Accuracy in Media

On Sunday, January 6, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled “Watching the World Melt Away, The future as seen by a lonely scientist at the end of the earth” by Darcy Frey. Over 13 pages were devoted to telling the story of “George Divorky’s Planet, A lone scientist spends three months of every year on a wretched, freezing strip of land, fending off bears, observing birds and trying to alert us to the inescapable truth: our world is melting away.”

For 27 summers ornithologist George Divorky has been going to Cooper Island, a small strip of barren land 25 miles north of Pt. Barrow, Alaska, to study birds. He discovered that in the two decades from 1975 to 1995, the arrival of summer, as measured by when the snow melted, was coming earlier. The average rate was a half-day earlier per year.

Dr. Divorky regards this as a valuable contribution to the debate over global warming. The New York Times showed by giving his story such prominence and so much space that its editors agree with him. The Times story says he believes he has an obligation to give this information to the world, “especially with George Bush in office, and people saying, ‘Is climate change real?'” “What is it you don’t understand?” he asks. “People say it’s happening naturally, and why should we worry? But the world may not have the stability we think it has,” he says. Reporter Darcy Frey throws in the comment that “the vast majority of scientists now believe (there is) a worldwide warming trend driven in part by human activity.”

A Letter To The Times

Accuracy in Media had sent the following letter to Howell Raines, the executive editor of the New York Times, three days before Dr. Divorky’s story was published.

Dear Howell:

Accuracy in Media has been recommending for many years that journalists as well as scientists who warn the public of the disastrous consequences we face if action is not taken to curb emissions of greenhouse gases focus their sights on the Global Temperature Report. This is issued each month by the Earth System Science Center of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Center has been monitoring the global temperature measured by satellites for 23 years. The data it reported were ignored for many years by the climate modelers who have been predicting large rises in the global temperature since the 1980s. They argued that the satellite data, which first became available in 1979, could not serve as a basis for predicting the future because the series was not long enough.

They could not deny that the satellites provided more complete coverage of the globe than the surface measurements provided by weather stations on land and ships at sea. When the series continued to show no significant global warming trend after 20 years, some of the climate modelers realized that they had a serious problem.

They knew that the trend of temperature changes a few miles above the earth’s surface should not diverge markedly from the surface trends. This realization surfaced first at a conference of climate modelers from a number of countries that was held at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany in 1999, where some of the participants, according to a press report, recognized that unless they could explain this discrepancy their models were useless. Here in the U.S. a panel of climatologists assembled by the National Research Council issued a report on January 12, 2000, that mentioned that the climate models “predict that temperatures should increase in the upper air as well as at the surface if…greenhouse gases are causing the warming.”

Since there has been a significant discrepancy in the surface temperature trend and the upper-air trend for the past 23 years, the logical conclusion is that greenhouse gases are not causing the warming observed on the earth’s surface since it is not found in the upper air.

Through November 2001, the satellite measurements showed a trend since 1979 of only +0.03 degrees Celsius per decade. Projected forward, that predicts a rise of 0.30 degrees Celsius by 2100, which compares to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projection of increases of 1.4 degrees to 5.8 degrees Celsius.

I am bringing this to your attention, hoping that as executive editor you will have your reporters who write about climate change familiarize themselves with the monthly report of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) and include the satellite temperature data in stories such as the one on the front page of your December 23 issue by Pam Belluck and Andrew C. Revkin.

The differences between the surface measurements which they cite and the upper-air measurements are very large. They say that 2001 “is expected to be the second warmest on earth since1860 and that nine of the ten warmest years have occurred since 1990.”

The satellite data show that through the first 11 months of last year, the global temperature was only about 0.04 degrees Celsius above the average for the past 20 years. Unless December comes up with a very high number, 2001 will not come close to the record-breaking 1998 temperature of .46 degrees Celsius above the 20 year average or even 1987 and 1988 when the temperature was 0.14 degrees above that average.

The story quotes Dr. Edward Sarachik of the University of Washington as saying that 2001’s unusual warmth was especially significant because it was not driven by any unusual weather patterns, such as an El Ni?o. Dr. John Christy of the ESSC, commenting on what the satellite data show, said, “Globally, it has been a pretty unremarkable year for temperatures.”

The Belluck/Revkin story was accompanied by a large map of the world that helps explain why the surface temperature figures are a less accurate measure of the globe’s temperature than the satellite data. There are very few readings from the oceans, Antarctica, Africa, much of the Middle East, Siberia, and western China. They are also sparse for Mexico, Central America and most of South America. The satellites take the temperature over the oceans and lands where there are few or no weather stations.

If the chart accompanying the story, under the headline,”…But the Trend Started Decades Ago,” had been balanced by a chart of the satellite data over 23 years, the reader would have seen that “the trend that started decades ago” is actually almost flat.

I would appreciate it if you would tell me how you can justify refusing to print a body of scientific evidence gathered at great expense by our government that even honest proponents of the global warming hypothesis have come to recognize as evidence that they can no longer ignore.

Those who refuse to acknowledge this are generally those whose careers and livelihood could be adversely affected if the dread specter of global warming were laid to rest and stories reporting that there is a “gradual but potentially calamitous rise in worldwide temperatures that most scientists attribute, at least in part, to fuel-burning human activities like making electricity and driving” no longer appeared in the New York Times.

We have been hearing these scary predictions for about 15 years. The test of a hypothesis is whether or not the expected results are found. The satellite data show that the global warming predictions are no closer to realization today than they were 15 years ago. Surely the time has come to deflate the hot air bubble by providing the public with the most accurate global temperature data that science can provide.

S/Reed Irvine

PCB COVER-UP HOT, FOSTER COVER-UP NOT

On January 1, the Washington Post published what its editors obviously considered a major scoop. It was the second lead story on page one and continued for two pages inside. The Post had come into possession of Monsanto Co. documents show-ing that even though its management knew that PCB waste from its plant in Anniston, Alabama was killing fish, they continued to discharge the waste into sewers that fed into streams. These documents have surfaced as a result of a class action lawsuit against Monsanto by residents who claim to have impaired health from exposure to the PCB waste.

None of the documents showed that PCBs caused ailments, including cancer, in humans. We found nothing in the story that indicated that AIM was wrong in criticizing the EPA decision to require General Electric to pay to have the upper Hudson River dredged to remove sediment containing PCBs. The fish in the upper Hudson are considered safe for human consumption, and the water, when treated, is safe for drinking. The Post story did not mention the controversy over dredging the Hudson.

The Post devoted over two pages to Monsanto’s having dumped environmentally harmful PCB waste over 30 years ago. It is sitting on evidence that no one at the Post has been able to refute that proves Vincent Foster was murdered. We sent the letter below to the letters editor with copies to high officials of the Post and the government to call their attention to the difference in the Post’s treatment of the Monsanto and Foster stories. The one letter the Post published about the Monsanto story endorsed it and concluded, “There is only one sane response: The executives who made these decisions would be prosecuted and thrown in jail.” What about the public officials responsible for covering up Foster’s murder and the journalists who refuse to expose them?

To the Editor

The Post began the new year with a story filling over two pages that exposes the cover-up of wrongdoing by the Monsanto Company that ended over 30 years ago. It concerned Monsanto’s dumping PCBs in the area surrounding its Anniston, Alabama plant between 1935 and 1971 even though it knew it was harming the environment. The Post had learned this from documents obtained by trial lawyers in a class action lawsuit against Monsanto.

In the 12th and 19th paragraphs, the Post story said PCBs are considered “probable” human carcinogens, heightening the readers’ sense of outrage. It waited until the 74th paragraph to report that “a recent GE-funded study conducted by the same toxicologist who originally discovered that PCBs cause cancer in rats found no link to cancer in humans.” It didn’t mention that other studies have reached the same conclusion.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers who are suing Monsanto no doubt appreciate the Post’s reporting. It might help them win millions of dollars from Monsanto, even though it presented no evidence that any health problems suffered by the aging plaintiffs can be linked to exposure to PCBs.

The Post has been given a story based on evidence of a more recent and more sensational cover-up. The Post’s ace investigative reporter, Bob Woodward, has in his possession what was described as irrefutable evidence that the death of Vincent W. Foster, Jr. was a homicide, not suicide. The proof is found in government documents that have long been in the public domain. Mr. Woodward was invited to refute the evidence if he could, and he promised to respond. Seven weeks have passed with no response to repeated requests for his comments. If the Post cannot refute evidence that the murder of a White House official has been covered up for 8 years, why does it refuse to give it the same coverage it has given to the Monsanto cover-up?

S/ Reed Irvine

FOX NEWS LOWERS ITS STANDARDS

When it hired Geraldo Rivera, Fox News demonstrated a preference for celebrity over integrity. On his CNBC program Rivera demonstrated a willingness to defend Bill Clinton at all costs, which tells a great deal about his own character. Less than two months after leaving his anchor job at CNBC and becoming a war correspondent for Fox, he was in hot water.

On December 6, Rivera reported that he had choked up after reciting the Lord’s prayer over the “hallowed ground” in Afghanistan where, as he said, “friendly fire took so many of our?our men and the mujahadeen yesterday.” In an article in the Baltimore Sun on December 15, David Folkenflik wrote that Rivera’s report was a misrepresentation.

Rivera admitted that he had been several hundred miles from where three Americans had been the victims of friendly fire near Kandahar on December 5. He told the Sun that he had been misled by “the fog of war” and had confused that incident with another friendly fire incident that killed several mujahadeen and other men in fatigues in the mountains where Rivera was dodging bullets and crawling into caves. According to the Sun, the Pentagon said the Tora Bora incident occurred on Dec. 9, three days after Rivera’s report was aired. Rivera then claimed he had been confused. He claimed to have seen some of our Afghan allies in Tora Bora killed by a U.S. bomb the same day.

Fox News spokesman Rob Zimmerman said that Fox accepted that and that by “our men,” he could have meant the anti-Taliban forces. The trouble with that is that the Sun found no reporter, Pentagon official or aid worker who knew of such an incident in Tora Bora on Dec. 5. In addition, Rivera’s report drew a clear distinction between “our men,” meaning Americans, and the mujahadeen, meaning Afghans. He compounded his false report with a claim that he had witnessed a third friendly-fire incident in Tora Bora, one that no one else interviewed by the Baltimore Sun had seen or heard of.

Rivera Gets An O’Reilly Pass

Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox’s popular prime time “O’Reilly Factor,” had Rivera on his program. O’Reilly is very adept at spotting lies and isn’t shy about exposing them. But in Rivera’s case, O’Reilly made no effort to pin him down on the date of the alleged friendly fire incident he witnessed in Tora Bora. He asked for no corroboration of Rivera’s implied claim that it had occurred the same day as the one in Kandahar. Nor did he ask him about his report distinguishing between “our men” and the mujahadeen. He even let Rivera get away with a vicious attack on the Baltimore Sun’s reporter, David Folkenflik, accusing him of making up the story because of envy.

Howard Kurtz, the host of “Reliable Sources,” CNN’s program that critiques the media, also gave Rivera a pass. Kurtz, who also covers the media for the Washington Post, said on his program that he was inclined to cut Geraldo some slack on this. “I don’t believe that Geraldo…would completely out of whole cloth fabricate and make something up just to make him look even more colorful and at the center of things than he already is.” Why not? This is not the first time Rivera has been caught twisting or suppressing the truth.

Rivera’s Rotten Record

In 1998, he attacked Rep. Paul McHale, a Pennsylvania Democrat who was the first congressman to call on Clinton to resign. He reported hearing from a White House source that McHale, a Marine Corps Reserve colonel, may have lied about his decorations, implying that he had claimed getting the Medal of Honor. McHale had made no such claim, and the next night Rivera had to apologize. He then said there was controversy over McHale’s claims about his military service. He attributed that to the Navy Times. That too was false, and Rivera again apologized. He said he was sorry and that he wanted to drop the matter.The false charges had originated with an opponent of McHale’s in one of his campaigns.

In the November 1978 issue of Playboy, Rivera told why he did not report on clashes between anti-American students and the Panamanian National Guard on Sept. 7, 1977, the day the Panama Canal Treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate. Rivera was covering the story in Panama, and he was among those who were beaten and arrested. He told Playboy, “I felt that regardless…of the identity I felt with the students or the Panamanian left…the treaty was the best possible compromise.” He knew the vote was going to be close, and he said, “If I continually focused on the radicals and on the suppression by Torrijos of the political activists…then I might be in part responsible for the Senate’s rejection of the treaty…” “I could have made the whole country pay for the stupidity of 12 secret policemen. But we downplayed the whole incident.”

CRITICAL CONSERVATIVE COLUMNISTS

By chance, both William Safire and Robert Novak, conservatives whose columns appear respectively in the New York Times and the Washington Post, began the year 2002 with criticisms of President Bush. The two columnists reflect the unease that many people, conservatives and liberals alike, share over some of the actions taken on the home front by our popular president.

Liberals have been expressing more concern about what they perceive to be threats to civil liberties. They are concerned about the proposed use of military tribunals to prosecute captured terrorists and holding terrorist suspects as material witnesses without charging them with any crimes. Conservatives have been more troubled by actions taken by the Bush administration that are aimed at withholding information that would normally be made public and that by law and precedent should be made public.

Less Freedom Of Information

One of Attorney General Ashcroft’s early acts was to notify all federal departments and agencies that the Justice Department would back them up if they rejected requests under the Freedom of Information Act on legitimate grounds. Since the agencies have always claimed that their rejections of FOIA requests are legitimate, it has generally been necessary to sue to free up anything they want to keep hidden. Mr. Ashcroft assured the agencies that he would back them if they were sued.

Accuracy in Media has experienced the effects of this?an increased tendency to reject FOIA requests on specious grounds and an increased difficulty in persuading judges to overrule them. When special prosecutor Robert B. Fiske, Jr. closed his investigation of Vincent Foster’s death in June 1994, most of his files were given to the Senate Banking Committee, which compiled them, together with its own files on the case, in two thick volumes that were released to the public in 1995. Those two volumes made it possible for AIM and others to expose serious flaws in Fiske’s investigation.

Starr Learns A Lesson

His successor, Kenneth Starr, learned from that experience. He released nothing but his report, which confirmed Fiske’s finding that Foster killed himself. Fiske’s report had included the report of the four medical examiners he hired as consultants, but Starr refused to release the reports of his three paid consultants, and AIM had to sue to obtain them. His successor, Robert Ray, fought hPreviously several judges had refused to release any crime scene photos showing Foster’s body. They did so on privacy grounds. But why withhold photos of the keys to his car, home and office? The judge has not explained that, but it is probably because Foster was carrying two key rings with a lot of keys. A photo of them would show far better than words the absurdity of the claim that the officer who searched Fosters’ pockets at the crime scene simply overlooked them. The Justice Department under Ashcroft is no more interested than it was under Reno in releasing evidence that adds to the proof that Foster was murdered and TWA Flight 800 was shot down by missiles.ard to keep the files he inherited from being made public.

His lawyers, backed by the Justice Department, even persuaded a judge to bar release of a photo of Foster’s keys. The Park Police could not find them when they searched his pants pockets at the crime scene, but they had no trouble finding them at the morgue. They were in his right-hand pants pocket.

Stretching Executive Privilege Too Far

William Safire says that the Justice Department induced President Bush to claim executive privilege in refusing to give the House Government Reform Committee documents relating to crimes sanctioned and even committed by FBI agents based in Boston over many years. Among the examples he cites are granting a mobster on the FBI payroll immunity for 10 murders he is charged with committing, and knowingly keeping an innocent man in prison for 30 years to protect FBI sources in the Mafia. He quotes James Wilson, the chief counsel of the House Government Reform Committee, as labeling the abuse of power by the FBI’s Boston field office as “the greatest failing in law enforcement history.”

That might be exceeded if the claim of executive privilege to keep the committee from exposing who was responsible for the criminality in the Boston FBI office succeeds. It is argued that revealing who made the decisions and why they made them would not be in the public interest because it would deter federal employees from giving their best advice to their superiors.

Just the opposite is true. If Ashcroft’s effort to extend executive privilege to federal employees at all levels succeeds, forget about congressional oversight deterring misconduct and abuse of power in the executive branch. Why is Ashcroft, a law-and-order conservative, doing this? Here’s a possible clue. His handpicked FBI director, Robert Mueller, served in the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston in the 1980s, rising to the top job, U.S. attorney. A veteran retired FBI agent says that Robert Mueller must have known about the corruption in the FBI Boston field office.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to Howell Raines, Executive Editor of the New York Times, Bo Jones, Publisher of the Washington Post and Bill O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor at Fox News.




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