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PR Watch: The Weekly Spin (Aug. 16, 2006)

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1. Congress vs. The President
2. "Vets for Freedom" Fight  for Rove and Lieberman

1. CMD's 'Fake TV News' Report Fuels FCC Investigation
2. Some Like It Hot
3. Ben Santer Speaks (While "Global Climate Coalition" Slinks into History)
4. BP's Adman Got Suckered by His Own Scripts
5. The Blogs of War
6. More Net Neutrality Front Groups
7. VFF Loves  GI Joe
8. Spinning an Iraq Oil Kickbacks Confession
9. Restless Drug Promotion
10. McHummer
11. U.S. Spreads Its Diplomacy Around
12. Making Cuba Libre, for Public Relations
13. PsyOps: The Other Middle East Air War



by Conor Kenny

  About two weeks ago, on July 26, 2006, the American Bar Association
  issued a report condemning President Bush's use of "signing
  statements." These statements are essentially a "P.S." written
  underneath his signature on a piece of legislation that states how
  he interprets and intends to enforce the law. (This is part of the
  Unitary Executive Theory.)
       The ABA is not happy about this. From the press release for the
        "Presidential signing statements that assert President
  Bush¹s authority to disregard or decline to enforce laws adopted
  by Congress undermine the rule of law and our constitutional system
  of separation of powers... To address these concerns, the task force
  urges Congress to adopt legislation enabling its members to seek
  court review of signing statements that assert the President¹s
  right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress, and urges
  the President to veto bills he feels are not constitutional."
       The ABA asked and it shall receive: two days later Sen. Arlen
  Specter (R-Pa.) filed a bill that would allow the House or Senate to
  file a lawsuit to have the Supreme Court rule on the
  constitutionality of signing statements.
       Here's where Congresspedia comes in. I called Sen. Specter's
  office and confirmed that while the bill has been referred to
  Specter's Senate Judiciary Committee, there has yet to be a hearing
  and no other Senators have signed up to be cosponsors. So, where do
  members of the Senate stand on Specter's bill? Citizen journalists,
  help us find out.
For the rest of this story, visit:

by John Stauber

  The Republican lobby group Vets for Freedom is the 2006 equivalent
  of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the Republican 527 committee whose
  attack advertisements in battleground states helped sink John Kerry
  in the 2004 presidential race by smearing him as a phony war hero
  and a traitor to his country.
       Vets for Freedom (VFF) made lame claims to be "non-partisan"
  when in early 2006 it first appeared out of the blue online and in
  op-ed pieces in the New York Times and other major papers and in TV
  interviews. An investigation of the group by citizen journalists at
  SourceWatch and by the Buffalo News blew the VFF claim of
  non-partisanship out of the water. For instance, the Buffalo News
  revealed in June that former White House flack Taylor Gross, who
  left Scott McClellan's office in 2005 to start his own PR firm,
  represented VFF and pitched them to papers as non-partisan
  journalists who would embed for these newspapers and report
  accurately and cheaply for them from Iraq. Now the camouflage has
  fallen completely off. Vets for Freedom has registered itself as a
  527 committee and is going to run a full page advertisement in
  Connecticut's Hartford Courant on behalf of Joe Lieberman's renegade
  run for re-election to the US Senate as a 'stay the course in Iraq'
For the rest of this story, visit:


  The Washington Post reports, "The Federal Communications Commission
  has sent letters to 77 television broadcasters, asking whether their
  stations had properly labeled 'video news releases' ... before
  broadcasting them. ... The FCC inquiry follows an April study by the
  watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy that found that 77
  stations had aired video news releases without properly labeling
  them. ... The survey's 'fake news' spots, as the center calls them,
  were produced by corporations, such as Panasonic Corp. and General
  Motors Corp. and trade groups. ... '[T]he investigation is really
  important because otherwise stations won't take seriously the
  disclosure laws that are already on the books,' the study's
  co-author, Diane Farsetta, said in an interview. 'The current
  practice is such a flagrant breach of the disclosure laws, we're
  happy that it looks like the FCC is putting some teeth in them.'"
  The ongoing fake TV news scandal is being widely covered in print
  press such as Bloomberg, Reuters, Ad Age and others. (Maybe TV news
  outlets are waiting to receive a VNR about the FCC investigation?)
SOURCE: Washington Post, August 15, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  Numerous climate change skeptics have spent most of the two decades
  denying increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations were
  anything to worry about. Donald J. Boudreaux, the chairman of the
  Department of Economics at George Mason University and an Adjunct
  Scholar at the Cato Institute, takes a different tack. Referring to
  a recent New York Times report on increasing human longevity,
  Boudreaux attributes the change to the economic productivity of
  "capitalism." Turning to climate change, he argues that "it's a
  perfectly legitimate stance for truly reasonable people to conclude
  that the best policy regarding global warming is to neglect it --
  and let capitalism continue to make us healthier and wealthier."
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, August 13, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  It "was one of the most vicious attacks I have ever seen on the
  integrity of a scientist," says one scientist on how the energy
  industry used to treat federal global climate expert Ben Santer.
  Santer's "heresy" was a 1995 report, known as the Intergovernmental
  Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Second Assessment and the following
  words: "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human
  influence on global climate." At that time, more than 70 groups from
  the American Petroleum Institute to Union Carbide, painted their
  target (and rhetoric) on Santer. The Global Climate Coalition set an
  early standard for front groups and astroturf, and accused Santer of
  "scientific cleansing" when the world was reeling from Bosnia's
  "ethnic cleansing." Now the GCC is defunct and Santer's work has
  been afffirmed by sophisticated new testing, models and technology.
  Santer reflects: "I was a messenger bearing news that some very
  powerful people did not want to hear. So they went after the
  messenger. ... I just happened to get in the way and had to be
  discredited." Today, says Santer, "All of us--policymakers, public,
  media, and scientists--have important roles in [climate change]
  debate. Let's hope it takes place sooner rather than later."
SOURCE: Environmental Science & Technology Online News, August 9, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  BP is the most successful oil company at greenwashing its own image.
  Unfortunately for BP, the recent news about its massive oil leak in
  Alaska and the shutting down of its corrosive pipelines have
  revealed the truth -- it really is all about oil profits. In the New
  York Times , a BP adman admits that even he was suckered. John
  Kenney writes, "Six years ago I helped create BP¹s current
  advertising campaign, the man-in-the-street television commercials.
  I can¹t take credit for changing the company¹s name from
  'British Petroleum' to 'beyond petroleum' (lower case is cooler); my
  boss at the time came up with it. ... I believed wholeheartedly in
  BP¹s message, that we could go -- or at least work toward going --
  beyond petroleum." Now Kenney sees it differently: "They didn¹t go
  beyond petroleum. They are petroleum."
SOURCE: New York Times, August 14, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  Amid the growing media attention surrounding the
  Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah conflict in the Middle East, dozens of
  independent blogs are providing eyewitness accounts and describing
  what life is like in the middle of a war. Crawford Kilian offers a
  rundown of a number of blogs whose views range from pro-Hezbollah to
  pro-Israel. According to Lisa Goldman, the war in Lebanon may be
  "the first conflict to be blogged from day one" and "the first time
  that residents of 'enemy' countries engaged in an ongoing
  conversation while missiles were falling."
SOURCE: The Tyee (Canada), August 14, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  Back in March, Common Cause released "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing,"
  which detailed the activities of nine groups masquerading as think
  tanks and public interest organizations when in fact they were front
  groups for telephone and cable companies in the net neutrality
  debate. Now they've added another five groups to the list: "For
  example, Hands off the Internet sounds like activists wanting to
  protect the Internet. Actually, it's a telecommunications
  industry-backed organization that was spending $20,000 a day on
  television commercials aimed at eliminating long-standing net
  neutrality protections so that telephone and cable companies can
  maximize profit and minimize competition on the Internet."
SOURCE: Common Cause, August 10, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  Vets for Freedom is a 527 committee managed by Republican public
  relations and political consultants, including Taylor Gross,
  attempting to defeat candidates who advocate an end to the U.S.
  occupation of Iraq. The Wall Street Journal reports that in
  Connecticut, "An organization of mainly Republican veterans of the
  wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is working with Republican strategist
  Dan Senor to boost Joe Lieberman's efforts to win re-election as an
  independent. Mr. Senor is working in an unpaid capacity for Vets for
  Freedom, which plans to kick off its pro-Lieberman push with a
  full-page ad in Monday's Hartford Courant that praises Mr. Lieberman
  for 'integrity, leadership, and unwavering commitment to America's
  troops.' The organization hopes to run other print and radio ads in
  the fall, and is also planning on campaigning door-to-door for Mr.
  Lieberman and holding a public rally on his behalf. 'These vets are
  grateful to Sen. Lieberman for not letting politics compromise his
  positions, and they wanted to express that,' Mr. Senor says." Senor
  previously did media work for the Coalition Provisional Authority in
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (sub req'd), August 10, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

8. SPINNING AN IRAQ OIL KICKBACKS CONFESSION,23599,20084091-1702,00.html
  Faced with a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the payment of
  approximately $A300 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's
  government, in breach of the United Nations' Iraq Oil-for-Food
  Program, the Australian wheat trader AWB Limited hired crisis
  management guru Peter Sandman to help it draft an apology. The
  Australian inquiry released e-mails between Sandman and AWB, which
  reveal that Sandman's proposed confessional statement was watered
  down by ABW's other PR adviser, Ian Smith from Gavin Anderson &
  Company. "The less you blame yourself, the more the public will
  blame you. You aren't blaming yourself nearly enough in this draft,"
  Sandman wrote in one e-mail. Sandman's original three-page statement
  was eventually pared back to only one page. However, AWB executives
  decided not to make a public apology at all. The inquiry resumes
  public hearings in two weeks.
SOURCE: (Australia), August 10, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

9. RESTLESS DRUG PROMOTION,,2087-2300695,00.html
  GlaxoSmithKline breached the British drug industry's own
  self-regulatory code of conduct by promoting ropinirole to treat
  restless legs syndrome before the drug had been approved for that
  use. The Sunday Times reports that GSK ran ads between September
  2004 and November 2005 directing sufferers to the website of the
  Ekbom Support Group. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical
  Industry's complaints panel, the Prescription Medicines Code of
  Practice Authority, ruled that "GSK was, in effect, directing
  patients to a website that contained misleading messages about the
  safety of ropinirole, which might indirectly encourage patients to
  ask their doctors to prescribe it." Some doctors have cited
  "restless legs syndrome" as an example of disease mongering, where
  the prevalence of a condition is exaggerated as a way of increasing
  the potential market for related drugs.
SOURCE: The Sunday Times (UK), August 6, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  During August, U.S. McDonald's is teaming up with GM to include a
  model of the gas-guzzling Hummer in its "Happy Meals." The New York
  Times notes that McDonald's "appears not to have gotten the message"
  about rising petrol prices. In an attempt to gain mainstream media
  coverage for its "Hummer of a Summer" marketing campaign, McDonald's
  organised a lunch-hour parade down Chicago's Michigan Avenue
  featuring Ronald McDonald on the hood of a Hummer. In support of its
  promotion, McDonald's released an electronic press kit, including
  B-roll video footage for use by television stations or websites.
  Shannelle Armstrong, McDonald's U.S. communications manager, told PR
  Week that the company evaluates how "overall store sales are
  affected when we do a push, and not just for Happy Meals."
SOURCE: New York Times, August 10, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  "To make up for the diplomatic damage done by the Iraq war and to
  try and leave the U.S. better positioned to respond to -- and
  possibly even pre-empt -- conflagrations of the future," the Bush
  administration is trying to make foreign-service officers "more
  agile and less hemmed in by the high walls and bureaucracies of the
  traditional embassy." Currently, "a fifth of all U.S. diplomats are
  in Europe, which contains about a tenth of the world's population."
  As part of the new push, "100 or so positions [are] being moved from
  European capitals to China, India and a few other developing
  countries." In Afghanistan, "senior-ranking diplomats ... work on
  democracy projects among U.S. military forces." In Indonesia, Egypt
  and southern Sudan, the U.S. has "low-infrastructure, one-man
  'presence posts'"; similar posts are planned in Venezuela, India and
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (sub req'd), August 10, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

12. MAKING CUBA LIBRE, FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS,0,4268182.story?coll=sfla-news-miami
  Following news of Cuban President Fidel Castro's illness, "the
  United States beefed up its television transmissions to Cuba ...
  through its Miami-based TV Marti station," reports Associated Press.
  "The Office of Cuba Broadcasting unveiled a new G-1 twin turbo
  propeller plane, which will increase the transmissions from one
  afternoon a week to six." The 2006 U.S. budget includes $10 million,
  "to develop airborne TV broadcasting and counter the Cuban
  government's mostly successful efforts to jam the transmission."
  Cuban officials may crack down on satellite dishes, which are
  illegal, saying that "a good part of the programming ... is
  destabilizing, interventionist, subversive." Castro's death "could
  be the first step toward ending the decades-long U.S. embargo and
  opening the country to U.S. corporate interests," writes PR Week.
  "Most PR firms interested in the Cuban market already have an idea
  of what they will do when Castro is out of the picture."
  Burson-Marsteller's Latin America president called setting up Cuba
  operations "one of the biggest challenges ... but the opportunity is
SOURCE: Associated Press, August 7, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

  "Cell phones and land lines across Lebanon have been ringing with
  automated, recorded messages -- part of a propaganda war being waged
  along with Israel's assault on Lebanon," reports Associated Press.
  "The Israeli army has refused to confirm that is is behind the phone
  calls. But few Lebanese have any doubts." One call asks, "Who is
  using you as human shields?" Similar messages appear on leaflets
  dropped by Israeli planes and in Israeli radio broadcasts into south
  Lebanon. The Los Angeles Times reports that "during three recent TV
  broadcasts, Israel has hacked into Hezbollah's Al Manar channel. ...
  The Israel Defense Forces had confirmed that the hacking was the
  work of the army's intelligence corps." Professor Charles Harb at
  the American University of Beirut called the approaches "a classic
  psychological ploy" meant to make Lebanese civilians feel closer to
  their government and more distant from Hezbollah.
SOURCE: Associated Press, August 8, 2006
For more information or to comment on this story, visit:


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