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Bin Laden Death Photo Coverage Is Media’s New Birther Moment

On Tuesday morning, counterterrorism official John Brennan was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep  about the death of Osama bin Laden. For about eight minutes, listeners were  treated to a serious and in-depth exploration of the circumstances surrounding  bin Laden’s discovery and demise.

But then, right at the  end, Inskeep couldn’t help himself. “In a few seconds, Mr. Brennan, why haven’t  you released photos of Osama bin Laden?” Inskeep asked. Over the final  minute of the interview, he repeated that important question four times.

And you couldn’t help  thinking: Here we go again.

Wasn’t it just, like,  hours ago that the media had assumed a posture of deep introspection about  their role in fueling outlandish conspiracy theories?

On one hand, there were  people like Shepard Smith of Fox News urging the media to “look in the mirror”  because questions about President Obama’s birthplace were “a load of crap” and  journalists “knew it from the very beginning.” (Amen.) On the other, there  was Bob Garfield of NPR’s On the Media arguing that the attention paid  by the media to Donald Trump’s birther claims was necessary to help the public  distinguish between a “carnival barker” and a “responsible leader.” (Oh, I get  it: Loons raise loony questions, the media repeats them over and over  again, and, in so doing, exposes them to an audience far larger than the loons  ever could have dreamed of reaching on their own, and thus we need the media to  help us identify the loons. Wow, what an indispensible service.) No consensus,  perhaps, but at least they were grappling with the question.

Not anymore, evidently.

Just  hours after President Obama addressed the nation, no less than J. Michael Waller  posted a blog entry opining that bin Laden should be displayed naked in lower  Manhattan, then chopped into bits and dumped into the New York City  sewers because while he may be dead “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Who’s J. Michael Waller you ask? Who cares! Questions have been raised!  The public needs help identifying the carnival barkers! Summon the media!

So, there was Inskeep  pressing Brennan. The Chicago Sun Times editorialized that a photo should  be released to stop the conspiracy theories. The Associated Press moved a  story headlined “Wanted: Visual Proof that the U.S. got him.” (Though you might  reasonably ask why, given that the proof detailed in the story included DNA  evidence, photographic identification, bin Laden’s wife apparently calling out  to him by name during the firefight, and “[t]ellingly” an al Qaeda spokesman  calling bin Laden “a martyr” and offering “no challenge to the U.S. account of  his death.” Mighty suspicious!)

In fairness, there are  differences between the birther stories and whether the United States should release a  photo of bin Laden. To be sure, the latter has actual foreign policy and  national security implications, and, now that the administration has decided not  to release a photo, it may be that serious issues, rather than the increasingly  hairbrained ideas of conspiracy theorists, will drive the media’s coverage  but … I’ll believe it when I see it.

If the media would like us  to believe it has serious, as opposed to sensationalistic, intentions when it  covers a story like this, the nature of the coverage has to change.  Raising a baseless charge again and again, day after day, and concluding that  you’ve done your job if “both sides” of the story are represented does everyone  a remarkable disservice. The reason: It gives the media’s imprimatur of  legitimacy to a charge that is baseless, and it leaves the impression that  there are two sides to an issue that is, in fact, indisputably settled.

Instead, if the media is  going to give such issues any coverage at all, it should turn its camera in the  opposite direction, focusing on the people who cling to preposterous beliefs  and asking what that tells us about them, our culture, and our country.  That may be a worthy journalistic pursuit, but we’ve seen very little of it.

Of course, there may be a  bright side to all of this: The secret to getting media coverage has been  revealed.

Therefore, I would like to  announce the following: I believe the moon is made of elephants.

Media: Come and get me.

By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, Journalists, Media, National Security, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s Soft On Terror Now?

By the time U.S. Navy SEALs shot Osama bin Laden dead in his Pakistan hideaway, he was already becoming a historical anachronism. During his 10 years of running and hiding, events had passed him by. In the end, he appeared more David Koresh than Hitler or Napoleon — a religious zealot imprisoned by his own homicidal delusions, and little more.

“I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America,” bin Laden once said. Like most fanatics, however, he failed to grasp the resilience of our democracy. America had largely recovered from the terrible strategic blunders that fear and outrage over the 9/11 atrocity had driven it to.

Al-Qaida’s hope was to lure the United States into Afghanistan, where they imagined it would destroy itself like the Soviet Union. That the neoconservative cabal inside the Bush administration would use the attack to justify invading Iraq provided an unanticipated propaganda boost.

The U.S., bin Laden told a CNN interviewer in 1997, “wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to this … If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists.”

But images of Abu Ghraib faded as Iraq’s fratricidal strife yielded to steadfast military and diplomatic effort; America’s intention to leave Iraq became clear. Recent political tumult across the Arab world has owed nothing to bin Laden’s fever dream of a restored Islamic empire.

Writing from Benghazi, Libya, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen celebrated the liberation of “the captive Arab mind.”

“Bin Laden’s rose-tinged caliphate was the solace of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the desperate,” Cohen added. “A young guy with a job, a vote and prospects does not need virgins in paradise.”

None of which should diminish our satisfaction at bin Laden’s death. I happened to be watching the Phillies-Mets game Sunday night when spontaneous cheers of “USA, USA!” broke out as fans got the news on their cellphones. For once, ESPN delivered a non-sports headline at the bottom of the screen.

My brother the Mets fan called the next day to express his feelings. Thirteen people from our New Jersey hometown, he reminded me, died on 9/11. I didn’t know any of them personally, but he knew several victims. Nothing can bring the victims back or erase their loved ones’ pain. Avenging those deaths, however, brought exactly what President Obama said it did: justice.

Bin Laden could have surrendered. Instead, he took the easy way out. Good riddance to him.

Everybody’s got their own way of remembering. Me, I get out my “Concert for New York” DVD and watch the Who turn Madison Square Garden upside down with a thunderous rendition of “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” — maybe the most powerful rock anthem ever written — for an audience of uniformed New York cops, firefighters and EMTs.

Announcing themselves honored to be invited, the English band played in front of a huge projection of the U.S. flag, the Union Jack and the World Trade Center. I can’t watch it dry-eyed. Everybody in the crowd looks like my cousin or somebody I grew up with.

No doubt you’ve got your own 9/11 memories. The question is: What to do with those thoughts and emotions now? Will the feelings of unity — those cheering fans in Philadelphia were Democrats and Republicans alike — bring about a lessening of partisan political anger?

President George W. Bush was quick to offer congratulations. Even Dick Cheney was gracious for once. It was Cheney’s classless accusation that President Obama was risking national security by dropping the “Global War on Terror” trope that set the tone for strident rejection of his legitimacy.

Soft on terror? Obama not only accomplished what the previous administration hadn’t done in eight years of trying, he’d put his presidency on the line. Had the SEALs’ mission in Pakistan failed like President Carter’s 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran, the recriminations would never have ended. Instead, it revealed Obama as one tough, shrewd cookie.

“For most Americans,” writes the New Yorker’s George Packer, “the killing of Osama bin Laden is the equivalent of a long-form birth certificate in establishing Barack Obama’s bona fides as commander-in-chief.”

Realistically, however, not much has changed except American self-confidence. The truth is that the nation panicked somewhat after 9/11. Anxious to find an opponent worthy of their own revolutionary romanticism, Bush administration neoconservatives turned Osama bin Laden into a virtual Hitler to suit their own Churchillian fantasies.

“Islamofascism” they called it. Enraged and distraught, many Americans bought it. Except that bin Laden’s deluded followers posed no military threat to the integrity of the United States or any Western nation. At worst they were capable of theatrical acts of mass murder like the 9/11 attacks.

And that was sufficient evil indeed.

By: Gene Lyons, Salon War Room, May 4, 2011

May 5, 2011 Posted by | 911, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Ground Zero, Homeland Security, Muslims, National Security, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Reform’s Gifts For Mom: Celebrating Mother’s Day With Healthier Mothers, Mothers-To-Be, And Grandmothers

Mothers care for their children, spouses, and aging parents around the clock. Many moms work full-time jobs on top of caregiving. But who cares for Mom?

This Mother’s Day, moms can celebrate health care reform’s new provisions that help moms, moms-to-be, grandmothers, and their families to get healthy and stay healthy. Here are some of health care reform’s “gifts” that moms can already enjoy, as well as a sneak peek of gifts to come.

Moms

One of the biggest worries for moms is their kids. Kids get sick, get hurt, and were denied health insurance prior to health care reform. But thanks to reform, moms have support whether they have a young child with a preexisting condition or a college graduate whose employer doesn’t cover them. Insurance companies can no longer deny insurance to children with preexisting conditions, and children up to age 26 can stay on their parent’s plan if their employer doesn’t offer coverage.

But reform looks out for Mom, too. The Affordable Care Act provides free screenings of many of women’s biggest health concerns: breast cancer, cervical cancer, blood pressure, cholesterol, and obesity.

Paired with improvements in primary care, we know this preventive approach will drastically improve the health of moms and their families. We know, for instance, that regular pap smears increase the likelihood of detecting cervical cancer early and subsequently increasing survival rates.

The bottom line? Free screenings allow doctors and their patients to address health problems earlier and help prevent Mom from getting sick.

And if Mom still gets sick, health care reform provides support there, too. Provisions now prohibit annual and lifetime caps, meaning that a person who is severely or continually ill will not “run out” of insurance.

Moms-to-be

Moms-to-be can look forward to the guarantee that all health plans will cover maternity care for the first time. This is especially exciting since prior to health care reform, 22 states offered no coverage of pregnancy-related costs under any health care. Further, in a study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center, only 13 percent of studied health plans in the individual market provided maternity care.

Maternity coverage will also include preventive and prenatal services. For instance, women considering pregnancy can receive free folic acid supplements while pregnant women can receive free, routine screening for anemia. Taking folic acid previous to getting pregnant and during the first trimester of pregnancy helps prevent birth defects and is essential to the development of the fetal nervous system. Further, pregnant women with iron-deficient anemia are at increased risk of preterm deliveries, delivering babies with a low birth weight, and even fetal death.

Finally, new moms will see additional postnatal benefits. Mothers will receive breastfeeding support such as prenatal and postnatal breastfeeding education and evaluation from trained caregivers. This has proven health benefits for both mothers and their children. Additionally, moms who go back to work will benefit from a private space to breastfeed because employers are now required to provide one.

Grandmothers

Grandmothers can stay stronger for longer with free annual checkups covered by Medicare. The physicals are available to every Medicare beneficiary and they don’t cost a thing.

In addition, other health plans will allow grandmothers to receive preventive care without copays or deductibles. All new plans must include free osteoporosis screeninga disease affecting mainly older women that causes the bones to weaken and severely increases the likelihood of fractures and breaks—for women over 65 and for women at higher risk over age 60.

Finally, provisions in health care reform are working to close the “doughnut hole” in which people enrolled in Medicare’s prescription drug program, often women, are forced to pay a greater share out of pocket for prescription drugs due to a gap in coverage. In the last year Medicare beneficiaries received a $250 rebate. In coming years there will be discounts on brand-name and generic prescription drugs, and provisions will work to make it so by 2020 the doughnut hole will be closed.

Future gifts

While many of these “gifts” to mothers are already in place, more gifts will arrive in the next two-and-a-half years.

For starters, because of new and expanded programs, more moms will have health insurance. These new programs will make it so insurance plans include even more mom and family-friendly services that build on the aforementioned maternity, preventive, and Medicare benefits.

Finally, for the first time, women—mothers included—will pay the same rate for health insurance as men. Forty-two states currently allow gender rating (charging women more than men for the same health plan), with some charging up to 84 percent more. This is a huge, long-awaited gift to women and moms everywhere.

Health care reform acknowledges moms’ 24/7 care. That’s why the law works to serve moms every day and not just Mother’s Day.

By: Sandra Bogar, Center for American Progress, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, Medicare, Uninsured, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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