Collective Blog

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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

September 19, 2006

TNS on Uprising Radio (KPFK)

NewStandard co-founders Brian Dominick and Jessica Azulay are scheduled to appear on Uprising Radio, Sonali Kolhatkar's radio show on Pacifica's KPFK in Los Angeles. We're really excited about this opportunity to reach out to potential TNS readers at such a critical time.

To tune in live (around 11:40 changed to 11:20AM Eastern Time, I believe), check out the streaming options. If you're reading this after the fact, try here (very bottom) or here to get the archived recording.

September 18, 2006

A Gift from the High Court

The Supreme Court of the United States -- or SCOTUS, as some newsies affectionately call it -- announced that beginning next month, it will offer the transcripts of oral arguments (free and to the public) on the web on the same day an argument is heard by the Court. Under the old policy, transcripts weren’t posted for two weeks after the close of arguments.

This is quite exciting for telecommute reporters, citizen journalists and bloggers alike, most of whom don’t have the resources of the big dailies to send a DC reporter to the hearings and who often rely on other news reports, attorneys or interest groups to relay the details before the transcripts are available. The court says transcripts will be located under the "Oral Arguments" prompt on the home page of the Court's Web site and selecting "Argument Transcripts."

Happy reading!

August 30, 2006

The Yes Men Strike Again

The day before the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a mysterious press release arrived in my email box titled “HUD Reverses New Orleans Policy.� It explained that in a dramatic about-face, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson decided the agency was going to reverse its decision to demolish 5,000 public housing units in New Orleans. "Our charter, here at HUD, is to ensure access to affordable housing for those who need it the most. This past year in New Orleans, I am ashamed to say that we have clearly failed to do this," Jackson was quoted as saying.

According to the release, HUD also pledged $1.8 billion to bring displaced New Orleanians home and to provide them with jobs. And it announced that Shell and Exxon, since they made so much in profits this year, would fund rebuilding of the Gulf Coast wetlands to prevent future devastation.

Sound too good to be true?

» Continue reading "The Yes Men Strike Again"

August 28, 2006

Disability Preparedness Solution in Florida

August 24, 2006

Digging on Diggs

It took close to 24 hours to verify this story to TNS editorial criteria. That's because when I started reviewing the source material provided by Judicial Watch to back up their story, I started finding holes.

» Continue reading "Digging on Diggs"

August 21, 2006

Ruminating on ethanol

Our recent article on the ethanol industry generated a bit of controversy on both sides of the gasohol debate, with a few scientific observers writing in with their thoughts on ethanol’s real costs and benefits. Though their arguments are quite technical and not exactly fit to run in our regular letter-to-the-editor section, we do think that the contrasting analyses might be interesting to people following the issue. The arguments presented here are basically gathered from comments submitted through private email exchanges, and have not been fully vetted for accuracy (and indeed, some of the science out there is still speculative). But the comments have been edited somewhat to make the information more accessible to readers.

» Continue reading "Ruminating on ethanol"

More coverage of prisoner rape


It’s not every day that we come across media outlets producing news with the rigor and integrity that goes into all of our articles. Sometimes it’s easy for us to feel like we’re trying to change the media from the ground up all by our lonesome.

So it’s heartening to see examples of independent-media solidarity out there, like this one: Uprising, a daily radio program, produced at KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, CA, was recently inspired by our story on prisoner rape, and did their own segment on it, featuring in-depth interviews with two organizations we sourced in our piece. If you’d like to delve further into this issue, tune into the following link:

Prisoner Rape on the Rise (8-4-2006)

And tell ’em TNS sent ya.

July 20, 2006

Mail Server Problems Fixed

As many of our readers noticed, The NewStandard has had trouble sending the Daily Dispatch over the past several days. This was due to an unforeseen critical problem with our mail server following a major upgrade meant to make the mailings go much smoother. We believe we have everything in working order now, so there should be no further disruptions of the Dispatch, which most of you have missed.

But this whole time, we've been publishing away, so if you haven't visited the site, you've missed a lot. Here's a clipping from our archives to help you get caught up:

Seniors Begin Falling into Plan D Coverage Gap

A health-policy organization is warning that millions of seniors and people with disabilities will soon be hit with high out-of-pocket drug expenses under the new Medicare plan.

Specter Caves to White House Demands on NSA Bill

Constitutional law experts and civil rights advocates are slamming the latest legislative proposal from US Senator Arlen Specter to address the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

Investigators Catch Anti-abortion Centers Lying to Women

A congressional investigative report yesterday implicated several federally funded organizations in offering bad information about supposed "dangers" of abortions.

FedEx Drivers Fight for ‘Employee’ Status, Rights

Long denied the protections and benefits of employment, “independent contractors,� on whom the shipping company has imposed an “entrepreneurial spirit,� say they’ve had enough hampered independence.

Work News Digest for Week Ending July 17

Our weekly rundown of workers' rights, union and wage stories... @ Flight attendants threaten “CHAOS� @ CA newspaper staff walks out @ Sate minimum wage raises @ Mine safety position questioned

Illinois to Try New ‘Anti-Sprawl’ Subsidies

Starting next year, Illinois will provide additional tax breaks to companies that build near affordable housing units or public-transportation routes, in a move legislators say will continue to attract new companies and new jobs to the state while also reducing sprawl.

Wealthiest Americans’ ‘Share’ Soared in 2004

The top one percent wealthiest Americans enjoyed an increase in income far greater than the rest of the population’s from 2003 to 2004, according to an analysis released this week by a progressive think tank.

EPA Slammed, Sued for Lowering Pollution Regs

Sierra Club is going after the EPA for easing the restrictions the Agency imposes on municipal waste combustors that emit dangerous toxins.

School Officials Promote Fast Track to Incarceration

Youth- and civil-rights advocates are speaking out against the rising presence of cops on campuses and administration complicity in what critics call a school-to-prison pipeline.

We also published many dozens of In Other News bulletins, including daily coverage of the Israel-Lebanon crisis.

July 13, 2006

TNS Tries Alternate Front Page Experiment

If you visit our site's homepage today, you'll surely notice something different about the layout. Unlike the past 97 or so weekday "editions" of The NewStandard, today's is not displayed in the theme and structure of a print newspaper's front page (see yesterday's TNS front page, for example).

But for those who've fallen in love with the front-page design we've used since February, don't despair: it's not gone, and it won't disappear too frequently. We're just tinkering with an alternate design that enables us to publish new content prominently on our front page even when we don't have two major articles to release on a given day (which, despite our best efforts, happens now and again).

Thus, we'll be able to keep up with briefs, news digests, In Other News... bulletins, cartoons and other goodies -- and be able to send out our daily digest! -- all with far fewer day-long lapses. The problem with the old layout was that it all but required we have 2 full-length articles to post, since we didn't want to stick news briefs in either of the main headline slots and call the edition complete. This new flexibility should make a huge difference in that regard.

July 10, 2006

Exploring Alternatives to Factory Farming

I just wanted to point out that we've posted an excellent "sidebar" complementing Michelle Chen's piece on the impact of factory farms, which we ran last monday.

We didn't want to overburden the original story with an exploration of alternative forms of agriculture. But we also didn't want to let that crucial debate go unnoticed. So Michelle expanded it a bit and now it stands alone as a short feature that looks much farther than corporate media's typical cursory reviews of the subject.

July 3, 2006

Media Conference Report-back

Megan Tady and I spent two days at the Democracy and Independence conference in Amherst, Mass., just a short drive from Megan's home in Northampton. For a collective as geographically dispersed as ours, we realized pretty quickly that the event served at least as much purpose in bringing two TNS staffers together as it did networking opportunities and so forth. I think we tend not to realize how strange it is that we work with people we rarely share downtime with, so I think we both found the weekend rewarding in that regard.

The conference itself was a mixed experience. It was much smaller than we had anticipated (though possibly that was my fault for making assumptions). Even still, we didn't wind up meeting a lot of people who do anything like what we do, so our opportunities to learn were limited. It didn't help that we were both exhausted by our usual full-time-and-then-some workweeks.

» Continue reading "Media Conference Report-back"

June 29, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies, and fMRI

Sometimes TNS news briefs can be deceptively short, as was the case with today’s item on – of all things – deception.

We refrained from going too in-depth on this topic, since the American Civil Liberties Union’s FOIA request is just the first probe into what could be a very interesting debate on the use of medical technology to root out lying terrorists. Or at least those incriminated by the images on a brain-scan monitor.

This latest crease in government’s shroud of surveillance is still unfolding, but some speculation on the future of this technology can be found in a recent Cornell Law Review article. Legal scholar Sean Kevin Thompson rather pragmatically mapped out how functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) could become another powerful, and extremely controversial, tool in the government’s anti-terror campaigns.

» Continue reading "Lies, Damned Lies, and fMRI"

Hat-tip on Obscure Source

I’d just like to thank the Sentencing Law and Policy blog for finding US District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr.’s opinion in the Missouri death penalty case and posting it to the Web. I wasn’t able to find it anywhere else.

June 28, 2006

TNS Attending Weekend Media Conference

Trying to get into the habit of giving readers a heads-up when we expect to be at a public event, I waned to let you know TNS staffer Megan Tady and I will be attending and tabling at the Democracy & Independence Conference, hosted in Amherst, Mass., by the Media Giraffe Project, this Friday and Saturday.

We're excited to be poking our heads up and interacting with other journalists / bloggers / publishers / readers and/or media activists! If you are attending the conference, be sure to stop by our table (can't miss it) -- you won't be forgiven if you do not come by and introduce yourself. We absolutely love meeting TNS readers.

We're also participating on at least one panel, "Citizen Media: The Daily Grind." (Yeah, we realize we're not a citizen-journalism project, and so do they -- but they seem to really think we have something to contribute, so we're always happy to oblige.)

Also, it looks like perennial TNS reader Ben Melançon will be liveblogging the conference over at the Narcosphere blog. There's a good chance you'll find him at our table, too.

Hope to see some of you in Amherst!

June 16, 2006

Getting to Know Us

We finally know who we are, and we want you to know, too.

If it’s rumored that our editing process is tough, add writing a new "About Us" to the mill. After several weeks of lobbing paragraphs back and forth, we’re proud to introduce ourselves – again.

Only this time, we think our "About Us" description is much clearer, and conveys our passion for the job that gets us up every morning (or keeps us up until morning).

And now, you can meet the people behind the TNS staff bylines. We’ve included bios of our six collective members. We really do exist in other than a virtual world!

So get to know us – we think you’ll like us.

June 15, 2006

CNN Perfumes 'Hadji Girl' Video

CNN Headline News just ran this brief about the vicious online video depicting a Marine singing a song called 'Hadji Girl' that glorifies his (likely fictional) use of an Iraqi girl as a human shield while slaughtering her family.

A Marine has apologized for performing a song about killing an Iraqi family. He says the song was written in good humor. About 50,000 people have seen the video of him performing the song on the Internet, but a note on that website now says that it's been removed. In the song, the Marine describes falling in love with an Iraqi girl, but coming under attack after going to meet her family. The Marine Corps is deciding still if it's going to take any disciplinary action.

Now, here are the full lyrics to the song, performed apparently before a heavily military audience. You tell me if the CNN brief is an accurate depiction.

» Continue reading "CNN Perfumes 'Hadji Girl' Video"

June 14, 2006

Time for Truthout to Burn Sources on Alleged Rove 'Indictment'?

An article published last month by the liberal website claiming Karl Rove's lawyers had been handed indictment papers from a grand jury on Friday, May 12 by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald seems to have been debunked. News relayed by Rove's lawyer stating that Fitzgerald has said he will not in fact be pursuing charges against Rove appear to mean Truthout's account was false.

Truthout later went on to assert that Rove had basically marched into the Oval Office to announce his indictment and all but resigned on the spot, according to "a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee."

Given that the piece was based on anonymous "high-level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting," and written by a reporter (Jason Leopold) whose own credibility has been questioned on numerous occasions, it is understandable why responsible observers might have been hesitant to accept the veracity of the story at the outset.

Others stood by Leopold from word one. Indeed, some of Truthout's hardcore supporters are holding out to this moment

Critics, meanwhile, have lambasted Leopold and Truthout editor Marc Ash for not yet retracting the stories, revealing their sources and apologizing to their readers. Still others said the story -- true or false -- was irresponsible because its sourcing is so thin. Even prominent, steadfast TO/Leopold supporter Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft seems to have turned on them. Merritt gives Leopold and TO the benefit of the doubt, though, while insisting the "sources were wrong and should be outed."

It's sketchy enough that TO thought the story was worth rushing out in the first place, but nonetheless I am not convinced TO's reporting -- which I never quite believed, anyway -- was necessarily wrong. Indeed, the secret meeting described by Leopold's alleged sources may have taken place. Fitzgerald may have shown Rove's team a sealed indictment handed down by a grand jury and then later -- yesterday -- decided for whatever reason not to pursue the case. They may be in court right now moving for a sealed dismissal. We'll probably never know, because all of this is kept secret.

» Continue reading "Time for Truthout to Burn Sources on Alleged Rove 'Indictment'?"

June 7, 2006

Adventures in the Washington Echo Chamber

Persuading reluctant sources to talk is always a challenge -- especially when you’re writing about the phenomenon of official silence. In reporting on secrecy in the vice president’s office, I found myself running up against the Catch-22 encountered by many open-government advocates: it’s hard to pinpoint an inquiry when you’re poking around in an information blackout.

The first hurdle was that, perhaps not surprisingly, the VP's press office does not make its contact information public. After digging up a phone number with the help of another reporter, I asked for an explanation of Cheney’s self-exemption from the reporting requirements for classification activity.

Spokesperson Lea Anne McBride replied promptly: "This matter has been carefully reviewed, and it has been determined that the reporting requirement does not apply to [the Office of the Vice President], which has both executive and legislative functions."

Fair enough. So I followed up by asking 1) whether there was something specifically in the executive order that bars entities with some legislative functions from complying with the reporting mandate, and also 2) whether this determination was made in 2003 – with the implication that this is a fairly recent development, after the Vice President had complied with the order for some time.

» Continue reading "Adventures in the Washington Echo Chamber"

June 6, 2006

The Silent Treatment

It’s one thing for a trade association like the World Shipping Council to refuse to issue a comment for my article about North Atlantic Right Whale protection. But it’s another thing for the federal agency in charge of enforcing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act to ignore requests for an interview.

Getting sources from federal agencies is not always pleasant, but I never expected that my experience with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) would be so painful, and result, after several awkward and headache-inducing phone calls with the agency’s press person, in the equivalent of "no comment."

» Continue reading "The Silent Treatment "

May 31, 2006

Poison Pills

We all have different ways of coping with defeat. Some quietly resign themselves to loss and move on, others wallow in bitterness, and still others transform their ill-fortune into spite. In reporting on the financial penalties embedded in the Senate immigration-reform bill, we found that a few senators took that last route in the eleventh-hour wrangling over the legislation...

The preliminary political jockeying in the Senate, which honed the bill’s intense border-enforcement measures and limited legalization mechanisms, set it on the path to approval. Some opposing senators decided that a simple "no" vote was not enough, opting to gut the bill through the amendment process in order to saddle it with the posterity of lingering dissent.

» Continue reading "Poison Pills"

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.