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The Weekly Spin, December 13, 2006

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The Weekly Spin features selected news summaries with links to
further information about media, political spin and propaganda. It
is emailed free each Wednesday to subscribers.

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THIS WEEK'S NEWS

== BLOG POSTINGS ==
1. Former FCC General Counsel: Fake TV News Must Be Disclosed
2. Election 2006: Scandal-Plagued Rep. William Jefferson Keeps Seat
3. Promises Made: The Democratic Congressional Agenda
4. The Last Three Contested House Races: Texas, Louisiana, and (of course) Florida

== SPIN OF THE DAY ==
1. Front Groups Lobbying Spurs Thoughts of Non-Profit Reform
2. Government Scientist Pleads Guilty to Accepting Pfizer Fees
3. Buzz Marketers Told to Disclose
4. Chilean Dictator Pinochet Lied Through His Eyes
5. Important Information Shelved as Federal Libraries Close
6. Was Epidemiologist Doll a Monsanto Puppet?
7. Iraq Study Group Suggests Accurate Counting of Iraqi Deaths
8. Detailed Corporate Social Responsibility Reports Rare, Publicity-Driven
9. PR Adviser Pleads Guilty To  Insider Trading Charges
10. Outsourcing Journalism
11. It's the Little Things
12. "Equal Protection" Suit: A Tired Last Gasp for Tobacco Industry Allies in Nevada
13. A Euro for Your Thoughts
14. Edelman Flacks for Big Oil
15. Doctors Seek Ban on Junk Food Ads

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== BLOG POSTINGS ==

1. FORMER FCC GENERAL COUNSEL: FAKE TV NEWS MUST BE DISCLOSED
by Diane Farsetta

  "Congress and the courts have stressed that as fiduciaries given the
  free use of the public airwaves, broadcasters are obligated to
  operate in the public interest. Flagrantly deceptive practices are
  inconsistent with that obligation and can find no sanction in the
  First Amendment."
       Those words were written by Henry Geller, a former general
  counsel of the Federal Communications Commission and assistant
  secretary of commerce for communications and information. Today, the
  StarTribune in Minneapolis/St. Paul published an op/ed that Geller
  and I co-authored. The piece (copied below) describes why full
  disclosure of video news releases (VNRs) is both vital to the public
  interest and supported by legal precedent.
       If you think the public should be told where its news really
  comes from, you can still support VNR disclosure, via the online
  action hosted by our colleagues at Free Press.
For the rest of this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5545

2. ELECTION 2006: SCANDAL-PLAGUED REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON KEEPS SEAT
by Elliott Fullmer

  On Saturday, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) defeated Democratic
  challenger Karen Carter in a runoff election, 57%-43%, to keep his
  seat in Louisiana's 2nd District. Jefferson is currently being
  investigated by the FBI for allegedly accepting a bribe from the
  owner of iGate Inc. to arrange deals for the high-tech company in
  Nigeria and several other African countries. Federal authorities
  videotaped him taking $100,000 in alleged bribe money, and $90,000
  of it was later found in a freezer in his Washington D.C. apartment
  during an FBI raid in May. The Justice Department is also looking
  into "at least seven other schemes in which Jefferson sought things
  of value in return for his official acts." The ongoing investigation
  led House Democrats to remove Jefferson from the influential Ways
  and Means Committee earlier this year, and the Louisiana Democratic
  Party to endorse Carter in the election.
For the rest of this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5533

3. PROMISES MADE: THE DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA
by Conor Kenny

  Guest blogger: Congresspedia intern Tim Malacarne
       The Democratic Party's return to majority status in both the
  House and Senate for the 110th Congress means that, for the first
  time since 1994, Democrats have the unfettered ability to set the
  congressional agenda. During the run up to the election, Senate
  Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Democratic leader
  Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) tempted voters with an ambitious package of
  prospective legislation. Now that they are soon to assume control,
  let's take a look at what is most likely to fill their plate at the
  beginning of the 110th Congress:
For the rest of this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5529

4. THE LAST THREE CONTESTED HOUSE RACES: TEXAS, LOUISIANA, AND (OF COURSE) FLORIDA
by Conor Kenny

  A month after election day we're finally down to just three
  contested House races:
     * Louisiana-2nd District: Scandal-plagued incumbent Democratic
  Rep. William Jefferson will defend his seat against Democratic
  challenger Karen Carter in a runoff on Saturday.
     * Texas-23rd District: Incumbent Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla
  faces off against former Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in a runoff
  on December 12th. Bonilla fell just short of obtaining the 50
  percent he needed to win on November 7th after a judge threw out the
  congressional district in place during the primary, ordering the
  general election open to all comers. The district had been drawn
  under a plan orchestrated by former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in 2003
  and was ruled to violate the voting rights of Latinos.
     * Florida-13th District: Republican Vern Buchanan has been
  certified the winner of Rep. Katherine Harris's open seat with a 369
  vote margin over Democrat Christine Jennings. However, voting
  irregularities, including 18,000 missing votes, were rife during the
  election and Jennings and several organizations have filed suit to
  challenge the results. They are seeking a new election because the
  electronic voting machines used in the district have no paper trail.
  We're going to put this one in Buchanan's column for now, but I
  wouldn't count Jennings out yet.
       In the meantime, we're going to retire the "Wiki the Vote"
  graphic off the front page, but you can find all of our coverage of
  the 2006 elections under the "Quick Links" heading at the top of the
  Congresspedia home page.
For the rest of this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5525

== SPIN OF THE DAY ==

1. FRONT GROUPS LOBBYING SPURS THOUGHTS OF NON-PROFIT REFORM
www.sptimes.com/2006/12/11/Worldandnation/Groups_hide_behind_ta.shtml
  Citing instances of where groups like Citizens Against Government
  Waste and Americans for Tax Reform have accepted corporate funding
  to lobby for their donor's causes, journalist Bill Adair explores
  whether greater disclosure by non-profit groups is warranted.
  Between them the two groups have taken money from the tobacco
  industry, helped avocado growers and assisted in Jack Abramoff's
  lobbying efforts. The incoming Democratic Party chair of the Senate
  Finance Committee, Max Baucus has flagged the need for change:
  "Nonprofits should not function as de facto lobbying firms." Current
  federal laws he said are "simply too murky." Frances Hill, a law
  professor at the University of Miami agrees. "It seems to me we have
  to find a way to increase the disclosure of the contributors. I'm
  not talking about every church in America disclosing who gives money
  to their collection plate. But there's got to be a way to show who
  gives big chunks of money," she said.
SOURCE: St Petersburg Times, December 11, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5543

2. GOVERNMENT SCIENTIST PLEADS GUILTY TO ACCEPTING PFIZER FEES
www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/bal-md.ethics09dec09,0,4347273.story?track=mostemailedlink
  The chief of the geriatric psychiatry branch of the National
  Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Pearson Sunderland III, has
  pleaded guilty to accepting approximately $300,000 in undisclosed
  fees and expenses from Pfizer between 1997 and 2004. The NIMH is a
  part of the U.S. government's National Institutes of Health (NIH),
  which conducts and funds medical research projects. NIH staff are
  permitted to earn external income, subject to disclosure and
  approval from ethics watchdogs. Matthew Dolan reports that "in late
  1997, representatives of Pfizer approached Sunderland about his
  agency joining a scientific collaboration" on indicators for
  Alzheimer's disease. Sunderland is only one of 44 NIH scientists
  that have had undisclosed financial deals with drug companies.
  However, he is one of the few to face charges with most either
  disciplined or retired from the agency. Sunderland's lawyer, Robert
  F. Muse, claimed that many NIH staff viewed disclosure forms as "a
  bureaucratic nuisance."
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun, December 9, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5541

3. BUZZ MARKETERS TOLD TO DISCLOSE
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/11/AR2006121101389.html
  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission directed "companies engaging in
  word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote
  products to their peers," to "disclose those relationships."
  Otherwise, it could be deceptive marketing, as people are more
  likely to trust product endorsers "based on their assumed
  independence from the marketer," according to the FTC. While the FTC
  will examine potentially deceptive word-of-mouth marketing on a
  case-by-case basis, the agency rejected a request from the watchdog
  group Commercial Alert to review industry practices. The head of the
  Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) called the FTC's
  decision "an endorsement of the industry's efforts to police
  itself." Advertising Age reports that the FTC ruling "could lead to
  increased spending" on word-of-mouth marketing. O'Dwyer's PR Daily
  calls the ruling a victory for WOMMA, which had "urged the FTC to
  note the difference between buzz marketing, which it supports and
  promotes, and stealth marketing, which it opposes."
SOURCE: Washington Post, December 12, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5540

4. CHILEAN DICTATOR PINOCHET LIED THROUGH HIS EYES
news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061211/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/obit_pinochet
  General Augusto Pinochet, 91, died on December 10, 2006, after
  nearly a decade of fighting prosecution on charges of gross
  violations of human rights. The charges stemmed from murders,
  tortures and disappearances of thousands of Chilean and other
  opponents during his 1974-1990 rule. In one of the general's most
  enduring images, he posed for a photograph in which he set a stark,
  sinister image behind sunglasses after a coup against the elected
  president Salvador Allende. In an interview for a 1999 biography, he
  explained the pose that obscured his eyes: "It was a way of telling
  things. Lies are discovered through the eyes, and I lied often."
SOURCE: Associated Press, December 11, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5538

5. IMPORTANT INFORMATION SHELVED AS FEDERAL LIBRARIES CLOSE
www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-libraries8dec08,0,474100.story?
  "Across the country, half a dozen federal libraries are closed or
  closing," including several run by the Environmental Protection
  Agency. The EPA libraries helped "toxicologists assess health
  effects of pesticides and chemicals," and "federal investigators
  track sources of fish kills and identify companies responsible." The
  EPA's compliance office warned that the closures "could weaken
  efforts to enforce environmental laws." Regarding the Chicago EPA
  library's closing, one activist who conducted research there while
  campaigning against a proposed sludge incinerator said, "If I had
  known ... I would have chained myself to the bookcase." Also closing
  are libraries run by the General Services Administration, with
  information on "real estate, telecommunications and government
  finance," and by the Energy Department, with "literature for
  government scientists and contractors." "Officials say the cutbacks
  have been driven by tight budgets, declining patronage and rising
  demand for online services." Critics "fear that some publications
  will never be digitized because of copyright restrictions or cost,"
  and say the loss of knowledgeable reference librarians will greatly
  hamper research efforts.
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5536

6. WAS EPIDEMIOLOGIST DOLL A MONSANTO PUPPET?
www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1967385,00.html
  "Sir Richard Doll, the celebrated epidemiologist who established
  that smoking causes lung cancer, was receiving a consultancy fee of
  $1,500 a day in the mid-1980s from Monsanto," reports The Guardian.
  "While he was being paid by Monsanto, Sir Richard wrote to a royal
  Australian commission investigating the potential cancer-causing
  properties of Agent Orange, made by Monsanto and used by the US in
  the Vietnam war. Sir Richard said there was no evidence that the
  chemical caused cancer." Monsanto confirmed that Sir Richard worked
  for the company as recently as 2000, as "an expert witness for
  Solutia," a Monsanto spin-off. Sir Richard "was also paid a 15,000
  fee by the Chemical Manufacturers Association and ... Dow Chemicals
  and ICI, for a review that largely cleared vinyl chloride, used in
  plastics, of any link with cancers apart from liver cancer -- a
  conclusion with which the World Health Organization disagrees."
  Colleagues defended the late Sir Richard, saying that he received
  the fees when "it was not automatic for potential conflicts of
  interest to be declared in scientific papers," and that he donated
  the money to Green College, Oxford.
SOURCE: The Guardian (UK), December 8, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5535

7. IRAQ STUDY GROUP SUGGESTS ACCURATE COUNTING OF IRAQI DEATHS
www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003493869
  The Iraq Study Group's report states, "There is significant
  underreporting of the violence in Iraq" by the U.S. military. The
  too-high "standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep
  events out of reports and databases," as well as news stories,
  according to Editor & Publisher. Examples of unreported attacks
  include "a roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attacks that doesn't
  hurt U.S. personnel" and a "sectarian attack" by an unknown group.
  In addition, "a murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an
  attack." On one day in July 2006, only 93 violent acts were
  officially recorded, when some 1,100 actually occurred, according to
  the report. "Good policy is difficult to make when information is
  systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy
  with policy goals," it concludes. One recommendation is to
  "institute immediate changes in the collection of data about
  violence and the sources of violence in Iraq to provide a more
  accurate picture of events on the ground."
SOURCE: Editor & Publisher, December 6, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5534

8. DETAILED CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REPORTS RARE, PUBLICITY-DRIVEN
www.csmonitor.com/2006/1204/p25s01-wmgn.htm
  Only a small proportion of annual corporate social responsibility
  (CSR) reports -- perhaps 15 to 20 percent -- provide "very thorough"
  accounts of real ethical problems faced by companies. Even that
  measure comes from within the CSR report industry, in interviews
  with writers Andrew Brengle of KLD Research & Analytics and Jeff
  Erikson of SustainAbility Inc. The two consultants point to Nike as
  a company that faced such bad ongoing publicity that it revamped its
  reports to provide concrete details and increased reporting on labor
  abuses. (Brengle has been a voluntary reviewer of Nike's reporting.)
  But more typical, they say, are companies like Hess Corp., an energy
  company, which described chemical spill problems in a recent report
  but omitted a federal bribery probe stemming from international
  operations. "It's more of a hard sell to get a company that isn't a
  household name, that is more able to hide in the weeds, to produce a
  sophisticated and in-depth report because they don't have that
  public pressure," said Brengle. Recent studies by the Ethical
  Trading Action Group and Oxfam/Hong Kong to improve global labor
  rights reporting can be viewed, respectively, here and here.
SOURCE: The Christian Science Monitor, December 4, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5521

9. PR ADVISER PLEADS GUILTY TO  INSIDER TRADING CHARGES
www.smh.com.au/news/national/pr-chief-guilty-of-inside-trading/2006/11/28/1164476204771.html
  Margot Mackay, a former PR consultant to the gambling company
  Aristocrat, has pleaded guilty to three charges of insider trading.
  Mackay, who headed her own company Margot McKay and Associates, used
  family members to buy almost $150,000 in shares ahead of
  announcements to the stock exchange that she wrote herself. Kate
  McClymont reports that McKay "was hired by Aristocrat in 2003 to
  clean up its corporate image after a series of scandals involving
  some of its senior executives." Mackay was prosecuted after
  Aristocrat reported her share-trading to the Australian Securities
  and Investments Commission.
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald, November 29, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5532

10. OUTSOURCING JOURNALISM
www.iht.com/articles/2006/11/19/business/outsource.php
  As newspapers seek to cut costs in the face of sagging circulation
  and advertising pressures, some have started to ship jobs overseas
  to places like India. "More than two years ago, Reuters, the
  financial news service, opened a new center in Bangalore," reports
  Doreen Carvajal. "The 340 employees, including an editorial team of
  13 local journalists, was deployed to write about corporate earnings
  and broker research on U.S. companies. Since then, the Reuters staff
  at the center has grown to about 1,600, with 100 journalists working
  on U.S. stories." Other publications are using the services of
  Hi-Tech Export, an Indian company with some 700 employees that
  offers proofreading, copy-editing and writing services to companies
  in the United States, France and Britain.
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune, November 17, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5531

11. IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS
kdpaine.blogs.com/kdpaines_pr_m/2006/12/let_me_get_this.html
  "Walmart used to annoy me with its horrible labor practices,
  draconian rules, and blatant manipulation of the media, but now it's
  gone past annoyance to bafflement," writes marketing consultant K.D.
  Paine. "The latest was the firing of their VP of Marketing because
  she allegedly went for rides in an Aston Martin and accepted dinners
  from Agencies pitching their business. ... Their message is: we're
  all about ethics. Which might be believable for a nanosecond, except
  that the agency behind the biggest ethics scandal to hit the
  blogosphere in awhile (and presumably the PR person who okay-ed
  those fake blogs) are still happily employed." Michael Deaver, a
  former chief of staff for President Reagan, is now helping to
  oversee the Wal-Mart account as a vice chairman at the Edelman PR
  firm.
SOURCE: KD Paine's PR Measurement Blog, December 8, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5530

12. "EQUAL PROTECTION" SUIT: A TIRED LAST GASP FOR TOBACCO INDUSTRY ALLIES IN NEVADA
www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/nevada/2006/dec/05/120510459.html
  The tobacco industry's buddies in the bar and gambling businesses
  are at it again, suing to try and stop Nevada's new smoke-free law,
  which voters approved November 7 by a margin of 54% to 46%. The law
  bans smoking in bars that serve meals, slot machine sections of
  grocery and convenience stores, in video arcades, shopping malls,
  schools and day-care centers. Bar and casino owners are claiming the
  law is unconstitutional, and saying that it will hurt their
  businesses, while offering no proof that it has. A peer-reviewed
  study published in Tobacco Control journal in 2003 conclusively
  linked the tobacco industry to most of these lawsuits. The industry
  and its allies typically lose these "equal protection" suits, which
  are stimulated by the tobacco industry to undermine enforcement and
  long-term implementation of smoke-free laws.
SOURCE: Las Vegas Sun, December 5, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5528

13. A EURO FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
www.corporateeurope.org/ThinkTankSurvey2006.html
  A new survey undertaken by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
  finds that most think tanks in the European Union fail to disclose
  their funding sources, which is also kept secret by the large
  corporations that provide much of their financial support. A
  particularly problematic example is that of ExxonMobil, which
  "continues to fuel the work of climate skeptic think tanks and lobby
  groups in North America and Europe," while keeping much of its
  funding for these groups secret.
SOURCE: Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), December 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5527

14. EDELMAN FLACKS FOR BIG OIL
nationaljournal.com/cgi-bin/ifetch4?ENG+NJMAG+7-njmagtoc+1184833-DBSCORE+256+1+1157+F+11+20+1+PD%2f12%2f02%2f2006%2d%3e12
  "With congressional Democrats readying probes into oil companies'
  profits and eyeing legislation aimed at curbing global warming, the
  American Petroleum Institute and its K Street allies are looking to
  assemble a $100 million war chest to rally policy makers and public
  opinion to their side," reports Peter Stone. "The image and
  education effort, much of which will be coordinated by the PR firm
  Edelman, will include expensive television, radio, and print ads,
  tours of oil patch facilities for lawmakers and opinion elites, and
  financial contributions to sympathetic think tanks and
  industry-friendly organizations." API has also been using the
  services of Wirthlin Worldwide, headed by former Ronald Reagan
  pollster Richard Wirthlin, as it scrambles "to salvage a reputation
  suffering amid high gasoline prices and concern about fossil-fuel
  dependence."
SOURCE: National Journal (reg req'd), December 1, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5524

15. DOCTORS SEEK BAN ON JUNK FOOD ADS
www.smh.com.au/news/science/us-doctors-seek-ban-on-junk-food-ads/2006/12/06/1165081020356.html
  The American Academy of Pediatrics has become the latest
  organisation to call for a ban on the advertising of junk food
  during children's television programs. "Healthy foods are advertised
  less than 3 per cent of the time," noted Donald Shifrin, the
  chairman of the committee that produced the new policy, which calls
  for the removal of junk food ads during children's programs, along
  with restrictions on ads for tobacco, alcohol and drugs for erectile
  dysfunction.
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), December 7, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
www.prwatch.org/node/5523

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