Bush:'planted fake news stories on TV'

The U.K.Independent reports that George Bush is being accused of planting fake news stories on TV. According to the Independent,federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies' products.

A report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

"We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them," said Diana Farsetta, one of the group's researchers. "I would say it's pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air."

Ms Farsetta said the public relations companies commissioned to produce these segments by corporations had become increasingly sophisticated in their techniques in order to get the VNRs broadcast. "They have got very good at mimicking what a real, independently produced television report would look like," she said.

The range of VNR is wide. Among items provided by the Bush administration to news stations was one in which an Iraqi-American in Kansas City was seen saying "Thank you Bush. Thank you USA" in response to the 2003 fall of Baghdad. The footage was actually produced by the State Department, one of 20 federal agencies that have produced and distributed such items.

Many of the corporate reports, produced by drugs manufacturers such as Pfizer, focus on health issues and promote the manufacturer's product. One example cited by the report was a Hallowe'en segment produced by the confectionery giant Mars, which featured Snickers, M&Ms and other company brands. While the original VNR disclosed that it was produced by Mars, such information was removed when it was broadcast by the television channel - in this case a Fox-owned station in St Louis, Missouri.

Bloomberg news service said that other companies that sponsored the promotions included General Motors, the world's largest car maker, and Intel, the biggest maker of semi-conductors. All of the companies said they included full disclosure of their involvement in the VNRs. "We in no way attempt to hide that we are providing the video," said Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for Intel. "In fact, we bend over backward to make this disclosure."

The FCC was urged to act by a lobbying campaign organised by Free Press, another non-profit group that focuses on media policy. Spokesman Craig Aaron said more than 25,000 people had written to the FCC about the VNRs. "Essentially it's corporate advertising or propaganda masquerading as news," he said. "The public obviously expects their news reports are going to be based on real reporting and real information. If they are watching an advertisement for a company or a government policy, they need to be told."


British MP says assassination of Blair 'morally justified'

British MP George Galloway claims that an assassination try on Blair would be 'morally justified." Galloway reportedly said that an attack on Tony Blair that caused no other casualties would be a justifiable response to Britain's support for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"It would be entirely logical and explicable -- and morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq as Blair did," the monthly GQ magazine quoted Mr. Galloway as saying.

Backpedalling later, Galloway stated:"But I've made my position clear. I would not support anyone seeking to assassinate the prime minister," he said.

While there are many who oppose the Iraq initiative by Bush and Blair, clearly Galloway's comments go far beyond the realm of reasonable discourse.


NRCan expunges "sustainable development."

NRCan is busily extinguishing the term"sustainable development" from permitted use in Departmental publications. In its place they have substituted "responsible development."

Given that"sustainable development" is used around the world and in many international treaties and in existing Canadian legislation, this attempt to expunge the concept of sustainability from the government's lexicon is pathetic at best. More seriously it probably reflects that big industry is in charge of the Conservative agenda. It is a harbinger of what will happen on environmental issues should the Conservatives secure a majority next time.


ENGOs call on Ambrose to resign

Several environmental groups
are asking Environment Minister Rona Ambrose to resign as chair of UN negotiations on extending the Kyoto Protocol.

The argument is that, since Canada has effectively abandoned the climate treaty, Rona Ambrose should not take preside as president of the international negotiations.Under the UN system, the Canadian environment minister is chair of the talks. The purpose of the talks is to negotiate a second phase of the treaty and to obtain commitments from developing countries, currently exempt from targets.

Dale Marshall of the David Suzuki Foundation observed:

"The countries that are there, that are still committed to their targets . . . deserve a chair that is committed to the process. Ms. Ambrose is not."

It is clear that the Harper government is aligning itself with the U.S. and Australia and has no intention to implement Kyoto. Indeed the recent budget slashed climate change programs. Under these circumstances it is ludicrous for Ms. Ambrose to be presiding over the negotiations for the follow-up to Kyoto.


Whither Canada?

Over on Cerberus at last a debate about something important.Without a strong central government Canada will cease to exist for all practical purposes.Martin was hell bent on giving the provinces what they wanted. He was doing it helter skelter. Harper wants to shrink the federal government to a small core of responsibilities and empower the provinces far beyond what was envisaged in the BNA Act.Unless the Liberals can get their act together, shed their baggage and recommit themselves to a vibrant Canada with a new dynamic leader, Harper's view will prevail.

Adam calls on Harper to boost bilingualism

Dyane Adam, Canada's official languages commissioner has called on PM Harper to show his support for boosting bilingualism. Adam bemoaned in her annual report "a leveling off over the last decade in the quality of the service to the public in the official language of choice." She contends that Canada is still not doing enough to ensure the government works properly in both English and French, despite 40 years of striving to be bilingual.She also expressed concern that the new Conservative government -- with a power base in the English-speaking province of Alberta -- might lose interest in the file.

Harper in the past referred to bilingualism as "the god that failed."

First thing Harper should do is send Dyane Adam to the recycling bin. She's a fanatic.


Will Harper's grand plan succeed?

Will Harper's grand plan succeed? He is obviously using the fiscal imbalace issue to keep Jean Charest and Gilles Duceppe onside. His objective is to gain seats in Quebec next election, enough to secure a majority. But is his snubbing of McGuinty a wise tactic? Harper's giving McGuinty a ready-made platform for the next Ontario election. While I don't agree with McGuinty on many issues, if he can wrap himself in the flag of protecting Ontario against fiscal rape by Ottawa, he will be well-positioned provincially.

Harper has proven himself a relatively shrewd operator so far but the tough sledding is still ahead of him. He cannot afford to lose the relatively small beachhead that the Conservatives secured in Ontario in the last election. There is a real risk that will happen if Ontarians are persuaded that they are being blackmailed into making an excessively high fiscal contribution to other provinces.

While the fiscal imbalance issue seems on the surface to be the ticket to making major inroads in Quebec, it may instead become the swamp which denies Harper his covetted majority next time.

BigPharma makes deals with generics

Are the Big Pharma companies making secret deals with some generic drug companies to keep prices artificially high? There is growing evidence that Big Pharma companies are making deals with makers of generic drugs to keep generic rivals off the shelves.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed lawsuits challenging patent settlement agreements between major drugmakers and their generic rivals. Big Pharma companies have been winning these lawsuits. The FTC has published a report citing examples of payoffs of generic companies by the Biggies.

And you wonder why your prescriptions are so expensive???


Environment Canada contracts to urge public servants to speak French

Environment Canada is offering a professional services contract worth up to $25,000 to develop "reminder tools" for civil servants urging them to speak French.English is the language usually spoken by Environment Canada employees during internal meetings and DM Samy Watson wants to do something about it.

Official Languages Commissioner Dyane Adam has been promoting the concept of "receptive bilingualism" in the federal civil service. Adam described the concept this way:

"We believe that even the incumbents of unilingual positions should have some passive knowledge of their second language. Otherwise, written communications and discussions in meetings will continue to be primarily in one language as soon as there is one unilingual person in the communication chain."

The federal government spends upwards of $120 million annually on second-language training for civil servants, once back-fill costs to replace full-time language students are taken into account. The vast majority of the training goes to anglophones learning French.

Yet internal studies and employee surveys have shown many anglophone bureaucrats start losing their acquired French proficiency once they return to work, where English is the predominant language.

To rectify the problem, language bureaucrats have been grappling with the issue of how to create what they call a "culture change" in federal civil servants across Canada.

Environment Canada's latest "receptive bilingualism project" contract is being funded in part by the Official Languages Innovation Fund, which in 2005-06 spent $2.7 million on approved projects across Canada.

Among those projects, was $182,000 for part of a five-year program in Newfoundland and Labrador to "propel official languages objectives to new levels of priority in the work plans, networks and initiatives of the federal civil service in this province."

Just half a per cent of Newfoundland's population is francophone, according to the 2001 census.

On the opposite coast, the innovation fund spent $455,000 last year, including $96,000 to hire a full-time official languages coordinator for the Pacific region - where francophones make up 1.5 per cent of British Columbia's population.

The fund also committed $80,000 to teaching French to Pacific region civil servants whose first language is Cantonese and second language is English.

What a waste of taxpayers money! New Environment Minister Rona Ambrose should put an end to this nonsense and ask PM Harper to send Samy Watson to the recycling bin while she's at it.