July 19, 2009

AP Report on ‘Card Check’ Status Laden With Biased-Charged Words and Anonymous Sources

OnStrike.jpgNo one can finish Saturday’s report by Sam Hananel of the Associated Press without knowing the side of the political aisle on which he resides (surprise — not — it’s decidedly on the left), and that he is more sympathetic to the interests of organized labor than he is to those of management at non-union firms.

Additionally, no one can doubt that Hananel, and perhaps his editor(s), have little respect for AP’s stated policies of relying on more than one source, attempting to avoid anonymous sources, and when using them, clearly describing “the source’s motive for disclosing the information.”

That’s a pretty remarkable achievement for a roughly 750-word report.

First, here are three word choice examples that give away Hananel’s political biases:

(1st paragraph) Organized labor is nearing a deal to salvage legislation that could aid the union movement, but it had to drop “card check” — a key component of the original bill that would allow workers to form a union by signing cards instead of holding a secret ballot vote.

Union members and their politician-supporters are the only ones who describe organized labor as a “movement” (Hananel is likely a union member). The AP writer could easily have substituted a neutral “their cause” for “union movement.”

(9th paragraph) Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been leading the compromise talks with five other Democratic lawmakers — including newly converted Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — in hopes of reaching an agreement that could get 60 votes.

When did the Democratic Party become a religion? Specter is the “recently switched” Republican, and the Democratic Party is not a religious congregation (very, very, far from it).

(13th paragraph) Businesses groups that have spent millions on ads and lobbying campaigns railing against card check say its removal would not change their position. While card check has dominated the debate, business leaders say they were always more concerned about binding arbitration.

Only conservative groups “attack” and “rail” (meaning “to utter bitter complaint or vehement denunciation”) in lib-left AP-land. Liberals and leftists tend to only “protest” or “criticize.” Using the word “opposing” would have sufficed without casting negative aspersions, if Hananel had any intention of avoiding them.

The three anonymous sources Hananel cited are all single-sourced relative to each one’s claim:

(2nd and 3rd paragraphs)

A Democratic official familiar with compromise talks on a bill to make forming unions easier said union leaders are willing to drop the politically volatile card check plan to win over wavering Senate Democrats.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are still ongoing.

(16th paragraph)

Another labor official, also requesting anonymity, said unions are comfortable that other parts of the bill would help unions level the playing field by allowing workers to organize without fear of threats and intimidation and end the stalling tactics some companies use to delay entering into collective-bargaining agreements.

(17th paragraph)

And another labor official who requested anonymity stressed that card check is not completely off the table and that no deal would be final until labor leaders check with affiliates to make sure they are on board.

Go to AP Watch for more commentary on this story’s improper use of anonymous sources.

There is only one anonymous source for each claim, and it is not possible to determine the source’s motives. I’m not saying he did this, but Hananel could have done pulled a Janet Cooke or Jayson Blair on this story, and, unless his editors, if they exist, insisted on verification, no one would be the wiser. The AP shouldn’t be allowing the obviously bias-charged words such as Hananel used to enter their reports and should be stopping a report with such heavy use of sloppy, credibility-sapping single anonymous sourcing before it gets out.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org

Biased Much? AP Sanford Headline Straight From the Snarkiest of Blogs

You don’t have to be one of South Carolina Mark Sanford’s few remaining supporters or sympathizers (and I am neither) to recognize the following AP headline as ridiculously, sarcastically biased:


While this headline might be good water cooler and late-night comedy fodder (perhaps that was the point?), it’s more than a little unprofessional, and beyond that more than likely inaccurate.

To headline that Sanford is “cheating” is to assume that he still is. How does Seanna Adcox or anyone else at AP know that? If they do, they owe us new evidence.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of justification for wondering whether it was a good idea for Sanford to publish an open letter to his state’s residents — and of course, the rest of the world — that moves from spiritual musings, to promises to do better with God’s help (NOT, as implied in the AP’s headline, passively having “God …. make him better”), to hope that a changed approach on his part will lead to a “far more productive last (legislative) session.”

The full context of where the AP would claim to justify the “God will make him better” portion of its headline follows:

…. life is indeed about way more than public standing or political views, it’s about recognizing that none of us are the arbiters of truth, that there are moral absolutes and that there is a God to whom we will all report for our actions.

My failure has been most glaring on this front, where no public apology can make wrong right. As a consequence, it is on this plane that I’ve grown the most over the past weeks – and where I’m committed to growing the most going forward.

I’ve been humbled and broken as never before in my life and, as a consequence, have given up areas of control in a way that I never have before – and it is my belief that this will make me a better father, husband, friend and advocate.

It’s in the spirit of making good from bad that I am committing to you and the larger family of South Carolinians to use this experience to both trust God in his larger work of changing me, and from my end, to work to becoming a better and more effective leader.

Sorry, Seanna and AP, that passage doesn’t justify the headline in what is supposed to be an objective report.

Additionally, for better or worse, Adcox’s claim in her report’s first paragraph that Sanford is “clinging to office” isn’t supported by the content of the rest of her report. The best she has is this assertion:

Some lawmakers have called for Sanford to resign, and one state senator plans hearings on whether state money was used to facilitate the trysts. A criminal probe found nothing illegal.

Name That Party trackers should note that Adcox identified Sanford as a Republican in the third paragraph.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Fetuses found to have memories

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 6:44 am

From the Netherlands:

July 16, 2009

They weigh less than 3 pounds, usually, and are perhaps 15 inches long. But they can remember.

The unborn have memories, according to medical researchers who used sound and vibration stimulation, combined with sonography, to reveal that the human fetus displays short-term memory from at least 30 weeks gestation – or about two months before they are born.

“In addition, results indicated that 34-week-old fetuses are able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later,” said the research, which was released Wednesday.

Scientists from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maastricht University Medical Centre and the University Medical Centre St. Radboud, both in the Netherlands, based their findings on a study of 100 healthy pregnant women and their fetuses with the help of some gentle but precise sensory stimulation.

On five occasions during the last eight weeks of their pregnancies, the women received a series of one-second buzzes on their bellies with a “fetal vibroacoustic stimulator,” a hand-held diagnostic device used to gauge an unborn baby’s heart rate and general well-being.

The baby’s responses – primarily eye, mouth and body movements – were closely monitored over the weeks with ultrasound imaging to gauge “fetal learning” patterns. The researchers found that the babies acclimated themselves to the sounds and vibrations to the point that they no longer bothered to respond – a process known as “habituation.”

“The stimulus is then accepted as ‘safe’ ” by the babies, the study said.

The team also found that the tiny test subjects actually improved these skills as they grew older, with those who were 34- or 36-weeks old clearly showing that they had become familiar with the hum outside the womb.

“The fetus ‘remembers’ the stimulus and the number of stimuli needed for the fetus to habituate is then much smaller,” the study said.

“It seems like every day we find out marvelous new things about the development of unborn children. We hope that this latest information helps people realize more clearly that the unborn are members of the human family with amazing capabilities and capacities like these built in from the moment of conception,” said Randall K. O’Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.