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Thursday, November 24

America's news of the day

If you missed the NBC Nightly News Thanksgiving Day report, shame on you! You missed a report on the plight of buffalo who stray from Yellowstone Park and Michael Brown's reincarnation as a motivational speaker since he left FEMA. How can you hope to be well informed if you are unaware of such vital news?

If you didn't tune into John Batchelor's Thanksgiving Day program, you didn't miss any vital news; just details such as:

> US troops in Iraq got into a firefight with Syrian border guards while chasing terrorists across the Syrian border. Report is unconfirmed, of course. Nope, Syria can't lodge a complaint unless they want to underscore that they're sending terrorists into Iraq.

> Tehran has now used up their nine lives with the European Union leadership. Russia has also had it up to their eyeballs with Tehran, leaving China with the decision about whether to stand out in the cold. Next week's European meeting will tell us more than Thanksgiving's IAEA meeting on the question of Iran, but the issue of UN sanctions is coming closer and closer.

> The current situation with Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad. Assad is reportedly prepared to wait out Bush's term in office on the theory that it will be back to business as usual in Washington when the next US president takes over. So, Assad may well thumb his nose at UN sanctions if they're imposed.

> Report on the outrage in China about Beijing's initial cover-up of the Harbin chemical spill.

> Reports on Israel's new political party led by Ariel Sharon and the current political climate in Israel.

> Report from Dr. David Nabarro, Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza explained what it's going to take for the world to avoid economic disaster if H5N1 becomes a human pandemic.

Batchelor's show also carried a report on the latest terror attack on US soldiers and Iraqis, as did NBC and the other TV news broadcasters. But the TV broadcasters ignored important news in favor of cookie-cutter Thanksgiving Day stories and editorializing on the US in Iraq.

I understand that Batchelor's radio program has three hours to play around with, whereas the Big Three TV broadcasters (ABC, CBS and NBC) only have a half hour. But who threatened to revoke their license if they expanded their evening news beyond a half hour? Nobody. Who blackmailed them into airing puffery they present as the day's top news? Nobody.

Who has demanded for years that American TV broadcasters adopt higher standards? The American public. And who among the broadcasters has listened to the demand? Nobody. Yet still those rickety bastards rake in billions in advertising dollars from publicly held transnational corporations, which don't want the American public -- or any public, for that matter -- to be well informed.

Well-informed voters make changes in the status quo; changes create uncertainty, which is bad for investors, which is bad for people who sit on the sponsors' board of directors. So I dunno; if you are perpetually steamed that TV news producers treat you like an idiot, maybe the place to lodge your complaint is with your company or union pension fund.

To be fair (in honor of Thanksgiving), I will mention the one bright spot in this week's TV broadcast news: Barry Peterson's investigative report for CBS news on environmental pollution in mainland China. Peterson, his film crew, and the Chinese villagers who cooperated with the news team took considerable risks and showed real courage.

The question is whether Peterson will be allowed back in China now that the report, replete with footage from a hidden camera, has aired. If so, this is another sign that a power struggle within the CCP is translating to slightly more tolerance in Beijing for the journalism profession.

If you missed Peterson's report, you can read the transcript at the CBS website.

Yet the occasional good reporting from the Big Three only highlights their low journalism standards. Now that I have that off my chest, I might as well round out my report on Batchelor's Thanksgiving Day program by summarizing what else was discussed. (As always, my hastily scribbled notes on broadcast reports are just that.)

> A tip from John Loftus about DEBKAfile: Reportedly the people who run the website have an "in" with a member of Israel's IDF, who has been known to leak reports from US and British intelligence. John advises that you can ignore their political analysis but that Debka's reports on troop movements are generally pretty accurate.

> Inspiring report on The Kosovo Children’s Music Initiative. An American music teacher and composer uses her talents to help children in Kosovo. Pundita notes that Liz Shropshire's initiative is a good example of the 'small is beautiful' aid project.

> James Palmer's report on his article in New Jersey's Star-Ledger about the situation for Iraq's journalists under Saddam's regime and since the regime's fall. Palmer is a freelance reporter stationed in Iraq; he also described the difficult situation he faces there.

> Report on the post-Katrina resurrection of the scrappy Gambit Weekly newspaper. (Remember Gambit's great in-depth reports on Louisiana politics and Kathleen Blanco?) Also, a report from Gambit's editor-in-chief, Clancy Dubois, about the current state of things in New Orleans.

> An interview with the head of the New York Historical Society, which has mounted an exhibition on pre-Civil War slavery in New York. "There is the myth that slavery only took place in the South." Some 40% of New Yorkers owned slaves.

> Rick Beyer related stories from his book, The Greatest War stories Never Told, including the story of the pizza delivery man who correctly predicted the start date of the Gulf War.

> Mention of the latest European study on earth's carbon dioxide levels; the details recounted by John Terrett are too depressing to pass along on Black Friday.

Applause for John Terrett's great job as the show's substitute host. Thanks also to Batchelor regulars Malcolm Hoenlein, John Loftus, and Aaron Klein for volunteering to give up part of their Thanksgiving to research and present important news of the day.
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