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Feed aggregator
Teletext Lives On in Scandinavia

CJR Daily - April 17, 2012 - 1:09pm
Just about every television in Europe has a “teletext” button. Push the button on your
television remote and you’re digitally transported to the early 1980s. Against a black
background, brief news dispatches are spelled out in bright, thickly pixelated text
reminiscent of an Atari game title screen. As old-fashioned as it looks, the news you see
isn’t from the ’80s—it’s...
Categories: Media


prwatch: CMDs @theLisaGraves issued this statement in response to #ALEC's
announcement that it's disbanding 1 of its task forces http://t.co/0RxTNhJo

PR Watch on Twitter - April 17, 2012 - 12:39pm
prwatch: CMDs @theLisaGraves issued this statement in response to #ALEC's
announcement that it's disbanding 1 of its task forces http://t.co/0RxTNhJo

Broadcasters Are ‘Against Transparency,’ Says FCC Chairman

Pro Publica - April 17, 2012 - 12:24pm

by Justin Elliott

Television stations, which have been fighting a government proposal to make political
ad data more accessible, came in for some harsh criticism yesterday at their annual
trade show in Las Vegas. In a keynote speech Monday afternoon at the National
Association of Broadcasters convention, Federal Communications Commission
Chairman Julius Genachowski unleashed on the industry.

“[S]ome in the broadcast industry have elected to position themselves against
technology, against transparency and against journalism,” said Genachowski,
who favors the proposed rule, which would create an FCC website for political
ad data.
The data is already public but kept only on paper at TV stations. (That’s why
ProPublica has launched Free the Files. We’re inviting volunteers to visit the
stations and help collect the data so anybody can see it. The data can provide
information not available through traditional campaign finance filings.)

As we’ve previously reported, the National Association of Broadcasters, led by
former Sen. Gordon Smith, has been lobbying the FCC to water down the
proposed rule requiring stations to post the data. The commission will vote on
it April 27.

Genachowski criticized television stations for opposing the transparency measure
despite the “proud history of broadcast journalism.”

Genachowski also answered broadcasters’ objections point by point. Here’s the key
portion of his speech:

The arguments, made in the public record, shouldn’t go unanswered.


First, cost. The argument is that meeting existing disclosure obligations online instead of
on paper would be a heavy financial burden and indeed a “jobs destroyer.” But the
facts demonstrate the unsurprising conclusion that the cost of online disclosure is
nominal and that, indeed, once the transition from paper to digital is complete, it will
save money — save money for broadcasters and for other stakeholders: including
political candidates, journalists and the public at large.


It’s also noteworthy that any disclosure costs tied to putting the political file online
relate directly to political advertising revenue received by broadcasters, which is
estimated to be in the $3 billion range this year, up by large amounts over past years.


Another argument that’s been made: This isn’t an FCC issue. That argument is refuted
by the plain language of the law. Congress explicitly requires broadcasters to “maintain,
and make available for public inspection, a complete record of a request to purchase
broadcast time that is made by or on behalf of a legally qualified candidate, etc.”

Congress placed this requirement in the Communications Act, and explicitly charged the
FCC with the obligation to carry out these provisions. It gave both the FEC and the FCC
roles, understanding the unique role broadcasters play and that some of the
information Congress requires broadcasters to make public is never provided to the
FEC, and what is provided is sent weeks or months later. The FCC’s role here is clear,
essential and very longstanding.


Another objection is that the disclosed information is “proprietary,” particularly the
rates broadcasters charge for political advertising. But, one, Congress explicitly requires
broadcasters to disclose this information, and, two, broadcasters already do.
In other words, the argument against moving the public file online is that required
broadcaster disclosures shouldn’t be too public. But in a world where everything is
going digital, why have a special exemption for broadcasters’ political disclosure
obligation?

Categories: Media, Politics

Stories I'd Like to See

CJR Daily - April 17, 2012 - 12:14pm
In his weekly “Stories I’d Like to See” column, journalist and entrepreneur Steven Brill
spotlights topics that, in his opinion, have received insufficient media attention. This
article was originally published on Reuters.com. 1. Who gives out hearts? In exploring
whether former vice-president Cheney might have received preferential treatment
when he got a heart transplant recently, many of the...
Categories: Media

Freelancers on the Front Lines

CJR Daily - April 17, 2012 - 12:06pm
It was almost one year ago that photojournalist and Restrepo director Sebastian Junger
lost his good friend and colleague, Tim Hetherington, to a shrapnel wound suffered
while covering the conflict in Libya. Photojournalist Chris Hondros was also killed, and
two other photographers were injured in the incident. The tragedy inspired Junger’s
latest project, RISC—Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues—an...
Categories: Media

No Forensic Background? No Problem

Pro Publica - April 17, 2012 - 11:30am

by Leah Bartos, Special to ProPublica

April 19: This story has been corrected.

This story was co-published with PBS Frontline.


This is how I -- a journalism graduate student with no background in forensics -- became
certified as a “Forensic Consultant” by one of the field’s largest professional groups.

One afternoon early last year, I punched in my credit card information, paid $495 to the
American College of Forensic Examiners International Inc. and registered for an online
course.
After about 90 minutes of video instruction, I took an exam on the institute’s web site,
answering 100multiple choice questions, aided by several ACFEI study packets.

As soon as I finished the test, a screen popped up saying that I had passed, earning me
an impressive-sounding credential that could help establish my qualifications to be an
expert witness in criminal and civil trials.

For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate.

For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” in concert with other
news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America,
finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room
and ends in court.

Expert witnesses routinely sway trial verdicts with testimony about
fingerprints, ballistics, hair and fiber analysis and more, but there are no
national standards to measure their competency or ensure that what they say
is valid. A landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences called
this lack of standards one of the most pressing problems facing the criminal
justice system.

Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic
credentialing organizations in the country.


Among its members are top names in science and law, from Henry Lee, the renowned
criminalist, to John Douglas, the former FBI profiler and bestselling author. Dr. Cyril
Wecht, a prominent forensic pathologist and frequent TV commentator on high-profile
crimes, chairs the group’s executive advisory board.


But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It
welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he
was incarcerated for attempted murder. Zoe D. Katz – the name of a house cat enrolled
by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI -- was
issued credentials, too. More recently, Dr. Steven Hayne, a Mississippi pathologist
whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI
credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.

Several former ACFEI employees call the group a mill designed to churn out and sell as
many certificates as possible. They say applicants receive cursory, if any, background
checks and that virtually everyone passes the group’s certification exams as long as
their payments clear.

Some forensic professionals say the organization’s willingness to hand out credentials
diminishes the integrity of the field.
“I am insulted by it,” said Dr. Victor Weedn, a forensic pathologist for Maryland’s chief
medical examiner office and the vice president of the American Academy of Forensic
Sciences. “They seem like an organization that’s all about the money.”

Robert O’Block, ACFEI’s founder, vigilantly defends the group’s work, saying it has
helped make forensics more accessible. He told ProPublica and PBS “Frontline” that the
ACFEI credentials are not designed to qualify experts in court and emphasized only a
judge can make that determination.

O’Block also said he’s been unfairly criticized by other professional groups that compete
with ACFEI in certain regards, including the AAFS, Weedn’s group.

“I have been fighting for 20 years for an open educational certification and
accreditation in forensic examination,” O’Block wrote in an email. “But they have
painted me as the bad guy.”

***

The judges who must determine whether to qualify a witness as an expert face an
alphabet’s soup of organizations with differing standards. Some, like the American
Board of Criminalistics, vet members extensively, requiring them to pass intensive board
exams to demonstrate their skills. Others, as noted in the NAS report, are far less
stringent.

Experts in the field worry that inconsistent standards and training for forensic
examiners can lead to miscarriages of justice — to the guilty walking free and the
innocent being locked up or worse.

“There are a lot of people practicing, but there’s no assurance that they have the
requisite training and board certification to see if they do have the skills to do the
practical [work],” said Dr. Marcella Fierro, one of the NAS report’s authors and the
former chief medical examiner of Virginia.

Under state and federal rules of evidence, judges decide whether prospective expert
witnesses can testify, but they sometimes rely heavily on the titles and letters around
someone’s name.

“Credentials are often appealing shortcuts,” Michigan circuit court judge Donald
Shelton said. Fancy titles can have a disproportionate effect on juries, he added. “Jurors
have no way of knowing that this certifying body, whether it’s this one or any other
one, exacts scientific standards or is just a diploma mill.”

O’Block, 60, founded the organization that grew into ACFEI in Branson, Mo., in 1992,
after being rejected for membership by a credentialing organization for forensic
handwriting experts.
As chronicled in “United for Truth,” ACFEI’s self-published history, his goal was to create
an alternative group open to those with all levels of experience. “It didn’t matter that
he, himself, was not then one of the anointed handwriting experts,” the book says,
“because he already knew that he was an expert at making things happen.”


O’Block launched his first credentialing programs while teaching criminal justice at the
College of the Ozarks. Initially, the fledgling operation offered correspondence
certifications in forensic document examination and behavior profiling for $100 apiece.

Over time, the organization expanded its offerings, adding dozens of courses to certify
applicants in various aspects of forensics, from counseling to nursing to accounting.
Applicants must become members of ACFEI to become certified; on top of my course
fee, I paid $165 in membership dues.


O’Block also founded related associations that offer credentials in other fields, including
psychotherapy and integrative medicine. One, the American Board for Certification in
Homeland Security, attracted a powerful new client: the Defense Department. Since
2008, the U.S. Navy has paid more than $8.5 million for sailors to obtain credentials in
such specialties as “Disaster Preparedness” and “Sensitive Security Information”
through a program separate from the one for forensics.


Today, there are two entities that go by the ACFEI acronym — the original, which is a
non-profit, and a related for-profit company called the American College of Forensic
Examiners Institute of Forensic Science. O’Block is president of both and, according to
tax filings, received total compensation of more than $430,000 in 2010.


ACFEI and its related entities have continued to expand under O’Block’s leadership,
growing to about 20,000 members combined, despite periodic controversies.

In 1998, when ACFEI proposed offering an online doctorate in forensic science, dozens
of forensics professionals and educators wrote to the Missouri Board of Higher
Education to protest the plan. “The questions are suitable for a grade school child,”
wrote one. ACFEI dropped its application.


Then, in 2002, the story broke about the cat. O’Block remains vexed by what he calls a
“stunt” orchestrated by a member of a competing professional organization.

“First of all, ACFEI did not certify a cat…[It] certified a human being who used fraudulent
credentials and called himself Dr. Katz,” O’Block wrote in an email.

Since then, O’Block said, ACFEI has changed its verification process, requiring applicants
to submit multiple professional references and be placed on provisional status while
their application is pending.
Two days after I passed the Certified Forensic Consultant exam, I received an email from
ACFEI asking me for additional materials. I emailed the group my references, a resume
and a scanned copy of my college diploma. Less than an hour later, I received an email
saying I could start using my forensic consultant designation.

None of my references was contacted by the group.

According to a statement provided by ACFEI’s attorney, that step was deemed
unnecessary in my case.


“Professional references are requested in the event questions arise concerning an
applicant’s eligibility for the credentialing program in which they are applying,” the
statement said. “Since applicant clearly met the requirements for the Certified Forensic
Consultant program, professional references were not contacted.”

***


Among forensic professionals, there continues to be fierce debate over the quality of
ACFEI’s courses -- and what being certified by the group actually signifies.

ACFEI advertises itself as an educational institution and markets its certificates as
building up holders’ value as witnesses in court. Expert witnesses are typically paid for
their testimony.


The page on its web site for the certification I obtained — Certified Forensic Consultant
— says, “The CFC credential contributes to the weight of an individual's testimony
relating to qualifications, knowledge of the scope of the issues, the validity of the
evidence presented, application of specialized knowledge to the facts in the case, and
the relevance of the evidence to the issues in the case.”

But both O’Block and Wecht, the group’s official spokesman, stressed that ACFEI
certificates alone don’t make you an expert.

“It’s designed to make somebody feel good, to make them feel they’ve accomplished
something, and I would hope they have,” Wecht said in an interview. “Does it really
qualify them to be the expert in a particular field? No.”

Wecht also dismissed the notion that the group’s use of “college” in its name could be
misleading. “That’s a play on words,” he said. “Nobody believes for one moment that it
is a real college.”

In an interview and an email, O’Block defended ACFEI’s credentialing programs by
saying the group held seven outside “accreditations and approvals.”
But ACFEI is not recognized as an accredited institution of higher learning by Missouri,
where it is incorporated, or by the U.S. Department of Education, which maintains a
registry of accredited schools.


A number of organizations, such as the California Board of Registered Nursing and the
American Psychological Association, recognize ACFEI as a provider of continuing
education. But that’s not the same as institution-wide accreditation, said Leroy Wade,
the Assistant Commissioner of the Missouri Board of Higher Education.

“There’s really no oversight that regulates the CE providers in general, at least not in
this state,” Wade said. “You can’t put any stock in the fact that an organization states
it’s a continuing education provider.”

Several former ACFEI staffers say they came to question how the group writes and
administers its exams.

John Bridges was hired as ACFEI’s president and chief executive in 2010 after decades in
government, most recently as an administrator at the Federal Emergency Management
Agency. He left ACFEI after just nine months, frustrated, he says, by the group’s
practices.

“Based on my perception of what went on related to standards and quality, it operated
like a certification mill,” he said.

Though ACFEI offers both basic courses and more advanced, specialized certificates,
Bridges said, its exams are designed so that anyone can pass. He put the failure rate at
less than 1 percent.

“If you want to be validated by somebody,” Bridges said, “this organization will validate
you.”

O’Block initially said that ACFEI did not keep pass/fail rates for its exams. Later, the
group’s attorney said it did keep such statistics, but he did not provide them upon
request.

Other former employees said it was routine for low-level staffers to write exams for
ACFEI and its related organizations based on textbooks in subject areas in which they
had no expertise.

Tania Miller worked for six months as chief association officer for the American
Psychotherapy Association, an ACFEI sister group, beginning in fall 2010. A few weeks
into her job, she said, she was asked to author an exam to certify forensic counselors.
Miller’s background was in marketing and graphic design. She said she declined to write
the exam. ACFEI did not respond to questions about Miller.
The Forensic Consultant test I took focused primarily on rules of evidence and
courtroom procedure. Some questions required specialized knowledge (i.e., Which rule
is known as the “Admissibility of Expert Testimony” rule in the Federal Rules of
Evidence? Answer: 702), but ACFEI’s study packets helped me fill in the blanks, making
it basically an open-book exam. The rest of the questions relied largely on common
sense (i.e., When providing testimony, which of the following should you NOT do?
Answer: Cross your arms and joke with the jury.)

ACFEI did not answer questions about what level of expertise it requires of those who
write its exams. According to its catalog, some of the exams are authored by prominent
specialists, including Wecht.


O’Block vehemently denies that ACFEI is a diploma mill, saying the group has thousands
of satisfied members. He has filed five lawsuits in the last year against individuals —
mostly bloggers — who have posted statements O’Block claims are defamatory about
his organizations. One is pending. The others have been dismissed by courts or at the
parties’ request after bloggers agreed to take down posts.

Wecht, whose signature appears on some ACFEI certificates (including mine), said he
didn’t know how applicants did on the group’s tests, but emphasized that the group’s
program is mostly about fostering enthusiasm for the field.

“The purpose of the organization is to encourage people who are interested in forensic
science to learn more, to study more,” he said.

***

To critics, the greatest concern about ACFEI is the potential that the organization is
giving legitimacy to expert witnesses who don’t warrant it.

Among the thousands of people that ACFEI has certified is one particularly controversial
expert in forensic pathology: Dr. Steven Hayne.

Hayne, the longtime pathologist for the state of Mississippi, performed the autopsies in
two shocking 1990s cases in which three-year-old girls were abducted, sexually
assaulted and murdered.


In both cases, Hayne testified he had observed bite marks on the young girls. He said he
had called in a forensic dentist who confirmed that the marks were human and
matched them to dental impressions from the defendants in each case. These findings
aided in the convictions of Levon Brooks for the first murder and of Kennedy Brewer for
the second. Brooks was sentenced to life in prison. Brewer was sentenced to death.

After the men spent more than 30 years combined incarcerated, the Innocence Project
recovered DNA evidence that led investigators to the real killer. He confessed to both
crimes, but denied biting the victims.
Hayne no longer conducts autopsies for the state, but continues to give testimony as an
expert witness. Testifying in March 2010 in Lamar County Circuit Court, Hayne was
asked what board certifications he held. “I'm board certified in anatomic pathology,
clinical pathology, forensic pathology and forensic medicine,” he replied.


Hayne has credentials in anatomic and clinical pathology from the American Board of
Pathology, considered the gold standard, but not in forensic pathology, the branch of
medicine focused on the mechanics of death. For that, he cites his Certified Forensic
Physician credential from ACFEI and certification in forensic pathology from the
American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons.

When attorneys for the Innocence Project submitted a wide-ranging complaint about
Hayne to the Mississippi board of licensure, they cited Hayne’s reliance on these
organizations to allege he had misrepresented his credentials.

“Certification by these organizations is not at all what the medical community and
public understand when a doctor claims to be ’board certified,’" the complaint said,
referring to ACFEI and the other group.


Citing ongoing litigation, Hayne declined to be interviewed by ProPublica and PBS
“Frontline” beyond confirming that he is certified by ACFEI. He has sued the Innocence
Project for defamation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Wecht acknowledged he knew of Hayne by reputation, but told ProPublica and PBS
“Frontline” that he had not known Hayne was certified by ACFEI.

***

In its 2009 report, the National Academy of Sciences called for several measures to
address systemic flaws involving forensic examiners and expert testimony.

Certification should be mandatory for forensics professionals and should be overseen
by a centralized credentialing agency, the report said.

One of the report’s primary authors, Harry T. Edwards -- a federal appeals court judge
for the District of Columbia – said these changes were critical to imposing rigorous
standards on the field..

“There are certifiers, but it’s not what you and I are talking about -- that is, real
certification programs that train, give serious tests and will revoke your license and
affect your job and ability to testify in the event that you do something wrong or fail,”
Edwards said in an interview. “That doesn’t exist now.”

Despite the controversies that dog it, ACFEI may aspire to fill that role. In a promotional
video filmed after the NAS report’s release, Wecht said its findings presented the group
with a unique opportunity.
“We can play a role, the challenge has been issued,” he said. “The NAS report can be a
blessing to our organization.”

I’ve never tested whether my $495 forensic consultant credential from ACFEI would
carry any weight on the witness stand.

Asked about my certification, O’Block responded this way:


“Congratulate Leah for passing the CFC,” he wrote in an August 2011 email. “That
course was designed as entry level to educate professionals about the justice system.”

Wecht said he doubted that having the certificate on my resume would be enough to
persuade a court to allow me to give expert testimony. Any decent lawyer, he said,
could easily cast doubt upon my qualifications.

“A kid right out of law school would say, ‘Ma’am, just exactly what is your training?’”
Wecht said. “The point I’m making, you see, is that that piece of paper doesn’t mean
that much.”

Leah Bartos graduated from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in May 2011.
Since then, she’s been a reporter-in-residence at the Investigative Reporting Program at
UC Berkeley.

Andrés Cediel, the producer of PBS Frontline’s “The Real CSI” and Lowell Bergman, the
film’s correspondent, contributed to this report.

Update (4/19): ACFEI has posted a response to our collaboration with PBS
"Frontline" on its website. It defends the value of the group's programs and
says the pass rate on ACFEI exams is 86 percent.

Correction: This story identified Henry Lee as a pathologist. Lee has a PhD in
biochemistry, but is not a medical doctor.

Categories: Media, Politics

prwatch: Call your State Farm agent to tell them to #DumpALEC:
http://t.co/nVYdziZK Enter your zip code here for a nearby agent:
http://t.co/mJVtFLYb

PR Watch on Twitter - April 17, 2012 - 8:45am

prwatch: Call your State Farm agent to tell them to #DumpALEC: http://t.co/nVYdziZK
Enter your zip code here for a nearby agent: http://t.co/mJVtFLYb

prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: Call your State Farm agent to tell them to
#DumpALEC http://t.co/RRqLjGY7 Enter your zip code here for a nearby agent:
...
PR Watch on Twitter - April 17, 2012 - 8:44am
prwatch: RT @ALECexposed: Call your State Farm agent to tell them to #DumpALEC
http://t.co/RRqLjGY7 Enter your zip code here for a nearby agent: ...

The Value of Prizes

CJR Daily - April 16, 2012 - 9:55pm

I watched the Pulitzer announcements for the first time this afternoon, just upstairs in
the World Room—and, well, it’s a bit of anti-climax, as a matter of fact. Sig Gissler read
the announcements in the lowest-key manner possible to an unpacked room, stepped
out for about 20 minutes while people read the packets and did their Tweets, then...
Categories: Media


prwatch: CMD's Executive Director @theLisaGraves will be on #WI Public Radio
tomorrow morning @ 7am CST talking #ALECexposed. Don't miss it! #ALEC

PR Watch on Twitter - April 16, 2012 - 9:43pm
prwatch: CMD's Executive Director @theLisaGraves will be on #WI Public Radio
tomorrow morning @ 7am CST talking #ALECexposed. Don't miss it! #ALEC

Audit Notes: Carr on Amazon, Muni Broadband, Too Big to Fail

CJR Daily - April 16, 2012 - 7:49pm

David Carr's New York Times column today on Amazon, Apple, and the book publishers
is excellent. He calls the Department of Justice's antitrust suit "the modern equivalent
of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed’s Gas ’N’ Groceries on Route 19 instead":
But pull back a few thousand feet and take a broader look at the interests...
Categories: Media

prwatch: RT @VAJ_Chgo: MT @prwatch At least 10 consumer-oriented US
corporations have severed ties w/ #ALEC. Will State Farm? http://t.co/rLozgL9
...

PR Watch on Twitter - April 16, 2012 - 7:39pm
prwatch: RT @VAJ_Chgo: MT @prwatch At least 10 consumer-oriented US corporations
have severed ties w/ #ALEC. Will State Farm? http://t.co/rLozgL9 ...



prwatch: At least ten consumer-oriented US corporations have severed ties w/
#ALEC. Will State Farm be the next? http://t.co/nVYdziZK #ALECexposed

PR Watch on Twitter - April 16, 2012 - 5:16pm
prwatch: At least ten consumer-oriented US corporations have severed ties w/ #ALEC.
Will State Farm be the next? http://t.co/nVYdziZK #ALECexposed

Six degrees of aggregation

CJR Daily - April 16, 2012 - 5:15pm

Of the many and conflicting stories about how The Huffington Post came to be—how it
boasts 68 sections, three international editions (with more to come), 1.2 billion monthly
page views and 54 million comments in the past year alone, how it came to surpass the
traffic of virtually all the nation’s established news organizations...
Categories: Media

Big Banks Slack on Maintaining Foreclosed Homes in Minority Areas, Complaint
Charges

Pro Publica - April 16, 2012 - 5:10pm

by Cora Currier

Update 4/17: The National Fair Housing Alliance filed their complaint against
U.S. Bank today, also for an alleged violation of the Fair Housing Act. Read the
complaint.

Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank have let foreclosed homes in black and Latino neighborhoods
lapse into disrepair, while bank-owned homes in mainly white neighborhoods are
better cared-for, according to housing advocates.

The National Fair Housing Alliance, a non-profit group, brought a formal
complaint to the Department of Housing and Urban Development last week
alleging that Wells Fargo violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to keep up
homes in minority neighborhoods. Today, the group announced they are also
filing a second complaint, against U.S. Bank.

Earlier this month, the group released a survey, which was funded in part by
HUD, of more than 1,000 unoccupied, foreclosed homes across the country
owned by unspecified banks. When a house is foreclosed upon, the bank that
takes it over is responsible for maintaining it. The report cites evidence —
photos and interviews with neighbors — showing houses becoming dilapidated
under banks' watch.
The complaint against Wells Fargo claims that among more than 200 homes
surveyed, those in black and Latino neighborhoods were much more likely to
have yards filled with trash, broken doors, damaged windows, and other signs
of neglect. Fewer homes in those neighborhoods had "for sale" signs visible.
For example, 68 out of 149 homes in black and Latino neighborhoods had
damaged roofs, compared to only nine out of 69 properties in white
neighborhoods.

The study looked at homes owned by Wells Fargo in Washington D.C., Baltimore,
Philadelphia, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, Oakland, Calif., and Dayton, Ohio.


A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo said in an emailed statement that the bank "conducts
all lending-related activities in a fair and consistent manner without regard to race: this
includes maintenance and marketing standards for all foreclosed properties for which
we are responsible." She also said that the bank has a dedicated department that
maintains and markets foreclosed properties from loans that are within its portfolio.
Since the complaint did not identify specific properties, she said, Wells Fargo has not
been able to investigate its claims.

U.S. Bank did not immediately respond to our request for comment, and a spokesman
for HUD declined to comment on the complaint.



The report also pointed out that there were simply fewer bank-owned
foreclosed properties in white neighborhoods than in minority neighborhoods,
an indication, it says, of the fact that African-American and Latino communities
were disproportionately affected by the subprime mortgage crisis.


Numerous studies have shown that lenders targeted minorities for the riskiest loans,
and often charged them more than similarly qualified white borrowers. A report from
the Center for Responsible Lending found that black and Latino homeowners were
twice as likely to lose their homes to foreclosure than white homeowners. (The center
was started with support from the Sandler Foundation, which is also the major funder
of ProPublica.) In the biggest settlement to come out of the government post-bubble
investigation of discriminatory lending practices, lender Countrywide (now owned by
Bank of America) agreed to pay $335 million to settle a Department of Justice suit.

Nationally, banks or investors own roughly half a million foreclosed homes, and the
Federal Reserve estimates this will increase to 1 million this year. Some banks and
investors are looking to unload the properties en masse. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,
who own about half the properties, are piloting a program for bulk sales of their
foreclosed properties that requires they be offered as rentals. Other lenders are turning
into landlords themselves.

Categories: Media, Politics
prwatch: RT @ClearlyNM: RT @ProgressNow: State Farm Insurance Claims "No
Fault" in Bankrolling #ALEC | @PRwatch #ALECexposed http://t.co/8kiCzzDe

PR Watch on Twitter - April 16, 2012 - 3:58pm
prwatch: RT @ClearlyNM: RT @ProgressNow: State Farm Insurance Claims "No Fault" in
Bankrolling #ALEC | @PRwatch #ALECexposed http://t.co/8kiCzzDe

prwatch: State Farm Insurance Claims "No Fault" in Bankrolling ALEC
http://t.co/nVYdziZK #ALEC #ALECexposed #DumpALEC #StateFarm

PR Watch on Twitter - April 16, 2012 - 3:58pm
prwatch: State Farm Insurance Claims "No Fault" in Bankrolling ALEC
http://t.co/nVYdziZK #ALEC #ALECexposed #DumpALEC #StateFarm

Why the FCC Fined Google Just 68 Seconds in Profits

Pro Publica - April 16, 2012 - 3:38pm

by Justin Elliott

The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday it is slapping a fine
on Google for deliberately impeding an investigation of the collection of
sensitive wireless network data as part of the search giant's Street View
mapping project. The amount of the fine: $25,000.


That figure is, of course, barely a rounding error for the company. Google made
$2.89 billion last quarter, or $25,000 in profits every 68 seconds.

Nevertheless, the FCC Enforcement Bureau report announcing the fine says the
$25,000 level is intended "to deter future misconduct in view of Google's
ability to pay."

The FCC found that Google Street View cars, which were taking pictures for Google
Maps, also collected passwords, email and medical records, among other data, from
residents' WiFi networks. Google has apologized for collecting the data but maintains it
was legal.

The report states that the FCC actually ramped up the fine. The base fine for the
violations was $12,000.


The report also notes that the commission has elected to increase fines "[t]o ensure
that a proposed forfeiture is not treated as simply a cost of doing business."
In the section discussing the size of the fine, a footnote points to Google's vast revenue:


dc.embed.loadNote('http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/336650/annotations/
52707.js');



The FCC could have levied a larger fine, but it still wouldn't have amounted to
much for Google. As the report says, the maximum allowed by law for
stonewalling the FCC's investigation as Google did is $112,500 per violation.

The report counts three violations by Google: "failures to identify employees, produce e-
mails, and provide compliant declarations." So, the total fine could have been $337,500,
or about 15 minutes of profits.


The report says the FCC decided on $25,000 based on "the totality of the circumstances
of this case" and "our precedent in other failure to respond cases."

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment on how the fine was calculated or how it
would serve as a deterrent.

The company, for its part, disputed the FCC's findings in a statement: "We
disagree with the FCC's characterization of our cooperation in their
investigation and will be filing a response."

Google will have recouped the fine in less than the time it took you to read
this.

Categories: Media, Politics

Titanic Proportions

CJR Daily - April 16, 2012 - 3:00pm
You can’t sink a good story. The past few months have produced countless articles,
columns, photo galleries, videos, and sundry media clips about the 100th anniversary of
the RMS Titanic striking an iceberg and foundering in the frigid North Atlantic in the
early hours of April 15, 1912. The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach reported that the
president of...
Categories: Media

Katie Roiphe's Click Bait Win is a Discourse Fail

CJR Daily - April 16, 2012 - 2:53pm
Among the clusters of folks I follow on Twitter—media critics, yoga bloggers,
friends—the group that’s consistently most entertaining is the feminist journalists
(sorry, friends). One of my favorite Internet things is their reaction to any public
assertion that can be construed as anti-woman. The feminist journos commence
intelligently snarking the original comment until they overtake the original narrative
(disclosure: I...
Categories: Media

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ALEC Pulls Back Support for "Stand Your
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Phone: 608-260-9713 • Fax: 608-260-9714

				
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