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Inside the Tobacco Industry's Files

As the Center for Media and Democracy has noted, the tobacco industry pioneered many deceptive public relations tactics, casting a long shadow over science and health reporting, as well as the public's right to know.

Before its fall from grace, tobacco industry created front groups courted journalists and obscured damning scientific evidence. But, inadvertently, the industry is now helping independent researchers and reporters understand how PR is used to obscure facts and shape public debates.

Correction: DuPont & Invista Hype Nanotechnology-Free Product as "Nano"

In the original version of the blog post, "Environmental Defense or Nanotech Defense", I cited a webpage, which stated that a DuPont created Teflon leather protection product "works on the nano scale", as an example of the company having nanotechnology products on the market.

Subsequently, a reader disputed that Teflon could be a nanotechnology product and described the company's use of the word "nano" as marketing hype. After requesting clarification from DuPont, one of its nanotechnology researchers, David B. Warheit, has confirmed that the Teflon leather protector is not a nanotech product. We have corrected both the original blog and the article in SourceWatch. Invista's promotional page on the DuPont Teflon leather product, however, remains unchanged and potentially deceives consumers of its product into thinking that it is based on nanotechnology. A request to DuPont's PR section for a copy of the June 3, 2003 media release announcing the new Teflon product, which I noted in the original post has gone missing from its news archive, has so far gone unanswered.

Environmental Defense or Nanotech Defense?

If you have concerns about the development of nanotechnology, you might want to keep an eye on the 'partnership' between the chemical industry giant DuPont and Environmental Defense (ED), the New York-based environmental group.

The project, according to a joint media release issued in October 2005 by ED's Fred Krupp and DuPont's Chad Halliday, is to "identify, manage and reduce potential health, safety and environmental risks of nano-scale materials across all lifecycle stages." Once developed, the framework will "then be pilot-tested on specific nano-scale materials or applications of commercial interest to DuPont."

To be fair, ED has flagged concerns about there being inadequate health and environmental assessments of nanotechnologies to date. However, ED hasn't mentioned publicly what they think about DuPont and other companies having products that are already on the market without such assessments.

It Was a Very False Year: The 2005 Falsies Awards

As Father Time faded into history with the end of 2005, he was spinning out of control.

Groucho maskOver the past twelve months, the ideal of accurate, accountable, civic-minded news media faced nearly constant attack. Fake news abounded, from Pentagon-planted stories in Iraqi newspapers to corporate- and government-funded video news releases aired by U.S. newsrooms. Enough payola pundits surfaced to constitute their own basketball team -- Doug Bandow, Peter Ferrara, Maggie Gallagher, Michael McManus and Armstrong Williams. (They could call themselves the "Syndicated Shills.")

Tracking the Zigs and Zags of Issues

The Mirror (UK) reveals details of Bush's alleged plan to bomb Al Jazeera.By anybody's standards, the last few weeks have been unusual. The Mirror, a British tabloid, reported receiving a leaked government memo which purportedly shows that George W. Bush wanted to silence Al Jazeera's journalistic coverage of Iraq with a bombing strike on its Doha, Qatar headquarters. When a memo of the April 16, 2004 meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair was leaked, Blair wanted the British media gagged to stop the public from finding out other details of his chat with Bush. While he doesn't want discussion of his meeting with Bush, Blair does want to foster public debate over his plan to expand nuclear power as a 'solution' to climate change.

The Victory of Spin

More examples of the Bush administration's manipulation of news spilled out into U.S. newspapers last week. Raising further questions about how the White House continues to spin its "War on Terror," the Los Angeles Times reported on November 30 the U.S. military "is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S.

Academic Freedom Ain't What It Used to Be

This summer the Wisconsin-based staff of the Center for Media and Democracy had the pleasure of working with Molly Riordan, an Ithaca College student, who came out to Madison to be our intern. A smart and politically engaged student, Riordan quickly took to our work, adding and editing numerous articles on SourceWatch, our collaborative online encyclopedia of the people, issues and groups shaping public opinion and public policy.

I suggested that she write an article on something of interest to her. What resulted was the cover story for the third quarter issue (now available online) of our award-winning quarterly publication PR Watch. In her article "Academic Freedom Takes a Step to the Right," Riordan takes a look at Students for Academic Freedom, a conservative organization with over a hundred campus chapters that claims to promote "academic diversity." Closer examination of SAF reveals its close affiliation with "Marxist-turned-conservative activist" David Horowitz and a pattern of only identifying cases involving conservative students resisting alleged "leftist indoctrination."

One Step Forward (But Two Back) in the Fight Against Fake News

"Myself and others felt violated by the first bill," said Doug Simon, the founder, president and CEO of D S Simon Productions, a major producer of the faux television news reports known as video news releases (VNRs).

Doug (Pee Wee) SimonSimon was referring to the Truth in Broadcasting Act (S 967). In its original incarnation, this bill would have required a "conspicuous" disclosure to accompany any government-produced or -funded prepackaged VNR or the radio equivalent, an audio news release (ANR).


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