. Now Mr. Ashcroft says he wants another 3,000
interviews. Many of those already questioned say it was terrifying that
they were, in their words, 'victims of ethnic profiling.' ABC's
Pierre Thomas reports from Washington."
Jennings then asked: "Pierre, I know the
department wanted to talk to several thousand people, how many did they
actually manage to talk to?"
Rather led the CBS Evening News: "Good evening. The Justice Department admitted today that more than 1,000 foreigners, believed to be or have been in this country and wanted for questioning, have not been found. So far, they simply cannot be located. While maximum blame is placed on the already embarrassed INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Justice Department itself, the FBI and other elements of the government's anti-terrorism task forces are involved in one way or another. White House correspondent John Roberts has more about today's surprising, some would say stunning, revelation."
After reviewing problems at the INS, Roberts concluded the subsequent report: "Ashcroft today stressed the urgency of tracking down foreign visitors in the United States. He pointed to a Justice Department report released today that found interviews with people who have been located have yielded significant leads in the war against terrorism."
Indeed, on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Catherine Herridge delivered a balanced summary of the pros and cons on the interviewing policy, including how James Zogby claimed the first round yielded no useful information, before concluding: "While Zogby says the interviews weren't useful, a Justice Department report says they generated new leads. Among them, one individual recalled seeing a 9-11 hijacker and two others identified acquaintances who'd taken flight training."
"The shame of Enron finally got Congress to pass a campaign finance reform bill today," Dan Rather approvingly noted Wednesday evening while NBC's Tom Brokaw launched the campaign for even tougher rules as he wondered if "loopholes" in the bill could "turn this major overhaul into business as usual?"
Passage of campaign finance "reform" had "finally" occurred, Dan Rather proclaimed on the March 20 CBS Evening News: "On Capitol Hill, it took seven years, but the shame of Enron finally got Congress to pass a campaign finance reform bill today. The legislation bans soft money, the unregulated special interest donations to national political parties. But it doubles the allowable hard money with donations to individual candidates now to be capped at $2,000. Let's get the real deal on what this means from CBS's Bob Schieffer. Bob, is the fight finally really over?"
Schieffer had to warn Rather that "no it's not" since after President Bush signs it Senator Mitch McConnell will file a lawsuit to invalidate portions of the law.
Tom Brokaw worried the new regulatory scheme might not be strict enough. He teased at the top of Wednesday's NBC Nightly News: "The money game. Campaign finance reform headed to the President. But will loopholes turn this major overhaul into business as usual?"
Brokaw led his show by observing how "tonight, the first significant reform since Watergate, is headed for the President's desk after it sailed through the Senate helped by the strong winds of embarrassment brought on by Enron."
Lisa Myers did use the occasion to recall how
the now-barred soft money was the kind raised by the "infamous
coffees" held by President Clinton. Getting to Brokaw's
"loopholes," she noted how special interests will figure out a
way around the rules and, to illustrate another unregulated area, she used
a liberal as an example: "Also under the new rules, a wealthy person
can still do what Jane Fonda did: She poured more than $12 million into
abortion rights groups in the last election to finance attack ads like
Prompted by complaints from Capitol Hill over how Homeland Security adviser Tom Ridge will not testify, ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday devoted a whole segment to the administration's supposed excessive secrecy. Diane Sawyer raised what she described as a "brewing political controversy," asking: "Is the Bush administration using public support for the war to shut out others from the decision-making process, whether it's fighting in Iraq or protecting the home front?"
But while there have been questions raised by both Republicans and Democrats about how the administration is sometimes too tight with information, neither ABC's Claire Shipman in her set up piece relaying Democratic Senator Byrd's complaints about Ridge, or Diane Sawyer in quizzing White House chief-of-staff Andy Card, bothered to let viewers in on the possibility that Byrd just wants to have a hearing so he can harangue Ridge in order to get him to direct homeland security spending to the Appropriations Committee Chairman's home state of West Virginia.
Shipman also resurrected a discredited complaint: "It's not the first time the White House has been accused of being arrogant with information. Key members of Congress say they were not briefed about the existence of a shadow government that's been set up in the event of emergency." In fact, top congressional leaders were provided or offered briefings about what was reported by U.S. News and the Cleveland Plain Dealer last October, so hardly secret.
Sawyer introduced the March 20 segment, as taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "We turn now to another story, which is the big political question of the day: Is the Bush administration using public support for the war to shut out others from the decision-making process, whether it's fighting in Iraq or protecting the home front? Critics have begun to say the President is so secretive that if he has a strategic plan, no one knows what it is. Joining us with this brewing political controversy, our Senior National Correspondent Claire Shipman at the White House."
Shipman outlined the supposed problem:
"Well, from the beginning this has been a White House that has prided
itself on its ability to control the flow of information, but now the
critics -- both Democrats and Republicans -- are saying that's turning
into an unhealthy penchant for secrecy."
After clips of President Bush and White House congressional liaison Nick Calio, Shipman recalled: "It's not the first time the White House has been accused of being arrogant with information. Key members of Congress say they were not briefed about the existence of a shadow government that's been set up in the event of emergency, nor, they say, have they been kept in the loop about any administration plans for action against Iraq. Vice President Cheney has refused to release the names of the people he met with in crafting his energy plan, and the Vice President even tried, unsuccessfully, to keep all reporters off his high-profile and high-stakes trip to the Middle East."
Shipman finally got to a personnel move which
did trouble some Republicans: "For the President, the very definition
of loyalty has been keeping quiet about what goes on inside these offices,
staying on message or else. Bush's head of the Army Corps of Engineers,
Mike Parker, learned that lesson recently when he was fired for publicly
complaining about the President's budget. But in wartime, with record
approval ratings, advisors say Bush feels little pressure to change
Next, Diane Sawyer grilled Andy Card over Ridge not testifying.
Sawyer: "So, examining the Ridge issue
alone, we know that technically he's not a Cabinet member, but nonetheless
he controls spending at about 80 different agencies."
Sawyer soon noted how "members of your own party have gone public" complaining about the administration withholding information. Sawyer explained: "Well, this is Congressman Ernest Istook and he says -- from Oklahoma, he's a Republican -- 'This is not minor. It involves millions of millions of lives.' And Representative Dan Burton says, 'This is not a monarchy,' warning there could be a war over this issue. Do you think they're just whiners and complainers? Why do you think they're doing this?"
Amazing. Congressman Dan Burton now considered a respected authority worthy of citing. (Burton's "monarchy" comment was referring to the administration's refusal to turn over FBI files from the Clinton era and involving how the FBI knew one of its informants had committed a murder in the 1960s for which another man spent decades in prison.)
"Ice Shelf Breaks Up in a Fast-Warming Antarctic Region" read the New York Times caption beneath four time-lapse photos on the top of its front page on Wednesday. Inside, reporter Andrew Revkin maintained only global warming could explain the break-up: "While it is too soon to say whether the changes there are related to a buildup of the 'greenhouse' gas emissions that scientists believe are warming the planet, many experts said it was getting harder to find any other explanation."
In the March 20 Washington Post, however, reporter Eric Pianin drew the opposite inference from the lack of evidence: "Researchers and scientists who study the Antarctic Peninsula cautioned that there was little evidence to directly link the ice shelf collapse to the effects of global warming."
Good Morning America news reader Don Dahler mimicked the New York Times, asserting Wednesday morning: "The rapid collapse of a massive Antarctic ice shelf has scientists wondering if global warming is to blame. The Rhode Island-sized chunk of ice disintegrated in little more than a month during what's been one of the warmest Antarctic summers on record. Experts say the shelf had been there since the last ice age 12,000 years ago."
The MRC's Tim Jones noticed the contrasting spin in the two daily newspapers.
"Large Ice Shelf in Antarctica Disintegrates at Great Speed," read the headline over Andrew Revkin's story. An excerpt:
A Rhode Island-size piece of the floating ice fringe along a fast-warming region of Antarctica has disintegrated with extraordinary rapidity, scientists said yesterday....
While it is too soon to say whether the changes there are related to a buildup of the "greenhouse" gas emissions that scientists believe are warming the planet, many experts said it was getting harder to find any other explanation.
"With the disappearance of ice shelves that have existed for thousands of years, you rather rapidly run out of other explanations," said Dr. Theodore A. Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, which has been monitoring the loss of ice in the Antarctic along with the British Antarctic Survey....
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/20/science/physical/20ICE.html 
"Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapses Into Sea," announced the Washington Post headline. But the subhead cautioned: "Scientists Split on Global Warming Role." An excerpt from the piece by reporter Eric Pianin:
....Researchers and scientists who study the Antarctic Peninsula cautioned that there was little evidence to directly link the ice shelf collapse to the effects of global warming, which is induced by carbon dioxide and other man-made "greenhouse" gases. Rather, they are blaming a localized warming period that allowed melt water to seep into cracks and trigger massive fracturing of the ice when temperatures dropped.
"What we see is climate warming regionally," said Ted Scambos, a researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "Ice shelves that have been there for centuries, maybe thousands of years, are responding to climate they haven't seen in the past. Very quickly they shatter."
But some scientists, including Princeton University geoscience professor Michael Oppenheimer, believe that more sophisticated and localized global warming models eventually will show a direct relationship between Earth's rising temperatures and the vanishing ice shelves....
END of Excerpt
For the entire story:
Wacky question of the day. Providing a classic illustration of how journalists often use an aberrant event to distort what is really most risky in life, on Wednesday afternoon CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked a guest if "kids have to go to hockey games now wearing helmets?"
Of the millions upon millions of fans who have attended NHL hockey games during the league's 84 seasons, not one was killed by play in an arena until a 13-year-old girl, Brittanie Cecil, tragically died on Tuesday after being hit in the head by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game.
Probably hundreds, if not thousands, have been
killed over the years while walking or in a car on the way to NHL games,
but this was the concern Blitzer expressed to CNN medical correspondent
Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Blitzer's 5pm EST show:
A less draconian measure for those worried would be to simply not buy seats behind the goal nets above where the plexiglass would stop a puck.
Aaron "Skippy" Brown? On Wednesday's Fox & Friends Steve Doocy informed viewers on the FNC morning show that inside CNN Aaron Brown's nickname is "Skippy." FNC's E.D. Donahey dubbed CNN's American Morning "American Boring" as she and her two morning colleagues, Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, marveled at how they get better ratings with "three people sitting in velvet chairs" than does CNN which pays Paula Zahn $2 million a year to host its morning show.
Maybe the FNC morning crew's mocking of CNN
is a little payback for how CNN tried to discredit FNC back in late
February when Aaron Brown and Jack Cafferty attributed a dip in the Dow to
an "erroneous" report by FNC that U.S. operatives were inside
Iraq. Cafferty quipped: "I understand they may change the slogan from
'fair and balanced' to 'fair and balanced but not necessarily very
accurate.'" For more on both comments, as well as a RealPlayer
video clip of Cafferty's remarks on American Morning:
For pictures of the Fox & Friends hosts:
MRC analyst Patrick Gregory took down some of the humorous hits on CNN during the 7:30am EST FNC segment on March 20 which was brought to my attention by the MRC's Rich Noyes:
-- E.D. Donahey: "Aaron Brown I heard,
has a nickname. A new nickname. You said he was your dentist."
When Mez Djouadi posts this CyberAlert he'll include a shot of FNC's graphic with "Skippy" beneath Brown's photo.
-- Referring to a story on how Fox & Friends beats American Morning, Donahey stated: "The New York Daily News, 'Anchor's Not Outfoxing Foe. CNN Seeking Help for Paula.' Paula Zahn of course was over here at Fox News Channel, and was paid two million, two million dollars to leave, to go over to CNN, because they thought 'we'll get her from Fox, Fox has all the good people, we'll take her...and things are gonna be great.' So they spent all this money, and then they got really upset because you all keep watching our program....and even though they pay her all that money and they're building her a new studio. You all aren't watching, and they're kind of upset."
Donahey added: "This is the interesting thing. CNN counters it by their spokesperson saying 'American Morning,' which is nicknamed American Boring, 'isn't in the same category as Fox and Friends.' No, we're just morning news programs and we're on the same time on cable. But we're not competition at all."
Doocy, referring to American Morning tri-host Anderson Cooper, who had hosted ABC's prime time reality show, The Mole: "It's got to be driving them crazy because our little rag tag, let's face it, they've got all that stuff, they've got Jack Cafferty over there, they've got the gerbil, I mean the mole, over there, they've got all that, they've got millions behind this. Let's face it, our show is three people sitting in velvet chairs. Face it, that's our show, three guys in chairs!" [I guess E.D. is one of the "guys"]
Donahey suggested: "But they could have a great program because they've got Paula doing the morning news program. She's a great, it's oboe, or cello? Cellist. She is a great cellist, she is a great golfer. She could do a music and a sports program on golfing, and that would be terrific. No one else is doing that."
-- In the midst of all this, Kilmeade quoted from how a CNN spokesman asserted in the newspaper article: "'We're providing news and substantive exclusives.' You know, Fox isn't? What are we doing? I mean, do you think we could possibly be on in the middle of a war if we were just playing zoo, you know walking around with leopards...snapping towels at each other?"
Amount of time Fox & Friends spent making fun of CNN and insisting it provides substantive reporting: A little over seven minutes. -- Brent Baker 
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