Blogs

Patricia Arquette Just Told Hollywood Exactly What It Needed To Hear

| Sun Feb. 22, 2015 10:08 PM EST

"To every woman who gave birth to every tax payer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights. It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."

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Former CBS Colleagues Refute Bill O'Reilly's "Combat" Reporting Claims

| Sun Feb. 22, 2015 3:40 PM EST

On Sunday, a former CBS correspondent spoke to CNN's Reliable Sources to refute Bill O'Reilly's claims he reported in a "war zone" during the Falklands war–the subject of a Mother Jones investigation published last Thursday. CNN's Brian Stelter also reported that he has talked to several other former CBS News journalists who disputed O'Reilly's account. 

"I don't know of any American foreign correspondent who had a weapon pointed at him," Engberg told Stelter. "I didn’t hear any gunfire. And not only did I not hear any gunfire, as I say, I didn’t hear any sirens." 

On the show, Stelter played a video of O'Reilly claiming he witnessed Argentine soldiers gunning down civilians at a protest he covered–a video that echoes footage that the Mother Jones article included. Yet Engberg and other correspondents who were in Buenos Aires and who covered the same protest say no such thing happened.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Engberg said the Fox New host largely fabricated his account of his stint in Argentina. "It was not a war zone or even close," Engberg wrote. "It was an 'expense account zone.'" O'Reilly has since slammed his ex-colleague, saying Engberg "never left the hotel." 

Climate Change Deniers Take Yet Another Hit

| Sun Feb. 22, 2015 11:31 AM EST

Climate change deniers don't have a lot of credible scientists who support their view. But they have a few, and one of the busiest and most prolific is Wei-Hock Soon, who insists that global warming is caused by variations in the sun's output, not by anything humans are doing. Soon's doctorate is in aerospace engineering, not atmospheric science or geophysics or some more relevant discipline, but he's nonetheless an actual scientist and a reliable ally for the climate deniers.

Unfortunately, the New York Times reports a wee problem with Soon's work:

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Oops. But a friend of mine suggests that the real news is the way climate change was treated by the Times reporters who wrote the story. Here are a few snippets:

The documents shed light on the role of scientists like Dr. Soon in fostering public debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. The vast majority of experts have concluded that it is and that greenhouse emissions pose long-term risks to civilization.

....Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change....“The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless,” [said Gavin A. Schmidt, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan].

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose scientists focus largely on understanding distant stars and galaxies, routinely distances itself from Dr. Soon’s findings. The Smithsonian has also published a statement accepting the scientific consensus on climate change.

Etc.

There's no he-said-she-said in this piece. No critics are quoted suggesting that there's an honest controversy about human contributions to climate change. There's no weaseling. It's simply assumed that climate change is real and humans are a primary cause—the same way a similar article might assume that evolution or general relativity are true.

I haven't followed the Times' coverage of climate change in close enough detail to know if this represents an editorial change of direction or not. But whether it's new or not, it's nice to see. More please.

Friday Cat Blogging - 20 February 2015

| Fri Feb. 20, 2015 3:00 PM EST

The quilts are back! This is Hopper peering down from the second story hallway and surveying her domain from between the quilts hanging over the railing. Amusingly, Hilbert saw her and immediately started fussing and mewling, trying to figure out to get up to her. He jumped on a bench, but that wasn't high enough. He put his paws up on the wall, but plainly couldn't climb up it. Finally, after about a minute of this nonsense, a neuron fired somewhere and he remembered that all he had to do was run up the stairs. So he did, and then immediately lost interest in whatever it was he thought he wanted. But it was touch and go there for a while.

Eat Like A Mongolian, Not Like An American

| Fri Feb. 20, 2015 2:29 PM EST

The world, as a whole, is getting less hungry. Over the past two decades, the levels of undernutrition in developing countries from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia have declined. Unfortunately, so has the quality of our diets.

That's the main takeaway of a study published by The Lancet Global Health on Wednesday that looked at the dietary patterns across 187 countries—comprising about 89 percent of the global population—in 1990 and 2010. Check out the maps below, which break down eating habits by country on a scale of green (the healthiest) to red (the unhealthiest). The first map shows which countries are eating the most healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and milk (see, for example, Chad, the Central African Republic, Mali, and Turkey). The second map shows which countries are eating the most unhealthy foods that are high in fat and salt, as well as sugary drinks, unprocessed red meats and processed meats (see the United States, Russia, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Brazil, among others).

Fumiaki Imamura et al / The Lancet Global Health

The next three maps show changes in dietary patterns from 1990 to 2010, again on a color scale, with green countries making healthy changes and red countries making unhealthy changes. Russia, Mongolia, Laos, and Paraguay are outpacing many other countries with their increase in nutritious foods, as the top map shows, while the second map reveals that Uganda, Vietnam, and Armenia are quickly finding a taste for fatty or sugary treats. And when it comes to overall dietary changes since 2010, shown in the last map, it seems that China, Angola, and Congo aren't doing very well.

Fumiaki Imamura et al / The Lancet Global Health

A team of researchers made these maps by evaluating hundreds of national surveys about diets. Looking at the big picture, they found that people around the world are, on average, eating more nutritious foods than they did 20 years ago, but they're also digging into more junk—much more junk. "Consumption of healthier foods and nutrients has modestly increased during the past two decades; however, consumption of unhealthy foods and nutrients has increased to a greater extent," the researchers explained.

People around the world are, on average, eating more nutritious foods than they did 20 years ago, but they're also digging into more junk.

On average, older adults are eating better than younger adults, while women are eating better than men. There are also major differences regionally, depending on countries' income levels. While people in the United States, Canada and western Europe are among the worst in the world for high consumption of unhealthy food, they're eating less junk than they used to, which helps explain reductions in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and cardiovascular mortality in these countries. By comparison, people in many developing countries eat relatively healthy diets, but they're eating more junk than they did in the past.

These socioeconomic variations have ramifications for public health. International food programs usually focus on fighting hunger, but in nearly every region of the world, the researchers said, diet-related health problems due to undernutrition are now less common than those due to non-communicable chronic diseases, and the food we eat plays a role in causing many of these diseases. By 2020, nearly three-quarters of all deaths globally will be attributable to non-communicable chronic diseases, they said, adding that without major changes to diet quality, these diseases and obesity will become much more common among the world's poor.

It's unclear exactly why low-income countries are eating more unhealthy foods, but the reasons are probably varied. In northwest sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers said, food prices have increased and diet quality has worsened, perhaps due to economic liberalization and marketing of unhealthy foods to the region's wealthiest people. Violent conflicts might also play a role in certain countries, by hindering food production and trade. "Our work should help to link the possible economic and political factors to actual diets," they wrote, "and to assess determinants of the potential divergence in consumption of healthy foods in the poorest nations in the world."

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Will Stonewalling Work For Bill O'Reilly in Falklandsgate?

| Fri Feb. 20, 2015 2:28 PM EST

Over at the mothership, David Corn and Daniel Schulman report that Bill O'Reilly might have a problem with the truth that's surprisingly similar to Brian Williams'. Basically, they both seem to have a habit of exaggerating their war-reporting prowess. In Williams' case, it was about a helicopter during the Iraq War. In O'Reilly's case, he's repeatedly said that he was "in a war zone in Argentina" during the Falklands war, but in fact he was never anywhere near the actual war. He was a thousand miles away in Buenos Aires:

O'Reilly did see some action in Argentina— just not war action. He writes in The No Spin Zone that shortly after he hit Buenos Aires—where CBS News had set up a large bureau in the Sheraton hotel—thousands of Argentines took to the streets, angry at the military junta for having yielded to the Brits.

As he tells it in his book, O'Reilly, then 32 years old, raced to cover the event: "A major riot ensued and many were killed. I was right in the middle of it and nearly died of a heart attack when a soldier, standing about ten feet away, pointed his automatic weapon directly at my head." A television cameraman was trampled, journalists were banged up, and O'Reilly and others were teargassed. "After a couple of hours of this pandemonium," he recalls, "I managed to make it back to the Sheraton with the best news footage I have ever seen. This was major violence up close and personal, and it was an important international story."

Now, even this might be a bit of an exaggeration—click the link for details—but put that aside for the moment. It's pretty obvious that a protest, even a violent protest, isn't a war zone or anything close to it. O'Reilly can bob and weave all he wants, but no one is going to buy the idea that covering a protest in Buenos Aires is anything like reporting from a war zone.

Nonetheless, I suspect we're about to witness an interesting phenomenon. In the case of Brian Williams, NBC caved in to pressure pretty quickly and suspended him for six months. It's possible that his career is over. In O'Reilly's case, the response so far has been (a) silence from Fox News and (b) a torrent of insults and abuse from O'Reilly. And my guess is that it will work. The Williams case generated a ton of commentary. So far, the O'Reilly case has generated very little. As long as both Fox and O'Reilly stonewall, it will probably stay that way. It will be a momentary squall and then it will blow over.

Stonewalling often works. We're about to find out if it will work here.

Quote of the Day: The Surveys Will Continue Until Morale Improves

| Fri Feb. 20, 2015 1:00 PM EST

From a study of low morale in the Department of Homeland Security, explaining why the authors hadn't made much progress in figuring out why morale was low:

“Other entities had already engaged employees in efforts to assess morale,” and as a result, DHS employees were developing “interview/survey fatigue.”

Survey fatigue! Otherwise known as stop screwing around with your endless damn assessments and just do something, OK?

But apparently more studies are in the works anyway. Will they improve morale? Stay tuned for next week's exciting episode!

Men Complain Far More Than Women About Work-Family Conflicts

| Fri Feb. 20, 2015 12:13 PM EST

Danielle Kurtzleben points to an interesting chart today from the White House's Economic Report of the President. It's based on only two data points (1977 and 2008), but it's still kind of intriguing.

Since 1977, two things have happened. First, more women have entered the paid workforce. Second, more men have started doing housework. It's hardly surprising, then, that both men and women report more work-family conflicts than they used to. But among women, this number has gone up only 6 points. Among men, it's gone up a whopping 25 points. Why the difference? Here are some possibilities:

  • In the period 1977-2008, female participation in the workforce went up only about 11 percentage points. So a rise of 6 points in work-family conflicts is within the range you'd expect.
  • Men feel worse about adding housework to an existing job than women do about adding a paid job to existing housework. Some of this might be about the pay. Some of it might be about men feeling that housework is humiliating in some way. Some of it might be about workplaces being less sympathetic to men who want more flexibility for family reasons.
  • "Conflict" can also be another word for guilt. There's always a certain amount of badgering from the boss in any kind of job, and badgering from your wife might produce more feelings of resentment and guilt than badgering from your employer.
  • Men are just bigger whiners than women.

I'd probably put my money on the first and third reasons—though the last one has a lot going for it too. And if I had to pick only one, I'd pick the first. Over the past few decades, there has just been way more growth in the number of men expected to do housework than in women entering the paid workforce. So it's hardly surprising that there's also more growth among men in work-family complaints.

But that's just a guess. Feel free to school me in comments.

Media Reactions to Mother Jones Report on Bill O'Reilly's "War Zone" Stories

| Fri Feb. 20, 2015 11:27 AM EST

It didn't take long for Bill O'Reilly to hit back against Mother Jones's in-depth look at his questionable accounts of reporting during the Falklands War, firing off a string of insults to Politico Thursday night. This morning, Daniel Schulman, who co-wrote the report with MoJo DC bureau chief David Corn, appeared on CNN's "New Day," where he laid out the details of the story, and defended the reporting:

"The only place combat took place during that war was in the remote Falklands Islands, which were 1,200 miles from Buenos Aires where Bill O'Reilly and the rest of the press corps is," Schulman told host Chris Cuomo. "The combat situation that he says he was involved in now, actually, was a very violent protest that took place after the war was over. Now, it was violent, but it was not a combat situation."

CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter also appeared on the program to discuss the story, highlighting the fact that O'Reilly was quick to dismiss the report only after ignoring requests for comment by Mother Jones for most of the day on Thursday.

"Brian Williams apologized and went silent," Stelter said. "O'Reilly started calling your colleague David Corn a 'guttersnipe,' a 'piece of garbage,' a 'liar' a 'left-wing assassin.' I think O'Reilly was talking less about your allegations and more about the personalities involved here."

Stelter also spoke to Don Lemon about the Mother Jones report Thursday night:

For more media reactions, check out Erik Wemple of the Washington Post's thoughts. You can read the exclusive report in its entirety here.