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PR Watch: The Weekly Spin

THE WEEKLY SPIN, June 21, 2006

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1. Video News Releases: The Fantasy vs. Reality
2. At Least the Lies Have Improved
3. Did Sister Ruth Neglect to Reflect on McDonald¹s?

1. Ethics All Clear for Election Front Group
2. Business Hires Lobbyists for Indian Nuclear Deal
3. Race and Media: Only the Ads Are Diverse
4. The Toughest Job in the World: Iraqi PR Staff at the U.S. Embassy
5. The Golden Revolving Door
6. Hill & Knowlton Spins Repression
7. Obesity Task Force Grows Fat With Drug Company Cash
8. Rove's Buddy Strikes A  Gusher with Dirty Drilling Deal
9. On TV News, the Ads Never End (Part Four)
10. Yo Quiero Más PR!
11. Mixing Private Security With Oil
12. Ashcroft To Help General Dynamics Soar



by Sheldon Rampton

  Television stations have maintained a studied silence about our
  report on the use of video news releases, but the print media has
  fewer qualms about discussing it. Saturday's Indianapolis Star
  carried an op-ed piece by Jeffrey McCall, a professor of
  communication at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. McCall
  described the use of VNRs as a "sneaky strategy" by "some wayward
  television news operations" that blurs the line "between reality and
For the rest of this story, visit:

by Sheldon Rampton

  Pundit Andrew Sullivan, who supported the war in Iraq but has lately
  begun to notice that he may have been mistaken, is nevertheless
  clinging to hope that the debacle can be salvaged. Yesterday he
  posted the following observations, from "a source of mine whom I've
  learned to trust as an honest observer," about the recent killing of
  terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
       I am impressed with Casey, Khalilzad and the new Iraqi PM. ...
  As for Zarqawi, they all recognize the essential silliness of
  portraying him as the embodiment of the opposition, but given the
  resources the US has poured into this massive psyops, their feeling
  is: why not get a little boost out of it themselves? Hence the claim
  that it's the end of al Qaeda in Iraq, and the out-of-perspective
  presentation of al Qaeda's role in the insurgency. ... So:
  misleading, but very sound politics.
For the rest of this story, visit:

by Jonathan Rosenblum

  I first met Sister Ruth Rosenbaum at the University of Wisconsin¹s
  Living Wage Symposium in 1999. Her Hartford-based Center for
  Reflection, Education and Action (CREA), established in 1995, had
  produced impressive reports on miserable wages and working
  conditions in Haiti and Mexico, and I soon assigned them to students
  in my course on global sweatshops.
       The studies were technical but, like the organization's title,
  reflective. By CREA's own telling, that credo of "reflection" --
  contemplation before collaboration -- helped produce an answer to
  corporate claims that a "living wage" could be defined as enough
  earnings to enable a worker to stay alive. This PhD Roman Catholic
  nun's answer: go forth, meet the workers, know how they live and how
  much they need to earn to lead sustainable lives. Since its
  founding, CREA has led or cosponsored shareholder initiatives
  demanding justice for workers in national and international
  campaigns, from Taco Bell to Wal-Mart.
For the rest of this story, visit:


1. ETHICS ALL CLEAR FOR ELECTION FRONT GROUP,5936,19525794%5E3462,00.html

  The Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) has dismissed an
  ethics complaint that a front group authorized by the Chief
  Executive of Corporate Communications Tasmania, Tony Harrison,
  breached the PR industry's self-regulatory code of ethics. In the
  March 2006 Tasmanian state election, Harrison authorised a major
  advertising campaign for Tasmanians for a Better Future but refused
  to disclose who was funding it. Australian Greens Senator, Christine
  Milne, argued that in her opinion Harrison breached the code of
  ethics provision which states that "members shall be prepared to
  identify the source of funding of any public communication they
  initiate or for which they act as a conduit". In a speech to the
  Australian Senate late last week Milne said that all got from the
  PRIA "was a two-line reply" dismissing her complaint. Corporate
  Communications Tasmania is the largest PR company in Tasmania and an
  affiliate of Porter Novelli.
SOURCE: The Mercury, June 20, 2006
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  The U.S. India Business Counci (UIBC) has hired the lobbying company
  Patton Boggs to build Congressional support for President George W.
  Bush's plan to allow nuclear technology sales to India. In a July
  2005 agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Bush
  pledged to "adjust U.S. laws and policies" to allow nuclear sales to
  proceed, even though India is not a signatory to the Treaty on the
  Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. India proposes that only 14 of
  its 22 nuclear power reactors would be open to international
  inspectors. Potential beneficiaries of the deal include Westinghouse
  and General Electric, both of which are UIBC members. The plan faces
  strong opposition from Democratic and Republican members of
  Congress. O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports that one member of the Patton
  Boggs team will be "Benjamin Ginsberg, who was national counsel for
  the Bush-Cheney '04 presidential campaign, and a key player in the
  2000 Florida recount."
SOURCE: O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), June 19, 2006
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  "The tentacles of the transnational mediopolies reach deeper into
  racial and ethnic communities than ever before," warns media analyst
  and activist Makani Themba-Nixon. "For some, this is a triumph in
  diversity. Big corporations reaching consumers of color is something
  they say we should celebrate. However, this market penetration has
  gone hand in hand with decreasing media ownership by people of
  color. ... Diversity in staffing (especially at the top) is closely
  tied to diversity in ownership. According to a 2002 study by the
  Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, only 4.2 percent of
  radio outlets are minority-owned, yet these outlets employ more than
  half of all the people of color in radio." Themba-Nixon points to
  television trends as particularly troubling. "According to a
  forthcoming study commissioned by the Writers Guild of America west,
  before the merger UPN had the single highest concentration of
  writers of color. ... But UPN is merging with WB to create a new
  network called CW. CW's fall scheduling plans show ... deep cuts in
  UPN's black programming."
SOURCE: The Nation, June 15, 2006
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  The Washington Post's Al Kamen reported on a cable from the U.S.
  Embassy in Iraq, written just "hours before President Bush left" for
  his "surprise trip ... to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat
  assessment of the situation there." The cable, titled, "Snapshots
  from the Office: Public Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social
  Discord," opens, "Beginning in March, and picking up in mid-May,
  Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs section have complained that
  Islamist and/or militia groups have been negatively affecting their
  daily routine." The term "public affairs" describes government PR
  staff. The cable details increasing dress restrictions on Iraqi
  women and men, often imposed by people "whose affiliations are
  vague"; limited and unreliable electricity; and housing evictions
  that may be retaliatory actions "by new Shiite government
  authorities." The cable explains that many Iraqi employees must hide
  their affiliation with the U.S. Embassy. "We cannot call employees
  in on weekends or holidays without blowing their 'cover'. ... For at
  least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff
  members for translation at on-camera press events," states the
SOURCE: Washington Post, June 18, 2006
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  Eric Lipton reports in a two part series, reinforced by an editorial
  titled "The Golden Revolving Door," that the government-industry
  revolving door is turning faster and faster. According to Lipton's
  count, more than 90 former Department of Homeland Security and
  domestic security officials have entered the lucrative private
  market by fully capitalizing on their government influence. These
  include former Secretary Tom Ridge, former Under Secretary Asa
  Hutchinson, and former Deputy Secretary Admiral James M. Loy.
  "People have a right to make a living," said Clark Kent Ervin,
  the former inspector general of the department, who now works at the
  Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research center. "But
  working virtually immediately for a company that is bidding for work
  in an area where you were just setting the policy - that is too
  close. It is almost incestuous." While Congress passed a law in
  1962 that required former officials to wait a year before lobbying
  former colleagues, the ingenious officials in Homeland Security
  managed to get a loophole the size of a humvee through the Office of
  Government Ethics in 2004. It divided the department into seven
  distinct areas, and allowed former employees to lobby all but the
  one where they worked.
SOURCE: The New York Times, June 18, 2006
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  The Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Maldives, Ahmed Shaheed, has
  confirmed that Hill & Knowlton is still helping the government
  polish its image. "They are observing political advancements and
  other changes. They occasionally check these things," said Shaheed.
  "They are doing several reviews for the government. ... Very
  recently two members of its staff were in Maldives," said Shaheed.
  The government of the Maldives is facing increasing criticism
  following the arrest of over 200 pro-democracy demonstrators in May
  and the trial of the chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party
  (MDP) Chairperson Mohamed Nasheed on charges of "sedition" and
  "terrorism." The Deputy Chairman of the British Conservative
  Party¹s Human Rights Commission, Ben Rogers, said that "it seems
  rather questionable to me that the Hill and Knowlton people should
  be acting for such a government." The company is reportedly on a
  retainer of $20,000 per month.
SOURCE: Haama News (Maldives), June 17, 2006
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  Ray Moynihan reports in the British Medical Journal that the drug
  companies Roche and Abbott Laboratories provide approximately
  two-thirds of the funding of the International Obesity Task Force
  (IOTF), which has over £1m in cash reserves. Roche makes the
  anti-obesity drug Xenical while Abbott Laboratories makes Reductil.
  Dr. William Dietz, a senior member of IOTF and "well respected
  authority on obesity" from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
  Prevention, is also a member of a U.S.-based committee reviewing
  definitions of childhood overweight and obesity. Dietz, Moynihan
  writes, is "one of the driving forces" behind the redefinition of
  obesity "which some researchers believe may exaggerate the problem
  and unnecessarily label children as diseased." Dietz declined to
  comment to the journal.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal (sub req'd), June 17, 2006
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  "A rule designed by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep
  groundwater clean near oil drilling sites and other construction
  zones was loosened ... after years of intense industry pressure,
  including court battles and behind-the-scenes agency lobbying," in
  addition to a letter from "a well-connected Texas oil executive" to
  White House advisor Karl Rove, reports the Los Angeles Times. The
  letter, from Republican activist and Rove hunting partner Ernest
  Angelo, complained that the stricter, EPA version of the rule was
  causing oil executives to "openly express doubt as to the merit of
  electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity."
  Rove forwarded the letter to White House environmental advisors,
  calling for "a response ASAP." The rule was then rewritten by the
  Office of Management and Budget. "A top EPA official" wrote Angelo
  about the changes, copying Rove, then-EPA head Christine Todd
  Whitman and White House environmental advisor James L. Connaughton.
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2006
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  Expanding on earlier reports of growing product placement deals with
  TV news programs, Joan Stewart writes in Tactics, the monthly
  magazine from the Public Relations Society of America, that "in many
  cases, viewers don't know until the end of a five- or 10-minute spot
  that the segment is, in fact, advertising." For example, "in
  Minnesota, KARE-TV has turned its morning news show into a giant
  infomercial called 'Showcase Minnesota.'" Segments cost $2000 each
  -- a bargain compared to Phoenix, Arizona's Channel 13 show "Mind,
  Body and Spirit," where a six-minute interview costs $5000. Poynter
  Institute professor Jill Geisler points out, "In a news program, the
  person asking the questions is the advocate for the viewer. In pay
  for play, the person asking the question is the paid advocate of the
  interviewee." Former entertainment publicist Raleigh Pinskey
  counters that such arrangements are "legal and ... good business."
SOURCE: PRSA Tactics, June 2006
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  According to its website, the PR firm Edelman has expanded and
  renamed its division aimed at marketing to ethnically diverse
  audiences. Rosa Alonso is joining Edelman as Senior Vice President
  to oversee Edelman Multicultural, which focuses primarily on
  Hispanic and African-American marketing. She previously worked at
  Time Warner, AT&T Wireless, and Univision. Assisting in these
  efforts, from their new DC office, will be Fabiola
  Rodriguez-Ciampoli, who previously served as Director of Hispanic
  Media for the Senate Democratic Communications Center under Minority
  Leader Harry Reid and as the National Director of Hispanic Media for
  the Kerry-Edwards Campaign. This coincides with work for new clients
  including several AstraZeneca pharmaceutical brands, Burger King,
  and Unilever. In addition, the division recently launched a blog on
  the Edelman website "to provide insights into the latest
  developments in the fast-changing multicultural landscape."
SOURCE:, June 7, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  The private security contracting company, ArmorGroup International,
  has hired former Citigate Dewe Rogerson spinner Patrick Toyne-Sewell
  as its new communications director. Toyne-Sewell, who was a military
  man before spending over a decade in the PR world, sees the growing
  conflicts over oil and gas as being good for the private security
  industry. "Security is a rapidly growing industry and will expand
  further as oil and gas reserves require further protection," he told
  PR Week. "ArmorGroup is moving into wider business areas and
  doesn¹t want people to be misled as to the nature of the
SOURCE: PR Week (sub req'd), June 15, 2006
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  Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's lobbying firm, the
  Ashcroft Group, has been hired by General Dynamics to represent it
  on "trade and defense issues," reports O'Dwyer's PR Daily. Working
  on the account are Juleanna Glover Weiss, Vice-President Dick
  Cheney's former press secretary; Lori Day Sharp, who worked under
  Ashcroft at the Justice Department; and Willie Gaynor, a former
  Commerce Department official who was western finance director for
  the 2004 Bush campaign. The Washington Times reports that General
  Dynamics "received a $30.7 million U.S. Navy contract last week and
  was selected -- along with Lockheed Martin in Bethesda -- to submit
  a bid to design and implement part of the government's Integrated
  Wireless Network. ... The steady stream of orders from the U.S. Army
  -- which now total about 25 percent of the company's sales --
  provides a solid base that will continue for years. ... The defense
  contractor's net sales have more than doubled since 2000 to $21.24
  billion last year."
SOURCE: O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub req'd), June 15, 2006
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