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Number of journalists in jail reaches all-time record

Since 1990, the Committee to Protect Journalists has been issuing reports on the number of journalists jailed worldwide.  The news in 2012 is the worst ever.  Around the globe governments are imprisoning journalists for any number of reasons, but most especially for journalists who dare to critique the worst practices of regimes.  That quickly leads to charges of inciting anti-state terrorism.

In this season of giving where we acknowledge who’s been naughty and nice, we need to acknowledge the contributions that global journalists make and the risks they pose to report the story of what’s really happening–both on the ground in conflict, but also inside the corridors of those in power.

I do not have the courage of my convictions as do so many of those who now sit in jail for telling the truth.  Read the report here.



Sex, Google, and Videotape

The jokes won’t stop coming.  He has an “open door policy” that gives her “full access.”  She’s “all in.”

The FBI investigation of David Petraeus “started with two women.”  Well let’s meet the main one, a soldier-scholar with great arms.

Here she is, waiting for any number of engagements.  The author of All In never knew a book title could become her own personal destiny.  Paula Broadwell showed off her Michelle Obama-worthy uppers on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

And here is an especially cringe-worthy interview with someone named Arthur Kade who cannot disguise his enthusiasm for sitting next to Broadwell.

Here is a photo of David Petraeus and his wife Holly, who have been married for 38 years.

Where does one begin with the Grecian fall of David Petraeus and his biographer/lover Paula Broadwell?  Petraeus, arguably one of the most highly decorated retired military men in U.S. history, was the civilian head of the Central Intelligence Agency until tendering his resignation on Friday, November 9th.  What seemed to be a simple “head to bed” transition in Petraeus’ relationship with Broadwell does not explain the reason for his resignation.  We live in an age when top government officials (e.g., Clinton, Gingrich) engage in extramarital affairs, but many manage to survive these peccadilloes in our “anything goes as long as you don’t wake up the cows” age.

It is not the extramarital affair an intelligence agency like the CIA cared about in this case.  Rather it was the opportunity by the lover or a third party to breach top security.  The FBI had been contacted months ago by Petraeus family friend Jill Kelley of Tampa, Florida, identified now as an unpaid social liaison to the Joint Special Operations Command, who complained that she was being sent anonymous threatening emails.  It turns out that Broadwell was sending said emails and the trail of threats wound up snaring Broadwell’s lover Petraeus through their Google email accounts.  Let’s hope that Petraeus’ Google email wasn’t something like “I’m too sexy” at Google dot com.  Google, like Yahoo! and other secondary emails that many of us use outside of work, do not have the same firewall protection from hackers of an official account used for formal communications in business, government or the academy.

Oh what a tangled web indeed.

The videotape angle of this story is not a sex tape.  I’m referring to the conspiracy theory that the real reason David Petraeus resigned was to avoid giving testimony to Congress on the Benghazi attacks of 9/11/12.  Remember how the Obama administration originally linked these attacks to the “Innocence of Muslims” video?  Some think that Petraeus wanted to step aside so he wouldn’t have to answer any tough questions related to the Benghazi narrative.  I’m not so sure about that given the power of Congress to subpoena witnesses.

What we have here is an opportunity for political opportunists to run with this scandal while the parties involved just want to hide.  This is so much bigger than any sex scandal, despite the sad wake such an affair leaves with the two married partners, one of whom (Broadwell), has two young children.

Obama Wins: A Sure Thing from the Start

Obama wins.  I’ve been telling everyone all year, including my Japanese students at Sophia University this spring, that President Barack Obama would win a second term in office. That is stating the obvious.

Yesterday was a “let’s get this over with” day.  At least for me.

So let’s see here.  What did we get for our $6 billion investment?  I cannot help but think about the budget of the federal government agency where I used to work, the United States Information Agency, responsible for “telling America’s story to the world.”  Our budget was just over one billion.  So for the equivalent of six years of branding America all over the world, we had election results that kept everything the same in Washington.  The Senate is still controlled by the Democrats.  The Republicans still control the House of Representatives.  A Democrat resides in the White House.

Does anyone foresee a new spirit of togetherness arising from the 2012 election?  A dentist who pulls teeth without anesthesia rates higher than the average member of Congress.

Why don’t we have competitive elections that last about two to four weeks and are financed by the government?  I know.  It’s too small “d” democratic to imagine getting this done in a timely fashion that would benefit the majority spectators to this spectacle.  

The real winners of this contest are the local TV networks in battleground states that cleaned up financially and the political consultants and media types who told us what a barnburner we had on our hands.  Really?

I’m disgusted by amount of money it took to conclude the obvious.  Romney was never any formidable competition.  He is the walking effigy of the modern bogey man known as white male privilege.  There’s very little he could say or do that would remove him from this perch.

We’ve not only stated the obvious with this election—Obama never had any competition for reelection—but also we’re just as politically divided, if not more so, then we were before.

Can someone give me a reason to believe that all is not driven by money and special interests?  As the former executive director of the nonpartisan “good government” citizens’ lobby, Common Cause of New Hampshire, I want to believe that our best days are just ahead.

A promising footnote to all the money excess is that Proposition 30 was passed by the voters of California.  It was a good day for public education.

The Death of Print is Greatly Exaggerated

Newsweek magazine, a global magazine brand in print for eight decades, announced Thursday, October 18th that its last print issue will be December 31, 2012.  It is reducing its staff in anticipation of being solely digital as of 2013.  Does this worry any stalwart print media folks?  It shouldn’t.  The Big D these days isn’t just Dallas.  It’s Digital.  We’re all migrating online.  Of course this is also a costs saving move by a print publication that has lost its edge, but editor-in-chief Tina Brown manages to put the positive spin on this development when she made the announcement at strictly online The Daily Beast.

Currently, 39 percent of Americans say they get their news from an online source, according to a Pew Research Center study released last month. In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in the years ahead.

It is important that we underscore what this digital transition means and, as importantly, what it does not. We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it. We remain committed to Newsweek and to the journalism that it represents. This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism—that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution.

Writer Andrew Sullivan, whose blog is linked to Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, won’t miss the print medium.

Here is the first cover of Newsweek from February 1933.  Note the emphasis on global events as well as the cost per issue.

Will you miss the print version of Newsweek or is this just media business as usual in the 21st century?

Why Veep Debates (Still) Matter

One of my favorite news digests, The Week, presents a video look back at 7 memorable moments in vice presidential debates.  My personal favorite is included, the 5-second “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” introduction by Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992, the highly decorated retired Navy vice admiral James Stockdale (1923-2005).

Laughter aside, the moment cemented in many American minds that Mr. Perot and Mr. Stockdale were probably not quite ready for White House prime time.   Also included is the 1988 dressing down by Michael Dukakis’ senior running mate Lloyd Bentsen to George H.W. Bush’s youthful running mate, Dan Quayle.  “Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

Clearly, age can make a difference.  If Vice President Joe Biden can make Senator Paul Ryan look too young for the job, then this VP contest may go down in history along with The Week examples.  Biden has the reputation for the gaffe while Ryan has the reputation for coming across as a bit of a know-it-all, a tag that also plagued Al Gore.  We’ve got another Must-See TV event.

Mitt’s Dash of Support

Clueless actress Stacey Dash doesn’t sound so clueless about politics.  She voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and in 2012 she had the audacity to switch her allegiance by tweeting her support for Mitt Romney.  Doesn’t she realize that Mitt Romney is white and she is black?!  Dash appeared on CNN with Piers Morgan (remember him?) and here is what she had to say:

What did Stacey Dash do wrong to generate so much strong reaction?  Is the Democratic Party the Black Peoples’ Party and the Republican Party the White Peoples’ Party?  If so, then let us change their names and have more truth in advertising.

Japanophobia: Four Wheels for Four Hooves

Tokyo-based Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama reveals the trade costs to the regional showdown over the disputed goat islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.  After reading “Sales of Japanese autos plunge in China on anti-Japan sentiments sparked by islands row,” I’m going to start calling the islands “AutoNObile.”

Come on, Japan.  More specifically, come on Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Toyota, all global brands recognized for performance, reliability and longevity.  I’m still driving my ’98 Honda Civic.  I’m one of your most loyal global customers, having driven either a Toyota or Honda for the past 25 years.

This whole dispute looks ridiculous.  Why not take the higher path here.  Put an end to any blustering rhetoric or defensive posturing.  Your country is paying too much, but not just in four wheels.  Your citizens, who have been through so much, are paying dearly.  Japan, your good name and standing in the world is costing you, and this impacts every transaction and interaction from point of sale to exchange of person.

Here’s a call for every rational, clear thinking citizen in China and Japan to make your voices heard.  Turn this territorial dispute into a public park to be enjoyed by goats and all.  We cannot rely on our political “leaders” to handle this one.  So far they have let us down.

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