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From a Lead to An Article in Two Days

I'd never heard of Safia Taleb al-Suhail, an Iraqi woman who George W. Bush praised during his February 2005 State of the Union address until I was sent an email link to an article in The Independent, a major UK newspaper. The article referred to her expressing concern about the impact of draft Iraqi constitution on women.

Safia Taleb al-Suhail"When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women. But look what has happened: we have lost all the gains we made over the past 30 years. It's a big disappointment. Human rights should not be linked to Islamic sharia law at all. They should be listed separately in the constitution," she complained to Andrew Buncombe of The Independent.

As it was early morning and I had a lot of e-mails to get through, there was no time to dig any further myself. So I posted it to the talk page of a regular SourceWatch contributor, Artificial Intelligence (AI). Within two days AI has compiled an article reviewing Safia Taleb al-Suhail's background, her role in Iraqi politics and a listing of links to online articles by and about her over the last three years. Hugh Manatee found a photo that could be added in too. It is a small illustration of how a wiki-based project like SourceWatch facilitates collaborative research and writing.

The Cows Have Come Home

Note: This article was written for CorpWatch, and also appears on their website.

Earlier this summer in Minnesota, the well-dressed woman walked briskly across the front of the red brick classroom and up to the microphone. The moderator smiled and nodded in her direction. Looking down at her notes, she began. "Good afternoon. Thanks for holding this session. And while we are here in this room discussing this important issue, 200 people in Gering, Nebraska, are looking for new jobs. Their packing plant closed this week because they could not source enough cattle due to the embargo."

Pat Robertson & SourceWatch

There's never a quiet day at SourceWatch, our open-source encyclopedia of the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. Some days, articles that have been patiently compiled by our volunteer writers over months, are suddenly in demand.

Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson

A case in point is the article on the founder of the Christian Coalition of America, Pat Robertson, who proposed in a broadcast on his 700 Club program that covert American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Associated Press quoted Robertson stating. Over the last eighteen months a number of regular contributors have compiled a comprehensive listing of online news stories on Robertson spanning the last decade. Others have started profiles on the various organisations Robertson is involved in.

Meanwhile Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside George W. Bush's ranch has put a spotlight on the cost of the war in Iraq. In a column last week for O'Dwyer's PR Daily, Kevin McCauley, contrasted Sheehan's vigil in the Texas heat with Bush remaining "cocooned in Crawford, sticking to the script of appearing only before supporters and people in the Administration."

In the last week over eighty new articles have been started as well as numerous additions to existing pages.


ABA's School Vending Policy Fizzes On Obesity Prevention

American Beverage Association logoThe American Beverage Association scored PR points recently when they unveiled a new voluntary "school vending policy." The trade association for soft drink manufacturers says it is encouraging beverage producers and school districts to provide "lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages" to schools and limit the availability of soft drinks in schools. ABA's announcement snagged positive news stories across the country, but public health advocates questioned the group's commitment to preventing childhood obesity.

SourceWatch Updates

Volunteer contributors continue to be the mainstay of SourceWatch, our open-source encylopedia of the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. SourceWatch (formerly the "Disinfopedia") is a "wiki," which means that anyone (including you) can edit existing articles or create new ones about the topics of your choice. Since its launch in 2003, it has become the 14th-largest wiki on the Internet, and usage continues to grow. It now includes more than 7,400 articles. In July approximately 1.86 million pages from SourceWatch were served to web users.

War is Fun as Hell

Gamers line up for their turn to practice shooting people in the America's Army booth at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo.Years of writing about public relations and propaganda has probably made me a bit jaded, but I was amazed nevertheless when I visited America's Army, an online video game website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In its quest to find recruits, the military has literally turned war into entertainment.

"America's Army" offers a range of games that kids can download or play online. Although the games are violent, with plenty of opportunities to shoot and blow things up, they avoid graphic images of death or other ugliness of war, offering instead a sanitized, Tom Clancy version of fantasy combat. One game, Overmatch, promises "a contest in which one opponent is distinctly superior ... with specialized skills and superior technology ... OVERMATCH: few soldiers, certain victory" (more or less the same overconfident message that helped lead us into Iraq).

Surveying the Fake News Scene

Graphic from Associated Press Television News' website, advertising their VNR services.What do you think about fake news? That's what the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has been asking our readers for the past two weeks.

We surveyed people about what the disclosure guidelines should be for video news releases (VNRs) and audio news releases (ANRs). (We do define "fake news" more broadly, as not just TV and radio segments provided by outside parties, but also pundit payola and any other media manipulation falsely presented as independent journalism. However, brevity is the soul of good survey response rates!)


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