Collective Blog

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Maintained by the staff of the PeoplesNetWorks collective and The NewStandard.

February 12, 2007

The Search of Other Avenues of Accountability

In reporting the movement to impeach the president, I interviewed lawyers who said that theoretically, George W. Bush could be vulnerable to a wide array of punishments and lawsuits if members of Congress, and the public at large, suspect him of breaking the law.

A German prosecutor is seeking a criminal investigation into former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials over abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. That prosecutor could also seek charges for Bush as commander in chief of the military.

On US soil, prosecutors could also pursue charges against Bush and other administration officials. John Bonifaz, co-founder of After Downing Street, said that as an example, a "courageous prosecutor" could gather military families as plaintiffs in a case over deception leading into the war in Iraq.

But those I interviewed admitted that lawsuits against Bush are not likely to withstand presidential immunity.

Congress members can also censure the president, a symbolic gesture that could show the president the level of disapproval directed at him.

Michael Seidman at the Georgetown Law Center said that using its power of the purse, Congress could even cut off funding for executive branch services such as Air Force One.

February 9, 2007

More Lilly Efforts to Obscure Internal Docs

Our daily commentary yesterday was an op-ed from the LA Times about a settlement with drug company Eli Lilly in which the plaintiffs agreed to help the company obscure evidence that could help have helped future plaintiffs like them.

The author does a pretty good run-down of how this evidence was first hidden, then uncovered through a lawsuit, then hidden again, and then revealed through a new lawsuit. But I wanted to point readers to reporting we did recently on even-less-publicized efforts by Eli Lilly to hide documents showing possible wrong-doing from the public. Check it out: Wiki Writer Goes to Court Over Freedom to Link.

February 8, 2007

Misled by Bad Reporting

On February 1, the Arizona Daily Star reported that a state senator is seeking to "expand existing requirements" for doctors to report data on women receiving abortions to the state Department of Health. In addition to age, race and marital status, it "would mandate that doctors collect and report information such as the reason for the abortion … and other intimate personal information about the woman."

Responding to a quote in that article by Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of NARAL Pro-choice Arizona, who said the bill "imposes incredibly onerous and burdensome requirements," a blogger at Feministing.com wrote: "of course it does—that’s the point."

If you find this shocking, don’t. Several states, including Arizona, already require doctors to report various pieces of information about abortions they perform, as a call to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive issues, reveals.

» Continue reading "Misled by Bad Reporting"

February 7, 2007

LAPD Brightens My Day with Big Fat Lie

It's not every day in this business that you can say for certain that you caught the Los Angeles Police Department, or pretty much anyone else, in an outright lie (even though you frequently do). But today, one of the nation's most infamous law-enforcement organizations called me up and presented just such an opportunity on a silver platter.

A press officer whose name I didn't catch (because she hung up on me when I stood up for TNS) called to complain about our "coverage" of an incident in which LAPD personnel allegedly beat a handcuffed man to death in front of multiple witnesses. Gabriel Voilles put together a bulletin on the matter for our In Other News... section this morning. This officer was very upset by it, immediately accusing TNS of printing lies.

» Continue reading "LAPD Brightens My Day with Big Fat Lie"

TNS Needs Your Input -- Brainstorm With Us

Last year, we promised big changes at The NewStandard, and we delivered with lots of new features we hope make our site more useful to you. Now that we’ve revitalized our site, our next goal is to reach out to as many people as possible and make them regular readers and supporters.

We have another make-or-break membership drive coming up in April, and our biggest challenge is figuring out how to attract more readers to TNS and how to convince readers to donate once they become regulars.

From your letters and survey responses, we’ve learned that TNS readers have a wide range of interests, experiences and expertise. That’s why we need your help.

» Continue reading "TNS Needs Your Input -- Brainstorm With Us"

New feature: stay in touch better!

As part of our ongoing site upgrades, we hope to use our blog to generate more discussion about TNS, our articles and journalism in general. We’ve added a nifty “subscribe� feature to our blog comments so now you can use your email to watch discussions unfolding in real time. If you comment on our blog, and subscribe to the thread, you’ll get an email immediately if someone responds. And if you’re just interested in an ongoing discussion and want to see how it plays out, you can subscribe to the thread even without weighing in yourself.

I hope you will use this new feature to participate in our first readership-wide brainstorm on helping TNS survive past April. See here for details.

February 6, 2007

Out of Detention

TNS has learned of a rare twist in a detainee case. Luis Mejia, one of "aggravated felons" we interviewed for the article on deportations, has been released from detention.

As we reported previously, an immigration judge ruled last year in Mejia's favor and sought to terminate his removal order, but as with many other cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement appealed the decision, forcing Mejia to continue his imprisonment.

» Continue reading "Out of Detention"

February 5, 2007

YouTube Video 'Violations'

As you may have noticed, none of the embedded videos we've posted the past few weeks are working at the moment. This is because the Google-owned company YouTube has deleted our account, and all our videos along with it, alleging copyright violations. The irony is, since we are a 501c3 educational nonprofit and they are a scumsucking commercial corporation, it is Google -- not us -- that was in violation, technically speaking. We have a right under the "fair use" clause of US copyright law, to republish, broadcast or distribute media for educational purposes.

And we intend to do just that, using our own server, as soon as we can get a new system up and running, which is a priority and hopefully will be very soon.

February 1, 2007

Conservationists respond to forest-planning rollbacks

The Bush administration closed out 2006 with a gift to industries seeking to evade regulatory scrutiny from the US Forest Service. As reported previously by TNS, the White House announced a major rule change that would exempt long-term forest plans from the review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These plans typically act as a 15-year blueprint for managing federal forest lands, which cover some 200 million acres across the country. The rule change allows forest-management authorities to develop long-term plans without submitting to NEPA’s extensive mandates for environmental-impact studies and consideration of possibly less harmful alternatives to certain agency actions.

As the administration seeks to shrink public oversight under NEPA, Defenders of Wildlife is turning to the courts to keep the review process as transparent as possible. The group filed a lawsuit this week challenging the exemption and demanding that federal forest managers be held fully accountable to the public when mapping out the future of the country’s forests. Our reporting resources are unfortunately stretched too thin at the moment to delve into this latest development, but expect continued coverage from us as the legal battle heats up.

See:

Bush Effort to Exempt National Forest Management Plans from Environmental Review Challenged

Bush Seizes Powers While Media Fixates on Chavez

President Bush took the most ironic opportunity imaginable to quietly seize new powers of decree for the executive branch, and the corporate media let him get away with it. His blindingly paradoxical cover? The media frenzy over the democratic bestowment of executive powers on President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela by that country’s Congress.

Indeed, the first flurry of news reports sounding the alarm about legislative action in Venezuela appeared the very same day Bush’s executive order turned up in the Federal Registry without fanfare and, notably, without congressional oversight, let alone approval.

The NewStandard was the first hard-news outlet to report the story of Bush’s move.

Meanwhile, as Venezuela was continuing the dialog over how to craft new executive powers to bestow upon Hugo Chavez, US media coverage was building to a fever pitch.

For asking his legislative branch to bestow more executive powers on him, Chavez was demonized and lambasted in the US and international corporate press, over and over again, and the lashing continues unabated to this day. For claiming powers for himself, Bush was given a pass. Let that be a lesson to would-be dictators: transparent democracy will be punished, so bolster your authority in private!

» Continue reading "Bush Seizes Powers While Media Fixates on Chavez"

January 31, 2007

Article Autopsy: EPA Approves 'Cause Marketing'

Once in a while we have to "kill" a story that one of our dedicated reporters, and often an editor or two, has devoted serious work to. For one reason or another, the piece doesn’t work out. Usually it’s because we can’t get the sourcing or verification needed to meet our extremely high vetting standards. Sometimes a story just doesn’t prove itself, even when the reporter does everything right.

One such case is a short article we assigned to freelance contributor Julie Sabatier. Our assignment committee wasn’t thrilled about the story, but no one was covering it and for some reason it caught our attention, so we passed it to Julie who made some calls and wrote up a nice little narrative with fine sourcing.

I’m pasting a near-finished version here, because we want Julie’s and our work to be exposed and we really want your feedback, but we don’t think this is quite TNS material, for reasons I’ll explain below.

» Continue reading "Article Autopsy: EPA Approves 'Cause Marketing'"

January 28, 2007

More Protesters Speak Out

Protests come in all shapes and sizes, and Saturday’s rally and march around the Capitol was definitely massive. On assignment for TNS to conduct interviews to use in an audio collage, I arrived on the National Mall around 10:30 a.m. to find thousands of people assembling before a stage. The grounds filled up quickly and by 11:00 a.m. the increasing density made for slow navigation through the diverse crowd.

People came by bicycle, bus and caravan from places as far as Texas, Illinois, Florida and Vermont. Families, faith-based groups, youth, veterans, couples, co-workers, immigrants, labor groups, and relatives of troops serving overseas were some of people in attendance. Out of more than 30 people who I approached, most eagerly wanted to share where they were from and why they came.

» Continue reading "More Protesters Speak Out"

January 26, 2007

More than a Number

Here’s a story we would have tried to cover if we had more hours in the day (or at least another staffer):

"State prison inmates, particularly blacks, are living longer on average than people on the outside, the government said Sunday.

» Continue reading "More than a Number"

January 23, 2007

The State of the U.S. Media is… Compliant

You may have come to The NewStandard website today expecting to see an article analyzing Bush’s State of the Union address. But we at TNS are not about to break with tradition.

If you look back through the headlines of the 3,000 or so articles The NewStandard has produced, you’ll see that not a single TNS article has ever revolved around, or even been inspired by, the empty rhetoric of a politician – even when one says something outrageous or embarrassing. That would be counterintuitive to most hard-news outlets; a significant portion of news media coverage is devoted to relaying the words of presidents, legislators, and a cast of "officials" whose opinions are bought and paid for.

While it is important to scrutinize the implications of policies pushed and stances taken by people in power, modern news outlets habitually relay the views and opinions of politicians, often treating them as experts on this or that matter, letting them drive the news agenda but rarely bothering to investigate what, if any, real-world impact their words have.

» Continue reading "The State of the U.S. Media is… Compliant"

January 15, 2007

You Spoke, We Listened: TNS Gets Fresh

When we surveyed NewStandard readers last year, we discovered – unsurprisingly – that fewer than half considered TNS one of their main sources for news. We also found out that only about a quarter of those who took the time to respond to the survey came to the website every day.

» Continue reading "You Spoke, We Listened: TNS Gets Fresh"

Transgender People Encounter Documentation Problem

All of the sources for my article "Transgender People Face Violence, Obstacles" spoke about the institutional barriers that exist for transgender people, and how such barriers often leave transgender people more vulnerable to violence. Unfortunately, hardly any data or statistics exist to give us a picture of what this community grapples with on a daily basis.

Avy Skolnik, a coordinator with the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, who is transgender himself, said the transgender community is usually left with only anecdotal information about their plight. Skolnik said that while "institutions view statistics as the real evidence," they make those statistics "nearly impossible to capture" by not documenting people as transgender.

» Continue reading "Transgender People Encounter Documentation Problem"

January 4, 2007

Happy Birthday, TNS

I can still picture us, three years ago on New Years Day, working doggedly to launch the first NewStandard edition ever. Simone Baribeau (who’s no longer with TNS) and I were printing out articles and reading them carefully for typos, while Brian Dominick frantically hacked computer code to pounding techno music. (Yes, that’s still how he writes code today.)

» Continue reading "Happy Birthday, TNS"

January 2, 2007

Design, Content Changes Afoot at TNS

As you can see from a cursory glance at The NewStandard front page, we've just released a fresh new design and a few new content elements. This is just the first of a few phases of changes planned in the very new future. The next phase will include several new types of content -- mostly off-site links and blog-type analysis. That's slated for the first of next week, if our testing proves successful. Then we're adding some interactive facilities, though we haven't put a date on those yet.

As always, we're eager for feedback, so please let us know what you think of new elements as we add them!

December 8, 2006

Media Coverage of Right vs. Islamic 'Terrorism'

Current events just handed us glaring proof of the vast difference between corporate media outlets' treatment of terrorist aspirations on the part of Islamist vs. right-wing extremists. A reader who appreciated my remarks on this In Other News... item about media suppression of far-right terrorism tipped me off to what amounts to a staggering case study in media disparity and prejudice.

» Continue reading "Media Coverage of Right vs. Islamic 'Terrorism'"

December 5, 2006

Looking into Gates

Since President Bush’s nominee to head the Defense Department is so popular with lawmakers, the corporate media has done even less than the usual cursory digging into his past.

But a handful of outlets have looked deeper and here’s some of what they have found about Robert Gates:

Robert Parry at Consortium News found this memo from 1984 in which Gates, who was then deputy director of intelligence at the CIA, advocates the US bombing of Nicaragua.

» Continue reading "Looking into Gates"

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.