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When John McCain selected Alaska
governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, pundits and reporters saw
the move as more proof of McCain's "maverick" nature--despite the fact
that Palin's selection would seem in large part to be an attempt to
placate the Republican Party base, further undermining his
media-sustained reputation as an independent politician who breaks with
The day after the announcement, a Washington Post headline (8/30/08) declared, "With Pick, McCain Reclaims His Maverick Image." The following day, a Post subhead was "Fellow Maverick Survived McCain's Thorough Vetting Process, Aides Say." On NBC's Chris Matthews Show (8/31/08), reporter Norah O'Donnell asserted, "He's trying to recapture the maverick label." Fellow panelist Howard Fineman of Newsweek
weighed in: "Sure, it's risky, but he had to shake things up, and as
his top advisor told me, this is a maverick picking a maverick."
O'Donnell later added: "All the headlines in the papers were 'Maverick
chooses maverick.' McCain couldn't be happier with the headlines the
On NBC's Meet the Press (8/31/08),
reporter Andrea Mitchell explained that McCain "has returned to the
original John McCain, the maverick." Her explanation, though, actually
provided more evidence of the opposite; she explained that McCain had
wanted to nominate Sen. Joe Lieberman, but that was "shot down by the
conservative base." The usual definition of a political maverick
involves a willingness to defy a party and its base; for years McCain
has enjoyed such a reputation with journalists, though the actual
evidence for that has been wildly exaggerated by the press. (McCain's
voting record has for years been among the most conservative in the
Senate--see Extra!, 5-6/08.)
For the media, the storyline for McCain seems to be that he's a
maverick just because he's John McCain. Weighing McCain's decision to
choose either Palin or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, John Harwood
wrote in the New York Times (9/1/08),
"Both choices offered the opportunity to reinforce Mr. McCain's image
as a free-wheeling maverick." For much of the mainstream media, there
is no other way to describe John McCain--no matter what reality is
FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.
"Every day we wait is another day longer where barriers remain in place, preventing people from getting access to the contraceptive care they want and need," said one leading OTC birth control advocacy coalition.
Reproductive rights groups on Wednesday called on the Food and Drug Administration to approve a birth control pill for over-the-counter use "without any further delay" after an advisory panel unanimously recommended permitting use of the medication without a prescription—two decades after advocates first began campaigning on the issue.
A joint advisory committee voted 17-0 in favor of offering OPill, which was first approved for prescription use 50 years ago, without a prescription after hearing from public health analysts and scientists. Concerns that some FDA scientists raised about patients failing to take birth control correctly unless they were provided the pills by a medical professional were outweighed by the benefits, the panel found.
"The panel expresses confidence in the effectiveness, not only in the general population of females, but also in adolescent populations and those with limited literacy," Maria Coyle, chairwoman of the committee, toldThe New York Times. "The panel seems very comfortable with the limited number of risks from the medication itself."
The Free the Pill Coalition, a campaign started by the global advocacy group Ibis Reproductive Health which has pushed for over-the-counter (OTC) birth control, said the recommendation itself was a "landmark achievement for reproductive justice" and expressed hope that the panel's decision would result in swift approval by the FDA.
"Every day we wait is another day longer where barriers remain in place, preventing people from getting access to the contraceptive care they want and need," said the group. "It's past time for an OTC birth control pill that's fully covered by insurance, affordable, and available to people of all ages."
\u201cWe urge the @US_FDA to follow the committee's recommendation and approve an OTC progestin-only birth control pill WITHOUT any further delay.\u201d— Free the Pill (@Free the Pill) 1683739169
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) also called on the FDA to take the advice of the panel "without delay," calling the recommendation "a major step forward in our fight to affirm folks' right to make decisions about their body, when to start a family, and their future."
The Free the Pill Coalition and other groups say OTC dispensing of birth control pills will increase access for people who have logistical or financial barriers to regularly seeing a doctor for a prescription.
Some FDA scientists told the panel that data from HRA Pharma raised concerns about whether people with certain medical conditions that contraindicate the use of OPill would follow warnings if the pill was available over-the-counter, and whether adolescents and people with limited literacy would follow the directions carefully enough to take the pill each day at the same time.
Author and MSNBC contributor Dr. Uché Blackstock called those concerns "quite paternalistic."
"Given the technology available, alternative ways can be developed to help deliver instructions," tweeted Blackstock.
Contrary to those claims, said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley of the contraceptive advocacy group Power to Decide, "the committee followed the scientific evidence and paved the way for a massive breakthrough in access to birth control."
"As a practicing OB-GYN, I am confident that my patients do not need a visit with me to safely and effectively use the birth control pills they need," said McDonald-Mosley. "Requiring prescriptions and provider visits places unnecessary barriers to accessing reproductive health care, especially for those in contraceptive deserts—counties without a single clinic that provides the full range of contraceptive methods. In such areas, people have to travel further just to visit a provider to get their birth control, which means they need to take even more time off work or arrange for more childcare. Allowing OTC access for the pill would help eliminate these unnecessary barriers and increase access to reproductive health across the country."
Crediting the "tireless advocates, including the Free the Pill Coalition," with pressuring the FDA panel to take a significant step toward approving non-prescription use of OPill, NARAL Pro-Choice America said the decision is "not only historic—it is simply the right thing to do," particularly as abortion rights are under attack by right-wing lawmakers across the country.
"As reproductive freedom in our country faces an unprecedented crisis," said the group, "expanding access to proven, safe, and effective contraception has never been more important."
"Billions of dollars have been wasted trying to prove that this technology is real—and all we have to show for it are a series of spectacular failures," said one campaigner.
The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a power plant emissions rule whose effectiveness at slashing planet-warming pollution would heavily depend on a major expansion of carbon capture, an oil industry-backed technological scheme that climate advocates view as wasteful, ineffective, and actively harmful.
The Environmental Protection Agency's newly proposed emission standards for coal- and gas-fired power plants were described as the most strict ever proposed in the U.S., and the rule garnered praise from major environmental groups.
If implemented—far from a sure thing given the Supreme Court's recent decision hamstringing the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas pollution—the rule would require most new and existing fossil fuel power plants to capture 90% of their emissions by between 2035 and 2040. Coal- and gas-fired power plants are the nation's second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
"The draft rules offer utilities years of lead time to build out carbon capture or hydrogen infrastructure—or to take their plants offline," E&E Newsreported.
Climate campaigners expressed dismay that the EPA rule relies so significantly on the large-scale adoption of unproven carbon capture and storage technology, which would entail the construction of thousands of miles of new pipelines to carry the trapped emissions.
"Carbon capture is nothing more than a fossil fuel industry propaganda scheme," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch (FWW), an environmental group that has described the technology as a "dangerous fantasy."
"Billions of dollars have been wasted trying to prove that this technology is real—and all we have to show for it are a series of spectacular failures. Throwing good money after bad is not a climate solution—it's an industry bailout," Hauter argued. "Even if the technology managed to meet even the lowest thresholds for emissions capture, the energy required to power the facilities would negate much of the supposed benefit."
Last year, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats approved large subsidies for the carbon capture industry via the Inflation Reduction Act, a law that proponents said would slash U.S. carbon emissions by 40% by the end of the decade.
But critics at the time cast doubt on that projection given that it hinges on the effectiveness of largely unproven carbon capture initiatives—and similar questions will likely be raised about EPA estimates of the power plant rule's potential impact. The EPA said the rule "would avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042."
"There is no technological quick fix for our climate crisis. We must cut fossil fuels off at their source and transition to clean, renewable energy now."
In a recent report, FWW analyzed major carbon capture projects and found that the technology's "track record makes it appear to be a handout to fossil fuel corporations, publicly financing their attempts to keep their harmful product viable."
Despite such findings, the EPA determined in its new rule proposal that "carbon capture represents a 'best system of emissions reduction,' which means it's been adequately proven," Politiconoted Thursday.
"In the U.S., only one power plant has ever captured carbon dioxide at scale: the W.A. Parish Generating Station near Houston," the outlet observed. "The carbon capture technology at Petra Nova, bolstered by nearly $200 million in federal money, grabbed coal-produced CO2 and piped it to an oil field to be used for crude oil production."
In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan ignored concerns about the efficacy of carbon capture, declaring that the new rule would harness "proven, readily available technologies to limit carbon pollution and seizes the momentum already underway in the power sector to move toward a cleaner future."
The EPA rule will undergo a 60-day public comment period after it is formally published in the Federal Register.
\u201cThis entire rule is based on carbon capture technology. As it stands, no carbon capture goal has been met. Why should we expect anything different?\nhttps://t.co/FYd0saFQuR\u201d— Andrew Ahern (@Andrew Ahern) 1683803212
Instead of resting its climate agenda on dubious carbon capture schemes, Hauter said the Biden administration should be prioritizing "immediate actions to limit the supply of dirty fossil fuels" and expand renewable energy, which research has shown to be a much better climate investment than carbon capture.
"This requires using existing federal authority to halt new drilling and fracking, and stop new fossil fuel infrastructure like power plants, pipelines, and export terminals," Hauter continued. "There is no technological quick fix for our climate crisis. We must cut fossil fuels off at their source and transition to clean, renewable energy now."
Jason Rylander, legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, said it is "no surprise" that the EPA's proposed standards "fall far short of what the climate emergency demands given the right-wing Supreme Court's restrictions on power plant rules."
"The EPA needs to get serious about cutting carbon emissions by creating a national science-based cap on greenhouse gas pollution through the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program," said Rylander. "That's the best way to spur the economy-wide decarbonization we need now."
Other environmental groups were less critical of the Biden administration's proposal as a whole, welcoming it as a meaningful step in the right direction while acknowledging that more ambition is needed to fend off the worst of the climate emergency.
"We're pleased to see the Biden Administration continue to address climate pollution in a serious way. Now, the administration must finish the job and ensure the final standards are as strong as possible," said Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club. "But we know the work to confront the climate crisis doesn’t stop at strong carbon pollution standards. The continued use or expansion of fossil power plants is incompatible with a livable future. Simply put, we must not merely limit the use of fossil fuel electricity: we must end it entirely."
Julie McNamara, the deputy policy director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the release of the power plant rule "a pivotal turning point, with Administrator Regan rightfully and necessarily moving to hold coal- and gas-fired power plants to account for their ongoing carbon pollution."
But McNamara also implored the administration to "prioritize robust environmental justice protections and environmental and public health safeguards, especially when it comes to carbon capture and sequestration and hydrogen co-firing."
"The agency must protect against greenwashing attempts by fossil fuel interests that would worsen, not lessen, environmental injustices," McNamara said.
"They put a sexual abuse victim in harm's way for views," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "This was a choice to platform lies about the election and Jan. 6th."
Former President Donald Trump predictably used the megaphone CNN handed him Wednesday night to spew falsehoods about the 2020 election, the January 6 attack, abortion, and E. Jean Carroll, turning the hour-long primetime town hall into what one of the corporate media network's own reporters characterized as a "spectacle of lies."
Many others echoed that assessment, faulting CNN and its chosen host—Kaitlan Collins, a former reporter for the right-wing Daily Caller—for giving Trump a platform to let loose a torrent of egregious claims with minimal and ineffective real-time fact-checking.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was one of the most vocal critics of CNN's decision to hold the town hall, which came a day after a jury found the former president liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll. Unsurprisingly, Trump took the opportunity he was gifted by CNN to mock Carroll—sparking laughter from the live studio audience packed with Republicans.
"CNN should be ashamed of themselves," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. "They have lost total control of this 'town hall' to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan. 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim."
"This falls squarely on CNN. Everyone here saw exactly what was going to happen," the New York Democrat added. "Instead they put a sexual abuse victim in harm's way for views. This was a choice to platform lies about the election and Jan. 6th with no plan but to have their moderator interrupted without consequence."
\u201c"What we saw tonight was a series of extremely irresponsible decisions that put a sexual abuse victim at risk...in front of a national audience, and I could not have disagreed with it more. It was shameful."\u201d— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) 1683770762
Trump's team and CNN, which is now under the leadership of Chris Licht, reportedly negotiated over the New Hampshire town hall for weeks. According toPolitico, the former president's advisers saw the event "as an opportunity to reach a major national audience" as Trump campaigns for another White House term.
"Sorry, but—as predicted—this was a clear win for Trump," MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan wrote in a column following the nationally televised event. "He felt no pressure and conceded nothing. He was welcomed onto CNN to address an audience of non-Republicans watching at home and an audience of loyal Republicans sitting in that hall in New Hampshire. Win-win."
"When Trump falsely denied he had suggested 'terminating' parts of the Constitution, Collins didn't correct him," Hasan noted. "When Trump falsely claimed Democrats wanted to execute babies, Collins didn't correct him. When Trump falsely claimed he finished building his border wall, Collins tried to correct him—but he just talked over her. And when Trump made a racist remark about Chinatown, Collins said nothing whatsoever. Nor did she defend herself when he called her a 'nasty person.'"
Much of the criticism over the town hall was directed at Licht, CNN's CEO. Last year, shortly after taking the helm, Licht pledged to combat the spread of disinformation on CNN's platforms.
“The analogy I love to use is some people like rain, some people don't like rain. We should give space to that," Licht toldCNBC in October. "But we will not have someone who comes on and says it's not raining."
That promise appears laughable in the wake of Wednesday night's debacle. As CNN's own Oliver Darcy wrote in a recap of the town hall: "Trump lied about the 2020 election. He took no responsibility for the January 6 insurrection that those very lies incited. And he mocked E. Jean Carroll's allegations of sexual assault."
"And CNN aired it all," Darcy continued. "On and on it went. It felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump's unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage."
One on-air CNN personality, speaking anonymously to The Daily Beast's Justin Baragona, said the town hall devolved into "a Trump infomercial."
"It is so bad," the person added. "We're going to get crushed."