Tuesday, October 30, 2012





Instead, I see a failure to embrace all sorts of people, even members of Congress and the business community. I see diffidence, a reluctance to close. I see a president for whom Afghanistan is not just a war but a metaphor for his approach to politics: He approved a surge but also an exit date. Heads I win, tails you lose.




Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) has a ridiculous article.  Let's start there.  Murphy's never really sure if he's a reporter or a columnist -- so imagine the reader's confusion.  In his latest nonsense (yes, he's topped last week already), he reveals just how lame his kind is.  He's finally discovered the Falluja issue.   If, like him, you're late to the party, dropping back to October 14th:
The big story for Iraq today is the birth defects.  A new study by the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology is getting attention from the press.  The war -- specifically the weapons -- contaminated Iraq and led to a skyrocketing in the number of birth defects.  Press TV explains:

Between 2007 and 2010 in F[a]llujah, over half of all the surveyed babies were born with birth defects. Before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the figure was one in 10.In Basrah's Maternity Hospital, over 20 babies out of 1000 were born with defects in 2003, which makes the figure 17 times higher than it was in the previous decade.
There's more and the October 15th snapshot goes through some of the weapons used to turn Falluja into a toxic dump.  Along with Press TV, others covering it back then included
Al Arabiya, RT, and  Sarah Morrison (Independent of London) notes: -- and RT's story was carried by a number out outlets and Morrison's report was carried by even more including a major paper in every European country.
So the first problem is Dan Murphy wants to inform, "As David Issenberg, whose post earlier this month brought the study to my attention, summarizes: [. . .]"  This is what Dan Murphy meant to link to and Isenberg wrote it October 22nd.  (And I would normally be nicer about this link issue but I'm not in the damn mood and I'll explain why shortly -- but let's point it out, Murphy can't even do a link correctly?).  October 22nd?  Eight days after the foreign press has started covering the latest findings? 
Again, what is Dan Murphy?  Is he reporter, is he columnist?  He certainly has a lot of opinions for someone allegedly reporting.  Biased opinions one could accurately argue that should lead to other people being assigned to topics.  For example, when you say there's nothing to see here about an ongoing investgiation, your ass needs to be pulled from any coverage of that assignment. Readers no longer suspect you're slanting coverage, they now know you are.  Murphy wrote a ridiculous report or column or whatever the hell it was on Friday. 
But this tops it because Murphy's supposed to be 'foreign coverage' of the non-freelance set at the Christian Science Monitor.  If you're covering foreign countries for the Monitor and doing it from the United States, I think most people would assume you'd follow foreign coverage.  But while the Falluja and Basra birth defect story was getting massive foreign press coverage from outlets in England, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Ireland, Australia, Austria, Japan and France, the story never popped up on Murphy's radar.  It took a US site called Public Intelligence Blog writing about it eight days after the world press had given it saturation coverage for Dan Murphy to become aware of it.
That's sad and that's disturbing.
On Thursday, he insisted there was nothing to see in the Benghazi attack.  So I guess Senator Dianne Feinstein can call off her Committee's November 15th closed hearing?  That was the stupidest comment to make because he's covered the topic for the Monitor.  He can't cover it now.  His bias was clear in that article which basically read: "Republicans are crazy! I love Barack."  That's why the Christian Science Monitor is on it's last legs, by the way.  The fact that this attitude, this bias, was evident for four years now.  That's not how the Monitor made its name.  But it is how the Monitor digs its grave.
Before we can get to the news of the children, we have to wade through garbage from Murphy.  Does he (wrongly) think that he's the most important element of the story?  Or that people give a damn about him?  Instead of a focus on the children of Iraq, we get self-focused crap like this:
As a reporter, perhaps to my shame, I pushed aside pursuit of stories about cancer clusters or surges in childhood illness, since the reality of people's suspicions was unknowable, absent scientific study.
You're an idiot, Dan Murphy, you always were.  You've repeatedly failed to be a reporter and show skepticism instead grabbing onto anything that a White House would feed you.  Let's remember, it was Knight Ridder Newspapers, not the Christiain Science Monitor, that offered reports debunking the White House claims about Iraq in 2002 and 2003.  There's a reason for that.  Today Dan Murphy worships Barack.  Prior to that, he worshipped Bush.  (Even today, Murphy can't admit that Bush lied about Iraq.  This despite Ambassador Joseph Wilson's disproving the Niger yellow cake assertion before it ever made it out of Bush's lips publicly -- this despite the witch hunt against Wilson's wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame).  Reporters shouldn't worship any politician.  Or, if they prefer, reporters shouldn't worship any office.
Murphy can get up-close-and-personal about himself but where in his writing are Iraqi children ever anything but a statistic?  And not even illuminating statistics at that. 
October 14th, we were covering the latest findings.  15 days later, Dan Murphy finally finds the story and has not one damn thing to offer other than statements about himself?
We offered:
The study finds that, of central nervous system defects, the most common since the start of the Iraq War has been anencephaly. The Center for Disease Control explains, "Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. It is a type of neural tube defect (NTD). These are birth defects that happen during the first month of pregnancy, usually before a woman knows she is pregnant. As the neural tube forms and closes, it helps form the baby's brain and skull (upper part of the neural tube), spinal cord, and back bones (lower part of the neural tube). Anencephaly happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. This often results in a baby being born without the front part of the brain (forebrain) and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain (cerebrum). The remaining parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin. Unfortunately, almost all babies born with anencephaly will die shortly after birth." It is also known as an ONTD -- Open Neural Tube defect. St. Jude's Medical Center provides this means of reference, "Anencephaly and spina bifida are the most common types of ONTD, while encephalocele (in which there is a protrusion of the brain or its covering through the skull) is much rarer. Anencephaly occurs when the neural tube failes to close at the base of the skull, while spina bifida occurs when the neural tube fails to close somewhere along the spine."
I didn't realize that just typing "birth defect" would suffice.  That's what Dan Murphy must believe judging by his bad piece.  Today I was introduced to a woman who is a former Christian
Science Monitor-er by a friend (male) who is always good about calling out sexism.  And she explained how awful her time at the paper was.  How there was no interest in 'soft' stories and 'soft' was anything to do with women.  She spoke at length about the hypocrisy of the paper's attempts this year to run with the 'war on women' Obama campaign spin considering how women and issues directly effecting women were treated. 
And I'm not at all surprised.  In 2006, I had a friend working for the paper and I said, "You are infantalizing Jill Carroll, you are destroying her.  You need to stop this."  Did they?  Hell no.  Jill Carroll, for those who don't know, was a reporter in Iraq, un-embedded, who was kidnapped.  That the Christian Science Monitor worked towards her release (which does mean cash changed hands) did not mean they owned Jill.  I have never before or since seen a news publication attempt to turn a reporter into "poor, pathetic, sad case."  But that's what the Monitor did to Jill.  Anthony Shadid gets kidnapped in Libya.  He survives it and it's seen as a badge of honor.  The Monitor turns Jill Carroll into "the naiton's most neediest cause."  It was embarrassing and it was humiliating.  It's no wonder she quit journalism after the way the Monitor portrayed her and the stories they made her co-write about her kidnapping.  Co-write.  She wasn't even 'strong' enough to write them by herself, in the paper's opinion.
In reality, not one damn word should have been written by her.  She'd just been released.  There was no reason -- other than to use her for circulation -- for her byline to be appearing.  They took a reporter who was kidnapped and held for months and portrayed her as a tragic figure and made her co-write the stories.  That's not healthy.  It did not help her in the least.
But it flew because they wanted to sell papers and because that's how they see women.
Dan Murphy probably thinks he did something wonderful today, he mentioned "birth defects."  He didn't report on them, he didn't detail them.  He didn't accomplish anything.  The takeaway from the column or report or whatever the hell that was is all about him.
Not once does he detail a birth defect.  In this country, there are support groups for NTD and ONTD babies.  They don't live a long childhood, the children born with these conditions.  But there are support groups and many mothers and fathers talk about these children as a blessing and how the months they had with these children have meaning and tremendous value.  I'm sure Iraqi parents feel the same about their children.  But they also have a decaying health care system -- over 100 nurses were brought in from India in the last weeks alone because they have a nursing shortage in Iraq as a result of the "brain drain" which saw doctors, nurses and other professionals leave the country in high numbers.  And they are still a country in the midst of a war.  A special needs child is a blessing but it is a lot easier to have a special needs child when you have access to basic health care.  Though Iraqis have a health care system that is supposed to guarantee care for all, the reality is that the wars and the US sanctions and the brain drain has left Iraq without the needed professionals, the needed equipment and the needed medical supplies.
You have a baby you hold in your arms whose skull has not formed and whose skull will never form.  Your concern is making sure that your precious child's limited days are days of comfort and that's not going to be easy or maybe even possible in a country with an ongoing war and a medical system barely held together by band aids and tape.
Dan Murphy makes sure you know about him.  He's just not so good about letting you know about the Iraqi children who were born with these birth defects or the parents they're born to.
I'm confused, what was the story he was supposed to be writing about -- Dan Murphy or Iraqi children?
But hey, the story broke October 14th.  He's only had 15 days to come up with something worth writing, right?
Yesterday, Truthout ran Julia Kallas article for IPS about the same topic Dan Murphy covers -- well about the Iraqi children, not about Dan Muphy's own thoughts and writing about himself.  And Kallas interviewed the University of Michigan's School of Public Health's Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist and the lead author of the latest findings.  Excerpt.
Q: How is the local health care system coping with an emergency like this? And how can contamination management and medical care procedures be provided in these areas?
A: I know that the hospitals in the two cities that we studied are overstretched and as far as that is a concern there are ways to help these hospitals. We need to organise doctors, scientists and people who are professionals in this area to help clean up. Organise them, bring them to these two cities and get them to start working. However, all of that requires financial and other kinds of support. Financial and political support together will help to make that happen.
Somehow she managed to talk about needs without ever once exploring Dan Murphy's need to interject himself into the story, to put the spotlight on himself.  It's a way of providing coverage that Murphy might want to try emulating.  David Kenner (Foreign Policy) explains today:
These figures are wildly out of proportion to the prevalence of birth defects elsewhere in the world. Hydrocephalus, a build up of fluid in the brain, is reported in 0.6 infants per 1,000 live births in California. In Basra, reported cases of hydrocephalus occurred six times more frequently. Neural tube defects (NTDs), brain and spinal cord conditions, are reported in one infant per 1,000 live births in the United States. In Basra, it is 12 per 1,000 live births, "the highest ever reported."
Again, I know it's amazing, but Kenner manages to focus on the Iraqi children.  Again, Dan Murphy should attempt to emulate this manner of providing coverage.