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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
| Wednesday April 19, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 67) |

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Castro's "Luxurious" House for Elian; Helping Elian "Readjust"; Dangerous Global Warming

1) NBC marveled at how the house where Castro will put Elian is "a mansion by Cuban standards" while CNN marveled at how "even by American standards" it's "luxurious." Both portrayed the placement as benign. Only FNC raised the issue of communist re-education.

2) GMA and Today benignly played clips showing the Havana home, but both shows were more interested in focusing on the letter from a pediatrician claiming Elian is in "imminent danger" in Miami. Only FNC noted the doctor once served on a Hillary task force.

3) NBC's Jim Avila argued Cuban life is improving as there's "more freedom of thought and speech" and "most nights meat is back on the table," so 80 percent would stay if the border was opened.

4) Actor Nestor Carbonell, a star on the NBC sit-com Suddenly Susan, complained about the news media: "I don't think that Castro has been depicted as the monster that he really is..."

5) "Climate experts are saying...there are new and ominous signs that global warming is generating drastic and dangerous weather changes," declared Dan Rather. ABC's Ned Potter saw "calamitous" results, but neither had time for even one scientific doubter.


Castro's propaganda operation hit a home run Tuesday night when CNN and NBC, in full stories featuring attractive Cuban TV video of the house in which Castro plans to place Elian, characterized the purpose of the placement as making time for a proper "transition" so Elian can "readjust" to life on the island. Neither network broached any more sinister reason behind the decision to not allow Elian to return to his hometown of Cardenes.

    Only FNC's Orlando Salinas relayed predictions from Miami Cubans that Elian "will be re-trained as a young communist commando." After his taped piece ended at just past 6pm ET, Salinas told FNC's Brit Hume:
    "One thing that I've been hearing from some Miami Cubans out here is they say they are worried about this: When Americans in other parts of this country see those pictures they might think to themselves 'hey that doesn't look all that bad.'"

    Very prescient. Eastern and Central time zone viewers didn't have to wait long for confirmation of the fears picked up by Salinas. Less than an hour later on the NBC Nightly News Jim Avila marveled at how the house has a swimming pool and is "a mansion by Cuban standards." Avila passed along how "psychiatrists consulting the Castro government" maintain Elian's home town "is not the best place for his immediate transition." CNN's Martin Savidge gushed at how "even by American standards" the house is "luxurious." Savidge favorably compared the house's amenities to where Elian is now living in Miami, showcasing the Havana home's bigger pool and "specially built playground."

    Tuesday night, April 18, the CBS Evening News avoided the Havana house video while ABC's Peter Jennings gave it just a few seconds. Over video of an empty pool, a bedroom and a playroom, Jennings announced: "Cuba showed reporters the house where Elian will spend a few months with his family and some of his classmates during a transition back to life in Cuba if he gets home."

    -- CNN's The World Today. Anchor Jim Moret noted how the UN's Human Rights Commission voted to condemn Cuba's record, but that Cuba is now focused on how to treat just one boy.

    From Havana, CNN's Martin Savidge began the story, which Moret introduced, by playing video of a white house alongside a busy road as he explained:
    "This is the home Cuba says is almost ready for the return of the six-year-old in Havana's fashionable Miramar district, home to many international embassies. Even by American standards it's luxurious. By Cuban standards, almost unimaginable. The report on Cuban TV showed freshly painted rooms it says will house not just Elian but his close family and twelve schoolmates, a stark contrast to the boy's Little Havana house and that may be the point."

    That comparison aired first over video of the inside of the Havana house, with a shot of four single beds covered with colorful bed spreads in a room with yellow walls and a well-worn tiled floor and a small refrigerator-like looking white thing in a corner and a toilet in an empty bathroom. It looked closer to the barren feel of a U.S. summer camp cabin than any luxury home. CNN's footage then contrasted that with video from inside the cramped but full of stuff Miami home with two adults, Elian and another kid near a sofa as Elian lifted a large plastic Mickey Mouse figure, followed by a clip of Elian on the sofa hugging a big teddy bear.

    Next, over video of Elian splashing in a small above-ground pool, Savidge described the scene: "Elian's pool in Miami." CNN then cut to a shot of an empty underground pool in a concrete courtyard as Savidge contrasted the settings: "The one waiting for him in Havana, minus the water."

    Continuing his back-to-back comparisons, Savidge pointed out "Elian's swing set in Miami" as viewers really saw video of Elian crawling head first down the pool-side slide. The contrast: "The specially built playground in Cuba." Playground? Viewers saw a see-saw and a swing set. Later in the story Savidge displayed an angle which included a slide and showed that the three things were in the concrete courtyard next to pool. And, none had any padding beneath. So much for putting children's safety first.

    Savidge proclaimed: "Cuba says it's just not a place Elian can play and rest, but also readjust to his homeland, a process one psychologist says could take no less than three months."
    Dr. Lesia Canovas, identified on-screen only as a "psychologist," maintained: "This transition is absolutely necessary. We expect that after this period he will be integrated into his group, to his school and his environment."

    Without raising the possibility of communist "re-education," Savidge moved on to run clips from a man and woman who were swimming in the ocean behind the house. The man found Elian deserving of the luxury accommodations while the woman said Elian would adjust better in his home town. Savidge concluded:
    "Still another wondered about the view Elian would have here: The ocean, a possible daily reminder of the ordeal that cost him his mother and the divide that separates not just two nations but his family as well."

    During this last line viewers got a quick shot of the house from the ocean and saw a chain link fence in front of tennis court-sized area of broken up concrete. Quite "luxurious."

    ++ See for yourself what CNN considered "luxurious." Wednesday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of the first part of Savidge's World Today story. Go to: http:\\www.mrc.org

     -- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Tom Brokaw declared: "In Cuba tonight special preparations are being made for Elian's return. The government of Fidel Castro announced that he will not be going directly home, not right away at least."

    Jim Avila, in Havana, eagerly relayed: "Tom, a source close to Juan Miguel Gonzalez tells NBC News that American psychiatrists are telling the father that he should bring his boy back to Cuba as soon as possible. And here in Havana the government is putting the finishing touches on a combination school and living quarters for Elian and his Dad."

    Cutting to the same video shown by CNN, Avila played tour guide: "This is the state-owned guesthouse where Elian will stay when and if he returns to Cuba. It's a mansion by Cuban standards, but psychiatrists consulting the Castro government tell NBC News the boy's home town, Cardenas, is not the best place for his immediate transition into island life."
     Cristobal Martinez, identified on screen as "family therapist," insisted through a translator: "There must be a soft transition; changes create a lot of anxiety."

    Without casting any doubt upon the motivation behind the claim of a communist government's "therapist," Avila plowed ahead: "Today, members of the Cuban Ministry of Construction, painting and plastering the house owned and donated by the Youth Communist Party. Two stories, eight bedrooms, [video of the barren bedroom] four-car garage in the upscale Miramar neighborhood -- a section of Havana busy with new foreign companies and renovations. A far cry from most Cuban homes, it has a swimming pool in the backyard, satellite TV, air conditioning, a playroom [video of a room with four of five things that looked like big footrests].

    Avila showed a classroom where Elian will receive his communist indoctrination, but offered a more benevolent description: "Specially built: a classroom and dormitory to accommodate twelve of Elian's Cardenas classmates, who will live with the Gonzales family, and a medical team including psychiatrists. Cristobal Martinez heads the Cuban mental health team in charge of Elian's transition. He says Cardenas was ruled out because Elian is too big a hero to simply return to his family home."
    Martinez: "Can you imagine 300 to 400 kids running out to express their feelings? We have to avoid more trauma."
    Avila did give a few seconds to another view: "In Miami, members of the Cuban Pediatric Society called for Elian to stay and were unimpressed with Cuba's plans."
    Unidentified man: "The setting would be abnormal, artificial in ways that perhaps would not be in the child's best interest."
    Avila, however, countered: "But an independent American psychiatrist at the University of Chicago says the luxury accommodations won't hurt Elian."
    Dr. Alan Ravitz: "It's more politics. They're trying to make it look as if he's going to need a lot of services when in fact he probably won't need so many services."

    Avila concluded by saying that after he gets Elian Juan Miguel plans to return to Cuba with his son immediately.

    -- FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. Over in FNC's parallel universe, where communists are not assumed to be altruistic resort hosts, Orlando Salinas reported from Miami:
    "Most people didn't notice, but on Tuesday Cuba's communist leaders showed the world what used to be, until recently, a communist hospitality house with a pool and some space and if Cuban castaway Elian is repatriated to his native country, this, known as a young communist residence, will be his new home."

    Salinas then highlighted a worry ignored by CNN and NBC: "But the anti-Castro crowd in Miami wants none of it, saying Fidel Castro's cabana is where Elian will be re-trained as a young communist commando."
    Woman: "He's going to that house but Castro wants to give him, is not going to be with his father. He's going to be property of Castro and we don't want that."
    Man: "He's going to be treated very nice in front of the camera, but in the back where nobody's seeing he's going to be mentally and psychologically tortured because they won't forgive him for telling 'I don't want to go back to Cuba.'"

    After his piece, Salinas told Hume: "One thing that I've been hearing from some Miami Cubans out here is they say they are worried about this: When Americans in other parts of this country see those pictures they might think to themselves 'hey that doesn't look all that bad.' But what these Miami Cubans say is many people don't realize is these children, Elian's age, usually get sent to child labor camps and they say once the cameras are gone and off of Elian that's exactly where he will be sent."

    At CNN and NBC the cameras might as well already be off.


Tuesday morning ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today played brief clips showing the Havana home to which Elian is destined, but both programs were much more interested in highlighting the conveniently-released letter from pediatrician Irwin Redlener claiming Elian is in "imminent danger" at the Miami home where he's being "psychologically abused." Today brought him aboard for an interview and GMA talked about it with a lawyer for the Miami family. CBS's The Early Show picked up on the pediatrician's charge but skipped the Havana home.

    Matt Lauer opened NBC's Today, as caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "Good morning. The pediatrician advising the U.S. government on the Elian Gonzalez custody battle said last night the boy should be removed immediately from the Miami house where he's staying. Citing imminent danger the doctor says federal officials should go get him today, Tuesday, April 18, 2000."

    In the evening, the CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today and NBC Nightly News all ran full stories on the pediatrician's assessment and the reaction to the letter, including the observation that he has never talked to Elian, but only FNC's Rita Cosby mentioned a tie between Redlener and Hillary Clinton. On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Cosby disclosed:
    "A pediatrician, who's been advising the federal government in this case, wrote what he says was an unsolicited letter to Reno saying Elian should be quote 'rescued from his Miami home.' Doctor Irwin Redlener, who worked with Hillary Clinton's health care task force and is not trained in psychology or psychiatry, says he believes Elian's being psychologically abused by his Miami relatives..."

    On the Havana home revelation in the morning, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught this benign reference to it from Karla Davis on Tuesday's Good Morning America: "In another development, Antonio [Mora], new pictures aired on Cuban television showing the residence where Elian and his immediate family are to live once they return to Cuba. The large, seaside house is being prepared for the child, his family, schoolmates and teachers for a transition process that could last more than three months. However, if the Miami family here has its way, that will not happen anytime soon."


Catching up with another tribute to Cuba's advancements from NBC's Jim Avila, MRC analyst Paul Smith noticed that on Saturday's NBC Nightly News Avila showcased as some kind of success a family able to serve meat. The reason? Dollars can be earned legally as Castro allows "more freedom of thought and speech" and "rarely mentions communism anymore."

    Anchor John Seigenthaler led into the April 15 piece: "The thought of Elian going back to Fidel Castro's Cuba horrifies the people of Miami's Little Havana, but as NBC's Jim Avila reports, today's Cuba is different from what many remember."

    Avila began: "Dinner at the Pinnella family home in Havana. On this night, meat, bought with Cuba's favorite currency, dollars."
    After a soundbite from a woman, sitting next to a man, both indoors and on lawn chairs, Avila introduced them:
    "For Herman and Hermalia, life in Cuba better today than when most Miami Cubans left the island. Dollars earned legally. Gifts of money from family in the States now legal. New dollars-only stores selling to Cubans. Experts say there is more freedom of thought and speech. The biggest problems? Housing, fuel and car shortages. So how does Castro survive after pure communism failed, dollars now propping up the system? Experts say two reasons:
    "First, he is a teflon dictator. An icon who escaped personal blame for government failure. And second, Castro rarely mentions communism anymore. Example, Elian, a six year old boy Cuba argues should be returned to the island. Not because of the political system here but despite it. Rallies here, like today's in Las Tunas, emphasize Cuban pride. Nationalism replacing communism as the island unifier. DePaul University's Professor Felix Masud Pilato left Cuba twenty years ago but returns annually. He says the battle over Elian solidifies Castro's status, framing the issue as one of national pride."
    Professor Felix Masud-Pilato: "It has become a question of honor. It may not be but it has become that, ironic and crazy as that may sound."

    Avila stressed: "And Pilato says Miami Cubans hurt themselves by attacking a Cuba that no longer exists."
    Pilato: "They still think of the Cuba they left behind and that has changed rapidly."

    If it's so great, why not just move there?

    Avila elaborated on the it's not so bad theme: "Many Cubans still want to leave but those numbers have changed dramatically too. Sixteen years ago, when Lazaro Gonzalez took a plane to the United States, a mere 23 Cubans were caught rafting their way to the United States, a number that ballooned during the early '90s, Cuba's worst economic period -- 37,000 in 1994. Now fallen since the mid-'90s because the United States began returning them to Cuba, making it a less attractive gamble. U.S. intelligence sources now estimate that 80 percent of the island population would stay even if borders were open."

    So, 20 percent would leave if they could. Which is a heck of a lot more than the 23 who tried rafting 16 years ago, thus contradicting his whole point that Cubans are any happier now. They're just getting caught more often by the Coast Guard.

    Avila concluded: "In a Cuba, where life remains difficult but where most nights meat is back on the table."


The media's favorable treatment of Fidel Castro is so blatant even a Hollywood actor realizes it. An April 17 story on CNN's Showbiz Today, about the American Latino Media Arts Awards ceremony which took place Sunday in Pasadena, relayed this comment from Nestor Carbonell, an actor born in New York to Cuban exile parents, who is now a star of the NBC sit-com Suddenly Susan:
    "I don't think that Castro has been depicted as the monster that he really is and I think that people don't realize the extent of the oppression that's going on in Cuba under this dictator."

    Hey, the people have access to meat and Castro will put Elian and his father in a "luxurious" ocean-side house with a see-saw. What more do you want?

    ++ If you don't recognize the name you might recognize Carbonell's face, so the MRC's Kristina Sewell will locate a shot of him that Webmaster Andy Szul will post alongside this item in the online version of this CyberAlert. After 11am ET, go to:


If you were dreaming about some network balance in the reporting of Earth Day issues, Tuesday's coverage of a report, on record high temperatures in the first three months of the year, showed you can forget about it. CBS and NBC led with it while ABC provided a full story. In all that network time devoted to impending weather disasters not one doubter, who holds a position contrary to the liberal environmental demands for more regulation or who does not believe warming causes extreme weather, appeared -- even though ABC's Peter Jennings acknowledged that only "some scientists are putting the blame on global warming."

    -- ABC's Ned Potter intoned on World News Tonight: "Scientists and environmentalists warned for years that if the world became warmer the result could be calamitous: hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves. The government used today's numbers to say some of those warnings are already coming true."
    James Baker, NOAA: "The impact of greenhouse gasses is inevitable. And it is a wake up call now for us from this data that we need to do something about it."

    Potter relayed the predictions of more droughts and noted how federal disaster relief costs are up 337 percent from the '80s to the '90s before showcasing another liberal activist, Michael Oppenheimer of "Environmental Defense," who conceded the lack of proof for the theory: "It's impossible to say how many of these disasters are related to global warming, but they do present a picture of what could happen in the future, they present a picture of our vulnerability."

     Potter rued how polls put public concern for global warming near the bottom and then concluded: "Climate warming may be too gradual to notice, but the administration is trying to show that its consequences are something people can already see."

    -- CBS Evening News. CBS gave away its lack of concern for one-sided advocacy by listing on its Web site, under "Features," an Earth Day page with links to the liberal groups involved: http://cbsnews.cbs.com/now/story/0,1597,180659-412,00.shtml

    Dan Rather opened Tuesday's show by gravely intoning: "Good evening. U.S. climate experts are saying tonight there are new and ominous signs that global warming is generating drastic and dangerous weather changes short and long-term. This report comes out as this nation had its warmest January through March on record. Forecasters already believe the impact includes longer and stronger tornado seasons. Now they are predicting bigger and deadlier hurricanes that could devastate coastal cities. CBS's John Blackstone has the facts on the CBS WeatherWatch."

    Blackstone also featured a dire soundbite from NOAA's Baker before insisting: "Federal officials say we're already seeing the impact, a significant increase in severe weather damage over the past decade. More floods and more droughts, and now scientists say get ready for hurricanes with more destructive power."
    Baker: "Water is the engine of hurricanes so a warmer ocean leads to stronger winds, stronger hurricanes."
    Blackstone: "And there is another threat for cities on or near the coast, particularly New Orleans, already below sea level. Global warming will raise sea levels as much as five feet over the next century."
    Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt warned: "If you had a Category 4 hurricane that hit New Orleans, which we have all tried to prepare for, with a four-foot storm surge, you'd have 20 feet of water in New Orleans -- that's frightening."
    Blackstone concluded: "While there may still be some debate about what's causing global warming, climate watchers say there's now no doubt it's real. Federal officials believe it's time to begin prepare for the consequences: everything from extended droughts, to more powerful hurricanes, to rising sea levels that will threaten major cities."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Robert Hager opened with video of "tornado-like winds" in California whipping up rivers. He warned: "This and other recent, increasingly intense storms, could they somehow be linked to a bigger picture, to climate change and rising temperatures? Today a report finds that in the midst of all the violent weather, the year 2000 is off to the warmest start ever in U.S. history, the months of January, February and March warmest in the 105 years that records have been kept..."
    Hager passed along: "The figures from the government's weather agency, NOAA, and its Director, James Baker, who warns the warmer temperatures could be cause more extreme weather, now and in the future."
    Baker maintained: "We're going to see more extreme events, we're going to see more droughts, we're going to see storms with more water in them, we'll see both rainfall and droughts. It's something we are going to have to learn to live with."

    For the scientific assessment ignored by the networks, check out The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air About Global Warming, a new book from the Cato Institute by Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling, Jr. The Web site summary:
    "Global warming is vastly overrated as an environmental threat, argue leading climatologists Patrick J. Michaels and Robert Balling, Jr...
    "The Satanic Gases marshals an impressive array of scientific data, studies, and analyses that argue, cogently and consistently, that the initial forecasts of rapid global warming were simply wrong. But, perhaps more important, the book points out that attempts to "fix" the forecast by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are even more misguided than the original projections.
    "The authors argue that the jury is already in on global warming, and the verdict is a modest heating over the 21st century -- very similar to what occurred during the last third of the 20th century. The vast majority of warming will take place in the winter, and within that season, the coldest, deadliest air masses will show the greatest change....

Go to:

    Also, check out excerpts of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Earth Report 2000: Revisiting the True State of the Planet by Ronald Bailey: http://www.cei.org/books/earthreport2k.html

    On Thursday Rich Noyes, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, will produce an Earth Day edition of MediaNomics packed with links to the most compelling answers to liberal global warming hype. I'll be sending excerpts in Thursday's CyberAlert. -- Brent Baker


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